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#TrumpBudget Proposal FY2018: Most Volatile Geographic Bureaus Get the Deepest Cuts

Posted: 3:03 am ET

 

Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Political Violence Against Americans publication notes that attacks involving U.S. citizens or interests occurred predominantly in the Near East (NEA), South Central Asia (SCA), and Africa (AF).

Some of the significant attacks against U.S.diplomatic facilities and personnel in 2015 occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh (protesters threw flammable liquid at a U.S. Embassy vehicle); Dili, Timor-Leste (a hand grenade was thrown over the wall of a U.S. Embassy residential property); Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (a U.S. Embassy vehicle transporting two U.S. congressional staffers to their hotel was hit by pedestrians throwing rocks); Sana’a, Yemen (a mortar or rocket round exploded on the road in front of the U.S. Embassy and Houthi rebels opened fire on two U.S. Embassy Quick Reaction Force (QRF) vehicles dispatched to assist locally employed embassy staffers detained at a rebel checkpoint); Erbil, Iraq (a vehicle laden with explosives detonated outside the U.S. Consulate General, killing two Turkish nationals and injuring 11 others, including a U.S. citizen); and Bangui, Central African Republic (an individual opened fire on a U.S. Embassy two-vehicle motorcade transporting eight passengers to the airport).

The FY2018 budget request proposed to cut funding deepest in the geographic areas that are most volatile and dangerous:  NEA -$45.1M;  SCA -$43.7M; AF – $32.7M; EUR -$24.3M; EAP -$12.6M; WHA -$12.6M.

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The Bureau of African Affairs (AF) promotes the Administration’s foreign policy priorities in 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through 44 U.S. embassies, four constituent posts, and the U.S. Mission to the African Union. AF addresses key foreign policy initiatives and development challenges across Africa by focusing on five overarching policy priorities to: 1) advance peace and security; 2) strengthen democratic institutions and protect human rights; 3) spur economic growth through two-way trade and investment; 4) promote development including better health; and 5) advance diplomatic effectiveness through appropriate staffing and facilities.

In support of U.S. national security interests, AF has provided significant assistance to ensure that the African Union could play a major role in mitigating continental peace and security challenges. AF also supports the African Union’s ability to act as a standard bearer for democracy and human rights, the rule of law, and economic prosperity. AF also strongly supports African efforts to counter terrorism in the Sahel and West/Central Africa, Somalia and wider East Africa, and the Lake Chad Basin region. Finally, the Bureau and other State Department entities are working with counterparts throughout sub-Saharan Africa to provide humanitarian assistance to drought-stricken populations in the Horn of Africa; aid refugee populations; curtail trafficking of people, drugs, and arms; and facilitate the path towards an AIDS-free generation.

The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) advances vital U.S. national interests in the Asia Pacific region. Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the emerging engagement occurring between the United States and nations in the Asia Pacific region reaffirms that America’s future security and prosperity will be shaped by developments in the region. EAP is comprised of 43 embassies, consulates, and American Presence Posts located in 24 countries from Mongolia to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. EAP has 861 foreign and civil service positions in overseas posts and domestic offices. The Bureau also provides support to the American Institute in Taiwan, a non-governmental organization that represents U.S. interests in Taiwan.

EAP leadership and diplomats reinforce rules-based order in the region by building an international commitment to defeat ISIS. EAP works to promote cooperation on transnational threats such as cyberspace and health pandemics, as well as threats from state actors, such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and defending freedom of navigation in the region’s maritime spaces, including in the South China Sea.

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To support American prosperity and security, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ (EUR) strategic objective over multiple administrations has been to support a Europe “whole, free, and at peace.” The bureau’s range of tools includes the 50 EUR missions and important multilateral platforms including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). European nations are the United States’ most capable and globally engaged partners and can be force multipliers. Maintaining these alliances and partnerships is vital to U.S. defense and to our ability to enhance international stability, counter Russian aggression and subversion, and confront complex global challenges, such as proliferation, terrorist threats, and combatting organized crime and violent ideologies.

