@StateDept Orders Evacuation of Designated USG Employees From US Embassy Baghdad, USCG Erbil, and BDSC

 

On March 26, the State Department updated its Iraq Travel Advisory, a Level 4 Do Not Travel to Iraq “due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, the Global Health Advisory, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.”
The updated advisory announced the mandatory departure of designated U.S. government employees from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC), and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil on March 25 “due to security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Excerpt below:

U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.

On March 25, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of designated U.S. government employees from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic support Center, and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil due to security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 31, 2019, the Embassy suspended public consular services, until further notice, as a result of damage done by Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on the Embassy compound. U.S. Consulate General Erbil remains open and continues to provide consular services. On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. That institution has not reopened. Due to security concerns, U.S. Embassy personnel in Baghdad have been instructed not to use Baghdad International Airport.

U.S. citizens should not travel through Iraq to Syria to engage in armed conflict, where they would face extreme personal risks (kidnapping, injury, or death) and legal risks (arrest, fines, and expulsion). The Kurdistan Regional Government stated that it will impose prison sentences of up to ten years on individuals who illegally cross the border. Additionally, fighting on behalf of, or supporting designated terrorist organizations, is a crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines in the United States.

Read in full here.

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New Ambassador David Fischer Assumes Charge at U.S. Embassy Morocco

 

 

Via state.gov/hr

SUBJECT:            Ambassadorial Nomination:  Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST:                  Kingdom of Morocco

CANDIDATE:       David T. Fischer

David T. Fischer, a prominent businessman and community leader in Michigan, has been involved in his family automotive dealership group and related entities since 1967.  He became President and CEO in 1975, and principal owner in 1978.  In 2017, his title was changed to Chairman & CEO.  Known today as “The Suburban Collection,” Mr. Fischer’s organization has become one of the largest privately held automotive dealership groups in the United States.  It represents most automotive manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, including over 90 active, automotive related entities.  This organization also operates state-of-the-art collision centers, accessories distribution centers, fleet management and retrofitting services throughout the United States and Canada.  Recognized for his leadership, problem solving and fiscal management, Mr. Fischer has forged and managed a large organization of highly talented and loyal personnel, while dedicating time and resources to the welfare of his community, the arts and education through the support of 80 charities in the past 24 months alone.

In addition to leading The Suburban Collection, Mr. Fischer has been Chairman Emeritus, North American International Auto Show, Detroit (1990-Present), Co-Chairman, North American International Auto Show, Detroit, (1988-1989), Board of Directors, GMRC Holdings, Limited, Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados (2008-2013), Director, North Metro Board of Directors, Michigan National Bank, Troy, Michigan (Mid-to-late 1980s), Board of Trustees, Oakland University, including two terms as Vice-Chairman and one term as Chairman (1992-2008), and Director, Regional Board of Directors, Michigan National Bank, Troy, Michigan (Mid-to-late 1980s).  He has held ownership stakes in more than a dozen additional companies.  Serving local government, Mr. Fischer has been a Member of the Judicial Tenure Commission in Detroit (2012-2017).  Highlighting his community service, Mr. Fischer has joined the Boards of numerous academic, cultural and social welfare institutions and foundations.

Mr. Fischer earned a B.A. at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1967 and participated in the CEO President’s Seminar at Harvard College, 2015-2017.

Ex-@StateDept DAS and NSC’s Russia Expert Andrew Peek on Admin Leave Pending Investigation

 

Andrew Peek was part of the Trump Landing Team at the State Department in December 2016 (see Trump Transition: Additional Agency Landing Team Members For @StateDept).
On  December 8, 2017, Foreign Policy reported that Peek, a former U.S. military intelligence officer  and former captain in the U.S. Army Reserve was to become the deputy assistant secretary of state covering Iran and Iraq.
Peek officially became the NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq on December 11, 2017.  He replaced Chris Backemeyer who was deputy assistant secretary for Iran in 2017. Chris Backemeyer currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Assistance Coordination and Press and Public Diplomacy in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Peek also replaced Joseph Pennington, a career foreign service officer who was deputy assistant secretary for Iraq (2015-18). Joe Pennington is currently the Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
Click here for Peek’s official bio per state.gov.
On January 18, Axios and other media outlets report that Peek who had Fiona Hill and Tim Morrison’s job at the NSC since November 2019 has “been placed on administrative leave pending a security-related investigation.” Bloomberg reporter notes that “the top Russia expert on Trump’s National Security Council has left his post, escorted out of the White House on Friday.”

