Thanks to Rethink Afghanistan for catching President Obama’s statement that is not true, either he doesn’t get the correct information from his staff before reading a speech, or he knowingly is not telling us the truth. Either way is pretty scary, to run foreign policy this way with many people dying or are maimed for life on all sides, for what? Follow Just Foreign Policy below the video for action YOU CAN TAKE NOW. Thank you all.
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Just Foreign Policy News
May 13, 2010
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Call Congress! Urge Support for Feingold-McGovern, ending the Afghan war
This week, the Friends Committee for National Legislation has provided a toll-free number: 1-888-543-5234. This connects you to the Capitol Switchboard. Ask to be connected to your Representative or Senator, urge your Rep. or Senator to co-sponsor the Feingold-McGovern bill, and to oppose the war supplemental. More info and reportback:
Did Obama Say Yes to Afghan Peace Talks?
Here’s what Obama said in public: “On the related subject of Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts, I appreciated the President sharing his plans for the upcoming consultative peace jirga – an important milestone that America supports. In addition, the United States supports the efforts of the Afghan government to open the door to Taliban who cut their ties to al Qaeda, abandon violence, and accept the Afghan constitution, including respect for human rights. And I look forward to a continued dialogue with our Afghan partners on these efforts.”
The final version of the ad we put in the Politico, and the letter that 15 groups sent to President Obama urging him to say yes to peace talks, are here:
$33 Billion for War, But Not $5.6 Billion to Fight AIDS in Africa and Haiti
When President Obama visited Afghanistan in March, he assured U.S. troops that “the United States of America does not quit once it starts on something.” But apparently that only applies to killing, not to fighting AIDS in in the poorest countries in the world, because according to Sunday’s New York Times, on that fight, America is throwing in the towel; even though the money we supposedly don’t have for fighting AIDS because we bailed out Wall Street is 1/20th of continuing the war in Afghanistan.
VIDEO: Urge Congress to End the War in Afghanistan
Just Foreign Policy made a short video to help publicize the McGovern bill and the importance of a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Spread it all around.
USTR Going Rogue on Canadian Tobacco Laws?
The US Trade Representative is threatening WTO action against Canadian tobacco control, even though USTR is specifically prohibited from undertaking such actions under US law.
1) The monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan has topped Iraq costs for the first time since 2003, USA Today reports. Pentagon spending in February was $6.7 billion in Afghanistan compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq. Afghanistan will cost nearly $105 billion in the 2010 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, including most of $33 billion in additional spending requested by Obama and pending before Congress.
2) The Red Cross has confirmed that the US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, contradicting US claims that there is no such facility, the BBC reports. Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse, including cold and sleep deprivation.
3) Sen. Bond said he has seen no hard evidence a Pakistani group planned or directed the the failed car bombing in Times Square, the Washington Post reports. Sen. Bond said White House statements suggesting a central role by the Pakistani Taliban were based on “suspicions and tenuous connections.” On Sunday, Attorney General Holder told “Meet the Press” the Pakistani Taliban was “intimately involved” in directing the attempt. The Guardian quoted Pakistani investigators saying they had found no evidence to support U.S. claims Faisal Shahzad had acted on Taliban orders [#8 below - JFP.]
4) Gen. McChrystal said Iran is continuing to back Taliban forces, but its supply of training and weapons is insignificant, the Washington Times reports. The general’s comments contrast with a recent Pentagon report to Congress that said Iran is seeking to counter U.S. influence by expanding ties to terrorists and insurgents.
5) The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says Afghanistan’s Control & Audit Office (CAO) remains weak and lacks the independence needed to be an effective watchdog, USA Today reports. CAO reports to President Karzai’s office but is not authorized to release its audits publicly or even send reports to parliament.
6) U.S. commanders are reconsidering the pace of a major troop pullout from Iraq this summer, AP reports. The withdrawal of the first major wave of troops is expected to be delayed by about a month. U.S. officials still plan to reduce the force level from 92,000 to 50,000 troops by Aug. 31.
