Category Archives: Iran

Interim Win For Diplomats Slows Down March To Another War. For Now.

– Domani Spero

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and US Secretary of State John Kerry,, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, EU’s Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister (Photo via US Mission Geneva)

Here is the Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program released by the WH on November 23.  You might also want to read Jeffrey Lewis’ piece on FP asking, if we can’t ease sanctions in exchange for concessions, what was the point of pressuring Iran. He is the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Lots of articles coming out right now on the Geneva deal, but there are a couple you don’t want to miss.  The Associated Press reported on the cloak and dagger diplomacy that happened behind the klieg lights with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, and National Security Council aide Puneet Talwar. See Secret talks between U.S., Iran set stage for historic nuclear deal.  As well, see Al-Monitor’s Exclusive: Burns led secret US back channel to Iran.

Of course, now folks will start wondering what’s real in the public schedule posted on state.gov.

But please — a toast to the diplomats and the support staff!  For every foreign minister present in the photo above, there were numerous nameless individuals who made the work in Geneva possible. Bravissimo for a win that did not involved a drone, a gun, or a deadly karate chop! Diplomacy still works and it did not wear combat boots this time.

Also, yesterday, Reuters reported that former hostage Bruce Laingen, the US chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1979 favors diplomacy, “despite humiliation, solitary confinement and having a gun held to his head during the U.S. Embassy crisis in Iran three decades ago.” The report notes that “Former hostages who were diplomats appear more in favor of rebuilding a relationship with Iran than those who were military personnel at the time.” See  Former Iran hostages: amid rapprochement they still want apologies.   

Apparently, some pols are livid about this Iran deal, lining up before microphones, furiously writing op-eds, plotting the next moves and …..

Oh, hey, accuweather says the East Coast winter storm will snark Thanksgiving travel.  Safe travel peeps!

* * *

About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under 68, Diplomacy, Diplomatic History, EU, FCO, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Iran, John F. Kerry, Politics, Secretary of State, State Department

November 4, 1979: Iranian Mob Attacks US Embassy Tehran; Hostages Compensated $50/Day

– Domani Spero

Thirty four years ago today, the US Embassy in Tehran was taken over by a mob of Iranian students supporting the Iranian Revolution.  52 embassy employees were held hostage for 1 year, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days until their release on January 20, 1981.

Below are some excerpts from ADST’s Oral History project’s interviews with Ambassador Bruce Laingen, the chargé d’affaires at that time,  Ambassador John W. Limbert who was assigned as Political Officer at the  US Embassy in Tehran from 1979-1981, and Penelope Laingen, the wife of Ambassador Laingen.

Bruce Laingen | Read The Iran Hostage Crisis Part I and Ambassador Laingen’s interview:

“Their real intent was not to get the Shah back, despite the slogans that were so useful to them in that sense to get passions in the streets aroused. Their intent was to use that device to destabilize and undermine the provisional government of the revolution and to facilitate a greater role for the more radical elements.

At any rate, it did not seem that the situation was all that bad at the outset. In retrospect we should have begun destruction earlier. I, obviously as chief of mission, had that responsibility and today bear that responsibility for the way in which not enough of our classified documentation was destroyed. We had too much, we started too late, and we had equipment that was not the best….

Of course, a lot of the paper that did not seem to have that urgency of destruction, including unclassified biographical material, would also in time prove to be a very damaging element of the situation, because lots of that stuff has Central Intelligence Agency logo stamped on it even if it is unclassified. That was enough to fire the fury of the more radical elements of the revolution, even though it was material of an unclassified, descriptive nature. That was sufficient to cause a great deal of pain and hurt to a lot of Iranians.

And that is the real pain that I have felt since. Not that our security was threatened, our strategic interests, or political interests in Iran and the region. They were not seriously affected by what was leaked. It was clear in any event at that point that our relationship with the Iranians was not going to be reestablished very soon. But the human hurt for a lot of people in Iran because of the way we were not able to destroy incriminating documentation, that is the legacy that hurts me very much today.”

John Limbert | Read more here or his interview here.

“I did probably one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done in my Foreign Service career. I volunteered to go out and talk to these guys. I’m a Persian speaker, so perhaps I can go out and see if we can defuse this someway, or delay it, defuse it, divert it. We did not see these guys being armed or anybody getting hurt. So that’s what I did. I went out, they opened the door, I went out the door and started talking to these guys. And at first they were shocked, because they thought I was an Iranian. I kept reassuring them, “No, no, no, I’m not an Iranian, I’m an American employee of the embassy, you should get out of here.” I took my most professorial tone with them and was as overbearing as I could be and saying, “You are where you should not be. You have no business here. You should get out as soon as you can. You are causing trouble. Who do you think you are?” So forth and so on. And they weren’t having any of it.

