Secretary Clinton announced yesterday that for the first time ever, the United States is imposing sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses. She said that President Obama signed an executive order on Sept. 28 that sanctions eight Iranian officials who have been involved in "serious and sustained" human rights violations since June 2009's disputed presidential election. Under these officials' watch, Iranians have been "arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed, and killed," Clinton said.
These sanctioned officials include Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Sadeq Mahsouli, who was responsible for forces that attacked students at Tehran University dormitories on June 15, 2009. Also among the eight are officials with responsibility over the infamous Evin Prison and Kahrizak Detention Center. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations told the New York Times that these officials are "first-class thugs."
The sanctions were imposed under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which allows the U.S. government to target individual Iranians and make them subject to financial sanctions and U.S. visa denials. Alluding to criticisms that broad-based sanctions can hurt everyday people, Clinton mentioned that those against the eight officials will not adversely affect ordinary Iranian citizens:
We now have at our disposal a new tool that allows us to designate individual Iranians, officials responsible for or complicit in serious human rights violations, and do so in a way that does not in any way impact on the well-being of the Iranian people themselves.
She also said that with these sanctions, the United States is acting as a voice for the voiceless in Iran:
In [announcing sanctions] today, we declare our solidarity with [the] victims and with all Iranians who wish for a government that respects their human rights and their dignity and their freedom. By doing so, we convey our strong support for the rule of law, and we speak out for those unable to speak for themselves because they are jailed or frightened or fear retribution against themselves or their families.
Of course, how much impact will sanctions against eight people have on the Iranian government's behavior? Clinton said the sanctions are both practical and symbolic: The sanctions announcement "is a both a practical announcement in that there are financial and travel restrictions that will be imposed, but it is a statement of our values." She also said in her briefing, "We're not naive. We know that thus far, this government has been impervious to our pleas and the pleas of many others. But we think it's essential that we continue to make the case, and today we are adding in very specific terms with specific names to that case."
Also at the briefing was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (seen in the photo above), who explained that the logic of targeting Iranian individuals involves turning them into international pariahs:
We have found that when we single out individuals and expose their conduct, banks, businesses, and governments around the world respond by cutting off their economic and financial dealings with these individuals, these institutions, these businesses.
And this strategy can be very effective. We've seen a growing number of companies and financial institutions in countries around the world cut or substantially curtail their financial ties with Iran. They … have assessed the risks of continuing to do business with these entities, and they have decided that those risks are too great. And we already have indications that Iran's leadership is concerned about the implications, about the impact of this trend.
Clinton, Geithner, and Obama are turning up the heat!
Video of the briefing:
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Secretary Clinton said yesterday that one of her pet peeves is poor countries that don't tax their elite and then expect the United States to come in and save their people.
Clinton made the remark in a round-table discussion on the U.S. administration's new global development policy. Her complete remark was:
It's one of my pet peeves: Countries that will not tax their elite, who expect us to come in and help them serve their people, are just not going to get the kind of help from us that historically they may have.
Moderator Frank Sesno of George Washington University followed up by asking, "You're going to go to countries that are getting [aid] now and say we're going to stop?" Clinton responded by singling out Pakistan:
There's got to be some reciprocity here. Because one of the things that is now happening in Pakistan, and I said this when I was there last year, you cannot have a tax rate of 9 percent of GDP when big landholders and all the other elites do not pay anything or pay so little it's laughable, and you've got such a rate of poverty and everybody is looking to the United States and other donors to come in and help.
Sesno pushed further, asking whether Clinton was truly prepared to tell governments of countries filled with poor people that the U.S. government would withdraw or scale back aid if they didn't tax their elite, who are often the base of political support for those countries' leaders. Clinton said that was one of the messages that the United States was starting to deliver and mentioned that Pakistan's finance minister has already introduced a set of tax and economic reforms.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, another of the participants in the round-table discussion, backed Clinton up, saying:
I've been doing this for a long time. I have never heard a discussion like this where you have a secretary of state saying what Secretary Clinton just said, which is recognizing that unless we are tougher on how we provide assistance, unless we look at those basic simple things, like are they running their country in a way that gives us confidence that our resources will be used well, we should not be financing them at this level. That is an enormously consequential thing.