7) The Greek government has reached an agreement with EU authorities and the IMF that will make current economic problems even worse, writes Mark Weisbrot for the New York Times. Thousands of Greeks in the streets have it right, and the E.U. economists have it wrong. You cannot shrink your way out of recession; you have to grow your way out, as the U.S. is doing. If the EU and the IMF will not offer a growth option to Greece, the country would be better off leaving the Euro and renegotiating its debt. When Argentina broke its currency peg and defaulted, it returned to growth; Lativa and Estonia, taking the EU medicine, remain mired in recession.
8) Pakistani investigators have found no evidence to support US claims the failed Times Square bomber was working under the direction of the Pakistani Taliban, the Guardian reports. Pakistani officials are perplexed and angry at statements from Washington about Shahzad’s links with the Pakistani Taliban, believing the US is exploiting the issue to apply pressure for new military offensives in Pakistan’s tribal border area with Afghanistan. General Petraeus had previously said that Shahzad was a “lone wolf” who was “inspired by militants in Pakistan but didn’t have direct contact with them”. A Pakistani government official said: “There is a disconnect between the Pentagon and the administration. The Pentagon gets it that more open pressure on Pakistan is not helpful.”
9) Senator Benigno Aquino, expected to become the Philippines’ next president, has said he wants to review the Visiting Forces Agreement, the pact that allows the US military to hold its service members in its custody during criminal proceedings in the Philippines, the New York Times reports. He also said US Special Forces troops, who have been training the Philippine military to fight against Islamic terrorists on the southern island of Mindanao since 2001, should not become a “semipermanent or permanent” force.
10) Iran said Brazil and Turkey have offered a promising new proposal for a nuclear fuel deal, AP reports. Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said Brazil has not finalized a proposal but is working on one based on a plan by the IAEA. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry official said Turkey and Brazil are in constant contact to try to find a solution and they are “building on” the U.N. plan.
11) Iraqi politicians reached an agreement to halt a campaign to bar candidates from politics for ties to the Baath Party, removing an obstacle in the process of forming a new government, the New York Times reports.
12) Egypt’s Parliament approved a government request to extend for two years its right to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court, the New York Times reports. The State Department expressed disappointment.
1) Afghan war costs now outpace Iraq’s
Richard Wolf, USA Today, May 12, 2010
Washington – The monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan, driven by troop increases and fighting on difficult terrain, has topped Iraq costs for the first time since 2003 and shows no sign of letting up. Pentagon spending in February, the most recent month available, was $6.7 billion in Afghanistan compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq. As recently as fiscal year 2008, Iraq was three times as expensive; in 2009, it was twice as costly.
The shift is occurring because the Pentagon is adding troops in Afghanistan and withdrawing them from Iraq. And it’s happening as the cumulative cost of the two wars surpasses $1 trillion, including spending for veterans and foreign aid. Those costs could put increased pressure on President Obama and Congress, given the nation’s $12.9 trillion debt.
“The overall costs are a function, in part, of the number of troops,” says Linda Bilmes, an expert on wartime spending at Harvard University. “The costs are also a result of the intensity of operations, and the number of different places that we have our troops deployed.”
- The number of U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan has risen to 87,000, on top of 47,000 from 44 other countries. At the same time, the number of U.S. servicemembers in Iraq has dropped to 94,000. By next year, Afghanistan is to have 102,000 U.S. servicemembers, Iraq 43,000.
- Afghanistan will cost nearly $105 billion in the 2010 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, including most of $33 billion in additional spending requested by Obama and pending before Congress. Iraq will cost about $66 billion. In fiscal 2011, Afghanistan is projected to cost $117 billion, Iraq $46 billion. To date, Pentagon spending in Iraq has reached $620 billion, compared with $190 billion in Afghanistan.