I’ll tell you a little story about this. About 1991 or ’92 there was a made-for-TV movie about the hostage taking. It wasn’t a great bit of moviemaking but it was not bad. And part of the movie shows this particular incident, where the actor playing me goes out to talk to these guys and gets taken. I was showing this at one point to an audience, using this as an example and one of the people in the audience, perhaps he didn’t realize this character was supposed to be me and in this stage whisper said, “God, what an idiot!” although he didn’t use the word “idiot.” He used a more anatomical descriptor. True, I must admit he had a point. I’ve always called this the low point of my Foreign Service career and my least successful negotiation.”

Penelope Laingen | Read her 1986 interview here.

“In my whole history of being connected to the Foreign Service, whenever I’d started a project, for instance — I am a writer and I had three chapters written in a novel and my teacher said “You have a real winner here and should get an agent now” — then, Bruce was taken hostage, so I put that away and I’ve not gotten back to it. I will someday, I hope. I had also upholstered a chair and I had everything but the back done when we went to Malta, (so I had to put that away, too). I mean, it’s just been a history of deferring or putting aside something. So when he was taken hostage, I just had to put everything else out of my mind and concentrate on that. I also called all my training in the Foreign Service to bear, even though I felt I had been “dismissed” by the Foreign Service.

[...]

So, here we come to the hostage crisis, a terribly public, international crisis, where you are on television. I think most people recognize and say, okay, this is the wife of the Chief of Mission (and how she behaves reflects not only on her husband, but perhaps on the whole Foreign Service or on Americans on the world scene). If I had gone on television and cried nightly, if I’d flown off to Iran and called the President stupid or the Government’s policy stupid, I think I would have heard in two minutes just how private a person I was! (I would have been reprimanded by the very Department of State which had proclaimed me to be a private person with no responsibility to my husband’s career). I mean, I’m being sarcastic and I realized I wasn’t a private person. You can’t be a private person. You are a part of the Foreign Service and particularly when you are on the public stage like that. It’s a public life. How can you be a private person in a public life? See, this is what Sandra Gotlieb found out. You cannot be a private person in a public arena. There’s no way.

So, the hypocrisy of this official policy has just gnawed no end at me. And I got no support from the Department in that role. I got sort of superficial support. Well, not even that, not even that.
[...]

One thing that made it difficult was the lack of esprit de corps among the families. I mean, we had never served together, so that was one of the drawbacks. And there were all different services involved. There’s a study done of fourteen hostage wives. Those of us who had served the longest in the Foreign Service expected the most, yet felt we had received the least support. Those foreign-born spouses in the group expected nothing and were deeply grateful for whatever they received in the way of support. They had no great expectations of the Department, which was perhaps a cultural difference. And the military wives felt they received the greatest support, which they did, and in return kept their allegiance to those services in tact. I believe Sheldon Krys and other Department managers did the best they could under the circumstances, but they had much to learn from the Iran crisis in the management of families during a crisis. It was always a source of great disappointment to me, for instance, that not once during the crisis did any of my husband’s colleagues offer to take our youngest son to a basketball game or call to inquire about the house or other personal matters. It was up to us unite ourselves and support one another in that personal way.”

According to the CRS report dated September 2013, “the former hostages and their families did receive a number of benefits under various civil service laws, and each hostage received from the U.S. government a cash payment of $50 for each day held hostage. The hostages have never received any compensation from Iran through court actions, all efforts having failed due to foreign sovereign immunity and an executive agreement known as the Algiers Accords, which bars such lawsuits.”   Also see this Brief from USDOJ before SCOTUS dated April 2012.  See  Roder, et.al v. Iran to catch up on the litigation history.

So 444 days by $50 is exactly $22,200.00.

Currently in Congress, is Senate bill S. 559, the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013, which would establish a fund to compensate the former hostages. The American Hostages in Iran Compensation Fund would pay to each former hostage or estate of a former hostage $150,000 plus $5,000 per each day of captivity ($2.37 million total per former hostage).  Over at the House, the Justice for the American Diplomats Held Hostage in Tehran Act, H.R. 904, was introduced and referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.  Each former hostage or estate of a former hostage would receive $10,000 for each day of captivity ($4.44 million each); each spouse or child of a former hostage would receive half that amount.