The total FY 2018 EUR Enduring Request is $470.6 million, a -$24.3 million decrease to the FY 2017 estimate, including $1.1 million in OCO. With these resources, and in conjunction with foreign assistance resources allocated to the region, EUR will continue to work to achieve the full range of State Department priorities, and seek to generate greater operating efficiencies and cost containment initiatives.

Through 25 embassies and consulates, stretching from Morocco to Iran, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) promotes U.S. interests by combating terrorism and violent extremism, and leading the Global Coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); promoting the free flow of commerce; and preserving Israel’s security, working toward a comprehensive and lasting Middle East Peace between Israel and its neighbors. The region’s primary causes for volatility include: terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qa’eda, who have found safe havens that threaten U.S. interests and allies; Iran’s malign regional influence impends U.S. partners’ strategic security; and the ongoing Syrian civil war that exports instability and undermines the stability of its neighbors with humanitarian crises.

In order to defeat ISIS and stabilize liberated areas, Mission Iraq will vigorously engage with the Government of Iraq, international organizations, regional neighbors, economic partners, and the Iraqi people to support improvements in governance, economic development, Iraq’s regional relations, and to maintain a strong enduring partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement. Mission Iraq’s 5,500 personnel working at Embassy Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC), Consulate General Basrah, and Consulate General Erbil are essential to pursuing the above-stated goals.

The FY 2018 Request is $413.3 million ($175 million Enduring and $238.3 million OCO), a -$45.1 million decrease below the FY 2017 estimate. The request strives to gain efficiencies via a more stringent management of travel, contract, and International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) operations throughout the region. Additional efficiencies are being pursued through the review of programs/operations such as aviation assets and support, consulate operations, and financial support provided to outside entities by way of agreements.

The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) is responsible for promoting U.S. interests in one of the most populous and dynamic regions of the world. With a combined population of more than 1.5 billion people, the 13 countries that make up SCA are home to almost a quarter of the world’s population, including one-third of the world’s Muslims and 850 million persons under age 30, making continued engagement in South and Central Asia vital to U.S. national security and regional stability.

Department operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across South and Central Asia remain critical to ensuring the security and prosperity of the United States. On the security front, the efforts of the U.S. and bilateral and regional partners have combated multiple terrorist threats. Continued programs to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and deter nuclear proliferation in the region will continue to improve security for the homeland and U.S. global partners.

SCA’s request will also support two major regional initiatives: the New Silk Road (NSR) focused on Afghanistan and its neighbors, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia.

The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) is comprised of 52 Embassies and Consulates encompassing Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. WHA’s primary goals include helping to shut down illicit pathways to the United States to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism. The bureau will continue to work with partner governments and civil society in support of democratic values and human rights. WHA will support bilateral trade agreements that respect U.S. national sovereignty and promote U.S. investment and jobs. WHA will use all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open markets to U.S. exports of goods and services, to provide adequate and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Department seeks to expand security, prosperity, and democracy in the Hemisphere through partnerships that benefit the United States and its strategic national security partners.

The WHA FY 2018 Request is $256.2 million, a -$12.6 million reduction to the FY 2017 Estimate. WHA will implement contractual services reductions in order to absorb the reduction.

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The Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) and its seven diplomatic missions play a central role in U.S. efforts to advance national security through the multilateral system, including the United Nations (UN). IO works through organizations that offer opportunities to achieve multi-national solutions to complex global issues.

U.S. multilateral engagement is an important component of a robust U.S. foreign policy, and particularly in promoting U.S. priorities through transnational action. International organizations comprise a global architecture that can extend U.S. influence at a reduced cost to the American taxpayer over bilateral or unilateral actions.