- Costs per servicemember in Afghanistan have been roughly double what they are in Iraq since 2005. That is due to lower troop levels, Afghanistan’s landlocked location, lack of infrastructure, high cost of fuel and less reliable security.
2) Red Cross confirms ‘second jail’ at Bagram, Afghanistan
Hilary Andersson, BBC News, 11 May 2010
The US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, the Red Cross has confirmed to the BBC. Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.
The US military says the main prison, now called the Detention Facility in Parwan, is the only detention facility on the base. However, it has said it will look into the abuse allegations made to the BBC.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate structure at Bagram. “The ICRC is being notified by the US authorities of detained people within 14 days of their arrest,” a Red Cross spokesman said. “This has been routine practice since August 2009 and is a development welcomed by the ICRC.”
The spokesman was responding to a question from the BBC about the existence of the facility, referred to by many former prisoners as the Tor Jail, which translates as “black jail”.
In recent weeks the BBC has logged the testimonies of nine prisoners who say they had been held in the so-called “Tor Jail”. They told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night. The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there.
In response to these allegations, Vice Adm Robert Harward, in charge of US detentions in Afghanistan, denied the existence of such a facility or abuses. He told the BBC that the Parwan Detention Facility was the only US detention centre in the country.
3) Taliban Link To Car Bomb Questioned
Pakistani insurgents’ connection to Times Square bomb attempt still not found
Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Wednesday, May 12, 2010; A06
U.S. officials investigating the failed car bombing in Times Square are still far from certain about the role Pakistani insurgent groups may have played in orchestrating the attempt, the Senate intelligence committee’s top Republican said Tuesday.
Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) said he has seen no hard evidence that a Pakistani group – or groups – planned or directed the May 1 attempt, allegedly carried out by Faisal Shahzad. He added that White House statements suggesting a central role by the Pakistani Taliban were based on “suspicions and tenuous connections.”
“We need to find out, as quickly as possible, what his connections were and how he was trained,” Bond said, referring to Shahzad, after a closed-door committee briefing by senior intelligence and law enforcement officials involved in the investigation. Referring to recent comments by Obama administration officials about a strong Taliban link, the senator said: “I am not convinced by the information I’ve seen so far that there was adequate, confirmable intelligence to corroborate the statements that were made on Sunday television shows.”
On Sunday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the Pakistani Taliban was “intimately involved” in directing the attempt to blow up a sport-utility vehicle on a crowded Times Square street corner.
Shahzad, a native of Pakistan who spent several months in the country’s lawless tribal region over the past year, has reportedly told FBI investigators that he underwent terrorist training there, although the veracity of some of his statements has been questioned.
The British newspaper the Guardian quoted Pakistani investigators Tuesday as saying they had found no evidence to support U.S. claims that Shahzad had acted on Taliban orders.
4) Iran’s Meddling In Afghanistan ‘Not Significant’
Bill Gertz, Washington Times, May 11, 2010
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Monday that Iran is continuing to back Taliban forces, but its supply of training and weapons is insignificant. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and allied forces, said Iran’s “reach into Afghanistan, first, is fairly legitimate” and includes money and education support.
“There is evidence, intelligence that indicates some malign activity as well: some training of insurgents, Taliban, and of shipments of some levels of arms,” the four-star general told reporters at the White House. “But they are not significant in numbers, and they have not been enough to change the basic calculus of the fight at this point.”
The general’s comments contrast with a recent Pentagon report to Congress that said Iran is seeking to counter U.S. influence by expanding ties to terrorists and insurgents. “Iran is attempting to secure political, economic and security influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, while undermining U.S. efforts by supporting various political groups, providing developmental and humanitarian assistance, and furnishing lethal aid to Iraqi Shia militants and Afghan insurgents,” the report said.
5) U.S. Reviews Afghan Watchdog Authority
Aamer Madhani, USA Today, May 11, 2010
The Afghan authority charged with rooting out government waste remains weak and lacks the independence needed to be an effective watchdog, according to a recent U.S. government report. Afghanistan’s Control & Audit Office (CAO) reports to President Hamid Karzai’s office but is not authorized to release its audits publicly or even send reports to the parliament, according to the office of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul and international organizations have called on the Karzai government to make CAO more independent and transparent, the SIGAR report says.
