Foreign Policy

Can the Eurozone survive?

The Eurozone is experiencing a perfect storm - a debt crisis, a banking crisis and a growth crisis. Consequently, the Eurozone needs to consummate a massive and comprehensive debt restructuring and bank recapitalization plan to survive and avoid a banking crisis. 

The debt of “peripheral” Eurozone members is overwhelming. When the Eurozone members entered into The Stability and Growth Pact in 1997, they committed to maintain fiscal deficits of less than three percent of GDP and keep total sovereign debt at less than 60 percent of GDP.   They are not even close to meeting this commitment. Italy’s percentage of debt to GDP is more than 130 percent and Greece’s percentage is more than 150 percent. These countries cannot grow their way out of a debt problem of this size.

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Appeal to Secretary Clinton to delist the MEK

On Friday thousands of Iranians rallied outside the US State Department calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately lift the terrorist designation of Iran’s main opposition group People’s Mojahedin (MEK/PMOI) and ensure US forces guarantee the protection of the group’s members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. I joined them to announce the support of 500 British Parliamentarians from all parties and both Houses of Parliament, and a total of 4,000 lawmakers globally, for their just cause.

I addressed the rally alongside my distinguished American colleagues including Louis Freeh, former Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation; Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania; John Sano, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Colonel Wesley Martin, former Coalition counter terrorism commander in Iraq; and Patrick Kennedy, the distinguished former US Congressman and nephew of President John F. Kennedy.

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Religious freedom for Turkey?

The recent resignation of Turkey’s military high command, along with reports that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will subordinate the military to civilian rule, could mark a new era for that nation.  Sweeping constitutional changes, however, are still needed to ensure fundamental rights and avoid exchanging one form of repression for another.  The United States should challenge Turkey’s civilian leadership to make such long-overdue changes, especially regarding religious freedom, including for religious minorities.

While Turkey has long been a formal democracy, it has been a decidedly imperfect one.  Since Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923, his rigid state secularism has stifled religious freedom.  Restrictions have hindered the majority Sunni Muslim community and have discriminated against and threatened religious minority communities, including Greek, Armenian, and Syriac Orthodox Churches; Catholic and Protestant Churches; the Jewish community; and the Alevis.

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Palestinian statehood blocked, equality struggle ahead

As the start of the UN General Assembly's 66th Session quickly approaches, it seems that "statehood" has sucked the air out of every room where Palestine is discussed. Worse, in Washington, where the Obama Administration has taken a firm stance against the UN approach, the statehood bid is seen as a radical move.

President Obama's planned veto of Palestinian statehood in the UN Security Council will affirm what Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts already know: the de facto territorial singularity of one state comprised of Palestinians and Israelis between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Failure to support Palestinian statehood only hastens the transformation of the struggle from one over sovereignty to one for equal rights.

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Secretary Clinton, it's time to delist the PMOI

In recent weeks a debate has flared in Washington over whether or not Secretary of State Clinton should remove Iran’s main opposition movement, the People’s Mujahidin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTO). The subject has been receiving exceptional attention in the media as we approach the anticipated decision in the next few weeks. 

An outstanding group of US former officials and experts on national security as well as members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have called on Secretary Clinton to delist the PMOI. They simply argue that based on their personal experience and deep knowledge there is no evidence to link the organisation to terrorism. The unofficial bipartisan coalition which has been formed includes a diverse spectrum of the US political field. It is a reminder of what happened a few years earlier in the UK, where 35 Members of Parliament from all major political parties successfully took legal action against their own Secretary of State for Home Affairs which led to the delisting of the PMOI in the UK, since the court found the Secretary’s decision for listing the PMOI as “perverse.”

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Energy is the key in Syria

President Obama has called finally for Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s departure. He also has issued an executive order that freezes Syrian government assets in the United States' jurisdiction, and prohibits Americans from making new investments in Syria or exporting any services to it. On the energy front, Obama has banned imports of Syrian petroleum products, and prohibited Americans from doing business relating to petroleum products of Syrian origin.
          
This is a good start but much more can be done. The key is to use the possibility of U.S. extraterritorial action to get our allies onside. A letter sent yesterday to President Obama signed by a long list of national security and sanctions experts, lays out a number of specific recommendations:

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Obama, not Congress, must act on trade agreements

Passing trade deals is something that “Congress can do right now,” remarked President Obama Monday at a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

Not so fast. The truth is that Congress can’t do anything on free trade agreements “right now,” because the President has yet to send the agreements to Congress for final approval, despite receiving recommendations on the agreements from Congress on July 7.

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'It's time for Assad to get out of the way'

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the following remarks Thursday on the situation in Syria from the Department of State.

Good morning. For months, the world has borne witness to the Assad regime’s contempt for its own people. In peaceful demonstrations across the nation, Syrians are demanding their universal human rights. The regime has answered their demands with empty promises and horrific violence, torturing opposition leaders, laying siege to cities, slaughtering thousands of unarmed civilians, including children.

The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the world and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.

This morning, President Obama called on Assad to step aside and announced the strongest set of sanctions to date targeting the Syrian Government. These sanctions include the energy sector to increase pressure on the regime. The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it’s time for Assad to get out of the way.

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European Union condemns Bashar al-Assad

The following is a statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the EU on EU action following the escalation of violent repression in Syria:

The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the brutal campaign Bashar al-Assad and his regime are waging against their own people. In recent weeks the Syrian leadership has stepped up its violent crackdown against peaceful protesters and resorted to large-scale use of military force in the cities of Hama, Deir al-Zour and Lattakia. This has led to the killing or injury of many Syrian citizens. Further casualties and new refugees were reported after the Palestinian camp of al-Ramal was attacked. These developments are unacceptable and intolerable.

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'Violence in Syria must stop now'

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued the following statement:

The Syrian authorities have ignored the urgent appeals made over recent days by the United Nations Security Council, by numerous States in the region, the Gulf Cooperation Council and by the Secretaries-General of the League of Arab States and of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. They continue to cruelly and violently repress their people and flatly refuse to fulfil their legitimate aspirations. They have ignored the voices of the Syrian people and continuously misled them and the international community with empty promises.

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