Archive | May 11th, 2011

PA official: Palestinian unity government to be formed in 10 days



Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath tells Ma’an news agency current PA PM Salam Fayyad still in running to be PM of interim Hamas-Fatah unity government; Sha’ath implores U.S. and EU to pressure Israel not to withhold PA tax funds.


A top Palestinian official said on Tuesday that a new unity government between recently reconciled Hamas and Fatah will be formed in 10 days.

In an interview with Ma’an news agency, Fatah leader Nabil Shaath said that although the prime minister of a future interim unity government has yet to be announced, current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is still in the running for the position.

Fayyad has taken unprecedented steps in recent months toward Palestinian statehood, recently presenting proposal in Brussels delineating a three-year aid plan that would allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future.

Palestinian leaders plan to ask the United Nations General Assembly in September to recognize a Palestinian state in all the lands Israel occupied in 1967. Fayyad has made it clear that in the event that Israel and the Palestinians do not reach a negotiated settlement, a Palestinian state will be declared unilaterally.

Hamas and Fatah leaders signed a unity agreement last week in Cairo after a four-year-long rivalry following a civil war in 2007. The more moderate Fatah has been administering the West Bank, while militant Hamas has been ruling the Gaza Strip.

The two groups decided to reconcile in a bid to bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state, to be created in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has opposed the unification, saying it will not negotiate with Hamas, who refuses to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

The Palestinian factions have agreed to create an interim unity government and prepare for national elections.

Shaath told Ma’an that the U.S. and EU are pressuring Israel to release the NIS 300 million in tax funds it has withheld following the signing of the deal, saying “we don’t have financial reserves and the PA is in debt. It doesn’t have the ability to remain stable for a month or two without reserves.”

Israel has explained the withholding of funds, saying it refuses to let revenues flow to Hamas.

The international community has implored Israel to release the tax money to the Palestinians, with the EU announcing last week that it would send 85 million euros to the PA to cover the salaries of workers and help families who would suffer from the freeze.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel on Friday not to halt the transfer of the money to the PA, calling on Israel to “make decisive moves towards a historic agreement with the Palestinians”.

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Zio-Nazi Netanyahu address set for May 24


Zio-Nazi Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint meeting of Congress on May 24, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Tuesday.

“It will be an honor to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Capitol on May 24 as part of his official visit to the United States,” Boehner said in a statement. “America and Israel are the closest of friends and allies, and we look forward to hearing the Prime Minister’s views on how we can continue working together for peace, freedom, and stability.”

The announcement comes roughly a month after Boehner extended an invitation to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s last visit to the U.S. was in March of 2010, when he made a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. During that trip Netanyahu met privately with President Obama amid a spat between the two countries about Zionist illegal settlement construction.

Netanyahu’s address will be the fourth by an Israeli prime minister to Congress. He addressed the legislative body during a previous stint as prime minister in 1996.

“Israel is a vital ally bound to America by common democratic values and shared strategic interests,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. “A strong Israel translates into a stronger America, and we look forward to hearing from Mr. Netanyahu how our two countries can work together to promote prosperity, hope and stability in the Middle East.”


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US closer to calling for Assad to go






The Obama administration is edging closer to calling for an end to the long rule of the Assad family in Syria. Administration officials said Tuesday that the first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule, a major policy shift that would amount to a call for regime change that has questionable support in the world community.

The tougher U.S. line almost certainly would echo demands for “democratic transition” that the administration used in Egypt and is now espousing in Libya, the officials said. But directly challenging Assad’s leadership is a decision fraught with problems: Arab countries are divided, Europe is still trying to gauge its response, and there are major doubts over how far the United States could go to back up its words with action.

If the Syrian government persists with its harsh crackdown on political opponents, the U.S. could be forced into choosing between an undesired military operation to protect civilians, as in Libya, or an embarrassing U-turn that makes it look weak before an Arab world that is on the tipping point between greater democracy or greater repression.

The internal administration debate over a tougher approach to Assad’s regime is occurring amid a backdrop of brutality in Syria. More than 750 civilians have been killed since the uprising began nearly two months ago and some 9,000 people are still in custody, according to a leading Syrian human rights group.

