On March 14, Secretary Pompeo announced the “temporary” departure of all remaining US Embassy Caracas diplomats from Venezuela. He also said that “We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins. ”
Two days ago, the State Department reissued its Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory after the March 11, 2019 announcement of temporary suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and withdrawal of diplomatic personnel in Venezuela. The advisory cautions American travelers to “not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention.”
Keep the local staffers in your thoughts, personnel withdrawal does not include the local employees. See CDA James Story video here with a message to the people of Venezuela.
New statement from Pompeo: "Today, all U.S. diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country…
We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins." pic.twitter.com/aCO3rE38rW
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) March 14, 2019
— CNW (@ConflictsW) March 14, 2019
.@AmbJohnBolton says @StateDept decided to withdraw all US personnel from Caracas, #Venezuela after Maduro “made a desperate plea to groups of armed gangs, known as ‘colectivos’, to unleash violence against innocent civilians.” (via @ZcohenCNN)
— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) March 12, 2019
The U.S. will withdraw all remaining personnel from @usembassyve this week. This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in #Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 12, 2019
Last night, Maduro made a desperate plea to groups of armed gangs, known as ‘colectivos’, to unleash violence against innocent civilians. The VZ military should uphold their obligation to protect the Constitution from Maduro’s usurpation and protect civilians from these thugs.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 12, 2019
"Le hago un llamado a los colectivos, llegó la hora de la resistencia activa", dice Maduro a sus grupos de paramilitares armados que han disparado contra civiles y voluntarios. #11Mar pic.twitter.com/kxR1jSuyAV
— Gabriel Bastidas (@Gbastidas) March 12, 2019
Thank you @USAIDMarkGreen for hosting me at @USAID today. It was great to speak with the USAID team. Your work is saving lives and building partnerships to create a world where foreign aid is no longer needed. #DevJourney #MeetWithMike pic.twitter.com/DdT472CGm4
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 28, 2018
This is terribly short-sighted by the Trump Admin. It will do little to pressure Palestinian leaders to come to talks, will harm ordinary Palestinians, &most of all, deprive the US of a key tool to promote stability that benefits Israelis and Palestinians. https://t.co/t3ETbiunMf
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) November 25, 2018
USAID said to plan firing over half its employees in West Bank and Gaza https://t.co/Em8qoepCYi
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) November 26, 2018
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) December 1, 2018
On Wednesday, senior @USAID official Jeanne Pryor toured an east Jerusalem hospital and visited a Palestinian child undergoing dialysis, @lutheranworld says. On Thursday, the US cut all aid to that hospital and others in east Jerusalem, @statedept says. https://t.co/mmzwpxXo62
— Daniel Estrin (@DanielEstrin) September 8, 2018
Six years ago today, protesters attacked the US Embassy Tunis compound in Tunisia and torched the vehicles in the diplomatic compound (see US Embassy Tunisia: Protesters breach and set compound on fire (video); Embassy now on Ordered Departure). Below is a TEDxFoggyBottom talk from June by a career diplomat who was there during that 2012 attack on Embassy Tunis.
This is something to watch, especially for folks who do not quite understand the Foreign Service, or appreciate how career FS people many, many times had to tell their loved ones goodbye, send them off to safety without knowing if they will see them again, while they stay to do the jobs they are tasked to do in foreign countries that are often hostile and dangerous.
Via YouTube/TEDx Talks
What does it take to survive a deadly attack on an embassy? For career Foreign Service Officer Lucia Piazza, strong leadership before a crisis is key to saving lives under pressure. Lucia Piazza is the Director of Crisis Management and Strategy in the Office of the Secretary of State. A career Foreign Service Officer, since joining the State Department in 2001 Lucia has represented the US government as a diplomat in countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. Lucia received a Master of Science degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College, National Defense University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire. She is the recipient of multiple awards including two Superior Honor Awards for her leadership during the 2012 attack on Embassy Tunis and a Superior Honor Award in 2017 for her leadership of the State Department’s response to Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria when she and her team oversaw the evacuation and repatriation of over 3000 U.S. citizens. Lucia speaks Arabic, French, Italian, and Spanish. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Posted: 1:22 am ET
The State Department suspended its embassy operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and American staff were relocated out of the country in February 2015. Embassy Sanaa had previously announced the suspension of all consular services until further notice on February 8, 2015.
