Foreign Policy

Obama administration must act now to stop Darfur’s genocidal mastermind, Omar al-Bashir

The man wanted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court is getting away with murder. Again. And, again, we are failing to do anything about it.

Perhaps in today’s political climate – an economy in trouble, skyrocketing unemployment, criticism of U.S. foreign policy decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan and a heated election on the horizon – it’s unrealistic to expect the United States to act on a conflict half way around the world that is receiving little public attention.  By failing to act, however, the Obama administration is making it easier for a murderous head of state to continue killing innocent men, women and children with impunity.

Sudan’s president and architect of the Darfur genocide, Omar al-Bashir, began aggressive attacks on civilians in Sudan’s border regions this summer while Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was applauding Sudan for allowing the south to secede and create the Republic of South Sudan.

Sudanese forces have driven half a million people from their homes throughout Sudan this year. United Nations reports indicate the likelihood of ethnic cleansing in Abyei, and war crimes and crimes against humanity in South Kordofan. We suspect similar atrocities are occurring in Blue Nile.


Peace or a 'powder keg' in North Africa

As Libya’s interim leadership, with help from NATO, moves closer to finishing off Qaddafi’s tyranny, the U.S. and international community now must develop the details of how they will support the National Transitional Council as the new government of Libya.  

There are great prospects but also daunting challenges and risks for Libyans and their new leaders as well as for others in the region.  For U.S. policymakers, there is an historic opportunity: not just to nurture a democratic Libya, but to build on the Arab Spring and to seek a reset of relations in North Africa.

Qaddafi’s departure opens the door to greater integration in the Maghreb—essential for generating much-needed stability, economic growth, and improved security cooperation that will sustain and secure continuing democratic reforms across the region.

In particular, Qaddafi’s departure removes one of the last remaining supporters of the militant separatist Polisario Front.  The decades-old Western Sahara dispute has for too long been an intractable obstacle blocking any real Maghreb unity.


US-Cuba policy, and the race for oil drilling

To protect the national interest — and for the sake of Florida's beaches and the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem — it is time to stop sticking our heels in the sand when it comes to U.S.-Cuba policy.
Before the end of the year, a Chinese-made drilling platform known as Scarabeo 9 is expected to arrive in the Gulf.  Once it is there, Cuba and its foreign partners, including Spain’s Repsol, will begin using it to drill for oil in waters deeper than Deepwater Horizon’s infamous Macondo well.  The massive rig, manufactured to comply with U.S.-content restrictions at a cost of $750 million, will cost Repsol and other companies $407,000 per day to lease for exploration.
They are taking this financial risk because Cuba needs the oil and its partners — Spain, Norway, Russia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Angola, Venezuela, and possibly China — believe that drilling in waters said to contain undiscovered reserves of approximately 5 billion barrels of oil is good business.


Don't put international cooperation on Iran at risk

During Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN last week, many attendees turned their backs and walked out. Although they were reacting to another anti-West tirade by the embattled president, the reaction was also indicative of Iran’s own increasing isolation over its human rights abuses, its destabilizing role in the region, and of course, its nuclear program.

In the past month, we have seen a legal spat between Russia and Iran over Moscow’s cancellation of an air-defense system contract, news of Chinese firms slowing investment in Iran’s critical energy sector, and Turkish agreement to host a missile defense radar unofficially geared towards the missile threat from Iran. These are not the usual suspects. But between Iran’s own refusal to cooperate with international inspectors on its nuclear program and careful diplomatic outreach by the United States to convince other countries to take the Iranian threat seriously, global pressure on Iran is increasing.

This steadily growing international partnership to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions is vital to influencing Iran’s decision-making about its nuclear program. According to the U.S. intelligence community, Tehran has not yet made the decision to build a nuclear weapon. The task therefore, is to prevent Iran’s Supreme Leader from making that decision, and making the continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons option as difficult, expensive, and risky as possible.


Dissecting the Palestinian and UN exchange

On the topic of Israel-Palestine, President Obama’s address to the United Nations General Assembly left room for neither doubt nor ambiguity. Simply stated, Washington will not countenance any Palestinian challenge to perpetual Israeli occupation, no matter how symbolic or trivial. So as far as the United States is concerned, a Palestinian application for enhanced membership in the world body has all the legitimacy of a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv restaurant.

Washington’s embrace of the Netanyahu government and its agenda has become so comprehensive that it would be fair to conclude that guaranteeing Israeli impunity in any-and all- of its dealings with the Palestinian people has become a guiding principle of American Middle East policy. Indeed, an outside observer of US policy cannot help but conclude that it is a case of the inmates taking over the asylum: Obama gives a speech that warms the heart of any die-hard Likudnik and delights even Avigdor Lieberman, and gets roundly condemned by American – not Israeli – politicians for throwing the Jewish state to the wolves.


