@TheOnion Exclusive: Secretary Tillerson Having a Blast in Foggy Bottom

Posted: 1:21 am ET

 

Remember The Many Adventures of Secretary of State John Kerry (2013-2017) via The Onion?  Several months after he took office, Secretary Tillerson also got The Onion treatment (see here, here, and here)  But the latest update has the potential to make our top diplomat go viral. Given the 7th Floor’s legendary lack of humor, IMOs may soon get an IMMEDIATE instruction to keep Foggy Bottom’s eyeballs away. Hurrrry! Read it here before the Bureau of Public Affairs asks The Onion to take it down!

“Leaping out from behind a wall as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” blared from the building’s intercom, a pantless Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slid across the waxed marble floors of the completely empty State Department, sources confirmed Wednesday.”

Bob Seger! The Onion really outdid itself with that music; too bad there’s no YouTube video! We heard that we may have to wait a while for the Gobi Desert, or the Isle of Embers adventures because he’s busy with his passion project.

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Senate Finally Confirms Brownback as Ambassador-at-Large, Kansas Sighs With Relief

Posted: 12:27 am ET

 

On January 24, the Senate finally confirmed the nomination of Governor Samuel Brownback to be the Ambassador-at-Large at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The office resides under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) which in under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. The previous appointees to this position includes David Nathan Saperstein (2015), Suzan Denise Johnson Cook (2011–2013), John V. Hanford 3rd (2002–2009), and Robert A. Seiple (1999–2000). The office is responsible for the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

Via state.gov:

In October 1998, President Clinton signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Act mandated the establishment of an Office of International Religious Freedom within the Department of State, headed by an Ambassador-at-Large who serves as principal advisor to the President and Secretary of State in matters concerning religious freedom abroad.

The Act has been amended a number of times over the years, most recently by the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2016. 22 U.S. Code Chapter 73.

The IRFA requires the preparation and transmittal to Congress of an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom detailing the status of religious freedom in each foreign country, violations of religious freedom by foreign governments, and United States’ actions and policies in support of religious freedom. Separately, the IRFA also requires that each year the President designate as a “Country of Particular Concern” each country the government of which has engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.

Per annual designation under IRFA, the Secretary of State designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as “Countries of Particular Concern”. On January 4, 2018, the Department of State announced that the Secretary of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017. The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.

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@JonHuntsman and @usconsvlad Jump Into Icy Water For Orthodox Epiphany

Posted: 12:02 am ET

 

The US Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman and Consul General Michael Keays (and staffers) of US Consulate Vladivostok in separate events marked the Orthodox Ephiphany like millions of Russians by jumping into freezing waters. Take a look. We felt the polar woes just watching. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!

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Nambia Bites Back: Come Visit “Sh*thole Namibia” With Over 300 Days of Sunshine

Posted: 2:49 am ET

 

VPOTUS is on overseas travel, and during his interview with The Associated Press, the poor man defended President Trump over his recent comments “disparaging immigration from Africa and Haiti, telling the AP that the president’s “heart” is aimed at a merit-based system that is blind to immigrants’ “race or creed.”

In Haiti, Reuters reported that about a couple thousand people took to the streets of Port-Au-Prince, the capital and most populous city in the country to protest comments attributed to the U.S. President about the nation being a “shithole” country. Early Monday morning, the US Embassy in Haiti announced that it was expecting a large protests outside the embassy. “Please limit your coming and going to/from the Embassy during this time. If the protest is large and/or violent, U.S. Embassy employees will be expected to shelter in place. No one will be able to enter or depart during this time and anyone outside of the Embassy will be directed to shelter in place at an offsite location.”

Meanwhile, a tour agency in Namibia has turned Donald Trump’s slur into a sales pitch.

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Amb. Hoekstra Apologizes For Netherlands Comment: “It Was Wrong”

Posted: 4:42 am ET

 

We previously blogged about the new U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands here:

On January 12, two weeks after he first issued his ‘non-apology’ apology, Ambassador Hoekstra finally admitted during an interview with De Telegraaf that what he said about the Netherlands “was wrong.” The apology came after headlines calling the top American representative in the Netherlands “Lying Pete Hoekstra” and the lying Dutchman, and after the State Department “made clear to the ambassador that – that he must move to get this behind him.”

On January 11, U/S Goldstein told members of the press that they “should turn into that interview tomorrow” in reference to the long-form interview that turned out to be one with De Telegraaf.  As of this writing, we have searched but have not been able to locate a transcript of Ambassador Hoekstra’s interview where he offered his apology.  There also is no mention of this interview nor the transcript of the interview on the website of U.S. Embassy The Hague.

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The Peter Hoekstra Fall Out Continues, Long-Form Interview With a Dutch Outlet Coming Soon

Posted: 2:47 am ET

 

The last year, we’ve seen the State Department officially distanced itself from public comments made by its official representative in Israel.  On September 11, 2017, the State Department had to distance itself from a comment made by its top representative in Israel (see @StateDept: Ambassador Friedman’s comment “does not represent a shift in U.S. policy”.  And on September 28, State Department spox Heather Nauert, once more from the podium, said that it’s ambassador’s two percent comment “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy (see @StateDept on Amb. Friedman’s comment (again): “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy”).

The latest addition to this disturbing trend is the new U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra.  In December, we blogged about the then Ambassador-Designate’s double whoppers during an interview with a Dutch journalist (see New U.S. Ambassador Peter Hoekstra Makes Splash With Whoppers on Dutch TV). On December 23, the newest representative of the United States Government to the Netherlands issued a non apology-apology (see Amb. Designate Hoekstra Issues an “Apology,” Gets Roasted on Twitter). On January 10, his first day in office as the United States Ambassador to The Hague, social media noted his grilling by the Dutch press over his controversial claims (see Amb. Hoesktra Presents His Credentials to the King, Then Gets Properly Grilled By the Dutch Press).

