Cartoonists Sketch a World on the Brink #minatory2020

 

 

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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:

Sergey Lavrov Comes to Town For the Merriest Christmas

He got to see the President of the United States who was grinning ear to ear in the best photo ever.
With the whole world watching, he got to say “We have highlighted once again that all speculations about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the United States are baseless.”
In after-meeting reports, he got people to question the veracity not just of what he said/was discussed but what the White House/POTUS said/was discussed during the meeting.
Not bad for a day’s work.

Pompeo’s Mea Culpa or Nah?

 

 

Michael R. Pompeo With the Student Newspaper The Sunflower | October 25, 2019

QUESTION: Thank you. Bill Taylor, a fellow West Point grad who’s served in every administration since 1985 – both parties – testified before the House. The White House line characterized it – he and others as “radical unelected bureaucrats.” I think you responded briefly to that yesterday, but I’m curious: Do you still have confidence in your top Ukrainian diplomat?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t talk about personnel stuff. It just – it’s not fair to any of the team. But I’ll say this: I have a responsibility leading this big organization. I’ve watched Bill. He and I have talked about Ukrainian policy at some length: how do you take down corruption; how do you now help the new leader there, President Zelensky; how do we deliver on America’s national security interests. And he and I were in full accord on that. We – he and I both share in this vision for how American interests in Ukraine can properly be represented, and I have every reason to think that he’s still out there banging away at that problem set.

But I will say this: We all, as human beings, can get it wrong, too. We see things through a certain prism; we address things in a certain way. We all have a responsibility to make sure we’re getting it as right as we can each and every day. And so I don’t think by nature of the fact that I work at the State Department means I get everything right every day. I think that’s true for all the people who work at the United States Department of State. Indeed, I have seen State Department officials engage in behavior that was not appropriate, that wasn’t right, that didn’t reflect the highest values of the Foreign Service and American diplomacy around the world. And so my obligation as the organization’s leader is to sort through that, to parse through it, to make sure that we collectively are delivering on behalf of the American people each and every day.

We know that human beings can get it wrong, of course. “And so I don’t think by nature of the fact that I work at the State Department means I get everything right every day.”
Jeez, no one is accusing him of getting “everything right everyday.”
Indeed, I have seen State Department officials engage in behavior that was not appropriate, that wasn’t right, that didn’t reflect the highest values of the Foreign Service and American diplomacy around the world.”
Now, what is Pompeo talking about here?
This happened on the same day when his boss said that “everyone makes mistakes”, hey even Mike Pompeo. Apparently, that mistake was Pompeo hired an honorable man, Ambassador Bill Taylor as the United States man in Ukraine, who did his duty and told what he knew when called upon by the Congress in the impeachment inquiry.

 

@StateDept Issues Travel Advisory Following Massive #LebanonProtests

 

 

On October 21, the State Department issued a  Travel Advisory for Lebanon. The advisory is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel due to to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest. Excerpt:

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the U.S. Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them. The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.
[…]
The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence. Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning. Armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders, in Beirut, and in refugee settlements. The Lebanese Armed Forces have been brought in to quell the violence in these situations.

 

Pence Announces Ceasefire, Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu: We got what we wanted, also this is not a ceasefire

 

 

Pence to Lead Ceasefire Delegation to Turkey, Erdogan on Ceasefire — Nah, But Come Visit!

 

Read: Kurt Volker’s Prepared Testimony in Ukraine Investigation

 

Read: Text Msgs From Ambassadors Volker, Sondland, Taylor, and Others on #UkraineNightmare