Under current law, the CAO’s mandate is too narrow, said Mohammad Sharif, who heads the agency. “It disregards (the) will and aspiration of the people who have the right to know about the utilization of their money from an independent source,” Sharif wrote to SIGAR.
The World Bank called on the Afghan Justice Ministry last year to require CAO to publicize its work and report to the parliament. But when the Justice Ministry introduced a draft law this year, it didn’t incorporate those suggestions.
6) U. S. Reviewing Pace Of Troop Withdrawal
Lara Jakes, Associated Press, Tuesday, May 11, 2010; 4:35 PM
Baghdad – American commanders, worried about increased violence in the wake of Iraq’s inconclusive elections, are now reconsidering the pace of a major troop pullout this summer, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The withdrawal of the first major wave of troops is expected to be delayed by about a month, the officials said. Waiting much longer could endanger President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing the force level from 92,000 to 50,000 troops by Aug. 31.
More than two months after parliamentary elections, the Iraqis have still not formed a new government, and militants aiming to exploit the void have carried out attacks like Monday’s bombings and shootings that killed at least 119 people – the country’s bloodiest day of 2010.
The threat has prompted military officials to look at keeping as many troops on the ground, for as long as possible, without missing the Aug. 31 deadline. A security agreement between the two nations requires American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
In Baghdad and Washington, U.S. officials say they remain committed to the deadline, which Obama has said he would extend only if Iraq’s security deteriorates. Getting out of Iraq quickly and responsibly was among Obama’s top campaign promises in 2008. Extending the deadline could be politically risky back home – but so could anarchy and a bloodbath following a hasty retreat.
7) The E.U.’s Dangerous Game
Mark Weisbrot, New York Times, May 12, 2010
The agreement by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to provide up to $960 billion of support to the Continent’s weaker economies, as well as to financial markets, has appeared to calm investors worldwide, for the moment. But this does not resolve the underlying problem, even in the short run.
The problem is one of irrational economic policy. The Greek government has reached an agreement with the E.U. authorities (which include the European Commission and the European Central Bank), and the I.M.F. that will make the current economic problems even worse.
This is known to economists, including the ones at the E.U. and I.M.F. who negotiated the agreement. The projections show that if their program “works,” Greece’s debt will rise from 115 percent of gross domestic product today to 149 percent in 2013. This means that in less than three years, and most likely sooner, Greece will be facing the same crisis that it faces today.
Furthermore, the Greek Finance Ministry now projects a decline of 4 percent in G.D.P. this year, down from less than 1 percent last year. However that projection is likely to prove overly optimistic. In other words, the Greek people will go through a lot of suffering, their economy will shrink and their debt burden will grow, and then they will very likely face the same choice of debt rescheduling, restructuring, or default – and/or leaving the Euro.
There are lessons to be learned from this debacle. First, no government should sign an agreement that guarantees an open-ended recession, and leaves it to the world economy to eventually pull them out of it. This process of “internal devaluation” – whereby unemployment is deliberately driven to high levels in order to drive down wages and prices while keeping the nominal exchange rate fixed – is not only unjust, it is unviable. This is even more true for Greece, given its initial debt burden.
The tens of thousands of Greeks in the streets have it right, and the E.U. economists have it wrong. You cannot shrink your way out of recession; you have to grow your way out, as the United States is doing (albeit too slowly).
If the E.U. and the I.M.F. will not offer a growth option to Greece, the country would be better off leaving the Euro and renegotiating its debt.
Argentina tried the “internal devaluation” strategy from mid-1998 to the end of 2001, suffering through a depression that pushed half the country into poverty. It then dropped its peg to the dollar and defaulted on its debt. The economy shrank for just one more quarter and then had a robust recovery, growing 63 percent over the next six years.
