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A Few Diplomatic Notes

CHINA’S AFRICA POLICY

CHICAGO, USA – Kenyan political scientist and author Peter Kagwanja published an insightful article in the September 12, 2015, issue of Kenya’s Daily Nation headlined “China using knowledge to consolidate its influence in Africa.”  He opined: “With its 1.3 billion people, the world’s second most powerful economy, a nuclear stock, a seat in the United Nations Security Council and drawing on the ethos of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, China is a superpower.”

The Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute and Sunday Nation columnist added: “But faced with growing accusations of extracting and siphoning African resources to fuel its rise, China is consciously shunning the supply-side economic models in redefining its relations with the continent.”

Mr. Kagwanja noted “Beijing’s scholars and foreign policy mandarins are experimenting on the “power/knowledge” model to win the hearts and minds of African thinkers and wielders of power in governments and regional groupings. To be sure,” he added, “China is treading a familiar philosophical path. Over four decades ago, the French historian and philosopher, Michel Foucault, popularized and transformed the power/knowledge concept into a growth industry. ”

I highly recommend Mr. Kagwanja’s article.

SYRIA: DIPLOMACY, PARTITION AND INTERVENTION

On September 12, 2015, Martin Chulov, Middle East editor of Guardian, offered a perspective on Syria in which he noted that, “All stakeholders recognize that the disintegration of Syria is a threat to their own interests and now has a self-sustaining momentum that is bigger than their capacity to control.” Mr. Chulov noted that, “ In recent months, many players have made a series of small, unilateral gestures. The aim has been to build trust and to draw each other back from maximalist positions which have meant that all of those involved in Syria parties have treated it as one big fire sale, taking whatever they can from the ruins, before they’re picked clean,” he wrote.  The article, headlined “Diplomacy, partition, intervention – which future is least bleak for Syria?”, is worth spending sometime reading, if you care about events in Syria.

THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL IS A MULTINATIONAL ACCORD

The Editorial Board of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune told its readers in a September 10, 2013, editorial that, “Deep divisions in Washington obscured a shared objective: preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That goal is closer to reality thanks to Thursday’s (9/10/2013) Senate vote on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran deal.

“Too often lost in the binary domestic debate has been the fact that this is a multinational accord,” the publication opined. “Rejecting it would have risked the hard-fought global unanimity on sanctions that brought Iran to the table in the first place.” If you’re interested in reading more of the editorial, see “Iran deal is a victory for effective global diplomacy.”

TECHNOLOGY AND DIPLOMACY

Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General in New York, offers a perspective on the convergence of diplomacy and information technology in the September 8, 2015, online issue of Time, headlined “How Technology Has Revolutionized Diplomacy.” According to Mr. Aharoni, “Three fundamental changes to the nature of diplomacy stand out above the rest.” Read the article to learn what they are.

CHINA AND PAKISTAN

According to Pakistan Today, Pakistan and China’s “decades’ old strategic partnership has entered into a new phase” with the launching of (an) “economic corridor project and construction” of what is being called Silk road.
”Top leadership have decided to bring the two countries more closer to each other through their regular economic interaction,” the publication said. “China will be playing pivotal role (in) the socio-economic development of Pakistan through the corridor project in the coming years.”  “Sino-Pakistan ties enter new phase; focus on economic diplomacy” is worth reading and is another aspect of the global economic ties China is deepening or creating globally.

WILL SAUDI DIPLOMAT GET AWAY WITH ALLEGED RAPE

Suhasini Haidar, writing in the September 11, 2015, edition of The Hindu,  revealed that, “As the diplomatic crisis over the Saudi diplomat accused of raping two Nepalese women employed by him showed no signs of easing, India has asked the Saudi government to waive the official’s diplomatic immunity and cooperate in the investigation.”

“Chief of Protocol Jaideep Mazumdar called on the Saudi Ambassador, Dr. Saud Mohammed Alsati, on Thursday (9/10/2015) and formally asked that diplomatic immunity be waived for the First Secretary, who allegedly held the women as sex-slaves at his residence in Gurgaon,” Ms. Haidar reported. “In a tweet, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup wrote that the Chief of Protocol had “conveyed the request of Haryana police for cooperation of the Embassy” to the Saudi Ambassador.” On September 9, 2015, the Press Trust of India reported that the Saudi Embassy  issued a statement in which it  “strongly stresses that these allegations are false and have not been proven.”