The UN system, in particular, has principal convening power for multilateral action within its main bodies, funds and programs, and specialized agencies. Through the UN system, the United States can take internationally-recognized action on issues affecting U.S. citizens that may not be resolved elsewhere, including aviation safety and security, public health, internet governance, and global postal services. IO’s multilateral engagement extends beyond the UN system to buttress multi-national resolutions outside the UN’s walls.

 

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Recipe For Disaster Transition @StateDept: Situation AltNormal, All Fucked Up

Posted: 12:12 pm PT
Updated: 1:15 pm PT

 

We just posted about the reported mass resignations of senior management officials at the State Department (see Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior Management).

The State Department spox released the following statement:

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation. The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service. No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time. These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service.”

The senior management officials reported to be stepping down today are not exactly quitting because U/S Kennedy resigned.  Our understanding is that they are leaving because they, too, got letters telling them to go.

What we know right now is that a good number of senior career official received letters yesterday morning essentially saying, “Thank you for your service.  You’re done as of Friday.”  The letters went to U/S Pat Kennedy, A/S Michelle Bond (CA), Joyce Barr (A), and Gentry Smith (DS M/OFM).  We noted previously that there are 13 offices under the “M” group which includes among other things, housing, medical, logistics, personnel, training, security.  We understand that the only person left in the “M” family in a Senate-confirmed position is DGHR Arnold Chacon.

We can confirm that one career under secretary serving in an acting capacity did not receive a letter or notification to leave.  But letters reportedly also went to others, including an assistant secretary in a geographic  bureau overseeing a most challenging region saying “you’re done, once we nominate your successor.”

Here’s the problem, with the exception of the announced nominations for ambassadors to China and Israel, there are no announced nominees for the State Department in the under secretary or assistant secretary level.  How soon will the replacements come onboard? As soon as the nominees are announced, vetted, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Just to be clear, this is not the case of career employees refusing to continue working with a new administration or quitting public service, or quitting in protest — they were told to leave.

People who got these letters are “resigning.”  A good number of them are also retiring as of the 31st because they can no longer be in the Foreign Service due to mandatory retirement (they’re over 65) or they are subject to time-in-class/time-in-service restrictions.  For those who are not retirement-eligible or subject to TIC/TIS, they’re still in the Senior Foreign Service and could theoretically move into different jobs.

With the exception of the DGHR position, we understand that all Senate-confirmed positions in the “M” family are “unemcumbered” or will soon go vacant. The Trump Transition may not know this, but these positions are the most critical to keeping the Department going.  We understand that these firings cause all sorts of problems because “there are certain authorities that can only be vested in someone who is in a confirmable position.”  For example, whenever “M” is on travel, the role of “Acting M” always defaulted to the Senate confirmed senior official at Diplomatic Security, Administration, or Consular Affairs.

For real life consequences, “M” approves authorized and ordered evacuation requests and authorizes the use of K funds. So better not have an evacuation or embassy shutdown right now because without an “M” successor, even one in an acting capacity, no one has any frakking idea who is responsible.  We are presuming that the Legal Affairs bureau is trying to figure this out right now. That is, if the Legal Advisor is still in place and had not been asked to leave, too.

This need not have to happen this way. The Landing Team get to an agency, and it goes about the job of filling in positions with their selected appointees in an orderly manner. This is not the first transition that the agency has gone through.  We understand from the AP’s Matt Lee that there was only one under secretary position left at State during the Clinton to Bush transition.  But giving career employees, some with 30-40 years of dedicated service to our country a two-day notice to pack-up is not just disgraceful, it is also a recipe for disaster.

Unless somebody with authority steps in now, by Monday, the only person possibly left standing in the 7ht Floor is Ambassador Tom Shannon who is the Acting Secretary of State pending Rex Tillerson’s confirmation.  And when Rex Tillerson, who has never worked for the federal government shows up for his first day at work next week, with very few exception, he may be surrounded with people, who like him will be lost in Foggy Bottom.

