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Entries in Barack Obama (24)


The Latest from Iran (19 May): Fallout

2035 GMT: The Uranium Sideshow. President Obama issued a boiler-plate, stay-the-course statement at a press conference alongside President Felipe Calderon of Mexico (which happens to have a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council):

"[We agree] on the need for Iran to uphold its international obligations or face increased sanctions and pressure, including UN sanctions. And I'm pleased that we've reached an agreement with our P5-plus-1 partners on a strong resolution that we now have shared with our Security Council partners.

Obama did not mention, for he was not asked, why he had encouraged Turkey to pursue talks with Iran leading to the uranium swap agreement in Tehran on Monday.

1845 GMT:Political Prisoner Watch. Housewife Masoumeh Yavari has been given a seven-year jail term at Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj. Yavari had been accused of "mohareb" (war against God), and the prosecutor had asked for the death penalty.

Zahra Jabbari, married and the mother of one child, has been sentenced to 4 years in prison. Jabbari was arrested during Qods Day protests on 18 September.

Student Activist Mohammad Yousef Rashidi has been handed a one-year jail term.

NEW Iran’s Uranium: Why Can’t the US Take Yes for an Answer? (Parsi)
NEW Iran’s Uranium: Washington “Can’t Afford to Look Ridiculous”, Makes Ridiculous Move (Emery)
NEW Iran’s Uranium: US Shows a Middle Finger to Tehran…and Turkey and Brazil and… (Gary Sick)
NEW Iran Document: Iranian Labour Unions “This is Not 1979″
Iran Analysis: Washington and the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Parsi)
Iran Alert: Filmmaker Firouz Faces Deportation From UK
Iran Analysis: The Contest at Home Over (and Beyond) the Uranium Agreement (Zahra)
Iran Analysis: Assessing the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Gary Sick)
The Latest from Iran (18 May): Getting Beyond the Uranium Agreement

1700 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Revolutionary Court in Tehran has sentenced student and women's rights activist Bahareh Hedayat to 9 ½ years in prison: six months for insulting the president, two years for insulting the Leader, five years for anti-state and anti-national security actions, and two years, previously suspended, for organizing a gathering in June 2006.

Milad Asadi, another senior member of the alumni organisation Advar-e Tahkim Vahdat, has been sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Bahareh Hedayat's statement for Iran's National Student Day in December 2009:


1200 GMT: The Uranium Battle. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, has issued the highest-level reaction to the US pursuit of a sanctions resolution at the United Nations, "They won't prevail and by pursuing the passing of a new resolution they are discrediting themselves in public opinion."

0940 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Masoud Heidari, the former head of the Iranian Labour News Agency,was released from prison on Tuesday. On Sunday, Heidari had begun serving a three-month prison sentence.

0840 GMT: Alice-in-Wonderland Media Statement of Day. I guess the editors of The New York Times have not paid any attention to the events of the last 72 hours:
Brazil and Turkey should join the other major players and vote for the Security Council resolution. Even before that, they should go back to Tehran and press the mullahs to make a credible compromise and begin serious negotiations.

0830 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Tahereh Saeedi, the wife of detained film director Jafar Panahi, has told Rah-e-Sabz that her husband has been on hunger strike since Sunday.

Panahi has demanded access to his lawyer, visits by his family, and an unconditional release until a court hearing is held.

Six journalists and cultural activists --- Mahnaz Karimi, Hafez Sardarpour, Mehdi Zeynali, Nader Azizi, Mustafa Jamshidi, and Ramin Jabbari --- were arrested on Monday in Iranian Azerbaijan.

0820 GMT: Shutting Down the Inquiry. Parleman News writes that a reformist proposal to investigate Iran's prisons has been rejected by the Parliament. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani insists that the Majlis continues to observe prisons and has forwarded a report to the National Security Council.

0815 GMT: Claim of Day (No, It's Not about Uranium). Rah-e-Sabz claims new accusations of impropriety against Mohammad Javad Larijani, a high-ranking official in the judiciary. The website asserts that a deal has been struck: Ahmadinejad will not press a corruption case against Larijani, while the official and his powerful brothers will drop charges against First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.

