Hungary’s Orbán Wins Vote to Rule by Decree, @StateDept Issues Weak Sauce Statement 36+ Hours Later

 

 

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Trump Announces Travel Ban For Travelers From Schengen Area (26 European Countries) Over COVID-19

Via WH:
“The World Health Organization has determined that multiple countries within the Schengen Area are experiencing sustained person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2.  For purposes of this proclamation, the Schengen Area comprises 26 European states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.  The Schengen Area currently has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of the People’s Republic of China.  As of March 11, 2020, the number of cases in the 26 Schengen Area countries is 17,442, with 711 deaths, and shows high continuous growth in infection rates.  In total, as of March 9, 2020, the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries.  Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.”
This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.  This proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on March 13, 2020.
The travel restriction is for “The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.”
Click here for the scope of suspension and long list of  limitations of entry.

US-Taliban Inks Deal, Afghanistan Bolts Over Prisoners Release, Taliban Attacks Resume #72Hours

 

 

NOTE: Right hand photo below is posted on state.gov’s Flickr account here but Taliban negotiator Stanikzai was not identified. Caption only says “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a signing ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]”.

 

@StateDept Recalls Ambassador Daniel Foote From Zambia in Lame Response #TitNoTat

 

This is a follow-up to our post in early December (see US Embassy Zambia: Threats Against Amb. Daniel Foote For Comments on Harsh Sentencing of Gay Couple). The recall of Ambassador Daniel Foote from the U.S. Embassy in Zambia occurred late last month.
The State Department released a brief statement (see below) and the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy issued a tweet saying, “Dismayed by the Zambian government’s decision requiring our Ambassador Daniel Foote’s departure from the country.” Martin “Marty” Dale, a career member of the Foreign Service, is currently listed as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka on its website; no CDA is identified as of this writing.
So they’re all dismayed, huh? If the State Department considered the Zambian Government’s statement on Ambassador Foote as equivalent of a declaration of “persona non grata” why have they not asked the Zambian Ambassador in Washington D.C. to leave in the spirit of reciprocity?
The State Department’s action so loud, we could barely hear what they’re saying. Perhaps the State Department should have a new recruitment flyer:
See the world, join the State Department
And watch your back!

Continue reading

Iraqi Parliament Votes to Remove US Troops From Iraq, Trump Threatens With “Very Big Sanctions”

 

Cartoonists Sketch a World on the Brink #minatory2020

 

 

New Year Opens With Security Alerts Issued For U.S. Embassies in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia

Updated: 2:44 pm PST

US Embassy Iraq issued a Security Alert on January 3, 2016:

Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the U.S. Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately.  U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.  Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice.  U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.  The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil is open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance.  U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about family in Iraq should contact the Department of State at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.

Do not travel to Iraq; Avoid the U.S. Embassy; Monitor local and international media for updates 

US Embassy Bahrain issued a Security Alert on January 3, 2016:

In light of regional events, there is potential for spontaneous demonstrations or unrest to take place in Bahrain over the coming days, and possibly beyond.  While we have no information indicating a threat to American citizens, we encourage you to continually exercise the appropriate level of security awareness in regards to your personal security and in the face of any anti-U.S. activity that may arise in Bahrain.  We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities.

U.S. Embassy Kuwait also issued an Alert on January 3:

Heightened Tensions in the Region

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is aware of heightened security tensions in the region.  Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy is increasing its security posture. The Embassy will remain open during regular business hours for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance.

We are not aware of specific, credible threats against private U.S. citizens in Kuwait at this time.  Nonetheless, this situation serves as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance, and the Embassy advises U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times.

U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon also issued an Alert on January 3:

Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Lebanon to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

Actions to Take:

The State Department also tweeted a Security Alert for Morocco:

: Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we encourage US citizens in Morocco to maintain a high level of vigilance. We are not aware of specific threats against US citizens in Morocco. US citizens are urged to enroll in STEP to receive security alerts.

U.S. Mission Saudi Arabia has now issued its own Security Alert:

In light of events in the region, the Mission wishes to remind the American community to maintain heightened security awareness and follow sound security practices while in Saudi Arabia.  The Mission is not aware of any specific, credible threats to U.S. interests or American citizens in the Kingdom.  In the past, regional actors hostile to Saudi Arabia have conducted missile and drone attacks against both civilian and military targets inside the Kingdom.  U.S. citizens living and working near military bases and critical civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Eastern Province and areas near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk of missile and drone attack.

@StateDept Plans 28% Staff Reduction For US Mission Iraq By May 2020

 

Via CNN:

The State Department plans to dramatically downsize the number of American personnel in Iraq, according to a memo sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and obtained by CNN.

The document, dated December 6 and sent by Bureau of Legislative Affairs Assistant Secretary Mary Elizabeth Taylor to committee Chairman Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, outlines plans to reduce staffing levels at US Mission Iraq by 28% by the end of May 2020.

The reduction would mean 114 fewer people at the US Embassy in Baghdad, 15 fewer people at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center and eight fewer people at Consulate General Erbil. In addition to the reduction in State Department personnel, the cuts would include Defense Department and US Agency for International Development personnel.
[…]
A senior State Department official told CNN that the decision was driven by leadership at State collectively and added that they think people at US Mission Iraq could be targeted. The official said they are already more cautious about deploying US officials into the field. The official said the Trump administration is seeking to reduce potential security concerns and increase military force with the deployment of more troops to the region.
FP has the following:

The U.S. Mission in Iraq will reduce the number of staff at its embassy, diplomatic support center, and consulate in Erbil in Northern Iraq from 486 to 349, a 28 percent decrease, by the end of May 2020. The majority of the staff leave will come from the State Department, but other government agencies, including the Defense Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will also cut the size of their staff at the embassy, as the document shows.

