This week Secretary Clinton congratulated two countries, Qatar and Kazakhstan, on their important anniversaries. Today, Dec. 18, is Qatar's National Day, marking the anniversary of when Jassim bin Mohammed al-Thani came to power in 1878 and founded what ended up being the modern state of Qatar. Two days ago, Dec. 16, was the 19th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union. To mark both occasions, Clinton released the following statements earlier this week.
For Qatar (which earlier this month was celebrating its designation as host of the 2022 World Cup, as seen in the photo above):
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Qatar on your National Day this December 18.
The relationship between our nations has grown stronger and more dynamic over the past few years as Qatar and the United States work together to build a future that is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more secure for all our people. As partners, we have increased trade, promoted educational and cultural exchanges, and enhanced scientific and technological cooperation between our countries. I was honored to visit Doha earlier this year for the U.S.-Islamic World Forum to deepen the understanding between the United States and Muslim-majority nations, and to witness Qatar's rising presence on the global stage.
Under the leadership of His Highness Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Qatar has become an international leader in areas from investing in educational infrastructure to increasing agricultural productivity in arid regions. Your successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup is a further testament to Qatar's bright future.
I wish all the people of Qatar a joyous National Day celebration, and I look forward to finding new ways to strengthen the vibrant relationship between Qatar and the United States.
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Republic of Kazakhstan as you celebrate your independence on December 16.
The United States was honored to be the first nation to recognize an independent Kazakhstan and welcome you into the community of nations 19 years ago. Recently, I witnessed the great progress Kazakhstan has made during my visit to Astana for the first summit of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe in 11 years. Chairing the OSCE and hosting this summit are important milestones in Kazakhstan's ongoing development as a regional and world leader.
Kazakhstan has accomplished a great deal since independence. Our people have worked together to improve economic ties, chart a responsible and reliable energy future, ensure regional security, and reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. The United States also is proud to work with Kazakh civil society and private sector leaders as well as government officials to improve human rights and help build a more stable, secure, democratic, and prosperous world for all our citizens. The strategic partnership between our nations will continue to grow and deepen as we work together to fulfill the promise of a bright future for Kazakhstan and its people.
I wish the people of Kazakhstan a safe and happy Independence Day celebration.
MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
I strongly condemn today's terrorist attacks, claimed by Jundallah, that targeted Iranian men, women, and children worshipping at a mosque in Chabahar, Iran. On behalf of the people of the United States, I extend condolences to the families and loved ones of all those injured and killed as they marked the eve of the last day of Ashura. This is yet another example of terrorists using cowardly methods to inflict pain and fear on innocent civilians. The perpetrators of this attack must be held to account for their actions.
The United States condemns all forms of terrorism and sectarian-driven violence, wherever it occurs, and we stand with the victims of these abhorrent and reprehensible acts. The global community must remain vigilant in combating terrorist organizations and individuals that threaten lives in every part of the world.
When asked about the firing of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki yesterday (and whether it was because he snubbed her recently), Secretary Clinton responded, "Whether one person or another is foreign minister is not as important as to what the policy of the Iranian government is in dealing with the international community on [its nuclear program]." She also said, "Our relationship toward Iran is not toward any individual. It is toward the country, the government.… So I don't really have any insight or comment."
Regarding policy, it appears that Iran has no intention of changing its policies, including those pertaining to nuclear talks, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman telling reporters at a news conference, "With the change, we will not see any alteration of Iran's basic policies."
Clinton make her remarks during a news conference yesterday while in Canada for the North American Foreign Ministers Meeting. On Iran, she also said, "The recent meeting in Geneva of the P5+1 was a good start. It was just that. It wasn't more than that, but it was a good start to a return to a serious negotiations between Iran and the international community. And they agreed on a second meeting in January. We remain committed to pursuing every diplomatic avenue available to us and our international partners to persuade Iran to forgo a nuclear weapons program."
The video of the exchange starts at 29:00 in this video:
Secretary Clinton will be giving a speech on Middle East policy at 8 p.m. this evening at the Brookings Institution here in D.C. The speech will be part of the forum on "U.S.-Israeli Relations: Facing Hard Choices," to be put on by the think tank's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
The State Department's news release states that the fourm "will focus on the critical decisions that American and Israeli leaders will confront in the coming year to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward, as well as deal with Iran's nuclear challenge."
