Saudi Jewelry Gifts Questions: @StateDept Retains Gifts for the U.S. Diplomacy Center Collection

Posted: 3:30 am ET

Some questions have been raised about the gifts from Saudi Arabia, particularly a few specific, high valued items given to Secretary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.  We’ve asked the State Department about this, and we were told that one gift is pending transfer to the GSA but three have been retained for the U.S. Diplomacy Center (@DiplomacyCenter) collection.  The United States Diplomacy Center which is scheduled to be completed in 2016 is a public private initiative which will include some 6,000 diplomatic artifacts  — via:

The Department of State is providing the space, staff and security, while the private sector will provide the funds to design and build the 40,000 sq. ft. facility. The Center includes a 20,000 sq. ft. exterior Pavilion and its informative exhibits about today’s Department of State in Hall 1, the Founding Ambassador Concourse below Hall I, and two interior Halls both of 10,000 sq. ft. each: one chronicling the history of the American diplomacy, and the other focusing on education. The USDC is located at the Department of State building on 21st Street at Virginia Avenue NW, in Washington, DC. Visit the USDC website www.Diplomacy.State.gov for information on the progress and developments of the creation of the United States Diplomacy Center.

The following response from a State Department spokesperson:

Per GSA guidelines, there is no timeline for reporting gifts of more than minimal value to GSA after they’ve been received. The Department of State reports all gifts of more than minimal value annually in the Federal Register and generally biannually directly to GSA when doing a transfer of gifts. The Department transfers the maximum quantity of gifts GSA has the capacity to accept.

When a gift is no longer being used for official use, it must be reported within 30 days to the Office of the Chief of Protocol, to pend transfer to GSA.

‎All four gifts in question are in the possession of the Department of State. The first three are in official use, as part of the collection of the U.S. Diplomacy Center. The final is being stored and pending transfer to GSA, and will be transferred when GSA has the ability to accept it.‎‎

Here are some gifts currently included in the Diplomacy Center’s online collection:

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British Diplomats of the Future — More Like ’24’ or ‘Spooks’? Read ‘Future FCO’ Report

Posted: 9:31 am PT

This is an interesting read; may require registration/subscription via ft.com:

Last year, there was a discussion at Chathamhouse on 21st Century Diplomats: The Changing Role of British Diplomats. Below is an excerpt from Ambassador Tom Fletcher’s talk:

I recently put in a very audacious and cheeky bid for a senior position in the Foreign Office and part of my application was to say, I think my age may be a problem. Up front, I think my age is a problem, I think I’m too old for the job. My point was that in so many of the countries that we’re now trying to influence, and this was one of them, as one of the bigger emerging economies, the people that we most need to get to are actually much younger than me. So we need to reflect on that as we work out how to engage with those new groups.
[…]
Diplomats have always been told they’re about to go out of business and we have always found ways to evolve. It’s a Darwinian profession and we have found ways to move forward and use new tools and that’s what we’re going to do in this phase. The basic qualities of a diplomat through that period, I would argue, haven’t really changed that much either. I’ve been writing recently about the history of diplomacy and consistently find that the people who make good diplomats tend to have a certain amount of courage, tend to have a certain amount of tact and can probably eat anything. That will be the case for diplomats in 100 years’ time as it was for diplomats 200 years ago and beyond.
[…]
The scientists tell us that the change that we’ll see in the next century is equivalent in sociological terms to the change we’ve seen in the last 43 centuries. So imagine that’s like going from the cave painting to the atom bomb in three generations of diplomats. This change as we’re seeing in all sorts of industries is disruptive. It is going to put a lot of businesses out of business. It’s going to put a lot of states out of business, though not I would argue states altogether. It’s going to put a lot of ideas out of business and for all of us who care about diplomacy, we have to make sure that we’re not one of those businesses that is disrupted.

The FCO has just released the Future FCO report by Ambassador Fletcher. Give it a read below or read here (PDF) to see what’s in store for the cousins across the pond.

The Future FCO report notes that the skills mix required to deliver successful diplomacy is changing. In 2020 and beyond, it will need to retain and bolster the FCO’s traditional strengths: geographical and multilateral expertise; languages; policy-making; networking, influencing and negotiating. By 2020, the FCO will also need to build or strengthen the following skills: Programme; open source data; digital diplomacy; stabilisation and mediation, particularly in volatile and/or ungoverned space; smarter use of cross-Whitehall resource, including financial, economic, diplomatic, intelligence and legal measures (as pioneered by the ‘full spectrum’ approach on security issues); working with business and non-state actors.

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U.S. Embassy Minsk: A Visit to the Chernobyl Alienation Zone in Gomel Oblast

Posted: 2:59 am ET

 

Next week the world will mark the 30th year since the Chernobyl disaster, a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, in Ukraine. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were reportedly evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. About 60% of the fallout is said to have landed in Belarus.