In both bills, the funds would come from fines and penalties imposed for violations related to Iran. Both cases also include a provision that recipients waive and release all existing claims against Iran and the United States arising out of the hostage crisis.

* * *

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, CIA, Compensation, Court Cases, Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Iran, Realities of the FS, Spouses/Partners, State Department

Canadian Caper’s John Sheardown Who Sheltered U.S. Diplomats During Hostage Crisis Dies at 88

John Sheardown, a Canadian diplomat in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis who sheltered four of the six Americans who evaded capture during the US Embassy takeover in 1979, died   Sunday, December 30 at The Ottawa Hospital. He was 88.

john sheardown

John Sheardown. 1980.  Photo via screen capture from YouTube

The six Americans escaped out of Iran in what was originally known as the Canadian Caper in January 1980.  Click the video here of the PBS piece made in 1980 describing their escape from Iran.  That escape, recently dramatized in the 2012 Ben Affleck movie Argo would not have been possible without the help of Canadian friends like John Sheardown who took care of their American “house guests” at great personal peril.

John Sheardown was a World War II bomber pilot and an Order of Canada recipient.  The order recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians who made a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. According to The Star, Mr. Sheardown was offered the keys to New York by then mayor Edward Koch but he apparently declined, saying Ambassador Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Tehran during the crisis had received them on behalf of all who were involved.  His home city of Windsor, Ontario honored him this year by declaring November 10 the John Sheardown Day.

Requiescat in pace, John Sheardown.

domani spero sig

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic History, Foreign Affairs, Iran, People

Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Notes, Celebrity, CIA, Courage, Diplomatic History, Foreign Affairs, FSOs, Hostages, Iran, U.S. Missions, Where Are They Now?

USCG Karachi: Protesters Trying To Storm Compound … Remembering the 1979 Horror

The NYT reports that one person was killed and dozens of people were injured when anti-American protesters tried to storm the US Consulate General in the southern port city of Karachi.  Protesters reportedly clashed for several hours with the police and paramilitary troops on Sunday evening (September 16).

Al Jazeera says that the Karachi police have created a high-security zone around the US consulate and that they have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas to hold back protesters. See video report below via YouTube. (Dear Comcast, how is it that you still do not carry the station that covers the most volatile part of the world?)

Via Al Jazeera English

On September 12, 2012, the Consulate issued the following message:

This security message informs U.S. citizens that the U.S. Consulate General is temporarily suspending public services while assessing our security posture due to ongoing preparations for a September 13 strike against the recently signed Sindh Local Governance Ordinance. The strike has the potential to continue for several days and cause disruption. As a precautionary measure, all routine consular services have been cancelled through Friday, September 14.  In addition, the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi has restricted travel of mission personnel.

On September 13, 2012, another message:

This security message alerts U.S. citizens to recent violent protests in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. U.S. citizens in Pakistan should maintain extra vigilance. There have not yet been similar protests in Pakistan. Historically, it is not uncommon for demonstrations and protests to occur after Friday prayers. Friday prayers are generally conducted from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Today, September 16, 2012, this message:

This security message informs U.S. citizens that public services at the U.S. Consulate General remain temporarily suspended because of the continuing potential for demonstrations in the vicinity of the Consulate.

Later the US Embassy in Islamabad tweeted that all personnel are safe and that it appreciate the work of the Pakistani police:

@usembislamabad: All American personnel are safe and accounted for at #USConsulate Karachi. #Pakistan

@usembislamabad: We appreciate the efforts of the Pakistani police to protect the #USConsulate in Karachi and our personnel.

In the aftermath of the murder of our diplomats in Benghazi and the burning of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the attempted storming of our Consulate General in Karachi fills us with trepidation.  This has happened before. In Pakistan under similar circumstances.

Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead, posted in Pakistan and later U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives from 2003 to 2006 on CNN remembers:

“A mob of perhaps 5,000 marched to the American Center, burned it and then marched to the consulate and attacked us. Battled by 300 Pakistani policemen, they burned our cars and tried, unsuccessfully, to burn down the consulate itself — with us inside. There were enough police to keep the crowd at bay, but not enough to disperse them quickly. After several hours, the crowd left and the police took us out in an armed convoy.”
[...]

