Delcry Rodriguez (@DrodriguezVen) is the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. Her equivalent in rank in the U.S. Government is Secretary of State John Kerry.
A few weeks back, Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson (@WHAAsstSecty) tweeted four items on Venezuela. Note that she is the top diplomat at the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs bureau. She reports to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (“P”) Wendy Sherman, who in turn is outranked by the Deputy Secretary of State Higginbottom (D/MR) and Deputy Secretary Blinken (D) who both report directly to Secretary of State Kerry.
So when Foreign Minister Rodriguez took on Assistant Secretary Jacobson on Twitter, one has to wonder, what was she thinking? Asst Secretary Jacobson is a top official at the WHA bureau but nowhere near the rank of a foreign minister. Can you imagine Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arguing publicly with the State Department’s Toria Nuland from the EUR bureau? No. Can you imagine Secretary Kerry sparring publicly with a lower-ranked official from the Venezuelan foreign ministry? Nope.
So every time the foreign minister opens her mouth to argue, berate or call the WHA diplomat names, we’ll award the diplomatic heavyweight championship belt to the assistant secretary. Assistant Secretary Jacobson wins simply by being in the same ring with Foreign Minister Rodriguez.
Deeply concerned by what appears to be escalation of intimidation of opponents by govt. of #Venezuela by rounding up opposition. (1/4)
In 1979, John Limbert was a new FSO posted to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when it was overrun by Iranian students. He was one of the fifty-two U.S. personnel who spent 444 days as Iran hostages from 1979-81. Later in his career, he was appointed Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He currently serves as Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy. In yesterday’s issue of the Guardian, Ambassador Limbert writes that “there is a remarkable parallel between denunciations of Binyamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to Congress and of a possible nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Those who condemn the former haven’t heard it; and those who condemn the latter haven’t seen it.” Excerpt:
[H]is words will not matter. What will matter is the obvious symbolism of his presence in a partisan and political event. Netanyahu will denounce Iran and its evil ways, but behind these denunciations his real target lies elsewhere. The speech will be a divisive event, in which, for his own reasons, Netanyahu has entered the American political arena and thrown in his lot with President Obama’s opponents. In this political mêlée, Iran becomes the means to weaken him.
Such a bizarre piece of diplomacy may play well with the far right in the United States and with Netanyahu’s own constituency in the coming Israeli elections. In the process he does not seem to care how many dishes he breaks or how much he damages Israel’s relations with the president of its most important ally.
If Netanyahu dislikes and distrusts the Islamic Republic, fair enough. In his negative views he has lots of company. But does Iran’s being difficult mean that there should be no deal to limit its nuclear program? Shouldn’t the P5+1 negotiate the best possible, but perhaps imperfect, agreement? In 1981, the Iranians and Americans reached a deal that brought me and 51 of my embassy colleagues home after 14 months’ captivity in Iran. The deal stuck, although the United States neither liked the Iranians, nor trusted them. At times it is necessary to talk to unattractive regimes and to negotiate agreements that deliver outcomes less than ideal. Rejecting a nuclear deal with Iran – before such a deal has been reached – will do nothing to bring about a better outcome.
Edward W. Clark started his career in the State Department as a diplomatic courier in 1941. In 1973, he was the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In his oral history interview for ADST, he recalled then Ambassador Robert McClintock during the military dictatorship in the country. Excerpt below is from his interview conducted by Charles Stuart Kennedy on April 29, 1992
“They expropriated the oil companies and Averell Harriman was sent down to take care of the situation because he used to play polo with some of the people in the Argentine. We had several meetings there with ministers. I remember one we had in the Embassy. Rob McClintock hosted a dinner and then we all sat around a big table. The Minister of Labor was there for some reason. He was a very talkative individual and made no sense. McClintock was translating back and forth. Finally Harriman said to McClintock, “Tell that man down there to shut up. I don’t want to hear any more of his dribble.” McClintock turns to him and translates, “The Ambassador says he appreciates very much the information you have given him, thank you very much.
Mr. Clark noted in his interview that this was just before the dictatorship took over the oil companies. Ambassador Harriman apparently was sent down there “to see that they didn’t.” According to Mr. Clark, Harriman was en route home when they actually took it over and “all hell broke loose.”
Mr. McClenny is a career Foreign Service officer, rank of Minister-Counselor, who joined the U.S. diplomatic service in 1986. He began service as Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas in July 2014.