Something tells me that if Barack Obama's administration is having such a difficult time increasing taxes on the richest Americans, then it's going to have an even harder time getting another country's government to do the same. And in the case of Pakistan, is that country really going to do the United States' bidding? In the interest of national security, the United States will continue pouring billions of dollars into Pakistan; with so many Islamist extremist groups on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the United States isn't going to scale back development efforts just because the Pakistani government won't reform its tax code and crack down on tax evasion.
(For more on this topic, check out my colleague Josh Rogin's report, "Clinton presses Pakistan to raise taxes on wealthy" over at FP's The Cable.)
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Secretary Clinton is profiled in the cover story of the Sept. 27 issue of the Christian Science Monitor under the headline, "Hillary Clinton: A quiet brand of statecraft."
The piece notes that Clinton's approach to foreign policy and diplomacy draws from her "unique curriculum vitae": The unflagging advocate for women and girls traveled the world as first lady, honed the art of brokering deals as a senator, and ran against the U.S. president she now serves.
Clinton's experience as a politician is especially valuable because she understands the political constraints under which her counterparts in other countries -- foreign ministers -- are operating under. "People forget that most foreign ministers are also political leaders, especially among our allies," James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, told the Monitor. "She can relate to politicians. She knows the particular pressures they face, and that allows her to be particularly effective."
Still, one unknown is how strong and nimble of a negotiator she is. Of course, as I pointed out last October, her diplomacy did save the day on the Turkish-Armenian accord, and as a senator she sharpened her negotiating skills while brokering deals to get legislation passed. Still, that's not enough to convince everyone. "Consequential secretaries of state are great for one of two reasons, and one of them is that they solve problems," Aaron David Miller, who was an advisor on the Middle East to six secretaries of state, told the Monitor. "You either look at the world as a chessboard or you don't; it's not something learned. It remains an open question: Does Hillary Clinton have the negotiator's mindset?"
Then there's the question of what unique stamp, if any, will Clinton leave as her legacy. "Frankly, it's hard for me to place her," George Herring, a University of Kentucky professor emeritus and expert on secretaries of state, told the Monitor. "She does not appear to have put her trademark on anything at this point."
Perhaps that trademark will be her advocacy for women and girls, her e-diplomacy efforts, the new multilateral global architecture she mentions so much, or a new way of U.S. leadership in a changing world, which she referenced in her Sept. 8 speech when she said the United States is at a "new American Moment, a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways." Maybe Clinton's tenure will be that pivot point when U.S. foreign policy reorients in the face of rising centers of influence -- China, India, Brazil, Turkey, etc. -- and better adapts to a rapidly changing, more interconnected world. If so, though, Clinton has just over two years left in Obama's first term to do so.
Christian Science Monitor thumbnail image/Drew Angerer/AP
Just for fun, here's a list of 10 things that Secretary Clinton and Lady Gaga have in common, according to a lighthearted piece from the Collegian, the University of Tulsa's independent student newspaper. Elaborations of everything on this list are in the original article.
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Speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting on terrorism today, Secretary Clinton said when it comes to human rights and the rule of law, "We cannot sacrifice those values in our zeal to stop terrorists."
Alluding to the horrific maltreatment of females by Islamist extremists, Clinton went on to say, "Our values are what makes us different from those who are trying to tear down so much of the progress that has been made over the course of history, and I have to add, especially for women and girls."
Clinton said that members of the international community must work harder in their joint efforts against terrorism and strengthen the multilateral institutions in place to tackle the problem:
[O]ur joint efforts [are] only as strong as our shared commitment. And today, let me emphasize that the United States is committed to working through multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, to confront the threats posed. We are also committed to strengthening this multilateral architecture. We believe it can do better. So although we are very supportive, we want to work with all of you to improve it.
Clinton also reminded the Security Council that efforts must be made to stop people from becoming terrorists in the first place, which means "addressing the political, economic, and social conditions that make people vulnerable to exploitation by extremists." She went on to say:
For people whose lives are characterized by frustration or desperation, for people who believe that their governments are unresponsive or repressive, al Qaeda and other groups may offer an appealing view. But it is a view rooted in destruction, and we have to provide an alternative view that is rooted in hope, opportunity, and possibility.
This sounds like a huge, daunting "save the world" job, but Clinton is right -- improved political, economic, and social conditions would go a long way toward giving people an outlook of hope and opportunity and a sense that there's more to be lost than gained by joining or supporting terrorists. But giving people an "alternative view that is rooted in hope, opportunity, and possibility" (if outsiders can even do so) would be a long-term, multiyear effort that would span generations -- 25 or even 100 years, depending on whom you ask. Would the American public be up for such a long-haul effort? Perhaps if it didn't involve too much money or too many American lives lost. But this does seem to be the only true way to ultimately nip terrorism at its roots.
