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Heard Around the Hillary-Sphere: Busy Thursday Edition

September 10, 2009

0011ycgxSecretary Clinton had a pretty packed schedule today and there is obviously a lot going on in foreign policy-land- Honduras, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and on and on.

Here’s a run-down of some of the news involving the Secretary of State…

Somalia’s President is reportedly planing a tour of parts of the US:

The newly elected president of Somalia plans a tour of U.S. communities with large Somali populations this fall in hopes of spreading the word about his country’s problems and getting advice for solving some of them.

Elmi Duale, Somalia’s United Nations ambassador and permanent representative, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed wants to visit communities in Minneapolis, Columbus and suburban Washington, D.C.

Ahmed plans the tour after attending the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September, Duale said. He had no details on dates.

[snip]

Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected president in January and hopes to unite the country’s feuding factions, but violence has continued.

The U.N. said last month that Somalia is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years, with more than half the population needing humanitarian aid amid an escalating crisis.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Ahmed in early August at the U.S. embassy in Kenya during a seven-nation African tour. After the meeting, she pledged to expand American support for Somalia’s weak interim government and threatened sanctions against neighboring Eritrea for aiding an extremist group she said was trying to launch worldwide terrorist attacks from Somalia…

The Supreme Court started their fall session early and heard oral arguments on campaign finance issues which were raised during lawsuits about the entirely fictional, so-called “documentary”, Hillary: The Movie:

The Supreme Court wrestled on Wednesday with whether to allow corporations and labor unions to pay for political campaigns and end a century of legislative efforts to curb such spending.
In a case that began with a movie attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton, newly seated Justice Sonia Sotomayor jumped right into the questioning. She appeared skeptical about taking the far-reaching step of lifting the ban, a move urged on the court by a lawyer for a group that made the 90-minute movie that sought to undermine Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

[snip]

The justices were hearing arguments in the case for the second time. It began as a dispute over whether the Clinton movie should be regulated as a campaign ad.

But it took on greater significance after the justices decided to use the case to consider whether to ease restrictions on how corporations and labor unions may spend money to influence elections.

Besides Roberts and Alito, the other three conservative-leaning justices, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, are on record opposing the restrictions on corporations and unions.
Restrictions on corporations have been around for more than 100 years; limits on unions date from the 1940s…

When economies fail and times are hard, it is always the most vulnerable in society who suffer the most and in this current economic crisis, women are paying a very high price:

The global economic downturn may be leading to increased violence against women worldwide, both by pushing them into unsafe jobs and by raising tensions within their families, U.N. officials said Wednesday.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the opening session of a two-day international conference on violence against women that job losses were a contributing factor to family troubles.
“We’ve seen rising levels of despair and frustration in families around the world, exacerbating violence against women,” she told participants…

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is in Washington DC and met earlier in the week with Secretary Clinton and she and President Obama are meeting with him today and this is likely to come up in conversation- the UAE is jumping on the middle east nuclear bandwagon:

With an eye to avoiding a Dubai Ports World-type burst of Congressional opposition to its “123” nuclear energy deal, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed is making the rounds in Washington this week.

On Monday afternoon, he met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. He’s due to meet with members of Congress Wednesday, and with President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Jim Jones at the White House Thursday, an administration official said.

Experts on the nuclear energy deal, signed at the end of the Bush administration, say it is slated to go through around October 17, unless there is Congressional action blocking it.

The 90 day review period of the UAE agreement submitted to the Congress by the Obama Administration is scheduled to expire on October 17th, give or take a few days, said export control attorney Douglas Jacobson with the firm Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg in Washington, D.C. “Thus, the agreement will take effect on or around that date unless Congress adopts a joint resolution disapproving the agreement before that date.”

“There still remain many members of Congress [who are] concerned over the UAE’s commitment to export controls and diversion of controlled items to Iran,” Jacobson said. “However, I would be very surprised if Congress passed a Joint Resolution disapproving the 123 Agreement with the UAE.” 