Immediately prior to this assignment, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Prior to that, he was the Principal Officer in Montreal, Canada, and his previous overseas assignments include tours at the U.S. embassies in Manila, London, Guatemala City, Belgrade, and Ottawa. He has also been assigned at the U.S. Department of State and on detail assignments at the National Security Council, in Washington, DC; at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in London; and at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in Brussels. Mr. McClenny is a recipient of the Presidential Meritorious Service Award as well as the Superior Honor Award and the Meritorious Honor Award. He speaks Spanish, French, and some Serbo-Croat and Russian.
A native of San Francisco, California, Mr. McClenny enjoyed an itinerant childhood, growing up in several cities around the U.S. and abroad. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington, in Seattle, and is a graduate of the State Department’s Senior Seminar. He is married to Katherine Latimer, of Montreal, Canada, and has an adult son and daughter, both of whom live in the U.S. In their spare time, Mr. McClenny and Mrs. Latimer enjoy reading, cinema, scuba diving, active sports, and the outdoors.
U.S. Embassy Caracas is a 20% hardship and 42% COLA post. According to Diplomatic Security’s Crime and Safety 2014 report, the country is listed as the third most violent city in the world — up from sixth place in 2012 — by the Mexican non-governmental organization (NGO) Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice (Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal).
Ryan Crocker was ambassador to Kuwait, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Afghanistan. Robert Ford was ambassador to Algeria and Syria. James Jeffrey was ambassador to Albania, Turkey and Iraq and deputy National Security Advisor. Ronald Neumann was ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain and Afghanistan. The four former ambassadors who served in some of our most difficult posts overseas authored the following piece:
Yemen’s increasing tumult recently led two members of Congress to call for the withdrawal of U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller. We appreciate the concern for Matt Tueller, someone we all know and esteem. Yet we disagree both that the decision should be made solely on the basis of danger and that it should be made primarily in Washington.
No group could take security more seriously than we do. Each of us in our own diplomatic service has been shot at, rocketed, and mortared. One survived a bombing and another missed a bomb by minutes. We have all buried colleagues who were less lucky than we. We know that even the best reasoned security decisions can be wrong. And yet we disagree.
Yemen exemplifies why American diplomats need to take personal risks in our national interest. Yemen teeters on the edge of civil war. The fight there with Al-Qaeda is far from successful but is not yet lost. At this critical time engagement and judgment on the ground are essential to try to stabilize the situation before Yemen slides into such complete chaos that outsiders are helpless to influence the situation.
The so-called Houthis (a name the group doesn’t use) who have seized power in Yemen’s capital have Iranian friends but the relationship is unclear and we should not jump to facile assumptions of a close Iranian alliance. We need understanding of what the Houthis seek, whether we share interests and whether our financial and military assistance can help leverage political stabilization; the kind of judgments that can only be made on the ground in an evolving situation.
The Saudis have strong interests in Yemen and strong influence with some tribes. We should try to cooperate with the Saudis because of their strong influences, our broad relationship with them and the depth of their interest. But we cannot rely on their or anyone else’s analysis. Further we need to be aware of long developed Saudi views that sometimes prejudice their recommendations. In short, only if we are making our own analysis on the ground can we even begin to have a dialogue of equals with the Saudis.
We still provide critical support to the political transition despite the turmoil. This aid needs close coordination with the UN mediator who is taking his own risks.
We are maintaining a military involvement in Yemen, both working with some Yemeni forces and periodically striking al-Qaeda elements. At this politically sensitive time of interaction between multiple tribal and political groups in Yemen we must have up to the minute judgment on whether a given strike will influence or, potentially, ruin political negotiations to stabilize the country. There is no one-size fits all judgment. The call cannot be made from a distance or by relying only on technical intelligence because it is fundamentally a matter of political calculation.
The interaction with key players in Yemen can only be maintained by an ambassador. Lower ranking officials, no matter how smart or how good their Arabic—Ambassador Tueller’s is among the best in the Foreign Service—cannot interact at the same senior levels as can the Ambassador. For dealing with allies and local parties, coordinating our military and political instruments of influence, and providing Washington with judgments unattainable in any other way we need our ambassador on the ground as long as he can possibly function.
The issue must not be only one of risk but of whether the risks can be mitigated through intelligence and security precautions. Mitigation does not mean one is secure but it lowers the level of risk and can include significant reduction of embassy personnel. But the ambassador should be the last, not the first, out.
The time may come when Ambassador Tueller has to leave not withstanding all of the above. The risks may become so high that they cannot be mitigated. Or the situation may be so chaotic that he cannot function and we are painfully aware that civilian lives as well as those of possible military rescue elements are at stake in any such situation.