Foreign Policy posted the Iraq drawdown document sent to SFRC Chair Jim Risch here. The number in the notification includes direct hire personnel, personal services contractors, and third country nationals. What it does not include is life support staff.
Back in 2010, we posted US Embassy Baghdad: The “civilianization” of the U.S. presence in Iraq and its peskiest details.  At that time, State/OIG notes:

The number of security and life support personnel required to maintain this limited substantive staff is huge: 82 management, 2,008 security, 157 aviation, and 1,085 life support personnel. In other words, depending on the definition of support staff, it takes a minimum of 15 and possibly up to 60 security and life support staff to support one substantive direct-hire position. To put this into perspective, a quick calculation of similar support ratios at three major embassies (Beijing, Cairo, and New Delhi) shows an average of four substantive officers to every three support staff (4:3) in contrast to 1:15 to 1:60 in Iraq.

So if the staff reduction is approximately 135, what does that mean in reduction of life support staffing level? CNN reports that the staff reductions was “driven by leadership at State collectively …. they think people at US Mission Iraq could be targeted”.  See OSAC – 2019 Crime and Safety Report – Iraq – Baghdad.pdf 
Related posts:

Pompeo Gets Ratioed For Tweet of Er …Diverse Group of White Men on His Foreign Affairs Policy Board

So, typically, the more negative replies a tweet gets over likes or retweets, the worse it is. There’s even a word for it: #ratioed. Luke O’Neil  of Esquire explained The Ratio in an article titled “How to Know if You’ve Sent a Horrible Tweet.”
On December 16, the 70th secretary of state tweeted a photo of his Foreign Affairs Policy Board members, a collection of foreign policy advisors, all white men in a variety of smiles, ties, hairstyles, but no, not a diverse group as described on state.gov. The FAPB charter was most recently renewed in July 2019 according to the Federal register:

“The Foreign Affairs Policy Board provides the Secretary of State with advice, real-time feedback, and perspectives from outside leaders and innovators, in support of the Department formulation and execution of policy. It taps external expertise to provide advice and recommendations regarding critical challenges in the dynamic and competitive global environment in order to enhance the power and influence of American diplomacy.”

GSA’s Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) database includes a report for 2019 Current Fiscal Year Report: Foreign Affairs Policy Board with staff and per diem payments of $29,668.00 in current fiscal year, and expected payments of $47,000.00 for next fiscal year. The notation in the FACA database says:

“No formal reports have been produced for public distribution. Meetings are closed to the public due to the sensitive nature of discussions. Members of the Board have submitted materials for senior State Department officials eyes-only. In 2018, no official meetings of the Board took place. In FY2019, two meetings took place.”

Some informative points in this report via GSA which does not appear to be available on state.gov:

20a. How does the Committee accomplish its purpose?

The committee gathers to discuss major international issues and foreign policy challenges that the Secretary has chosen, based on the his belief that a diverse array of experienced outside voices can usefully support him as he works to address those specific challenges. Each meeting includes discussion on one or more topics that the Secretary has chosen, interaction with other senior Department officials, and an opportunity for the Board to provide perspectives and views developed and discussed during the meeting to the Secretary.

20b. How does the Committee balance its membership?

The members are distinguished figures from a range of backgrounds, including academia, NGOs, think tanks, business, and government–all of whom bring a unique perspective based on that background and long experience dealing with international issues from a range of perspectives. The selection of membership was in coordination with the Board’s Membership Balance Plan.

20c. How frequent and relevant are the Committee Meetings?

It is anticipated that the board will meet an estimated four times per year occurring approximately every 3-4 months.

20d. Why can’t the advice or information this committee provides be obtained elsewhere?

The committee is necessary to supplement the advice and support the Secretary gets from the Department with a broad range of diverse outside perspectives on major international issues.

20e. Why is it necessary to close and/or partially closed committee meetings?

The meetings must be closed because of the sensitive nature of discussed topics and materials, which are often classified.

Under most significant program outcomes associated with this committee? “Major policy changes” and “Others” were checked.
Under what other actions has the agency taken as a result of the committee’s advice or recommendation? Two radio buttons were checked: “Reorganized Priorities” and “Reallocated resources”.
Right.
Note that previous FAPB members from 2009-2017 were identified with official State Department bios; there were 5 female members out of 23 members.
Pompeo’s current FAPB members do not appear to be identified on the State Department website.  Their bios are also not available on state.gov. Nine appointees to the Board were identified in the 2019 FACA database; one female member and eight male appointees (also see below). All are classified as “Special Government Employee (SGE) Member.”
FAPB charter says that the Board is “comprised of no more than twenty-five members who have distinguished backgrounds in U.S. diplomacy, development and national security affairs.”
Members are appointed for 2 years or less, and with “the exception of travel and per diem for official travel, all Board members serve without compensation.”

 

From GSA Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) Database: 2019 Current Fiscal Year Report: Foreign Affairs Policy Board                                   (click on image to see full document)

 

Later, Mr. Pompeo tweeted about convening the Board. No photo this time, and it’s not/not intended to clean up the previous tweet, silly!

But he’s yearning for Kansas, so his personal account tweeted another photo with a diversity of smiles. Enjoy!

#

 

#ArmenianGenocide: “The position of the Administration has not changed”

 

On December 12, the U.S. Senate also passed S.Res.150 “Expressing the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.” The Resolution was agreed to in Senate without amendment and passed by unanimous consent.
Previously, on October 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-11 agreeing to H.Res. 296 “Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide”. October 29 is also Turkey’s Republic Day, the 96th anniversary commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
On December 17, the State Department released the following press statement:
The position of the Administration has not changed.  Our views are reflected in the President’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.

Related posts: