Urge Hillary to Vigorously Oppose the Coup in Honduras
Secretary of State Clinton has condemned the military coup in Honduras, but Republicans are pressuring the Administration not to support international efforts to reinstate President Zelaya. A unanimous UN General Assembly resolution, co-sponsored by the U.S., calls for the "the immediate and unconditional restoration" of Zelaya as President. U.S. law requires that aid be suspended, but so far Secretary of State Clinton has not yet even indicated her willingness to use U.S. aid as leverage. [See 1) 2) and 3) below.] Call Hillary and urge her to take immediate action to restore President Zelaya. You can call Secretary Clinton's Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills at 202-647-5548, or leave your comment through the State Department's switchboard: 202-647-4000. You can report your call here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Habib Ahmadzadeh: Mousavi Must Say Which Ballot Boxes He Disputes
In an interview with Just Foreign Policy, Iranian writer and filmmaker Habib Ahmadzadeh urges former Prime Minister Mousavi to be specific in his complaints about the Iranian election, and to say which ballot boxes he disputes.
1) The United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to condemn the military coup in Honduras and demand the "immediate and unconditional" restoration of President Zelaya, the New York Times reports. The resolution was co-sponsored by the United States and Venezuela, among others.
2) The U.S. response to the coup in Honduras has been slower and less forceful than others', writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian, raise suspicions about what the US is really trying to accomplish. The first statement from the White House was weak and non-committal. It did not denounce the coup but rather called upon "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms." This contrasted with sharper statements from Brazil, Argentina, and the EU. As the response of other nations became clear, secretary of state Hillary Clinton issued a stronger statement, but still didn't say anything about Zelaya returning to the presidency, suggesting that the US does not share this goal.
3) Republicans criticized the Obama administration's condemnation of the coup in Honduras, The Hill reports. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused Obama of siding with Castro and Chavez.
4) National security adviser Jones told military commanders in Afghanistan the administration wants to hold troop levels flat for now, and focus instead on carrying out increased economic development, improved governance and participation by the Afghan military and civilians, the Washington Post reports. But a senior military officer said privately the US would have to deploy a force of more than 100,000 to execute the counterinsurgency strategy of holding areas and towns after clearing out the Taliban insurgents. That is at least 32,000 more than the 68,000 currently authorized. Marine commander Lawrence Nicholson said he needs more Afghan forces, not more US forces.
5) President Obama will extend trade benefits for Ecuador, despite protests from some US business groups, Reuters reports. But the administration declined to lift Bolivia's suspension, citing "explicit acceptance and encouragement of coca production at the highest levels of Bolivian government." [Bolivia opposes the cocaine trade but supports the production and use of coca, a traditional Bolivian plant - JFP.]
6) Acrimony between Iran and world powers over Iran's presidential vote are dimming prospects for negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, writes George Jahn for AP. A senior Iranian official said Wednesday the EU had lost the right to talk to Iran about its atomic activities because of its "interference" in post-election unrest. U.S. officials insist the door remains open. David Axelrod said Washington was "looking to [...] sit down and talk to the Iranians."
7) A senior US official said the US is still demanding Israel fulfill a commitment in the 2003 "road map" peace plan for a full freeze of settlement expansion in the West Bank, the Washington Post reports. "We have not changed our position at all," a senior administration official said. "Nor has the president authorized any negotiating room."
8) Human Rights Watch says twenty-nine civilians, including eight children, were killed in six missile strikes by Israeli drones in Gaza in December and January, the New York Times reports. Report co-author Marc Garlasco suggested that the use of drones raises the bar for preventing civilian casualties, since supposedly these weapons can be targeted more precisely.
9) A powerful Taliban faction in Pakistan said it is withdrawing from a peace deal with the government to protest continuing strikes by US drones, confronting the Pakistani military with a possible two-front campaign against militants, the New York Times reports. The group's leader says more than 50 drone strikes since the peace deal in February 2008 have killed hundreds of people, including women and children.
