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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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NYT’s David Brooks Asks, “Are we in nursery school?” Acting State Dept Spox Marie Harf Reax. Tsk-tsk!

Posted: 11:41 am PDT

 

So last week, SecState #56 and SecState #60, both Republican-appointed Secretaries of State wrote an op-ed about The Iran Deal and Its Consequences.

The Acting Spokesperson Marie Harf was asked about this during the April 8 Daily Press Briefing:

QUESTION:  Henry Kissinger and George Shultz published a piece in the Wall Street Journal today that raised a lot of questions about the deal.  These are diplomatic statesman types.  Do you guys have any reaction to that?  Do you think they were fair?
MS HARF:  Well, the Secretary has spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state since we got this agreement – or since the parameters – excuse me – we got the parameters finalized.  And we’re having conversations with other senior officials.  We are happy to have that conversation about what this agreement is, what it isn’t, the work we still have to do, and how we are very confident that this achieves our objectives.  And that conversation will certainly continue.
[…]
QUESTION:  Okay.  So one of the things they say is that “absent a linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony” in the region.  Not true?
MS HARF:  I would obviously disagree with that.  I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that’s why we don’t want them to get a nuclear weapon.  That’s what this deal does.
QUESTION:  Back when —
MS HARF:  And I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives.  I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there’s a place for that, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.  I know the Secretary values the discussions he has with his predecessors regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics.
QUESTION:  Well, I guess one of the criticisms is that there aren’t enough big words and big thought – or people argue that there are not enough big words and big thoughts in what the Administration is pursuing, its overall policy, particularly in the Middle East right now, which has been roiled with unrest and uncertainty.  And I think that’s what the point is they’re making.  That you reject, it, I understand that.  One of the —
MS HARF:  Well, in a region already roiled by so much uncertainty and unrest —

On that same day, conservative talk show radio host Hugh Hewitt had NYT’s David Brooks as guest and was asked about the Kissinger-Schultz op-ed, and the State Department’s official response to it. Click here for the transcript: Below is an audio of the exchange.

HH: David Brooks, this is the critique of the critics, is that we don’t have a lot of alternatives. In fact, every critic I’ve heard has alternatives, and I’m sure Kissinger and Schultz do. But a lot of big words? Really?
DB: Are we in nursery school? We’re not, no polysyllabic words? That’s about the lamest rebuttal of a piece by two senior and very well-respected foreign policy people as I’ve heard. Somebody’s got to come up with better talking points, whatever you think. And of course, there are alternatives. It’s not to allow them to get richer, but to force them to get a little poorer so they can fund fewer terrorism armies.

The Daily Caller caught that story and posted this:  Are We In Nursery School?’: David Brooks Slams Marie Harf Over Kissinger, Shultz Op-Ed Criticism.

Ouch!

But that’s not the end of the story.

William M. Todd, apparently a friend of the Harf family reposted the Daily Caller story on his Facebook page with a note that says: “Team Obama bans polysyllabic words !!”

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.17.57 AM

Here is the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson on Mr. Todd’s FB page.

Marie Harf Bill – I’m not sure how you could think this article accurately portrays me or how I view complicated foreign policy issues, given how long you’ve personally known me and my family. Does your hatred of this administration matter so much to you that it justifies posting a hurtful comment and a mean-spirited story about the daughter of someone you’ve known for years and used to call a friend? There’s a way to disagree with our policies without making it personal. Growing up in Ohio, that’s how I was taught to disagree with people. I hope your behavior isn’t an indication that’s changed.

She also posted a lengthy follow-up response here from the Daily Press Briefing.

William M. Todd responded on FB with the following:

I certainly can understand why your Team would disagree with Henry Kissinger and George Schultz on policy matters. However, what is amazing to me was your condescending and, almost childish criticism of what I considered to be a well-reasoned and thoughtful op-ed on the current Middle East crisis.

So, this is where we are people.

That’s potentially the next official spokesperson of the United States of America to the world.

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U.S. Embassy Beirut: Ambassador Hale Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert)

Posted: 12:15 pm EDT

 

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut released a fraud alert on April 9 alerting Lebanese of scammers impersonating Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in Lebanon:

Internet scam artists have tried to impersonate American Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in an attempt to get Lebanese people to send them money.  Don’t believe them!

In several of these attempts, these criminals have contacted people via social media with an invitation to connect to “David Hale.”  When they have, they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.  Victims were then requested to send money to an office in London.  Ambassador Hale does not make UN appointments and would not solicit funds from people.  In other attempts, the perpetrators have sent unsolicited emails for fees to process immigrant visa documents and work permits.

Correspondence purporting to be from Ambassador Hale requesting any payment of funds or personal information is false.

We caution against providing any personal or financial information to unsolicited emails or social media contact.

If you would like more information about how the UN does appoint its Goodwill Ambassadors, please see the UN website: ask.un.org/faq/14597

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This appears to be a new variation to the “419 scams.” This is not the first time Internet scammers have impersonated an American ambassador. Starting around 2011, scammers have impersonated Terence. P. McCulley, who was previously the U.S. ambassador to Mali and Nigeria and currently chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in the Ivory Coast.  A variation of his name, Terence P. McCauley has also been floating around the net. And when it became widely known that this is a scam, the scammers up the ante by offering compensation to scam victims. (see Yo! The scammers are current with the news, now use the name of new US Ambassador to Abuja, Terence P. McCulley for bait).

