Iraqi lawmakers continue to speak out over what they call unfair demands in talks with the Bush administration over a long-term compact with the United States. US officials have been silent on the negotiations. But Iraqis have leaked details of the US demands, which include immunity for American troops and contractors, a free hand to conduct military operations without Iraqi approval, control of Iraqi airspace, and maintaining fifty-eight permanent military bases in Iraq. On Tuesday, Democracy Now! spoke to visiting Iraqi lawmakers here in New York. Iraqi parliament member Khalaf Al-Ulayyan criticized the US proposals.
Iraqi parliament member Khalaf Al-Ulayyan: “I believe the parliament will not ratify the treaty in its current form, because it harms Iraqi sovereignty. Based on the details that have been leaked to the media, it seems that the deal will make Iraq not just an occupied country but an actual part of the US.”
Iraqi officials interviewed by the Washington Post say the US initially demanded control of more than 200 military bases. US officials also demanded the right to refuel the planes while in flight, stoking fears the US would use Iraq as a staging ground for an attack on Iran. The Independent of London reported last week the US is leveraging tens of billions of dollars in seized Iraqi assets to push through its demands. The Bush administration has angered Iraqi officials by refusing to lift support for Iraq’s UN designation as a threat to international security. The designation was imposed following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and has been used to impose sanctions and restrict Iraq’s economy.
Meanwhile, President Bush continues to threaten Iran with military attack. Speaking today in Germany, Bush again repeated his threat that “all options are on the table” to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Bush’s comments come one day after he won European backing for threatening Iran with new sanctions unless it stops nuclear enrichment. Iran has offered to negotiate on its nuclear program and a broader peace agreement, but the US insists Iran must suspend nuclear activities as a precondition. Speaking Tuesday in Slovenia, Bush said the US will not waver from its demands.
President Bush: “You know, the fundamental question is not ours to make, it’s theirs to make. And that is, are they going to continue on their path of obstruction? Will they continue to isolate their people? Are they going to continue to deny the people of Iran a bright future by basically saying 'we don't care what the world says’? And that’s the position they’re in. I’ll leave behind a multilateral framework to
work this issue.”
In Afghanistan, four civilians and several fighters have been killed in a US air strike in the Paktia province. The US military says the three women and a child were in the same building as the fighters when the US attacked.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, the US military is being blamed for killing eleven Pakistani soldiers stationed near the Afghan border. The attack came in a disputed area where Taliban fighters were thought to be holding captured Afghan soldiers. Pakistan says the US bombed its soldiers while backing Afghanistan’s operation. It was the latest in a series of US air strikes inside Pakistan that have killed scores of people in the past year.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, a ten-year-old Palestinian girl has been killed in an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. The girl, Hadel Alfnere, died when an Israeli tank round hit her home in Khan Younis. Two members of her family were wounded. Israel says it was attacking Palestinian militants who were firing rockets into Israel.
In South Korea, public outcry over the lifting of a ban on US beef continues to bring the country to a standstill. On Tuesday, more than 80,000 people took to the streets of Seoul to demand the ban be reimposed. It was the largest rally so far since daily protests began more than a month ago. The entire South Korean cabinet has offered to resign in response to the protests. South Korean lawmaker Kang Gi-gap said the cabinet had been ignoring the people’s wishes.
Kang Gi-gap: “The South Korean people have asked (the government) to renegotiate, which is their constitutional right. But the government has not listened to the people’s voice, has not answered the people’s demands. They are just trying to tell a lie to the people.”
South Korea banned American beef five years ago after an outbreak of mad cow disease. But the ban was lifted last month, after US lawmakers threatened to withhold a pending trade deal.
In Haiti, the World Food Program has announced it’s extending school feeding programs through the summer to deal with an ongoing crisis. WFP Haiti Country Director Mamadou Mbaye said the expansion of food was just a start for desperate need.
A new study says over two-thirds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay suffer from or are at risk of mental damage because they are held in virtual isolation. According to Human Rights Watch, 185 prisoners spend twenty-two hours a day in solitary confinement with little light or fresh air. The vast majority have not been charged with any crime.
The Financial Times is reporting the Bush administration is abandoning hopes of completing a controversial nuclear deal with India. India would receive access to US nuclear technology for the first time. Critics have said the agreement would encourage nuclear production regionally and worldwide, because it effectively rewards India for developing nuclear weapons outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But US officials say a deal is unlikely, because the Indian government has backed off under pressure from leftist coalition allies.
In environmental news, the scientific academies of thirteen countries, including the United States, are urging intensified global action to combat global warming. In a joint statement posted by the US National Academy of Sciences, the academies say nations should move beyond last year’s pledge by the Group of Eight to consider halving carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2050.
On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama is coming under criticism in some circles for appointing an outspoken defender of the retail giant Wal-Mart as his chief adviser on economic policy. The adviser, Jason Furman, is a New York University scholar and former official in the Clinton administration. In 2005, he published a paper entitled “Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story” that argued Wal-Mart’s low-prices outweigh the negative effects of its low wages for its workers. Obama has criticized Wal-Mart on the campaign trail and made several references to former rival Senator Hillary Clinton’s time on the Wal-Mart board of directors during their battle for the Democratic nomination.
And on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans have blocked a proposal to tax the windfall profits of major oil corporations. The measure would have taxed “unreasonable” profits and given the government more leeway to counter speculative practices on the oil market. But Democrats failed by a vote of 51-to-43 to get the sixty votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.