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Posts Tagged ‘US’

Netanyahu Invited to Washington? For Next Tuesday

May 26th, 2010 Comments off

Ha’aretz is reporting (exclusively, they say) that President Obama has invited Binyamin Netanyahu to come to Washington following his visit to the OECD session in Europe and a previously scheduled visit to Canada. The European visit marks Israel’s joining th4e Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Interesting since lately there’s been some pressure in the US for Obama to visit Israel: by inviting Netanyahu he may be emphasizing who’s the superpower and who’s the client.

I’m posting this tonight rather late since, if it’s true, it’ll probably be in the US press by morning.


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"End game"

May 25th, 2010 Comments off
barack_obama_attends_a_briefing_on_afghanistan_in_the_situation_room_of_the_white_house

FB Ali via SST/ here

The players involved in the conflict in Afghanistan have all concluded that neither side can achieve a military victory and that it will end in some other way, probably through a negotiated solution. Since each of them has different goals, this end game is likely to be both confusing and complicated……

The mainstream viewpoint in the US administration, espoused by Secretary Gates and the military hierarchy, accepts the inevitability of a negotiated settlement but wants one that preserves a friendly government in Kabul that continues to lean on the US for support. If Taliban participation is unavoidable, it must be as limited as possible. They believe the insurgency has not yet been weakened enough to accept this kind of a settlement, and thus further military action is necessary. Hence the forthcoming Kandahar operation, as well as renewed pressure on Pakistan to complete the military takeover of its tribal areas. President Obama is going along with this policy for now but does not appear committed to it; he could abandon it if the approach does not work as successfully as its proponents promise.

Another school of thought in the administration (possibly including VP Biden) could be termed the minimalist position: it would agree to any kind of a negotiated settlement between the Afghan parties that would enable the US to get out of there expeditiously. They would like Hamid Karzai to pursue this option as soon as possible and get the best deal he can. There is also still a maximalist position in the US, advanced by those groups who believe the US should dominate the world with its military power, and who were the original backers of the Iraq and Afghan wars. This group advocates the continuation of the war until the Taliban are defeated and al-Qaeda is eradicated from the region. Its supporters in the administration maintain a low profile since this position is unlikely to ever become administration policy. (continue/ here)

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Petraeus Memo Widens scope of US Military Covert Operations in ME

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

The 7-page memo seen by the NYT and signed by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus authorizes US troops to engage in clandestine intelligence-gathering in the greater Middle East. The article implies that the memo also authorizes more military teams to go into unconventional conflict situations in both unfriendly and friendly countries.

Critics worry that the order blurs the line between combat soldiers and spies and weakens the claim of all soldiers to human treatment under the Geneva Conventions.

My own view is that the United States was founded as a government of laws, not men, and that the siren call of covert operations is steadily undermining the rule of law. Blurring the line between military action and spying makes it impossible to talk about the covert missions, since they are typically classiified. The same is true for predator drone strikes.

Military action such as launching drones should be carried out by the uniformed military, not by CIA operatives or, worse, contractors. The former action would allow us to discuss the campaigns as free citizens of a republic. As it is now, often civilian contractors are piloting drones long-distance and we cannot so much as get a straight answer out of the elected officials. Where the US is striking at friendly countries, there should be a Status of Forces agreement to provide a legal framework for the actions.

And intelligence gathering should be carried out by the civilian such agencies. The more you make elements of the military actually intelligence assents, the more likely it is that the lines between them will get strained. That blurring could be bad for all troops. There is already a tendency in the ME for locals to see all Americans as CIA, and giving troops a lot of covert missions will reinforce these views.

We still can be a country of laws, not men, can’t we? It isn’t too late?

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On the Hezbollah-Brennan ‘remark’: Codename: "If it looks & quacks, it’s not necessarily one … anymore"

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

Josh Landis tagged this interview with Mark Perry on Al Jaz-English for us, in which Perry “doesn’t believe that Brennan is simply being naive; rather, he says the term is code for doing what has to be done, just as the US military began to deal with Iraqi Sunnis and stopped calling them al-Qaida and began calling them “Sons of Iraq.

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Is ElBaradei Running for President Everywhere but Egypt?

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

While I’m citing The National, I’d also note this piece about how Mohamed ElBaradei’s “prolonged absences from Egypt” are “confusing” his followers; he’s visited the US, Cameroon, and other places, and many of his chief aides have been attending a conference in the US.

This would seem to reinforce the sense that ElBaradei’s appeal is to an elite group, perhaps even to expatriates, and may not run too deep at home.


