U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations sent this email to her staff at the U.S. mission this morning:
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
As you have likely now heard, this afternoon President Obama announced that he is appointing me his next National Security Advisor. I am deeply honored and excited to continue to serve our country in this new capacity.
But, in truth, I am very sad to leave the work and the people of the US Mission to the UN. Serving with you at USUN has been the best job I have ever had – challenging, fun, multifaceted and never, ever dull. The greatest part, however, has truly been the people. Every morning, no matter how tough or arcane the issue, I have awakened with a bounce in my step because I knew that whatever was coming at us, I would have the privilege of confronting it with the best team of people I have ever worked with. Your dedication, commitment, kindness, good humor and excellence have been unfailing.
So, above all, I am deeply grateful to each of you – from the UPOs whose smiling faces lift my spirits when I walk in the building to each officer and OMS, each driver, advisor and Ambassador, each DS agent, each military staff committee member, each IMO. Every single one of you has given me your best. It has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside you, the remarkable public servants at the lean and mean U.S. Mission to the UN.
I could not be prouder of you and of all that we have accomplished together. As a team, we have strengthened America’s relationships and advanced U.S. interests and values at the United Nations. None of this would have been possible without your professionalism and commitment.
I will begin to make this transition shortly, but my last day at USUN will be at the end of June. I am very excited that President Obama has nominated Samantha Power to be my successor. If confirmed, you all will love working with her, as many of you have already discovered. She is wicked smart, energetic, strong, principled and a truly lot of fun.
In the meantime, I am confident that USUN will continue to excel in all areas of the mission’s work, under the extremely able leadership of Ambassadors DiCarlo, DeLaurentis, Cousens and Torsella. I know I will leave the mission in excellent hands, and there will be a great deal of continuity.
I look forward to seeing you all and being able to thank you in person next week. I plan to honor you all at a Happy Hour in the near future.
I will greatly miss the USUN family. You are the best!
Ambassador Susan Rice had nothing to do with Benghazi, as President Obama told us, but she appeared on five Sunday political talk shows anyway. On those shows, Rice mouthed talking points that weren’t true. Continue reading →
Today, President Obama will be the first U.S. President to visit Burma. The unprecedented trip is a celebration for the second largest country in Southeast Asia. It’s also a remarkable achievement since Burma only recently held national elections in 2010 after holding the leader of the democratic opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest for 21 years. Continue reading →
Most reporters haven’t been following Ambassador Susan Rice’s performance at the United Nations since her appointment in January 2009. To many journalists, Rice’s misleading interviews on the five Sunday Shows the weekend after the 9/11/12 terrorist attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were one of the first times they had heard from her. To veteran foreign policy observers, Rice’s shameful performance that Sunday was one of many blunders over the last four years. Continue reading →
One of the reasons the American public holds unelected government officials in such low esteem is that they are never held accountable for their failures. Presidents and cabinet officials could send a strong message of accountability if they held senior appointees responsible for their performance. President Barack Obama should use this weekend’s U.N. failure to show Americans and Arabs alike that it is unacceptable to stand idly by while 6,500 Syrians are killed by their government. Obama should ask for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice’s resignation and replace her with someone tougher and more effective. If she won’t voluntarily resign then she should be fired.
The case against Susan Rice has been building over the last few years. This weekend’s embarrassing failure on a Syria resolution was the latest and last straw. Her diplomatic failures and silence have given the United States a weak representation at the United Nations.
Next month marks the anniversary of the Syrian uprising. But Rice, as she has on many issues, has ignored Syria’s growing problems for too long. Rather than speaking out immediately when the violence started, she stayed silent. Rather than calling for action, she did nothing. Russia and China saw Rice’s passivity as a sign that Syrian President Assad’s removal wasn’t a priority. By the time Rice started pressuring Security Council members to confront the growing violence and death, it was too late. Once a draft resolution condemning Syria was introduced, Rice was too quick to negotiate changes that weakened it without insisting on a date for the Security Council to vote. Her constant agreement to changes seemed desperate. The frantic and late maneuvering left the United States at the mercy of Russia and China, who vetoed even the watered down measure.
On her post-veto media tour, however, Rice sought to blame Russia for not listening to the United States or other western governments rather than acknowledge her failed diplomatic skills – an ironic spin given that Rice and team Obama created this new Russian resolve when they naively and dramatically called for a re-set to our relationship with Russia. The reset Rice championed and spoke affectionately about has not only failed to deliver support for U.S. national security policies but it has also exposed the dangers of an inexperienced team’s strategy of personal diplomacy.
This continues Rice’s pattern of failing at her own stated goals. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Susan Rice talked very openly about restoring America’s leadership at the United Nations and often derided President George W. Bush for acting without U.N. backing. Rice cheerfully exclaimed that, unlike Bush, Barack Obama would engage in active diplomacy even with countries considered our enemies. Rice was very critical of the U.S.’ reputation at the U.N. and vowed to build better relationships with every country. In her current stump speech Rice claims that her goal has been accomplished, “We’ve repaired frayed relations with countries around the world. We’ve ended needless American isolation on a wide range of issues. And as a consequence, we’ve gotten strong cooperation on things that matter most to our national security interest.”
This past weekend shows just how disastrous Rice’s strategy has been.
