Pompeo’s Photo-Op in Riyadh: Smile. Say. Bone. Saw. #MilesWithMike

 

AND NOW THIS – THE 70th SECRETARY OF STATE GETS THE ONION TREATMENT – THE GORY VERSION.

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Present at the Creation Also (Our Years of Wrecking Ball Diplomacy and Swagger) #grabthisbooktitlenow

 

On October 3, the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations issued a ruling on the Alleged Violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America).  Excerpt via:

(1) unanimously, that the United States of America, in accordance with its obligations under the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights, must remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from the measures announced on 8 May 2018 to the free exportation to the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran of (i) medicines and medical devices; (ii) foodstuffs and agricultural commodities; and (iii) spare parts, equipment and associated services (including warranty, maintenance, repair services and inspections) necessary for the safety of civil aviation;

(2) unanimously, that the United States of America must ensure that licences and necessary authorizations are granted and that payments and other transfers of funds are not subject to any restriction in so far as they relate to the goods and services referred to in point (1);

(3) unanimously, that both Parties must refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.

The Trump Administration responded by pulling out the United States from the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran  (PDF) and from the 1961 Optional Protocol on Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (PDF). The latter in connection with a case that challenges the USG’s move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to NSA John Bolton. Per transcript of the WH Briefing, Mr. Bolton said that “The United States remains a party to the underlying Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and we expect all other parties to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.”

ICYMI, read the following from Chimène Keitner who previously served as Counselor on International Law in the State Department:

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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:

 

Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy

 

AND NOW THIS, the English version though the original one requires no translation:

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FSJ: MED’s Focus on Clearances and Restricting Access to SNEA #NotSupportForFamilies

We’ve blogged previously about the problems encountered by Foreign Service families with the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services (see StateDept’s MED Services Drive Employees with Special Needs #FSKids Nuts; Also @StateDept’s Blackhole of Pain Inside the Bureau of Medical Services (MED). The latest issue of the Foreign Service Journal features a piece by James Brush who previously worked as a child psychologist at the State Department.

Via FSJ: James Brush, Ph.D., is a child and adolescent psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C. He worked at the State Department as a child psychologist with the Child and Family Program division of MED Mental Health from January 2013 through March 2016. Prior to his work at State, he had a private practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, for 26 years. A past president of the Ohio Psychological Association, he continues to be involved as a committee chair. 

Below is an excerpt from The Demise of MED’s Child and Family Program (FSJ)

The Child and Family Program within the Bureau of Medical Services’ Mental Health program was constituted in 2013, when the full team was finally in place after years of planning. I was brought onto the team as one of two child psychologists. By March, we had on board a child psychiatrist director, two child psychologists and three clinical social workers who had experience in treating and managing the needs of children and adolescents.

I was on the ground floor of this program, and our mission was both exciting and challenging. This was the first extensive effort within the State Department to support the specific mental health and developmental needs of children, adolescents and their families living abroad.
[…]
By 2015, three of the psychiatrists who were opposed to the CFP functioning as a comprehensive support program ended up having leadership roles in MED. Dr. Stephen Young took over as the director of mental health. Dr. Kathy Gallardo took over as deputy director of mental health, and Dr. Aleen Grabow was brought in as a child psychiatric consultant. Together, they worked toward limiting the scope of the CFP, limiting the SNEA program and reducing the opportunities for families with disabled children through more restrictive use of child mental health clearances.

Within a year of their tenure in leadership, we lost our child psychiatrist director, the two child psychologists and one clinical social worker. I and the other providers left because Drs. Young and Gallardo changed the mission and scope of the CFP. It became an unpleasant place in which to work, with the emphasis being on clearances and restricting access to SNEA. Support for families was no longer the focus. Rather, support services were being cut and the clearance process was being used to restrict the opportunities of those with disabled children.

The program is now a skeleton of what it was previously, with only one social worker, one child psychologist and one retired Foreign Service psychiatrist. Telemedicine is forbidden. The program now basically performs an administrative function, processing clearances and SNEA requests.

Read the entire piece here.

We understand that State/OIG is aware of some allegations related to the special needs education allowance (SNEA) and is doing “exploratory work”. Well, Dr. Brush’s account should be instructive.  This is not one of the employees battling the bureaucracy on behalf of their children, this is one of the people who used to work at MED.

While we might be tempted to think that the troubling response could be some form of retaliation for blowing this issue up in the media, it is hard to imagine that MED’s policy and focus on restricting access to SNEA and the medical clearance do not have the full blessings of the State Department leadership all the way to the 7th Floor. After all, if State really wanted to resolve these cases, it would have worked with these FS families to accommodate their needs, avoid forcing people into taking loans to pay/repay for special ed needs expenses, and it would have afforded families an appeals process (IT. DOESN’T).

And they certainly would not/not have threatened people who pursue this issue, right? RIGHT?

Perhaps, this is what they mean when they talk about the new Department of Swagger? Take it or leave?

(Thought bubble: How long before the proponents of this policy get promotions, Superior Honor Awards or Presidential Rank Awards?)