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Political Violence Against Americans in 2015: Highest in Near East Asia, Lowest in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: 1:55 am ET

 

The Political Violence Against Americans publication is produced annually by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) to provide a comprehensive picture of the spectrum of politically motivated threats and violence that American citizens and interests encounter worldwide. This report includes incidents of violence involving U.S. citizens and facilities with the exception of incidents against American military personnel serving in combat positions.

Of the 61 incidents that involved U.S. citizens and interests, 19 are believed to have resulted from intentionally targeting Americans while 42 are incidents where Americans or American interests were not targeted due to nationality.

The highest targets occurred in Near East Asia (NEA), followed by Africa (AF), and South Central Asia (SCA). In NEA, the most number of attacks were directed at private U.S. entities; in AF, the most number of attacks were directed at U.S. Government (USG) entities while in SCA, they were directed at the U.S. military.  The top three most common types of attack are 1) “armed attacks” followed by 2) “stray round,” and 3) “bomb” tied with “attack with vehicle.”

The region with the lowest number of attacks is the Western Hemisphere (WHA) with one incident of vandalism directed at the USG. The second region with the lowest number of attacks is East Asia Pacific (EAP) with three incidents (attempted murder, bomb, violent demonstration) all directed at the USG.

Via state.gov/ds

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Trump Chats With Taiwan’s President, a First? Since Diplomatic Relations Cut in 1979. Uh-oh! #OneChina

Posted: 4:21  pm PT

 

Via history.state.gov:

During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the most dramatic moment in Sino-American relations occurred on December 15, 1978, when, following months of secret negotiations, the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced that they would recognize one another and establish official diplomatic relations. As part of the agreement, the United States recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, and declared it would withdraw diplomatic recognition from Taiwan (also known as the Republic of China [ROC]).
[…]
A new era began with a rapprochement during Richard Nixon’s presidency. Nixon and his aide, Henry Kissinger, found ready partners in Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, and Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier, who also wanted to improve Sino-U.S. relations. Their efforts resulted in the Shanghai Communiqué, which laid the basis for future cooperation between the two countries even while acknowledging continuing disagreements on the subject of Taiwan. As part of this rapprochement, the two countries opened liaison offices in one another’s capitals in 1973, a time when Taiwan still had an Embassy in Washington. The liaison offices, which in many ways operated as de facto embassies, represented a significant concession by the People’s Republic of China, which opposed the acceptance of “two Chinas” because that implied both were legitimate governments.
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PRC leaders repeatedly expressed displeasure with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which became law on April 10, 1979. The TRA was influenced by Congressional supporters of Taiwan and stated that it is the policy of the United States “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character; and to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.” In his signing statement, Carter declared that he would use the discretion granted to him by Congress to interpret the TRA “in a manner consistent with our interest in the well-being of the people on Taiwan and with the understandings we reached on the normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China.”
[…]
On January 1, 1979, the United States recognized the PRC and established diplomatic relations with it as the sole legitimate government of China. On the same day, the United States withdrew its recognition of, and terminated diplomatic relations with, the Republic of China as the government of China.  The U.S. embassy in Taipei was closed on February 28, 1979. The U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing was converted to an Embassy on March 1, 1979, and Leonard F. Woodcock, who had been head of the Liaison Office, was appointed Ambassador.

 

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FSO Dante Paradiso Writes an Enduring Portrait of a U.S. Embassy Under Fire

Posted: 12:38 am ET

 

We previously posted about Dante Pardiso’s published work in this blog (see FSO Dante Paradiso: The Killing of Unarmed Black Men Is Hurting America’s Image Abroad and First Person: An Embassy Bombing – Dar Es Salaam, August 7, 1998. He is a writer, lawyer, and career Foreign Service Officer who has served extensively in Africa and Asia. He is the author of The Pure Life, a novel, and has contributed opinion pieces to the online editions of Foreign AffairsNational Geographic Voices, and, through the Tribune News Service, the Miami Herald, the Tampa Tribune, the Akron Beacon Journal, and Newsday, among others. Mr. Paradiso previously interned at the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam in 1998. He received his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and his B.A. in Political Science from Yale.  He practiced financial services and bankruptcy law with Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston.