(By contrast, the “internal devaluation” process promises not only indefinite recession, but a long, very slow recovery if it “works” – as we can see from the I.M.F.’s projections for Latvia and Estonia. Both of these countries are projected to take 8 or 9 years to reach their pre-recession levels of output.)
8) Pakistan denies Taliban link to Times Square bomb suspect
Investigators dismiss US claims that Faisal Shahzad was working under direction of Pakistani Taliban
Saeed Shah, Guardian, Tuesday 11 May 2010 18.57 BST
Karachi – Pakistani investigators have found no evidence to support American claims that the failed Times Square bomber was working under the direction of the Pakistani Taliban, the Guardian has learned.
Senior officials in Washington – including the attorney general, Eric Holder, and John Brennan, the White House’s special adviser on counterterrorism – have said that the suspected bomber, Faisal Shahzad, conspired with militants in Pakistan, but a Pakistani security official with knowledge of the investigation said: “No Taliban link has come to the fore.”
The interrogation of Muhammad Rehan, a friend of Shahzad who was arrested last week outside a radical mosque in Karachi, has not yielded a link to the Pakistani Taliban or any other militant group. Rehan, a member of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad extremist group, remains the only suspected link found between 30-year-old Shahzad and the militant underworld in Pakistan.
Officials in Islamabad are perplexed and angry at statements from Washington about Shahzad’s links with the Pakistani Taliban, believing that the US is exploiting the issue to apply pressure for new military offensives in Pakistan’s tribal border area with Afghanistan, in the north Waziristan region.
“We have not found any involvement of Rehan [in the New York attempted bombing]. He didn’t introduce Faisal Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban,” said the security official. “There are no roots to this case, so how can we trace something back?”
Rehan’s arrest as he left prayers at the Karachi mosque was seized on by the international press as evidence of Shahzad’s involvement with Pakistani militant groups. It emerged that Rehan and Shahzad had last year taken a 1,000-mile road trip from Karachi to Peshawar, on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal area, raising further suspicions.
However, Pakistani investigators have found that Rehan was not a very active member of JEM, a violent group primarily against India and with no history of global activities. He knew Shahzad because he is related to Shahzad’s wife.
Shahzad, a naturalised American citizen of Pakistani origin, told US interrogators that he had been trained in Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal area, according to the court charges laid against him.
After the failed attack, the Pakistani Taliban released a video in which its chief trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussain, appeared to claim responsibility. But that video said nothing specifically about New York, Shahzad, or a car bomb.
Since then, the Pakistani Taliban’s official spokesman, Azam Tariq, has twice denied that his group was involved with Shahzad. The ineptness of Shahzad’s bomb, which did not go off, also raised doubts over whether the Pakistani Taliban could have trained him.
Holder said at the weekend that the Pakistani Taliban were “intimately involved” in Shahzad’s attempted bombing. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, also warned Islamabad of “dire consequences” if a plot originating in Pakistan succeeded in the US.
But David Petraeus, the American general in charge of the Middle East and central Asia, had previously said that Shahzad was a “lone wolf” who was “inspired by militants in Pakistan but didn’t have direct contact with them”.
A senior Pakistani government official said: “There is a disconnect between the Pentagon and the [Obama] administration. The Pentagon gets it that more open pressure on Pakistan is not helpful.”
9) Philippine Landslide Seen for Aquino
Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times, May 11, 2010
Manila – Senator Benigno S. Aquino III, who appeared almost certain on Tuesday to become the Philippines’ next president, said he had never imagined running for the nation’s highest office until he was urged on by supporters grieving over the death of his mother last August.
But nearly complete results of Monday’s election showed that Mr. Aquino apparently defeated rivals with far more experience, ambition and charisma, winning by the widest margin in a presidential election since his mother, Corazon C. Aquino, overthrew the longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in a “people power” movement in 1986.
