Foreign Policy

Free trade vital to our economy (Rep. Cuellar)

For two decades, the word “trade” has been a dividing force in Congress.

Its supporters, like me, see trade as a boon to our economy. As the free leader of the world, the U.S. is also one of the largest trading nations, supporting millions of American workers and millions of American jobs.

Increased trade is good for America. In the past decade, U.S. exports have nearly doubled to $2 trillion a year. More exports from the U.S. can increase production of American-made products, spurring and stabilizing local jobs while supporting small business and increasing consumer choice.

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Stop outsourcing our security (Rep. Jan Schakowsky)

It seems that every week, we're hearing about another outrageous example of Private Military Contractors, especially Blackwater, (or Xe, as they now call themselves).

As of mid-2009, the United States employed over 22,000 hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that number keeps going up. Our reliance on private, for-profit companies for the business of waging war is extremely dangerous. It's time we move to eliminate the use of these unaccountable and controversial mercenaries, and I ask you to join me as a citizen co-sponsor of legislation that I have just re-introduced, the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act.

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The latest in Iraq before its important elections

The Iraqi parliamentary elections on March 7 will be a critical test for the young democracy. Ad Melkert, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, will speak at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 12:30-2:00 to assess the latest situation on the ground in the run up to the elections and what the election means for the country's political future.

More information is here, and a stream for the video of the event can be found below:


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Iran's political stock—a short sell

Nearly eight months after Iran's hotly disputed presidential election, the opposition movement continues to push for political change. This month's anniversaries of the February 1 (1979) return from exile of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which culminated in the overthrow of the Shah and victory of the Islamic Revolution on February 11, may give rise to renewed protests.
 
In a new Q&A, Karim Sadjadpour analyzes what’s happening on the ground in Iran, the strength of the opposition movement, and the legitimacy and stability of the Iranian regime. “There are any number of possibilities in the short term, but over the long term I have no confidence that this regime will be able to ameliorate the endemic political, economic, and social malaise they’ve wrought. If the Iranian government were a publicly traded stock, I would short it."

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Standing up for Internet freedom (Sen. John Kerry)

The recent dispute between China and Google should matter to everyone in the United States and around the world. Everyone accepts that any soveriegn nation has the right to establish their own laws and regulations. But, businesses that grow internationally have rights as well. America is the most open, inclusive, and fair place to conduct business in the world. Our international businesses deserve similar treatment from our trading partners.

The size and scope of the China market are too big to ignore and Google is gutsily taking real risk in standing up for principle. Google and other businesses should be able to engage in commerce free from discrimination or persecution. This is a critical component of community and free exchange of ideas that is denied when governments set up firewalls to free speech..

The use of twitter during the uprising in Iran made many aware for the first time of the potential for technology to aid those standing up for change. It belongs in our foreign policy discussion.

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The Big Question: Is it time to reconsider Haitian immigration policies?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals  offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Will the Obama administration permanently revise the "wet foot, dry foot" immigration policy to include Haitian refugees in light of the recent earthquake? Should it?

(Read responses to today's question after the jump.)

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Diplomacy and sanctions set the stage for progress with Iran (Rep. Dave Reichert)

Recent reports that Iran is less than one year away from completing a nuclear facility is cause for serious action by the international community. As the United States and other leading countries continue to hold talks with Iran to determine the true intent of the nation’s nuclear ambitions, Iran continues to defy orders of the International Atomic Energy Agency to cease its pursuit of the enriched uranium needed to make nuclear weapons.

Actions speak louder than words. Iran’s actions in the past year alone – repeated missile tests, pursuit of uranium enrichment, and delay tactics in the most recent request to send its nuclear enrichment program abroad demonstrate its intent to obtain a nuclear arsenal.

A nuclear Iran is a threat to our security and the security of critical allies, and the repressive tactics of the regime make Iran a threat to democracy – period. A nuclear Iran could destabilize or attack a critical portion of the world, including our allies in Israel and Southern Europe. If Iran were to go nuclear, it is conceivable that a tactical nuclear weapon could end up in the hands of an extremist group.

Iran is a vibrant country with rich history and traditions that Iranians bring to communities across the United States, and I believe the majority of Iranian people wish for their children and grandchildren a future that is prosperous and peaceful. Unfortunately, the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, support of violent and extremist proxy groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and its violence unleashed on peaceful demonstrators make Iran’s future relationship with the United States – and the rest of the world – uncertain.

