Archive for May, 2011

Clinton and Mullen on America’s problems with Pakistan

NEW YORK – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen meet with top Pakistani officials to air what’s gone wrong between the two countries.

There’s no evidence that any senior Pakistani official had any idea of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts before the U.S. commando raid that killed him early this month. So said Hillary Clinton at the end of Friday’s fleeting visit to Pakistan despite the fact that the Qaeda leader was living just a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s premier military academy, “we have no reason to believe that anyone in the highest levels of the government knew,” the U.S. secretary of state declared. “They were quite emotional, conveying that they would have gone after him if they had known he was there.”

Nevertheless, she told reporters, Pakistani leaders did acknowledge that a viable support network had existed inside their country, admitting that “someone, somewhere was providing some kind of support” to bin Laden.

Clinton and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen spoke at a joint press conference after meeting with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership in an effort to sort out the troubled U.S.-Pakistani security relationship. Both Clinton and Mullen made clear that Washington expects greater cooperation to help “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and to drive them from Pakistan and the region” in the future. “We look to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead,” Clinton said. “Joint action against al Qaeda will make Pakistan and America and the world safer and more secure.”

Clinton didn’t specify just what those steps might be, but she had a list of other problems that need work. For one thing, the Afghan Taliban continue to travel freely to and from their back bases inside Pakistan. “Pakistan has the responsibility to help us help Afghanistan by preventing insurgents from reaching the war from Pakistani territory,” she said.

For another, there’s Pakistan’s double game of seeking and accepting billions in U.S. aid while at the same time stoking rampant anti-Americanism and wild conspiracy theories among the Pakistani public, rather than tamping them down.

Even as the Pakistani government and military secretly support U.S. drone attacks in the tribal borderlands, they publicly denounce them as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Pakistani people’s anger is only compounded by their government’s failure to debunk incessant rumors that America is trying to destabilize Pakistan and steal its nuclear weapons. “Pakistan should understand that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make their problems disappear,” Clinton said. “Deliberate misunderstandings, conspiracy theories and accusations have nothing to do with how we chart our future.”

Pakistan has given America too little credit for the roughly $20 billion in aid that has been delivered over the past 10 years, Clinton said. “We have repeatedly delivered on what we have promised by providing billions of dollars in assistance,” she said. “We provide more support than Saudi Arabia, China, and everyone else combined.”

Nevertheless, she said, American aid alone will not solve the country’s myriad problems of poverty, illiteracy, power shortages and terrorism. “American could not and should not solve Pakistan’s problems,” she said.

But Clinton said the message she’ll take home will be to insist that more, not less, cooperation is needed to fight terrorism and to aid beleaguered Pakistan. “I return to Washington ever more committed to doing what I can to make sure the cooperation we are seeking (from Pakistan) is forthcoming and the cooperation we have been asked for by (Pakistan) is also forthcoming,” she said.

After all, she said, Pakistan has done more in the fight against violent extremism than it generally gets credit for. As Pakistani officials often point out, their country has lost far more soldiers fighting al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban in the past few years than America has lost in nearly a decade of combat in Afghanistan.

Admiral Mullen’s comments were more cautious, emphasizing the serious trust deficit that divides the countries’ armed forces. “I have no illusions about the difficulties ahead,” he said, “nor do I leave misinformed about the trust that still needs to be rebuilt between our two militaries.” Because of recent tensions between the two countries, Pakistan has sought a significant reduction in the number of U.S. military personnel stationed in the country. “There have been requests to reduce those numbers,” Mullen said. “We are working our way through how those numbers look in the future.”

But Washington has powerful motivation to mend its ties with Islamabad. As Mullen noted, Pakistani cooperation is essential if al Qaeda is to be defeated. Although bin Laden’s death has thrown al Qaeda into “disarray” and “disrupted some of its future plans,” the organization has not been eviscerated, Mullen said: “Bin Laden’s death has not eliminated the threats we both face from terrorism. Nor has his death meant the death of al Qaeda altogether.” Al Qaeda’s alliances with elements of the Taliban remain intact, Mullen said. “We see that collusion persists.”

That’s a problem for both countries. But Mullen expressed hope that Pakistan’s Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, intends to help resolve their differences. “I do leave here with a sense that General Kayani and other military leaders share my commitment to that task and share my desire to look for ways to advance the relationship,” Mullen said. If so, maybe Washington and Islamabad can get back to fighting real threats, instead of each other.

Ron Moreau is NEWSWEEK’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent and has been covering the region for the magazine the past 10 years. Since he first joined NEWSWEEK during the Vietnam War, he has reported extensively from Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

May 28, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Holland financing groups calling for Israel boycott

Dutch FM says he’ll work to stop funding estimated at 10m. euros organizations calling for divestment, boycott, denying Israel’s right to exist.

BERLIN – According to a ground-breaking report obtained by The Jerusalem Post last week from The Haguebased Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the Dutch Foreign Ministry has allocated at least 10 million euros over a five-year period to organizations urging a boycott of Israel.

Uri Rosenthal, the Dutch foreign minister, wrote to CIDI last month, saying “Intervention will occur in cases of organizations acting against Dutch policy.”
The Foreign Ministry under Rosenthal has begun to institute sweeping reforms to stop Dutch charities from funding anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activities and NGOs that deny Israel’s right to exist.

The 15-page CIDI report named Palestinian and Dutch NGOs that were dependent on subsidies from the Dutch Foreign Ministry, including the Ramallah-based NGO Development Center (NDC) and the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Oxfam Novib Cordaid and IKV Pax Christi in the Netherlands.