It’s understandable why India wants  to get to the bottom of this. the country is widely known for what some call an official tolerance, at least at the local level,  for the nation’s widely criticized rape culture. To read more on India’s efforts to bring the undisclosed Saudi diplomat to justice, see “Saudi diplomat case: Waive immunity, New Delhi tells Riyadh.” By the way, the case has been reported all over the world.

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U.S., Japan to Hold Summit in 2015: Why?

Japanese “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to meet in 2015 and reaffirm the bonds between their two countries on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II,” according to the Japan Times. See “Abe, Obama to hold summit, reaffirm Japan-U.S. ties 70 years after end of WWII.”

“Tokyo and Washington are likely to hold a bilateral summit, where they will considering compiling a joint document that will outline the two countries’ intention to expand their alliance, senior Japanese and U.S. government officials said,” according to The Times.

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Will U.S. Send troops Back Into Combat in Iraq?

On June 13, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama appeared on the South Lawn of the White House, at noon Eastern Daylight Time, and gave what he called “a quick update about the situation in Iraq.”

He was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) surprising military gains at the expense of Iraqi military and the sectarian government of Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia, who has deliberately marginalized Iraq’s Sunni population, a situation Mr. Obama touched on in his June 13, 2014 news conference. ISIL’s gains caught U.S. intelligence by surprise, according to various sources.

During the 11-minute address, Mr. Obama revealed that, on June 12, 2014, he convened a meeting with the National Security Council to discuss the situation in Iraq. The NSC briefed Mr. Obama on overnight developments prior to his June 13, 2014, press conference.

NSC members are: Barack Obama, President of the United States, Chairman Joseph R. “Joe”  Biden, Vice President of the United States; John Kerry, Secretary of State; Charles “Chuck” Hagel, United States Secretary of Defense; and Susan Rice, National Security Advisor.

“I received an update from my team,” Mr. Obama revealed .  president_official_portrait_hires“Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria.  In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory.  And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people.  And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

Mr. Obama noted that, “… this threat is not brand new.  Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence.  Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.” Mr. Obama assured the nation: 

We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.

I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.

Mr. Obama said “any action” the U.S. “may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed.”

The president also said ISIL’s military and propaganda gains  “should be a wake-up call” for the Iraqi government.  “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together,” he declared.  “In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies.”

Mr. Obama said Iraq’s neighbors – Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Syria and Saudi Arabia - also have some responsibilities to support this process.  Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos,” he said.  “So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.”

“Indeed,” he said, “ across the region we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven.  And we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region.” According to Mr. Obama:

We’re also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military.

The U.S. will be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days,” according to Mr. Obama.  “Our top priority will remain being vigilant against any threats to our personnel serving overseas.  We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward.

QUESTIONS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS

Q    Mr. President, given the recent U.S. history there, are you reluctant to get involved again in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that we should look at the situation carefully.  We have an interest in making sure that a group like ISIL, which is a vicious organization and has been able to take advantage of the chaos in Syria, that they don't get a broader foothold.  I think there are dangers of fierce sectarian fighting if, for example, these terrorist organizations try to overrun sacred Shia sites, which could trigger Shia-Sunni conflicts that could be very hard to stamp out.  So we have enormous interests there.

And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.  But ultimately, they're going to have to seize it.  As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.  And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States, by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need.

Anybody else?

Q    Mr. President, is the Syrian civil war spilling over the Iraq border?  And what can we do to stop it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that's been happening for some time.  ISIL has been able to gain a foothold in Syria.  That's part of the reason why we’ve been so concerned about it.  That's part of the reason why we’ve been supporting the Syrian opposition there.  But it’s a challenging problem.

In Iraq, the Iraqi government, which was initially resistant to some of our offers of help, has come around now to recognize that cooperation with us on some of these issues can be useful.  Obviously, that's not the case in Syria where President Assad has no interest in seeing us involved there, and where some of the governments that are supporting Assad have been able to block, for example, U.N. efforts even at humanitarian aid.  But this is a regional problem and it is going to be a long-term problem.