“We urge the Syrian government to stop shooting protesters, to allow for peaceful marches and to stop these campaigns of arbitrary arrests and to start a meaningful dialogue,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday. He said Assad still had a chance to make amends, but acknowledged “the window is narrowing.”

Two administration officials said the U.S. is concerned about a prevailing perception that its response to Assad’s repression has been too soft, especially after helping usher long-time ally Hosni Mubarak out of power in Egypt and joining the international military coalition to shield civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal planning, they said Assad has dispelled nearly any lingering hope that he can or will deliver on grandiose pledges of reform he has made since coming to power 11 years ago. After ending decades of martial law last month, his regime renewed its crackdown on peaceful protesters even more aggressively, used live ammunition and arbitrarily arrested thousands of people.

“We’re getting close,” one official said on the question of challenging Assad’s legitimacy, adding that such a step would oblige the U.S. and, if other countries agree, the international community, to act.

The U.S. has demanded that Gadhafi leave power after four decades of dictatorship in Libya, but has struggled to make that happen, the official noted. “So we need to make sure that what we say matches what we can and will do. It’s not just a matter of putting out a statement and giving the magic words that people want to hear. It’s a significant decision.”

President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed the European Union’s decision to impose sanctions on 13 Syrian officials, prohibiting them from traveling anywhere in the 27-nation organization. U.S. sanctions target the assets of two Assad relatives and another top Syrian official. But neither the EU nor U.S. sanctions affect Assad himself, at least not yet.

The officials said the administration may decide to target Assad, though American sanctions against him likely would mean little as the United States has long had unrelated restrictions on Syria because of its designation as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Obama has tried to engage Syria, seeing it is critical to comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, but the U.S. remains disturbed by the government’s ties to Iran, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and suspicions it has sought to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Israeli concerns loom large as well. The officials said Israel, Washington’s closest Mideast ally, is worried about a possible collapse of Assad’s leadership and a fracturing of the country’s stability. Although Syria and Israel remain technically at war, Israel’s border with Syria has been relatively calm for years.

The reality is that the United States has very little sway in Syria. Unlike Egypt, where the United States spent billions of dollars and decades cultivating strong military, government and civil society ties, the isolation of Syria has left the administration with few ways of coaxing better behavior out of Assad’s government.

Toner, the State Department spokesman, said Tuesday the Syrian government was stirring up violence with its repression in towns such as Daraa and Banias. He called the government’s claims of reforms “false,” and demanded that the regime stop shooting protesters even as security forces entered new cities in southern Syria that have been peaceful up to now. Yet it does not appear the regime is listening to the U.S. case and that he may be trying to see how much force he can get away with.

Assad’s minority ruling Alawite sect wants to placate enough middle-class members of Syria’s Sunni majority to limit the domestic anger, and keep the violence just under the threshold that would prompt serious calls for concerted international action against his government. And if he manages to crush the demonstrations, he will likely usher in a few cosmetic reforms and return to dictatorship as usual, the officials said.

The U.S. would like to sharpen the choice for Assad, so that he moves toward a more conciliatory approach. But one of the things holding the administration back is a classic “better-the-devil-you-know” scenario.

The officials say there is a lack of any organized opposition in Syria, and little understanding of what the alternatives are to four decades of rule under Assad and his father, and whether a chaotic power void would lead to even greater bloodshed.

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Zio-Nazi State Kvetching That America Has not done to Iran and Syria what it’s done to Libya



Ultra-nationalist Zio-Nazio Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman hit out at Western governments on Tuesday for giving greater support to rebels in Libya than in the Jewish state’s main foes Syria and Iran.

“The repression that has met the demonstrations in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in the region cannot possibly be justified,” Lieberman’s office quoted him as telling a diplomatic reception.

“However, it remains confusing why the international community intervenes in Libya but not in Syria or Iran,” he added.

“These inconsistencies send a damaging message to the people of the Middle East and further erode the path to peace, security and democracy for our region.”

NATO leads an air campaign authorised by the UN Security Council to protect civilians against forces loyal to veteran Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi but Western support for protest movements in Iran and Syria has been far less substantial.