Mr. Paradiso joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 2002.  He served in Monrovia, Beijing, Addis Ababa, Jalalabad, DC, Libreville, and is currently posted at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong.   He is a recipient of the State Department’s Heroism Award (group) and Superior Honor Award, and the U.S. Army’s Superior Civilian Service Award. He comes from New York City and when not on assignment makes his home in Portland, Oregon with his wife, son, and dog.

His book, The Embassy, A Story of War and Diplomacy was published this month. Sebastian Junger, the bestselling author of “The Perfect Storm” calls it “a truly harrowing and important account of an American embassy in what [was] arguably the most chaotic and violent country in the world.”

Chester A. Crocker who previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and currently the James R. Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University says that Dante Paradiso has performed a singular public service in bringing this tale of modern American diplomacy to life.   He calls the book an “unvarnished portrait of a traumatized society and the extraordinary efforts of a handful of American public servants in Monrovia and Washington to bring desperately needed change.”

In an op-ed he wrote following the Benghazi attack, Mr. Paradiso points at an often overlooked truth about diplomacy:

At its core, it is risky. From the craft’s origins in antiquity, diplomats left the protections of our own borders and relied for our safety on persuasion, judgment and our indispensable role, without which state-to-state relations would go dark. Our presence on foreign soil best positions us to assess others’ receptivity to our messages and to persuade them to work with us. But we are exposed.[…] In many places, it is difficult to distinguish friend from enemy. Our role is to clarify and to win partners. We cannot leave the world in the hands of economic or strategic competitors, or in the grip of dictators, criminals or extremists. We must, in the can-do spirit of our country, take necessary risks to represent the American case. 

Read an excerpt below via Kindle/Preview or view it on Amazon here.

 

Related items:

Expert Knowledge in a Joint Task Force Headquarters | JTF Liberia, July 25, 2003- October 9, 2003 (PDF)
Joint Efforts Prevent Humanitarian Disaster in Liberia 2004 (PDF)
Michael Ariette, Director, West African Affairs | ADST Oral History 2011 (PDF)

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Duterte Announces Break-Up With America Before Applauding Chinese Audience

Posted: 3:23 pm ET

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited China recently, and the Chinese rolled out the red carpet. See the video here of the grand arrival ceremony complete with children waving the Philippine and Chinese flags. This video cites Chinese respect for the Philippines by displaying the Philippine flag above the Chinese flag.  Also below is an interesting take from a Filipino writer describing a prior presidential visit to China as he watched the Duterte visit and what he calls China’s  “dragon dance of celebration.”

While in China, Duterte was famously quoted for saying he is “separating” from the United States. Below is the video where the president of America’s longest ally in Asia is lambasting all Americans and their character during his October 20, 2016 speech in China. He calls Americans — and not just Americans he dealt with — but basically all Americans and westerners as discourteous, and loud, “their voice in their larynx not well adjusted to civility.” He said, he did not really like Americans because long ago  he had an experience with American idiotic arrogance. He proceeds to retell a story about being stopped at LAX by an African-American immigration official who he describes in detail and then says no racial slur intended. It sounds like he was taken to a secondary interview which he recalls as an interrogation.  (By the way, according to WaPo’s David Nakamura, Duterte has reportedly told aides to be sure he doesn’t go thru US airport en route to Peru for APEC next month). So at some point during this China talk, he complains about Filipinos going to the U.S. who are berated and humiliated when applying for visas while Americans are allowed to visit the Philippines without visas.  Would not be surprised if he would soon want Americans visiting the Philippines to get visas.