10) A government auction for eight 20-year oil extraction service contracts yielded only one deal with foreign energy companies, the Washington Post reports, implying that the Iraqi government was bargaining hard. Iraq said it would reimburse companies for costs and pay them a per-barrel fee for increases in production. But it did not offer the companies an ownership stake in the crude.
11) The Organization of American States on Wednesday gave Honduras three days to restore its ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, or face suspension from the group, the New York Times reports. Venezuela and Nicaragua called for the US to impose tough economic sanctions. The United States provides millions of dollars in aid to Honduras and maintains a military base there. A State Department spokesman told reporters Washington was still reviewing whether to cut off aid to Honduras as a result of the crisis.
1) U.N. Backs Ousted Honduran Leader
Marc Lacey, New York Times, July 1, 2009
On Tuesday, Zelaya's newfound relevance took him to one of the world's biggest stages, at the lectern of the United Nations General Assembly, where he portrayed himself as the victim of a vicious, power-hungry elite that refused to share power with his country's many poor. "A crime has been committed, a crime against humanity, a crime which we all reject," he said. "Whenever brute force prevails over reason, humankind returns to its primeval state, to the era of the garrote, where everything is reduced to force."
A one-page resolution - sponsored by countries often at loggerheads, including the United States and Venezuela - passed by acclamation after sustained applause in the 192-member body. It condemned Zelaya's removal as a coup and demanded his "immediate and unconditional restoration" as president.
2) Latin America Drags a Reluctant Washington
The Obama administration's condemnation of the coup in Honduras has been lukewarm compared to the rest of the world
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Wednesday 1 July 2009 19.00 BST
The military coup that overthrew Honduras's elected president, Manuel Zelaya, brought unanimous international condemnation. But some country's responses have been more reluctant than others, and Washington's ambivalence has begun to raise suspicions about what the US government is really trying to accomplish in this situation.
The first statement from the White House in response to the coup was weak and non-committal. It did not denounce the coup but rather called upon "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter".
This contrasted with statements from other presidents in the hemisphere, such as Lula da Silva of Brazil and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, who denounced the coup and called for the re-instatement of Zelaya. The EU issued a similar, less ambiguous and more immediate response.
Later in the day, as the response of other nations became clear, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton issued a stronger statement that condemned the coup - without calling it a coup. But it still didn't say anything about Zelaya returning to the presidency.
The Organisation of American States, the Rio Group (most of Latin America) and the UN general assembly have all called for the "immediate and unconditional return" of Zelaya.
The strong stances from the south brought statements from anonymous state department officials that were more supportive of Zelaya's return. And by Monday afternoon President Barack Obama finally said: "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras."
But at a press conference later that day, Clinton was asked whether "restoring the constitutional order" in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself. She would not say yes.
Why such reluctance to call openly for the immediate and unconditional return of an elected president, as the rest of the hemisphere and the UN has done? One obvious possibility is that Washington does not share these goals.
The coup leaders have no international support, but they could still succeed by running out the clock - Zelaya has less than six months left in his term. Will the Obama administration support sanctions against the coup government in order to prevent this? The neighbouring governments of Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador have already fired a warning shot by announcing a 48-hour cut-off of trade.
By contrast, one reason for Clinton's reluctance to call the coup a coup is because the US Foreign Assistance Act prohibits funds going to governments where the head of state has been deposed by a military coup.
Unconditional is also a key word here: the Obama administration may want to extract concessions from Zelaya as part of a deal for his return to office. But this is not how democracy works. If Zelaya wants to negotiate a settlement with his political opponents after he returns, that is another story. But nobody has the right to extract political concession from him in exile, over the barrel of a gun.
Many press reports have contrasted the Obama administration's rejection of the Honduran coup with the Bush administration's initial support for the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. But actually there are more similarities than differences between the US response to these two events.