Sadly, the Middle East peace process is deadlocked, though Clinton met with chief Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho yesterday to get "a perspective on the Israeli side of how to move forward," according to State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
It'll be interesting to see what she says after this rough week for the peace process.
Update, Dec. 14, 2010, 4:40 p.m.: The video of Clinton's speech is below. Overall, it was a lot of the bland same-old, same-old. Clinton used the word "unwavering" twice to describe the United States' commitment to Israel. She reiterated that the United States "[does] not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity." Nothing new.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in New York today to discuss Mideast peace. Not that they haven't been doing so anyway. Before the two met, Netanyahu told journalists that he and Clinton had been talking "quite intensively" by phone during the past few weeks.
During their talks today, Clinton is sure to bring up her disappointment about Israel's recent announcement of 1,300 new housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Yesterday, when announcing $150 million in U.S. budget assistance to the Palestinian Authority, Clinton said, "The United States was deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem."
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In a videoconference with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad yesterday, Secretary Clinton announced the transfer of $150 million in U.S. direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help it build a viable Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution. Clinton said the latest infusion of money brings the United States' total direct budget assistance to $225 million for 2010 and overall U.S. support and investment to almost $600 million for 2010.
"This figure underscores the strong determination of the American people and this administration to stand with our Palestinian friends even during difficult economic times," the secretary of state said in announcing the transfer of funds.
The money -- whose use will be carefully monitored by the United States, the World Bank, and the IMF -- will go toward the important task of building a well-functioning Palestinian state. Clinton explained, "This new funding will help the Palestinian Authority pay down its debt, continue to deliver services and security to its people, and keep the progress going. It will support our work together to expand Palestinians' access to schools, clinics, and clean drinking water in both the West Bank and Gaza. And it will allow Prime Minister Fayyad's government to build and modernize courthouses and police stations, train judges and prosecutors, and launch new economic development initiatives."
This emphasis on building a viable Palestinian state accords with some of Elliott Abram's advice for President Obama, as detailed in his recent FP piece, "Build Up the West Bank." Abrams writes that instead of focusing on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Obama should instead spend the rest of his term helping build a Palestinian state in the West Bank. He writes:
If you build it, they will sign. The only way to reassure Palestinians that a state is possible is to make one, and the only way to reassure Israelis that their security will be enhanced rather than diminished is for them to see it with their own eyes. That won't happen for either side at Camp David or Oslo or Annapolis -- only right there on the ground in the West Bank.
Here is a video of Clinton's and Fayyad's remarks:
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Secretary Clinton presided today over the signing of $275 million in U.S. aid to Jordan for three water and wasterwater projects in the water-poor Middle Eastern country. The assistance, made through the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corporation, will help Jordan upgrade its water-supply network, improve wastewater collection, and expand an important wastewater treatment plant, thereby giving nearly 2 million people better access to clean water, Clinton said in her remarks.
Clinton also acknowledged that the $275 million in aid comes at a time when many Americans are struggling with finances, but explained that Americans are "committed to Jordan's future" because a thriving Jordan benefits the entire world:
I want to say a few words directly to the people of Jordan. In a time when many families here in the United States are tightening their own belts and making difficult sacrifices, we are making this investment in your country because we believe in Jordan's promise and we are committed to Jordan's future. Americans understand that a strong and prosperous Jordan is good for the region and good for the world. We want to work with you to realize our shared aspirations and shape the future together.
Clinton also thanked Jordan for its support in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying, "The Jordanian Government … [has] worked with us literally side by side and telephone by telephone to support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the goal of two states for two peoples and a comprehensive peace in the region. We could not do this without Jordan's leadership."
In the photo above, Clinton and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh stand as U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes (seated at right) and Mohammad Najjar, Jordan's minister of water and irrigation, sign the compact today in Washington. Below is a video of the remarks from the signing ceremony:
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
When it comes to Mideast peace, Secretary Clinton appealed yesterday to all who care about the issue: "Please don't give up in the face of difficulty."
