Foreign Policy

Senate needs to confirm ambassadors to Turkey and Azerbaijan

Turkey is a significant political and economic actor that has played a crucial role in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe in the last decade. The country is a valuable ally to the US and NATO in maintaining peace and stability as we deal with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, aggressive rhetoric from Iran, and the omnipresent threat of international terrorism.  It is also home to an incredibly rich culture, a thriving economy, and a dynamic, young population.


Saudi arms deal is about Iran (Rep. Ron Paul)

This month the US Administration notified Congress that it intends to complete one of the largest arms sales in US history to one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Saudi Arabia has been given the green light by the administration to spend $60 billion on some 84 new F-15 aircraft, dozens of the latest helicopters, and other missiles, bombs, and high-tech military products from the US weapons industry. 


Azerbaijan: A reliable partner in a turbulent region

Why have President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates all had private meetings with Azerbaijan President Aliyev during the past four months?  The announcement that Pakistani authorities have closed the principle U.S. military supply route into Afghanistan perfectly illustrates the importance of this South Carolina sized secular Muslim country sandwiched between a resurgent Russia and extremist Iran.  President Obama’s meeting with President Aliyev a few weeks ago in New York was to thank him for Azerbaijan’s commitment to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.


Obama refusal of military funds to abusive Pakistani units must go further

In the midst of talks between top United States and Pakistani officials in Washington regarding U.S. security cooperation in the region, the Obama administration announced today a cut off of assistance to Pakistani military units believed to have committed gross human rights violations in the countries offensive against Al Qaeda and other militant groups.


Politicians take note: American voters support the UN

Ahead of the upcoming November elections, Americans are rightfully concerned about the state of the economy, not least of which includes our budget deficit. But voters are also concerned about America’s place in the world and how we engage with our global partners to combat some of the toughest challenges. From the global fight against AIDS and malaria, to bringing food and clean water to the world’s poorest people, to establishing peace and security in some of the most volatile regions around the globe, no country can tackle these issues alone. This is where the UN comes in.


Treaty critics can’t explain away military support for New START

Critics of the New START Treaty have recently taken to the pages of the Washington Times in an attempt to raise doubts about the treaty. Despite their best efforts to muddy the waters, however, they have been unable to explain away the overwhelming support that the treaty has among both U.S. military leadership and the national security establishment.
The reason for that support is simple. The treaty makes us safer.


An assessment of the European Union's new service

The locomotive of the European Union’s nascent diplomatic corps has been picking up speed with a late-September ribbon-cutting in Washington and officials in Brussels promising it will be ready to roll by the planned start of operations December 1st but critics on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed major doubts as to whether the world can expect an EU foreign agency that can chug its weight. 


Restore dignity to elderly and disabled refugees

On September 30, in a rush to leave town, Congress missed a deadline to extend Supplemental Security Income for up to 5,600 refugees who are elderly or have permanent disabilities. Congress’ failure to extend this vital cash assistance resulted in dire consequences for many women and men who lost their only means of subsistence.

This crisis was unnecessary. When Congress recessed, an uncontroversial extension bill had been cleared by numerous fiscally conservative Republicans. Led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and six co-sponsors, the measure had nearly worked its way through the Senate’s unanimous consent process. With the deadline passed, wrenching stories of newly impoverished refugees are already flowing in.  Congress must make it a priority to rectify these harms when it reconvenes in November.

Supplemental Security Income provides cash support to citizens who are elderly or permanently disabled and who have no other income. The maximum amount of federal support is $674 per month.  This modest amount provides a measure of dignity by enabling individuals to pay for low-cost housing and other basic expenses, thereby avoiding complete indigence.

In addition to citizens, refugees who are seniors or who have permanent disabilities may also receive Supplemental Security Income but only for a defined duration of time. The limited time period was intended to provide sufficient opportunity for these refugees to become naturalized citizens. The refugees who lost assistance on September 30 are a discrete group of people who have faced insurmountable difficulties obtaining citizenship despite all their efforts. In some cases, this is due to government delays in processing their naturalization applications. In other cases, the infirmities of old age and disability hinder their ability to pass the language and civics tests. In virtually all cases, the high fees required to apply for citizenship pose an initial barrier: the total fees are equivalent to the maximum monthly federal grant on which individuals on SSI are expected to meet all their living expenses.

Whose lives are at stake? Refugees and asylees, by definition, fled persecution, often through imprisonment and torture. Those who lost their federal Supplemental Security Income on September 30 include:

A 78- year-old Montanan who left Ukraine after years of being persecuted for practicing Christianity. He has been blind since birth and his health took a sharp downturn last year after suffering a stroke. The modest support he has received from Supplemental Security Income enabled him to rent an apartment, which he now stands to lose.


Speaking truth to Bahrain: A response to S. Rob Sobhani

A recent post on The Hill's Congress Blog about Bahrain bore all the indicia of the most obsequious boosterism. According to its author, the Kingdom is a strategic ally, land of opportunity, and regional beacon of progress that could do no wrong. “Bahrain is governed by a thoughtful and progressive leader,” Mr. Sobhani effused. “[It] is the most open and liberal economy in the Persian Gulf and has been a leader in economic reform.”

This was not the first time Mr. Sobhani promoted Bahrain in a prominent venue. During the 2008 presidential election, he took to the pages of the Washington Times to make the exact same case by spotlighting the island nation’s “[w]estern-educated and reformist monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa,” whose “pioneering role in promoting human rights, religious tolerance and democratic pluralism” are setting the stage for eventual democratization. (Tellingly, Mr. Sobhani’s Washington Times op-ed was re-posted verbatim on the website of the Bahraini Embassy.)

Alas, Bahrain’s repressive reality contrasts sharply with the rosy picture painted by Mr. Sobhani. Case-in-point: the Kingdom’s recent crackdown on dissident voices, including pioneering Arab blogger and human rights advocate Ali Abdulemam. As The Atlantic’s Max Fisher and the Committee to Protect Journalists have reported, Abdulemam was detained last month by the Bahraini national security apparatus on the bogus charge of “spreading false information” on his website BahrainOnline, a leading pro-democracy and human rights platform. As we speak, Abdulemam – along with dozens of other Shi’a activists – continues to perish in solitary confinement without access to his lawyer and with minimal contact with his family.


Doing business in Iran - time for companies to choose

In presenting his conspiracy theories on 9/11 at the United Nations and doing nothing to address fears of his regime's nuclear ambitions, President Ahmadinejad managed to do what few thought possible - he pushed Iran and its people into deeper isolation.