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US Afghan troops ‘more than in Iraq’

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

There are more US troops in Afghanistan than Iraq for the first time since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003, officials say.
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Israel offered Nukes to Racist South Africa for Use on Black Neighbors

May 24th, 2010 Comments off

A suppressed historical episode has emerged into the light of day in such a way as to deeply embarrass Israel and the United States in their campaign against Iran’s peaceful nuclear enrichment program at Natanz near Isfahan.

In a recent interview, Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Israel said, “We are frustrated with the fact that Iran does not feel the pressure of the world, does not care about the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N., because we feel that time is running out.” On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “The greatest danger mankind faces is a radical regime, without limits to its cruelty, obtaining nuclear capabilities.”

Such Israeli eruptions of outrage about Iran depend on a key bit of misdirection, including denial of Israel’s own small arsenal of nuclear warheads. But it used to be difficult to prove Israel’s arsenal exists. No longer.

Iran appears not to have a nuclear weapons program, according to US intelligence, and its civilian nuclear research program is permitted under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UN Security Council, however keeps insisting that Iran cease enrichment, though it is unclear why that body thinks it has the authority to amend the NPT ex post facto in that way. It is true that Iran did not inform the UN as it was required to when it began trying to enrich uranium in the late 1990s. And it is also true that Iran is not today as transparent with the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors as that organization would like.

For their parts, , Iranian political figures such as speaker of the house Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have threatened to withdraw from the agreement reached last week with Turkey and Brazil whereby it would send a substantial amount of its stock of low enriched uranium to Turkey to be held in escrow, in return for the international community providing fuel enriched to 19.75 percent for the reactor that produces medical isotopes.

Barry Posen has demolished the argument, sometimes trotted out by the ‘overthrow Tehran’ crowd, that Iran would give nukes to third parties, including terrorists, if it had them. But that argument is one among many deployed against Tehran on a somewhat fantastic basis (since Iran does not have a bomb in the first place and likely couldn’t have one for a decade or more even if it were trying, which as far as US intelligence can tell, it isn’t.)

The implication, that Iran must be stopped because it would proliferate to neighbors, may come back to haunt pro-Israeli propagandists, given Tel Aviv’s own secret role in attempting to proliferate nukes to South Africa.

Netanyahu instanced the peculiar danger of Iran, but surely few regimes were as brutal and cruel or as threatening to their neighbors as Apartheid South Africa, which demonstrably wanted nuclear weapons in a way that cannot be equally well proven regarding Iran.

The Guardian reports on findings of historian Sasha Polakow-Suransky in the South African archives demonstrating that Israel offered Praetoria nuclear weapons in 1975. The documents are detailed in Polakow-Suransky’s book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa. The relevant memos and minutes are reproduced by The Guardian here.

The White South African government appears to have wanted to buy Israeli nuclear-tipped missiles for potential use against Black African neighbors such as Angola, Botswana, Zambia and (at certain points) Mozambique– countries against which the rogue regime often launched cross-border raids.

It is worth remembering what kind of pariah, racist and repressive regime Apartheid South Africa really was. Non-binding UN Security Council resolutions starting in the 1960s discouraged conventional arms sales to the regime, much less nuclear weapons! (The UN-imposed arms sale ban became mandatory on member states in 1977, shortly after the Israeli offer had been made). The impact of officially imposed white supremacism on the wealth and health of the population of was clear by 1978:

The Israel-South Africa partnership even extended to having the Anti-Defamation League, supposedly a civil rights organization fighting anti-Semitism, spy on and play dirty tricks on organizations and individuals in San Francisco who supported Palestinians or who opposed South African Apartheid.

The embarrassment is compounded by the increasing similarities between South African policies toward Black Africans and Israeli policies toward Palestinians. There is a sense in which Gaza and the West Bank have become much like the “homelands” created for denaturalized South Africans, making them foreigners in their own country and requiring that they carry papers at all times.

But it is not clear that even the South African Apartheid regime imposed anything as cruel as the Israeli siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip. That blockade is being challenged by a volunteer aid flotilla, which, however, risks being turned away before it can deliver humanitarian assistance to the half-starved Gazans, half of whom are children.

Whether it was intentional or not, the double standard in the UNSC concerning Israel’s nuclear weapons (including the recklessness with which its leaders have hinted they would use them, and the willingness to proliferate) and Iran’s civilian enrichment program, which may well never lead to a bomb has been underlined by Polakow-Suransky’s revelations. The research discoveries make it at least a little more difficult for the US and Israel to persuade other UNO states that Iran is a rogue and needs special intervention, while Israel is held harmless.

