Posted: 12:39 EST
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.
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Posted: 17:03 EST
Yesterday, we blogged about some weekend developments in Venezuela. See Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro’s Theory of Everything — Blame The Yanquis! Today, our man in Caracas, Lee McClenny is on the spotlight. Wait, how many times was McClenny’s name misspelled as “Clenny” in Venezuelan government statements before today’s meeting?
Some better pix:
Here is his brief bio via Embassy Caracas:
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).
And then this:
Venezuela gives US two weeks to downsize embassy staff from 100 to 17 http://t.co/KQ5bXyxNmF
— Guardian World (@guardianworld) March 2, 2015
Updated: 14:42 PST
Yahoo News : U.S. ambassador meets Yemen’s Hadi in Aden http://t.co/0J6Nldxj3P
— RSS – World News (@rssworldnews) March 2, 2015
There are news items floating around that the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a will be moved to Aden. That news is not true. Below via the Daily Press Briefing on March 2, 2015:
QUESTION: Is there any plan to open any embassy or U.S. embassy there or an office?
MS. HARF: In Aden?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: No plans?
MS. HARF: No. We are currently exploring the option of some embassy staff relocating to another country in the region as we’ve done other places, but no, no plans to relocate to Aden.
QUESTION: And how do you view that some Arab states especially moved their embassies or opened embassies in Aden?
MS. HARF: Well, each country can make its own decisions about where it has its diplomatic representation, and we’ll make ours.
That’s that for now.
Posted: 19:07 EST
Saturday was going swell and all until I saw the news out of Venezuela. Apparently, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is not handling the TP for oil offer from Trinidad and Tobago very well. The Caracas Chronicles calls it Revolutionary TPlomacy or quite simply “toilet paper diplomacy.” It’s not just toilet paper, of course, but …
“The concept of commodity sharing is simple -– the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from T&T’s manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery,” Persad-Bissessar said.
— Slate (@Slate) February 26, 2015
Running out of TP. A TP-oil swap. While you’re digesting that, take time to read Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez’s New Yorker piece, Comedians Waiting for Cars and Coffee.
Bloomberg Business reported that due to the plunging oil prices, “Venezuela’s economy will contract 7 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, while inflation, which accelerated to 69 percent in December, is already the fastest in the world.”
It’s that time of year again. One wonders when is President Maduro going to declare “Blame the Yanquis for Everything” as the national motto? Of course, sometimes, it just has to be somebody closer.
On February 19, the twice elected mayor or Caracas, Antonio Ledezma was arrested reportedly by some 80 men on charges that he was part of a conspiracy to mount a coup against the Maduro regime.
According to The Economists, this is just the latest of a dozen alleged plots against the president whose government has approval ratings below 20%.
The arrest of the mayor of Caracas, Venezuela, shows that the regime will do whatever it takes to hold on to power http://t.co/jTpSKnI0kf
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 21, 2015
Here’s something shocking; I’ll never look at a box of cereal the same way again:
This box of imported cereal in Caracas at 1720Bs. represents ~1/3 of current MONTHLY minimum wage in Venezuela pic.twitter.com/HXFsClJgLW
— daniel duquenal (@danielduquenal) February 26, 2015
The NYT also reported that four American missionaries were detained on Wednesday in Ocumare de la Costa, a small coastal town west of Caracas. The missionaries from the Evangelical Free Church in Devil’s Lake in North Dakota were reportedly providing medical aid to the coastal town’s residents and support to a local church. I don’t know about you but this is not hopeful news for American tourists or for approximately 36,000 Americans living in Venezuela.
Maduro says Venezuela captures U.S. citizens linked to espionage http://t.co/TPSsBpHEHh
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) March 1, 2015
And there were dueling protests.
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 27, 2015
Because what do you do when queues for food are getting longer? Hold a major rally “for sovereignty and against U.S. interventionism,” claro que sí! TeleSUR reported that during the rally, Maduro announced that he would “reduce the number of U.S. diplomats working in Venezuela.” The report includes the following actions directed against the United States:
- Maduro to cheering crowd: “I have ordered the foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, to immediately, in compliance with article 11 of the Vienna Convention, to reduce and minimize the number of U.S. embassy officials in Venezuela. They have over 100 officials, while in the U.S. we have no more than 17.”
- Rodriguez stated that current United States diplomats in Venezuela will have to re-apply for their visas.
- The U.S. embassy will be required to inform his government of meetings that it has with different sectors of Venezuelan society.
- United States citizens will have to pay the same price – in dollars – “for obtaining a visa to travel to Venezuela as the U.S. currently charges Venezuelans to travel to the U.S.” (see the Visa Reciprocity Schedule note that fees are for visa processing and not for visa issuance).
- Lists Americans who will not be allowed to travel to Venezuela “because of their involvement in human rights violations.” For starters, the list includes George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Ileana Ross-Lethinen, and Mario Díaz Balart.
— Nathan Crooks (@nmcrooks) March 1, 2015
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is one of the top 10 nonimmigrant processing posts in the world. In FY2013, the embassy issued 204,758 visitor’s visas and 6,184 student visas (pdf). The wait time to get an appointment for a visitor’s visa in Caracas is currently 59 days. Although the reported reduction of the US Embassy Caracas staff has not been confirmed by the State Department, it is highly likely that if it proceeds, the US Embassy Caracas will soon return to the 2011 wait time for appointments for visitors visas which hovered at 264 days. Or depending on how many consular officers will be left at post after this reduction of staff, we could see a much longer wait than that for Venezuelan applicants.
