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Heard Around the Hillary-Sphere: The Cold Turkey Edition

April 5, 2010

I hope Secretary Clinton had a relaxing few days off, although as I said before I have a feeling there is no such thing as a day “off” when one is SOS. For the rest of us, well, it’s been a bit of cold turkey without our daily dose of Hillary news. 🙂

Here are some news stories that have been floating around and I just thought I’d highlight them. Also, I found a few more photos from the State Dept. that I didn’t post last week (from her trip to Ottowa) so I am including them in this post.

Secretary Clinton released the following statement in response to the horrific attack on the U.S. consulate in Peshawar:

I am outraged and deeply saddened by the assault on our Consulate in Peshawar. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Pakistani security personnel who were killed and all those who were injured. Attacks on diplomatic missions strike at the heart of international cooperation and are unacceptable in any country at any time. We condemn this attack on our mission, the recent bombings in Baghdad that targeted other diplomatic missions, and all such crimes.

The assault this morning is part of a wave of violence perpetrated by brutal extremists who seek to undermine Pakistan’s democracy and sow fear and discord. The Pakistani people have suffered grievous losses, but they are standing firm in the face of this intimidation — and the United States stands with them.

We are taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of our staff — both American and Pakistani — as well as the security of our facilities. And we are coordinating closely with Pakistan authorities, who are working to bring the attackers to justice. We deeply appreciate the quick, effective support of Pakistani Security Forces. This tragedy underscores the common challenges our nations face and deepens the commitment of the United States to strengthen our partnership.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is walking on thin ice and has been speaking out publicly against the West’s role in Afghanistan. His comments caused enough of a stir that he called Secretary Clinton to explain:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday “to clarify” his remarks Thursday, when he gave a televised speech accusing the U.N. and other Westerners of “vast fraud” in last year’s elections that he said was intended to tarnish his legitimacy.

“Afghan President Karzai called Secretary Clinton today to clarify his statements from yesterday, and they had a constructive conversation,” Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley said in a statement. “President Karzai reaffirmed his commitment to the partnership between our two countries, and expressed his appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices of the international community. They pledged to continue working together in a spirit of partnership.”

It was a “constructive conversation in a cordial environment,” said Karzai spokesman Waheed Omer. “President Karzai said the Afghan people and the Afghan government were grateful for the support and sacrifice of the international community for peace in Afghanistan and in the world.”

Karzai’s Thursday speech, in which he also said that the insurgency led by the Taliban “could become a national resistance,” came less than a week after he met in Kabul with President Obama, who U.S. officials say pressed the Afghan leader on concerns about corruption and incompetence. The White House announced during that trip that the Afghan leader would in turn visit Washington on May 12.

But then no sooner did he get off the phone with Clinton than a story starting popping up all over the news about his making similar, if not worse comments- you can see the storyhere.

More interestingly is that the Obama administration believes that of all its members, Secretary Clinton is the best person to deal with the strained relationship with Hamid Karzai. This is from Foreign Policy’s ‘The Cable’:

When he called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Friday, he told her that had no idea his statements, which blamed the United Nations for the “massive fraud” he now admits helped keep him in power, would run afoul of the U.S. and NATO allies pouring blood and treasure into Afghanistan to prop up his own government against a fierce Taliban onslaught.

“Karzai, during the course of the conversation, expressed surprise his comments had ‘caused a stir,'” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable, adding that Karzai did not actually go as far as to apologize or retract the comments.

“He clarified what he meant. He assured us that his comments were not directed at the United States,” Crowley said.

[snip]

Meanwhile, there are signs the Obama administration remains concerned about Karzai’s remarks as it works with the Afghan president to move forward on a host of issues, not the least of which is the impending military campaign in and around Kandahar.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry also spoke with Karzai prior to the Clinton call, and Clinton had conversations about Karzai’s comments with members of her Afghanistan team as well as White House officials about how to respond.

Clinton, who feels she has a rapport that allows her to speak candidly with the Afghan leader, was chosen to handle the issue. She told him to concentrate on the upcoming “peace jirga,” the reconciliation conference Karzai is organizing for early May.

“Our message to Karzai was to focus on the future and not the past,” Crowley said.

So is it all resolved then? Depends on whom you ask.

“We reached a good understanding by the time the conversation was over,” Crowley said. “We understood that this had the potential to have this spiral in a negative direction and we’re satisfied that we’ve moved on.”

But Karzai reportedly told a meeting of tribal leaders this weekend that if the international community continues to pressure him, he might just join the Taliban or halt the ongoing military offensive. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Monday morning called those comments “genuinely troubling.”Crowley declined to directly address Karzai’s latest comments in his Tuesday press conferece, but did issue this warning. [emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton is a huge asset to this administration, there is no doubt about it.

I’ll admit I am frustrated with escalation in Afghanistan. I had my doubt about increasing the number of troops but at the same time, I have to admit I don’t have a solution at this point. I do feel like Afghanistan has become the textbook example of “mission creep.”

State Dept. photo

The White House continues to backtrack on the moderately stern tone it took with Israel regarding settlements those few weeks ago. Obama has been reaching out to the “Jewish community” to reassure everyone that our relationship and commitment to Israel is rock solid, unwavering, steadfast, lovely, wonderful, stupendous, etc. etc. It’s interesting that the media, and apparently also the Obama administration, conflate being pro-Israel with being pro-Netanyahu with being pro-settlement with being Jewish in general. I know quite a lot of Jewish people who think Bibi is acting like a spoiled brat. And while I am not Jewish I consider myself pro-Israel but not pro-Netanyahu and I’m not pro-settlement. No group of people is entirely monolithic in their views so I am not sure exactly who the administration is reassuring. But by conflating all of the above, it certainly makes AIPACs job easier because they like to try to prevent any real public debate over Mideast peace and Israeli policies by claiming that people who oppose Netanyahu (or any Israeli leader) may be anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic, which of course is ridiculous. If that were true, there would be quite a large number of Jewish Israelis who were anti-Semitic. MJ Rosenberg over at TPM puts it more bluntly:

…National Security Council Middle East Senior Director Dan Shapiro stressed to American Jews that that the U.S. did not intend to insist that Israel halt construction in East Jerusalem, and that the recent bout of tension was a matter of bad timing which was overblown by the media.