 

Senate Confirms David Schenker as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA)

 

On June 5, the U.S. Senate confirmed David Schenker, of New Jersey, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).  He was confirmed by Yea-Nay Vote. 83 – 11.

Photo by Washington Institute

Below via the Washington Institute:

David Schenker was the Aufzien fellow and director of the Beth and David Geduld Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute, a position he held until being confirmed as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in June 2019. Previously, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Levant country director, the Pentagon’s top policy aide on the Arab countries of the Levant. In that capacity, he was responsible for advising the secretary and other senior Pentagon leadership on the military and political affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. He was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2005.

Prior to joining the government, Mr. Schenker was a research fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Arab governance issues and a project coordinator a Bethesda-based contractor of large, centrally-funded USAID projects in Egypt and Jordan. In addition, he authored two Institute books: Dancing with Saddam: The Strategic Tango of Jordanian-Iraqi Relations (copublished with Lexington Books, 2003) and Palestinian Democracy and Governance: An Appraisal of the Legislative Council (2001). More recently, he published a chapter on U.S.-Lebanese relations in Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave, 2009), and Egypt’s Enduring Challenges (2011), a monograph focusing on post-Mubarak Egypt. His writings on Arab affairs have also appeared in a number of prominent scholarly journals and newspapers, including the Wall Street JournalLos Angeles Times, and Jerusalem Post.

M.A., University of Michigan; Certificate, Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA), American University in Cairo; B.A., University of Vermont. Fluent in Arabic.

Mr. Schenker succeeds Ambassador Anne Woods Patterson  who served as bureau chief from 2013–2017.  He takes over from Ambassador David Satterfield who has been Acting Assistant Secretary for NEA since September 2017.  Ambassador Satterfield was announced as the President’s pick to be Ambassador to Turkey in February 2019. His nomination was placed on the Senate Executive Calendar on May 2, 2019, and he is currently waiting for a full Senate vote.

Related items:

@StateDept’s Level 4 “Do Not Travel” Countries For 2019

The State Department’s Level 4 – Do Not Travel advisory category is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

As of January 4, 2019, there are eleven countries designated as Level 4 “do not travel” countries.

In Somalia, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens due to the lack of permanent consular presence in the country.

In North Korea, the State Department says that the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in North Korea as it does not have diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea. Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency services. However, the North Korean government routinely delays or denies Swedish officials access to detained U.S. citizens.

In South Sudan, U.S. government personnel are under a strict curfew. The advisory says personnel “must use armored vehicles for nearly all movements in the city, and official travel outside Juba is limited. Due to the critical crime threat in Juba, walking is also restricted; when allowed, it is limited to a small area in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy and must usually be conducted in groups of two or more during daylight hours. Family members cannot accompany U.S. government employees who work in South Sudan.”

In Iraq, the U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens is “extremely limited.”  On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the temporary suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.

Secretary Kerry's Helicopter Flies Over Baghdad En Route to Airport
Baghdad, Iraq | State Department Photo

In Iran, the U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations. “The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iran. Switzerland serves as the protecting power for U.S. citizens in Iran, providing limited emergency services.”

In CAR, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens as U.S. government employees must obtain special authorization to travel outside the Embassy compound.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus in Syria suspended its operations in February 2012. “The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with Syria. The Czech Republic serves as the protecting power for the United States in Syria. The range of consular services that the Czech Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Syria.”

In Mali, the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the northern and central regions of Mali as U.S. government employees travel to these regions is restricted due to security concerns. 