Here is the video of her remarks:
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton worked the phones assiduously this weekend, and held talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, but to no avail: The 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank expired at midnight local time (6 p.m., U.S. Eastern time). The New York Times reports that her last-minute efforts at getting the moratorium extended included two phone calls today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and another with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now representative of the Middle East "quartet." Describing talks between U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian officials this weekend, an unnamed U.S. official told the Associated Press, "They are talking. Intense efforts are ongoing."
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has said he'll leave the peace talks that Clinton launched this month if the mortorium isn't extended, said he'll wait until after Oct. 4's Arab League meeting to decide what to do.
The ending of the moratorium has got to be a disappointment for Clinton. For now, the talks are limping ahead, writes my colleague Blake Hounshell. Hopefully, Clinton and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell will find a way to help get the talks back on solid footing and moving steadily toward a lasting peace.
(In the Sept. 26 photo above, settlers in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Netafim mark the end of the moratorium by pouring a cement cornerstone for a new kindergarten.)
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton yesterday announced an international alliance to improve infant and maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The five-year effort joins the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the development agencies of the U.S., Australian, and British governments in an effort to "increase access to family planning and reduce maternal and neonatal deaths," as Clinton put it.
Our effort will contribute [to] increasing access to family planning by 2015 for 100 million women who now lack it. It will also boost the number of skilled birth attendants, babies delivered in clinics or hospitals, and women and newborns who receive quality medical care.
Infant and maternal health is an issue that people both agree on and disagree on so strongly. Everyone agrees on promoting infant and maternal health. How can anyone be against healthy babies and healthy moms? But then there are the divisive issues of contraception and abortion.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa and global health, wrote an op-ed in Sept. 19's Washington Post warning that abortion-rights activists could sidetrack this week's meetings on the Millennial Development Goals. He singled out Clinton, pointing out that she "has said publicly that she believes access to abortion is part of maternal and reproductive health." (And indeed, her remarks on the topic irked many Canadians when she visited Canada in March.) Smith cautioned that "Including abortion in the U.N. Outcome Document or in its implementation will undermine the Millennium Development Goals."
Curiously, Smith's op-ed never mentioned the term "contraceptive" or anything that could be interpreted as its synonym. Maybe it was outside the scope of his op-ed, but if you want to reduce abortions, one of the obvious things to do is to improve access to contraceptives for women who want them. Without a conception, you can't have an abortion.
For the sake of women and infants worldwide, let's hope activists on both sides of the abortion debate don't let their disagreements get in the way of important mutally-agreed-upon measures that save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people on Earth.
DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images
"The United States condemns terrorism and all forms of violence against innocent people, wherever it occurs," Secretary Clinton said today in a statement in response to the bombing at a military parade in Mahabad, Iran, which has killed 12 people and wounded about 75 others, mostly women and children, including the girl in the photo.
In her complete statement, she said:
I condemn the bombing targeting Iranians attending a parade in Mahabad today and offer my sympathy to the families and loved ones of those injured and killed. The perpetrators of this attack should be brought to justice and held accountable.
The United States condemns terrorism and all forms of violence against innocent people, wherever it occurs, and stands with the victims of these crimes. This attack underscores the international community's need to work together to combat terrorism that threatens the lives of innocent civilians all around the world.
As sincere as Clinton is, Iranian authorities might not take her seriously. Although the attack is thought to have been perpetrated by Kurdish militants, Iranian officials are -- surprise, surprise -- blaming the United States and Israel.
"As the investigations indicate, the attack has foreign backing," Vahid Jalalzadeh, governor of West Azerbaijan province, where the bombing occurred, told state TV. "Unfortunately, the Americans and their allies are in the region. From the first day of their presence and their slogan to establish security in the region, we can see that the unrest has increased."
And we have this from Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, referring to the U.N. General Assembly in New York and Iran's "Sacred Defense Week," this week's commemoration of the Iran-Iraq War:
The terrorist attack in Mahabad is the reaction of Israeli agents and the supporters of the Zionist regime [of Israel] to the country's defensive prowess in the Sacred Defense Week and the successes of the Islamic Republic of Iran's active diplomacy in the biggest international arena in New York.
Thumbnail image from Press TV (http://www.presstv.ir/detail/143598.html)
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