Within a day, the Bush administration reversed its official position on the Venezuelan coup, because the rest of the hemisphere had announced that it would not recognise the coup government. Similarly, in this case, the Obama administration is following the rest of the hemisphere, trying not to be the odd man out but at the same time not really sharing their commitment to democracy.
It was not until some months after the Venezuelan coup that the state department admitted that it had given financial and other support "to individuals and organisations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster of the Chávez government."
In the Honduran coup, the Obama administration claims that it tried to discourage the Honduran military from taking this action. It would be interesting to know what these discussions were like. Did administration officials say, "You know that we will have to say that we are against such a move if you do it, because everyone else will?" Or was it more like, "Don't do it, because we will do everything in our power to reverse any such coup"? The administration's actions since the coup indicate something more like the former, if not worse.
The battle between Zelaya and his opponents pits a reform president who is supported by labour unions and social organisations against a mafia-like, drug-ridden, corrupt political elite who is accustomed to choosing not only the supreme court and the Congress, but also the president. It is a recurrent story in Latin America, and the US has almost always sided with the elites.
3) White House backing of Zelaya starts to draw criticism
Bridget Johnson, The Hill, 06/30/09
The U.S. co-sponsored a successful U.N. resolution supporting Honduras's ousted leader Tuesday as Republicans began to speak out against the Obama administration's condemnation of the overthrow.
President Obama, meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Monday, said the U.S. would "stand with democracy" in the face of the overthrow. "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there," Obama said. "It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backward into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that the ouster "should be condemned by all."
When contacted for comment by The Hill on Tuesday, the office of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the senator was reserving comment until the situation in Honduras becomes clearer.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has urged Zelaya to try to speak with Obama while in D.C., saying the American president's support would "deliver a major blow" to Honduras's interim government.
But that support for Zelaya, who was arrested and forced into exile on Sunday after pressing ahead with a constitutional referendum that would have allowed for his reelection, is gradually drawing more criticism of the White House.
[This characterization is thrice incorrect: 1) the referendum would have been nonbinding, so it would not have "allowed" for anything; 2) it was a poll for support for a constitutional convention, with no mention of term limits per se; 3) President Zelaya was not a candidate in the November election, and his term finishes in January, so it is not very plausible that allowing the nonbinding referendum to proceed could have created the conditions for him to run for re-election. But The Hill doesn't stand out in this regard - much US press coverage has been similar - JFP.]
"Manuel Zelaya trampled the Honduran Constitution by pushing for his illegal referendum to allow him to rule indefinitely, and by firing the top military official, General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, when he refused to comply with Zelaya's unconstitutional orders," Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) said in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday.
"There is little doubt that Zelaya, in his blatant power grab, has moved Honduras down a dangerous path toward less freedom, less security, and less prosperity. He consistently ignored the checks and balances which are essential to a democratic government."
"Zelaya has used the Chavez playbook to turn Honduras into a satellite nation for the spread of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution, joining the likes of Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and others," Mack said. "It's not surprising that Zelaya decided to head to Nicaragua after his ouster and is being flown by a Venezuelan chartered jet."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused Obama of siding with Castro and Chavez on his Twitter feed Tuesday. "Sadly the obama administration has joined castro and chavez attacking honduran supreme court and congress for defending their constitution," Gingrich tweeted. "Having castro call for defending democracy should convince any reasonable person that honduras was on the edge of a leftist dictatorship."
"The Honduran Supreme Court, attorney general, and the Congress were right to confront Zelaya as he ignored the law and gutted the Honduran Constitution," Mack said. "The United States and our allies in the region must now stand with the Honduran people to ensure the respect of freedom, the rule of law, and democracy."
4) Key In Afghanistan: Economy, Not Military
Bob Woodward, Washington Post, Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan - National security adviser James L. Jones told U.S. military commanders here last week that the Obama administration wants to hold troop levels here flat for now, and focus instead on carrying out the previously approved strategy of increased economic development, improved governance and participation by the Afghan military and civilians in the conflict.