“It’s going to go through,” a government hand who has studied the deal and spoke on the condition of anonymity said. “In my opinion, the only thing that really has a chance to stop the momentum were concerns about UAE cooperation on non proliferation, particularly export control issues to third countries,” e.g. Iran. 

Critically, he noted, the Emirates have agreed under the deal to forego the right to enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel…

Secretary Clinton has her hands full with Afghanistan and ongoing claims of election fraud:


On Monday, as the vote-counting in Afghanistan was nearing an end, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was briefed by the American ambassador in Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry. The same day, the ambassador delivered a blunt message to the front-runner, President Hamid Karzai: “Don’t declare victory.”

The slim majority tentatively awarded Mr. Karzai in Afghanistan’s fraud-scarred election has put the Obama administration in an awkward spot: trying to balance its professed determination to investigate mounting allegations of corruption and vote-rigging while not utterly alienating the man who seems likely to remain the country’s leader for another five years.

Mrs. Clinton and Ambassador Eikenberry, senior administration officials said, wanted to prevent Mr. Karzai or his backers from pre-empting an outside investigation of allegations of irregularities in the Aug. 20 vote.
“We realize that the allegations have reached such a level that we need to be very careful to allow the process to breathe,” said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “The message was, Let’s make sure that the electoral bodies do their work, and do it rigorously.”

and here is more on Afghanistan:

Afghanistan has “moved to the top” of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s agenda since evidence of widespread fraud emerged from last month’s presidential election, the State Department said today.
Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the attention was spurred by the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission’s finding of “clear and convincing evidence that there was this kind of fraud on a large scale.”

Clinton has been discussing concerns over voting irregularities with U.S. officials in Washington and Kabul, Kelly told reporters. The U.S. wants Afghan authorities to “take these charges very seriously and deal with them in a way that people can have confidence” in the results, he said.

U.S. officials had counted on the Aug. 20 election to yield a credible government that would be a partner in expanding military and economic-development efforts to defeat Taliban insurgents.

The United Nations-backed complaints commission yesterday ordered a partial recount for polling stations that reported 100 percent turnout or where at least 95 percent of votes were cast for a single candidate.

[snip]

Clinton will meet later today with three U.S. senators who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to discuss their observations and concerns. Democrats Carl Levin of Michigan, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Ted Kaufman of Delaware are members of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees…

We know Secretary Clinton is going to be traveling to Russia sometime in October but less clear is when and if she will be traveling to Ireland but one thing is clear, the folks in Ireland really, really want her to visit. Preferably sooner rather than later (this article doesn’t have the best sourcing):

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Ireland in mid-October according to sources close to the Clinton camp.

And it is expected that she will be accompanied by the new economic envoy, who is expected to be named shortly.
Sources say Clinton will use the trip as an opportunity to strongly dismiss reports that the U.S government is paying little attention to Ireland.

Sources told the Irish Voice that Clinton has made absolutely clear her commitment to handling the Irish brief as well as her responsibilities at the State Department.

She is expected to visit Dublin and Belfast during her visit and to discuss the state of the peace process as well as economic investment…

I’ll keep an eye out for any information about her upcoming travel plans.

Laura Rozen has moved from her blog over at Foreign Policy to a new blog over at Politico, so I guess I’ll be spending more time at Politico because, well, Laura’s the best. She’s been doing a lot of reporting on what has been going on with Iran this past week with respect to their game of chicken with the IAEA. Today, she has this post about a meeting with high level administration advisers and key Jewish groups regarding Iran (excerpt):

Reporters were escorted out of the room at Washington’s 6th and I Streets Historic synagogue this morning before NSC uber Middle East strategist Dennis Ross addressed some 300 Jewish leaders attending a conference on Iran today.

Also officially off the record were the remarks of the U.S. government’s point man on Iran nuclear negotiations, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

But reporters could apparently hear their remarks over the public address system from the hallway (this reporter wasn’t there). And, honestly, it’s hard to believe they expected their remarks to a conference of 300 activists advocating a harder line on Iran to stay close-hold, and no doubt were prepared with just that in mind (classification: “distribute widely/send”).