Lieberman renewed his opposition to any new moratorium on Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, as demanded by the Palestinian leadership as a precondition for a return to peace talks.

“We are ready for immediate talks without preconditions. However, there will be no new moratorium in Jerusalem or Judaea and Samaria (the southern and northern West Bank) — not for three months, not for three days and not even for three hours,” said Lieberman, who himself has a home in a West Bank settlement south of Jerusalem.

“At least for me, it is clear that they are only looking for excuses to avoid meaningful talks that will lead to a comprehensive solution.”

Direct negotiations between Zionist and the Palestinians collapsed late last year over a dispute about persistent settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Zio-Nazi declined to extend a limited moratorium on new building.

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David Frum and the Winds of War



Shocker: noted neocon makes the case for invading Pakistan

by Justin Raimondo

It may be unseemly for a pundit to highlight his own predictive powers, especially in the first sentence of a column, but propriety has never been much of a constraining factor for me, so here goes:

No sooner had I written that the High Mucka-Mucks of the “Kochtopus” would jump on the bandwagon of the Gary Johnson campaign, then there was David Boaz, looking particularly smug, singing Johnson’s praises (and making catty remarks about Ron Paul’s age) on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watchless than twenty-four hours later.

Okay, so you don’t have to be Nostradamus reincarnated to have imagined the oily evasive Boaz would sidle up to the oily evasive Johnson: like attracts like and all that. But how about my prediction that theneocons War Party, bored with Afghanistan and eager to find fresh killing fields, would soon be focusing on Pakistan as the New Enemy in our eternal “war on terrorism”?

No sooner had my last column been posted, then CNN posted David Frum’s latest screed, in which theformer speechwriter for George W. Bush asked: “Has our mission in Afghanistan become obsolete?”

Frum, who authored the “axis of evil” phraseology that set the tone for the Bush presidency, isn’t having second thoughts about the interventionist foreign policy he’s always championed: no, he’s just wondering if, as he puts it, “The world’s most important terrorist safe haven is visibly not Afghanistan, but instead next-door Pakistan.”

According to Frum, “Because the U.S. presence in Afghanistan requires cooperation from Pakistan, the Afghanistan mission perversely inhibits the United States from taking more decisive action against Pakistan’s harboring of terrorism.” The US has got it “upside down,” he says: Pakistan is the real Enemy. He then goes into a laundry list of aggressive actions he would like us to engage in, including US military action to “disable” Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

This last is particularly crazy, even for a dyed-in-the-wool neocon like Frum: does this born again “moderate” Republican really want to start a war – bound to go nuclear – with Pakistan? He just can’t understand why the Obama administration doesn’t do its duty and risk turning Central Asia into a radioactive wasteland:

“Instead, even now – even now! – we’re told that Pakistan is just too important to permit the U.S. to act on its stated doctrine – articulated by George W. Bush’s administration and not repudiated by Obama’s: ‘Those who harbor terrorists will be treated as terrorists themselves.’ So long as we remain in Afghanistan, that statement remains true. The question is, shouldn’t we be taking now the steps to render the statement less true?”

“The less committed we are to Afghanistan, the more independent we are of Pakistan. The more independent we are of Pakistan, the more leverage we have over Pakistan. The more leverage we have over Pakistan, the more clout we have to shut down Pakistan’s long, vicious, and now not credibly deniable state support for terrorism.”

What’s not credible is an assertion – that the Pakistani authorities sheltered and collaborated with bin Laden – offered without evidence. This many of us learned in the run up to the invasion of Iraq (alas, some only in retrospect). However, neocons don’t need evidence: indeed, they disdain it, and Frum offers none to back up his rationale for war. We are simply supposed to accept that, because bin Laden was found in Abbottabad – described in the American media as a “garrison city” supposedly impregnable to infiltration – the Pakistani authorities must have known his whereabouts.