While the State Department has lifted the hiring freeze, and the A-100 classes are no longer on a hit and miss schedule, it is not clear to us what the new secretary of state’s position on the previously planned 8% shrinkage of the agency workforce. If that was a WH imperative as opposed to Tillerson’s, it would be hard to imagine Secretary Pompeo going against it.

The CRS report on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2019 Budget and Appropriations dated April 18, 2018 and updated on August 9, 2018 notes the following:

The Department of State released guidance in May 2018 lifting the hiring freeze and allowing the department to increase staffing to December 31, 2017, levels. Subsequent press reports indicate that the department intends to hire 454 new employees beyond end of year 2017 levels but also suggest that hiring must be circumscribed by previous commitments former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made to reduce its workforce by 8%.

So this brings us to the “take it or leave” scenario for FS employees with special needs children. Since these kids are given limited medical clearances with no appeals (which precludes most if not all overseas assignments), Foreign Service families will be forced to serve either in domestic assignments in order to stay together; serve separately with employees going overseas, while their families stay in the United States, or employees may opt to pay everything out of pocket and not ask for SNEA to avoid getting snared in MED’s clutches.

Begs the questions: 1) How many career employees would stay on when their employer talk the talk about supporting FS families but know it’s just a gum chewing exercise? And 2)  Is this what a slow walk to 8% looks like??

By the way, if there’s an alternate reasonable explanation for all this that does not require our relocation to the parallel universe, Earth, Too, send us an email, we’d love a good chat.

 

Related items:

 

 

Swagger talk about POTUS (in a parallel universe) makes regular folks react with feelings

 

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Pompeo Swears In Retired SFSO Tibor Nagy as Asst Secretary For African Affairs

 

Via state.gov:

Ambassador Nagy, a retired career Foreign Service Officer, spent 32 years in government service, including over 20 years in assignments across Africa. He served as the United States Ambassador to Ethiopia (1999-2002), United States Ambassador to Guinea (1996-1999) as well as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Nigeria (1993-1995), Cameroon (1990-1993), and Togo (1987-1990). Previous assignments include Zambia, the Seychelles, Ethiopia, and Washington, DC.

Ambassador Nagy has received numerous awards from the U.S. Department of State in recognition of his service, including commendations for helping prevent famine in Ethiopia; supporting the evacuation of Americans from Sierra Leone during a violent insurrection; supporting efforts to end the Ethiopian-Eritrean War; and managing the United States Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria during political and economic crises.

Following his retirement from the Foreign Service, Ambassador Nagy served as Vice Provost for International Affairs at Texas Tech University from 2003 – 2018. During that time he lectured nationally on Africa, foreign policy, international development, and U.S. diplomacy, in addition to serving as a regular op-ed contributor to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper on global events. He co-authored “Kiss Your Latte Goodbye: Managing Overseas Operations,” nonfiction winner of the 2014 Paris Book Festival.

Ambassador Nagy arrived in the United States in 1957 as a political refugee from Hungary; he received his B.A. from Texas Tech University and M.S.A. from George Washington University.

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@AtomicBell to @SecPompeo on Swagger Nonsense: Stop Trying to Make #Swagger Happen

Via Inkstick:

Few things in the world are certain, but make no mistake, Secretary Mike Pompeo does not have swagger. Neither does the State Department.

In simple, definitional terms, “swagger” is described as confidence bordering on arrogance and self-importance. While confidence is a key to diplomatic work, the latter two qualities are anathema to it. Despite the poor associations, Secretary Pompeo is desperately trying to make #swagger happen.

Hey, here’s some swagger from 90s WWE. You’re welcome!

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Department of Swagger? Where All Things Are Happening, My Sweetness!

Excuse me, is this the same department responsible for an updated September 7 guidance regarding the correct use of commas in paper for the Secretary and other agency principals? An update to guidance on the same topic (comma inclusion and omission) issued in June? Who knows? The folks who did the comma guidance … are they the same ones who did the updated department seal? Are there plans for updating all embassy and consulate seals with Embassy of Swagger? How about business cards? Should we roll out new t-shirts and uh, swags?

We really do think they should tone down on that swaggering bit but um … not a trick question, the swagger guy vs. the cold guy?

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Senate Confirms Goldberg, Hale, Sison, Smith For Personal Rank of Career Ambassador

On July 18, President Trump sent the nomination of four career diplomats for the personal rank of Career Ambassador to the U.S. Senate. The nominations have been placed on the Senate Executive Calendar on July 26.

The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for the personal rank of Career Ambassador in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period:

  • Philip S. Goldberg, of DC
  • David M. Hale, of NJ
  • Michele Jeanne Sison, of MD
  • Daniel Bennett Smith, of VA

See: Trump Nominates Goldberg, Hale, Sison, and Smith For Personal Rank of Career Ambassador

On September 6, the U.S. Senate confirmed the four nominations and the State Department has its first Career Ambassadors under this administration.

2018-09-06 PN2319 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Philip S. Goldberg, and ending Daniel Bennett Smith, which 4 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 18, 2018.

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