Facing this threat, the United States must have a strong, coherent, bipartisan foreign policy that promotes dialogue but also leverages the full range of diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to maintain and improve global security. In this pursuit, we must use all available measures to prevent nuclear weapons from finding their way into the hands of terrorists. President Barack Obama has reached out to the Iranian regime to engage in a dialogue, but in order to demonstrate the collective determination of the U.S., Congress must also show that it is serious in the quest for peace. This includes the use of sanctions.

On that front, the United States must send a strong message.  That’s why I am a strong supporter of two bipartisan measures to impose economic sanctions on Iran, help the United States take a firm position against allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and to make it clear to the Iranian regime that continuation of its nuclear program is unacceptable. H.R. 1327, Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which passed the House of Representatives on October 14, 2009, would permit state and local governments to divest any public funds from companies that do more than $20 million a year in business with Iran’s energy sector. Additionally, H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, passed the House on December 15, 2009, and proposes to restrict large-scale sales of processed petroleum to Iran in order to convince the government to abandon its nuclear ambitions. With 40 percent of its refined petroleum imported from other countries, Iran depends heavily on other countries to supply its energy. The Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act provides leverage in negotiations that can often stall and they offer an alternative, diplomatic approach to avoid use of military force.

As we exert economic pressure on Iran to peacefully co-exist with other global nations, we must simultaneously exert diplomatic pressure. There is a place for dialogue, but we also cannot stand idly by as rumors of human rights abuses grow. For the first time in five years, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, located in Connecticut, was refused federal funding to carry out its mission of making the world aware of potentially repressive tactics and human rights abuses. To address this pressing issue, I’ve recently partnered with Senator John McCain to request that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reestablish funding for this group and similar organizations that provide critical information to the U.S. and the rest of the world about the abuses occurring in this unstable regime.

The people of Iran deserve a secure, peaceful future. This cannot happen without changes in Iran’s policies. In order to bring about those changes, we must use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal, including the further use of sanctions. I hope we can continue working together to bring freedom, prosperity, peace and stability to the people of Iran and the entire region.

Cross-posted from RedState

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Christmas Eve Is the 3,000th day in Afghanistan and 30th anniversary of the Russian invasion (Rep. Eric Massa)

Christmas Eve is a time to gather with friends and family to reflect on the good things in life. It's a time to share our joys and our hopes for peace on earth and good will towards all.

This year Christmas Eve has a sad and ironic twist to it however.

As we begin our deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, this Christmas Eve will also mark the 3,000th day of the war in Afghanistan and the 30th anniversary of the initial Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Thus far, this war has already cost the American taxpayer a minimum of $300,000,000,000 according to the Congressional Research Service (and that's just the funding that's "on budget").

Sadly, the fact that we're spending about $101 million per day in this war is the good news. The financial cost of this war is nothing compared to the fact that 937 American troops have been killed, and 4,434 have been wounded (and that's not counting the thousands more that will carry the memories of this war for their entire lives).

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Dismiss arbitrary timelines for Afghanistan (Rep. Tom Cole)

Earlier this month President Obama announced his plans for a new way forward in Afghanistan. He laid out clear objectives for a troop level increase, underscored the importance of strengthening Afghan security forces and outlined the strategic necessity of success in the region. I believe the President made a very compelling case for why it is absolutely critical that America defeat al Qaeda and prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies.

The most significant aspect of the President’s announcement was his call for a deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. forces and additional troops to be provided by our NATO partners and other international allies. While I would have been more comfortable with the original recommendation of General McChrystal to increase troops by 40,000, I am still pleased with the decision to bolster our presence in the region. The men and women of the Armed Forces are fighting a tough battle on multiple fronts against an increasingly sophisticated enemy. Providing additional manpower and resources to our troops is vitally important as we move forward.

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Recovering Our Stolen Children

On the same day that senior Obama administration officials were fanning out across Capitol Hill to make the case for sending more troops to Afghanistan, another long-neglected, very human foreign policy crisis was finally getting the attention of my colleagues.  The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a four-plus hour hearing on international parental child abduction, a family-rending phenomenon that affects thousands of American families on an annual basis. 
 
In an increasingly connected world, American men and women are increasingly finding their life partners from other parts of the world.  Those unions often result in children, and in most cases these mixed-nationality families successfully function like any other.  Occasionally, these relationships end in divorce, and in extreme cases, the foreign-born spouse illegally removes the American-born child from this country.  Since the beginning of this decade, more than 5000 American-born children have been illegally removed from this country. These cases of international parental kidnapping are supposed to be resolved through the application of the nearly 30 year-old Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction.  However, as the experience of my constituent David Goldman painfully demonstrates, the Hague Convention does not work as it should.

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