She made the remark last night in a keynote speech at a gala event hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine. She acknowledged that moving foward with peace talks is tough and that there's no "magic formula" to overcoming obstacles: "I cannot stand here tonight and tell you there is some magic formula that I have discovered that will break through the current impasse. But I can tell you, we are working every day, sometimes every hour, to create the conditions for negotiations to continue and succeed."
Clinton also acknowledged that coming to peace is tough psychologically for the parties involved because it requires moving past so much historical animosity. To rounds of applause, she quoted Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye as saying, "I'm not interested in who suffered the most. I'm interested in people getting over it"; then after the applause, Clinton went on to say, "And that is the biggest obstacle of them all. I know people cannot forget. I know most people cannot forgive. But I do know also that the future holds the possibility of progress, if not in our lifetimes then certainly in our children's."
Clinton also encouraged people to be look forward, not backward, saying, "People on all sides of this conflict must choose to move beyond a history they cannot change to embrace a future they can shape together." She also urged people to adopt a glass-half-full, as opposed to glass-half-empty, mentality: "Now, in any tough negotiation, it is natural to focus on what we are being asked to give up. But it is important to keep in mind what you, the Palestinians and Israelis, stand to gain."
Clinton was also optimistic in her assessment of prospects of an independent Palestinian state, saying:
It is easier than ever to envision an independent Palestine able to govern itself, uphold its responsibilities to provide for its own people, and ensure security. This gives confidence to negotiators on both sides and hope to those who have long looked forward to that day.
Under President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad's leadership, and under Prime Minister Fayyad's two-year plan, the Palestinian Authority is going beyond rhetoric and actually building a new reality. It is reversing a history of corruption and working hard to produce results that matter in Palestinians' daily lives.
Clinton also pointed out promising news from the World Bank:
The World Bank recently reported that if the Palestinian Authority maintains its momentum in building institutions and delivering public services, it is, and I quote, "well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future."
Below is the video of her remarks:
Screen shot from U.S. State Department video
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:
Brendan Hoffman/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
"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)
I'm swamped with other FP work this week and next, so posting will be light on certain days, but I'll try to at least provide a roundup of Clinton news given that the secretary of state has important business this month: the Mideast peace negotiations this week and the U.N. General Assembly next week. So, in a news roundup:
•Clinton is in Jerusalem today for further discussions on Mideast peace and will hold bilateral meetings with Israeli officials.
•Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are "getting down to business," Clinton told reporters.
•As seen in the photo above, Clinton met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and told him, "It is useful and enlightening to spend time with you." The Jerusalem Post also reported that as they walked down a red carpet at the presidential residence, they looked "almost like a starry-eyed honeymoon couple."
•Clinton had a briefing with journalists while en route to Sharm el-Sheikh on Sept. 13, which included answering a question about the settlement moratorium. The transcript is here.
•More about how Clinton intends to deal with the settlement dispute is over at the Telegraph.
•In five separate messages, Clinton wishes a happy Independence Day to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, all of which became independent of Spain 189 years ago on Sept. 15, 1821.
•Andrew Bacevich is very critical of Clinton's "American moment" speech last week.
Secretary Clinton welcomes the news that Iran has released Sarah Shourd -- one of the three detained American hikers -- but she also urges the country to "extend the same consideration to [other detained U.S. citizens] by resolving their cases without delay and allowing them to immediately return to their families."
Below is Clinton's complete statement:
I welcome Sarah Shourd's release from detention in Iran, and am pleased that she will soon be reunited with her family. I appreciate the efforts of all those who have worked for her release, in particular the Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran, the Omani Government, and the many other world leaders who have raised this case and the cases of other detained or missing American citizens. Sarah's fiancé Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and other U.S. citizens remain detained or missing in Iran. We urge Iranian authorities to extend the same consideration to them by resolving their cases without delay and allowing them to immediately return to their families.
(In the photo above, Sarah Shourd gets a visit from her mother, Nora Shourd, in Tehran on May 20.)
Want a breakthrough in Mideast peace negotiations? Open the talks to women -- that's the nontraditional approach that two women from the Institute for Inclusive Security advise in a recent opinion piece.
Of course Secretary Clinton, a woman, is already facilitator in chief for the peace talks, taking place today in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But the opinion piece, by Carla Koppell and Rebecca Miller, argues for the direct and indirect inclusion of women, women's groups, and other civil-society organizations. When such groups are included, the peace process becomes more transparent and the "fog of pessimism" brought on by secrecy lifts. The authors write:
Research shows that when women are included in negotiations, they regularly raise key issues otherwise ignored by male negotiators. Women often facilitate cross-conflict talks on the margins of formal negotiations that cultivate public investment in negotiations. When formally involved, women often help talks gain traction.
Importantly, the authors argue that transparency, not secrecy, drives peaceful resolution, and they point to research by Darren Kew and Anthony Wanis-St. John that demonstrates a correlation between the degree of involvement of civil-society groups during peace negotiations and the likelihood that a peace agreement will hold. (I think it's this study.)
Koppell and Miller advise Clinton that she can be more inclusive of women and civil-society groups by doing the following:
•Soliciting topics for the negotiating agenda from civil society and women;
•Organising public consultations with women and civil society organisations to hear their perspectives on the core issues;
•Creating a formal consultative mechanism for civil society groups to feed input indirectly into negotiations;
•Appointing gender advisers or civil society liaisons to assist official delegations; and
•Offering negotiating teams additional seats at talks if women are added.
You never know. This outside-the-box approach just might work. At the very least, it can't make things worse.
Thaer Ganaim /PPO via Getty Images
(Update, Sept. 11, 9:45 p.m.: Unfortunately, the release has been postponed.)
One of the three American hikers detained in Iran for more than a year is going to be released at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, to mark the end of Ramadan, a time when clemency is shown and prisoners are freed. It's not yet known which of the three will be released, though it could perhaps be Sarah Shourd (seen above), who has told her mother that she is suffering from medical problems. Plus, during the 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis, women were among the first released.
The Associated Press reports that Iran's Culture Ministry sent a text-message to reporters announcing the release. Referring to Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, it said:
Offering congratulations on Eid al-Fitr. The release of one of the detained Americans will be Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Estaghlal hotel.
On July 30, the day before her daughter's wedding, Secretary Clinton encouraged Iran to "do the right thing" and release all three hikers. Let's hope that Iran truly does the right thing and releases all three. Their mothers, as seen below on July 30, will be so relieved.
Photos, top to bottom: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images, TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton has condemned a Florida pastor's plan to burn the Quran on September 11 as "disrespectful, disgraceful." She made the remark at yesterday's iftar dinner in Washington, telling a room full of Muslims who were breaking their Ramadam fast (as seen above):
We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida, plans to burn the Holy Quran on September 11th. I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis, as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion-makers. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."
Update, 12:10 p.m, Sept. 8, 2010: You can listen to the quote above at 9:23 in the video below.
U.S. State Department/Flickr
An Iranian woman who received a stoning sentence could be executed -- possibly in a week's time after Ramadan ends -- but will Secretary Clinton do anything to save her?
France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said Sept. 6 that the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has become his "personal cause" and declared, "I'm ready to do anything to save her. If I must go to Tehran to save her, I'll go to Tehran."
Today, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the stoning sentence "barbaric beyond words." In late July, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered Ashtiani asylum, though he was rebuffed by Iran. The Vatican is considering using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to save the woman's life. People worldwide have held demonstrations, such as the Aug. 5 one in Berlin, as seen above.
Clinton's only public effort on Ashtiani's behalf has basically amounted to an Aug. 10 statement in which she said, "We remain troubled by the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani" "Troubled" is putting it mildly; horrified is more like it.
Of course, the United States does not have official relations with Iran, and Clinton must consider how anything she does on Ashtiani's behalf would affect other Iran-related issues, such as the country's nuclear program and support for Hezbollah.
Still, being a defender of persecuted women is right up Clinton's alley; it's something she's deeply passionate about. So, it's disheartening that one of the world's most powerful women isn't doing or can't do more.
