FPI Overnight Brief: July 20, 2009

India

Reuters reports that “The United States and India are expected to sign an agreement on Monday that would take a major step towards allowing the sale of sophisticated U.S. arms to the South Asian nation, three senior U.S. officials said. Known as an ‘end-use monitoring’ agreement and required by U.S. law for such weapons sales, the pact would let Washington check that India was using any arms for the purposes intended and preventing the technology from leaking to others. The deal would be a tangible accomplishment of Hillary Clinton's first trip to India as U.S. secretary of state and it could prove a boon to U.S. companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that “India dismissed suggestions that it accept binding limits on carbon emissions, with a top official Sunday delivering a strong rebuke to overtures from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the two countries to work together to combat climate change. The rejection of the U.S. proposal was made in the middle of Mrs. Clinton's first visit to India as secretary of state and came just as the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is gearing up to push for a new global pact on climate change.”

The BBC reports that “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as part of her visit to the country. Indian relations with Pakistan are thought to be high on the agenda, along with education and technology. The countries are also expected to sign deals on arms sales and the building of U.S.-funded nuclear plants.”

Georgia

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is expected to unveil Monday moves to share more power and make elections more democratic in an attempt to mollify his critics and begin a comeback. The address, before the country's parliament just days before a morale-boosting visit from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, follows three months of street protests by the president's political opponents, who continue to demand his resignation after losing a disastrous war against Russia last summer. His critics accuse him of increasing authoritarianism, of monopolizing the state media for his own ends and of using the police to repress protesters. In the speech, parts of which have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Saakashvili pledges to set new local elections, to promise bigger media space for his adversaries and to offer the opposition seats on some decision-making bodies inside government.”

Iran

The New York Times reports that “Iran’s reformist former president Mohammad Khatami called Sunday for a referendum on the legitimacy of the government in the wake of last month’s disputed presidential election, Iranian Web sites reported. Mr. Khatami’s comments amounted to a bold challenge to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has dismissed the opposition’s claims that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory on June 12 was rigged, and has ordered protesters to accept it. It is unlikely that Iran’s hard-line leaders will accept the referendum proposal. But the fact that Mr. Khatami proposed it at all suggests a renewed confidence within the opposition movement.”

CNN reports that “An opposition candidate in Iran's disputed presidential election blasted what he called the "thoughtless and clear lies" of the country's security forces Sunday, while students mounted new demonstrations at a university in Shiraz. Former parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi, who ran last in the June 12 election, compared government claims that it had not attacked his supporters to the statements that came out of the Iranian monarchy in the days before the 1979 revolution that established the Islamic republic, according to Iran's Aftab news agency.”

Russia

The Washington Post editorializes that “In Russia, a surefire way to curtail one's life expectancy is to tell truths and pose questions that are inconvenient to the Kremlin and its loyalists. That is particularly so for journalists, human rights activists and others who dare to criticize the supremely brutal regime in the southern Russian region of Chechnya, which, with the Kremlin's full backing, has prosecuted a blood-soaked anti-insurgency campaign.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times reports that “A sweeping United States military review calls for overhauling the troubled American-run prison here as well as the entire Afghan jail and judicial systems, a reaction to worries that abuses and militant recruiting within the prisons are helping to strengthen the Taliban. In a further sign of high-level concern over detention practices, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a confidential message last week to all of the military service chiefs and senior field commanders asking them to redouble their efforts to alert troops to the importance of treating detainees properly.”

The Washington Post reports that “Marines pushing deep into a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province battled insurgents in a day of firefights around a key bazaar Sunday, as an operation designed as a U.S. show of force confronted resistance from Taliban fighters as well as constraints on supplies and manpower. Insurgents at times showed unexpected boldness as they used machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to fight the advancing Marine forces. Although the Marines overpowered the Taliban with more sophisticated weapons, including attack helicopters, the clashes also indicated that the drive by about 4,500 Marines to dislodge the Taliban from its heartland in Helmand is running up against logistical hurdles.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Villagers attacked the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, a rare instance of locals turning on insurgents after being promised aid money and security by the government. Friday's confrontation was welcome news for Afghan and U.S. authorities, in what is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest months for the U.S-led coalition since the start of the war. Tribesmen in Nangarhar, a province in the east, broke ties with the Taliban after being promised development money and security at a pair of meetings with Afghan officials in recent months, said tribal elders and a spokesman for the provincial government, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.”

