Foreign Policy

Time to call out Israel's bad behavior

The Obama Administration's equivocation over Israel's outrageous deadly assault on humanitarian ships headed for Gaza ,while not surprising, is nevertheless unacceptable. Once again Israel's bad behavior has dug a deep hole for itself, and we're left debating whether or not to jump in with them. Responsible governments behave responsibly. In its dealings with Gaza over the past 43 years, Israel has been anything but responsible, and we need to clearly distance ourselves from their actions.

For decades Israel occupied Gaza reducing its people to total dependency as day-laborers in Israel. No infrastructure was built (no sewage, no paved roads, no sanitation system, no modern power grid etc). During the Oslo years, Israel remained in control of Gaza, allowing no independent Palestinian commerce to develop with the outside world. When Israel evacuated Gaza, they did so unilaterally and yet retained total control over all access and egress, thus insuring that the strip's economy would remain stunted -- with more than 65% of the population living below the poverty level and youth unemployment averaging 80% since the mid 1990's.


The Big Question: How should the U.S. respond to Israel?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest news of the day. ...

Israel storms an aid ship and cancels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Washington.

How should the U.S. respond?


Stand with Israel (Rep. Michele Bachmann)

Israel has come under attack yet again from several world leaders who are calling the actions taken yesterday by their military "criminal" and "inhuman." The AP reports that Israeli commandos stopped six flotillas headed towards Gaza to make sure that their cargo did not contain weapons. The first five ships abided by the checks peacefully, but on the sixth ship, Israeli commandoes were met with strong resistance.

The AP Reports:

"A soldier identified only as a sergeant told reporters at a military briefing that the activists on board 'were armed with knives, scissors, pepper spray and guns.' He said he was armed only with a paintball rifle. 'It was a civilian paintball gun that any 12-year-old can play with,' he said. 'I saw my friends on the deck spitting blood.'

"Israel intercepted the six ships carrying some 10,000 tons of aid for the isolated seaside territory, which has been blockaded by Israel for three years, with Egypt's cooperation. The Israeli government had urged the flotilla not to try to breach the blockade before the ships set sail from waters off Cyprus on Sunday and offered to take some aid in for them.

"Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week military offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers in January 2009."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed "regret" for the loss of life of ten activists on board, but said the soldiers "had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed."

While the world decries the actions of Israel, I think it's imperative that the United States stand strong with their ally. I support Israel's position to stop and inspect peace missions headed to Gaza for national security purposes and the U.S. should reiterate our support for Israel and stand by them throughout the peace process in the Middle East.


Djou calls for South Korea free trade agreement (Rep. Charles Djou)

Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to encourage and request the United States Congress to immediately pass the free trade agreement with South Korea.  This is an important measure that has languished too long for this Congress.

First and foremost, we need to pass this because it is important for our economy – expanding free trade and opportunities for commerce for our nation is critical in this time of an economic recession. For my district in Hawaii expanding free trade will directly help the tourism industry, the number one sector of my district.

Second, South Korea has been a strong ally of the United States.  It is important right now that we stand alongside with our important allies in the foreign field.

Third, and finally Mr. Speaker, given the recent instability in the Korean Peninsula with aggression taken by North Korea, as a Congressman who represents the 1st Congressional District and the flight arc of North Korea’s missiles, it is important that we right now stand beside South Korea and pass this free trade agreement and pass it now.


Senate should scrutinize Bryza before confirming him as Ambassador to Baku

Azerbaijan finally consented last week to the appointment of Matthew Bryza as U.S. Ambassador to
Baku, according to a knowledgeable source in Washington. The White House is expected to shortly issue an official announcement.
It is noteworthy that there has not been an American Ambassador in Azerbaijan since last July. Surprisingly, there has not been any sense of urgency in Washington, during the lengthy absence of a U.S. Ambassador from that critical part of the world, neighboring Iran! Pres. Aliyev must have viewed this holdup as a snub to his country.
Until 2009, Matthew Bryza served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Co-Chair of the Minsk Group negotiators on the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict. Interestingly, he was dubbed by colleagues as "Baby DAS" (Deputy Assistant Secretary) for his swift promotion, despite his youthful age and limited diplomatic experience.
The delay in his appointment to Baku could be attributed to Azerbaijan’s misgivings concerning Bryza and discontent with recent U.S. foreign policy initiatives. During the course of his upcoming Senate confirmation, Bryza should be questioned regarding his past actions and recent tensions between Azerbaijan and the United States.


The Big Question: Mexico's president should tell Congress ...?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest news of the day. ...

Today's question:

Now that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has spoken, what do you think of his remarks?

Read here:


The Big Question: Will the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan on time?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest news of the day. ...

Today's question:

U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal said Thursday that although progress has been made in Afghanistan, "nobody is winning at this point."

Will the U.S. be able to meet the deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan?


Secretary Clinton, promote democratic reform in Egypt

Dear Madame Secretary,

Democracy in Egypt has suffered another blow. This week, the Egyptian government extended its state of emergency for an additional two years despite President Mubarak’s promises since 2005 to end it and replace it with a more limited anti-terror law. In light of this disturbing development, we write to you again to urge you strongly to take an interest in promoting democratic reform in Egypt.

In renewing the state of emergency, the Egyptian government has attempted to appease critics with slight changes to the emergency law text; however, these will not alter the fundamentally repressive atmosphere the state of emergency creates. Citizens still do not, for example, enjoy the freedom of assembly. The Egyptian government also has claimed that the emergency law will only apply to cases of terrorism or narcotics, but it has made such promises in the past and not abided by them.


Advancing regional security in the Sahara

This week, UN Security Council members are continuing their review of nuclear non-proliferation issues to address the growing threat of nuclear terrorism. Coupled with pressure to bring new sanctions on Iran and other agenda items from the nuclear summit in Washington, these serious security challenges are not likely to be resolved quickly. More promising, however, is a less well-known issue the Security Council acted on in late April involving a threat to the security and stability of North Africa and beyond. It is the Western Sahara conflict which, with the right leadership that reflects US policy of more than a decade, could finally be headed towards a sustainable solution that would end the need for MINURSO, one of the longest UN peace-keeping missions.

We served in Morocco as US diplomats in 1999 when the Clinton Administration realized that this long-standing conflict between Morocco and Algeria―over what historically was called Spanish Sahara―needed new momentum to be resolved. More than ten years have passed since; over $1 billion has been spent on peacekeepers; and we appear no closer to resolution. There is reason for hope, however, if the US and key UN Security Council members take advantage of this opportune moment. Ending the Western Sahara conflict could be an important foreign policy win for the US and its allies concerned with regional security and stability, and preventing another failed state in Africa.


You sunk my battleship (Rep. Ed Royce)

Will North Korea’s Kim Jong-il get away with murder?  That’s a question Koreans, and many in the region, are asking a month and a half after a South Korean naval vessel was sunk, killing 46.

An investigation, assisted by U.S. naval intelligence, and other international partners, is still ongoing.  Yet it’s all but certain that the Cheonan was torpedoed, an act of war.  While North Korean motives (escalation for aid? Kim Jong-il consolidating his power base? rogue captain?) remain the subject of debate, the destruction is clear.