The message seems designed to cap expectations that more troops might be coming, though the administration has not ruled out additional deployments in the future. Jones was carrying out directions from President Obama, who said recently, "My strong view is that we are not going to succeed simply by piling on more and more troops."
"This will not be won by the military alone," Jones said in an interview during his trip. "We tried that for six years." He also said: "The piece of the strategy that has to work in the next year is economic development. If that is not done right, there are not enough troops in the world to succeed."
Jones delivered his message after a 30-minute briefing by Marine Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, who commands 9,000 Marines here, nearly half the new deployments Obama has sent to Afghanistan.
The question of the force level for Afghanistan, however, is not settled and will probably be hotly debated over the next year. One senior military officer said privately that the United States would have to deploy a force of more than 100,000 to execute the counterinsurgency strategy of holding areas and towns after clearing out the Taliban insurgents. That is at least 32,000 more than the 68,000 currently authorized.
"We don't need more U.S. forces," Nicholson finally told Jones. "We need more Afghan forces." It is a complaint Jones heard repeatedly. Jones and other officials said Afghanistan, and particularly its president, Hamid Karzai, have not mobilized sufficiently for their own war. Karzai has said Afghanistan is making a major effort in the war and is increasing its own forces as fast as possible.
In an interview, Nicholson said that in the six months he has been building Camp Leatherneck and brought 9,000 Marines to the base, not a single additional member of the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) has been assigned to assist him. He said he needed "Afghanistan security forces - all flavors," including soldiers, police, border patrol and other specialists.
The evening before the Jones meeting, a Marine was killed during a patrol in Now Zad, a town in Helmand where people had fled the fighting. "If we had several ANA in Now Zad, we might not have lost that Marine," said one civilian official, noting that the Afghan army could supply the "eyes and ears" that were badly needed to sound warnings and scout on patrols. One senior U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan estimated that the military needs one member of the Afghan security forces for every 10 U.S. troops to operate safely and stabilize the area. That would mean Nicholson should have approximately 900 Afghans, and he effectively has none.
5) Obama to continue trade benefits for Ecuador
Doug Palmer, Reuters, Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:11pm EDT
Washington - President Barack Obama will extend long-time U.S. trade benefits for Ecuador, one of the poorest countries in South America, despite concerns by U.S. business groups over the leftist government's policies. "Ecuador will continue to receive duty-free treatment under ATPA (Andean Trade Preference Act) until the end of the year, when the program is currently slated to expire," a White House official told Reuters on Tuesday.
U.S. business groups this month urged the Obama administration to consider ending the trade benefits for Ecuador, which they accuse of failing to adequately protect foreign investment. Ecuador has had duty-free access to the U.S. market for most of its goods under an anti-drug program for the Andean region dating back to the early 1990s.
Frustration over policies that Ecuador and Bolivia have pursued against foreign investors prompted Congress last year to approve just a six-month renewal of the program for both countries, and to give the White House the option of extending the benefits for an additional six months.
Shortly after that renewal, President George W. Bush suspended Bolivia from the program because of its failure to cooperate in U.S. drug-fighting efforts.
In a report to Congress on Tuesday, Obama declined to lift Bolivia's suspension. Current challenges included "explicit acceptance and encouragement of coca production at the highest levels of Bolivian government," the report said.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, a former coca farmer, expelled U.S. anti-drug agents last year after accusing them of them of meddling in domestic affairs. He has pledged to eradicate plants used in the cocaine trade but defended the chewing of coca leaves as well as their use in brewing teas and in religious ceremonies.
6) Analysis: Hopes fading for Iran nuke talks
George Jahn, Associated Press, Wed Jul 1, 12:58 pm ET
Vienna - New waves of acrimony between Iran and world powers over the Islamic Republic's disputed presidential vote are dimming what were already modest prospects for meaningful negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.
President Barack Obama's offer of direct U.S.-Iranian talks on nuclear and other issues still stands. But Tehran seemed uninterested in new negotiations even before Iran's crackdown on demonstrators protesting what they say was a skewed election in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad burdened already tense relations with the West.