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"…That clock is ticking. The Afghan insurgents can hear it ticking. The generals do not have the time they would need to make their strategy work"

May 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Lang at SST/ here

“Some group of “Taliban” have now claimed yesterday’s attack on the airfield at Kandahar. Mortar fire, rockets and ground action around the perimeter marked the event. Evidently this went on for some hours. ….. This follows on a recent Taliban declaration of their intention to conduct a Spring offensive. In that context, there have been attacks in Kabul, and ambitious and successful ambushes of vehicular convoys. So far, the opposition is not “fixed” in the military sense of “finding, fixing and finishing” the enemy. “Fixing” here means that the enemy must be dominated and held in position while the process is brought to end. That does not seem to be happening. This is a bad portent for the future.

I keep saying that the preliminary COIN effort at Marja is a predictor of what the likely prospects are for COIN success at Kandahar and elsewhere around the country. Where is the news from Marja?

Time is short. William Hague, the new British foreign minister urges the US not to withdraw “too soon” from Afghanistan. That is easy for him to say. His government is new and not yet scarred. The horizon seems far away just now. For President Obama the horizon is close and approaching fast. We have learned now that Obama recognized during the Afghan policy debate that the generals and admirals were trying to “roll” him for what they wanted. They wanted a long COIN war in Afghanistan with an open ended commitment to that war. He called Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates to his office and summoned them to subordination. The threat behind that was obvious. In spite of that he gave them much of what they wanted, but with a caveat driven by his political need to start the end of the war before November, 2012.

That clock is ticking. The Afghan insurgents can hear it ticking. The generals do not have the time they would need to make their strategy work.

The West Point commencement speech yesterday was interesting. It becomes increasingly obvious that Obama is both a social democrat and an internationalist in the classic old mold. These are heavy political burdens for a candidate to bear these days. He will not be able to bear an additional burden in Afghanistan in 2012.”

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Iran looks for swap for ‘hikers’

May 23rd, 2010 Comments off

An Iranian minister urges the US to propose a prisoner swap to secure the release of three US nationals arrested last year.
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Taliban Attack Qandahar Airfield; Parliament goes on Strike

May 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Guerrillas fired mortar shells and used small arms to attack the major US military base in south Afghanistan, Qandahar Airfield, on Saturday. The operation was the third major attack by insurgents during the past week. They had also attacked a NATO convoy in the capital, Kabul, and had attacked Bagram Base north of Kabul. The seven hours long assault on Bagram was a by a company-sized unit of some 30 armed men, who managed to kill a contractor and wound 9 US or NATO troops, while all 16 of them were killed in heavy fighting. The attacks have pushed the death toll for US troops in Afghanistan past the 1000 mark.

The bold attacks come as President Barack Obama addressed West Point cadets, declaring victory in Iraq and predicting a similar positive outcome in Afghanistan. Obama alleged that the US was withdrawing from a now-democratic Iraq that would not be a platform for attacking the US, implying that Afghanistan would be brought to a similar end-state. But Iraq is highly unstable, has not formed a new government more than two months after the March 7 elections, and cannot exactly be called either democratic or secure and stable. If Iraq is Obama’s measure of success in Afghanistan, he has very low expectations.

At the same time, US and NATO troops began a sweep of a Qandahar neighborhood. The 200 US troops and about 200 – 250 Afghanistan National Army troops conducted door to door searches. The operation is seen as a dry run for a huge push on Qandahar by NATO this summer. This province is, along with Helmand, a major center of poppies-grown for opium and ideologically tends to support or at least think well of the old Taliban of Mulla Omar. Karen DeYoung of WaPo reports on the doubts even in the Pentagon that a ‘clearing campaign’ targeting Taliban in Qandahar can succeed.

Meanwhile, a long-running feud between the lower house of parliament and the Karzai government came to a boil on Saturday as the MPs went on strike, according to Pajhwok News Agency. President Karzai had missed the deadline for presenting to parliament his nominations for the 11 remaining cabinet posts in his government. In reaction, the lower house went on strike.

Pajhwok writes, “Chairman Muhammad Younus Qanuni said no session of any commission would be held until the ministers were introduced. An MP from the western Badghis province, Azita Rafat, said the delay in introducing the remaining cabinet members had worsened relations between parliament and the government. “The government neither respects the votes of the nation nor us,” she said.”

Speaker Yunus Qanuni is a Tajik former member of the Northern Alliance and is close to Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s main rival in last summer’s presidential election. Since Abdullah’s supporters generally believe that Karzai stole the election, it is now difficult for him to achieve better relations with parliament. That any resolution of the crisis in Afghanistan will ultimately have to be political in character is widely recognized. But how to get a political settlement when the executive and the legislature are themselves at daggers drawn is not clear.

Aljazeera English reports on the Taliban and US/NATO campaigns this week in Afghanistan:

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