But even then the decision to evacuate, in Yemen as in cases that will arise in the future, should be driven by those directly responsible beginning and strongly influenced by the ambassador on the ground in consultation with the embassy security advisor. The ambassador will have to calmly weigh risk against mission utility.
We have each been there and we know how difficult this is, how tempting it may be to stay just a little too long, or, on the other hand, and how hard it can be to resist Washington’s concerns But the fact remains that no one is better placed to evaluate the local scene and make the decision than the Ambassador and no one else will pay the same price if the decision is wrong. Washington should do everything it can to secure the embassy. But it must understand the supreme value of keeping a highly qualified ambassador in Yemen if at all possible.
Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller (photo by US Embassy Yemen/FB)
Last month, Senator Dianne Feinstein made news for wanting the embassy in Yemen evacuated ASAP. On January 28, the Boston Herald also reported that Congressman Stephen Lynch had urged President Obama to pull Ambassador Matthew Tueller out of Yemen, amid fears of a terror attack similar to one that occurred in Libya in 2012.
Politico’s Michael Crowley did an excellent piece on our man in Yemen here. Ambassador Crocker who served with Ambassador Tueller in Kuwait and Iraq quipped, “He personifies one of my mantras for service in the Middle East: Don’t panic.”
The Demilitarization of American Diplomacy: Two Cheers for Striped Pants by Laurence Pope
The author’s retired friend from the Foreign Service emailed to say that he has been approached about running a very major embassy, yet again and Ambassador Pope asks what we’ve all been thinking, “What would we say if over and over the Navy couldn’t find an admiral on active duty to run a carrier battle group?”
Laurence Pope is a retired American diplomat who lives in Portland, Maine. He is the author of several books, including François de Callieres: A Political Life (2010), a biography of the first proponent of professional diplomacy. He was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996 and was the US Chargé d’Affaires to Libya following the Benghazi attack. The author said in an interview with PDC that “At the State Department history is just one damn thing after another. Its culture is profoundly hostile to ideas and theory, remarkable for such a smart group of people. (That is why nobody has read the QDDR —my book takes it apart so you won’t have to.)“The QDDR is 242 pages long, this is shorter!
Career Diplomacy: Life and Work in the US Foreign Service, Second Edition
by Harry Kopp
An insider’s guide that examines the foreign service as an institution, a profession, and a career, written by an FSO with a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service. The second edition published in 2011 addresses major changes that have occurred since 2007: the controversial effort to build an expeditionary foreign service to lead the work of stabilization and reconstruction in fragile states; deepening cooperation with the U.S. military and the changing role of the service in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the growing integration of USAID’s budget and mission with those of the Department of State. We’ve previously written about this author here: Career Diplomacy | Life and Work in the Foreign Service, 2nd Edition – Now Out; Foreign Service, Civil Service: How We Got to Where We Are (via FSJ).
Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years
by Ron Capps
Seriously Not All Right is a memoir that provides a unique perspective of a professional military officer and diplomat who suffered (and continues to suffer) from PTSD. One FSO writes that this book should be required reading for everyone in A100, the orientation training course for all diplomats when they first begin their careers.
The Diplomat’s Dictionary
by Chas Freeman, Jr.
On the caution of diplomats: “The training and life of a foreign service officer are not apt to produce men well fitted for the task [of innovating policy]…The bureaucratic routine through which foreign service officers must go produces capable men, knowledgeable about specific parts of the world, and excellent diplomatic operators. But it makes men cautious rather than imaginative.” (Dean Acheson, p.84).
The State Department: More Than Just Diplomacy
(The Personalities, Turf Battles, Dangers Zones For Diplomats, Exotic Datelines, Miscast Appointments, the Laughs — and Sadly, the Occasional Homicide) by George Gedda
This is a book by an AP reporter who covered the State Department for about 40 years and travelled with nine secretary of state to more than 80 countries. Bound to have lots of interesting stories and quips like “He’s the only guy I know who can strut while sitting down.” Bwa-ha-ha! Or when the then Cuba desk officer meet Fidel Castro. He asked if she was there as a spouse of a member of the American delegation, and she replied, “I’m head of Cuban Affairs.”“Oh,” said Castro. “I thought I was.” The book has a people’s index so you can start there!
