Foreign Policy

The high cost of visas

With a large national deficit looming, the American economy struggling and our lawmakers unable to agree on a solution to reduce the national debt, it is surprising that there has not been a harder push to “cut the fat” off our foreign expenditures immediately. Each day millions of federal tax dollars go out to help rebuild the societies of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yet insurgency and an uncooperative government remain in both places, costing us dearly. One specific area that can use some “fat” cutting is the way we Americans obtain visas from both countries. With the host country’s visa machine operating inefficiently and their governments unsupportive administratively, this expense to American taxpayers cries out for action from the highest levels of our decision makers in Washington.


Living in a refugee camp on Syrian border

Shahad is staying in a refugee camp near the Syrian border with her aunt. Her mother was killed, and at just two years old, she’s been shot twice. The bullet went into her spine.

Now, Shahad is paralyzed from the waist down. She can’t run and play like the other little kids.

Her aunt brought her to Lebanon to have the bullet removed and to keep her safe. But the conditions in the camp are difficult, especially for little children like Shahad.


A role for Sri Lanka in US pivot to Asia

As economic and political power shifts east, western nations are responding by reinforcing trade and security alliances across Asia. With the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, a new military base in Australia, and deepening alliances across the region, the U.S. has recommitted to the Asia Pacific. As President Obama’s foreign policy pivots to Asia and the vision of “America’s Pacific Century” unfolds, U.S. strategic relations with Sri Lanka must also be examined.
Sri Lanka is the region’s longest standing democracy with a burgeoning economy and vast opportunity for commercial, military and cultural partnerships. It has much to offer the U.S., already Sri Lanka’s biggest trade partner augmented by the 2002 signing of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. There exists a military-to-military relationship and the USAID presence has grown steadily since 1948. Education is another essential link, and Fulbright scholars are exchanged each year.


Syrians falling through cracks as refugee crisis grinds on

Erbil, Iraq – Last week in Iraqi Kurdistan, two solemn anniversaries were being commemorated: the chemical weapons attack on Halabja 25 years ago and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, there was another anniversary that went largely unnoticed: the second anniversary of the conflict in Syria.
In the past two years, at least 2 million Syrians have been internally displaced, as many as 4 million inside the country need humanitarian assistance, and more than a million are now refugees in neighboring countries.

The sheer number of displaced people has overwhelmed the international community’s capacity to respond. Neighboring countries are scrambling to cope with new arrivals. Camp conditions here in Iraq are so crowded that refugees are increasingly striking out on their own, seeking better prospects in nearby cities and towns.


Congress can stop Assad's enablers

Secretary of State John Kerry made headlines in recent days when, during a meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, he urged Iraq to stop allowing Iran to use the country’s airspace to deliver weapons to Syria. Secretary Kerry’s approach, to target the complex network of actors enabling Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, is the right one to take.
For two years, countries and commercial entities have successfully provided the Assad regime with the munitions, supplies, and money needed to sustain their brutal campaign. Choking that supply chain may start with a “spirited” meeting, but to truly cut off these networks requires a multi-pronged approach across the U.S. government.


Remembering the chemical atttacks against the Kurds

The ongoing slaughter in Syria is neither the first nor the worst tragedy in that neighborhood. 25 years ago this March, Iraqi forces coordinated a calculated campaign of genocide against the Kurds. During these eight campaigns known as Anfal, Saddam Hussein gave his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid complete political and military control over a swath of northern Iraq with orders to destroy the Kurdish culture.
The Anfal genocide included more than fifty chemical weapons attacks against civilians and more than 2,000 villages were destroyed. As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said recently referring to Anfal, “As we remember that horror and reflect on the lives ended by a tyrant, we must realize the world is on the brink of witnessing a similar atrocity in Syria. Once again, we may see images of dying mothers vainly shielding their infants from the chemical storm.”


Ahmadinejad's transition from presidency may prove difficult

With Iran’s 2013 presidential elections set to take place on June 14, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must begin preparing for life outside the highest elected office. If the lives of his predecessors’ are any indication for his future, Ahmadinejad’s transition from government to civilian life will not be an easy one.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was the fourth president of Iran and is said to be the wealthiest person in the country. He held the office of the presidency from 1987 to 1997, and lost decisively in the 2005 presidential elections to Ahmadinejad, who at the time was serving as the mayor of Tehran. Once considered one of the most influential figures in Iran, his clout quickly faded due to his support of the opposition Green movement following the disputed presidential elections of 2009.


Cypriot bailout and use of market mechanism is commendable

The European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have made a good compromise use of market forces to have the owners and uninsured depositors take a loss for their misjudgments in risky investments and thus avoided imposing a deposit levy totally rejected by the people and the Cypriot parliament.


My Afghanistan story

After 20 hours flying from Kabul airport, I finally arrived in New York to attend the Afghanistan Panels at the Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N., inaugurate a photo exhibition of Afghan women at the Congress, and launch the Resolution to Act which is ensuring that Afghan women are at the table during talks with the Taliban. While coming to the United States, during the flight from Dubai to JFK, I was preparing my talking points and presentation on the situation of Afghan women, and kept comparing our lives with the situation 12 years ago, and only one statement kept echoing in my head that we’ve come a long way.


Sequester cuts hurting US foreign policy

The mandatory across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequester are weakening America’s ability to effectively carry out foreign policy and are also highlighting the existing flaws in how the U.S. spends foreign affairs dollars.
Because the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are mischaracterized as non-security agencies under sequester – despite their central role in U.S. foreign policy – the sequester will cut U.S. international affairs funding by 5 percent this year.