0810 GMT: And There's Always a "Terrorism" Story. Press TV features a summary of its interview with Abdolmalek Rigi, the captured leader of the Baluch insurgent group Jundullah: "While in Morocco, suspected Israeli or US agents had given him a list of people to assassinate in Tehran."

0755 GMT: Evaluating the Uranium/Sanctions Story. We have three analyses of the US response to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement: Trita Parsi asks why Washington cannot take Yes for an answer, Chris Emery suggests it is because the US feels it "cannot afford to look  ridiculous", and Gary Sick thinks Washington just showed the middle finger not only to Tehran but to Turkey, Brazil, and a lot of other countries.

The Washington Post has posted a copy of the sanctions resolution introduced by the US into the United Nations Security Council.

0635 GMT: Nuclear Spin of Day. Peyke Iran tries an different angle to attack the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement. The website claims that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip is angry about his reception in Tehran: he and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were offered an Iranian breakfast of sangak bread, Bulgarian white cheese, walnuts, and inferior dried fruit.

0630 GMT: Mousavi's Bodyguard. More manoeuvring over Monday's arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi's head of security, Ahmad Yazdanfar. Khabar Online claims that Yazdanfar "withdrew" from his position, and the story that he was detained is a fiction of the "leaders of sedition" and foreign media.

Opposition outlets have responded that Yazdanfar is not "political" at all but a simple security officer. Through his arrest and the kidnapping, terror, and torture of others, the Government is slowly becoming a terrorist group.

0615 GMT: Iran's Debate on the Tehran Deal. The Government is still facing some opposition to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement. From the conservative wing, Ahmad Tavakoli (and possibly, through indirect means, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani) made challenges on Tuesday. On the reformist side, Darius Ghanbari asked why Iran had waited seven months and expended so much capital in its foreign policy, only to move towards an agreement it could have had in October.

The response of pro-Government politicians is that this is only a "declaration", not a "treaty", so Tehran has not entered any binding commitments. Or, as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, "If the Vienna Group (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) accepts Iran’s terms and conditions...both parties commit themselves to the implementation” of the deal."

(Which means that Washington's response --- throwing out any consideration of the agreement in favour of a sanctions-first approach --- has sheltered the Ahmadinejad Government against its internal opponents.)

0530 GMT: For many observers, the nuclear sideshow will remain the main event today. The Obama Administration pretty much guaranteed that when, despite the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on a procedure for a uranium enrichment deal (and despite the small fact that President Obama appears to have encouraged the Turks to pursue the deal --- more on that later), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton loudly and not very politely announced that the US was proceeding with a sanctions resolution in the United Nations.

The resolution was submitted in the late afternoon, so now we will be treated to a lot of posturing on all sides, possibly obscuring this bottom-line assessment, courtesy of the National Iranian American Council: "This is an unbelievably stupid move on the part of the Obama administration. Not only are we rejecting our own terms of the agreement, but we are doing so in as tactless and diplomatically insulting way possible."

Meanwhile, on the centre stage of Iranian politics....

Containing Mousavi

Muhammad Sahimi offers a concise summary of the latest steps by the Government to intimidate Mir Hossein Mousavi ahead of the election anniversary on 12 June, including the arrest of Mousavi's top bodyguard.

The Labour Front

We have posted, in a separate entry, the statement of the Network of Iranian Labor Unions setting out its view of opposition to the Government, "This is Not 1979".

Iran Labor Report posts an overview of recent workers' protests.

Iran's Uranium: US Shows a Middle Finger to Tehran...and Turkey and Brazil and... (Gary Sick) 

Gary Sick assesses Washington's response to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement:

Well, that didn’t take long.

Yesterday I wondered if we were smart enough to declare victory and take yes as an answer from Tehran. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that a new package of sanctions against Iran had been approved by the major powers and would be sent to the UN Security Council later in the day.

Iran’s Uranium: Why Can’t the US Take Yes for an Answer? (Parsi)
Iran’s Uranium: Washington “Can’t Afford to Look Ridiculous”, Makes Ridiculous Move (Emery)

In case anyone overlooked the significance of this action, which followed by one day the announcement by Brazil and Turkey of the successful conclusion of their negotiations with Iran, she added: “I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Take that, Tehran! But it turns out that this lifted middle finger was not limited to Iran. Only hours before Clinton’s announcement, the foreign minister of Turkey held his own press conference. Obviously unaware of what was about to happen, he described in some detail not only the tortuous negotiation process with Iran, but his perception that he was acting directly on behalf of the United States.

