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July 16, 2008

NSN Daily Update
Posted by The National Security Network

Bush Administration sends top US diplomat to EU meeting with Iran but continues same failed strategy.  According to a senior State Department official, the Bush administration will send Undersecretary of State William J. Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official, to international talks in Geneva with Iran about its nuclear program.  The announcement is described by U.S. officials as a “‘one-time deal’ designed to demonstrate a serious desire to negotiate a solution to the impasse over Tehran’s ambitions.”  Burns will not negotiate with the Iranians and will not hold separate meetings.  Rather, “Burns will advance the White House’s position that serious negotiations can begin only after Iran suspends uranium enrichment.” However, the Administration continues a failed policy of confrontation and threats.  This policy has produced no real progress while Iran has moved from zero to 3,800 centrifuges.  The U.S. needs a coherent and comprehensive security strategy to deal with Iran.  That strategy should include direct and tough negotiations without preconditions.  [Washington Post, 7/16/08]

Senators Biden and Lugar push bill to increase civilian aid to Pakistan and refocus American policy.
  Yesterday Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Richard Lugar, the committee’s ranking Republican, unveiled a new bill to triple civilian aid to Pakistan to $7.5 billion.  The money would go to building roads, schools, and medical facilities.  The bill seeks to correct the Bush Administration’s skewed emphasis on strictly military aid to Pakistan, a policy that Biden called an “unsteady balancing act in one of the ... most dangerous spots in the world.”  The bill is a good first step toward refashioning the Bush Administration’s wrong-headed priorities with regard to Pakistan.  Bush has long declared Iraq the central front in the fight against terrorism despite the fact that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is the most critical region in the world in winning that fight.  Furthermore, an over reliance on military aid to Pakistan has been both ineffective and has failed to consider the underlying roots of terrorist recruiting.  [Reuters, 7/15/2008; AP, 7/15/2008]

Kurds protest Iraqi election law.
   The entire bloc of Kurdish lawmakers, roughly a fifth of Parliament’s 275 members, walked out of the Iraqi parliament on Tuesday in protest over the proposed provincial elections law, contending that part of it was unconstitutional.  The dispute could imperil the provincial council elections scheduled to take place across Iraq this fall and delay them to next year, and may affect progress on the hydrocarbon law and broader political reconciliation as well.  [NY Times, 7/16/08]

Quick Hits

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called yesterday for increasing spending on diplomacy and foreign aid,
and stated that criticism of the “creeping militarization” of the U.S. international aid programs and foreign policy is "not an entirely unreasonable sentiment."  Gates also said “that the government's civilian institutions, especially those with the tasks of diplomacy and development, had been undermanned and underfunded since the end of the Cold War.”

U.S. troops have withdrawn from the outpost in Afghanistan where nine U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack by militants on Sunday, while NATO “insisted that international and Afghan troops will ‘retain a strong presence in that area with patrolling and other means.’”

Multiple bombs killed at least 40 people in Iraq yesterday.  Twin suicide bombs in Baqubah, capital of the strategic Diyala Province, killed 28.  In Mosul, 12 died in two unrelated bombings, while three other bombs wounded 15.  These attacks follow the massive double suicide bomb that killed 35 Iraqi recruits in Baqubah yesterday.

The Israeli-Hezbollah prisoner exchange began today, with Hezbollah releasing coffins confirmed to be containing the remains of two Israeli soldiers abducted in 2006.  It is anticipated that Israel will release five Hezbollah prisoners in return.

The Senate Banking Committee is considering a bill tomorrow to impose new, wider sanctions on Iran.”

Russian President Medvedev indicates continued problems in relations with the United States.  In particular he attacked the U.S. plan to put a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Europe.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan faces the first military commission conducted by the United States in more than fifty years next week, and testified Tuesday about his experiences.   Hamdan’s lawyers plan to ask a district court tomorrow to postpone the military trial until he has a habeas hearing.


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