Category - USA: Foreign Relations

India in America’s Coils?

The Citizen, By Bharat Karnad, March 11

New Delhi – It is a devastating turn of events – the indication that the Bharatiya Janata Party government will soon sign the three so-called “foundational” accords with the United States that Washington has been fiercely pushing in the past decade.

The Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) is first in line. The other two agreements are the CISMOA (Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) and BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geospatial information and data).
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Immigration raids begin targeting Central Americans, DHS defends policy

Dallas Morning News, By Dianne Solís, January 3

Immigration advocates and the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments are warning people this weekend that raids by federal authorities have begun and are targeting Central Americans who have recently entered the U.S. without authorization.

Officials at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement don’t generally confirm what they consider ongoing operations. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, reemphasized their priorities in a statement this morning that referred to policy priorities made in November 2014 in this memo.

The Washington Post first reported on Dec. 23 that raids would begin in early January targeting Central Americans who had orders of removal issued by a federal immigration judge. They would focus on those who entered the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014, in numbers so large it was called a surge.

Los Angeles Times: Families are taken into custody as push to deport immigrants denied refuge begins

U.S. Foreign Arms Deals Increased Nearly $10 Billion in 2014

New York Times, By Nicholas Fandos, December 25

Washington – Foreign arms sales by the United States jumped by almost $10 billion in 2014, about 35 percent, even as the global weapons market remained flat and competition among suppliers increased, a new congressional study has found.

American weapons receipts rose to $36.2 billion in 2014 from $26.7 billion the year before, bolstered by multibillion-dollar agreements with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Those deals and others ensured that the United States remained the single largest provider of arms around the world last year, controlling just over 50 percent of the market.

Russia followed the United States as the top weapons supplier, completing $10.2 billion in sales, compared with $10.3 billion in 2013. Sweden was third, with roughly $5.5 billion in sales, followed by France with $4.4 billion and China with $2.2 billion.

Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity

The Intercept, By Jenna McLaughlin, December 18

In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something — anything — in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.

But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.

The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don’t need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government — while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.

Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass — or else the entire government would have shut down — it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)
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Obama reinforces ISIL strategy

President Obama’s address tonight contained little news, but his Oval Office backdrop lent a new gravity to his request for Muslim countries and organizations to help de-radicalize Iraq and Syria. For the first time, he unequivocally acknowledged San Bernadino, Fort Hood and even Chatanooga as terrorist attacks, and warned of the effectiveness of ISIL’s recruitment campaigns over the Internet.

Syria is already the most complicated battleground since World War 2, and keeping up with all the shifting goals and allegiances of a growing list of players may prove impossible. Political relations with nearby Muslim countries are just as complex. ISIL may lose ground in an international military push, but halting its spread elsewhere requires a global effort.

Obama weighs moving U.S. troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq

Washington Post, By Missy Ryan & Greg Jaffe, October 27

President Obama’s most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move U.S. troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, officials said, a sign of mounting White House dissatisfaction with progress against the Islamic State and a renewed Pentagon push to expand military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas.

The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The changes would represent a significant escalation of the American role in Iraq and Syria. They still require formal approval from Obama, who could make a decision as soon as this week and could decide not to alter the current course, said U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are still ongoing. It’s unclear how many additional troops would be required to implement the changes being considered by the president, but the number for now is likely to be relatively small, these officials said.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached

New York Times, By Jackie Calmes, October 5

Atlanta – The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.

But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.
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Possible U.S. airstrike hits Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan; at least 19 dead

Washington Post, By Tim Craig, October 3

Kabul – U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including three children, in an incident that will likely raise new questions about the scope of American involvement in the country’s 14-year war.

In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said an airstrike “partially destroyed” its trauma hospital in Kunduz, where the Afghan military has been trying to drive Taliban fighters from the city.

The airstrike killed at least 12 Doctors Without Borders staff members, the group said. Three children were also reportedly killed. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, including 19 staff members and 18 patients and caretakers. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.

“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law,” Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Nicolai called for an independent investigation into the incident: “We demand total transparency from Coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage.’”

U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

The Intercept, By Glenn Greenwald, September 23

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.

Most of the world may be horrified at the selection of Saudi Arabia to head a key U.N. human rights panel, but the U.S. State Department most certainly is not. Quite the contrary: its officials seem quite pleased about the news. At a State Department briefing yesterday afternoon, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was questioned by the invaluable Matt Lee of AP, and this is the exchange that resulted:

QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.

MR. TONER: Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s — we would welcome it. We’re close allies. If we —