In the letter to CIDI Executive Director Ronny Naftaniel, Rosenthal wrote, “I would like to thank you for drawing my attention to the report by CIDI entitled ‘Dutch government unknowingly funding Israel-boycott and one-state solution initiatives,’ which lists Palestinian NGOs which are active in the Palestinian Territories and which are supported [financially] by the Dutch government.

I would like to begin by saying that I share your concerns regarding BDS activities.”

The CIDI report said that “one such Palestinian NGO, Badil [the Bethlehem-based Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights], was shown to promote virulent anti-Semitic incitement. The report showed that Badil received $100,000 from a larger Palestinian NGO named NDC, which is heavily funded by the Dutch government. Since 2008, The Hague has allotted no less than $8 million to NDC.

“In the framework of a cartoon competition, Badil – which promotes a boycott of Israel – gave in May 2010, $600 to Ashraf Ahmad Ghareeb, the cartoonist who drew the anti-Semitic picture seen above. Following the publication of the CIDI report, Badil removed the link on its website to the picture.”

Rosenthal further noted in his letter to Naftaniel, “This message has been conveyed to Palestinian and Israeli partners, the Dutch aid organizations active in the Palestinian Territories and NDC in Ramallah, and during your meeting on March 22, 2011, with the director of the Dutch Foreign Ministry’s North Africa and Middle East department.

“The department, the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv and the Dutch representative office in Ramallah are acutely mindful of the political sensitivities connected to the funding of NGOs operating in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

A meticulous reappraisal of subsidy applicants remains necessary,” Rosenthal said.

According to the CIDI report, “Due to lacking transparency standards on the part of most NGOs reviewed, CIDI believes its findings give only a partial view of the true extent of the use of Dutch taxpayer funds for the support of initiatives which contradict the policy of Dutch governments, and which reject peace settlements which observe Israel’s right to exist.

“The report focused entirely on such organizations and initiatives. The substantial Dutch funding for the host of organizations that display a merely bias against Israel was not reviewed.”

CIDI also noted that its “report gave special attention to a Dutch organization with the misleading name of Plant een Olijf Boom [Plant an Olive Tree]. The study proved that this initiative, which is funded by Cordaid, ICCO and IKV Pax Christi is in fact a front for a Palestinian organization which promotes a boycott of Israel known as JAI [the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the YMCA-YWCA, Jerusalem].”
The Dutch ICCO charity – which was revealed last year by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor watchdog organization to have funded events by the radical pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada (EI) and its Executive Director Ali Abunimah – was also the subject of the CIDI report.

NGO Monitor president Prof. Gerald Steinberg told the Post earlier this year that “EI is a leader in the demonization of Israel, including the anti- Semitic BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaign, and frequently compares the Israeli military to Nazis. EI executive director Ali Abunimah labels Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as ‘collaborators,’ and PA participation in peace talks as ‘collaboration.’” CIDI’s new investigation of ICCO showed “that ICCO had more than funded the front office, but actually set up its website, and is possibly paying the salary of the front’s chief coordinator, who is actively involved in boycott promotion.”

The northern European countries, said CIDI, are also funding the same NGOs as the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

Norway, Denmark, Sweden are key financial providers of anti-Israel groups. Switzerland was also cited by CIDI.

May 15, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Israel opens fire across border with Lebanon

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s military spokesman says soldiers have opened fire at a large crowd of Lebanese protesters who approached the border with Israel.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai says soldiers fired at the crowd when the demonstrators reached the border and began vandalizing the fence. He says the army is “aware” of casualties on the other side.

The demonstration came as a large crowd of protesters also tried to cross into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights from neighboring Syria. Channel 2 TV says four people were killed.

Mordechai says dozens of people have crossed, and troops are still working to stop the crowd from entering. He had no details on the number of casualties.

Mordechai called Sunday’s unrest a provocation by Iran, an enemy of Israel that supports militant groups fighting Israel.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli troops clashed with Arab protesters along two hostile borders on Sunday, leaving as many as five people dead and dozens wounded as the Palestinians commemorated their mass displacement during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment three generations ago.

Israel’s Channel 2 TV said four people were killed as they tried to burst through the Syrian border with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in the most serious violence in the area in decades. Palestinian medics also said one person was killed and 40 others were wounded in a demonstration in the Gaza Strip near the heavily fortified border with Israel. Demonstrations were also reported in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The unrest came as the Palestinians marked the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” the term they use to describe the uprooting they suffered at the time of Israel’s founding on May 15, 1948.

In the fighting over Israel’s creation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were uprooted, and the dispute over the fate of the refugees and their descendants, now numbering several million, remains a key issue in the Mideast conflict.

Israel TV channels broadcast scenes of what appeared to be thousands of people gathering along the Syrian border with the Golan, with large crowds of people throwing objects at the fence. Dozens of people could be seen cutting through the fence and storming across the Israeli side.

Israeli media said the protesters were believed to be Palestinians who live in refugee camps in Syria. Channel 2 interviewed one of those who crossed, who identified himself as a resident of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. “I am Palestinian from Nazareth,” the man, identifying himself as Sami, told the station.

The Israeli military said its soldiers fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, but Channel 2 said four people were killed. Israel’s national rescue service says 10 to 20 people were wounded and are being treated in Majdal Shams, an Arab Druse town in the Golan.

Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war, and Syria demands the area back as part of any peace deal. But despite the hostility between the two countries, the border has been quiet for decades.

May 15, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Suspected U.S. strike kills 15 in Pakistan tribal area

Pakistan — A suspected CIA drone strike targeted a militant stronghold area in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan’s borderlands Friday, killing 15 people, according to news reports. more …

May 6, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More