The CIA has reportedly found no conclusive evidence Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. In a new article for The New Yorker magazine, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports a secret CIA draft assessment has challenged White House assumptions on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and complicated efforts to build momentum for a military strike. A former senior intelligence official said Vice President Dick Cheney is leading the charge to discount the CIA’s view. The official said, “They’re not looking for a smoking gun. They’re looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission.” Cheney is also said to have told a White House meeting one month before the midterm elections a Democratic victory would have little effect on the administration’s decision to go to war. Just last week, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the U.S., Danny Ayalon, told an Israeli newspaper President Bush will not hesitate to use force to stop Iran’s nuclear activities.
In Iraq, more than 110 people were killed in violence around Iraq Sunday. At least 17 died and 50 were wounded in a suicide attack in the town of Hilla. Meanwhile, insurgents kidnapped Iraq’s deputy health minister in what is believed to be the highest-level abduction of an Iraqi official to date.
In another major development, Syria’s foreign minister was in Iraq Sunday for the first visit by a Syrian minister since the U.S. invasion. The foreign minister, Walid Muallem, offered Syrian assistance in battling insurgents and called for a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.
In other Iraq news, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has said he believes a military victory for the United States is impossible. In an interview with the BBC, Kissinger said, “If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control … I don’t believe that is possible.” Kissinger has advised the Bush administration during the Iraq War.
Human Rights Watch is calling the recent trial of Saddam Hussein “fundamentally unfair.” In a new report released today, Human Rights Watch says the trial was undermined by interference from the Iraqi government and failure to allow an open hearing of evidence and witnesses.
President Bush is in Indonesia today as he continues his eight-day tour of Asia. More than 10,000 people took to the streets of the capital Jakarta Sunday ahead of the president’s visit.
Alnurdin of Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders Front: “Various elements from different Muslim civil organizations here have all objected the devil himself, George Bush, to come to Indonesia. Essentially, we all agreed that Bush is a murderer in the eyes of Muslims across the world.”
Protests are continuing in Indonesia today.
Meanwhile, a coalition of American human rights, labor and religious groups are asking President Bush to refrain from promising further assistance to the Indonesian military. In a letter organized by the East Timor Action Network, the groups write: “We are deeply troubled by ongoing human rights violations by Indonesia’s security forces, especially in Papua … and its widespread impunity for crimes against humanity and other serious violations committed against the peoples of East Timor and Indonesia.” Last year, President Bush issued a waiver on a congressional restriction on military assistance to Indonesia.
In the Occupied Territories, the Israeli military called off a planned airstrike on the Gaza home of a wanted militant Sunday after hundreds of Palestinians gathered at the home to protect it. Hamas activist Nizar Riyan described the scene.
Nizar Riyan: “In the beginning, hundreds of people gathered, and in less than an hour, there are thousands gathered on the roof. Now the men and woman are taking shifts, meaning the women came this morning and said, 'We will be here during the day, and you cover during the night.' Now, our sisters sitting on top of the roof said, 'Now go and get some rest inside the house.' This approach initiated by our people, whether they are men or women, is a great approach that will break the strength of the (Israeli) F-16 planes.”
An Israeli spokesperson called the Palestinian action “a cynical exploitation of our attempt to avoid harm to civilians.” But Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the tactic had broken new ground and would be used to stop future Israeli attacks.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh: “Israel will not break our will, and we will stand together for a long path, starting by what has happened here today at this house, to protect our house, our children, our women and our elderly.”
In Kenya, a U.N. summit of environmental ministers wrapped up Friday with promises to take action on climate change—in the future. The summit said it would review the Kyoto accords in 2008 with the possibility of agreeing to further cuts in greenhouse gases. Under Kyoto, signatories must keep their emissions to at least 5 percent below their 1990 levels before the year 2012.
The summit also agreed to fund African initiatives for clean energy. Many African leaders and activists, including Sharon Loorementa of the Maasi community, said the conference had failed to address Africa’s needs.
Sharon Loorementa: “You came here to look at some climate impacts and some poor people suffering, and then climb your airplane and head home. Africa is sometimes called the forgotten continent, and it looks like you have forgotten us.”
In Sudan, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official has once again been barred from visiting Darfur. Jan Egeland, the U.N. relief coordinator, was forced to end his trip Friday after Sudanese officials stopped him from entering villages housing Darfurian refugees. Egeland spoke after returning to the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
U.N. Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland: “Never would I have thought that on my fourth and final visit, the number of people in need of assistance would have gone from 1 to 4 million, and never would I have thought that the fear, the angst among the civilian population of Darfur, would remain the same after three long years.”
Here in the United States, up to 22,000 people gathered outside Fort Benning, Georgia, this weekend to call for the closing of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Fifteen people were arrested after crossing the fence and onto the base. The U.S. military has used the school to train many Latin American and Caribbean military officials accused of abusing human rights. Protesters heard from several survivors of U.S.-backed regimes, including Maria Guardado of El Salvador. This was the 17th year of the School of Americas protests. The weekend actions are timed to coincide with the anniversary of the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. According to the organizers, protests also took place in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay and Peru, as well as in Ireland, Canada and other cities across the United States.
On Capitol Hill, a leading Democratic congressmember has announced plans for legislation to reintroduce the military draft. New York Democrat Charles Rangel, the incoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, says he believes mandatory conscription would deter politicians from launching wars. Rangel said, “There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq … [if] members of Congress and the administration thought their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way.”
A new study of hundreds of hearings where Guantanamo prisoners were deemed “enemy combatants” has found the U.S. military called no witnesses, withheld evidence and reached speedy verdicts usually within one day. The study was overseen by Seton Hall professor Mark Denbeaux and his son Joshua. Both represent Guantanamo detainees. The hearings were held before a panel of three officers with no defense attorney present. Out of nearly 560 detainees, all but 38 were ruled enemy combatants.
And two military veterans and a Catholic priest have been sentenced to prison for staging a disarmament protest at a North Dakota missile silo last June. The men dressed in clown suits and broke the locks on the site using sledgehammers. They painted the word “disarm” and poured some of their own blood on a silo lid. The men called themselves “Weapon of Mass Destruction Here Plowshares.” The three were each ordered to pay restitution of $17,000. The oldest of the group, 73-year-old priest Father Carl Kabat, was given the longest sentence of 15 months.