Via: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is located ten kilometers from the border with Belarus. This neighborhood has identified extremely high pollution southern areas of Belarus by radioactive materials that were released from the destroyed nuclear reactor in 1996. Almost from the first day of the accident republic territory contaminated by fallout from that April 27 was extremely intense. By April 29 the wind bore radioactive dust from Chernobyl in Belarus and Russia. Due to heavy contamination was evacuated 24,725 people from the Belarusian villages and three districts of the Republic of Belarus was declared mandatory exclusion zone.

Click here to see the map of the predictive contamination in Belarus from 1986 until 2046.

From U.S. Embassy Minsk’s historical photos:

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Deputy Chief of Mission Constance Phlipot visits the Chernobyl alienation zone in Gomel Oblast. February 2005

We should note the following about the US presence in Belarus via US Embassy Minsk: Due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government in 2008 on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, the American Embassy was forced to reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw its Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. The imposed reduction in staff has greatly impeded the Embassy’s ability to carry out mutually beneficial diplomatic programs and activities, including cultural and educational exchanges, assistance programs, and visa services.

 

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America’s War Machine: If you think @StateDept runs American foreign policy … (book excerpt)

Posted: 3:04 am ET

 

James H. McCartney had covered every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton. McCartney covered the White House, the State department, the Pentagon and relevant committees on Capitol Hill. He reported from about 30 countries, including Vietnam, the Soviet Union, the Middle East and Europe. After retirement from daily journalism, he taught courses in foreign policy and politics at Georgetown University. McCartney’s papers, including about 4,000 of his articles, are in the Special Collections Research Center at Georgetown University’s Lauringer Library.

Molly Sinclair McCartney worked as a newspaper reporter more than 25 years, including 14 years at the Washington Post. In 2012 she was appointed a Woodrow Wilson Public Scholar in Washington D.C. to do the research and interviews needed to finish America’s War Machine.

“You knew, if you were a government spokesman, that you’d better have it straight and you’d better have the facts, because he’d keep coming at you…He was not there to enhance the government. He was there to inform the people. I didn’t know anyone I respected more than Jim.” ―Hodding Carter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and State Department spokesman

Book excerpt from America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts, courtesy of Amazon Kindle:

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Will ambassadorships become part of the horse trading for delegates this summer?

Posted: 12:32 am EDT

 

According to Fox News, delegates become “unbound” and are free to support other contenders as soon as their candidate withdraws.

Rubio, in suspending his campaign after his home-state Florida loss, leaves 169 delegates behind. Ben Carson accrued eight delegates before he dropped out of the race, while Jeb Bush picked up four. Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul each picked up one in Iowa.

And if either Ted Cruz or John Kasich drop out in the weeks ahead — and Donald Trump still has not clinched the nomination with the necessary 1,237 delegates — additional zombie delegates could be in play in Cleveland.
[…]
They would become essentially free agents, prizes to be wooed by the candidates duking it out in Cleveland.
[…]
In the 1976 Republican convention, it was the unbound delegates moving toward President Gerald Ford instead of Ronald Reagan that handed Ford the nomination that year. Ford held a slight lead going into the convention, but was shy of an outright majority.In part by using the power of the White House, with promises of visits and patronage to woo over delegates, Ford won the nomination on the first ballot, by a slim 60 votes.

In addition to these “zombie” delegates, there are apparently also 112 Republican delegates who are “unbound” because their states and territories – North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, American Samoa and Guam – hold no primaries or caucuses. According to Real Clear Politics, delegates are chosen at state convention without reference to voters’ views on the presidential candidates.

Below is a link to a video clip with Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney who has served as counsel to the Republican National Committee and several presidential campaigns talking on MSNBC.  He explains what happens to Marco Rubio’s delegates now that the candidate has suspended his campaign, and the role that unbound delegates play in the Republican primary process. It looks like promises and patronage can play a big part in wooing over delegates. Will ambassadorships become part of the horse trading as candidates duke it out in Cleveland this summer?  Oh boy!  “A lot of ambassadorships out there and some 1500 Schedule C jobs.” See the great legal question and the answer.  Watch at the 1:59 mark.

The video can also be viewed here on MSNBC.

 

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President Obama Visits #Cuba, First Visit By Sitting POTUS Since 1928

Posted: 5:49 pm EDT

 

According to NYT, former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba twice after he left office, in 2002 and 2011. President Obama’s visit today is the first visit by a sitting president in 88 years. In January 1928, President Calvin Coolidge attended the Pan American Conference in Havana. He rode the presidential railcar to Key West and then boarded the battleship USS Texas and set sail for Havana. This is also a first for Air Force One.

 

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The Obama Doctrine — @JeffreyGoldberg’s Atlantic Interview, Read the Responses

Posted: 8:01 pm EDT
Updated: March 14, 5:01 EDT

 

 

Also this —

And this —

 

And over in Foggy Bottom, Mr. Kirby got a grilling. A quick excerpt below. Click here to read the transcript of the entire briefing

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t think that people are confused about what U.S. foreign policy objectives are?

MR KIRBY: I – look, there are constant discussions we have every day with foreign leaders about what we’re trying to achieve. And I can’t – I’m not going to lie and say that there isn’t disagreement.

QUESTION: Good.