Ashtiani's stoning sentence for adultery was stayed in July after international outcry, and Iran has said she could be hanged instead. Her fate is unclear. Her son told a Paris news conference by phone on Sept. 6 that he fears his mother could be executed after Ramadan ends late this week.
(If you wish to send a message to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei about this case, you can do so through Amnesty International's website by clicking here.)
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
This weekend, Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, offered three pieces of advice to Secretary Clinton -- OK, actually the U.S. government, but Clinton is the one facilitating the project -- on Middle East peace negotiations. The three pieces of advice, published in the Washington Post, are:
1. Stand back. Don't intrude excessively into what should be a two-party negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
2. Care about the West Bank. If conditions deteriorate there, then Palestinians aren't going to be supportive of the talks and the Palestinian Authority will have difficulty enforcing any agreement.
3. Don't pursue a "framework agreement." Getting the two sides to declare their "fundamental compromises" -- as U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell phrased it -- amounts to revealing their bottom lines prematurely and committing "political suicide."
Well, on the first piece of advice, Clinton has no intention of being intrusive. She's just going to be facilitator in chief. As she said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in her opening remarks on Sept. 2 (with my emphasis in italics):
For our part, the United States has pledged its full support for these talks, and we will be an active and sustained partner.… But we cannot and we will not impose a solution. Only you can make the decisions necessary to reach an agreement and secure a peaceful future for the Israeli and Palestinian people.
And though there will be some trilateral meetings with the Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. sides all present, there will be plenty of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinians with the United States out of the room and not breathing down their necks. Already on Sept. 2, Netanyahu and Abbas had a private meeting, and more will take place, about every two weeks.
On the second piece of advice, Clinton is definitely concerned about the financial crisis with the Palestinian Authority. In a Sept. 3 interview with Palestine TV and Israel's Channel 2, she said:
And the United States, as you, I'm sure, know, has increased dramatically our direct support for the Palestinian Authority. And I have encouraged and urged all the donors to do that and more. Last year was a good year. We got a very robust amount of contributions. This year, we are upping our request to all of the donors to support the peace process by supporting the Palestinian Authority.
Abrams makes a good point that oil-rich Arab countries could be contributing much more, and it appears that Clinton will be ceaseless with her phone calls to get them to pony up. A Sept. 5 New York Times article reports that she made "relentless phone calls" to get Arab support for the talks and that two-thirds of her phone calls to foreign officials since March have been about the Middle East. Clinton will surely be working the phones (3 a.m. and otherwise), cajoling and browbeating Arab countries to step up aid so the Palestinian Authority doesn't have a meltdown.
As for not having a "framework agreement" -- which Mitchell said during Sept. 2's briefing is intended to "establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace" -- the Israeli and Palestinian sides both say they want one. And if that's what they both want, then Clinton should not be intrusive (see Advice No. 1) and not discourage it. Mitchell said during the briefing, "And the parties themselves have suggested and agreed that the logical way to proceed, to tackle them [the core issues] is to try to reach a framework agreement first."
So, it appears Clinton is following Abrams's first two pieces of advice and intelligently disregarding the third. As pessimistic as most people seem to be, these talks could be a success. Stephen J. Hadley, who was national security advisor to Bush, told the New York Times, "One of the best indications that this could succeed is that Hillary Clinton is willing to get involved.… Because that makes me think two things: She thinks it's possible and, because she is as skilled as she is, it increases the likelihood of success."
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton's political experience could be a plus for her as America's diplomat-in-chief during Middle East peace negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not only have to agree on smart policies, but they have to go with policies that are palatable to their people. These leaders aren't tackling negotiations purely from the perspective of what is good policy in itself, but what will be politically acceptable with their people.
As a former senator and presidential candidate, Clinton has plenty of experience with having to come up with good policy that's also good politics and approaching policy debates with an eye for what's politically sellable. In that sense, she has an asset that many of her predecessors -- Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright -- don't. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a representative of the Middle East "Quartet," told ABC News, as seen in the video below, that Clinton has the "best type of political mind" because it "knows where you meet the point of principle and knows where you need the subtlety and the compromise."
