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Entries in Hillary Clinton (12)


Palestine Latest: Israel to Use "United Jerusalem" Card against Obama's Gaza Demand?

Following the approval of the demolition of 22"illegal" Arab homes in the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve a master plan, the first since 1959, calling for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The proposal is largely based on construction on privately-owned Arab property. The committee will give those who object to the plan 60 days to submit their reservations.

According to the non-government organisation Ir Amim, while the plan calls for 13,500 new residential units in East Jerusalem for Palestinians, updated demographic studies indicate that this amount barely represents half the minimum needs for the Arab population by 2030. Ir Amim also claims the plan allows for Palestinian construction in the north and south of the capital  but barely provides for an expansion of Arab construction projects in the centre of the city.

Israel-Palestine Latest: The East Jerusalem Demolition/Settlements Argument

On Sunday, about 150 protesters clashed with the settlers' security guards in Silwan. Six Border Police officers were wounded by stones, and dozens of women and children suffered from tear gas inhalation after the Israeli forces began firing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on 6 July, after a fifth round of indirect talks between the US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, Israel, and the Palestinians Authority.

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Washington last week and met Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Sunday, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen met with Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Pentagon and Defense Ministry officials also held talks in Israel within the framework of the two countries' strategic dialogue.

Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren,was also in Israel to give a briefing at the Foreign Ministry. According to Israeli diplomats, Oren said relations between the two countries are not in a crisis because a crisis is something that passes; however, using a geological analogy, Oren said, "Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart." (Oren has now denied he made the remark.)

Yediot Ahronot's Shimon Shiffer claims that Obama will demand that Netanyahu lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip entirely and give permission for Palestinians to leave the Strip freely through Israeli border crossings. If true, then the Israeli Prime Minister may use the East Jerusalem expansion as a bargaining card, trading it for some conditions on the lifting of the blockade.

The Latest from Iran (26 June): Absolute Security?

1745 GMT: More on the Khomeini Challenge. Earlier we noted growing concern within the Iranian establishment over the influence of "radicals" (1235 GMT).

Radio Zamaneh has more on that concern through the remarks of Seyed Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, as he spoke to families of victims of a 1981 bombing.

Khomeini said “extremism” must be abandoned and “extremists” must be "churned away" from the Islamic Republic.

Noting the growing economic problems in Iran, which has "disheartened" its people, Khomeini said Iranians want their officials to get over “personal vendettas” and “childish grudges” and instead try to resolve the country’s problems.

NEW Iran Document & Analysis: US Gov’t Statement on Sanctions, Nukes, & Human Rights
NEW Iran: Summary of the New US Sanctions
NEW Iran Interview: Ahmad Batebi “The Green Movement and Mousavi”
The Real Race for Iran: Human Rights v. Tehran’s Defenders (Shahryar)
The Latest from Iran (25 June): The Important Issues

1640 GMT: Another Execution? Six weeks after five Iranians were hung, concerns have escalated over Zainab Jalalian and Hossein Khezri, who are reportedly at risk of imminent execution.

The death sentence for Jalalian, convicted of mohareb ("war against God") because of her membership in the separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), was upheld and sent to the enforcement section today. Zainab's plea to say goodbye to her family was met with, "shut up" by the sentencing judge, and she was condemned to death by hanging. As Zainab was not permitted legal representation,

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action Alert for Zainab Jalalian and Hossein Khezri, who are believed to be at risk of imminent execution. We have assembled a sample letter you can send to Iranian authorities regarding these two cases.

1230 GMT: Taking on the "Radicals"? After a week of clear escalation in conflict --- not between the "Greens" and the regime but within the establshment --- the Iranian political scene is filled with warnings of "radical" behaviour threatening the Islamic Republic.

Khabar Online features an analysis declaring that conservatives and principlists "will pay for" the actions of the radicals. radicals' move, historical review pointing at this radical current since the IR establishment

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, the Vice Speaker of Parliament, of the "threats of fundamentalism" while suggesting a faction of reformists may "reappear in a new form".

High-profile MP Ahmad Tavakoli has criticised attacks on political figures, saying that even those who have done wrong to the Iranian system should be treated with justice.

And Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Seyed Hassan Khomeini, has declared that people want radicals to be banned and asked Iranians to listen to the warningsor marja (senior clerics) about moral decline, poverty, and inflation.