MR KIRBY: That people don’t necessarily see things the same way we do, or that people – that there’s some – maybe some leaders that want more information than maybe we’re willing or able to give them. I mean, obviously, we have an obligation as well. And I don’t know how much we’ve talked in this room about operational security in light of the – making all those emails public. We have an obligation to protect sensitive information, and that’s how you look after the American people.

But in general and in the main, the art of diplomacy and achieving foreign policy objectives is through conversation and dialogue and as much transparency as possible. And don’t sit here and tell me that this is not a transparent institution here at the State Department. I mean, we brief every single day. You are able to come in here every day and harangue and harass me, and I keep standing up here and taking it because that’s what we do. We are accountable to not just the American people, but to people all around the world for what we’re doing.

QUESTION: You – yes, you —

MR KIRBY: And we’re not afraid to answer these tough questions.

QUESTION: Well, when you answer the questions, though, you don’t often give substantive answers.

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@StateDept Launches Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy at FSI

Posted: 1:35 am EDT

 

Excerpt from D/Secretary Antony J. Blinken on “American Diplomacy: Preparing for the Challenges of Tomorrow,” February 2, 2016:

Every day, our team here at State works towards big goals like this that benefit from the leadership and creativity of the innovation community.

And every day, our team tackles issues at the intersection of technology and foreign policy—from modernizing arms control agreements to negotiating norms of behavior in cyberspace or outer space.

Despite this focus, we need to create more bridges that allow our diplomats to tap into the energy and ingenuity of American education, innovation, and entrepreneurship—and enable our foreign policy priorities to spark or accelerate new ideas.

Developed under Deputy Secretary Burns’ leadership, the Foreign Service Institute’s Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy is one such bridge—ensuring that we apply the lessons of the past to our conduct and actions in the future.

We are also developing a new core curriculum at FSI, to ensure that everyone starts their careers with foundational knowledge and skills relevant to this century. Through new and experiential training, we will prepare our officers to better understand unstated assumptions that shape conflict and collaboration, apply future forecasting to the geopolitical world of tomorrow, and tap into unconscious drivers of behavior that will help us effectively conduct and advance our foreign policy.

To help build another of these bridges, Secretary Kerry recently established the Innovation Forum in order to enable our foreign policy leaders to be able to see around the innovation corner—to ask important questions like: “What does the revolution in robotics mean for warfighting? What do advances in artificial intelligence mean for our labor markets? What does the advent of digital currency mean for the dollar?”

Read in full here.

 

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Former Iran Prisoner: “Oman initiated our release, not the State Department”

Posted: 12:29 am EDT

 

Shane Bauer is one of the three Americans who were hiking in a mountainous region of Turkey near Iran in June 2009 when they were seized by Iranian border guards. He and his friend Joshua Fattal were detained in Evin prison in Tehran for more than two years. He was charged on August 21, 2011 with espionage and illegal entry and given an eight year sentence. On September 21, 2011, one month after his sentence, Mr. Bauer (and Mr. Fattal) was released and allowed to return to the United States.

He is now a senior reporter at Mother Jones, covering criminal justice and human rights. As news broke this weekend about the Iran prisoner swap, Politico reported that he called Clinton’s appeal for more sanctions “totally irresponsible” and accused her of constantly inflaming tensions with Iran. Read Politico’s story here. He also tweeted this:

In October 2011, the NYT had this item about the passing of FSO Philo Dibble. He died on October 1, 2011, 10 days after Fattal and Bauer were released:

Philo Dibble, a career Foreign Service officer who played a central role in the release of two American hikers who had been held in an Iranian prison for more than two years, died at his home in McLean, Va., on Oct. 1, 10 days after the hikers were freed. He was 60.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Elizabeth Link Dibble, who is also a State Department official. Both worked in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where he was deputy assistant secretary of state for Iranand she is the bureau’s principal deputy secretary.

“Philo really was the lead in the State Department for coordinating all U.S. government efforts regarding the release of the hikers,” Jeffrey D. Feltman, the Near Eastern bureau’s assistant secretary, said Thursday.

While explaining that he could not provide details because “it’s pretty sensitive,” Mr. Feltman said Mr. Dibble had coordinated efforts with diplomats from other nations, including Oman and Switzerland, in trying to free the hikers. (Switzerland has represented American interests in Iran since the hostage crisis of 1979-81.)

We may not know the full story how the release of the hikers went down until somebody from State writes a book about it or do an ADST oral history but some random Internet person actually tweeted what we were thinking:

Emails about the hikers were part of the latest Clinton email dump. Below is a selection of the emails:

Bauer’s letter to D/S Bill Burns with a redacted request – PDF
Statement of Facts issued by the State Department for Mr. Bauer – PDF
The hikers’ parents letter to President Obama copied to State – PDF
OpsAlert updates during release of two hikers – PDF
Bauer and Fattal statements after release (transcript) PDF

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Americans in Iran Prisoner Swap Arrived in Germany

Posted: 2:20 am EDT

 

According to media report, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini arrived in Germany Sunday and will meet with their families soon.  The three arrived on a flight at Ramstein Air Base via Geneva and were scheduled to undergo medical checkups at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

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