Foreign Policy

Congress should consider Syrian energy sanctions

The Assad regime’s ruthlessness is on vivid display as the Syrian security forces, with Iranian assistance, continue their bloody campaign to crush a four-month long democracy uprising.

This week, members of Congress are waking up from a debt-ceiling hangover to consider a bipartisan energy sanctions bill that would exert peaceful pressure on Bashar Assad’s regime in an effort to stop the bloodshed. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), as well as Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) have introduced bills targeting investment in Syria’s energy sector, as well as petroleum exports and imports, and the transfer of technology. These bills are modeled on Iran sanctions laws that are successfully squeezing Iran’s energy sector.

Will President Obama move quickly to sign this bill into law and use a peaceful instrument of pressure to try and stop the killing? Or will he yield to the argument of Robert Ford, his ambassador to Syria, who argued in his confirmation hearing Tuesday that, “additional American measures probably aren’t going to have that big of an impact. The big companies working in the energy sector in Syria are from Europe or Syria’s neighbors.”


U.S.-Korea trade deal is bad for both countries

There is some rosy fantasy that the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement will create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs in both countries and strengthen and expand the U.S. relationship with Korea. This is a fabrication of multinational corporations that have no allegiance to either country. As a member of the Korean National Assembly, I would like to set the record straight: In reality, the deal is lose-lose.
Contrary to the PR campaign by the Korean Embassy, it is simply not true that most Koreans wholeheartedly welcome the trade deal. The Democratic Party of Korea and a multitude of civic groups in Korea have fought to stop it. And the majority of the Korean people are gravely concerned.


Encouragement for emerging African democracy leaders must be tempered with dose of vigilance

In a White House meeting last week, President Barack Obama praised four recently elected heads of African states as “effective models” for democratization who are “absolutely committed” to good governance and human rights. Yet, as the New York Times noted, ambitious promises and lofty rhetoric in Washington glossed over troubling, but all too familiar, reports of coup plotting, an assassination attempt, and fresh human rights and press freedom violations.

With the exception of President Boni Yayi of Benin, three new African leaders, Presidents Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, and Alpha Condé of Guinea, have each been in office for less than a year after emerging from some of the most contested ballot tussles on the continent. Yet, in their short time in office, two of the leaders Washington has most embraced in “building strong democratic institutions,” Ivory Coast President Ouattara and Guinean President Condé, have already been implicated in rights abuses.


U.S.-China cooperation: a critical priority

Ambassador to China Gary Locke made the following remarks at his swearing-in ceremony.

I’m deeply humbled and honored to become the next United States ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. I’d like to thank President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the United States Senate for their support, their confidence and their trust in me. I also want to recognize and thank Chargé d’Affaires Deng from the People’s Republic of China, and many other friends and colleagues who are here today. With my family -– my wife Mona and our children Emily, Dylan and Madeline -- we’re excited to have this opportunity to serve the President and the people of the United States of America.


Congress, please add sugar to your tea party

These are heartless times. Issues that should never be partisan, like helping the poorest of the poor survive, are falling to the wayside in the name of ensuring the top 1% of our wealthiest get to keep their disproportionately large tax cuts.

It is extraordinary to see how far we seem to have come down the road of self-interest. We know that there are many members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, who understand and care about serving the long-term interests of the United States by tackling global poverty. Unfortunately, their voices are not being heard. Today, we witnessed the passage of a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations bill that eliminates even the relatively miniscule amounts of funding for such programs in the name of cutting our deficit. But this only puts many of our most vulnerable global citizens – women and children - at further risk.


Pakistan: One year after the floods

In the village of Nehal Khan Burchand, Pakistan, signs of rebuilding are underway. One year ago today, unprecedented, torrential rains hit northern Pakistan. Back then, little did these poor farmers of Nehal Khan Burchand know that a water mass the size of Great Britain was coming their way down the Indus River. In a matter of weeks, it would submerge their village. 

Little did they know that they would spend the next eight months living in a camp - one of thousands set up to provide shelter for the roughly seven million people displaced by last year’s floods.

When I visited Pakistan in September of last year, the situation could not have been more dire. With twenty million people in need of emergency relief, the country was facing a crisis larger than the 2001 tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake combined.  


Caveat emptor!

The situation I set out below might seem imaginary to you, but it is stark reality for a group of Iranian exiles who trusted the U.S. and now are in danger of being slaughtered. 

Imagine for a moment that you are a resident of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, one of some 3,400 defenseless Iranian dissidents who were classified as a “Protected Person” under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the United States in 2004 – only after numerous reviews by various U.S. intelligence and investigative bodies.


Afghan women's rights are in jeopardy

I have always considered myself to be a true patriot toward my country. I love Afghanistan for its land, culture, and beauty. However, I am concerned that our freedom is in jeopardy. I fear that once again, we may soon be at war and the women’s rights that I have worked so hard to improve will be diminished.  

I am so grateful to the United States citizens who have helped my country. Now that U.S. soldiers are beginning to return home, I worry that Afghanistan is not ready to be left alone. Afghanistan’s military and local police are not prepared to secure the country on its own. This year, security has been the worse I’ve seen since 2002.


American agriculture paying stiff price for stalled trade agreements

Apple launched its first iPhone June 29, 2007 -- 1,483 days ago. Two days earlier, the U.S. – Panamanian Free Trade agreement (FTA) was signed; and the day after, the U.S.-Korea FTA was signed. The iPhone is now on its fourth generation, while these trade agreements, plus one with Colombia (signed 1,703 days ago) still sit, stalled in Washington. 

Despite receiving recommendations on the agreements from Congress July 7 of this year, the White House has yet to send the agreements to Congress for final approval.  News that these trade agreements are now being pushed off until after August recess is both disappointing and unsettling for American agriculture, and especially for the meat and poultry industry, U.S. agriculture’s largest sector. 


War Powers Resolution consistently ignored

In 1973, in my first job in Washington, D.C., I helped to pass the War Powers Resolution. At the time, it seemed like a good idea.

The country was reeling from the Vietnam War that had proved so divisive and caused so many casualties. Many blamed Presidents John F. Kennedy for surreptitiously getting the country into a war, Lyndon Johnson for using falsehoods to win approval of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and Richard Nixon for his secret plan to end the war that led to many more years of fighting and dying.