Reuters reports that “British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is likely to come under increased pressure next month to send more troops and equipment to Afghanistan when a new general takes over command of the British army. General David Richards, a former NATO commander in Afghanistan, will succeed General Richard Dannatt as head of the army at a critical time, with more than 9,000 troops fighting the Taliban, public anger at the death toll rising, and the government under pressure to do more to support the force. In October last year, when his appointment was announced, Richards suggested to Britain's Independent newspaper that he wanted to see a surge of up to 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 5,000 more British soldiers.”

Reuters reports that “The U.S. military denounced on Sunday the release of a video showing a soldier captured in Afghanistan, calling the images Taliban propaganda that violated international law. The video shows the soldier in traditional Afghan dress, being prompted in English by his captors to call for U.S. forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The military has confirmed that the man is the missing soldier, whose name has not been released.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that “The U.S. government is deploying dozens of Drug Enforcement Administration agents to Afghanistan in a new kind of ‘surge,’ targeting trafficking networks that officials say are increasingly fueling the Taliban insurgency and corrupting the Afghan government. The move to dramatically expand a second front is seen as the latest acknowledgment in Washington that security in Afghanistan cannot be won with military force alone…The United States is now shifting to a counterinsurgency campaign that in addition to sending more troops is funding nation-building efforts and promoting alternative crops to farmers who have long profited from poppy production.  The increased DEA effort is aimed at more than a dozen drug kingpins whose networks are producing vast amounts of hashish, opium, morphine and heroin, some of which ends up in the United States.”

Iraq

The BBC reports that “Tensions appear to be growing between the U.S. military and the Iraqi security forces. They have arisen over co-operation and the restrictions imposed on the movement of American forces in urban areas inside Iraq. The Iraqi defense ministry has confirmed the limitations. But reports suggest U.S. commanders have been surprised and frustrated by the new rules, suggesting they could endanger the safety of their troops. The agreement has been in place since American troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq's towns and cities. A spokesman for the Iraqi defence ministry told the BBC there had been no joint U.S.-Iraqi patrols in urban areas since 30 June. According to an agreement signed between the two sides, U.S. forces are not allowed to enter Iraq's towns and cities unless specifically requested to do so by the Iraqi authorities, except in cases of self-defense.”

The Washington Post reports that “The Iraqi government has moved to sharply restrict the movement and activities of U.S. forces in a new reading of a six-month-old U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that has startled American commanders and raised concerns about the safety of their troops. In a curt missive issued by the Baghdad Operations Command on July 2 -- the day after Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops to bases outside city centers -- Iraq's top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to ‘stop all joint patrols’ in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to ‘notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement.’ The strict application of the agreement coincides with what U.S. military officials in Washington say has been an escalation of attacks against their forces by Iranian-backed Shiite extremist groups, to which they have been unable to fully respond.”

Mark Hanis and Chad Hazlett write in the Washington Post that “Although Iraq's security situation has vastly improved, its civilians still suffer more fatalities as a result of violent conflict than civilians in any other conflict zone, with the possible exception of Sri Lanka, where violence spiked ferociously this spring but fatality rates are not known. In the average monthly rate of direct civilian fatalities for the first quarter of 2009 was 258, according to Iraq Body Count, an organization that is generally conservative in its estimates. This surpasses known rates for direct civilian fatalities of conflict during the same quarter in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur. The most concerning aspect of the vice president's remarks is the way he used public opinion as a preemptive excuse to set aside responsibility for helping to halt mass atrocities.”

Honduras

Mary O’Grady writes in the Wall Street Journal that “When Hugo Chávez makes a personal appeal to Washington for help, as he did 11 days ago, it raises serious questions about the signals that President Barack Obama is sending to the hemisphere's most dangerous dictator. At issue is Mr. Chávez's determination to restore deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya to power through multilateral pressure. His phone call to a State Department official showed that his campaign was not going well and that he thought he could get U.S. help. This is not good news for the region.”

The New York Times reports that “Negotiations to end the standoff in Honduras collapsed Sunday when the de facto government that ousted President Manuel Zelaya rejected a mediator’s solution for him to return but with limits on his power. A delegation representing the de facto government, led by Roberto Micheletti, dismissed a seven-point plan presented by President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, who is mediating the talks in that country’s capital, San José. The plan would have restored Mr. Zelaya as president over a unity government, curtailed his powers and moved up the election for his successor by one month, to October. It also included a general amnesty for all political crimes, a tacit recognition that the country could not move forward unless the events surrounding the June 28 coup were pushed aside."