1220 GMT: Asking about Political Rights. Member of Parliament Kazem Delkhosh has raised a query: why do other parties need a permit for rallies when (Basij protesting in front of the Majlis gets receive meals, cookies, Sundis [juice drinks] and buses?

1215 GMT: All is Well (Nuclear Edition). The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, has emphasised that, despite recent conflicts and the UN sanctions resolution, Tehran will continue to work with monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

1210 GMT: More "Absolute Security". Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi has announced new commando deployments will soon take place.

1200 GMT: Video Turmoil. A couple of clips from this week apparently pointing to tensions in Iranian politics. The clash between prominent member of Parliament Ali Motahari and pro-Ahmadinejad legislators, culminating in Motahari's "shut up and sit down", has emerged.

Then there is this claimed video of a crowd in Rasht facing up to "morality police", breaking the back window of their vehicle. Persian2English asks further information, including the report, "A few minutes later, Special Guard forces entered the scene with batons and shot tear gas into the crowd."


1140 GMT: Critiquing Iran and the World. A group of Tehran University professors have issued a statement assessing Iran's foreign policy approach as an attempt to project power by creating divisions amongst others.

1130 GMT: We have posted two features out of Washington --- the sanctions provisions passed by the US Congress and soon to be signed by President Obama, and the statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton linking those sanctions to Iran's nuclear programme and human rights.

0650 GMT: All is Well (Gasoline Special). Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Ali-Reza Zeighami has declared that sanctions passed by the US Congress on Iran's energy sector will not put any pressure on the country: "Despite sanctions, Iran will be self-sufficient in gasoline production within two years and after that we can begin exporting gasoline."

Zeighami claimed that the completion of five projects at refineries will triple Iran's output.

0645 GMT: Culture Corner. It appears that Iran is not absolutely secure against the excesses of "Western" culture, however. Thomas Erdbrink, writing in The Washington Post, highlights the success of Rupert Murdoch's Farsi1 satellite television channel, with situation comedies and Latin American, Korean, and US soap operas dubbed into Persian.

We leave it to Iranian authorities to explain why --- unlike many other foreign channels which have been jammed --- Farsi1 has made it into Iranian homes.

0630 GMT: We emerge from the Iranian weekend with comments from human rights activist Ahmad Batebi on the dynamics of the Green Movement and the role of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Meanwhile, Iran's authorities continue to talk up the notion of "absolute security". Iran's police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, after his recent reflection on the post-election crisis (including admission of security mistakes and an implicit indication of electoral manipulation), is now giving assurances about the present.

Ahmadi-Moghaddam said Iran's aim is complete protection of borders by 2015, with more investment in the construction of roads and checkpoints. He also announced a plan to increase border patrol units with "state-of-the-art" equipment.

Iran Document & Analysis: US Gov't Statement on Sanctions, Nukes, & Human Rights

I am not sure, in all the fuss around this week's US Congress vote for stricter sanctions on Tehran, that this statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received much attention.

The first two paragraphs are the expected language on containing Iran's nuclear programme, but the third paragraph shifts the discussion to Tehran's approach to the rights of its citizens. We noted two weeks ago, on the anniversary of Iran's Presidential elections that the Obama and Clinton declarations were the most forthright to date on rights, with the Secretary of State calling for the release of all political prisoners (and naming some of them). Yesterday's declaration continues that trend.

But what does it mean in practice, as opposed to rhetoric?

The Latest from Iran (26 June): Absolute Security?


Passage of Iran Sanctions Legislation

I join President Obama in welcoming Congressional passage of legislation to strengthen sanctions against Iran. We support the broad aims of HR 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 — constraining Iran’s nuclear program, changing the calculus of Iran’s leaders, and demonstrating that Iran’s policies decrease its standing, and further isolate it in the international community. We are committed to fully implementing this legislation in a manner that advances our multilateral dual-track strategy of engagement and pressure.

These new measures, along with action by the European Union and Australia, build on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 and underscore the resolve of the international community to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and to hold it accountable for its international obligations. The United States will work with our partners to maximize the impact of these efforts and to continue pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

In addition to increasing pressure on Iran’s illicit nuclear activities, this legislation also addressed the Iranian government’s continued violation of the fundamental rights of its citizens. A year after the Iranian people took to the streets to protest an election, the leadership continues to violate its most fundamental duties of government, denying its people the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear, and to the equal administration of justice. We support the Congress’ efforts to call attention to these violations, and the United States will continue to hold Iran accountable for its obligations to respect the rights of its own people.

