International Affairs

International Affairs

Speak softly and carry a big 9-iron

Officials in the Obama administration were warned of a possible or imminent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, given specific warning 48 hours in advance of the planned attacks on the anniversary of 9/11, according to the UK Independent newspaper, and were warned on Sept. 4 of possible attacks on U.S. interests in the region, according to the Jerusalem Post.

We now know that while President Obama was campaigning in Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 4, and was mugging for the cameras and getting lifted off the ground in a bear hug on the campaign trail in California on Sept. 9 — the dates both warnings came — he was also skipping at least six of his daily security briefings (now claiming to have read them, but declining in-person, face-to-face briefings), and did not even inform Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and other officials of the threat or put them on high alert in any way, shape or form.


Great minds think alike — Mike Barnicle in NY and Shaul Mofaz in Israel

Worth noting: fascinating parallels in comments on Wednesday from “Morning Joe” regular Mike Barnicle and the same day from Kadima party’s Shaul Mofaz.

BARNICLE: Who is the more dangerous player on the world stage right now, the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] in Tehran or Bibi Netanyahu?

(UNCLEAR): Don’t answer that.

JOE KLEIN: It’s not Netanyahu. The supreme leader is a fascist. And he right now is causing great pain to his people in a way that Bibi Netanyahu never would.

DONNY DEUTSCH: I understand the point of your question, but that was a silly question.


What have we gained from deposing Gadhafi?

The recent attack on the United States Embassy in Libya, which resulted in the death of our ambassador and three senior staff members, is a proximate act of war that has not engendered much of a response from the White House.

Let us not forget the attack on our Embassy in Egypt this week, which is a dark reminder of the weakness of our foreign policy. Is this not reminiscent of the Jimmy Carter years? 


Obama to Bibi: Enough already on Iran

Whether or not President Obama has really snubbed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel by refusing to meet with him in New York, it’s time that Bibi understood that the administration does not want to be bounced into military strikes on Iran before the November election.

For months now, it has been apparent that there are substantive differences between the United States and Israel over the so-called red lines that would trigger military action. For Israel, it comes down to Iran having a nuclear weapon “capability,” which can mean anything from having enough fissile material stockpiled for a bomb and the components to deliver it. For the Obama administration, when on message, the issue is to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.


Trusting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

One of the big questions during Egypt’s democratic elections following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak was whether they would be the country’s last.

Muslim fundamentalists do not have a strong record as far as political tolerance goes¸ and there were widespread concerns among secular liberals and the minority Christian community that if elected, the predominant Muslim Brotherhood movement would stifle dissent.


No room for complacency on al Qaeda

Is the West African state of Mali, where al Qaeda fighters are well-established in the north, the next Afghanistan?

You might think so, listening to former Canadian ambassador Robert Fowler on NPR this morning. He was held hostage for 130 days by brutes from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2008.

The Obama administration is aware of the threat from the al Qaeda fighters; the French government is openly alarmed. There is talk of “Africanistan” among some West African government officials.


World to Romney — ‘shove it’

Mitt Romney wrapped up his first foreign tour as presidential candidate today in Poland.

The Republican presidential contender had a chance to shine in his swing through London for the Olympics, as well as Israel and Poland. His appearances in cities of three key U.S. allies should have been a breeze and enhanced his standing as potential commander in chief. Not only did he blow it, he left a trail of controversy behind him, with his hosts feeling obliged to contradict his message on every single stop.


Message to Mitt: Cultural superiority versus cultural inferiority is not the American way

Mitt Romney's latest opining about wealth, as he concludes his gaffe-laden visit to Europe, betrays a lack of understanding about American tradition and world affairs. I would note that Romney has not only opined about Israeli culture versus Palestinian culture. He has made the same argument about American culture versus Mexican culture (this will not be a big hit in Latin America or with Hispanic voters). Romney has made the same argument about the culture of Chile versus the culture of Ecuador. Who will Romney insult next?

Mitt Romney acts as though he is a member of the House of Lords, or a royal family, with some inherent superiority of one group or class versus another. In this world Romney appears to envision himself in the privileged class along with whomever he’s pandering to at the given moment he offers his opinions.


Romney, the ‘special relationship,’ and the Mau Mau

I am dismayed by the Mitt Romney campaign “gaffe” about the U.K.-U.S. “special relationship” as the Republican contender for the presidency arrives in London in time for the Olympics.

Unfortunately, comments from an anonymous Romney adviser in London’s Daily Telegraph have set off another pointless round of soul-searching by the ever-paranoid Brits about their ranking as top dog in the relationship with Washington.

The Telegraph quoted the unnamed adviser as saying, "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special." But the adviser went further, adding, "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."


Pass the Magnitsky bill

The Magnitsky bill, named after a lawyer for a U.K.-based investment fund who died an agonizing death in a Russian prison after being denied medical treatment, is wending its way slowly through Congress.

It would establish a blacklist of Russians allegedly involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s shocking death in 2009, presumably including Russian law enforcement officials, tax ministry officials and judges, as well as intelligence officers and Russians linked to organized crime, who would notably be denied U.S. visas. Magnitsky, a lawyer for the equity fund Hermitage Capital, uncovered an embezzlement scandal totaling $230 million by Russian tax and interior ministry officials, and was then imprisoned on charges of tax evasion and fraud for his pains.