In Libya, the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency or routine assistance to U.S. citizens as the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli suspended its operations in July 2014.

In Afghanistan: The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited, particularly outside of Kabul. Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and the volatile security situation. Family members cannot accompany U.S. government employees who work in Afghanistan. Unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is restricted and requires prior approval from the Department of State. U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to all locations in Kabul except the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities unless there is a compelling U.S. government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk.  Additional security measures are needed for any U.S. government employee travel and movement through Afghanistan.

The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a suspended its operations in February 2015. The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Yemen.

Somalia Travel Advisory | AFLevel 4: Do
Not Travel
December
26, 2018
North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Travel Advisory | EAPLevel 4: Do
Not Travel
December
19, 2018
South Sudan Travel Advisory | AF

Level 4: Do
Not Travel
December
11, 2018
Iraq Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
October 18, 2018
Iran Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
October 10, 2018
Central African Republic Travel Advisory |
AF
Level 4: Do
Not Travel
October 3,
2018
Syria Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
September 10, 2018
Mali Travel Advisory | AFLevel 4: Do
Not Travel
August 13, 2018
Libya Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
August 8,
2018
Afghanistan Travel Advisory | SCALevel 4: Do
Not Travel
July 9, 2018
Yemen Travel Advisory | NEALevel 4: Do Not TravelJuly 5, 2018

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SFRC Clears @StateDept, @USAID Nominees; Two Senate Holds

USAID

Mr. John Barsaof Florida, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development 

Ms. Bonnie Glickof Maryland, to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development

AMBASSADORSHIPS

Mr. Christopher Paul Henzelof Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Yemen

Mr. Michael S. Klecheskiof New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mongolia

Ms. Sarah-Ann Lynch, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana

The Honorable Matthew John Matthewsof Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam

Ms. Lynne M. Tracyof Ohio, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Armenia

Mr. Earle D. Litzenbergerof California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenitpotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Azerbaijan

The Honorable Kyle McCarterof Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Republic of Kenya

Mr. Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr.of Tennessee, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of Australia

FSO LIST: 

Kelly E. Adams-Smith, et al., dated November 13, 2018 (PN 2622), as modified

STATE DEPARTMENT

The Honorable Carol Z. Perezof Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Director General of the Foreign Service

The following nominations were included in the SFRC’s Business Meeting of December 13 but did not make it out of Committee. News report says the following nominees are subject to two separate Senate hold.  

Mr. R. Clarke Cooper, of Florida, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs) – Senate hold by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass

Mr. David Schenker, of New Jersey, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs) – Senate hold by Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Foggy Bottom’s State of Affairs: No Active Service Diplomats as Lead in Geographic Bureaus

During Tillerson’s brief tenure at the State Department, there was quite a shock when a large number of offices at the top of the State Department were left empty. We’re not sure if that was intentional (so control remains with the Secretary’s inner circle absent  the presidential appointees), or if this was because Tillerson and the White House could not agree on the same nominees for these offices. In some cases there were career diplomats appointed in acting capacities, in others, there were only senior bureau officials.  We’re almost at the two year mark of this administration, and the State Department is already on its second secretary of state in a four year term, so we’ve decided to take a look at the geographic bureau appointments.  For non-State readers, note that embassies do not report directly to the secretary of state, just as ambassadors do not report directly to the White House; they report through the geographic bureaus. Of course, these days, the traditional reporting structure seems to be breaking apart (which invite chaos), but the staffing is worth taking a look nonetheless.

According to AFSA’s appointment tracker, out of 49 total appointments at the top ranks of the State Department right now, only five are career appointees. The five appointments include three active Foreign Service officers, U/S Political Affairs David Hale (confirmed), Carol Z. Perez as DGHR (nominated, pending confirmation) and USAID’s Michael T. Harvey as Assistant Administrator, Middle East (nominated, pending confirmation). The other two are recalled retired FSOs Tibor Nagy, Jr. for African Affairs (confirmed), and Ronald Mortensen for Population, Refugees and Migration (nominated, pending confirmation). There are also two previous members of the Foreign Service (Diplomatic Security’s Michael Evanoff and Consular Affairs’ Carl Risch) who were two of Trump’s earliest appointees but are considered political appointees.