Afghanistan Revealed: US Hands Over Millions of $$$...To "Warlords" (DeYoung)

Want a break from the whipped-up drama over General Stanley McChrystal and his "mistake" of an interview? Possibly to read something more significant?

Karen DeYoung writes for The Washington Post:

The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.

The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and "dramatically undermine" larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.

The report describes a Defense Department that is well aware that some of the money paid to contractors winds up in the hands of warlords and insurgents. Military logisticians on the ground are focused on getting supplies where they are needed and have "virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided" for the local truck convoys that transport more than 70 percent of all goods and materials used by U.S. troops. Alarms raised by prime trucking contractors were met by the military "with indifference and inaction," the report said.

"The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking," Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) wrote in an introduction to the 79-page report, titled "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan."

The report comes as the number of U.S. casualties is rising in the Afghan war, and public and congressional support is declining. The administration has been on the defensive in recent weeks, insisting that the slow progress of anti-Taliban offensives in Helmand province and the city of Kandahar does not mean that more time is needed to assess whether President Obama's strategy is working.

"I think it's much too early to draw a negative conclusion," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. "I think there's more positive than negative. We're heading toward a year-end assessment, which will be a big one for us." The review was set when Obama announced in December that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and begin to withdraw them in July 2011.

Tierney is chairman of the national security subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose majority staff spent six months preparing the report. A proponent of a smaller U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan and targeted attacks on insurgents, Tierney said in an interview Monday that he hopes the report will help members of Congress "analyze whether they think this is the most effective way to go about dealing with terrorism. Or the most cost-effective way."

The report's conclusions will be introduced at a hearing Tuesday at which senior military and defense officials are scheduled to testify. The report says that all evidence and findings were made available to Republicans on the subcommittee. A spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), the ranking Republican, said the lawmaker will not comment until he has seen the entire report.

In testimony shortly after Obama's strategy announcement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that "much of the corruption" in Afghanistan has been fueled by billions of dollars' worth of foreign money spent there, "and one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

Military officials said that they have begun several corruption investigations in Afghanistan and that a task force has been named, headed by Navy Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, director of logistics and supply operations for the chief of naval operations and former head of the Baghdad-based joint contracting command for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, communications chief for U.S. and NATO forces in Kabul, said that the entire Tierney report has not been examined but that Dussault will be "reviewing every aspect of our contracting process and recommending changes to avoid our contribution to what is arguably a major source of revenue that feeds the cycle of corruption."

The U.S. military imports virtually everything it uses in Afghanistan -- including food, water, fuel and ammunition -- by road through Pakistan or Central Asia to distribution hubs at Bagram air base north of Kabul and a similar base outside Kandahar. From there, containers are loaded onto trucks provided by Afghan contractors under the $2.16 billion Host Nation Trucking contract. Unlike in the Iraq war, the security and vast majority of the trucks are provided by Afghans, a difference that Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has praised as promoting local entrepreneurship.

Read rest of article....

UPDATE Afghanistan Special: McChrystal and the Trashing of the President (US Military v. Obama, Chapter 472)

UPDATE 1945 GMT: So who is defending General McChrystal? Well, let's go to Kabul for a statement from a spokesman: "[Hamid Karzai] strongly supports McChrystal and his strategy in Afghanistan and believes he is the best commander the United States has sent to Afghanistan over the last nine years."

UPDATE 1830 GMT: Thumbs Down from the White House? Or Just a Bit of Posturing?

The stingers from the statement of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "All options are on the table [including McChrystal's resignation]....The magnitude and graveness of the mistake here are profound.”

Afghanistan Document: The McChrystal Profile (Hastings — Rolling Stone)

Gibbs said he gave an advance copy of the article, which had already gone out to the press, to Obama last night. The President was "irked".

Gibbs said the president wants to know “what in the world he was thinking.”

And here's Secretary of Defense Gates' careful statement:
I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person.

