Bomb Explodes Outside US Consulate Erbil in Northern Iraq, ISIS Claims Attack (Updated)

Posted: 9:24 am PDT
Updated: 10:41 am PDT

 

Media reports say that a car bomb went off at 5:40 pm local time in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Irbil, in northern Iraq today.  An unnamed senior State Department official told ABC News it was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). Other reports say the target was the local cafe near the consulate. The AP reports that no consulate personnel or local guards were wounded. There are local casualties but the number has not been officially released. McClatchy’s Mitchell Prothero in Iraq reports that “the entrance to the consulate appeared to have been struck by a bomber on foot.”

U.S. Consulate Erbil (Irbil) is headed by FSO Joseph Pennington who assumed his duties as Consul General in northern Iraq in July 2013.

 

 

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US Embassy Tokyo: Consular Section Contributes to Flowers Will Bloom Project

Posted: 12:19 am  EDT

 

Via US Embassy Tokyo

“The American Embassy offers its continued sympathy and support for the victims of the 3.11 Triple Disaster, and is pleased and proud to contribute to the Flowers Will Bloom project. Here, staff from our consular section offer their version of the Flowers Will Bloom, highlighted by photos of Ambassador Kennedy’s visits to Tohoku in 2013 and 2014.”

The triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear plant breakdown struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

 

 

Embassy Tokyo and USCG Okinawa are currently in the front pages due to media reports that both Ambassador Kennedy and Consul General Alfred Magleb had been the objects of death threats in telephone calls last month. We don’t know why the news are just showing up now.

The Consular Section in Naha serves a large number of American military personnel and their families stationed on Okinawa. According to the Consulate General, its staff includes a 10-person consular team looking after Americans in need of passports (over 5,000 per year), reports of birth abroad (well above 1,000 annually), and other U.S. citizen services.

According to a 2014 CRS report, the Japanese archipelago serves as the most significant forward-operating platform for the U.S. military in the region; approximately 53,000 military personnel (39,000 onshore and 14,000 afloat in nearby waters), 43,000 dependents, and 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees live in Japan.  It also notes that about 25% of all facilities used by U.S. Forces Japan and about half of the U.S. military personnel are located in Okinawa, which comprises less than 1% of Japan’s total land area.

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US Embassy Saudi Arabia Cancels All Consular Services for March 18 (Day 4)

Posted: 1:41  am EDT

 

 

Related posts:

 

US Embassy Saudi Arabia Extends Cancellation of Consular Services Until March 17

Posted: 7:32 pm PDT

 

On March 14, we posted this: U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Saudi Arabia Cancel All Consular Services For March 15/16 Due to Security Concerns

Today, the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia announced the continued cancellation of consular services until Tuesday, March 17.


Due to heightened security concerns at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, consular services will continue to be cancelled at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran on Tuesday, March 17.  A new security message will be sent out as soon as consular services return to normal.  Telephone lines to the Consular sections will not be open during this time.  In an emergency, please use the  emergency contact numbers provided below.

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U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Saudi Arabia Cancel All Consular Services For March 15/16 Due to Security Concerns

Posted: 4:28 pm PDT
Updated: 4:34 pm PDT with posts phone numbers

 

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia announced today the cancellation of all consular services in Riyadh, and the consulates in Dhahran and Jeddah due to security concerns. Below is part of the announcement:

Due to heightened security concerns at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates have cancelled all consular services in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran for Sunday, March 15 and Monday, March 16, 2015. Telephone lines to the Consular sections will not be open during these two days. In an emergency, please use the emergency contact numbers provided below.

All U.S. citizens are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia and limit non-essential travel within the country.
[…]
Always carry a cell phone and make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into your phone such as the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh (011-488-3800), U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah (012-667-0080), and U.S. Consulate General in Dhahran (013-330-3200). The emergency number for the Saudi Police, Fire, and Rescue is 999. Please keep in mind that most emergency dispatchers and personnel do not speak English.

CIA Map

Original Map Source – CIA

 

On March 7, Embassy Riyadh notified U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia that it had been made aware of information stating that” individuals associated with a terrorist organization are targeting employees of Chevron in Saudi Arabia for a possible attack. There is no further information on the timing, target, location, or method of any planned attacks.”

Yesterday, another security message released said that “individuals associated with a terrorist organization could be targeting Western oil workers, possibly to include those U.S. citizens working for oil companies in the Eastern Province, for an attack(s) and/or kidnapping(s). There is no further information on the timing, target, location, or method of any planned attacks.”

In February, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia urging U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.  The warning noted the recent attacks on U.S. citizens and other Western expatriates, an attack on Shi’ite Muslims outside a community center in the Eastern Province on November 3, 2014, and continuing reports of threats against U.S. citizens and other Westerners in the Kingdom.

All three Saudi Arabian posts are 15% danger pay posts as of March 8, 2015.

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Security Messages

 

President Obama Nominates FSO Katherine S. Dhanani as First Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991

Posted: 18:17 EST

 

We have not seen the official announcement from the WH yet, but on February 24, Secretary Kerry released the following statement on the nomination of FSO Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991:

President Obama, today, nominated Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991. This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia. It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner. If confirmed, the Ambassador will lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia, currently based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the .