In a reflection of how unlikely any nuclear meeting has become, a senior Iranian official said Wednesday that the EU had lost the right to talk to Iran about its atomic activities.
The last meeting on the nuclear issue was a year ago. It ended within hours, with Iran spurning an offer by six world powers - Washington and the other permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany.
At the Geneva talks, the six offered to refrain from new U.N sanctions if Iran froze its uranium enrichment program. The tradeoff was designed to set the scene for in-depth talks the West hopes would end in Tehran agreeing to a long-term freeze of enrichment, which can make both nuclear fuel and nuclear warhead material.
Periodic contacts with Iranian officials by Javier Solana, the EU envoy acting as an intermediary for the six powers, have remained inconclusive since then - dashing hopes that Obama's outreach - an offer of one-on-one talks with the Iranians - would break the deadlock.
Iran's position remains the same - its program is for peaceful purposes and no compromise on enrichment, despite three sets of Security Council sanctions and the implicit threat of more.
Chances of new talks diminished further Wednesday after a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying the EU had disqualified itself from such discussions because of its "interference" in the post-election unrest. Iran accuses the EU of supporting the anti-government rallies. The EU "has totally lost the competence and qualifications needed for holding any kind of talks with Iran," Iran's chief of staff, Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars News Agency.
Obama said in March that he sought engagement with Iran "that is honest and grounded in mutual respect," raising expectations that there may be an opening for dialogue.
But the gloves came off last week, when Obama declared America and the entire world "appalled and outraged" by Iran's violent efforts to crush post-election dissent and warned that the way Tehran responds will shape its relationship with other countries, including the United States.
Ahmadinejad then vowed to make the U.S. regret its criticism of Iran's crackdown and said the "mask has been removed" from the Obama administration's efforts to improve relations.
So where does this leave Obama's promise to replace the fist of his White House predecessor and extend an open hand to Iran? What are the chances of meaningful talks to bridge Iran's insistence on expanding what it says is a peaceful nuclear program and Washington's demand that it freeze such activities because of concerns they could be used to make nuclear arms?
U.S. officials insist the door remains open, despite questions about the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's re-election and his anti-American rhetoric. "It's in the United States' national interest to make sure that we have employed all elements at our disposal, including diplomacy, to prevent Iran from achieving that nuclear capacity," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
And David Axelrod, Obama's top adviser, said Washington was "looking to [...] sit down and talk to the Iranians."
Still he qualified his comments with a veiled threat of further U.N. sanctions should Iran remain defiant. In remarks reminiscent of the Bush administration's "carrot and stick" approach, Axelrod said that any negotiations with Tehran will offer "two paths [...] one brings them back into the community of nations, and the other has some very stark consequences."
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was blunter, saying Group of Eight leaders meeting next week in Italy will discuss possible additional sanctions against Iran.
But permanent Security Council members Russia and China are unlikely to support such a move. They traditionally oppose harsh anti-Iran action, and Moscow has already said it considers the elections legitimate.
7) Barak, U.S. Envoy Discuss Settlements
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak huddled for four hours yesterday with former senator George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration's special envoy for Middle East peace, seeking to resolve an impasse between their two governments over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
President Obama has demanded that Israel fulfill a commitment in the 2003 "road map" peace plan for a full settlement freeze, including a halt to expansion to accommodate "natural growth." The Israeli government has responded with a series of counterproposals, including a temporary freeze with caveats, none of which the administration has accepted.
"We have not changed our position at all," a senior administration official said yesterday after the Barak-Mitchell meeting. "Nor has the president authorized any negotiating room."
8) Human Rights Group Says 29 Civilians Were Killed by Israeli Air Attacks in Gaza
Christopher Drew, New York Times, July 1, 2009
Twenty-nine civilians, including eight children, were killed in what appeared to be six missile strikes by Israeli drones in Gaza in December and January, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. The group questioned whether Israeli forces had taken "all feasible precautions" to avoid civilian casualties.