There are eerie resemblances between that day in Pakistan and this week’s attacks in Libya and Egypt — rumors of anti-Islamic acts and groups that exploited those rumors to stir up crowds. This is the normal pattern for riots. They are not usually “spontaneous.” Instead they are instigated by opportunists. In both Pakistan and Libya, individuals tried to defend the U.S. diplomats, but the governments reacted slowly and with insufficient force.

He was talking about Nov. 21, 1979. In a day of orchestrated anti-American outrage, Pakistanis attacked several U.S. facilities across the country.  Why?  Because some Saudi Arabian religious zealot had taken over the Grand Mosque at Mecca. Iran’s Ayatollah suggested that Americans were behind the attack on Islam’s holiest place.  This was passed on in media reports and lighted the fuse that burned down the US Embassy in Islamabad and killed four people.

In November 27, 2004, WaPo writer, Cameron W. Barr, wrote A Day of Terror Recalled (1979 Embassy Siege In Islamabad Still Haunts Survivors). Excerpt below:

By 1:40 p.m., nearly 140 people — U.S. diplomats, Pakistani staff members, a visiting Time magazine correspondent — had assembled in the vault, a suite of rooms on the top floor of the three-story embassy building. Marines had covered their retreat upstairs by tossing tear gas canisters as protesters broke their way into the embassy, shattering windows and setting fires in offices.

Smoke started seeping into the vault. The people inside sat quietly, most of them on the floor, crowded into a space intended to hold far fewer occupants. The temperature rose, and the air, tainted by tear gas and smoke, grew hard to breathe. They took off extra clothing and passed around wet paper towels to use as filters.

 

They had with them in the vault, US Marine Cpl. Steven J. Crowley bleeding from a bullet wound above his left ear (he later died). When it was over, they also found the burned corpse of Army Warrant Officer Bryan Ellis, 30, who died at his apartment in the compound and two Pakistani staff members who died of asphyxiation. Ellis who left behind a wife and a 6 year old son was a veteran US pilot with 11 years of military experience.

Read the full, heartbreaking account here.

3 Comments

Filed under Consul Generals, Countries 'n Regions, Defense Department, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, Iran, Pakistan, Protests, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

Compensating the Victims of the August 7, 1998 Embassy Bombings Would Set a Precedent? Goddammit, So What?

Fourteen years ago today, between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time (3:30–3:40 am Washington time), suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and almost simultaneously detonated themselves. In Nairobi, approximately 218 people were killed, and an estimated 5,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 (including 7 FSNs) and wounded 72.  Twelve Americans were killed. (see our post R E M E M B E R – August 7, 1998; also Courting Remembrance).

August 1998: The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing. Eleven Tanzanians, including 7 Foreign Service Nationals, died in the blast, and 72 others were wounded. The same day, al-Qaida suicide bombers launched another near-simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 218 and wounded nearly 5,000 others. (Source:Diplomatic Security)

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports that the victims of the August 1998 bomb blast at the American embassy in Nairobi are still demanding compensation saying the US government has turned a deaf ear to their suffering.

The victims also claimed that Kenya’s leadership has not shown commitment in ensuring that they lead a normal life fourteen years after the explosion that claimed over 200 lives.

Led by the 1998 bomb blast association chair Ali Mwadame, the victims said they will present a memorandum to parliament and the office of the Prime Minister.

Speaking to KBC on phone on Tuesday, Mwadame said a majority of victims who were maimed during the tragedy have died while others cannot even afford medication.

Back here at home, the families of 12 Americans killed in the attack are still fighting for federal compensation that has been granted to other terrorism victims — a struggle that has left many feeling betrayed and forgotten.

The Baltimore Sun reported back in June that the families have turned to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, for help.

The effort by the families, including two from Maryland, has raised difficult questions about who is entitled to federal support when relatives are killed by an act of terrorism directed at the United States, and how much money is fair. Congress has been unwilling to answer those questions.
[...]
“Because it happened to our embassy, many people don’t think about it as American soil, but that is American property,” said Edith Bartley, a Prince George’s County resident whose father and brother were killed in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. “Those families, that embassy, our nation were targeted in Kenya. It was the same as 9/11.”

Past legislation would have set aside nearly $1 million for each family. Mikulski’s approach is less direct: Rather than specifying an amount of money, the proposal would require the State Department to develop policies for how to compensate survivors when employees are killed at work. Supporters hope the back-door approach will lead to the same result.

The amendment was added to a bill to fund the State Department. That spending legislation was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 29-1 vote May 24.

