Category - USA: Foreign Relations

US condemns ‘brutal’ FARC attack in Colombia

AFP, April 18

Washington – The United States branded a FARC attack that killed 11 Colombian soldiers “brutal” and accused the Marxist guerrillas of violating their unilateral ceasefire.

The attack on Tuesday-Wednesday came as the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are in peace talks that have been under way in Havana since November 2012 in a bid to end more than five decades of conflict that have killed over 200,000 people.

Bogota accused the FARC of committing a war crime by ambushing a resting army unit with unconventional weapons in the attack in the western rebel bastion of Cauca.

Marie Harf, acting State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We reaffirm our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.

Obama to Take Cuba Off List of ‘Terrorist’ States

That breakthrough, and the president’s attendance at the Summit of the Americas, are building momentum for normalized relations.

The Nation, By Peter Kornbluh, April 10, 2015

Panama — In late November 1981, President Ronald Reagan secretly dispatched Secretary of State Alexander Haig to Mexico to meet with a high-ranking Cuban official and tell him that Cuba’s role in Nicaragua and El Salvador was “unacceptable intervention” and “a threat to our vital interests.” Several months later, the president sent former CIA deputy director Vernon Walters to Havana to reiterate the warning to Fidel Castro: get out of Central America—or else. To reinforce that message, the State Department put Cuba on its designated list of “terrorist states” and, in April 1982, announced a series of economic and financial sanctions to punish the island for “increasing its support for violence in the Hemisphere.”

Thirty-three years after this flagrant effort to obfuscate the difference between supporting revolution and sponsoring international terrorism, President Barack Obama has finally decided to de-list Cuba—creating momentum for positive engagement with Raúl Castro as they both make history by attending at the 7thSummit of the Americas in Panama. This week, the White House received a long-awaited State Department “review” recommending that Cuba be taken off of the list; the president is expected to announce very soon—perhaps tonight—that the list will be reduced from four to three nations (Syria, Sudan, and Iran).

“Cuba’s removal from the list brings US policy back into accord with reality and clears the way for progress on a whole range of other bilateral issues,” according to American University Professor William LeoGrande, who has published a history of the issue on ForeignAffairs.com. Indeed, extracting Cuba from this gallery of rogue states not only redresses a historical insult and injustice; it removes a key obstacle to restoring official diplomatic relations with the Cuban government—a game-changing goal that the Obama administration hopes to significantly advance at the two-day regional meeting in Panama.

The Obama Arms Bazaar

Counterpunch, By William D. Hartung, April 3-5

With the end of the Obama presidency just around the corner, discussions of his administration’s foreign policy legacy are already well under way. But one central element of that policy has received little attention: the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons exports.

The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.
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Johns Hopkins sued over STD study in Guatemala

More than 770 plaintiffs are seeking $1 billion in damages in connection with US program in Guatemala

Al Jazeera, April 1

More than 770 plaintiffs are suing the Johns Hopkins Hospital System Corp. over its role in a series of medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s during which people were deliberately infected with venereal diseases without their consent.

The lawsuit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals, spouses and children of people infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases through a U.S. government program between 1945 and 1956.

The suit claims officials at Johns Hopkins had “substantial influence” over the studies by controlling some panels that advised the federal government on how to spend research dollars. The suit also alleges that Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation, which is also named as a defendant, “did not limit their involvement to design, planning, funding and authorization of the Experiments; instead, they exercised control over, supervised, supported, encouraged, participated in and directed the course of the Experiments.”

The suit, which includes 774 plaintiffs, says the experiments were conducted abroad in order to give “researchers the opportunity to test additional methods of infecting humans with venereal disease easily hidden from public scrutiny.”

US Military Will Train Neo-Nazis In Ukraine

FDL, By DSWright, March 31

Though sending US troops into Ukraine was already controversial, a report by the Associated Press shows a bad situation is getting worse. According to the AP the US forces being sent into Ukraine will be training Neo-Nazi militants who have already been accused of war crimes.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has publicly stated that among those forces receiving US training in April will be the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. The Azov Battalion uses Nazi symbols and openly declares its belief in white supremacy and antisemitism. Many members trace their family’s lineage to fighting with the Nazis against the Soviet Union during World War II.

NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran

Exclusive: The New York Times continues its slide into becoming little more than a neocon propaganda sheet as it followed the Washington Post in publishing an op-ed advocating the unprovoked bombing of Iran, reports Robert Parry.

Consortium News, By Robert Parry, March 28

If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the U.S. government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness,” and “behavior not fitting the Twenty-first Century.”

But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the U.S. government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.

On Thursday, the New York Times printed an op-ed that urged the bombing of Iran as an alternative to reaching a diplomatic agreement that would sharply curtail Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it was used only for peaceful purposes. The Post published a similar “we-must-bomb-Iran” op-ed two weeks ago.

The Times’ article by John Bolton, a neocon scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, was entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” It followed the Post’s op-ed by Joshua Muravchik, formerly at AEI and now a fellow at the neocon-dominated School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. [For more on that piece, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocon Admits Plan to Bomb Iran.”]

Both articles called on the United States to mount a sustained bombing campaign against Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities and to promote “regime change” in Tehran. Ironically, these “scholars” rationalized their calls for unprovoked aggression against Iran under the theory that Iran is an aggressive state, although Iran has not invaded another country for centuries.

Saudi Arabia Leads Air Assault in Yemen

New York Times, By Mark Mazzetti & David D. Kirkpatrick, March 25

Washington – Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday night that it had begun military operations in Yemen, launching airstrikes in coordination with a coalition of 10 nations.

The strikes came as Yemen was hurtling closer to civil war after months of turmoil, as fighters and army units allied with the Houthi movement threatened to overrun the southern port of Aden where the besieged president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has gone into hiding.

The rapid advances by the president’s opponents included the seizure of a military air base and an aerial assault on his home. There were unconfirmed reports that the president had fled the country by boat for Djibouti, the tiny Horn of Africa nation across the Gulf of Aden.

NPR: U.S. Confirms It Is Supporting Saudi Military Operations In Yemen
Moon of Alabama: The Wahhabis’ War On Yemen

The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion

Vice News, By Jason Leopold, March 19

Thirteen years ago, the intelligence community concluded in a 93-page classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq that it lacked “specific information” on “many key aspects” of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

But that’s not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.
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Obama tells Iran of ‘historic’ opportunity

BBC, March 20

US President Barack Obama has told the Iranian people that a deal to transform the relationship between the two countries could be within reach.

“We have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries,” he said in a video message for Persian New Year.

Six world powers are negotiating a deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activity, with a March deadline near.

[…]

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an apparent response to Mr Obama’s video it was time for the US and other negotiating countries – China, France, Germany, Russia and UK – to move forward with an agreement.

“Iranians have already made their choice: Engage with dignity. It’s high time for the US and its allies to choose: pressure or agreement,” Mr Zarif wrote in a message posted on his official Twitter account.

Pro-Venezuela protest to greet US negotiator in Cuba

AFP, By Carlos Batista, March 15

The US negotiator for normal diplomatic ties with Cuba is due back in Havana on Sunday — just as thousands rally to support close ally Venezuela in a mounting row with Washington.

Roberta Jacobson, the top US diplomat for Latin America, is following up on the historic breakthrough announced in December that Cold War foes the United States and Cuba will seek to normalize relations after five decades of bad blood.

Cuba, the Americas’ only one-party communist-run state, is socialist Venezuela’s closest regional partner. Venezuelan aid props up the centrally planned Cuban economy.

But Venezuela’s economy is also in trouble and despite sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves the country has slipped into economic crisis, with record high inflation and shortages of even the most basic needs, such as milk, toilet paper or diapers.

Putin says Russia was ready to activate nuclear arsenal over Crimea

Los Angeles Times, By Carol J. Williams, March 15

Russia would have activated its nuclear arsenal if necessary a year ago when its troops secured the Crimean peninsula and carried out a referendum on the strategic peninsula’s secession from Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a documentary that aired Sunday.

