Foreign Policy

Meet Bahrain’s lobbyists

Upon the release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa noted, “serious shortcomings on the part of some organs of our Government” including “instances of excessive force and of the mistreatment of persons placed under arrest.” 

These “instances of excessive force” led to the death of at least 26 pro-democracy protesters, while “mistreatment” constituted systematic human rights violations including torture, according to the BICI report. The Government of Bahrain has been using the November 23rd release date of the report to delay a substantive conversation on its human rights record for months.

And while dodging and delaying real reform, the monarchy has undertaken a pricey public relations blitz to rebuild their image. But the Bahraini ruling family doesn’t have an image problem; they have a policy problem.

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It’s time for the Emergency Committee for Israel to drop the charade

Last summer, a group called the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) made a splash on the political scene by touting themselves as Americans solely concerned for Israel’s security. But a quick rundown of their leadership -- Republican luminaries Gary Bauer, William Kristol, and Rachel Abrams -- made it clear that ECI was something other than a group of concerned ordinary Americans. 

Their subsequent malfeasance included narrowing the definition of “pro-Israel,” lying in campaign ads against Democrats, and engaging in McCarthyite tactics against those who they deem as “merely pay[ing] Israel lip service,” among other actions. ECI’s behavior made it crystal clear that the organization is nothing more than a Republican front group bent on turning Israel into a partisan wedge issue. 

During the 2010 election, Pennsylvanians had a choice between Democratic Representative and retired Admiral Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) -- who had personally contributed to the strengthening of the U.S.-Israel relationship during his service in the Navy -- and former Republican Representative Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) -- who consistently put partisan politics above supporting aid packages to Israel. 

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Egypt’s electoral road to reform

The immediate lesson emerging from Egypt’s historic first-round electoral process is that the eventual victor has no alternative but to lead an inclusive power-sharing government of national unity.  It must be representative of a cross-section of Egyptian society. Devising a new system, accompanied by a fresh constitution, must unfold as a collective effort. 

The transition from autocracy to democracy, and confronting pressing economic challenges, requires critical burden-sharing.  Increasing international aid and restoring foreign direct investment and tourism are indispensable to Egypt’s economic survival. This was further underlined by its recent credit downgrading.
 
Expectations are for the Muslim Brotherhood, now rebranded as Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to emerge as victors after completion of the electoral process.  Effectively leading a government of national unity would help bridge its credibility gap, allay fears of secular skeptics and broadly appeal to mainstream Egyptian society, the yet-to-emerge silent majority. 

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Protection of Camp Ashraf must be US final act in Iraq

The humanitarian issue of Camp Ashraf, home to 3,400 members of the Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen e Khalq (MEK), in Iraq has crossed party lines in the US, UK and EU as far right neo cons stand alongside democrats and liberals in support of defending an Iranian opposition group upon which there has been heated discussions. With an end of 2011 deadline set by Iraq to close the Camp, the issue will no doubt be a topic of serious discussion as Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki comes to Washington next week.

As the government of Iraq sticks stubbornly to its determination to close Camp Ashraf by the end of this year and forcibly displace the residents inside Iraq, international condemnation has intensified. With the UN and EU providing the Iraqi authorities the perfect opportunity to bring a peaceful end to this crisis, that government’s continued opposition indicates a sinister plan for the December closure of the camp, a plan which based on two previous incursions into the camp will mean the killing of numerous residents and the wounding of hundreds more.

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Reading between the lines (lions)

As members of Congress consider the $53 million arms sale to enable Bahrain to defend itself from outside threats in a region in which Iran is seeking to increase its influence, it is important to look at last week’s report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). That report of almost 500 pages  provided details of many things except in one area: the machinations of Iran during the February and March protests that rocked Bahrain.

No evidence was presented to the Commission to prove that Iran had a deliberate role in the protests, the BICI said. Thus, being objective as demanded by its charter, the BICI could not conclude any direct role.

By the time the first reports were made, the uncertain conclusion had morphed into NO role by Iran and that was the lead in most news accounts the day after the report was issued.

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Reducing AIDS funding will deal a devastating blow

President Obama has announced that the U.S. will expand AIDS treatment targets, providing antiretroviral drugs for an additional two million people through 2013. Unfortunately, Congress does not support his administration’s new goal of creating an “AIDS-free generation.”

In fact, the House of Representatives has proposed broad cuts to global health funding for 2012 that would severely impact AIDS funding
– not just impeding progress, but reversing it. This includes slashing the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

This would be a huge mistake. Reducing support for global health would put millions of people at risk. It would deal a devastating blow to the global fight against AIDS, which has reached a critical point.

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Blacklisted contractor continues receiving government money through Haiti contracts

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. launched an unprecedented relief effort, eventually totaling over one billion dollars. But the lead agency in the immediate aftermath was not the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as is typically the case when our nation provides humanitarian assistance, but the military.  Just after the earthquake, the U.S. had over 20,000 troops in Haiti. Of the $1.1 billion in humanitarian funding from the U.S. in 2010, nearly half was channeled to the Department of Defense.

As has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, relief efforts have relied heavily on contractors, a number of which have a history of waste, fraud and abuse. An analysis of federal contracts has revealed that Kuwait-based Agility Logistics (formerly PWC Logistics) -- currently under indictment for overcharging the U.S. military by up to $1 billion -- has benefited from over $16 million in funding awarded in the aftermath of the earthquake.

With so much on the line, the U.S government, across the board, must step up its oversight of contractors to ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted on companies with poor track records.

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Gingrich, Romney, and Perry must stand by Israel's foreign aid

The Jewish State of Israel and the United States have always been strong allies. We have shared democratic and cultural values, and many Americans share a religious bond to the ancient and current homeland of the Jewish people. This is a bond based on the holiest texts of the Christian and Jewish faiths. However, the unbreakable and intimate nature of the U..S-Israel alliance runs much deeper than history and religion. Our foreign aid to Israel is essential to US national security interests and is a strategic investment in keeping America safe.
 
Since the U.S. under President Harry Truman recognized the Jewish State of Israel 11 minutes after its declaration of independence in 1948, every single U.S. president has supported foreign aid to Israel. Most recently, the U.S. and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid by 2018, which has been fully and completely supported by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. More than 70 percent of this aid must be used by Israel to purchase American military equipment.
  

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U.S. continues to fight global disease

Fifty years from now, we will look back at this period in U.S. history as a time when the U.S. government, private industry, foundations, and universities, combined forces to effectively fight killer diseases that have plagued civilization for centuries.

Some of the groundbreaking work is easy to pinpoint now. For instance, as we approach World AIDS Day, it is heartening to report on exciting advances in AIDS vaccine research and the development of more than two dozen drugs in the last 15 years to fight the virus, turning the disease from a death sentence to a manageable chronic illness.

Using a host of new tools, we have been able to greatly reduce deaths due to malaria, measles, and meningitis, to name a few diseases, in the developing world. All of these advances have happened in just the last few years.

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Why the United States must freeze funding for UNESCO

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is asking UN bodies to grant state status to “Palestine”—so Palestinians can enjoy the prerogatives of statehood without making painful compromises with Israel.  Now that the Palestinian bid has failed to gain Security Council support, its efforts within individual UN entities take on added significance. 

The United States must continue opposing this gambit, which undermines U.S. peace efforts and challenges U.S. leadership.
 
Last month UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) became the first UN body to accept the Palestinian bid for full state membership.  UNESCO disregarded U.S. objections that Palestinians can achieve statehood only by negotiating and compromising with Israel.

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