Families of Foreign Service workers killed in the line of duty receive up to $10,000 in death gratuity and one year’s salary.
[...]
Those who lost kin in the Nairobi bombing say the comparison to the Oklahoma City attack is not analogous; the link to al-Qaida, they say, makes the East Africa bombings more similar to the Sept. 11 attacks. They say the State Department’s current policy unfairly treats Foreign Service workers killed in a car accident, for example, the same as those who died in a major terrorist attack.
[...]
That argument has won bipartisan support among some lawmakers. Language similar to Mikulski’s is being carried in the House of Representatives by Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and Florida Rep. Allen West, who is among the more conservative Republicans in Congress.
[..]
Mikulski said objections by the State Department have stymied past efforts.

This is certainly not the first time that somebody in Congress waded in on this issue.  Roy Blunt, the chief deputy Republican whip in the House in 2001 introduced legislation to make the families of the Americans killed or injured in two American Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 eligible for the federal compensation fund set up for victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Since we’re still talking about this, nothing obviously happened to that effort eleven years ago.  At that time, Mr. Blunt in the NYT also said:

”The State Department had been reluctant to approve compensation in any way that involved establishing blame or proving negligence,” he explained. But the new federal fund, he added, is a no-fault fund that does not require any finding of blame.

This is where it does not/not get better. Again. Because who do you think is blocking this effort? More from the Baltimore Sun:

“What we get is not a compassionate response but a lawyer response that if we do this, we’re going to set a precedent,” Mikulski said of her efforts to negotiate with department officials. “But we’re establishing a precedent by not doing anything, even though these people died on American soil, died at their duty stations.”

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Mikulski’s effort or negotiations. Asked about the issue during a House subcommittee hearing last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who was the first lady at the time of the East Africa attacks — was noncommittal.

“I can’t make any promises,” Clinton told Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat. “But I will certainly work with you on that.”

Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot! So what if it sets a precedent, goddammit! They were KIA in the service of their country! Excuse me for sounding mad, I am growwwling :mad:

Now — since Secretary Clinton has been trying to win a world record as the most -traveled Secretary of State ever, when does she get time to work with him on that? And now that Representative Jackson Jr., is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for depression and gastrointestinal issues, and she’s sailing out the doors of Foggy Bottom, they obviously will have lots of time to work on this before long.

There is certainly a precedent to this taking care of your people business in the State Department. In May this year, the NYT reported that the Supreme Court rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.  A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department (not/not Iran), previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims.

Yes, yes, go ahead and stop at the vomitorium, there are tons of buckets there.

Domani Spero

Related posts:

 

6 Comments

Filed under 67, Africa, Foreign Service, FS Benefits, FSOs, Hall of Shame, Hillary, Iran, Leadership and Management, Realities of the FS, Secretary of State, State Department, Terrorism

Supremes Say No to Appeal from US Embassy Iran Hostages

Via NYT:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.

A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department, previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims. The former hostages had sued under a 1996 law that they argued allowed them to seek damages, and in August 2001 they won a judgment of liability, because Iran did not appear in court to defend itself. But the State Department argued that its ability to conduct foreign policy would be compromised if damages were awarded.

Read in full here.

Click here for a GQ piece from 2009, a sort of oral history where more than fifty men and women—hostages, hostage-takers, commandos from the ill-fated U.S. rescue mission, and Iranian and American politicians and policymakers were interviewed for the 30th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis.

The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freed...

The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freedom One aircraft for their departure to the United States after their release from Iran. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Families wait for the former hostages...

English: Families wait for the former hostages to disembark the plane. The former hostages will be on U.S. soil for the first time since their release from Iran. Location: STEWART FIELD, NEW YORK (NY) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Vice President George Bush and other ...

English: Vice President George Bush and other VIP’s wait to welcome the former hostages to Iran home. Location: ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE VIRIN: DF-SC-82-06566 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judge Sullivan in his 2002 ruling wrote that “‘Both Congress and the president have expressed their support for these plaintiffs’ quest for justice while failing to act definitively to enable these former hostages to fulfill that quest.”

Parade’s over.  Iran is still big news, but no one is rushing to meet, or wait or put out a concert for the former hostages. Most especially, the State Department.

Support was easy when all it required was a yellow ribbon?

Yellow ribbon flown in 1979 by Penne Laingen when her husband, US diplomat Bruce was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis; among the first of the modern “yellow ribbons.”
US lib of congress picture from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/ribbons/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2002, NYT reported that the former hostages, and in some cases their survivors, sued Iran under the 1996 law.  While the plaintiffs won their lawsuit by default in August 2001, the State Department sought dismissal, arguing reportedly that it needed to preserve its ability to make binding agreements.