The report, based on interviews with witnesses to the attacks and an examination of the missile debris, represented the latest in a series of accusations about Israel's conduct of the Gaza war. And it raised broader concerns about how carefully drones were being used, much like the complaints that the Central Intelligence Agency has encountered in its use of drones to attack suspected members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
The report was partly written by Marc Garlasco, the senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, who was a weapons-targeting official at the Pentagon from 1997 to 2003. Garlasco has praised the American military's use of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that their ability to hover over a target for many hours had improved the accuracy of many missile attacks and limited civilian casualties.
The group's findings in Gaza suggest that "the weapon itself isn't the problem," he said in an interview. "It's the way it's used that is." He added: "The operators have the ability to distinguish between combatants and civilians and can even divert the missiles after launch. So it's hard to understand how the Israelis did such a poor job of targeting."
Israel has said that it uses drones to gather intelligence and to help provide target information for helicopters and other aircraft. But Garlasco said the missile impact marks and the highly fragmented debris in the six attacks matched the smaller missiles typically used by drones rather than the larger antitank missiles that Israeli helicopters were seen carrying in Gaza.
The report said one missile had hit a group of university students waiting for a bus in the center of Gaza City, while another struck a truck hauling oxygen tanks and a third smashed into a school sheltering people who had lost or left their homes.
In three other attacks, the report said, the victims were six children, ages 10 to 15, who had been playing on residential rooftops. Muhammad al-Habbash, the father of one of the girls who was killed, told Human Rights Watch that some of the children had been feeding chickens that the family kept on the roof when the missile struck.
Israel has said that over all, 1,166 people were killed in the Gaza offensive. Of those, 295 were noncombatants, 709 were Hamas fighters and 162 were men whose affiliations could not be identified, Israeli officials have said. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza has said 1,417 people were killed, including 926 civilians.
After the attack on the truck, the Israel Defense Forces released video of the event, contending that they had killed men who were loading rockets. The military later acknowledged that the cylinders on the truck were oxygen tanks, though it also said they could have been used in rocket production.
9) An Accord In Pakistan Is Scrapped By Militants
Salman Masood, New York Times, July 1, 2009
Islamabad, Pakistan - A powerful Taliban faction in a northwestern tribal region has said it is withdrawing from a peace deal with the government to protest continuing strikes by American drones, confronting the Pakistani military with a possible two-front campaign against militants, according to Pakistani news reports on Tuesday.
The Taliban faction, led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, operates in the mountainous North Waziristan area along the border with Afghanistan.
It struck a peace deal with the authorities in February 2008, but Gul Bahadur said the truce was no longer operative. The Taliban announcement on Monday came as American reinforcements were moving into Afghanistan. Taliban fighters there have traditionally relied on havens in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions.
The end of the peace deal came as the Pakistani military prepared for an offensive against another Taliban group, led by Baitullah Mehsud, in neighboring South Waziristan.
Mehsud is widely depicted as the main leader of the Taliban in Pakistan and has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly bombings. The Pakistani authorities had been hoping to deny Mehsud support from North Waziristan, but Gul Bahadur's decision has significantly expanded the theater of conflict.
Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for Gul Bahadur, was quoted by Pakistani news organizations as saying that guerrilla attacks would be made against the Pakistani military unless drone attacks were stopped and government troops were pulled out of North Waziristan.
"We will attack forces everywhere in Waziristan unless the government fulfills these two demands," Ahmadi told Dawn, Pakistan's most prestigious English-language daily newspaper. Ahmadi accused the government of allowing the United States to carry out drone attacks in the region.
Gul Bahadur says that more than 50 drone strikes since the peace deal have killed hundreds of people, including women and children.
