Foreign Policy

Congress puts MCC on life support

We never really know how much Congress cares about global poverty until they have to make hard choices. Don’t get me wrong—the overall budget cuts could have been far worse. Everyone is hurting, at home and abroad, so we knew that poverty-fighting budget cuts were coming. What hurt was where they chose to cut and the signal that sends.

Birthed by the Bush Administration, and courageously adopted by President Obama, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a program that does the right thing for the right reasons.

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Understanding unrest in Bahrain

After eight weeks of unrest in Bahrain, one thing has become abundantly clear: Bahrain's situation is much more complicated than that of other Arab countries that have experienced mass demonstrations recently, and that is why there are no simple solutions.

In Egypt and Tunisia, protestors were united in a common cause - the overthrow of the ruling government and the establishment of a genuine representative democracy. But those protesting in my country know that we are not ruled by a dictator. They know that we already have a parliament in place in which several seats are held by the largest opposition party, Al Wefaq.

Americans know Bahrain in the same way. Bahrain is a staunch ally of the United States and home of the Navy's Fifth Fleet.


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Colombia FTA: Rewarding promises instead of performance

Tragically, the government of Colombia exhibits the behavior of an addict. And, just as regrettably, the United States is co-dependent, so addicted to so called free trade that it plans to award Colombia an agreement based solely on promises.  

Addicts always promise. They’ll stop, they pledge. Their co-dependents desperately want to believe, so they cooperate with the addicts’ demands.

Colombia, the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, has pledged to try to stop the murders to persuade Congress to approve a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Promises, promises. 

And the United States has agreed to accept those promises rather than demand performance before signing an FTA. American’s Wall Street banks and multi-national corporations crave another FTA so badly they will believe anything. 

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There's no time to lose on Korea

In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to pass the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS) as quickly as possible.  Nearly five years to the day since these negotiations were first announced, the President’s call to action on this groundbreaking agreement is a welcome reaffirmation of U.S. leadership in opening markets overseas to create new jobs and economic growth opportunities at home.  

Now it is time for Congress to swiftly approve this agreement, which will open significant new access in South Korea’s $1 trillion economy to U.S. workers, manufacturers, farmers, and services providers.  This is the strongest action that Congress can take to support new American job growth through export creation, and to ensure that American workers and producers can compete in Asia’s rapidly integrating markets. 

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US must protect Camp Ashraf

On April 6, early in the morning, the military forces of Iraqi government, about 2500 of them, stormed the campground of the main Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin Organization of Iran. They killed more than 30 people and wounded many others. Among the fatalities were many women.

In a similar aggression, back in July 2009, the forces of Nuri al-Maliki attacked the camp killing a dozen and injuring 500.  

The two incidents have obvious similarities. They were both premeditated attacks with the intention of massacring the unarmed residents of the camp. The armed forces involved in the attack were taking orders from al-Maliki himself. 

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Israel's worrisome path

Over the past few months, the Israeli Knesset has passed a series of laws that seriously undermine Israel’s claim to be an open, tolerant democracy. As advocates for the rights of Palestinian citizens ofIsrael currently visiting the United States to meet with policy makers and members of civil society, we are deeply concerned about these developments. Sadly, while a wave of democratic uprisings sweep the region, Israel, the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East” is moving in the opposite direction, towards a less open, less democratic society.

While this disturbing trend has been in evidence for a number of years now, the election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing coalition government has accelerated the process and laid it bare for all to see. Thus, in just the past few weeks we have witnessed the passing of a law that will deny public funding to any institution that commemorates the disaster that befell Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948 (the so-called “Nakba Law”) and another law that will allow small communities to have selection committees that can reject applicants on the basis of "social suitability.” 

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Last chance for Syria’s Asad to reform

To use a baseball metaphor, last week Syrian President Bashar al-Asad stepped up to the plate with the game on the line. He had a chance to hit a home run with his much-anticipated speech to the nation in response to the growing protests against the government. Instead, he grounded out meekly to second base. The question now is whether the game is over or there is still time to mount a comeback.

The expectations were high for the speech. But this is nothing new to Asad. When he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Asad, in 2000, most believed he would be a pro-West reformer because he was a licensed ophthalmologist who studied in London, was a computer nerd and liked the technological toys of the West. Having met with him on a regular basis between 2004 and 2009, I can say with some authority that he is different from his father. On the other hand, one has to remember that he spent all of 18 months in England. For most of his life he was affected and influenced by a Syrian paradigm that included hostility toward and distrust of Israel and the United States. He sees the world ultimately through Syrian eyes. 

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Reinforcing Libya's rebels

Enforcing the no-fly zone alone will not fulfill the purpose of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The legally-binding mandate allows for any necessary means to protect civilians. This must also imply taking appropriate measures to confront the sources that threaten civilians. Arming and reinforcing Libya’s opposition is a crucial element. 

Failing to do so threatens the international mission and the civilians it was designed to protect. Interpreting the U.N. mandate otherwise is an invitation to defeat. The Libyan crisis is no longer a diplomatic exercise but a conflict.

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Genocide Prevention Month: From Bosnia to Benghazi

History repeats itself. But not always. Not when those who are able step up to change the course.

The Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur all share major, tragic anniversaries this month, which is why April has been named Genocide Prevention Month by the world’s growing anti-genocide movement. As communities across the globe commemorate past atrocities, we can best honor those who lost their lives, their homes, and their families in these major atrocities by working hard to make ‘Never Again’ a reality.

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President Obama leaves questions unanswered

On Monday evening, President Obama finally addressed the American people to begin explaining why almost two weeks ago, he called for military action in Libya.

I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why it took ten days for the president to address the nation about our military involvement there.

As Americans, we are known as a compassionate people and it is no secret that as a country we assist in humanitarian efforts across the globe to help ensure safe conditions for those less fortunate than us. In Libya, Muammar Gadhafi’s attacks on his own people are tragic.

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