And in so doing, it also sends a signal to all future state sponsored hostage takers that they can take any of our diplomats at any time and they will not suffer any consequences except a break in diplomatic relations, and limited visa issuance restrictions to its officials.  If Iran is jerking our chain these days, that’s because we have taught it the wrong lesson.  The end.

Domani Spero

Leave a comment

Filed under Court Cases, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hostages, Huh? News, Iran, Realities of the FS, State Department

State Dept’s New Cartoon Spotlights Iran’s Online Censorship

The State Department recently started promoting its new cartoon called “Behind the Electronic Curtain” highlighting online censorship in Iran. It promoted the video on Twitter in English, Chinese, Farsi and Arabic with the hashtag #ConnectIran It has yet to catch fire.

Here is the official blurb:

In his March 20 Nowruz message to the Iranian people, President Obama said “the United States will continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world. And we hope that others will join us in advancing a basic freedom for the Iranian people: the freedom to connect with one another, and with their fellow human beings.” Please watch an animated video highlighting how the Electronic Curtain isolates the Iranian people from the world.

In late 2011, the State Department rolled out its Virtual US Embassy Tehran. It was blocked by Iranian authorities within hours of its launch.  ABC News reported that the English and Farsi versions went live at 6a Eastern time and by 5pm both were blocked inside Iran.  Iran will either block this cartoon or will put out its own version.

In related news, the State Department Persian spokesperson, Alan Eyre was recently interviewed by a conservative Iranian website, only to have the interview pulled down following official criticism and condemnation. Radio Free Europe quotes Iran Culture Ministry’s statement of April 4 saying that there was no justification for the Alef website to allow what it called a U.S. “intelligence officer” the opportunity to respond to questions from Iranians.

These online skirmishes will continue until the warmongers get their way and start yet another war.

This is absolutely not related, but I was watching for the nth time Woodstein in All the President’s Men and was reminded again of a cartoon that once reportedly inhabited a White House wall that reads, “When you’ve got ‘em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”  Sure, and then they shoot our soldiers in the head when they’re not looking.

5 Comments

Filed under Digital Diplomacy, Iran, Quotes, State Department, Video of the Week

U.S. Consulate General Basra: "Dangerously Exposed" but Under Iraqi Protection

Ted Koppel recently had a piece on our “exit” from Iraq for NBC’s Rock Center.  In an interview with NPR, Ted Koppel noted that  all our troops will
soon be out “save 157 who will be guarding the embassy, and a few
hundred U.S. military trainers.”

In his interview with Ambassador Jeffrey, Ted Koppel  asked the
ambassador what happens if our folks there come under direct attack. 
The ambassador responded that this is the responsibility of the Iraqi
government.  When pushed if he was confident that the Iraqis would
respond, Ambassador Jeffrey said “yes.” Of course, can we really expect
our ambassador there to say “no” on teevee? I am having a really bad tummy ache over this.

I posted the opening of U.S. Consulate General in Basra in this blog last July. The clip below talks about ConGen Basra with 1320 people (apparently also known as Fort Apache), which is rocketed two or three times a week. Also piece here on Shalamcha, Iraq’s southern border crossing into Iran, a stone throw from Basra:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Here are the rest of the clips from NBC’s Rock Center:

No Exit: US military leaving Iraq but presence remains

No Exit: Iraq’s oil and Iran’s influence

No Exit: Ted Koppel’s reflect on Iraq’s future

Leave a comment

Filed under Consul Generals, FSOs, Iran, Iraq, US Embassy Baghdad

If GOP presidentiable Michele Bachmann wins, you don’t have to worry about bidding on Tehran

Great news, folks! One less hardship post to put on your bidlist. And the Afghanistan-Iraq-Pakistan (AIP) bidding cycle will not become an Afghanistan-Iraq-Iran-Pakistan  (AIIP) cycle.


Of course, if Rick Perry wins and you’re a Fed who do not share his philosophy (he did not think he could fire you) — he promised to reassign you to “some really god-awful place.”

Wonder what happens if you’re already in some god-awful place? I bet he’ll open an embassy in some worser really god-awful place just to teach you a lesson … like Tehran … Timbuktu … or gee, I can’t remember some other god-awful place that starts with a “T?”

Leave a comment

Filed under 2012, Huh? News, Iran, Politics