Essentially, Ross and Burns both reiterated that the administration’s objective is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the conference was told. The administration’s strategy has been “engagement without illusions.” But the President will take stock in September and revisit further at year’s end, as indeed Obama said publicly in his remarks in May with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The administration is engaging countries around the globe to help the effort. Burns did say they are starting the planning of the tough sanctions steps now, so that if and when the President decides to take that decision, they are ready to go…

I’ll be honest, I think the US sends mixed messages regarding Iran- we talk about diplomacy while simultaneously threatening sanctions and even possible military action (by saying all options are on the table). Obviously Iran should meet it’s international obligations and I don’t think they should be rewarded for not doing so. That said, there seems to be some disagreement about whether sanctions will even work and I can’t help but think military action against Iran is just an Iraq War Redux where the consequences of such action will end up making the US and Israel (and its neighbors) less safe, not more. Sometimes it seems as though we are continually doomed to repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again. We never seem to listen to the people with a proven track record of being right about these things and instead, turn to people like John Bolton and the hawks who have a proven track record of being wrong about almost everything.

Ok, moving on…Honduras:

A senior U.S. senator said on Wednesday that he urged ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to be “constructive” in finding a solution to the political crisis in the Central American country.

Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a speech that Zelaya had taken some “provocative” steps that made the situation worse, both before and after he was ousted June 28 by the Honduran military.

“As I mentioned to President Zelaya in our meeting last week, a solution to Honduras’ impasse should be sought through constructive means,” Lugar said in a speech to be delivered on Thursday to a conference on hemispheric trade and investment in Washington. An advance copy was obtained by Reuters.

Lugar met Zelaya while he was in Washington to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The State Department announced last Thursday that it was cutting more than $30 million in aid to Honduras to pressure the de facto Honduran government to step down and let Zelaya return to power.

Lugar is one of the Senate’s most respected voices on foreign policy. But while some other Republicans have blasted the Obama administration for its handling of the Honduran crisis, saying Obama was trying to force restoration of a leftist government, Lugar said he was encouraged by Obama’s early condemnation of the coup…

Ah, yes, Richard Lugar. Not too long ago he sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking her to clarify the administration’s policy on Honduras and essentially threatening to hold up key State Dept. diplomatic nominees in committee. Great idea, Dick. Because we’re only nine months into the administration- the State Department doesn’t need those posts in Latin America filled, really. Sen. Lugar is also rather pro-Micheletti, disliking the “left wing” policies of Zelaya- as if that’s even the issue.

Also with respect to Honduras, while the US was terminating funds, the IMF was giving the de facto government funds:

Last week the IMF disbursed $150.1 million to the de facto government of Honduras, and it plans to disburse another $13.8 million on September 9. The de facto government has no legitimacy in the world. It took power on June 28th in a military coup, in which the elected President, Manuel Zelaya, was taken from his home at gunpoint and flown out of the country.

The Organization of American States suspended Honduras until democracy is restored, and the United Nations also called for the “immediate and unconditional return” of the elected president.
No country in the world recognizes the coup government of Honduras. From the Western Hemisphere and the European Union, only the United States retains an ambassador there…

No mixed message there.

And lastly, about that annoying, dumb rumor that seems to have gone viral on the right wing blogs- here is how it started, with this ONE sentence from Michael Goldfarb over at the conservative Weekly Standard:

The boss hears from two sources that Hillary Clinton is considering stepping down as Secretary of State this fall in order to run for Governor of New York.

THATS IT. Nothing more. That is all it took to get the blogosphere buzzing with claims that Hillary Clinton was going to quit her job as SOS and run for governor. Not a single source is provided and if you are wondering who “the boss” is that Goldfarb refers to, well that’s really the icing on the cake in all of this because that would likely be neoconservative poster boy, William Kristol, the guy who is always wrong about everything all the time. Honestly, the guy makes John Bolton look prophetic.

For a good take on this latest rumor, check out this site, it’s pretty funny.

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