He offers to collect whatever debts the U.S. owe China  as long as he can keep some of it and says  “Duterte of the Philippines is very towards China because China has a character of an oriental.” He gives the reason why he decided to “shift-gears.” There is also a portion here where he talks about US aid to the Philippines and how it has not really changed the lives of the people in his country.  The speech is delivered mostly in English. We have not been able to find a transcript of this speech, but if there is one, it would read exactly like a convoluted Trump speech. He complimented China for its “sincerity” and complains that Americans and President Obama never apologized to him. At the end of this speech, he says, “In this venue, I announced my separation from the United States” to great applause.

Here is a quick recap if you were not following this break-up:

On October 24, China announced that it has donated millions to the Philippines after Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima).  According to rappler.com, the Chinese embassy said it donated P50 million to the Philippine government on Monday “for the disaster relief of farmers and fishermen in the affected regions.” China also committed around P35 million to Philippine anti-disaster efforts. The Red Cross Society of China “will also provide humanitarian aid of $100,000 to the Philippines.”

Here is President Duterte with his new best friend in Manila, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua while the former calculates all that money donated by China “with no strings attached.”

Earlier, the State Department announced that EAP Assistant Secretary Russel will travel to the Philippines on October 22–25, to meet with government officials and have lunch with Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) participants.  While in Manila A/S Russel said he had candidly told Philippine Foreign Minister Yasay that Manila’s friends were concerned about the high loss of life in Duterte’s campaign against drugs and reiterated the importance of due process, according to Reuters.  Russel said “a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines’ intentions had created consternation in many countries,” including the United States. He said that worry extended beyond governments to corporate boardrooms and warned that it was “bad for business” in “a very competitive region.”

Here are some clips with A/S Russel, whatever he says, we expect it would not go down well in Manila. Note that A/S Russel says: “It’s a mistake to think that improved relations between Manila and Beijing somehow come at the expense of the United States, that’s not the way we think about it…”  It looks like the Duterte comments spliced in the clip below were made on October 19, so before the Russel visit to Manila. But we’re posting this clip here because the Duterte comments are relevant, nonetheless.

Of course, as can be expected, President Duterte delivered another rant.  Below is President Duterte with comments mostly in Tagalog and a sprinkling of English. From what we could tell he is talking about chop-suey and “historical hurts that will not go away” when Manila was bombed in World War II.  This is undated but he is citing comments from A/S Russel and Ambassador Goldberg.  You want to know his intention in terms of military cooperation? Here  he is talking about not/not wanting “any military man of any other nation, except the Philippine soldier” in the country. And when America talks about defending the Philippines, he asks, who from — citing the bogeyman of wars.  The AFP quotes him separately as saying “I want them out and if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, I will,” he added. (If tweeps want to help translate the Tagalog part of the video below, email us here).

As a background to Duterte’s anti-American stance, read the clips below about the Philippines, starting with James Fallows ‘A Damaged Culture’ following Corazon Aquino’s People Power Revolution in 1986. Also a useful list of grievances below via WSJ that goes back years for Mr. Duterte — from America’s  invasion of the Philippines in 1898 to the visa denial for Duterte and the cancellation of a work visa for his partner in 2002, and that’s just for starters.

We think A/S Russel’s message will not get though the noise. We also doubt that the next ambassador to Manila if confirmed, will find a friendly face at the presidential palace. Duterte’s beef is not with specific individuals, or even a specific American administration, it is with Americans as a whole. It sounds like he perceived all his encounters with Americans as bad.  We kept waiting for him to scream “Yanquis go home!” Meanwhile, the State Department continues to be deluded with what is now a one-sided love affair.