Click here for the FBI Common Fraud Schemes page.

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For U.S. Citizens in Yemen, a New Website and a New Hashtag Shows Up: #StuckInYemen

Posted: 5:27 pm EDT

 

The State Department suspended embassy operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and American staff were relocated out of the country on February 11, 2015.    This followed  the previously announced suspension of all consular services  on February 8 (see State Dept Suspends US Embassy Yemen Operations, Relocates Staff Until Further Notice).  There was no USG-sponsored evacuation for U.S. citizens residing in the country. At that time, and many times previously, the State Department urged U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens living in Yemen to depart the country (see here, here, here, here, and here).

On March 25, Saudi Arabia launched military operations in Yemen in a coalition with reportedly 10 other countries. (see New Front in Regional Chaos: Saudi Arabia Launches Air Strikes Against Houthis in Yemen).  As the situation deteriorated, the following countries have evacuated their citizens from Yemen:

India

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China

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Pakistan

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Russia

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Turkey

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Guys, Somalia!

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Foreigners Evacuated

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26 Countries Requested Evacuation Assistance from India

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Whatabout the Amcits in Yemen?

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On April 3, the State Department issued an updated Travel Warning for Yemen that says in part:

The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain severe.  There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely. U.S. citizens wishing to depart should do so via commercial transportation options when they become available.

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Somebody noticed

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Meanwhile, a new website and a new hashtag just showed up online for U.S. citizens in Yemen:

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Today, April, 6, the US Embassy Sana’a issued an Emergency Message advising U.S. citizens in Yemen that the Indian Government has offered to evacuate U.S. citizens from Yemen to Djibouti:

The Indian government has offered to assist U.S. citizens who want to depart Yemen for Djibouti.  This potentially includes flights out of Sana’a and ships from Aden.  U.S. citizens wishing to take advantage of this opportunity should contact First Secretary Raj Kopal at the Indian Embassy in Sana’a at 00967 734 000 657; you may be required to present a valid U.S. passport for boarding.  The next flights from Sana’a are scheduled to depart early on April 7.  The Department of State cautions that U.S. citizens should consider carefully the risks of traveling to or within Sana’a and Aden in order to board evacuation transport given security conditions in both cities.

On February 11, 2015, due to the deteriorating security situation in Sanaa, the Department of State suspended embassy operations and U.S. Embassy Sanaa American staff were relocated out of the country.  All consular services, routine and emergency, continue to be suspended until further notice.  The Department notified the public of this move, and its impact on consular services, and urged U.S. citizens in Yemen to depart while commercial transportation was available.

The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain extremely concerning. There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time.  If you wish to depart Yemen, you should stay alert for other opportunities to leave the country.  U.S. citizens who are able to depart Yemen for another country and are in need of emergency assistance upon arrival may contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in that country.

Read more: Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens – Updated Departure Options (April 6, 2015)

U.S. Embassy Djibouti is a small post with a low consular workload. At least, until 2010, the consular section there consisted of one entry-level officer (who occupied an FS-03 position) assisted by three local employees  (source-pdf).

We don’t know what is the current US citizen population in Yemen. A State/OIG report from June 2010 estimated that the U.S.-Yemeni community there numbered at least 55,000.  The report also noted that the serious threat of terrorism in Yemen has put “Sanaa’s visa and passport services in the homeland security cross-hairs.”

We have reached out to Consular Affairs but have not heard anything back.

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New Front in Regional Chaos: Saudi Arabia Launches Air Strikes Against Houthis in Yemen

Posted: 6:15 pm PDT

 

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U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones (@SafiraDeborah) Exits Twitter, Leaves Behind 49.8K Followers

Posted: 12:01 pm PDT
Updated: 5:24 pm PDT

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-23Our ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones who is currently based in Malta tweeted about eight civilians who were killed in an air strike near Tripoli.

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Apparently, that tweet caused a firestorm in Libya as those killed were reportedly not killed in an air strike but attacked in their homes.

 

 

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Sometime later, Ambassador Jones tweeted this:

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Screen Capture, @SafiraDeborah's tweets

Screen Capture, @SafiraDeborah’s tweets click image for larger view

 

Then this happened:

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And that’s that.

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US Embassy Seoul: Ambassador Mark Lippert Returns to Work

Posted: 1:13  pm EDT

 

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 Related posts:

 

 

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

Posted: 1:41  am EDT

 

 

Related posts:

 

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rodriguez vs Secretary Kerry Blinken Higginbottom Sherman WHA’s Jacobson

Posted: 00:12 EDT

 

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.

 

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Oh dear, that’s an ALL CAPS alert!

Now, once more, with feelings:

 

Meanwhile in Cuba:

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U.S. Embassy Kinshasa: American Diplomat Detained With Journalists and Activists in D.R.Congo Raid

Posted: 7:20 pm PDT
Updated: 11:51 am PDT

 

Update: The Guardian reported early this morning that USAID official Kevin Sturr was released to the embassy “late last night”after security forces broke up a press conference in Kinshasa attended by activists, journalists and musicians.  The African activists detained with him are reportedly still in custody.

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A U.S. diplomat was reportedly detained by the Democratic Republic of the Congo security forces following a raid that targeted journalists and regional democracy activists in the capital city of Kinshasa.  Media reports, quoting a government spokesman say that those arrested were accused of  “posing a threat to stability.”  We have reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa but have not heard anything back. Press reports have not identified the name nor rank of the detained diplomat.

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