Of course, this is the first time Clinton has been a mediator in such a formidable challenge, so you never know how it'll go. "I think she has credibility. Now whether that translates into diplomatic skills, I don't know. Frankly, she's untested as a mediator," Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor who recently wrote a piece for FP, told ABC News, as seen in the video below.
Still, Clinton's political experience counts for something. Plus, she has this relationship with this fellow who has engaged in Mideast peace talks -- maybe she has learned some lessons from his experience.
Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton relaunched direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians this morning with opening remarks in which she said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, "I fervently believe that the two men sitting on either side of me, that you are the leaders who can make this long-cherished dream a reality, and we will do everything possible to help you."*
After Clinton spoke, Netanyahu and Abbas also made opening remarks. Presently, they should be in a trilateral meeting in Clinton's outer office.
As seen above, Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands during the relaunch. So, Clinton has something started. It would be especially great if after a year of negotiations, we see a handshake that's September 1993-esque.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
To watch a live broadcast of Secretary Clinton's relaunch of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, visit the U.S. State Department's website at 10 a.m. (U.S. Eastern time) this Thursday, Sept. 2. Clinton will make opening remarks, along with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Afterward, the three will proceed to Clinton's outer office for a private trilateral meeting.
During the negotiations, Clinton might be channeling some of the experience of her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. When asked by a journalist today whether the secretary has been reaching out to her predecessors who've worked on bringing the Israeli and Palestinian sides together, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley replied:
Well, she's had the opportunity to interact directly with a number of veterans. Some of them are still on the team or -- and some of them are on the other teams. So for example, she has this relationship with this fellow who has spent some time talking to leaders, President Clinton, and she has benefited from his direct experience.
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Today, Sept. 1, is Libya's Revolution Day, the day on which in 1969 Muammar al-Qaddafi launched a military coup and became leader of the North African country. Normally, that's not something the U.S. government would be "congratulating," but Secretary Clinton, America's top diplomat, is reaching out to the people of Libya, stating, "Our governments have not always agreed on every issue, but our people share the dream of a safer world, a better life, and a brighter future for our children."
Here is her complete statement:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Libya as you mark your National Day on September 1.
Our governments have not always agreed on every issue, but our people share the dream of a safer world, a better life, and a brighter future for our children. The United States is committed to working with Libya to achieve these common goals. Although we have only recently reestablished relations between our countries, I hope these new bonds will endure well into the future. We look forward to strengthening the partnership between our governments even as we work through difficult issues, and we seek always to strengthen the friendship between our peoples.
On this occasion, we honor your history and culture, and I offer the people of Libya our warmest wishes for a happy holiday and a peaceful and prosperous year to come.
(In the photo above, Clinton meets with Libyan National Security Advisor Mutassim Qaddafi, Muammar's fourth son, in Washington on April 21, 2009.)
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The Mideast peace talks this week in Washington are a high-risk, high-reward endeavor for Secretary Clinton. Should the direct negotiations eventually culminate in a historic agreement, it would be a defining moment for Clinton, especially if topped with a public signing ceremony such as the Sept. 13, 1993, one for the Oslo Accords that husband/President Bill Clinton presided over with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.
On the other hand, if the negotiations fail -- and most people seem pessimistic -- it could be disastrous. It might even dog her the way her failed 1990s attempt at health-care reform does. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette's Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, writes that if the talks don't work out, Clinton could "suffer the diplomatic equivalent of her disastrous 1990s venture into health care reform." (And even if a historic agreement were hammered out, implementation -- which could take as many as 10 years -- could be derailed, as FP's Stephen Walt points out.)
I think it's doubtful, though, that if the negotiations fall through, it would be as bad as Clinton's fiasco with health-care reform. Most people are expecting the talks to fail because of the intransigence of the Mideast parties involved, and critics are more likely to pin a fiasco on President Obama, not Clinton, because, well, he's the president.
Clinton has a lot of pushing, prodding, cajoling, and strong-arming to do this week. For the sake of world peace, let's have the audacity to hope that progress, even a little bit, will be made.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton has condemned the killing of four Israelis in the West Bank Tuesday as "savage brutality has no place in any country, under any circumstances." Hamas has claimed responsibility for the killings, which it says are the first in a series of attacks in its assault on the Middle East peace talks starting this week in Washington. Clearly, Clinton won't let such senseless violence derail the talks.