China

The New York Times reports that “As this shattered regional capital sorts through the corpses from China’s deadliest civil unrest in decades, another loss has become apparent: faith in the government’s ability to secure the peace and quell mass disturbances. In many neighborhoods, police officers remained absent for hours as the carnage unfolded, witnesses say. The bloodletting here on July 5, in which ethnic Uighurs pummeled and stabbed ethnic Han to death, was just the latest episode in a nationwide upswing in large-scale street violence that had already prompted concerned officials in Beijing to look for new ways to defuse such outbursts. In all of the recent cases, not only were officials and security forces unable to contain the violence, but average people clashed with the police en masse — a sign of the profound distrust of local authority throughout much of China.”

The New York Times reports that “In the two weeks since ethnic riots tore through Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, killing more than 190 people and injuring more than 1,700, security forces have been combing the city and detaining hundreds of people, many of them Uighur men whom the authorities blame for much of the slaughter. The Chinese government has promised harsh punishment for those who had a hand in the violence, which erupted July 5 after a rally by ethnic Uighurs angry over the murder of two factory workers in a distant province. First came the packs of young Uighurs, then the Han Chinese mobs seeking revenge.”

Indonesia

Al Jazeera reports that “Indonesian police have said a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) splinter group carried out last week's deadly suicide attacks on two luxury hotels in Jakarta. Major-General Nanan Soekarna, a spokesman for the national police, told a news conference on Sunday that an unexploded bomb left in a guest room at the JW Marriott was "identical" to devices used in bombings in Bali in 2002 and 2005 that left more than 250 people dead.”

The Wall Street Journal Asia editorializes: “The bombs that ripped through two Jakarta hotels Friday have also destroyed any illusion that Indonesia's war on terror is behind it. As President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looks ahead to his second term in office, the fight against terror is a clear priority. Indonesia has been here before, of course, and Mr. Yudhoyono, popularly known as SBY, knows how to deal with it. Indonesians elected him after the 2002 Bali bombing as a bet for security. Although terrorist attacks continued, under SBY's watch Indonesia's counterterroism unit, Detachment 88, has arrested key leaders of the Islamist terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Friday's bombing was the first suspected JI attack since 2005. But the war is far from won… The attacks were also a reminder of the international nature of Islamic terrorism. Indonesian police suspect the man behind the attacks is Noordin Mohammed Top, a Malaysian citizen who has close ties to JI groups in the Southern Philippines, and al Quaeda in the Islamic Magreb, an al Quaeda affiliate in North Africa. A haven in any one of those places can feed violence elsewhere.”

North Korea

The Washington Post reports that “Images and accounts of the North Korean gulag become sharper, more harrowing and more accessible with each passing year. A distillation of testimony from survivors and former guards, newly published by the Korean Bar Association, details the daily lives of 200,000 political prisoners estimated to be in the camps: Eating a diet of mostly corn and salt, they lose their teeth, their gums turn black, their bones weaken and, as they age, they hunch over at the waist. Most work 12- to 15-hour days until they die of malnutrition-related illnesses, usually around the age of 50. Allowed just one set of clothes, they live and die in rags, without soap, socks, underclothes or sanitary napkins. The camps have never been visited by outsiders, so these accounts cannot be independently verified. But high-resolution satellite photographs, now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, reveal vast labor camps in the mountains of North Korea.”

Ukraine

The Wall Street Journal reports that “A new face in Ukraine is gaining popularity among voters looking to reignite the hopes of the Orange Revolution and to end the political squabbling that has hamstrung efforts to grapple with recession. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former parliamentary speaker and foreign minister, has seen a surge in support in recent months as voters in the presidential election early next year look for a candidate who can put an end to the political paralysis and turn around an economy that contracted 20.3% in the first quarter… U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is set to visit Ukraine next week to allay concerns that the U.S.'s efforts to patch up relations with Russia could undermine Washington's commitment to pro-Western governments in the region like Ukraine's. In a measure of his rising prominence, Mr. Yatsenyuk is scheduled to meet Mr. Biden.”

Israel

The New York Times reports that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Sunday an American call to hold off on a planned Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem, saying Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed city could not be challenged. Mr. Netanyahu issued the statement because State Department officials had raised concerns over the project with Israel’s new ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, during discussions last week on a range of issues. The American officials suggested that going ahead with the development now would cause problems in negotiations toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

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