UPDATE 1740 GMT: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has issued a far-from-robust defence of General McChrystal. He expressed "concern" over the "significant" mistake of the Rolling Stone interview.

McChrystal also may have lost the backing of key Senators like former Presidential candidate John McCain former Vice Presidential candidate Joseph , ieberman, and Lindsay Graham, who called the General's remarks "inappropriate, inconsistent with relationship between the Commander-in-Chief and the military".

UPDATE 1450 GMT: The executive editor of Rolling Stone says that General McChrystal was shown the advance copy of the profile and raised no objections.

UPDATE 1230 GMT: Department of Defense officials say General McChrystal has fired a press aide over the Rolling Stone episode.

The US Embassy in Afghanistan, despite the military's ridicule of Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, has maintained that Eikenberry and General McChrystal "are both fully committed" to President Obama's Afghan strategy and are working together to "implement" the plan.

UPDATE 1200 GMT: Five minutes after posting this, with the projection of a "quick cover-up" of the episode: "Top administration official says McChrystal has personally called Vice President Biden, [Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff] Mullen, [Secretary of Defense] Gates, and NSC advisor Jones to apologize."

In the first week of Barack Obama's Presidency, we noted that his senior military commanders were trying to alter his policies in key areas, to the point of undermining him. We noted their opposition to his plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and his timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and their determination to escalate the military intervention in Afghanistan.

That challenge has continued for almost 18 months with Obama --- in my view --- getting "rolled over" on the Afghanistan issue as he twice conceded to the demands for troop escalation.

That is the background to today's hot media story. Rolling Stone magazine has released advance copies of an interview with General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan. The soundbites are so explosive that McChrystal has already issued his "sincerest apology" for "a mistake reflecting poor judgement". He is flying back to Washington, reportedly for a meeting with the President.

All very dramatic. It's far from surprising, however: if this is to be more than a shiny bauble for the media, McChrystal's interview --- when it is released in full on Friday --- will need to be considered as far from "a mistake". It is part of the ongoing military contest with Obama.

Consider the soundbites from the advance copies of the interview.

1. Taking on the President. McChrystal and an aide refer to a 2009 meeting with Obama. The aide belittles the President for "a 10-minute photo op": "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was... he didn't seem very engaged. The boss was pretty disappointed."

Gen McChrystal says, "I found that time painful. I was selling an unsellable position."

Hmm... McChrystal's pain smacks of a self-serving "poor me" pose. His supposed weariness over the "unsellable" is a bit ironic, given that McChrystal's visit was quite likely the ultimate in sales jobs: he was pitching for the increase in troop deployments that Obama granted in December.

2. Dismissing the Vice-President. Joe Biden may have tried to assert his authority with personal visits to Afghanistan but this snapshot from Rolling Stone portrays a military smacking his annoyance aside.
"Are you asking about Vice-President Biden?" McChrystal asks. 'Who's that?"

An aide then says: "Biden? Did you say: Bite Me?"

3. Trampling on the Ambassador. One of the high-profile episodes in that battle occurred last autumn, when a memorandum from the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry (a retired General), was leaked. It questioned the drive for military escalation, given fundamental political problems and corruption in Afghanistan.

McChrystal's considered reaction? "I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before. Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so'."

4. Dismissing the Advisors. Last August, in an effort to check the military's drive for more troops, National Security Advisor James Jones --- another former General --- went to Kabul and warned commanders that, if they pushed for escalation so soon after March's build-up of forces, Obama would ask, "WTF [What the F***]?"

The view of Jones from McChrystal's aide? "A clown stuck in 1985".

And here's the respect that Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, gets. Told of an incoming message, McChrystal says: "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke....I don't even want to open it."

Only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it appears, gets approval from McChrystal's staff.

Now, a lot of this might be put down to day-to-day tensions in the difficult environment of Afghanistan. But --- and this is the point that seems to be eluding the media so far --- these examples of anger, impertinence, disrespect, and near-subversion of the President's authority did not occur in the heat of the moment.

They were offered, after the event, to a reporter as the "real" impressions of senior members of the US military.

That's not frustration. That's a deliberate challenge, in an ongoing campaign to challenge, to the President.

As McChrystal flies to Washington, possibly for a quick cover-up of the episode by all concerned, it needs to be remembered as such. For deliberate challenges do not suddenly evaporate.