According to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, he had been in “constant contact” with Clinton herself and with national security adviser James Jones, while his prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had face-to-face encouragement from President Obama in December and April.

The objective of Turkey and Brazil was to persuade Iran to accept the terms of an agreement the United States had itself promoted only six months ago as a confidence-building measure and the precursor to more substantive talks. There were twelve visits back and forth between the Turk and his Iranian counterpart, some 40 phone conversations, and eighteen grueling hours of personal negotiations leading up to the presentation of the signed agreement on Monday.

What they wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap We have done our duty,” said Davutoglu, calling the deal an important step for regional and global peace. “We were told that if Iran gives 1,200 kg without conditions, then the required atmosphere of trust would be created [to avoid sanctions]. So if we do all these things, and they still talk about sanctions … [it] will damage the psychological trust that has been created.”

The Turks and Brazilians, who felt they had “delivered” Iran on the terms demanded by the United States, were surprised and disappointed at the negative reactions from Washington. Little did they know that their success in Tehran, which had been given a 0-30 percent chance just days earlier, came just as the Americans were putting the final touches on a package of sanctions to be presented to the UN Security Council. The Tehran agreement was as welcome as a pothole in the fast lane, and the Americans were not reluctant to let their displeasure be known.

The five major powers had made up their minds (without consulting other members of the Security Council that currently includes both Turkey and Brazil), and these two mid-level powers were told in so many words to get out of the way.

The gratuitous insult aside, which approach do you believe would most likely result in real progress in slowing or halting Iran’s nuclear program? We have been imposing ever-greater sanctions on Iran for more than fifteen years. When we started they had zero centrifuges; today they have in excess of 9,000. To those who believe that one more package of sanctions will do what no other sanctions have done so far, I can only say I admire your unquenchable optimism.

More likely the Turkish ambassador to the UN had it about right when he said quite plainly about sanctions, “They don’t work.”

Would a negotiating track do better, perhaps mediated by two middle-level powers who have built up some credibility with Iran, like Algeria when it finally engineered the end to the US-Iran hostage crisis in 1980-81?  We’ll never know. Tonight the hardliners in Iran (and their American counterparts) are celebrating.

The Iranian hardliners had already begun asking questions about the deal, fearful that Iran had given away too much. Now they don’t have to worry since everyone knows that Iran will never be willing or able to negotiate under the threat of sanctions.

For the Revolutionary Guards it is a huge bonus. As foreign companies are driven away, the Guards progressively take over more and more of the economy. And as restrictions on trade grow, so do their opportunities to manage the immensely profitable smuggling routes. Like their American counterparts, but for different reasons, they thrive on an environment of threat and isolation.

The presidents of Turkey and Brazil have been humiliated. But the Great Powers are confident that their lesser cousins know their place and will show deference when the chips are down. They’ll do what they have to do. They always do.

Don’t they… ?

Middle East Inside Line: IDF Concern over Settlers, Israel's Warning to Europeans, Barak's Tactics, Chomsky on "Stalinist" Israel

Israel Defense Forces Concern over Settlers: The head of Israel Defense Forces' Central Command, General Avi Mizrahi, told the troops of Kfir Infantry Brigade on Monday that the recent spate of settler violence could lead to a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank.

The Kfir Brigade, created in December 2005, consists of six battalions who man 30 percent of the roadblocks in the West Bank and are responsible for 60 percent of arrests. Although the IDF is not aware of any plan, Mizrahi said, the IDF must be ready for any escalation in the territory and for the possibility of fighting the Palestinian forces, trained in Jordan by US General Keith Dayton. Mizrahi continued:

Middle East Inside Line: Proximity Talks Continue; Israel’s Lieberman & Palestine; Chomsky Barred

In most of the settlements, there is no problem,. Most are normative – but another mosque arson, and yet another arson, and it all comes together. But Yitzhar, Gilad's Farm, Maon, they don't believe in us at all as a state. They want only one thing, and when someone loses his boundaries, you don't know where it's going to go.