Clinton's complete remarks, made Tuesday before her meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are below:
Well, let me express our deepest sympathy to the families who have lost their loved ones. This kind of savage brutality has no place in any country, under any circumstances. The forces of terror and destruction cannot be allowed to continue. It is one of the reasons why the prime minister is here today: to engage in direct negotiations with those Palestinians who themselves have rejected a path of violence in favor of a path of peace. We have to not only stand against the kind of horrific murders we saw today on behalf of the four who were lost and, as the prime minister said, the seven orphans who have been brutally deprived of their parents, but on behalf of all people -- Israelis, Palestinians, everyone who knows that there is no answer when violence begets violence. And I thank the prime minister for his leadership in seeking a different future for the children of Israel. And we pledge to do all we can, always, to protect and defend the State of Israel and to provide security to the Israeli people. That is one of the paramount objectives that Israel has that the United States supports in these negotiations.
(In the Sept. 1 photo above, family and mourners express grief at a memorial service for the four deceased.)
America's top diplomat, Secretary Clinton, made sure Tuesday that everyone's clear on what the expectations are for Mideast peace negotiations later this week. She held preparatory meetings with several parties that'll be involved in the direct negotiations, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (as seen above), the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers, "Quartet" representative Tony Blair, and finally at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley put it at Tuesday's press briefing, it was a way of helping to "tee up" meetings with the presidents and prime ministers. He said:
It is not unusual when you have a meeting of presidents and prime ministers that the secretary of state will help to tee up those meetings and make sure that we have the same expectations about -- on both sides -- about what will constitute a successful meeting. So the secretary is following up on the work that George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, David Hale, and others have had in recent days and weeks, all to make sure that the relaunch of negotiations get off on the right foot.
If I have time Wednesday, I'll post photos from the other preparatory meetings Clinton held, including those with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Quartet representative Tony Blair, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (I can't post them now due to technical difficulties.)
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton returned to Washington yesterday evening after six weekdays with no public appointments on her schedule. Back from her work-from-home vacation, she has a big day today, meeting with some high-profile people from the Middle East:
12:30 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
2 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
3 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
4 p.m.: Clinton meets with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and John Hardman, CEO of the Carter Center.
6:15 p.m.: Clinton meets with Quartet representative Tony Blair.
7:45 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Update, Aug. 31, 9:56 p.m.: Her meeting with Jimmy Carter today was about North Korea, not about Mideast peace, but who knows, he might have offered her some advice based on his experience with the Camp David talks.)
This is a bit of old news, but I'm getting caught up after having been away on vacation.
Secretary Clinton, in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as other relevant parties, to Washington to relaunch Middle East peace negotiations, is urging everyone to "persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times."
Her statement from Friday, the 20th:
Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states – Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.
President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.
As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.
As we have said before, these negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton has called on the Iranian government to respect its citizens' most fundamental rights and is deeply concerned about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (the woman once sentenced to death by stoning who might now be hanged instead), Ebrahim Hamidi (an 18-year old who faces imminent death for homsexuality), and Iranians who simply engaged in free expression after last year's presidential election. Her statement is below:
The United States is deeply concerned that Iran continues to deny its citizens their civil rights and intimidate and detain those Iranians who seek to hold their government accountable and stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens.
We remain troubled by the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who garnered international attention for her verdict of death by stoning. While the Iranian Government later stated she would not face execution by stoning, her fate is unclear. We are also troubled by reports that Ebrahim Hamidi, an 18-year old charged with homosexuality, faces imminent execution despite the fact that he is currently without legal representation. Neither case has proceeded with the transparency or due process enshrined in Iran's own constitution, and their lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, felt that he had to flee Iran after he was questioned by authorities and his family members were detained.
We are also concerned about the fate of Iranians who are in danger of imminent execution for exercising their right to free expression after the June 2009 elections, including Jafar Kazemi, Mohammad Haj Aghaei, and Javad Lari. The United States urges the Iranian Government to halt these executions in accordance with its obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners and imprisoned human rights defenders.