Traditional Hyderabadi marfa drum beaters await the arrival of Consul General Katherine Dhanani at the Pista House, Charminar. (Photo by USCG Hyderabad)

Traditional Hyderabadi marfa drum beaters await the arrival of Consul General Katherine Dhanani at the Pista House, Charminar.
(Photo by USCG Hyderabad)

According to her online bio, Ms. Dhanani succeeded Cornelis M. Keur as U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad and assumed charge of post in  September 2010. She has been a foreign service officer since 1990 and has previously served at US embassies in Georgetown, Guyana, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Mexico City, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lusaka,Zambia and Libreville,Gabon. She was also deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Harare.  She is a trained economist from the Kenyon College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught economics at the Grinnel College before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. During her tenure in Hyderabad, she blogged at A Diplomat in the Deccan.

Via state.gov

Via state.gov

Except for a Virtual Presence Post, the United States has no formal diplomatic presence in Somalia.  The most recent Travel Warning for Somalia last updated in October 2014,  recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.

Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia. 
[…]
While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora.  In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.

The current Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, James C. Swan previously served as the United States Special Representative for Somalia from August 2011 to July 2013, leading U.S. diplomatic, security, and stabilization initiatives that culminated in U.S. recognition of a Somali government for the first time in more than two decades.  In August 2013, James P. McAnulty was appointed his successor as Special Representative for Somalia.

The last Senate-confirmed ambassador to Somalia according to history.state.gov was James Keough Bishop (1938-) who was appointed on June 27, 1990. The appointment was terminated when the Embassy closed on January 5, 1991.

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FSO Randy Berry Appointed as Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons

Posted: 14:15 EST
Updated 17:01 EST

 

Today, Secretary Kerry  announced the appointment of FSO Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Below is an excerpt from Secretary Kerry’s remarks:

20150218_Randy_Berry_875x972

We looked far and wide to find the right American official for this important assignment. Randy’s a leader. He’s a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he’s got vision. Wherever he’s served – from Nepal to New Zealand, from Uganda to Bangladesh, from Egypt to South Africa, and most recently as Consul General in Amsterdam – Randy has excelled. He’s a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights. And I’m confident that Randy’s leadership as our new Special Envoy will significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.

Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally – the heart and conscience of our diplomacy. That’s why we’re working to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world. It’s why we’re building our capacity to respond rapidly to violence against LGBT persons, and it’s why we’re working with governments, civil society, and the private sector through the Global Equality Fund to support programs advancing the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.

Read the full announcement here.

Prior to his appointment, Randy Berry was the U.S. Consul General in Amsterdam. Below is his official bio from USCG Amsterdam:

Randy W. Berry arrived in Amsterdam August 3, 2012.   He was United States Consul General in Auckland, New Zealand from 2009 to 2012, and prior to that, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 to 2009.

Mr. Berry’s career with the State Department has also taken him to postings in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda (twice), and South Africa, as well as Washington DC.  Mr. Berry holds a State Department Superior Honor Award, and is a nine-time Meritorious Honor Award recipient.  He speaks Spanish and Arabic.

Mr. Berry was raised on a family cattle ranch in rural Custer County, Colorado.  He is a graduate of Bethany College of Lindsborg, Kansas, and was a Rotary Scholar at the University of Adelaide, South Australia.   Before joining the Foreign Service in 1993, Berry worked as an international training manager for America West Airlines in Phoenix, Arizona.

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USCG Hong Kong Celebrates the New Lunar Year of the Sheep

Posted: 17:55 PST

In celebration of this year’s Lunar New Year, the folks at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau sent their Consul General Clifford A. Hart, Jr. to learn the traditional Chinese art of paper tearing with master artist Lee Sing-man. A sheep with sunglasses came along. For USCG HK’s lunar greeting videos from prior years, click here and here.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

 

Recognizing Excellence: State Department Annual Awards 2014

Posted: 01:26 EST

 

Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy | USCG Michael Dodman

For leadership at the U.S. Consul General in Karachi, “where he advanced U.S. goals in Pakistan while ensuring the safety and morale of his team.”

Michael Dodman_karachi

Michael Dodman, USCG Karachi, Pakistan | Photo by USCG Karachi/Flickr

 

Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy | William B. Stevens

For “outstanding leadership and unwavering commitment in leading the Department’s Ukraine Communications Task Force to stem the tide of Russian propaganda.”

Will Stevens_Moscow

US Embassy Moscow Spokesman – Will Stevens | Photo via American Center Moscow

 

Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service | Ambassador Susan D. Page

For “leading the U.S. Mission to South Sudan under extremely challenging circumstances” and advancing the president’s goal of a South Sudan “as a viable state at peace with itself and its neighbors.”

Ambassador Susan D. Page visited a water point and purification facility set up by Samaritan’s Purse, as part of a U.S government supported project to assist IDPs in Nimule. the water point is for the use of the host community in Nimule town and the IDPs who are living among them.  | Photo via US Embassy Juba/Flickr

 

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USCG Istanbul Charles Hunter Finds Love in Turkey — Tebrikler!

— Domani Spero

 

The news that our top diplomat in Istanbul is set to marry his Turkish boyfriend in Wisconsin have been making the rounds in Turkish media.

“As my family, friends and many colleagues know, I am gay. I have been open about that fact for several decades and view sexual orientation as both a private matter and merely one factor contributing to each individual’s uniqueness. I look forward to continuing to represent my country and its values, including tolerance and diversity, throughout my assignment in Turkey,” Hunter told the Hürriyet Daily News on Dec. 12 after reports in the Turkish media. via 

The Wisconsin Gazette has also covered the news about his impending marriage to Turkish musician Ramadan Çaysever. Same-sex marriage became legal in Wisconsin this past October.

Congratulations and best wishes!

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