Foreign Policy

A voice for Iran’s freedom

The week of June 20 marks the second anniversary of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26-year-old Iranian who was slain during demonstrations in Tehran against her country’s fraudulent June 12, 2009 presidential election.

Captured on video, Neda’s death sparked global revulsion against one of the world’s worst human rights abusers – the government of Iran. It also symbolized a democratic movement’s brave resistance to tyranny. Across the region, this resistance stirred hearts and minds, helping sow the seeds for the Arab Spring. 

The aftermath of the election and Neda’s murder also spurred the United States and the world community to take action against the abusers -- action that must continue if freedom is to prevail in Iran and the Middle East.


Time to narrow and sharpen our goals in Afghanistan

What if we had never gone to war in Iraq? I wonder where our country might be today if we had never made that tragic mistake. Thousands of American families would never have stood before flag-draped coffins, grieving over young lives cut short. A trillion dollars in debt would not be burdening our economy, to be paid back by our children and grandchildren.

Our troops did all we asked of them and more. In the toll they paid, and in the burden laid upon the nation, the war in Iraq cost us dearly. I voted with 22 other senators against authorizing the Iraq War, believing then as I do today that the strategy of containment was keeping Saddam Hussein at bay. If he posed an imminent threat to anyone, it was to Iran, not to the United States.


Congress deserves a voice on human rights in Russia

The death of the young lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in pre-trial detention in a Moscow prison in November 2009 was a horrific crime, with serious implications for the development of the rule of law in post-Soviet Russia. Congress is right to be concerned. 

But the legislation recently introduced to address the Magnitsky case neither furthers the cause of democratic development in Russia nor provides justice for his apparent murder. And it would be a mistake, as some have suggested, to use it as a "replacement" if and when Congress does graduate Russia from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.


A new mission in Afghanistan

It is time for a significant and sustained reduction of American combat forces in Afghanistan; time to shift our strategy from one of counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism and to focus our engagement on those who present a real and continuing threat to our national security.

The events of 9-11 clearly justified our intervention in Afghanistan to defeat al Qaida and bring Bin Laden to justice. Our original goals have been largely met. According to the Director of the CIA, fewer than 100 members of Al Qaida remain in Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead. We have drained the swamp and our task now is not nation-building in Afghanistan, but ensuring that the swamp does not fill again. We can accomplish that mission with a fraction of the current force. We can send tens of thousands of troops home to their families and to a grateful nation.


China's naval harassments cannot be tolerated

Over the past twelve months, China has been carrying out calculated acts of naval harassment in the South China Sea. This is just the latest from Communist China, a country which -- for several years -- has declared much of the South China Sea as its exclusive economic zone. This has threatened the other countries (nine in all) of the region who have overlapping claims to the 1.35 million square miles of water.

Not even the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed by China and the ten member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has helped in reaching a peaceful resolution to this dispute. China needs to receive a clear message that their continued harassment will no longer be tolerated. 


Colombia trade deal doesn’t pass the smell test

Thanks to a multimillion dollar lobbying campaign by the Chamber of Commerce and the Colombian Government, many in Congress erroneously believe that the human rights and labor rights situations in Colombia are improving.

The truth is that just in the past decade, 30,000 innocent civilians have died in the country’s bloody civil war. Another 3.3 million have been violently driven out of their homes and off of their land. The U.S.-backed Colombian state security forces themselves have been implicated in thousands of murders in recent years.

And again in 2010, more trade unionists were killed in Colombia for their union activities than in the rest of the world combined.


Strange definitions of war and peace

Last week I joined six Republican and three Democrat colleagues to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its illegal war against Libya. Now that more than 90 days have passed since the president began bombing Libya, no one can seriously claim that the administration has complied with the clear requirements of the 1973 War Powers Resolution.


Struggling to preserve our self-determination in the South Atlantic

Visiting the United States, with its bustling streets in Washington and Manhattan, is always a bit of a culture shock for a Falkland Islander. While we have much in common – a shared ancestry and language, and the democratic values that underpin our societies – we have a few differences too. 

With just over 3,000 inhabitants, our island is smaller than Connecticut, with a population less numerous than the staff of Georgetown University. You have skyscrapers on your streets; we have the occasional sea lion. It is always going to be a tale of contrasts when one of the world’s smallest democracies comes to call on the world’s most powerful one.

Many Americans will not know who we are; that is understandable. We live over 5,500 miles away, at the very southern tip of the Americas. Those who have heard of the Falkland Islands are most likely to know us from nearly 30 years ago, when Argentine forces invaded our country. We were saved by the heroic efforts of Britain’s armed forces, and remain grateful for their sacrifices. But we also continue to thank the U.S., for its discreet but vital support to restore our liberties.


UN must sanction Al-Maliki over human rights abuses

Amnesty International recently issued a damning report detailing the various human rights abuses being committed by the Iraqi authorities in cracking down on protests against the Iraqi leadership. In the past week alone, over a dozen political activists have been arrested in Iraq to try and prevent further protests at the lack of reform inside the country. Unfortunately in the deluge of protests spreading across the Middle East the plight of the Iraqi people and the violent crackdown by Nuri Al-Maliki's forces against peaceful protests by the Iraqi population has been lost.


It's time to shift strategy in Afghanistan

This week, I joined with 26 of my Senate colleagues in urging President Obama to shift our policy in Afghanistan and to begin an “accelerated” transition to Afghan security forces. While the President has said he would begin to reduce some U.S. troops in July, I believe he should use the July date as an opportunity to begin a “sizable and sustained” drawdown of troops that will lead toward the removal of all regular combat troops from the country.

Our objectives in Afghanistan have largely been met. We have removed the Taliban government that sheltered al-Qaida, we have tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, we have disrupted the terrorist networks allied with al-Qaida, and we have hunted down those who planned the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It’s time to shift course in Afghanistan and speed up the withdrawal process and save American lives.