The details of “Operation Geronimo” underscore why this is nonsense: after all, the US succeeded in setting up a clandestine “safe house” in Abbottabad not far from bin Laden’s lair. If the CIA could do it, why not al-Qaeda – which, after all, has shown itself to be at least the equal of our spooks when it comes to pulling off clandestine operations? I’m assuming the safe house was unknown to the Pakistanis, but, on second thought, maybe not …

The President has told us that no one outside a very small circle in the White House and the Pentagon had prior knowledge of bin Laden’s takedown, and absent any evidence to the contrary, we have to take him at his word. On the other hand, there is some circumstantial evidence the Pakistanis might have seen this coming, because, as the Guardian reports:

“The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader, the Guardian has learned. The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials. Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaeda No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.”

The Guardian goes on to cite “a former senior administration official,” who tells us:

“’There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. ‘The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.’”

If, as Frum claims, the Pakistanis are a “state sponsor of terrorism” fronting for al-Qaeda, then why would they make this agreement – which was renewed by the post-Musharraf government?

Indeed, Islamabad is making plenty of noise about the raid, but this is just for public consumption in Pakistan: the agreed-upon scenario is playing itself out according to plan.

While Frum was a mere White House speechwriter in the Bush years, in no position to be in on the administration’s secret pacts, he could conceivably have learned of the pact in leak-prone Washington, where the neocons had no compunctions about divulging secrets if it served their political ends. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Frum knew about this all along, and is taking the opportunity to target Pakistan anyway, secure in the knowledge that Islamabad could never acknowledge their agreement with Washington. He’s that kind of person.

Aside from that, however, the secret agreement certainly undermines the whole premise of Frum’s argument that Pakistan is now the main enemy of the United States. The outrageousness of this line of argument is apparent when we note that Pakistan has captured far more top al-Qaeda operatives than the intelligence services of the US and all other Western nations combined.

Under General Pervez Musharraf, and continuing under the present government, the Pakistanis have been doing our dirty work in the region ever since 9/11. They have faithfully executed policies dictated to them by Washington – albeit often a little resentful at being required to do most of the heavy lifting – and how are they being rewarded? With slander, not only from the politically irrelevant Frum, but out of the mouths of anonymous administration officials who whisper their calumnies in the dark.

If you’re the leader of a country that has been a good and faithful ally of the US, the lesson to be learned from all this is clear: watch your backHosni Mubarak learned this too late, as did Manuel Noriegaand Ngo Dinh Diem.

Now that bin Laden is dead, and the vast intelligence cache scooped up by the raiders effectively dismantles al-Qaeda as an effective international fighting force, the US government is desperately scrambling to find a replacement – a new bogeyman who will scare the American people into going along with the War Party’s plans.

Frum is not alone in nominating Pakistan for the job: the Obama-ites and the liberal “mainstream” aredivided between those who say, sure, the Pakistanis are a bunch of treacherous towel-heads, but we can’t afford to nuke them just yet, and those who want to go after them in some way. Which way it will go remains to be seen: however, that David Frum is among the first to call for Pakistani blood is hardly surprising. The man is a veritable weather vane riding the winds of war, picking up the slightest breeze blowing in the direction of a potential battlefield.

Like vultures circling road-kill, the neocons’ mere presence in the vicinity is enough to tell us where the next carnage will occur. You don’t need to be a prophet to find these things out: you just have to know how to read the signs.

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NATO Denies Tripoli Strikes Targeted Gadhafi



Insists Strikes Were Aimed at ‘Military Targets’
by Jason Ditz,

NATO is once again escalating its attacks in and around the Libyan capital city of Tripoli, with strikes today hitting a number of targets including, according to witnesses on the ground, the Gadhafi compound.

Despite this, NATO insisted that none of the strikes directly targeted President Moammar Gadhafi. Brigadier General Claudio Gabellini insisted all the strikes were targeted at “military targets” including command bunkers.

NATO made similar claims two weeks ago after a strike hit the home of Saif al-Arab al-Gadhafi, a son of the ruler with no role in governing the country or military. Saif al-Arab was killed in the strike.

Reports from the Gadhafi regime claimed a number of civilians wounded in today’s strikes. Such claims are virtually impossible to verify, and by and large no one really knows what the NATO strikes are hitting.

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Poll: With bin Laden dead, is it time to end war?