The Dream Act: America's soft power

Lost in the Congressional debates between opponents and proponents of the Dream Act are two mutually reinforcing truths. First, America’s failed immigration system is the flip side of a failed foreign policy. For example, Mexican officials are allowed to export their revolution to the United States by not providing a decent standard of living for its citizens who then have to come to the U.S. in search of a better future. 

In short, America has not insisted on good governance in Mexico.  In the meantime, our country has grown from 200 million to more than 310 million in fewer than two decades. This means that our already-broken economic system needs to produce more jobs; protect more of the vulnerable; and build more schools, roads, and bridges. The problem is that the welfare system we have created along with a broken immigration system is unaffordable under the demographic and economic circumstances of the twenty-first century.

Congressional supporters of the Dream Act argue that we would not have become a global superpower without opening our doors to immigrants; that smart, self-motivated immigrants spur the innovations and create the jobs our economy needs to thrive. This may be true, but it does not tell the whole story.


The United States and India: Raising the bar on trade and economic cooperation

Anyone who has traveled to India recently will have noticed New Delhi’s amazing, new airport. Not only is it shiny and efficient and so unlike the dreary older airport it replaced, there is a Parsons Brinkerhoff-designed, world-class metro connecting you directly to the central business district.  Similarly, the new Hyderabad and Bangalore airports rival those in the U.S. The point: India is on the move.

Likewise on trade, India isn’t waiting for some grand bargain to be worked out at Doha. Instead, India is reaching out to implement bilateral trade agreements to achieve mutual goals. A deal with Japan went into force in August. South Korea and Singapore, too, have executed agreements with India, while negotiations with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand continue. An expansion of an agreement with ASEAN is in the offing. Never to be accused of thinking small, India is pressing ahead to negotiate an FTA with Europe. The point: India’s trade agenda is really on the move. 

This leaves us in a quandary, as even clearing the pending FTAs with Columbia, Panama, and Korea proves difficult. By not moving forward, American businesses stand to suffer even more than they already have. Magnify this ten-fold or more relative to India, and just imagine the lost opportunity as other economies pair up with the world’s largest free-market democracy, leaving the U.S. behind. 


Time to protect American angels abroad

Tomorrow, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will vote on the “Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011.” It is a long time coming. 

In 2007, Kate Puzey, a valedictorian from Georgia, arrived in Benin as a Peace Corps volunteer to teach local children English. When she discovered that girls in her class were being sexually assaulted by another teacher, she notified Peace Corps staff in Benin’s capital. While Peace Corps decided to fire the predator, they never told Kate. Kate was now in serious danger. This man was dangerous, and Peace Corps knew that Kate specifically told them how to contact her in the event they took any disciplinary action because she feared retribution. Days later, Kate Puzey, at the tender age of 24, was found on her front porch with her throat slit. Her fear became an unfortunate reality.

Three years earlier, the Peace Corps sent “Jane” a 23-year-old bright eyed and innocent woman to Bangladesh. It was not long before six local men began following her home. One day they surrounded her, grabbed her, shoved her to the ground, and began touching and kissing her before eventually leaving. When she reported the attack to Peace Corps staff, they ignored her. Then, on December 6, 2004, these same men dragged her into an abandoned courtyard, raped her, and beat her until she begged for them to just kill her. In response, Peace Corps took away her cell phone, told her not to tell any of her fellow Volunteers, and sent her back to Washington, D.C. where she was subsequently blamed for the attack.


Don't cut foreign aid- Millions of lives at stake

We’ve all seen the horrifying images of mothers struggling to feed their infant children despite not having any food themselves. Or heard the stories of entire families walking for days in search of food and water, only to face additional delays because the refugee camp was already overfull.
More than 13 million people are fighting for their lives today because of a severe drought that has hit parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Extreme drought has left some parts of the region suffering the driest year in six decades.


Getting on the right side of history

President Obama is in a quandary over what to do about Iran. News headlines over the last few weeks illustrate this:
·    “IAEA: Increasing concerns about Iran’s warheads designed to deliver nuclear payloads.”
·   “U.S. Treasury Department: Iran is aiding Al Qaeda.”
·   “Top al-Qaeda ranks keep footholds in Iran.”
·    “Iran continues to harbor and refuses to hand over bombers of Argentine Jewish charities.”
·   “Senior U.S. officials: Iran transferred lethal new munitions to Iraq and Afghanistan for attacks on U.S. troops.”
The Iranian regime has become brazen in its defiance of multiple UN resolutions and continues to thumb its proverbial nose at the entire international community.