Foreign Policy

On the Libyan border: Helping freedom fighters or terrorists?

Aid workers are on standby to assist Libyan refugees on the Egyptian and Tunisian sides of the border should a mass exodus begin. Some of my colleagues had been assessing the situation in the eastern city of Benghazi, but had to withdraw amid a government offensive. 

When it’s safe, they want to go back to ensure people get the help they need. My colleagues view themselves as serving a humanitarian purpose. They are probably unaware that their actions could be interpreted as supporting terrorists.

Sad to say, measures legislated after 9/11 now restrict aid groups abroad and prevent people fleeing dictatorships from entering the United States as refugees. As the world backs opponents of Muammar Qadhafi in Libya, it’s time to review the impact of these laws: are they doing more harm than good?


J Street at the Knesset: Don’t push away your friends

The debate over what it means to be “pro-Israel” has long raged at dinner tables and, increasingly, in the halls of Congress, our synagogues, and community forums.

The conversation moved to the forefront of Israel’s public discourse – and our own - last week when the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, held an unprecedented committee debate on whether J Street, an American Jewish organization, is sufficiently “committed” to Israel to call itself pro-Israel. 


Presidential leadership is missing in Libya

The Obama administration’s slow motion response to the rapidly unfolding situation in Libya is baffling. There once was a time when the United States generally, and the president specifically, was considered the leader of the free world. The U.S. would take charge, bring allies together, and confront a brutal dictator against oppression.

In the current Libya crisis, however, this leadership has come from the president... of France.


Day eleven: Cairo, Egypt

Tonight is my last night in the region. I leave Cairo for my home in Washington tomorrow. And this weekend, as I sit with my morning papers in my comfortable chair and read about events in Libya, they will once again seem very far away. 

But events that are far away are not necessarily forgotten. And it would be impossible for me to forget all that I have seen and heard of the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding here. 

Admittedly, it is very hard to know exactly what is happening throughout Libya right now from a humanitarian perspective. There are just too few observers on the ground in too few places. And having spent just one day in the country myself, I am hardly in a position to provide much evidence.


U.S. engagement delivers concrete action to support Iranian people

The international community took its strongest action to-date in support of human rights in Iran today, in a major victory for President Obama’s policy of engagement at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). Yet, this accomplishment did not come without controversy. Only four days before, the Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), launched a withering attack against the international human rights body and announced her intention to introduce legislation that would block the United States from running for reelection at the HRC.

Thanks to its active presence on the HRC, the Obama administration was able to work with Sweden and a broad coalition of cross-regional partners to ensure the Council took action on Iran. This groundwork paid off today as the HRC voted to establish an independent human rights monitor on Iran to address the ongoing human rights crisis.


Day ten: Tobruk, Libya

In and out of Libya in a day – that’s how I spent the last 24 hours.

The whirlwind trip began at Egypt’s Salum border crossing. We left our Egyptian car and driver in the port town, and set off for the crossing in a Libyan car. Only one kilometer separates the Egyptian and Libyan border posts. But getting from one end to the other took us an hour and a half. It seemed odd that we were making so much effort to enter the same country that those around us had risked their lives to exit. 

But after much checking of our passports and questioning of our intent, we said goodbye to our first Libyan car and driver (whose sole purpose, we were told, was to expedite our movement through the crossing), and with our second Libyan car and driver we were off to Tobruk.


Morocco: Making meaningful reform a reality

Coalition jets continue to fly, and anti-aircraft fire still lights up the sky over Libya. But if the international action succeeds in driving Muammar Qaddafi from power, what comes next? 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has an opportunity to gain greater insight on the road ahead for genuine reform in North Africa and the Middle East. She meets Wednesday with Taieb Fassi Fihri, Foreign Minister of Morocco, a country that has been on the reformist path for more than a decade. Morocco is also one of five Arab nations to join the 22-nation coalition supporting international action to protect civilians in Libya. 

Mr. Fassi Fihri arrives in Washington as the West and Arab League have finally answered the call against Gaddafi’s recent murderous binge. At the same time, the crescendo of regional turmoil has, as the Moroccan Foreign Minister said this week,  put an end to the erroneous idea that there is, or ever was, an ‘Arab exception’ to people’s desire to live free from fear of government oppression and ideological tyranny. So, what will he be saying to Secretary Clinton and other US officials about the rapidly unfolding events in the region? 


Unrest in Middle East prompted by desire for jobs

The Hill's Comment Editor Emmanuel Touhey asked HRH Prince Miteb bin Abdullah some questions via e-mail about the situation in the Middle East. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah is the eldest son of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Commander of the Saudi National Guard and member of the Cabinet. He was born in Riyadh in 1953 and was educated at the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst, England.  

The Hill: To what do you attribute the wave of recent unrest in the Middle East?
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah: First, there are general reasons why we are seeing the people in North Africa and the Middle East protest. The most important is a desire for good paying jobs. With a job comes dignity and in our part of the world and in our faith the issue of dignity is very important. Beyond the desire for jobs is a general anger over economic mismanagement.  For example, countries with natural resources find themselves with very low per capita GNP. And I would add a genuine desire for reform in the political arena.

Second, each country in North Africa and the Middle East is unique. For example, what has brought the people of Libya to the streets and their demands for Colonel Gaddafi to leave is different from what the people of Egypt wanted. With its enormous natural resources and relatively small population, Libyans should have a very high standard of living and its economy should be ranked among the top in the world. But instead we see that 42 years of mismanagement of Libya’s resources by Colonel Gaddafi has left nothing but poverty for a majority of Libyans. So, it is natural and understandable that the people would ask for fundamental change.

The Hill: Does Saudi Arabia support implementing a no-fly zone over Libya?
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah: Absolutely. As you are aware, the Arab League has endorsed this idea. The people of Libya deserve to live in peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, Colonel Gaddafi has mismanaged the country’s resources to such a degree that it has left much of Libya in poverty.


Increasing our competitiveness

The Keynote address delivered at the American Chamber of Commerce in São Paulo, Brazil today.

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for the kind words.

Thank you to AmCham – especially Gabriel Rico and Eduardo Wanick – for the indispensable role you’ve played both in setting up this event and for all the good work you’ve done to expand trade between Brazil and the United States. 


Day Eight: Marsa Matrouh, Egypt

Today we spent the day driving west across Egypt to reach the Libyan border. And as I watched the desert go by from the comfort of my air conditioned car, I wondered about the journey that those coming to the same border from the Libyan side would be making. And I worried about what might await them once they arrived.