Foreign Policy

Stop the nightmare in Sudan

I recently joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), my co-chair on the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in introducing the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 4169).  This important legislation is aimed at developing a comprehensive strategy to bring lasting peace to Sudan and end the decades long cycle of violence and human rights abuses in the war-torn country.

This legislation has never been more necessary. Having recently returned from South Sudan, where spent time in a refugee camp in just miles from the border with Sudan, I was appalled by what I encountered.

There are more than 25,000 men, women and children living in Yida refugee camp, all of whom have fled the violence in the Nuba Mountains. Yida is the same camp actor George Clooney, NBC news correspondent Ann Currie and New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof have  visited in recent weeks.

Many of the women I met with in the camp recounted how their villages were pillaged and burned by uniformed Sudanese soldiers. They told of brutal attacks gruesome killing.  They relayed stories of women and young girls being raped.  They explained how they lived in fear of daily Antonov bombing raids that indiscriminately shelled civilian populations, a trademark of Sudanese president Omar Bashir’s regime.  There are now reports that the Sudanese Army has begun using long-range Chinese rockets to bombard the Nuba Mountains.

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Trade relations with Russia will be a boost to the U.S.

If there is one thing Congress can agree on during an election year, it is a policy that will spur job creation, boost economic growth and be budget neutral at the same time. Here is why authorizing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for Russia will accomplish all three.  
 
Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) formally approved late last year Russia’s terms for membership in the organization during a three-day meeting of the WTO’s ministerial conference in Geneva.   Russia will take its seat at the WTO 30 days after notifying the organization that the Russian Duma has ratified the membership terms.

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No laughing matter: The cutting of UNESCO funding

In classic fashion cable television's The Daily Show recently reminded those of us who have conveniently forgotten that, for the most cynical of reasons, the US government has cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The cut was carried out in October 2011 as a US response to UNESCO accepting Palestine as a participating member nation.  The US Congress, in its wisdom, has ruled that any such actions by an international body should come at great cost, in this case, the elimination of US funding – some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.
 
The Daily Show rightly made the members of Congress out to be curmudgeons, hacks, and misanthropes who would rather score political points against the Palestinians than protect innocents being assisted by UNESCO (Click here to watch the video). The program’s only shortcoming was its failure to assign blame to AIPAC for repeatedly pushing misguided policies toward the region.

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In Iraq, mission not yet accomplished

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a date in which we should remember our wounded and fallen American servicemen and women who sacrificed so greatly to protect our nation.
 
It is also a time to consider any ongoing commitments we may have to the Iraqi people, who also have suffered from the conflict and still face threats to their security. While the costs of the war in American lives and treasure cannot be altered, the future of the Iraqis who our brave soldiers liberated can.

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For American jobs, Ex-Im Bank should be reauthorized

A surreal debate is unfolding in Congress over the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), which will hit its authorized lending cap within weeks. A band of critics is arguing that Ex-Im’s support for American exporters is costly, risky, and unfair. What are the facts?
 
Trade finance has been around for centuries. It’s one of the safest kinds of finance because the goods sold serve as collateral, and the buyer, the seller, and the price have already been set.
 
The vast majority of trade finance is provided by commercial banks, but Ex-Im still has an important role to play covering gaps in financing for U.S. exports where commercial-bank financing is unavailable or faces competition from foreign export credit agencies. Last year, Ex-Im supported export sales that in turn sustained nearly 300,000 U.S. jobs at 3,600 companies.

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A life in the DRC – Madeleine’s story

Driving from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo, I prepare myself for certain things. I know I will be confronted with extreme poverty. I know I will meet people who are facing hardships that would be unendurable to many. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the incredible beauty of the country.

The DRC has to be one of the most breathtaking countries in the world. But that beauty belies the fact that this country is terribly broken.

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U.S. remains first choice for Irish immigrants. Senate bill offers them a lifeline

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit (Happy St. Patrick's Day).

St. Patrick’s Day – or as it is in the U.S. – St. Patrick’s week - is an important point of celebration of all things Irish in far flung places around the globe.

I have met the Irish diaspora in the U.S., in Canada and Mexico; in Europe and the Middle East; and in South Africa and Australia. The Irish are everywhere. All those I have met have had the same love of their ancestral home whether they are fourth of fifth generation, or newly arrived.

The St. Patrick’s celebrations are an opportunity to reconnect. To celebrate all things Irish while reminding Irish Americans and others in the diaspora, that Ireland still suffers from many of the problems that forced them or their grandparents or great grandparents to leave Ireland in the first place and that we need their help to change that.

This is especially true in Washington where Ireland has many friends within the republican and democratic parties. In good times and bad, and in dangerous times they stayed with the peace process.

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Building a stable and prosperous Northern Ireland together

Ten years ago I travelled to the U.S. as a participant of the Washington Ireland Program for Service & Leadership – a project that supports and inspires young leaders from diverse backgrounds across Ireland and Northern Ireland during a summer in Washington, D.C. It is a great honor to return to the capital a decade later for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly to promote and maintain the special connections between our people.

Our social, political and cultural histories are intertwined and the U.S. has played a pivotal role in the Northern Irish peace process and the establishment of a power-sharing Executive and Assembly of which I am proud to be a member.

This support has made a significant contribution towards the ongoing transformation of Northern Ireland. The dedication of the U.S. government and groups such as the Friends of Ireland Caucus and the International Fund for Ireland have motivated and inspired political representatives and citizens across Ireland that peace and progress were achievable.

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Gen. Dempsey is right about Iran

Last month, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that he believed two things: it is not prudent to attack Iran at this point and he believes Iran is a rational actor that is weighing options and calculating decisions.

Since then, Dempsey has been the subject of increasing criticism, and Monday, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough implied Dempsey was unfit for command because his views on Iran were “disqualifying of a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.” These accusations are both unfair and untrue. Gen. Dempsey is right: Iran is a rational actor, and as such, they are making decisions on what they believe are the best options for their country.

All of Iran’s foreign policy decisions have fit within the rational framework of improving their national defense and increasing regional influence. It is clear that Supreme Leader Khamenei believes that the goal for United States’ sanctions against Iran is not the removal of the nuclear program but the destruction of the regime itself. Because of this belief, and the perceived dangers that the United States presents to Iran, Iran maintains strong relationships with Hezbollah and Syria, continues to improve its indigenous nuclear program, and retains potent asymmetrical warfare capabilities.

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Women of courage from 2011's hotspots

Last week, I witnessed ten extraordinary women be honored for their remarkable contributions to advancing human rights, justice, and equality in their countries.  I felt privileged to attend the U.S. State Department’s ceremony to mark the International Women’s Day on March 8th. First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated ten remarkable women from all over the world with the sixth annual International Women of Courage Awards. Two of the three women who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize were also there to mark the day and speak before an audience of over seven hundred policy-makers, diplomats, activists, NGO leaders, and students.
 
As the chair of Meridian International Center’s Council on Women’s Leadership, I’m well versed in the accomplishments of outstanding women.  Our network is working to raise awareness of the importance of promoting women’s empowerment in their communities, nations, and around the world.
 
Still, there were so many things that inspired me about these Women of Courage awardees. They came from places that experienced upheaval over the past year, like Libya, Myanmar, and Pakistan, and from lesser known countries like the Maldives. These women have taken on entrenched interests that seemed insurmountable, raised awareness of injustices that others turned away from, and often endured great risk to themselves and their families.  They came from disparate professions: among them were political leaders and journalists, as well as an architect and a police captain. The majority of the women were in their thirties – the architect from Libya is just 26-years old!

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