"Hands off Gaza": The Israeli Foreign Ministry warned Turkey, Greece, Ireland, and Sweden that any of their citizens setting sail for Gaza would be stopped before they could reach the coastal territory.

Earlier Monday, Israeli security forces released and deported a Turkish national arrested this month for allegedly belonging to an outlawed Islamic group.

Israel's Barak Aligning with Obama: Unlike his coalition partners, Ehud Barak prefers playing the "good guy" within the context of a regional peace under Washington's guidance. Possibly because of benefits when compared to partners' "intransigence", the Labor Party declines to hit the media with conservative and provocative statements on Jerusalem.

Barak on Monday urged Israeli lawmakers to refrain from taking any actions or making remarks that might present West Jerusalem's opposition to the Middle East peace process, according to Israel Radio. He also said that Israel must work to increase the mutual trust with its top ally, the United States, and added that the proximity talks must eventually lead to direct talks with the Palestinians.

Chomsky's Response to Israeli Officials: Having been refused entry into Israel on Sunday, Noam Chomsky likened Israel to a  "Stalinist regime". In a telephone conversation with Haaretz, Chomsky said from Jordan:
The official asked me why I was lecturing only at Bir Zeit and not an Israeli university. I told him that I have lectured a great deal in Israel. The official read the following statement: 'Israel does not like what you say.

I find it hard to think of a similar case, in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in Stalinist regimes.

Israel's Lieberman on North Korea: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday responded to a personal attack from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, which called him "an imbecile". He said, "I see it as a compliment from the North Koreans."

Afghanistan Analysis: Diplomatically Clinging to Guns and Counterinsurgency (Mull)

EA correspondent Josh Mull is the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can also read his work at Rethink Afghanistan:

There's been a lot of public debate lately about our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan. Derrick Crowe looked through the government's own reports and discovered the approach is a giant failure. Steve Hynd wonders if it isn't stratagem at all, but an ideology. I asked if we even had any idea what's going on with the strategy. Gareth Porter finds that Pentagon leaders don't like it, and Nancy Youssef piles on that the military is turning against COIN. And in Youssef's piece, one of the Grand Dragons of the COIN blogosphere, Andrew Exum (Abu Muqawama to the cool kids), appeared to distance himself from the strategy. "I can't imagine anyone would opt for this option," he said.

Exum later clarified his statement, sort of, but he had a good point:
If you continue to have a problem with the fact that we are now pursuing a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, by the way, you should spend less time whining about the generals and think tank researchers and take the issue up with the president. As the secretary of state [Hillary Clinton] said today at USIP [US Institute for Peace], while holding forth on the strategy reviews that took place in the spring and fall, "the president reached a conclusion [after the reviews of 2009] that should be respected by Americans."

It's a bit of stretch for Exum to throw all the blame on the politicians, seeing as how he and a host of other COINdinistas built their Washington Beltway careers on an aggressive preaching of counterinsurgency religion to those same politicians. But our leaders are primarily responsible for the policy failure.

For instance, Afghan president Hamid Karzai visits Washington with a peace plan, and we just take it as normal that he has to "persuade a sceptical Barack Obama that it is time to negotiate with the Taliban." Skeptical about negotiating? Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize, and he's skeptical?

Exum's quote from Secretary Clinton is equally outrageous. We've so completely lost sight of our peaceful capabilities, so misunderstood the point of our civilian foreign policy agencies, that even our diplomats demand our military occupations be "respected". Our problem is not picking the right military strategy, but picking any military strategy at all.

Why is the Secretary of State out there championing the President's military strategy? Exum pointed out the President's stated objectives in Afghanistan and said he couldn't advocate "in good faith" any other strategy but counterinsurgency to meet those objectives. Fine, no mystery why he thinks that. I'll even accept that Obama is dense enough to reach only that conclusion. But our top civilian diplomat, she's fine with that? She saw those same reports, and she came to the conclusion that we needed more COIN? What is it exactly that we mean by diplomacy, and what is it we think our diplomats are supposed to be doing? Here's Exum again, this time in the Washington Post (h/t Derrick):
Exum, who sensibly proposed that Obama "settle upon one point person for dealing with the Afghan president," asked: "Is either the ambassador in Kabul or the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan an effective interlocutor with Afghan policymakers? Is the U.S. Embassy in Kabul fully supporting the counterinsurgency campaign?"