In the report timed to Monday’s anniversary of the referendum, “Crimea: Path to the Motherland,” Putin justifies Moscow’s seizure of the Black Sea territory as necessary to protect Russians and military bases from what he described as a nationalist junta that had taken power in Kiev.

Putin accused the United States of masterminding the three-month uprising in the Ukrainian capital that ended with the ouster of Kremlin-allied President Viktor Yanukovich, who has since taken refuge in Russia.

While the documentary was clearly prerecorded, it served to project a vibrant and defiant image of the Russian president, who hasn’t been seen in public for more than a week, spurring rumors that he is sick or has been deposed in a palace coup.

As Syria’s civil war enters fifth year, Kerry says Assad talks necessary

Comments from top US diplomat come as fighting continues in conflict that has displaced millions, killed around 220,000

Al Jazeera, March 15

The bloody civil conflict in Syria entered its fifth year Sunday, amid continued bombing of the country’s civilians and an admission by Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. will have to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad if an end of fighting is to be achieved.

Washington has long insisted that Assad must be replaced as part of a political transition in the country. But in the face of no end to the violence and the rise of a common enemy in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Kerry’s comments appear to indicate a softened stance towards the Syrian leader.

In the interview broadcast on Sunday, Kerry did not repeat the standard U.S. line that Assad had lost all legitimacy and had to go.

“We have to negotiate in the end,” Kerry said. “We’ve always been willing to negotiate in the context of the Geneva process,” he added, referring to a 2012 conference that called for a negotiated transition to end the conflict.

AFP: Britain: Assad has no role in Syria’s future
Al Jazeera: Turkey slams Kerry’s call for dialogue with Assad

US shuts down Saudi embassy amid security fears

BBC, March 15

The US embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh has cancelled all consular services for Sunday and Monday due to “heightened security concerns”.

In a statement, the embassy said consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran would not be available.

It urged US citizens to take extra precautions when travelling in Saudi Arabia and to keep a low profile.

On Friday, the embassy warned that Western oil workers could be the target of militant attacks.

It said it had information that “individuals associated with a terrorist organisation” could be targeting people working in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

Embassy of the United States of America Riyadh,Saudi Arabia:
Security Message for US Citizens, March 13
Security Message for US Citizens, March 14

‘Dirty Brigades': US-Trained Iraqi Forces Investigated for War Crimes

ABC News, By James Gordon Meek, Brian Ross, Rym Momtaz & Alex Hoswnball, March 11

U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group, American and Iraqi officials told ABC News. Some Iraqi units have already been cut off from U.S. assistance over “credible” human rights violations, according to a senior military official on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq’s most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.

The videos and photos are part of a trove of disturbing images that ABC News discovered has been circulating within the dark corners of Iraqi social media since last summer. In some U.S. military and Iraqi circles, the Iraqi units and militias under scrutiny are referred to as the “dirty brigades.”

“As the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and militias reclaim territory, their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL [ISIS] fighters,” said a statement to ABC News from the U.S. government. “If these allegations are confirmed, those found responsible must be held accountable.”

Graphic auto-start video at the link

Via Peter Maas at The Intercept: Atrocities Committed by U.S.-Trained Iraqi Forces — Again

US anger at Britain joining Chinese-led investment bank AIIB

US statement says of UK membership that it is ‘worried about a trend of constant accommodation’ of China, in a rare public breach in the special relationship.

The Guardian, By Nicholas Watt, Paul Lewis & Tania Branigan, March 12

The White House has issued a pointed statement declaring it hopes and expects the UK will use its influence to ensure that high standards of governance are upheld in a new Chinese-led investment bank that Britain is to join.

In a rare public breach in the special relationship, the White House signalled its unease at Britain’s decision to become a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by raising concerns about whether the new body would meet the standards of the World Bank.

The $50bn (£33.5bn) bank, which is designed to provide infrastructure funds to the Asia-Pacific region, is viewed with great suspicion by Washington officials, who see it as a rival to the World Bank. They believe Beijing will use the bank to extend its soft power in the region.

The White House statement reads: “This is the UK’s sovereign decision. We hope and expect that the UK will use its voice to push for adoption of high standards.”

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