In an interview in March, Mr. Aquino, who grew up watching successive American administrations back Mr. Marcos during the cold war, sounded skeptical about United States foreign policy. He said that as president he would want to review the Visiting Forces Agreement, the pact that allows the American military to hold its service members in its custody during criminal proceedings in the Philippines.
He also said that American Special Forces troops, who have been training the Philippine military to fight against Islamic terrorists on the southern island of Mindanao since 2001, should not become a “semipermanent or permanent” force. Mindful of rousing anti-American sentiments, the Arroyo government and American officials have said little about the American forces’ activities.
“The U.S. and Manila should try to assess what exactly is the purpose of the Americans in Mindanao and whether they have achieved their purpose,” said Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, a research organization for Filipino Muslims based in Cotabato City. “Noynoy should reassess, should review the terms of their presence here.”
10) Iran: Brazil and Turkey make new nuclear proposal
Nasser Karimi, Associated Press, Tuesday, May 11, 2010; 2:21 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/11/AR2010051100880.html
Tehran, Iran – Iran said Tuesday that Brazil and Turkey have offered a promising new proposal for a nuclear fuel deal as Tehran steps up a diplomatic push to stave off new U.N. sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
Tehran has made a series of counteroffers after rejecting a U.N.-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods for a reactor in exchange for Iran’s stock of lower-level enriched uranium. But they appear to fall short of Western demands aimed at ensuring Tehran is unable to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said during a weekly news briefing that the latest talks with Turkey and Brazil have produced “a new formula that could pave the ground for understanding.” He didn’t elaborate but said Iran has not accepted any proposal for sending its low-enriched uranium abroad yet.
The Brazilian and Turkish presidents will travel to Iran next week following recent visits by their foreign ministers, Mehmanparast said.
A spokeswoman for Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Brazil has not finalized a proposal but that the nation is working on one based on a plan formed by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
In Turkey, a Foreign Ministry official would only say that Turkey and Brazil are in constant contact to try to find a solution and that they are “building on” the U.N.-backed nuclear exchange plan.
11) Iraqi Deal To End De-Baathification
Anthony Shadid, New York Times, May 11, 2010
Baghdad – Iraqi politicians have reached an agreement to halt a four-month campaign to bar candidates from politics for ties to the Baath Party, American and Iraqi officials said, papering over the sectarian tensions it unleashed, at least for now, and removing an obstacle in the long-delayed process of forming a new government.
The disqualification of hundreds of candidates threw politics into turmoil before the March 7 parliamentary elections. In the deadlock that followed the landmark vote, the prospect of barring more candidates deepened the sense of crisis here, reflecting the conflicts that still threaten Iraq’s fragile political system.
But officials said this week that an agreement was reached to end the de-Baathification campaign in much the same way that it began in January, in an opaque fashion that has bewildered the campaign’s supporters and opponents and underlined the extent to which tenuous Iraqi institutions can be manipulated by the power of single personalities. “It’s stopped,” President Jalal Talabani said. “There will be no more.”
Similar predictions have been made in the past, and the issue has proved phoenix-like in its capacity to haunt politics here. But even the campaign’s architect, Ahmad Chalabi, the former ally turned bête noire of the Americans, acknowledged that the dispute had ended for now and that none of the winning candidates would be barred.
Critics have contended that the disqualifications were a brazen instance of score-settling that reopened sectarian wounds and reinforced how elusive national reconciliation remains. Others called them a travesty of justice that highlighted the ability of one man, Mr. Chalabi, to recast politics through a deft reading of institutions, personalities and the pressures they faced. In the end, he met only token resistance.
“Ahmad Chalabi’s ability to manipulate Iraqi politics through the instrument of de-Baathification is impressive indeed,” said Reidar Visser, an Iraq analyst at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. A year ago, he added, “Iraqi politics was looking less sectarian.”
“Through forcing de-Baathification back on the agenda,” Mr. Visser continued, “Chalabi has been able to bring about a sectarian repolarization of Iraqi politics.”