Is that what our diplomats are for? Supporting the military? Maybe that's why we don't have an "effective interlocutor" with either Afghanistan or Pakistan, because our diplomats are just tool bags for our violent and bloody counterinsurgency. What good is it for the Afghan government to complain about civilian casualties when the people they're complaining to work for the folks causing the civilian casualties to begin with? "Um, can you ask your boss to stop shooting us?" No wonder they feel like they don't have an effective partner over here. Here's more from that WaPo piece:
A pivotal player here is Karl Eikenberry, the retired general Obama appointed as ambassador. Eikenberry's relations with Karzai are bad; his relations with McChrystal may be even worse. Since January a steady stream of stories has documented their clashes over tactics, including Eikenberry's opposition to the formation of local militias and quick development projects in Kandahar. Now they are at odds over how to respond to an Afghan request for an upgraded strategic partnership, including a U.S. security guarantee. Here's another contrast with Iraq: There was no daylight between military commander David Petraeus and then-ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Yeah what contrast, because unlike Afghanistan, Iraq is awesome now.

Why is it bad that our diplomat is "clashing" with the military? Good for him that he's not just rubber stamping whatever the generals put in front of him. Those "quick development projects" are the perfect example of what Eikenberry is supposed to do.

The author portrays it as a disagreement over "tactics," like one wants to zig while the other one wants to zag, but remember, we talked about this before. Eikenberry's plan actually helped Afghans, a lot, by letting them develop energy solutions themselves, while the military's "quick development project" was just a gigantic fuel burden on the locals and a massive welfare commitment from the already retarded central government.

A lesson: our diplomats actually know what they're doing when it comes to development. The military on the other hand, is terrible at it. And more than being terrible at it, the military also harms other development work by experts:
NGOs however insist that the international military by definition cannot be seen as a neutral actor. Many NGOs have also refused to go into areas that have recently been 'cleared' through operations by international military forces. In a public campaign over the past year, Oxfam, Care, Save the Children UK and other international NGOs with long experience in Afghanistan have said the militarisation of aid is putting ordinary people on the frontlines of the conflict.

"Humanitarian aid has to be independent, neutral and impartial" says Hassan El Sayed of Solidarites. "Can you imagine how we would be perceived if we arrive after US tanks?" Most of the principled NGOs would not be able to go into these areas, he says.

But I thought our military was working on security, making it safer to operate?
Laurent Saillard, the Director of Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella body for Afghan NGOs [says,] "What gives the NGOs their capacity to work is the quality of their relationship with the community. What guarantees the security is not the military or their operations. This is a myth. It is complete propaganda. NGOs don't buy it and have never asked ISAF or the US army for their security."

So our military sucks at development aid, they're screwing up development aid that actually works, and the answer to that is? 30,000 more troops, expanding the drone strikes, and night raids, night raids, night raids! Huh? Is the President that ignorant? And more than him, is the military that blind? They suffer enormously for our policy failures, it's not like they pay any less of a price for this mess. Well, just look at what they're saying:
The only feature of McChrystal's strategy which the Pentagon report treats as having proven effective against the insurgents is its most controversial element: the programme of Special Operations Forces (SOF) night raids against suspected Taliban in their homes, which has stirred anger among Afghans everywhere the SOF have operated.

In an indirect expression of doubt about the impact of the McChrystal strategy, the report suggests that the willingness of Taliban insurgent leaders to negotiate will be influenced not by the offensives aimed at separating the population from the Taliban but by the "combined effects" of the high-level arrests of Taliban leaders in Pakistan and targeted raids by special operations forces against "lower level commanders".

They think the night raids are effective, and very helpful in our negotiations with the Taliban. But how? What exactly do we get from these arrests of Taliban leaders? What does it have to do with negotiations?
[Officials] said [Mullah Baradar] had provided American interrogators with a much more nuanced understanding of the strategy that the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is developing for negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who is visiting Washington next week.

Mullah Baradar is describing in detail how members of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, or shura, based in Pakistan, interact, and how senior members fit into the organization’s broader leadership, officials said.

Oh. It's not the arrests that are so effective. It's talking to the Taliban.