Going back to 1960, the European and Eurasian Affairs (70.6%), Near Eastern Affairs (85.7%), and African Affairs (53.8%) have the highest numbers of career appointees at the assistant secretary level.  The largest number of noncareer appointees in the geographic bureaus  are in International Organizational Affairs (23.1%) followed by East Asian And Pacific Affairs (42.9%). South and Central Asian Affairs (50.0%) and Western Hemisphere  Affairs (50.0%) are split in the middle between career and noncareer appointees.

During Obama’s first term, the assistant secretary appointments at the regional bureaus was 57% noncareer and 42% career. On his second term, this flipped with career appointees leading four of the seven bureaus.

George W. Bush made a total of 19 appointments (career-8; noncareer-11) in the geographic bureaus during his two terms in office. This translates to 57.8% noncareer and 42.1% career appointments.

Right now, Trump’s overall State Department appointments are 89.8% noncareer and only 10.2% career appointees. His career appointments in the geographic bureaus is currently at 1 out of 7. We do need to point out that with the exception of African Affairs (AF) where the appointee is a recalled retired FSO, there are no active service diplomats tasked with leading a geographic bureau in Foggy Bottom.  It is possible that this Administration will bring in a career diplomat to head the South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) bureau, but then again, if they have not found one before now, who’s to say that they will ever find a career diplomat that they like enough to nominate in the next two years?

Of course, everything’s fine. It’s not like we have an ongoing war in Afghanistan, yeah?

Below is the staffing/vacancy status of assistant secretaries at the geographic bureaus as of this writing.

African Affairs (AF): The bureau covers these countries in sub-Saharan Africa but not those in North Africa.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary:  Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. (2018-
Retired FSO/Confirmed

 

East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP): Click here for the countries covered by the bureau. Department website notes that “The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, headed by Senior Bureau Official W. Patrick Murphy deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. relations with the countries in the Asia-Pacific region.”

CURRENT: No Acting Assistant Secretary

NOMINATED: David Stilwell (NonCareer/Pending at SFRC)

 

European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR): The Department of State established the position of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 1949. The name changed to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs on August 8, 2001. The bureau covers these countries.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary: A. Wess Mitchell (2017-)

NonCareer/Confirmed

 

Near Eastern Affairs (NEA): The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. diplomatic relations with AlgeriaBahrainEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanKuwaitLebanonLibyaMoroccoOmanPalestinian TerritoriesQatarSaudi ArabiaSyriaTunisiaUnited Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Regional policy issues that NEA handles include Iraq, Middle East peace, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and political and economic reform

CURRENT: Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
David M. Satterfield (Career FSO)

NOMINATED David Schenker
(NonCareer/Pending at SFRC since 4/2018)

 

South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA): The Bureau of South Asian Affairs was established Aug 24, 1992, and is responsible for relations with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and the Maldive Islands. It has since expanded to cover these countries.

CURRENT: No Acting Assistant Secretary

NO NOMINEE ANNOUNCED

 

Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA): On January 12, 1999, the Bureau assumed responsibility for Canada and was renamed the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The Department of State had first established a Division of Latin American Affairs in 1909. The bureau covers these countries.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary:  Kimberly Breier (2018-)
(NonCareer/Confirmed)

 

International Organization Affairs (IO): The Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs in February 1949, using one of the six Assistant secretary positions originally authorized by Congress in 1944 (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). On June 24, 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson established the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) as part of the U.S. effort to meet the needs of post-World War II diplomacy.  IO is the U.S. Government’s primary interlocutor with the United Nations and a host of international agencies and organizations.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary: Kevin Edward Moley (2018-)
NonCareer/Confirmed

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@StateDept’s Aviation Program Down to Just 206 Aircraft, Also Spends $72M on Unnecessary Services