On January 11, during the State Department’s On-the-Record-Briefing with the new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, the top official was similarly grilled by the press about the ambassador’s statements.

So for a third time now, two political ambassadors have caused more work for the building because of their public statements. The top State Department public affairs official went on to disavow Ambassador Hoekstra’s statements saying, “The State Department does not agree with those statements. That is not the language that we would use.” U/S Goldstein also told the press corps that there is now a plan for Ambassador Hoekstra to have long-form interview with a Dutch outlet on January 12. Mr. Goldstein said that Ambassador Hoesktra “also plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in the capital, including Muslim communities” and that the State Department has “made clear to the ambassador that – that he must move to get this behind him.”

Also FYI, the United States ambassador serve the people of the United States, and not the people of his/her host country. When junior diplomats completing their training at the Foreign Service Institute are asked where is their country, you expect them to point to their country, the United States of America, and not their country of assignment. Both Ambassador Hoekstra and U/S Goldstein appears to seek to endear themselves to the Dutch and make this controversy go away by talking about “loving” the Netherlands, and commitment to “serving the people of the Netherlands.”

Stop that, please. We can see what you’re trying to do.

If Ambassador Hoekstra is interested in putting this behind him, he should own up to his mistake and make a real apology because people watching are not dimwits. A retraction would be a good place to start. And then maybe the local press will allow him to put this behind him.

Via state.gov, Jan 11:

QUESTION: Ambassador Pete Hoekstra in the Netherlands had his debut for the Dutch media. It didn’t go real well. Just to start off, does the State Department agree with his earlier comments that politicians have been burned as a result of Islamist movements and that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No. The State Department does not agree with those statements. That is not the language that we would use.

QUESTION: Would you like the ambassador to maybe retract those given all of the controversy it seems to be causing?

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Amb. Hoekstra Presents His Credentials to the King, Then Gets Properly Grilled By the Dutch Press

Posted: 2:44 am ET
 

 

So the new U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra presented his credentials to King Willem-Alexander on January 10. The same day, he also faced a grilling from members of the Dutch press. And if that’s not memorable enough, the Dutch Review has a screaming headline that says “It’s Lying Pete Hoeskta’s first day as the US Ambassador in the Netherlands.”

We are having a brain freeze trying to remember if anything like this ever happened before.  Oh, we can’t remember anything. Just that there was no way the embassy could have avoided this incident. Had Ambassador Hoesktra offered a fuller apology after that meltdown of an interview, he would not have been facing a fiery press on his first official day as representative of the United States to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

NLtimes reported that when asked about his previous controversial comments, he announced, “I won’t comment on the matter anymore”. Apparently, he told the press that “now that he is a representative of the American administration, his personal opinions or comments are no longer what matters.” As if somehow “the matter” would simply go away.  It won’t. And Dutch reporters will not stop asking just because Ambassador Hoekstra refuses to comment. And with every future event, we will get similar video clips.  So we doubt very much if this is the end of it. He will get a reminder about this at his every encounter with the Dutch press.

Also see New U.S. Ambassador Peter Hoekstra Makes Splash With Whoppers on Dutch TVAmb. Designate Hoekstra Issues an “Apology,” Gets Roasted on TwitterNomination: Ex-Congressman Peter Hoekstra to be U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands).

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US Embassy London Lowers Flag at Grosvenor Square as It Prepares to Move to #33NineElmsLane

Posted: 12:39 pm PT

 

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USUN Ambassador Haley Hosts Reception For “Friends” With US Against UN Jerusalem Resolution

Posted: 3:11  am ET

 

The eight countries who voted with the United States include Guatemala and Honduras, countries with significant interest in migration policies and have large number of nationals on DACA status. Guatemala has already announced that it will follow the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem. We’re watching how soon Honduras will follow this move. Last November, DHS extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Honduras until July 5, 2018. We’ll have to see what happens next; state actions are in the country’s national interest, intentional, and never coincidental.

USUN Ambassador Niki Haley’s shit list includes the top recipients of American foreign aid for years like Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and a host of other countries. How this will end? (see Snapshot: @StateDept Aid Allocation by Region and Top Recipients, FY2016 RequestSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid in FY2012 and FY2013 RequestSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid in FY2010, FY 2011 RQSnapshot: Top 10 Recipients of US Foreign Aid).

On January 4, the United States announced that it is suspending at least $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan according to Reuters “until it takes action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network militant groups.”

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Foreign Service Posts Around the World Look Back at 2017, Send New Year Wishes For 2018

Posted: 12:27 pm PT

 

As 2017 draws to a close, Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir and the entire team at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur want to thank our Malaysian friends and partners for a wonderful year. We’re looking forward to continuing our work together in 2018 and beyond. 2017年落幕之时,雷荷花大使及美国大使馆团队衷心感谢所有大马朋友及伙伴在这一年所给予的支持。期盼在2018年及将来继续与你们携手合作。 Tahun 2017 akan melaburkan tirainya. Duta Besar Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir dan seluruh pasukan di Kedutaan A.S. di Kuala Lumpur ingin mengucapkan terima kasih kepada rakan dan rakan kongsi Malaysia kami untuk tahun yang hebat ini. Kami tidak sabar untuk meneruskan kerja bersama pada 2018 dan seterusnya.

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