The official spox says that  they’re taking the “long view.” “The long view, in our mind, is a sustained, healthy, vibrant bilateral relationship with the people and the government of the Philippines.”  Mr. Duterte’s term doesn’t end until 2022, can we actually expect the United States to simply go around the country’s head of state? How would that work? Maybe before things totally go off the rails, the administration ought to consider deploying Ambassador Michele Sison, Foggy Bottom’s highest ranking Filipino-American diplomat to give an assist at APEC in November and even in Manila?

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Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic For President Medina’s Inauguration

Posted: 3:12 am ET

 

President Obama designated Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez as lead in the Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic to attend the inauguration of  President Danilo Medina on August 16, 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The other members of the delegation include, Ambassador James W. Brewster Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and AA/S Mari Carmen Aponte, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

 

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More on the Syria Dissent Channel Memo, and Chasing Down Concerning Rumors

Posted: 4:21 pm ET

 

According to Tuesday’s Daily Press Briefing, Secretary Kerry met yesterday with a small number, approximately 10 of the 51 signers of the Syria Dissent Channel memo for about a half an hour. The official spox said that “as you can imagine, the group is sizeable, so it wasn’t possible to meet with everybody. But he did have a collegial discussion with them this morning.” 

MR KIRBY: I’m – because the dissent channel memo and the contents of it are meant to be privately conveyed, so too I’m afraid are going to have to be the discussions around it. So I’m not going to be able to characterize the content of the Secretary’s conversation with them, because we want to respect the confidentiality of the process. It was, however – it was – I believe the Secretary came away feeling that it was a good discussion, it was worth having. He appreciated their views and just as critically their firm belief in their – in the opportunity that they have to express those views. And so they had a good 30-minute or more conversation.
[…]
MR KIRBY: Look, let me do this. So I can tell you a couple of things. He thanked them for expressing their views and for using the dissent channel. And he reaffirmed his strong belief in the value of the dissent channel, which we’ve talked about quite a bit here. So he thanked them for expressing their views, for using the dissent channel to do that. He made clear that he takes the dissent channel seriously and he took their views seriously, and also made clear that he read their message with sincerity. And, again, without talking about the specific detail of it, the Secretary also walked them through his own thought process with respect to this particular issue and the efforts that he’s been expending on this particular issue.
[…]
MR KIRBY:
 I didn’t say and I won’t speculate as to discussions going forward with respect to what we’re doing in Syria or decisions that may or may not get made, either as a result of this message or as a result of ongoing routine discussions that have been had and continue to be had on alternatives. So I’m not going to speculate about the role that this message might play one way or the other.

But if you’re asking me, was this just a show for the Secretary, the answer is absolutely not. I mean, it – certainly he wanted to thank them and pay respect to the process because this is an important issue. But he also didn’t waste time in terms of hearing them out and asking questions and listening to their views and asking them to expound on them further. I mean, that’s the way this Secretary likes to conduct meetings and discussions and to inform himself. And again, I think he found the meeting useful in that regard. But I wouldn’t begin to speculate one way or another what this conversation today or that message did last week in terms of altering, changing any of the thinking going forward.  As I said last week, nobody is content with the status quo on the ground and the Administration has been looking at other options with respect to Syria for quite some time. This is not new. And yes, some of those options have included the potential for military initiatives. Again, that’s nothing new. So all these things —

The full DPB transcript is here.

Meanwhile, we had to chase down a couple of concerning rumors related to the dissent memo. We heard an allegation about Congressional pressure for a) the memo and b) the names of the signers.  Apparently, “word on the street” is that the Front Office of a certain geographical bureau is “providing names to the Hill in exchange for unblocking some nominations.” We must note that this bureau’s two chief of mission nominees had their confirmation hearing on Tuesday, June 21. There were no indications previously or at this time that these two nominations are subject to a Senate hold.

A State Department spokesperson, on background responded to our inquiry with the following:

“The dissent channel message has been provided to the Hill, but we did not include — nor will we — the names of the authors.”

We do not even want to imagine what a Congressional committee can do with the names or hearings in a partisan fight, in an election year.  So that’s one rumor debunked.