Mr. Chalabi’s campaign could be seen as a political masterstroke, mobilizing Shiite voters for both Mr. Maliki and the Shiite alliance through which Mr. Chalabi won a seat in Parliament. Mr. Chalabi appears to have swelled his own flagging popularity; he failed to win a seat in the previous election. He said he started the campaign to foil what he called an American plan to reorient the government by bringing in Sunnis sympathetic to the Baath Party. “I blew it up in their faces,” he boasted.
Whatever the intention, the campaign’s conclusion seemed to bewilder politicians as much as its beginning. In an interview on Monday, one politician grew agitated as he was asked where the matter stood. “It’s a chaotic situation. Nobody gives you facts. We try in fact to get a clue on this subject,” he exclaimed. “Nobody knows.” The words were spoken by Tariq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice president of Iraq.
12) Egyptian Emergency Law Is Extended for 2 Years
Michael Slackman, New York Times, May 11, 2010
Cairo – After years of the government’s promising to end Egypt’s state of emergency, Parliament on Tuesday approved a government request to extend for two years its right to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court.
In an unusual case of public outreach by Egypt’s normally tight-lipped leaders, the government took pains to explain its decision and announced that the emergency law – in place continuously since President Anwar el-Sadat was assassinated in 1981 – would be used only in cases of terrorism and drug trafficking. Officials also said that some provisions of the law would be dropped.
But the concept of terrorism is so broad in Egyptian law and the language in the new measure so malleable, that the government decision was immediately criticized by human rights groups, political activists and independent human rights monitors, who say they expect little to change in a nation that routinely uses the heavy hand of the police and prisons to silence political opposition.
“Even the claim that emergency powers will now be limited to terrorism and drug trafficking cases only is false,” said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “More dangerously, the culture of exceptionalism stays, and with it the message that security agencies are still above the law.”
The government’s announcement, and its unusually aggressive effort to explain and mitigate the impact of its decision, comes at a time of rising political and social uncertainty in Egypt. Elections for the upper house of Parliament are to be held in a few weeks, the lower house in the fall and the presidency next year.
The government is also facing rampant rumors concerning President Hosni Mubarak’s health; daily protests by workers demanding better wages; and a reinvigorated political opposition energized by the former United Nations chief nuclear monitor, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has said he might run for president.
In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said: “We are disappointed. We have questions about how this fits with pledges that the government of Egypt has made to its own people to try to find a way to move beyond the emergency law.”
“Of course it is a blow that they have renewed the emergency law yet again,” said Martin Scheinin, the United Nations special representative on human rights and terrorism, who conducted a fact-finding mission in Egypt in April 2009.
Some critics noted that Egypt had insisted for years that it used its emergency powers only to combat terrorism. “They always claimed that the emergency law is used only against drug traffickers and terrorists,” said Aida Seif El-Dawla, a human rights advocate who works with victims of torture and abuse. “They have been systematically lying.”
In a report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009, Mr. Scheinin wrote that Egyptian law defines terrorism to include not only violent acts but also ” ‘any threat or intimidation’ with the aim of ‘disturbing the peace or jeopardizing the safety and security of the society.’ ” In addition, he wrote that Egyptian terrorism-related law “contains a wide range of purposes, such as ‘to prevent or impede the public authorities in the performance of their work.’ “
Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch, added that while the government said it agreed not to use the law to monitor communications, it could do so under amendments to the Constitution that allow for the establishment of a permanent antiterrorism provision, which would allow such monitoring. “This claim that the source and need for the emergency law has to do with terrorism is transparently false,” Ms. Whitson said. “In fact they use this law to prosecute any political activist who criticizes the government.”
In a report presented in March to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mr. Scheinin, a professor of public international law, said that court decisions to release prisoners from administrative detention were often ignored or that the prisoners were released and immediately rearrested. “Basically there is no legal certainty as long as there is an emergency law in place,” Mr. Scheinin said.
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