The New York Times is reporting the Pentagon and the State Department are clashing over a proposal that would bring all private security companies like Blackwater USA under military oversight. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is said to be pushing for Pentagon control following Blackwater’s killing of at least 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad last month. The State Department currently employs Blackwater to guard high-level U.S. officials in Iraq. It remains unclear if Blackwater contractors would be subject to military law under the proposal.
In Turkey, the Parliament is expected to approve a measure today that would authorize a military attack on northern Iraq. Turkish military leaders have pressed for the approval to fight Kurdish rebels. Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is in Turkey today seeking a diplomatic resolution.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, support is waning for a congressional bill to recognize the Armenian genocide. The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the measure last week and appeared to have overwhelming support for a full vote. But nearly a dozen lawmakers have withdrawn their backing amidst fears of jeopardizing relations with Turkey.
Five Caspian Sea states issued a declaration Tuesday promising not to allow their soil for an attack against any one of them. The statement was an apparent response to ongoing speculation of a U.S. attack on Iran. Speaking in Tehran, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against a U.S. strike and defended Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin: “And Russia is the only nation which is helping in the development of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. And in fact, as the president of Iran has already remarked, in the declaration we signed today, and all the Caspian Sea governments support this agreement, which is against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but declares we all have the right to develop peaceful nuclear programs without these restrictions.”
In Egypt, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continued a Mideast tour ahead of planned Israeli-Palestinian peace conference set for next month. Speaking in Cairo, Rice repeatedly avoided journalists’ questions on why the Bush administration is not opposing Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion on the West Bank. Instead, Rice said she was focusing efforts on reforming Palestinian security forces.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “Without security that will make it possible for Palestinians to deliver for their own people and also to fight terrorism, without efforts to — enhanced efforts to do everything that we can to prevent the tunnels from being used for support for terrorism, we’re going to have a very difficult time.”
The head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says he hopes last week's Nobel Peace Prize award will help put an end to the debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. Rajendra Pachauri spoke Tuesday at the panel’s headquarters in Geneva.
Rajendra Pachauri: “Adaptation requires resources, both technical, human and, of course, most importantly, financial. And since the poor countries of the world really don’t have the means on any of these three aspects, we are imposing a further burden on them, which I suppose as is implied in the Nobel Peace Prize, can threaten peace and security across the globe.”
Here in New York, the ousted principal of the city’s first public Arabic-language school has spoken out for the first time. Debbie Almontaser was forced to resign from Khalil Gibran International Academy after she was quoted explaining that the word “intifada” literally means “shaking off” in Arabic. On Tuesday, Almontaser told a crowd gathered at City Hall that she had been forced out under pressure from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the school’s chancellor. She said the school had been threatened with closure unless she resigned. She is now seeking to get her job back.
Debbie Almontaser: “While I have been a victim of a serious injustice, the far larger offense here has been to the Arab and Muslim communities of New York City. In the years since September 11th, our communities have been the object of the most vile and hateful attacks. The attacks on me are part of a larger campaign to intimidate and silence marginalized communities.”
New figures show the Justice Department under President Bush has dramatically shifted the focus of its prosecutions. Since President Bush took office, the Justice Department has seen a double-digit drop in prosecutions against organized crime, environmental offenders, white-collar crime, and drug-related money laundering. Organized crime and drug-linked money laundering saw the sharpest drops, at 38 and 25 percent. Meanwhile, prosecutions rose in areas favored by Republicans. Immigration prosecutions were up 36 percent, while terror and national security cases rose by nearly 900 percent.
In other news from Washington, the House has overwhelmingly approved the first-ever federal reporter shield law. The Free Flow of Information Act would make it easier for reporters to resist government pressure to reveal confidential sources. President Bush has threatened a veto.
In Virginia, a state panel has rejected a proposal that would have established a controversial state-run jail for undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants arrested for alleged crimes would have been held at the facility without bail until tried or deported. Meanwhile, local officials in Virginia’s Prince William County are considering measures that would direct police officers to arrest any immigrant who could not prove they are in the U.S. legally.
The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama is in Washington today where he will be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s top civilian honor. The Chinese government has denounced the award and says it could strain relations with the U.S. On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama met with President Bush at the White House and praised what he called their “close friendship.”
The Dalai Lama: “We know each other, and we developed some kind of, I think, very close friendship. Therefore, something like reunion of one family, one family, like that. I really feel like that. Then, naturally, he is showing his concern about Tibet, and he inquired about the situation. Then, accordingly, I explained. Then also I expressed my appreciation to Mrs. Bush, since she really takes serious consideration about Burmese sort of case.”
In campaign news, The Washington Post is reporting more than a third of President Bush’s top election donors have yet to make donations for the 2008 presidential field. Many cited discontent with the Iraq war and frustration with congressional Republicans. At least two dozen Bush Pioneers and Rangers have switched over and donated to Democratic candidates.
And finally, a correction: On Tuesday, we reported on comments made by retired General John Abizaid at a recent forum at Stanford University. The headline was based on an article in The Stanford Daily. The newspaper has since published a correction saying it was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, not General Abizaid, who said the following: “We’ve treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations. Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back.” At the same forum, John Abizaid admitted the war in Iraq was about oil. He said: “Of course it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that.”