Actually, my friend, Dan Shapiro — a very smart and very fair official — was not addressing “American Jews” but a few dozen leaders of Jewish organizations who (with the exceptions of J Street, Americans for Peace Now and one or two others) get their marching orders from AIPAC. So, out of 6,000,000 American Jews, he was really talking to representatives of a couple of hundred thousand, virtually all key cogs in the lobby.

The good news is that this administration invites progressives to these calls but the point of the calls is to “reassure” the 800 pound gorilla, AIPAC, which is thrashing about the Washington jungle looking for tender young House and Senate members to destroy for deviating from the line.
[emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton and Nigerian Secretary Ahmed will Inaugurate the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission on Tuesday April 6:


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nigerian Secretary to the Government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed will inaugurate the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission on Tuesday, April 6 at 3:00 p.m., in the Treaty Room at the Department of State.

The U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission is a strategic dialogue designed to expand mutual cooperation across a broad range of shared interests. The Commission is a collaborative forum to build partnerships for tangible and measurable progress on issues critical to our shared future. We have agreed that the Commission will operate working groups on Good Governance, Transparency, and Integrity; Energy and Investment; Food Security and Agriculture; and, Niger Delta and Regional Security Cooperation. These working groups will meet in either Washington or Abuja over the coming months.

–And all that talk about Canada being “snubbed” and tossed to the curb by Secretary Clinton/the Obama administration at the G8 and Arctic Summit in Canada? Just like most of us have said in the comments and other places, it seems to largely be a domestic political issue in Canada- in other words, some of Secretary Clinton’s words may have struck a nerve because they deal with sensitive issues, but she was well within her rights to speak out and the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister did not take offense however this did catch my eye:

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Hillary Clinton’s criticisms of Canada’s maternal health initiative were her own views and not the policy of the Obama administration.

“Mrs. Clinton expressed not her government’s position; she expressed her personal point of view …,” Cannon told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

At a G8 meeting of foreign ministers last week in Gatineau, Que., the U.S. secretary of state said any initiative to improve maternal health – Ottawa’s signature global project this year – must include abortions, an option the Conservative government has tried to avoid.

“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health, and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions,” Clinton said at the time…

[snip]

Clinton also criticized Canada last week for not inviting three Arctic countries, as well as indigenous groups, to talks on the Arctic, and made a public appeal for Canada to keep its troops in Afghanistan beyond its 2011 withdrawal date.

Cannon said the criticisms did not signal a cooling of relations between Ottawa and Washington.

“This is a tempest in a teapot,” Cannon told CTV.

“This is not snubbing anybody; this is nothing that is detrimental to Canada-U.S. relations. Our relations are the best relations in the world.”

[emphasis added]

Ummmm…but isn’t that also the position of the Obama administration? Full reproductive health services, including access to abortion, is also a key tenet of World Health Organization and UN policies on maternal/child health. I assumed that it was also the position of the Obama administration- am I wrong? Did someone in the Obama administration tell Cannon that it wasn’t their policy, but rather just Secretary Clinton’s personal views? I really am interested in knowing this because I believe it’s very important. I respect the fact that people disagree about abortion but most international international health initiatives seem to make a point of including access to family planning and abortion in their approach so I am curious about his statement above.

State Dept. Photo

State Dept. Photo

State Dept. Photo

State Dept. Photo

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. HillaryFan permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:02 pm

    Hey Stacy! Thanks for this- I love being able to get all my Hillary news plus a good dose of foreign policy information in one place. I appreciate the time you spend doing this. I never really followed foreign policy all that closely like I did domestic policy so I enjoy reading not only your posts but also the comments to hear everyone’s viewpoints.

  2. Steve permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:09 pm

    Thanks for the round-up- I enjoy them too.

    You linked to MJ Rosenberg- I like his Middle East commentary. He certainly knows a lot about AIPAC having worked for them for quite a few years- he knows what he’s talking about on that score.

    I know I’ve said this a hundred times and just tell me to shut up if you’re sick of hearing it. I’m very disappointed in how the administration has handled this situation with Israel. I just can’t help but feel nothing good is going to come of it. I have been reading commentaries in Arab news sources and they are disgusted with the US. I really think Obama has actually managed to undermine the good he did when he started off his term by speaking in Cairo- he gave the impression that he would be a tiny bit more even-handed and at the end of the day, the same old failed policies win out even though they never work.

    Israel is no different than any other country- if Obama wants them to start playing by the rules then he has to accept he’s going to have to make clear there will be a penalty for not doing so, other wise Netanyahu will not care.

  3. April 5, 2010 11:39 pm

    I think her translators have some kind of contest to see who can get her to laugh when she puts the headset on.

    There is not a single bolt left securing Karzai to the deck. He is a completely loose cannon. This weekend I saw a roomful of elders yelling at him. Has it escaped him that leaders who alienate their own people generally end up removed from office? Is he partaking of the fruit of the poppy crop? He’s completely off the rails! It’s depressing!

  4. April 6, 2010 1:33 pm

    Yeah, and we have him for FIVE more years. Trillions of dollars going to “rebuild” his country. I hope there is good oversight of where that money is going. More and more I am against nation-building. It just seems to become a black hole that sucks us in and we can’t get out.

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