The United States will continue to stand with people around the world who seek to exercise their universal rights and speak out in defense of human liberties.
In the July 24 photo above, a man from the International Committee Against Stoning protests in London's Trafalgar Square demanding the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who received the original stoning sentence on charges of adultery. If Iran doesn't want her, Brazil and its president sure do.
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
Can you even begin to imagine the heartache of watching your newborn baby being tossed into the sea? That's what happened to Salima, the young Somali refugee in the photo above. I was alerted to her photo and story by an email last week from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The woman who captured Salima's image, photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina, is being honored with the UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award for her "tireless dedication to uncovering and portraying the overlooked human consequences of war." Fazzina spent two years in Somalia following refugees escaping across the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Peninsula. Salima's portrait graces the cover of Fizzina's resulting book, A Million Shillings: Escape from Somalia,
forthcoming in September.
Here's a summarized paraphrasing of the moving caption that accompanied Salima's photo:
Basatine, Yemen, March 2008 -- Salima, 19, now lives in a cramped, dark safe house controlled by human traffickers. Once she saves up $25 through begging, the traffickers will drive her to the desert, allowing her to get to Saudi Arabia, where she'll most likely spend her days enslaved as a maid in someone's home.
The last six weeks have been a nightmare for Salima. She had been living in Mogadishu, Somalia, with her baby boy and husband. Six weeks ago, while pregnant with her second child, she left her home to buy bread. While out, mortars hit her house. "I found my husband and child, but they were not with us anymore," she told Fazzina, the photojournalist. The two had perished in a random attack perpetrated by the very soldiers who had been entrusted to protect the people.
Seven months pregnant, Salima decided to escape. She journeyed northward 20 days in a truck until she reached the area near Bosaso. Salima, along with 120 others, entered the water and were hauled onto a small, wooden boat. Because she was pregnant, she was allowed to sit with her legs out. Everyone else had to sit with their knee to their chins.
In the rough seas, Salima began to get contractions and started bleeding. The crew, who had been drinking gin and smoking marijuana, and who were armed with guns, knives, and hammers, moved her to the front of the boat. She thought they were helping her. Salima passed out. When she woke up, she saw a crew member toss her newborn baby into the sea -- like it was nothing more than a ball. "My baby was all I had left of my husband," Salima told Fizzina.
After landing at a deserted Yemeni beach, Salima was registered at a UNHCR-operated center. She even saw a doctor, but it was too painful for her to talk about what had happened. Now, all alone, without family, she is a traumatized teenager, barely an adult. So, she's back with the traffickers. Her final destination? "Where Allah takes me," she says. Realistically, she'll toil in virtual slavery as a maid in someone's home in Saudi Arabia.
On June 18, in honor of June 20's World Refugee Day, Secretary Clinton spoke about what the refugee issue means for Americans:
[Supporting refugees] goes to the core of who we are as a people and a country because the United States is not only a nation of immigrants -- we are also a nation of refugees. We know from our collective experience that most people want the same basic things in life: safe communities, food, water, lives free of political and religious and other persecution. And when these basic needs go unmet and families are forced to flee their homes in desperation, we should all be there with a helping hand.
She also said:
We help because it is the right thing to do. We happen to believe it's also the smart thing to do, but even in cases where it doesn't appear all that smart, it's still often right. And therefore, we proceed.
Alixandra Fazzina, Courtesy of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
Secretary Clinton on Friday, June 25, welcomed passage of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, whose aims include "constraining Iran's nuclear program, changing the calculus of Iran's leaders, and demonstrating that Iran's policies decrease its standing, and further isolate it in the international community."
Clinton -- whom Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in May called an "enemy of Iran" -- stated that in addition to addressing Iran's nuclear activities, the legislation addresses Iran's human rights violations against its own citizens. She said, "We support the Congress' efforts to call attention to these violations, and the United States will continue to hold Iran accountable for its obligations to respect the rights of its own people.?"
(In the photo above, an Iranian woman wrapped in a Palestinian flag cuts up a portrait of Secretary Clinton during an anti-Israel protest in Tehran on May 31, the day of the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship.)
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.