A January 10 Travel Advisory is a Level 4 Do Not Travel citing terrorism, civil unrest, health, and armed conflict. “Terrorist groups continue to plot and conduct attacks in Yemen. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.” The Advisory notes that the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Yemen.
On February 11, Reuters reported that the U.S. Government has laid off 360 local staff in Yemen. Ambassador Matthew Tueller has reportedly written to to the LE staff saying that “new US State Department regulations about suspended embassies meant he could no longer keep them on.” A State Department official confirmed the lay-offs to Reuters, saying: “We are extremely grateful for the service of each and every one of these individuals and hope to work with them at some point in the future when we can safely resume operations in Yemen.”
— Ahram Online (@ahramonline) February 11, 2018
U.S. lays off local staff three years after closing Yemen embassy in Sanaa https://t.co/blCbq2jgRq
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) February 19, 2018
Posted: 2:01 am ET
Note: Click on lower right hand arrow on the Cloudup screen to maximize the reading area.
Posted: 1:39 am ET
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) November 6, 2017
Statement from the Embassy of Turkey in Washington, DC, November 6, 2017 pic.twitter.com/ATYOf1wW61
— TurkishEmbassyDC (@TurkishEmbassy) November 6, 2017
US statement on visa decision has been perceived as patronising, rude by Turkish social media. In return Turkey released a strong statement
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) November 6, 2017
Statement from the Embassy of Turkey in Washington, DC, November 6, 2017 pic.twitter.com/8alqNKHjAx
— TurkishEmbassyDC (@TurkishEmbassy) November 6, 2017
— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) November 6, 2017
— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) November 6, 2017
Posted: 2:01 am ET
On October 8, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the suspension of all temporary visa services for the embassy and consulates in Turkey. The statement says that “recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.” This development follows the arrest of U.S. Consulate General’s Metin Topuz, a locally hired employee in Istanbul this past week (see Turkey Arrests U.S.Consulate General Istanbul Local Employee Metin Topuz on “Terror Charges”). There was also the prior arrest of the U.S. Consulate Adana local employee Hamza Uluçay, arrested in March on charges of “being a member of a terror organization” and who remains in jail to this day.
Hamza Uluçay has worked for the U.S. Consulate in Adana for 36 years, and according to Hurriyet Daily News was arrested as he left the consulate building for “allegedly attempting to direct the public to provocative activities in the southeastern province of Mardin.” Back in March, Hamsa Bey was reportedly referred to a local court in Mardin’s Kızıltepe district but he was later released on probation. The prosecutor objected to the release and he was detained for the second time on charges of “being a member of a terror organization.” According to Hurriyet, the searches at Hamsa Bey’s residence includes seizure of $21 U.S. dollars with B, C, D, F, G, K and L series on them.
An AP report in April 2016 previously notes that Turkish authorities are citing U.S. banknotes, specifically $1 bills as evidence that people are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag reportedly told the A Haber television channel, “There is no doubt that this $1 bill has some important function within the Gulenist terror organization.” The AP report citing the Aksam daily, says that one theory is that F designates a high-ranking soldier or police chief; J and C represent low-ranking soldiers; E and S are for instructors and academics in Gulenist schools and B is for students.
In July, Henri J. Barket wrote about Hamsa Bey in The Atlantic’s Erdogan’s Anti-Westernism Picks Up Speed:
One particularly absurd case is that of Hamza Uluçay, a 37-year employee of the U.S. consulate in Adana, who was picked up on “terrorism” charges. He is a foreign service national, a local hire who helps U.S. diplomats arrange meetings and navigate the local political and social scene. I have known Hamza for 25 years—I first met him in the 1990s in Adana during a research trip. When I saw him last in March 2016, I joked with him that he ought to never retire because Consulate Adana, notwithstanding his American colleagues, could not function without him. These audacious charges amount to nothing less than sticking a thumb in America’s eye.