The death of the terror network’s leader and an intensified debate about how to cut federal spending are fueling calls to accelerate the promised troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, declare victory and get out.

So with bin Laden finally gone, is it time for America’s longest war to end?

Nearly six in 10 Americans think so, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken over the weekend. Assessments of how the decade-long war is going have improved a bit, compared with six weeks ago, and a broad swath of Americans now agrees with the statement that the United States “has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should bring its troops home.”

Just over one-third say instead that the USA “still has important work to do in Afghanistan and should maintain its troops there.”

“I kind of feel like Osama was a reason we had gone there in the first place,” says Liz Calhoun, 35, a stay-at-home mom from Lakeville, Minn., who was called in one of two USA TODAY polls on the subject during the past 10 days. “Now that he’s dead, it’s an end.”

“If this can be seen as a reason to end it, more power to it,” says Jeff Yapuncich, 27, of Harrisonburg, Va. “I don’t see any other way it’s going to end.”

Such sentiments may be building.

When the question was asked in a one-night poll immediately after bin Laden’s death was announced May 1, 45% said it was time for U.S. troops to come home. In a larger and more reliable three-day poll at the end of the week, that number had reached a lopsided majority.

On Capitol Hill, members of Congress ranging from reliably anti-war Democrats to freshman Tea Party conservatives are raising questions about the costs and the value of a continued, full-scale military mission in Afghanistan.

The revived debate over the war comes as the Obama administration begins to plan an initial pullout of U.S. forces slated for July. When the president announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in December 2009, he promised to start a “significant” drawdown this summer and complete it by 2014.

The size and configuration of the summer withdrawals could signal whether the administration’s timetable and goals have been adjusted in the wake of bin Laden’s death.

Some key officials say the door has been opened for a faster handover to Afghan security forces. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., told a hearing Tuesday that bin Laden’s death “provides a potentially game-changing opportunity to build momentum for a political solution in Afghanistan that could bring greater stability to the region and bring our troops home.”

That view isn’t unanimous, among analysts or the public.

“There is more to be done, or everything we’ve done so far will be for nothing,” says Scott Williamson, 19, of Summerfield, Fla., a history student at University of Central Florida who was among those surveyed.

“Just because bin Laden is dead, I mean, a lot of his supporters are still there,” says Bill Smith, 66, a retired geologist from Arvada, Colo. In his view, the United States needs to continue to “try to root out the Taliban and al-Qaeda somewhat more, so that they don’t take over that country again and provide an even safer place for terrorists.”

Some analysts argue that the success of the operation to find bin Laden should prompt the United States to seize the moment and redouble efforts to crush a weakened al-Qaeda once and for all. That could encourage the Taliban to cut its remaining ties with al-Qaeda and engage in meaningful peace talks with the United States and the Kabul regime.

The administration already is pressing hard for serious negotiations, a senior administration official says. “We do want to take full advantage of what could be an opportunity,” he said, speaking on background because the effort is being made behind the scenes. “We have aggressive messaging to the Taliban to see if there’s a way forward.”

Bin Laden’s death and the intelligence data collected at his compound could be “leveraged” with intensified operations on the ground, says Peter Feaver, who served in the George W. Bush White House as a special adviser on the National Security Council. “Within the two-year horizon, 2½ years, you might have really changed the situation on the ground in Afghanistan to produce … a changed trajectory” akin to the turnaround in Iraq after Bush deployed more U.S. forces there in 2007.

Many war-weary Americans are leery of the idea of a conflict that will continue unabated for years, however.

“I don’t think we should just leave them hanging,” Calhoun, a Republican and the mother of two, says of the Afghans. Her timetable for a measured U.S. pullout? “Realistically, probably three to six months.”

A new debate over Afghanistan

The issue has divided the Obama administration from the start: Whether to pursue a broad counter-insurgency strategy aimed at increasing public security, building civil institutions and installing a stable government — tasks likely to require thousands of ground troops — or a more targeted counter-terrorism strategy that aims at suspected terrorists, often using special-ops and drone attacks.