It has been said that the Foreign Service is more than a profession; it is a way of life. As much as it is fulfilling to most people I know and a grand adventure to all, it is not for everyone. And if you have a spouse or a partner interested in pursuing his/her career, consideration on the trade offs you both are willing to make or what you are willing to give up must make for serious conversation. Here are a couple of books that anyone considering a career in the Foreign Service should read. The Realities books are published by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) a non-profit organization that represents Foreign Service spouses, employees and retirees. The AAFSW volunteers have been around forever, supporting multiple evacuations and assisting members of the Foreign Service community. Its tireless volunteers even supported somebody we know who was not a paying member of the group.
Pomegranate Peace [Kindle Edition]
by Rashmee Roshan Lall
Rashmee Roshan Lall was The Times of India’s Foreign Editor based in London, reporting on Europe. Till June 2011, she was editor of The Sunday Times of India. An EFM, she spent a year in Kabul, Afghanistan, working for the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and six months in Washington,D.C., reporting on the 2012 American presidential election. Rashmee currently works for a paper in the Middle East. This book is kind of We Meant Well,Also in Afghanistan, except it’s fiction. The protagonist’s boss quotes from Alice in Wonderland: ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. You must be or you wouldn’t have come here.’ And there’s Little Sam, “the Haiku poet laureate on the frontline of a war no one could properly explain any longer.” In the novel, Little Sam could churn out fourteen syllables for every mission objective, every ambassadorial platitude – Rule of Law; Transparency and Accountability in Government;etcetera, etcetera. Here’s one.
It’s war, but we spend like peacetime Blood, treasure, Strewn. Yours, mine.
The protagonist in the story, who is a former journalist manages a Pomegranate Grant, which had been previously approved with the following rationale: ‘Pomegranate production can sustain the Afghan economy. This Afghan-led grant proposal will persuade farmers in the highly kinetic Kandahar area to change from the habit of poppy production.’ “The grantee,” the author writes, “lived in Canada all his life and seemed unwilling to change his address of record.” Jeez, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The Foreign Circus: Why Foreign Policy Should Not Be Left in the Hands of Diplomats, Spies and Political Hacks [Kindle Edition] by James Bruno
Via Amazon: An ambassador orders his staff into the lawless interior of a civil war-torn country as guerrillas are targeting foreigners for assassination. Hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S.-bought weaponry are channeled to Afghan religious fanatics, the future Taliban. White House players leak classified information to the media, then blame the leaks on career civil servants. Diplomats succumb to the temptations of exotic overseas sexual playgrounds. Political hacks and campaign money bundlers are rewarded with ambassadorships in a diplomatic spoils system that hearkens back to the Robber Baron age. Computer nerds Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning steal a veritable Croesus of sensitive national security information and give it away free to our adversaries. What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.
I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961. Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.
According to BuzzFeed, two Republican senators have already threatened to block congressional funding for a future U.S. Embassy in Cuba and an ambassadorial nomination after the Obama administration announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba.
“I anticipate we’re going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you’re going to get an ambassador nominated and how you’ll get an embassy funded,” Rubio, an ardent opponent of lifting the Cuban embargo, said.
The U.S. Interests Section (USINT) is in the former United States Embassy building that was built by Harrison Abramovitz architects and opened in 1953. The 6-story building was reopened in 1977, renovations were completed in 1997.
The functions of USINT are similar to those of any U.S. government presence abroad: Consular Services, a Political and Economic Section, a Public Diplomacy Program, and Refugee Processing unique to Cuba.
The objectives of USINT in Cuba are for rule of law, individual human rights and open economic and communication systems.
Bilateral relations are based upon the Migration Accords designed to promote safe, legal and orderly migration, the Interests Section Agreement, and efforts to reduce global threats from crime and narcotics.
Our de facto embassy has a staff of 51 Americans. Its total funding excluding salaries for FY2013 was $13,119,451, appropriated by Congress, of course. Our U.S. Congress.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Prior to taking up this position in August 2014, Ambassador DeLaurentis served for three years as the Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
There’s more via State/OIG’s 2014 inspection report of USINT Havana:
USINT is located in a U.S. Government-owned building constructed in 1951 as a chancery and substantially renovated in the early 1990s. The land was first leased from the Cuban Government in 1949 for a 90-year term with a 90-year extension. In exchange, the U.S. Government leased three residences (in Havana, Matanzas, and Santiago) to the Cuban Government, also for 90 years.
The Department constructed and first occupied the U.S. Government-owned COM residence in 1942. The original eagle from the monument to the victims of the battleship Maine, which was toppled following the Bay of Pigs invasion, adorns the grounds. Representational, family, and guest spaces are well appointed. The residence is well maintained and furnished [….]