10) Anxious Oil Giants Pass on Iraq
On Day of Auctions to Develop Fields, the Country Strikes Just One Deal
Ernesto Londoño, K.I. Ibrahim and Steven Mufson, Washington Post, July 1, 2009
Baghdad - Iraq's effort to woo foreign energy companies to help resurrect its ailing oil fields fell flat Tuesday, as most companies balked at the financial terms offered by the government despite the lure of the country's vast reserves.
The impasse on deals for all but one field was a setback for the oil firms eager to gain access to the largest reserves in the world outside Saudi Arabia, and for Iraq, for which oil revenue could hold the key to prosperity. The impasse was also a setback for the United States, which has encouraged Iraq to make use of foreign investment and expertise to help bring stability to the most important sector of the country's economy.
During a day-long live auction for eight 20-year service contracts, the Iraqi Oil Ministry was able to nail down just one deal - for the giant Rumaila field in southern Iraq. The Iraqi Oil Ministry reached an agreement with British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corp. only after BP and CNPC accepted a much lower fee than they originally sought in return for raising the field's output beyond current levels. Rumaila, Iraq's biggest oil field, has an estimated 17 billion barrels of oil reserves, an amount equivalent to more than half the reserves of the entire United States.
"It's tough to walk away from the opportunity to get your foot in the door in Iraq," said Robert E. Ebel, an expert on Iraqi oil at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "When you look at all the oil in the ground, you figure 'I better be here.' But when you think about all the above-ground problems, you might think that 'I better strike a better deal.' "
In the current bidding round, Iraq said it would reimburse companies for costs and pay them a per-barrel fee for increases in production from the country's abundant but long-neglected fields. But it did not offer the companies an ownership stake in the crude, which would have been a more attractive type of contract. It also demanded nearly $3 billion in "signing bonus" loans for the six oil fields, which are active but underproducing, and two largely undeveloped gas fields.
11) Honduras Gets Ultimatum From American Nations
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, July 2, 2009
Washington - After a closed-door session that lasted close to dawn, the Organization of American States on Wednesday gave Honduras three days to restore its ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, or face suspension from the group, pitting the region unanimously against an interim leader who has defied international condemnation and said that only force would unseat him.
Calling Zelaya's overthrow an "old-fashioned coup," the organization's secretary general, Jose Miguel Insulza, said: "We need to show clearly that military coups will not be accepted. We thought we were in an era when military coups were no longer possible in this hemisphere."
Diplomats said they had rarely seen the O.A.S. unite so solidly behind a common cause, and that it was the first time the group had invoked its so-called Democratic Charter since it was adopted in 2001 as a clean break with the region's history of authoritarian rule.
The charter calls on the organization to take emergency diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring a legitimately elected government and provides for a nation to be suspended if those efforts fail.
The expressions of unity outside the meeting rooms, however, masked disagreements playing out behind closed doors. There was disagreement over whether Zelaya should go ahead with his plans to travel to Honduras on Thursday, despite threats by the interim government to order him arrested if he set foot in the country. Those plans were postponed early on Wednesday, when Zelaya agreed to wait at least three days before heading back to Honduras.
There was also discussion over how to proceed with suspension if diplomatic efforts failed - with some countries wanting an immediate suspension and others wanting to convene another meeting first. And there were calls by Venezuela and Nicaragua for the United States to impose tough economic sanctions.
The United States, which provides millions of dollars in aid to Honduras and maintains a military base there, is the only country in the region that has not withdrawn its ambassador from Honduras. France and Spain have also recalled their ambassadors. "There is a lot of concern about hurting the people of Honduras any more than they have already been hurt," said a senior administration official, referring to American reluctance impose sanctions. "There's enough trouble and poverty in Honduras already."
A spokesman for the United States Southern Command said that the American military had suspended joint operations with Honduras, a country with which it has long had strong military ties.
The United States said it saw no acceptable solution to Zelaya's ouster other than returning him to power. A State Department spokesman, Ian C. Kelly, told reporters that Washington was still reviewing whether to cut off aid to Honduras as a result of the crisis.
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