“The two camps in the White House on Afghanistan have never persuaded each other of the merits of their case,” says Stephen Biddle, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former professor at the U.S. Army War College. Now, both sides cite the repercussions of bin Laden’s death to bolster their arguments.

“Bin Laden’s death is the ultimate Rohrshach test in that everyone sees it and sees their prior theories confirmed,” Feaver says.

What does Obama see when he looks at it?

In December 2009, the president sided with those who supported an expanded deployment, among them Gen. David Petraeus, whom Obama installed as commander of U.S. forces there. But Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars, published last year, and other insider accounts depict the president as ambivalent. Vice President Biden, among others, was on the other side.

In an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, aired Sunday, Obama dodged a question about those in Congress arguing for a faster withdrawal.

Bin Laden’s death “reconfirms that we can focus on al-Qaeda, focus on the threats to our homeland, train Afghans in a way that allows them to stabilize their country,” Obama replied. “But we don’t need to have a perpetual footprint of the size that we have now.”

In political terms, the success of the bin Laden operation has bolstered Obama’s standing as a strong leader who can be trusted to handle national security. That probably makes it easier for him to defend either decision he might make — to declare the Afghanistan mission largely accomplished or stay the course.

He risks being increasingly at odds with his Democratic base if he chooses to continue the war, the USA TODAY poll finds.

The demographic groups that gave Obama his strongest support in the 2008 presidential election now are the most supportive of bringing the troops home. That was the view of two-thirds or more of blacks, Hispanics, liberals, women under 50, those under 35, low-income Americans and unmarried people.

“It’s time to get out,” says Annette Lamb, 50, an Obama supporter and library science professor at Indiana University who lives in Teasdale, Utah. She calls bin Laden’s death a convenient reason to justify a withdrawal that probably should take place for other reasons, too.

“I understand that you don’t just pull the troops out because it will go back to how it was before. I know it has to be gradual,” Lamb says. But she says fervent Obama supporters like herself want him to show he understands the time has come: “It’s important to show that he’s moving in that direction.”

The liberal group Democracy for America sent an e-mail Monday to its 1 million members signed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., asking support for a Senate bill that would demand the administration set a “date certain” for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Another left-leaning group,, last week gathered 100,000 signatures for an online petition demanding the end of the war. “That is somewhat more energy than we have seen on Afghanistan in the past,” says Justin Ruben, executive director of the 5 million-member group.

The larger debate over how to cut federal spending and begin to bring the spiraling U.S. debt under control — now the No. 1 issue in Washington amid closed-doors negotiations over raising the federal government’s debt ceiling — also has become part of the debate over Afghanistan.

“The place Afghanistan has the greatest political salience is around the costs of the war, and the idea that we just can’t possibly afford to keep spending billions and billions on wars overseas when people are hurting so badly here at home,” Ruben says.

The conclusion that it’s time to bring U.S. troops home isn’t confined to Democrats. Among independents, 62% say the mission has been accomplished in Afghanistan.

Even Republicans, traditionally the most supportive of military action, are split: 47% say important tasks remain to be done in Afghanistan; 47% say it’s time for the troops to come home.

In the survey, there was no major demographic group in which a majority says the U.S. deployment should be maintained.

Tallying the cost

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, ticked through the financial costs of the war: 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 31,000 deployed in the region to support Afghan operations.

More than $100 billion in Obama’s 2012 budget request for Afghanistan, plus $13 billion to train Afghan forces and $5 billion a year on civilian assistance.

“With al-Qaeda largely displaced from the country but franchised in other locations, Afghanistan does not carry a strategic value that justifies 100,000 U.S. troops and a $100 billion per year cost, especially given current fiscal restraints,” he said at a Senate hearing.

“Make no mistake, it is unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight,” Kerry warns.

So far this year, 118 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan; a total of 1,461 have been killed there since the war began 10 years ago.

North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, the Republican co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to end the war, has been cultivating support from conservative, deficit-hawk Tea Party freshmen in Congress. One of them, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has signed on to the bill.

But Jones acknowledges that the effort to bring political force against the war has been slow going.

Bin Laden’s death has improved assessments about the war’s course only modestly. In March, Americans by 49%-47% said the war was going badly. Now, by 51%-45% they say it is going well.

The USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,018 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.

The conflict continues to take second billing for a nation more concerned with economic woes. Fewer than 1% of those surveyed call the situation in Afghanistan the most important issue facing the nation; 4% cite wars in general.

Even so, for many of those surveyed, the dramatic Navy SEALs operation at bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan seems to present a moment of possibility, a chance to pivot in a war that was launched weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

The death of bin Laden gives Obama credibility to challenge al-Qaeda’s remaining leaders, says Kathy Blake, 49, a construction inspector for the city of High Point, N.C., who was among those surveyed. “He should give an ultimatum to the rest of Osama’s crew … to turn themselves in,” she suggests. “Otherwise they might get the same thing.”

Blake has been watching with interest the “Arab Spring” movement that has swept across the Middle East and North Africa. Pro-democracy demonstrators have toppled authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and challenged them in Libya and Syria in protests that seem to have had little to do with al-Qaeda.

“With the recent activity of the young kids over there in the Middle East wanting their freedom, I’m not sure what he should do” to advance and protect U.S. interests in the region, she says of Obama. “They want their freedom, and now they can have it. I think that’s wonderful, too.”

She wonders whether all that might change some of the landscape and the assumptions behind the war in Afghanistan, too.

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Zio-Nazi FM Rules Out Any Halt to Settlement Expansion



Calls for Immediate Peace Talks, But Won’t Allow Any Concessions

by Jason Ditz,

Nine months in, the international community is increasingly wondering if the Israel-PA peace talks with ever restart. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an outspoken opponent of the talks to begin with, came forward with an offer of immediate talks.

Which sounds good on the surface, but in the same talks with foreign diplomats, Lieberman also ruled out making any concessions, including the only one the PA actually wants, a freeze in the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Not for three months, not for three days, not even for three hours,” Lieberman insisted. The PA has said it is willing to return to the talks the minute a new freeze is announced. The Israeli government ended its last freeze in September, which also ended the talks.

Israeli officials have repeatedly blamed the Palestinians for the halt to talks, and have recently cited the attempted reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas as the reason behind the lack of progress is restarting them. At the end of the day, however, the only thing that can restart those talks is a settlement freeze, and that is poltiically impossible for a far-right coalition in Israel which depends on pro-settler factions for support.

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2 More US Muslims Barred From Charlotte Flight



Lawyer: Both Cleared by TSA, Ousted by American Airlines

by Jason Ditz,

Two American-born Muslim clerics were barred from flying to the city of Charlotte, NC over the weekend, according to their lawyer Mo Idlibi. The two were both cleared to fly by the TSA and were ousted by American Airlines from a flight leaving New York City.

The two, a South Carolina-born father and his son, were said to be frequent travelers. Ironically the two were headed to a conference in Charlotte focusing on anti-Muslim discrimination.

Apparently at issue was that the father’s drivers license lists his name as Al Amin Abdul Latif, while his ticket abbreviated his name as Al Amin A. Latif. He was told to “fix” his ticket by airline officials, and later told he was “not welcome” on American Airlines flights anymore.

Latif ended up driving to Charlotte and will still attend the conference. His son was eventually allowed onto another plane the following day. American Airlines declined to comment, saying the move was a “security matter.

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Unauthorized US drone strike kills 4 in Pakistan



A non-UN sanctioned US drone attack has killed at least four people and wounded several others in Pakistan’s troubled northwest tribal belt belt.

Local security officials say the American drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in South Waziristan region, a Press TV correspondent reported.

It has been the second attack in Pakistan by US unmanned planes since last week.

The aerial attacks, initiated by former US President George W. Bush have escalated under President Barack Obama.

US officials say the attacks target militants. However, a majority of the victims of the attacks are civilians.

The issue of civilian casualties has strained relations between Islamabad and Washington.

The Pakistan officials have criticized the air raids, saying they violate the country’s sovereignty.

The continued airstrikes have angered the Pakistani people.

They held numerous rallies, condemning the US drone attacks.

The attack comes after Pakistani authorities strongly censured the US for conducting another unauthorized attack in Pakistan that led to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

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