Short-term-leased properties in Havana include an annex, which houses Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, And Migration, a warehouse, the DCM residence, a two-house Marine detachment compound, and residential housing for all other USINT American staff. These properties are all covered under an umbrella lease agreement with PALCO.
A special note, dedicated to our elected representatives who made lots of noise about security and protecting our diplomats overseas in the aftermath of Benghazi — the State Department Inspector General recommended that the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations “implement a comprehensive plan to address security, structural, fire safety, and space planning deficiencies” at the U.S. Interests Section Havana…”
We’d like to know that these congressional concerns extend to our diplomats who have been serving in Havana for years under our de facto embassy.
This past October, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary released the following statement:
The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any NAV investigations into US businesses or institutions in Hungary and no U.S. actions have been taken as the result of any such investigations.
The U.S. takes corruption seriously. The U.S. Department of Justice has established an anti-kleptocracy unit to expand capacity to pursue cases in which ill-gotten wealth overseas is found to have a U.S. connection.
Certain Hungarian individuals have been found ineligible to enter the United States as the result of credible information that those individuals are either engaging in or benefiting from corruption. This was a decision by the Department of State under the authority of Presidential Proclamation Number 7750 and its Anti-Kleptocracy Provision of January 12, 2004. Criminal proceedings are up to the host nation to pursue. U.S. privacy laws prohibit us from disclosing the names of the individuals involved.
No one is above the law. The United States shares Hungary’s view of “zero tolerance” of corruption. Addressing corruption requires a healthy system of checks, balances and transparency. The U.S. Government action related to Hungarian individuals is not a Hungary-specific measure, but part of an intensified U.S. focus on combating corruption, a fundamental obstacle to good governance, transparency and democratic values.
The Budapest Beacon reported that ten Hungarian officials and associates have been banned for travel to the United States including individuals close to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Yup, the same one Senator McCain called a “neo-fascist dictator. And the reason Chargé d’Affaires André Goodfriend, our acting ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest was summoned to Hungary’s Foreign Ministry.
Last month, Hungary Today citing reports from Portfolio.hu has reported, said that the head of National Tax and Customs Administration of Hungary (NAV), Ildikó Vida had revealed that she and some of her colleagues are among those state officials that were banned by Washington from travelling to the United States.
Orbán also criticized Goodfriend for accusing a government official of corruption “while hiding behind diplomatic immunity”. Orbán called on Goodfriend to “be a man and take responsibility for his accusations” by agreeing to allow himself to be sued in a Hungarian court for defamation.
“In Hungary, if someone is proven to have been involved in corruption, we don’t replace that person but lock them up,” said the prime minister, neglecting to mention the fact that a similar fate awaits people convicted of defaming public officials.
Later in the day the head of the Fidesz caucus, Antal Rogán, an authority on corruption, told the Hungarian News Service that Goodfriend could prove to a Hungarian court of law if Vida was guilty of corruption, “but that this would first involve the US agreeing to lift his diplomatic immunity”.
Right and she did not want to be fired. As can be expected, the tax office (NAV) chief Ildikó Vida filed a defamation lawsuit against US embassy chargé d’affaires André Goodfriend. According to Hungary Today, the complaint was filed with the prosecutor’s investigations office on the ground of “public defamation causing serious damage,” a NAV lawyer said.
The Financial Review notes that growing anti-government protests in the country may become another battleground between Europe and Russia. Several protests in the last few months over corruption, internet tax plan, private pensions, etcetera. The Review suggests that these protests against an increasingly pro-Russian leadership, raised questions about whether the former communist nation could become the next Ukraine.
Amidst this, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Hungary, and The Colbert Report noticed.
Mr. Colbert notes that “The Bold And The Beautiful is perfect training to be an ambassador. Hungary is a region rife with drama and constant threat of violence — exactly the situation the Forrester family routinely handles from their palatial estate while simultaneously running their fashion empire.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin received the letters of credence from Ambassador Tefft together with fourteen new ambassadors to Moscow from Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Poland, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ghana, Vietnam, Zambia, Turkey, Tanzania, Hungary, Peru, Nicaragua and Uzbekistan.
Mr. Putin also gave a speech during the event and his MFA specifically highlighted the following in the English text of the speech:
We take the view that Russia and the United States of America bear special responsibility for maintaining international security and stability and combating global threats and challenges. We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in all different areas, based on the principles of respect for each other’s interests, equality and non-intervention in domestic affairs.