Foreign Policy

Progressive except on Palestine

Tomorrow’s special election for New York’s 9th district to replace Rep. Anthony Weiner is a disturbing example of the limited range of acceptable political discourse on Israel in American politics.
 
Weiner was a liberal Democrat – on every subject except Israel.  He maintained that he “came from the ZOA wing of the Democratic Party.”  The Zionist Organization of America is one of the most right-wing Jewish institutions, consistently opposing President Obama’s Middle East policies and refusing to recognize, contrary to international law and U.S. policy, that Israel's control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza is a military occupation.
 
His would-be successors are vying to outdo Weiner's hard-line Israel credentials.  Bob Turner, the Republican, has declared his unconditional support for Israel.
 
At least Turner's positions on Israel are consistent with his Tea Party politics.  David Weprin, the Democratic hopeful, is generally liberal – except that his positions on Israel are virtually indistinguishable from Turner's.

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US-Israel alliance key to national security

In the month of August, there were 178 terrorist attacks against Israel, in which nine Israelis were killed and 55 others wounded.
 
On August 20, the same evening I arrived in Jerusalem for a week-long series of policy and security briefings, emergency sirens wailed over the city of Be'er Sheva, where a 38-year-old former football player and soon-to-be father failed to reach shelter before crossing the path of the Grad rocket that ended his life.
 
Just another Saturday night in Israel, where the threat of attack is as constant as the fear in which most Israelis live.

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Back to the future

For most Americans, time travel is the stuff of science fiction.  But the men and women who deliver U.S. foreign assistance get to travel through time on a daily basis. Title 22 of the U.S. Code, more commonly known as the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, is their own personal time machine.
 
Want to go back to a time when we had a grain embargo on the Soviet Union?  Or when the map listed countries such as Kampuchea, East Pakistan, or Zaire?  Or maybe something more recent, like our efforts to isolate Taliban-controlled Afghanistan by preventing it from trading with its neighbors?   Or perhaps you’d like to integrate Afghanistan into its region by encouraging trade with its neighbors?  It’s all there in the U.S. Code, ready to guide U.S. Foreign Policy implementation.
 
Sometimes the anachronisms contained in the U.S. Code become relevant again: language regarding the Sandinistas’ control of Nicaragua has been around so long that, in the interim, the Sandinistas have lost power, and then regained it via democratic elections.

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Jaw-Jaw: Why weaken the U.S. - South Korea alliance?

Sung Kim, an experienced and competent professional who has worked on Korean issues for years as a senior U.S. diplomat, has been nominated to the post of U.S. Ambassador to South Korea.  Our ally Seoul has indicated its support of the Kim nomination.

So why has an unknown Senator – presumed widely to be from the GOP - placed a “hold” on the process at precisely the time when North-South relations – and by extension U.S.-DPRK talks - are finally showing small signs of improvement? 

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Palestine seeks acceptance in unity

When the United Nations General Assembly meets this month, I will be in New York City with thousands of supporters of Palestine from across the world, peacefully demonstrating for member countries to recognize my Palestinian homeland as an independent sovereign state and to achieve our goal of seeing Palestine become a member  of the United Nations.

We have waited a long time for the world to recognize our right to an independent homeland – a right guaranteed by international law.  We now find ourselves in a unique period when the movement of self-determination is sweeping the Middle East.  As a student organizer for the nation-wide movement, Students for Statehood, I have been working to support the Palestinian national movement in an effort to persuade the world to recognize our long overdue independence.  Our goal is international recognition and self-determination for all Palestinians living around the world.

Over 125 countries – representing 75% of the global population – already recognize Palestinian statehood on the internationally agreed 1967 borders, including countries such as Brazil, Argentina, India and China.  Even the International Olympic Committee and football’s world governing body,FIFA, formally recognize Palestinian sporting teams as separate entities. With two-thirds of Palestinians supporting the campaign for international recognition of the state of Palestine, according to a recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah, it is my hope that Palestine will be admitted as the 194th United Nations member state.
 

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A crucial few weeks for Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) mineral market has vast potential, and if properly regulated, could be the catalyst for the country’s development while offering solid returns for international investors. Instead, for over a decade, it has fuelled a brutal conflict that has claimed millions of lives. 

Congo minerals are found in a wide range of products, from cell phones and laptops to cars and medical devices.

The coming weeks should mark a turning point. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to publish the final rules for Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which covers conflict minerals.

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How to help Somalia

U.S. anti-terrorism laws have made it difficult and sometimes impossible for charities to deliver aid to 60 percent of the famine-stricken Somali population living in areas controlled by the terrorist group al-Shabaab. Many factors beyond our control, including drought and political instability, have contributed to the Somali crisis, but the impact of U.S. law is something we can and should do something about.

U.S. law prohibits providing "material support" to terrorist groups, a sensible objective that has been applied overly broadly, with cruel consequences for civilian populations. With 29,000 Somali children dead in the last three months, the U.S. must eliminate this barrier in Somalia.

Aid to Somalia was cut drastically after al Shabaab was listed as a terrorist organization. In the past few years U.S. officials have told charities that any leakage of aid to al-Shabaab would be a violation of the material support law, which carries a possible 15 year prison term as well as economic sanctions, including the potential freezing of charities' assets.

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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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