And what we’re going to have to do is combine selective actions by our military to make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could harm our personnel overseas or eventually hit the homeland.  We’re going to have to combine that with what is a very challenging international effort to try to rebuild countries and communities that have been shattered by sectarian war.  And that's not an easy task.

Q.    Mr. President, which foreign countries have you been in touch with?  And what are they willing to do as part of this international effort?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re in contact with them now.  So we’ll have a better sense by the end of the weekend, after those consultations.  And we will be getting a better sense from them of how they might support an effort to bring about the kind of political unity inside of Iraq that bolsters security forces.

Look, the United States has poured a lot of money into these Iraqi security forces, and we devoted a lot of training to Iraqi security forces.  The fact that they are not willing to stand and fight, and defend their posts against admittedly hardened terrorists but not terrorists who are overwhelming in numbers indicates that there’s a problem with morale, there’s a problem in terms of commitment.  And ultimately, that’s rooted in the political problems that have plagued the country for a very long time.

Last question.  Last one.

Q    Thank you.  Can you talk a little bit about U.S. concern of disruption of oil supplies?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, so far at least we have not seen major disruptions in oil supplies.  Obviously if, in fact, ISIL was able to obtain control over major output, significant refineries, that could be a source of concern.  As you might expect, world oil markets react to any kind of instability in the Middle East.  One of our goals should be to make sure that in cooperation with other countries in the region not only are we creating some sort of backstop in terms of what’s happening inside of Iraq, but if there do end up being disruptions inside of Iraq, that some of the other producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack.  So that will be part of the consultations that will be taking place during the course of this week.

Just to give people a sense of timing here, although events on the ground in Iraq have been happening very quickly, our ability to plan, whether it’s military action or work with the Iraqi government on some of these political issues, is going to take several days.  So people should not anticipate that this is something that is going to happen overnight.  We want to make sure that we have good eyes on the situation there.  We want to make sure that we’ve gathered all the intelligence that’s necessary so that if, in fact, I do direct and order any actions there, that they’re targeted, they’re precise and they’re going to have an effect.

And as I indicated before -- and I want to make sure that everybody understands this message -- the United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.  We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we’re there we’re keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.

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President Obama’s Statement on Framework for Removing Chemical Weapons Out of Syria

In a statement issued September 14, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “I welcome the progress made between the United States and Russia through our talks in Geneva, which represents an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed.” Mr. Obama added:

This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world. The international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments.

president_official_portrait_hiresWhile we have made important progress, much more work remains to be done. The United States will continue working with Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United Nations and others to ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today. And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.

Following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 men, women, and children on August 21, I decided that the United States must take action to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrade their ability to use them, and make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force, we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy. I spoke to Secretary Kerry earlier today and thanked him for his tireless and effective efforts on behalf of our nation. I also spoke to Ambassador Samantha Power who will ably lead our follow-on negotiations at the UN Security Council in New York.

Mr. Obama reiterated his oft-repeated statement that, “The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children,” he said. “Today marks an important step towards achieving this goal.”

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Will Syria Define John Kerry’s Legacy?

The Wall Street Journal’s  Jay Solomon seems to think U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s legacy will be determined by how well he garners support for President Barack Obama’s plan to militarily punish Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against Syrians on August 21, 2013, and how it affects the outcome of the Syrian civil war.

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been on the international stage for nearly four decades,” he wrote in “Kerry's Syria Campaign Likely to Define His Legacy,” which was published September 1, 2013.  “ But his campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad likely will define his diplomatic legacy.”

Does that mean that Syria is Mr. Kerry will concentrate on during his tenure as U.S.  Secretary of State. I doubt it, Mr. Solomon.

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Obama Heads to G20 Summit Amid Debate Over Syria

McClatchy’s Washington, D. C. Bureau correspondent Hannah Allam notes that, President Barack Obama is due in St. Petersburg, Russia on September 4, 2013, “to take part in the Group of 20 summit, where his Syria plans are sure to be hotly debated. Host country Russia has blocked previous attempts to censure the Assad regime at the U.N. Security Council, and it’s unclear whether Obama would be willing or able to negotiate a breakthrough with an in-person appeal during his visit. For more, see “Obama opens narrow window for diplomatic action in Syria.”
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