We could skip the brutal special forces raids entirely, given thatAfghans are protesting and getting gunned down in the streets over all the sweet actionable intelligence we're getting. They're angry because we're killing them. There's nothing about a "night raid" that makes it effective, it's just the basic act of talking to the other side that's so successful at creating peace. And yet when the military looks at their own strategy, their only conclusion is that "separating the population from the Taliban," development work, is useless, but the guys bursting into homes guns blazing at 3 in the morning, well they're a big help! It's just baffling.

And our elected representatives, President Obama and Secretary Clinton, not to mention newcomers just running for office, they're getting the same information. They know the casualties they're causing, they know the trillions they're pissing away, yet they cling to these absurd ideas about counterinsurgency. Why? Is it because of people like Exum? Is it because COIN is a religion?

What is so attractive about occupation? It's not going to work. We'll never be able to accomplish any of our goals in Afghanistan so long as the war continues. We have the non-military capability to accomplish both the development and counter-terrorism work, not to mention the countless international agencies providing assistance. But first we have to bring our troops home.

Join us on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page and collaborate with the tens of thousands of others around the country working to bring this war to an end.

Afghanistan: Obama & Karzai Split Over Talks with Taliban? (Porter)

Gareth Porter evaluates Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington for Inter Press Service:

U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought to portray a united front on the issue of a political settlement with the Taliban in their joint press conference Wednesday. But their comments underlined the deep rift that divides Karzai and the United States over the issue.

Karzai obtained Obama's approval for the peace jirga scheduled for later this month --- an event the Obama administration had earlier regarded with grave doubt because of Karzai's ostensible invitation to the Taliban to participate.

Afghanistan Analysis: Karzai 2, Obama 1 (Cole)

On the broader question of reconciliation, however, Obama was clearly warning Karzai not to pursue direct talks with the Taliban leadership, at least until well into 2011.

Karzai played down the Taliban role in a peace jirga, saying that it was the "thousands of Taliban who are not against Afghanistan, or against the Afghan people... who are not against America either..." who would be addressed at the conference.

But he also acknowledged that the jirga would discuss how to approach at least some in the Taliban leadership about peace talks.

Karzai said, "Those within the Taliban leadership structure who, again, are not part of al Qaeda or the terrorist networks, or ideologically against Afghanistan's progress and rights and constitution, democracy, the place of women in the Afghan society, the progress that they've made... are welcome."

The "peace consultative jirga", he said, would be "consulting the Afghan people, taking their advice on how and through which means and which speed should the Afghan government proceed in the quest for peace".

Karzai thus made it clear that he would be taking his cues on peace talks with the Taliban from popular sentiment rather than from Washington.

That could not have been a welcome message to the Obama administration, because of Karzai's well-known pattern of catering to views of the Pashtun population, which are overwhelmingly favourable to peace talks with the Taliban.

Obama endorsed the peace jirga, but he limited U.S. support to "reintegration of those [Taliban] individuals into Afghan society".

Obama pointedly referred to what had evidently been a contentious issue in their private meeting --- his insistence that moves toward reconciliation with the Taliban should not go forward until after the U.S. military has carried out Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan for southern Afghanistan.

"One of the things I emphasised to President Karzai," said Obama, adding "however", to indicate that it was a matter of disagreement, "is that the incentives for the Taliban to lay down arms, or at least portions of the Taliban to lay down arms, and make peace with the Afghan government in part depends on our effectiveness in breaking their momentum militarily."

Obama asserted that "the timing" of the reconciliation process was linked to U.S. military success, because that success would determine when the Taliban "start making different calculations about what's in their interests".

Neither Obama nor Karzai gave any hint that the Afghan president had agreed with that point. Karzai openly sided with tribal elders in Kandahar who were vocally opposed to the U.S. military occupation of Kandahar City and surrounding districts at a large shura Apr. 4.

An administration official who is familiar with the Obama-Karzai meeting confirmed to IPS Thursday that the differences between the two over the issue of peace talks remained, but that the administration regards it as positive that Karzai was at least consulting with Obama on his thinking.

Before the Karzai-Obama meeting, the official said, "A lot of people were jumping to the conclusion that [Karzai and the Taliban] are talking about deals. Now he is talking to us before making any back room deals."

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