We also heard that the subject of this uproar, which appears to have SBU marking (“sensitive but unclassified”) has now been “retroactively classified.”

A State Department spokesperson, on background also told us that the cable was transmitted on the highside, and was classified confidential by the authors.”

Thanks X for debunking this other rumor.

The draft version published by the New York Times contains the SBU marking. It appears that the final version went out as “confidential” and was transmitted via the classified system.  What we still don’t know and may never know is how wide was the distribution of this “Dissent Channel” message and who purposely let this piglet out of the pen. We are still at a loss as to the leaker or leakers’ motive/s and perplexed at the calculation of sending a public message to a President with less than six months left in office.

Here are more links to read:

Here’s an early summer bonus for the “security diplomats”!

 

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State/WHA Gets Mari Carmen Aponte as Acting Assistant Secretary

Posted: 12:05 am ET
Updated: 5:19 pm PT

 

On May 5, the State Department appointed Mari Carmen Aponte as the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (State/WHA).  Which probably means there won’t be a formal nominee for this position until after the elections in  November.  The assistant secretary is responsible for managing and promoting U.S. interests in the region by supporting democracy, trade, and sustainable economic development, and fostering cooperation on issues such as citizen safety, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, economic and social inclusion, energy, and climate change.

Previously, Ms. Aponte was the Ambassador of the United States to El Salvador from 2012 until February 2016. In 2015, President Obama nominated her to be the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States (OAS) with the rank of Ambassador. (PN628). That nomination has been stuck in committee since last year.

The WHA leadership is currently composed of career diplomat Paco Palmieri who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary; and four five deputy assistant secretaries (DAS): career diplomats John CreamerAlex LeeGonzalo Gallegos, and Kenneth Merten (who is also the Haiti Special Coordinator). The fifth DAS is former WH person staffer Juan Gonzalez who also previously served as Chief of Staff to the former WHA Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela.

Related posts:

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State/OIG: Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archives

Posted: 2:09 pm EDT

 

The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Office of Evaluation and Special Projects is examining the State Department’s records preservation and the use of personal hardware and software by five Secretaries of State (Albright, Powell, Rice, Clinton, and Kerry) and their immediate staff. On March 4, State/OIG posted the OIG (Linick) – M (Kennedy) memorandum on classified material discovered in the archives and its removal for secured storage:

During the course of this evaluation, OIG searched unclassified archives and discovered records suggesting instances in which potentially sensitive material may have been transmitted via personal email accounts or other unclassified means to Secretary Powell or to Secretary Rice’s immediate staff. None of the material was marked as classified, but the substance of the material and “NODIS” (No Distribution) references in the body or subject lines of some of the documents suggested that the documents could be potentially sensitive. On October 19, 2015, OIG transmitted to the Department and separately to the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community (ICIG) for classification review 19 separate Office of the Secretary archival documents. The date range of the documents is from February 2003 through June 2008.
[…]
On December 29, 2015, the Department advised OIG that 12 of the 19 documents contain national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels based on a review by 9 Department bureaus and offices. Two of these documents were emails sent to Secretary Powell’s personal email account; the remaining were documents transmitted to personal or unclassified accounts belonging to a member of Secretary Rice’s immediate staff and another senior Department official.
[…]
State’s official response:  Office of the Executive Secretariat (S/ES) staff have removed from the Department’s unclassified network all of the email material identified as classified and placed it in secure storage. Additionally, retired electronic records provided to the Bureau of Administration that were initially stored in an unclassified system have b~enmoved to the appropriate classified system. With regard to paper records relating to former Secretaries Powell and Rice, the Department does not believe any action is warranted because these materials are currently stored in a facility certified to house classified Department record~up to the SECRET level.

Read the memo exchange here:

 

Related post:

Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archival Material | Posted On: March 04, 2016 Report Date: March 2016 | Report Number: ESP-16-02

 

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