Here’s something else: in FY2013, 124 diplomatic visas (A-1, A-2) were issued to Venezuelan officials assigned to the United States. That’s a lot more than “we have no more than 17” that the Venezuelan president announced at his blusterous rally.
In any case, the last Senate-confirmed Ambassador to Caracas was Patrick Duddy who served from August 6, 2007 to September 11, 2008, during the Bush Administration. He was later expelled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Eight months after that he was returned as Ambassador to Caracas by the Obama Administration. He left the mission on July 2010. That same month, Larry Palmer was nominated by President Obama. By December 2010, the Venezuelan Government had withdrawn its agrément on the appointment of Larry Palmer to Caracas.
On October 1, 2013, the Venezuelan Government declared the U.S. charge d’affaires persona non grata and ordered her expulsion. The United States Government reciprocated by declaring the Venezuelan charge d’affaires persona non grata. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is currently headed by career diplomat Lee McClenny who assumed post as Chargé d’Affaires in July 2014. The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. is currently headed by the former Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil, Maximilien Sanchez Arvelaiz.
Despite the difficult bilateral relations, we anticipate that Venezuela and the United States will continue to maintain diplomatic relations and embassies in one another’s capitals. Why? Below via the Congressional Research Service:
Venezuela remains a major oil supplier to the United States, even though the amounts and share of U.S. oil imports from the country have been declining because of Venezuela’s decreasing production and the overall decline in U.S. oil imports worldwide. In 2013, Venezuela provided the United States with about 806,000 barrels of total crude oil and products per day, about 8.2 % of total such U.S. imports, making Venezuela the fourth-largest foreign supplier of crude oil and products to the United States in 2012 (after Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico). This is down from 2005, when the United States imported 1.53 million bbl/d of total crude oil and products from Venezuela, accounting for 11% of total U.S. imports.129 According to U.S. trade statistics, Venezuela’s oil exports to the United States were valued at almost $31 billion in 2013, accounting for 97% of Venezuela’s exports to the United States.
The CRS report also notes that Venezuela is scheduled to have legislative elections in September 2015, and that a recall referendum for President Maduro is not possible until 2016. The country’s next presidential election is not due until December 2018.
So what’s in the fopo fortune cookie? “The next 3-4 years will continue to be loud and noisy. The Yanquis will be trotted out at fault at every opportunity.”
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Posted: 18:05 EST
On February 23, 2015, the State Department announced the appointment of FSO Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Today, Secretary Kerry hosted a welcome reception at the State Department to commemorate the announcement. Click on the image below to view the video of the welcome remarks by Secretary Kerry, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL) and Special Envoy Randy Berry:
I am well aware how lucky I am to be standing here before you today with such amazing and comprehensive support networks, not only professionally but also personally. I’m joined here today not only by my sisters, Rita and Rhonda from Colorado, but also by my husband and my fellow global traveler, Pravesh Singh. Pravesh left his native South Africa nearly a decade ago not only to join me, but I think he really didn’t realize he was also joining a larger family, and that is the Foreign Service, a family bound together in service to the United States. He’s as much a member of the United States Foreign Service as I am, and I am very pleased to say that post-DOMA, when we move here from Amsterdam in early April, he will move home as an American citizen. (Applause.)
Pravesh and I do not share a common culture, nor do we share a common religion, nor do we share a common race. As much as it pains me to say this, we don’t even share a common decade – (laughter) – really. What we do share, however, is love, and that love has built a good and happy life and a family that now includes our exceptional – (laughter) – our exceptional young children who are normally so well behaved – (laughter) – Arya and Xander. Yet as I say that, I think all of us in this room recognize just how unbelievably fortunate we are, for in far too many places around the world not only is this type of story impossible, but additionally, great and terrible injustices are visited on people like us.
This love still stands ground for imprisonment, harassment, torture, and far worse in too many places around the world. That is a violation of human rights. It is a violation of human rights by the standards set forth by many of our allies and partners around the world, and it is a violation of human rights by the standard of the universal declaration. We can and we must do better. Lives, futures, hopes and dreams depend on that, and that is why we’re here today. That’s also why this type of role is needed.
Read the full remarks here.
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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 .
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.
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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Posted: 08:45 PST
The Bureau of Public Affairs, the U.S. Diplomacy Center and the Wilson Center will host a panel discussion on The Changing Face and Changing Roles of the Foreign Service:
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
6th Floor Flom Auditorium
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Via the Wilson Center:
For more than two decades, the US Department of State, USAID and other foreign affairs agencies have worked to ensure that the Foreign Service looks more like America. Success in that effort could contribute immeasurably to the United States’ global leadership on a range of issues including gender equality, democracy and minority rights. A panel of experts will question if the Foreign Service has been successful in these efforts and explore how it must continue to evolve in a rapidly changing world.
Shante Moore, Foreign Service Officer
Ambassador Arnold Chacon, Director General of the Foreign Service
- Susan Reichle, USAID Counselor
- Robert Silverman, President, American Foreign Service Association
Diana Villiers Negroponte, Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar
- Foreign Service 2013 Promotion Results — Gender, Ethnicity, Race Stats Still Behind the Great Firewall
- Dept of Correction for the Record Fail — Diversity Statistics Still in Jaws of SBU Chupacabra!
- SBU Foreign Service 2011 Promotion Statistics Officially Published, Color Specialist Gets an “F”
Posted: 08:41 PST
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 13, 2015, after the Secretary stopped by a gathering to thank Embassy employees and a Department-based task force for their work to safely and successfully evacuate the Embassy after the suspending operations and temporarily relocating staff out of the capital of Sana’a. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
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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:
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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