Local employees including those in small posts like Adana provide not only bridges with local host country nationals and officials, they also provide continuity for posts so our diplomats are able to do their jobs. The U.S. Consulate in Adana covers a consular district that encompasses 22 provinces, including Turkey’s borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. Its district includes the major cities of Mersin, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, and Van that have large Kurdish population. One diplomat told us that “Hamza Bey in Adana is one of our finest.” Local employees do not freelance, or go rogue; the calls and contacts they make in their own countries are connected to their jobs, and are done on behalf of their American supervisors, and consequently, on behalf of the United States. Unlike American diplomats who have diplomatic and consular immunity (PDF), local employees do not have such privileges and immunities.
The second, and latest local employee arrested by Turkish authorities is Metin Topuz “on charges of espionage and links to FETÖ, the group blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people in Turkey.” According to the Daily Sabah, a Turkish pro-government daily, the indictment for Metin Bey includes “contact with a number of police chiefs in Istanbul where he worked” and “all those police chiefs involved in the 2013 coup attempts were FETÖ members in the judiciary and law enforcement.” The indictment reportedly also charged that he is “a liaison between members of FETÖ and its leader, Fetullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania.”
The Daily Sabah previously reported this arrest as “US consulate linked to another alleged FETÖ conspiracy.” The newspaper citing a report by the Akşam newspaper says that “M.T. assisted FETÖ-linked police chiefs in handing over documents regarding the 2013 police operations to Preet Bharara, a former New York attorney who conducted an investigation into Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish national who is being held in the U.S. three years after being included in a 2013 probe involving people close to the government in Turkey.”
We understand that Metin Bey works for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Istanbul. Contacts with members of the local judiciary or law enforcement would certainly be part of his job, a fact lost on the Government of Turkey. Turkey watchers notice that government-affiliated press is ramping things up. U.S. Mission Turkey’s October 5 made reference to leaks, and an attempt to try Metin Bey in the media rather than in the court of law.
It is probably not an accident that the local employees arrested are long-term employees of the U.S. Mission in Turkey. The question is if this is now open season for all Turkish nationals working for the United States in Turkey. If the Turkish Government can go after employees at the U.S. consulates, how long before they’re going to go after the Turkish nationals working for the U.S. Military in Turkey?
According to turkeypurge.com which monitors President Erdogan’s purges since July 15, 2016, our NATO-ally Turkey has now arrested over 60,000 individuals, detained over 127,000 people, arrested over 300 journalists, shut down 187 media outlets, and sacked over 146,000 state officials, teachers, bureaucrats, and academics who were dismissed by government decrees.
And now this — Turkey’s MFA copy/pasted the official USG statement, and has now issued a reciprocal suspension of visa services at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the United States. It addition to its embassy, Turkey has seven consulates in the U.S.: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.
Turkey literally copy pasted the US statement 😂 pic.twitter.com/8ZUbo7V8Nb
— Gissur Simonarson (@GissiSim) October 8, 2017
Statement from the U.S. Mission to Turkey (Re-posting with corrected date) pic.twitter.com/eL5X9P3a4S
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) October 5, 2017
— Hürriyet Daily News (@HDNER) March 7, 2017
— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) October 8, 2017
Angry At Trump, Erdogan Starts Rounding Up Americans In Turkey As Hostages https://t.co/DSt4MQk9ht
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) October 8, 2017
Posted: 5:10 am ET
#BREAKING Turkish court arrests US Istanbul Consulate’s Turkish employee Metin Topuz, for frequently contacting Gulenist prosecutors, police
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 4, 2017
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) October 4, 2017
Statement from the U.S. Mission to Turkey pic.twitter.com/IgaQ9SBqme
— US Embassy Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) October 5, 2017