Per 2 FAM 800: INL/A serves as the Departments aviation service provider (with the exception of aircraft charters managed by A/LM/OPS for logistics support of nonrecurring and unpredictable requirements like oddly-sized shipments, evacuations and other emergency assistance to Posts) and is coordinator of all aviation related to AGB [Aviation Governing Board] approved acquisitions.  INL/A is responsible for complying with the provisions of this chapter as well as OMB Circulars A-126, A-76, A-11, and A-94 and Federal Management Regulation 10233. Additionally, as part of the Departments Management Control Plan (see 2 FAM 020), INL/A must establish cost-effective management control systems to ensure that aviation programs are managed effectively, efficiently, economically, and with integrity.

Excerpt below via State/OIG:  Audit of the Department of State’s Administration of its Aviation Program (Sept 2018).

The Department is not consistently administering its aviation program in accordance with Federal requirements or Department guidelines. Specifically, OIG found instances in which significant aviation operations were undertaken without the knowledge or approval of the AGB, which is required by Department policy. In addition, the AGB is not fulfilling its responsibilities to evaluate the usage and cost effectiveness of aircraft services, as required by Office of Management and Budget Circulars and Department guidance. Furthermore, INL administer ed country-specific aviation programs differently depending on whether a post used the worldwide aviation support services contract. As a result of limited AGB oversight and the absence of evaluations to determine the appropriate usage and cost effectiveness of the Department’s aircraft operations worldwide, the Department is not optimally managing aviation resources and spent $72 million on unnecessary services from September 2013 to August 2017.

Snapshot: The Department’s aviation program was created in 1976 to support narcotics interdiction and drug crop eradication programs. The aviation program has since grown to a fleet of 206 aircraft and aviation operations that extend from South America to Asia and include transportation services for chief of mission personnel. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Department owned more aircraft than any other non-military agency and was one of three agencies with the most “non-operational” aircraft. At the time of GAO’s analysis, the Department had 248 aircraft; the Department has since decreased that number to 206. As shown in Figure 1, as of January 2018, the aircraft inventory included airplanes (fixed-wing), helicopters (rotary-wing), and unmanned aircraft.

As of January 2018, the Department had aviation operating bases overseas in five countries —Colombia, Peru, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq —and a support base at Patrick Air Force Base located in Melbourne, FL. The Department closed aviation programs in Cyprus and Pakistan during 2017. The Department plans to re-open an operating base in Guatemala. In addition, the Department has two dedicated chartered aircraft located in Cartersville,GA, and Nairobi, Kenya.

The Department’s Aviation Governing Board (AGB) is responsible for providing oversight of aviation activities, including approving policies, budgets, and strategic plans. The AGB was established in 2011. It is chaired by the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and has three other voting members—the Assistant Secretaries (or designees) from the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security, South and Central Asian Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs.

INL/A consists of approximately 60 Civil Service personnel and 13 personal services contractors. To carry out the Department’s aircraft operations, maintenance, and logistics for the country-specific aviation programs, INL/A administers and oversees a worldwide aviation support services contract that provides a contract workforce of more than 1,500 personnel. According to an INL/A official, starting November 1, 2017, DynCorp International began its fifth extension of a $4.9 billion worldwide aviation services contract.

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Mandatory Evacuation On For US Consulate General Basrah in Southern Iraq

In June last year, we blogged about the Tillerson State Department’s plan to close down the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah (see U.S. Consulate General #Basrah, Iraq: Six-Year Old Diplomatic Outpost Faces Closure).

On September 28, the State Department announced Secretary Pompeo’s determination to place the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah on “ordered departure” status. That means post is now under mandatory evacuation. Media reports elsewhere notes post’s “temporary” closure but we could not find a formal announcement for temporary closure, post closure, or suspension of operation.

Per 2 FAM 410, the final decision to open, close, or change the status of a diplomatic mission is made by the President.  The final decision to open, close, or change the status of a consular post, consular agency, branch, or special office is made by the Under Secretary for Management, a position that remains vacant.

