Foreign Policy

Why I support Russia PNTR

While I have been critical of the approach that both Democratic and Republican administrations have taken to trade negotiations and enforcement in the past, the agreement before the Senate this week is a welcome step forward. The Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) agreement has stronger monitoring and enforcement measures to track Russia’s commitments made as part of its new membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
For too long, both Democratic and Republican administrations have negotiated trade agreements that undermine – rather than maximize – American job creation. These agreements have failed to demand that our trade partners follow the same rules that we do and do not hold our partners accountable when they don’t meet commitments to which they’ve agreed.


Cooler heads prevailed on Disabilities Treaty

The Senate's defeat of the move to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities was not a defeat for Americans with disabilities, though it may seem that way to many. That is because of the vast disparity between our aspirations for this treaty on one hand, and the limitations of its text and deep flaws in the UN system in which it will be interpreted.
The 38 Senators who voted against ratification should be congratulated for seeing the basic contradiction in calls for ratification. Proponents said we could have it both ways — an international rights committee powerful enough to change other countries’ laws but too weak to interfere with our own.

Proponents of ratification failed to show how this would demonstrate U.S. leadership on this issue or for promoting a proper understanding of international law.


Settlement construction threatens two-state solution and Israel

The elections in the United States and those that are scheduled soon in Israel provide an opportunity to reignite the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
At such a political crossroad, the consequence of taking a wrong turn is grave.

The breakthrough in Oslo failed to culminate into a permanent peace agreement in spite of the 19 years that has passed since. But while the peace process stalled, demographic realities continued and today we face, within just a few years, an emerging Arab majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River – the small strip of land that is home to Jews and Arabs. No wonder then that many Israelis who yearn for peace and who fear that Israel is losing its Jewish and democratic character are seeking refuge in a unilateral Israeli initiative.


How Obama can avoid McCain's trap on Rice

Will the revenge of the Rockefeller Republicans help President Obama a second time – this time with his political dilemma regarding appointing Susan Rice as Secretary of State?

While largely unchronicled, in the closing days of the campaign, Rockefeller Republicans rebuffing Romney, helped President Obama nail down his re-election.  The President had reason to be concerned about Romney’s national edge amongst Independents and whether he would get enough votes from moderate independents from the suburbs.  In the end, Rockefeller Republicans helped Obama forge his 51-47 percent victory.


Objections to Disabilities Treaty don't stand up to scrutiny

Today's the vote that will decide the Disabilities Treaty. We're just a few short hours away.

I was up late last night getting ready for the final floor debate, and I searched Twitter to see what folks were saying.
There's obviously a lot of good and needed activism happening, and that's gratifying.

But there's also a lot of misinformation being spread to defeat the Treaty -- and that's the nature of democracy -- we should debate the issues fully and rigorously -- and yes -- loudly. And I for one like to see what people are saying, especially the people who don't agree with me. I don't believe in a politics where we just dismiss those who see the world differently, but instead I believe in a dialogue where we engage them.

So I spent some time reading the tweets of folks who don't yet agree we should approve the Treaty.


Missing the point on Benghazi

As an ex-Foreign Service Officer with service in Libya, I am increasingly appalled by the outright politics swirling around Benghazi and its irrelevance to the tragedy of four American diplomats including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, a former colleague and friend in the State Department. Both the focus on who knew and said what when and the search for a scapegoat in UN Ambassador Susan Rice entirely miss the point. Amb. Rice had no operational responsibility for Libya whatsoever and, as widely noted, her case is in sharp contrast to that of her namesake, Condoleezza Rice, who also gave inaccurate public testimony but, as NSC Advisor, was at least involved in shaping U.S. policy on WMD in Iraq. Yet many of the same senators now attacking Susan Rice voted with fulsome praise to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. The purely political nature of the debate is all too obvious in Senator Lindsay Graham's Nov. 28 press comments comparing Susan Rice's possible nomination as Secretary with George W Bush's recess appointment to the UN of John Bolton.


Penalizing Palestinians will not help peace process

When it comes to shielding Israeli human rights violations and squelching Palestinian freedom and self-determination, Congress never misses an opportunity to reward Israeli intransigence and punish peaceful Palestinian initiatives. 

The Senate defines a “non-germane amendment” as one “that would add new and different subject matter to, or may be irrelevant to, the bill or other measure it seeks to amend.” Senators are now piling on these “non-germane amendments” to the National Defense Authorization Act in a vindictive move designed to penalize Palestinians, the United Nations and even any country that supports Palestinian statehood following last Thursday's 138-9 vote in the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of a “non-member observer state.”


UN is not the forum for resolving Middle East tensions

Today, the United Nations will vote on whether or not to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state of the UN. With 132 nations having already recognized the Palestinian territory as a sovereign state and only 97 votes needed, I suspect the Palestinian Authority’s effort will be successful. Yet, despite a ceasefire reached between Israel and Hamas last week, the Middle East remains a volatile tinder box far from peace. Admitting the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state will hurt, not help, a peace process that is already on shaky ground.


US must do more than express 'concern' about Bahrain crackdown

Last week, I made my first journey from Bahrain to Washington, D.C. to ask the U.S. government for help. The Kingdom’s latest crackdown on those calling for democracy is intensifying. Last year, when Bahrainis demonstrated in the streets calling for government reform, like many others in countries across the Middle East, they were met with violence. Some were shot, thousands were arrested, many tortured in custody, some until they died. After drawing criticism for the crackdown, the King of Bahrain appointed a special commission to advise it on reforms. A year ago this week, it listed a series of recommendations the Bahrain government should do to turn things around. Most haven't been done.


Future of US-Islamic relations in second Obama term

The presidential elections in the United States are watched with great interest and concern in every part of the world, including in the Islamic world. The results will have impact on countless international issues.

With President Obama’s re-election, we believe there is an opportunity to continue an unprecedented engagement with the Muslim world, which he began at the beginning of his first term. President Obama undertook a bold initiative in his first four years to engage with the Muslim world in June 2009 at the Cairo University, which demonstrated vision and leadership.