A statement from Secretary Pompeo talks about the “temporary relocation of diplomatic personnel“, blames Iran, and cites “increasing and specific threats and incitements to attack our personnel and facilities in Iraq.”

Basrah is located in the southern-most province of Iraq, near the border with Kuwait and Iran and serves the four provinces of the region: Basrah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, and Maysan.  The U.S Consulate General is adjacent to the Basrah International Airport and the facility, an interim project cost at least $150 million (this includes security and facility upgrades).  Post did not provide visa services or non-emergency American citizen services, both of which are provided by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  Its consular services were limited to emergency American citizen issues.

CIA map

An updated Iraq Travel Advisory says:

The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited.  On September 28, 2018, the Department of State ordered the departure of U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.  The American Citizens Services (ACS) Section at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Basrah.

A 2013 State/OG report notes the following about Basrah:

The Government of Iraq would like to reclaim the 108-acre compound that houses the U.S. consulate general—a former British forward operating base 12 miles from Basrah on an Iraqi military compound adjacent to the international airport. The embassy is committed to maintain a presence in the south of Iraq, not least because it is the largest source of new oil to market in the world, and many U.S. companies are pursuing commercial opportunities there. The local government supports a U.S. presence, and the Government of Iraq committed in a 2004 bilateral agreement to provide a permanent site for consulate operations. To date, however, there has been no progress identifying a future site. The U.S. Government does not have a land use agreement for the current compound. The consulate general’s hold on the property remains tenuous.

At the time of the inspection, the Department was completing a $150 million interim construction project to provide basic security and infrastructure upgrades, but the facility and its isolated location are not suitable for a diplomatic mission on more than a temporary basis. Employees live in deteriorating containerized housing units; the compound has no central generator grid or access to city power; all supplies, including food, have to be trucked to the compound; and the security support needed to interact with contacts in Basrah City is costly. Operating costs to maintain the current, oversized facility and its hundreds of guards and life support staff are approximately $100 million per year. The Department has not given priority to or identified funding for a purpose-built facility.

Basrah’s ability to sustain operations is fragile under the best of circumstances because of its location at the end of a supply chain beset by shipping delays, security concerns, and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining U.S. direct-hire staff. As long as the consulate general occupies a sprawling compound that requires nearly 1,200 support staff, efforts to reduce costs and develop a long-term diplomatic presence commensurate with U.S. interests will remain on hold. If the Department cannot decide soon on Basrah’s future, it will at the very least have to fund interim upgrades to make facilities livable.

Related posts:

 

US Embassy Jerusalem Opens With Palestinian Deaths, Protests, and FAM Confusion

Posted: 12:19 PT

 

We’re days late on this but the United States opened the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. The event sparked protests at the Gaza border which resulted in the deaths of over 50 Palestinians and hundreds of wounded protesters.

With the Embassy officially moved to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has not been designated as a consulate general but as a “Branch Office”. The State Department did update its 2 FAM 440 on Changing Post Status on May 18, four days late and it does not enlightened us on what happens to the Tel Aviv post, the consular districts, the role of the chief of mission to USCG Jerusalem or for that matter, what happens to place of birth names on passports as 7 FAM 1300 Appendix D has not been updated.  Note that previous to this move, USCG Jerusalem’s consular districts include the West Bank, Gaza, and the municipality of Jerusalem while Embassy Tel Aviv’s consular district includes all other territory in Israel.

We understand that  the Consul General in Jerusalem will continue to live in the chief of mission residence (CMR) on the Agron Road consulate site. It is also our understanding that USCGJerusalem — a separate post with its own chief of mission that reports directly to the bureau and was never a constituent post of then Embassy Tel Aviv —  “will go on as usual” even after the ambassador and mission to the State of Israel move to Jerusalem. So the USG will have two posts in Jerusalem, each with a different mission? Are there going to be one or two separate consular sections? What’s bidding going to be like? We’re having a moment with FAM confusion, help would be appreciated from folks in the know.

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