Rice has been silent on important issues and ineffective when she does engage. She skipped Security Council meetings when Israel needed defending and even failed to show up for the emergency session on the Gaza Flotilla incident. Rice didn’t even show up for the first two emergency Security Council meetings on the unfolding Arab revolution last year. Rice stayed silent when Iran was elected to the U.N. women’s committee, she didn’t call out Libya when it was elected to the Human Rights Council, she was absent from the Haiti crisis meeting and was a no-show for the last open meeting scheduled before the planned U.N. vote to recognize Palestinian statehood. When she actually shows up, she is a miserable failure.
Take the crucial issue of Iran. Rice spent the last several years undermining and grumbling about the Bush Administration’s increasingly tough measures but has only been able to pass one resolution of her own – compared with the Bush team’s five. Rice’s one and only Iran resolution was 22 months ago. And it passed with just 12 votes of support – the least support we have ever seen for a Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran. In fact, Susan Rice lost more support with her one resolution than the previous five Iran resolutions combined.
In another example, Rice secretly negotiated with the Arabs on acceptable language for a possible U.N. resolution to condemn Israel’s settlement activity. Rice’s engagement sent a strong message that making a new policy, rather than encouraging the two sides to negotiate directly, may not garner an automatic U.S. veto. In February of 2011, the U.S. abruptly changed tactics on the Arabs and vetoed a U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements. The Palestinians were justifiably furious with Rice. After all, they had just spent weeks going back and forth with her on acceptable language to make Israeli settlement activity a violation of international law — something previous U.S. Administrations had bluntly and immediately threatened a veto over. Rice’s negotiations suggested the U.S. was open to change, when in fact it was not.
Whether the issue is Sudan, Egypt, North Korea or Rwanda, Rice has been either missing in action or unable to deliver a quick and effective resolution.
Firing Rice may serve Secretary of State Hillary Clinton too. Clinton’s team has always viewed Susan Rice with suspicion dating back to the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, when Rice went on MSNBC to slam Clinton’s ad claiming she was best equipped to take the national security emergency call at 3 a.m. “Clinton hasn’t had to answer the phone at three o’clock in the morning and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They’re both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call,” Rice said. Secretary Clinton, one State Department diplomat told me, has tried to distance herself from Rice and her lackluster U.N. performance.
President Obama could show the Arab street that it is unacceptable for the United States government to sit idly by while the United Nations Security Council does nothing. What better way to show that things at the U.N. have to change than to fire the woman spearheading the failed U.S. efforts there. Rice’s last diplomatic initiative should be putting the United States’ reputation above her own.
You can’t blame the Palestinians for trying. Over the last few years, the Obama Administration has encouraged the Palestinians to make bold moves. While shifting U.S. policy away from Israel, President Obama clearly and definitively told the Palestinians to reject violence but plan for statehood. Within five months of taking office, Obama spoke in Cairo to a massive Muslim audience in what the White House billed as the President’s first major address on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Arab leaders were hopeful and sat waiting to see if the new President of the United States with a Muslim father would change the status quo. And Obama didn’t disappoint. In his speech, Obama made clear: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.” The President went on to celebrate the Muslim faith like no other U.S. leader had. Arab leaders believed their time for equality had come – and Obama was on their side.
In that June 2009 speech, Obama apologized for American military might, Guantanamo Bay, the Iraq war, colonialism and even what he called our “self-interested empire”. The Arab audience had found an American who understood them. After rebuking anti-Semitism and the tragedies of the Holocaust, Obama made an unusual comparison: “On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.” Obama had squarely placed Muslims and Christians on one side and against Israel. He went on to say, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” It was the early sign Arab leaders were looking for from the new President. They saw the President’s comparison between the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinians as an indication that statehood and international acceptance would come. Israeli leaders saw the comparison as a sign that the U.S. President could make radical changes to venerable American-Israeli policies.
After the Cairo speech, the Obama team tried to assure the Israeli government that the President would not take sides. But soon thereafter, Administration officials did. Despite long-standing U.S. policy to encourage the parties to confront their issues at the bargaining table and to adamantly reject any outside influence making unilateral decisions, Obama himself called for an end to settlements and to start negotiations using the pre-1967 borders. The Israelis outright rejection of Obama’s pronouncements were also seen by the Palestinians that Obama was going to keep the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama’s Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice consistently skipped Security Council meetings when Israel needed defending and even failed to show up for the emergency session on the Gaza Flotilla incident. The Israelis felt abandoned and the Palestinians were optimistic that the U.S. was not going to protect Israel at all costs.
But in perhaps the boldest U.S. move, Rice secretly negotiated with the Arabs on acceptable language for a possible UN resolution to condemn Israel’s settlement activity. Rice’s move sent a strong and new message that making policy, rather than just encouraging the two sides to negotiate directly, may not garner an automatic U.S. veto. The Arabs were focused and excited at their new found power. When the Israelis got wind of the scheme, they cried foul. Conservative lawmakers quickly joined forces with the Israeli government to force Obama to change his position. In February of 2011, the U.S. vetoed a UN resolution on Israeli settlements that Susan Rice had started negotiations on with the Arabs. The Palestinians were furious and rightly so. After all, they had just spent weeks with Rice going back and forth on acceptable language to make Israeli settlement activity a violation of international law. Rice’s rejection of the long-standing U.S. position of only encouraging direct negotiations led the Arabs to believe they were on a different path. Previous U.S. Administrations had bluntly threatened vetos on resolutions that made unilateral declarations but Obama’s team was clearly open to the idea.
Arab diplomats also point to Obama’s 2010 statement that he wanted to see Palestine a member of the UN by September 2011 as proof that he wants them to make bold moves. While Obama has sent the same lower level diplomats multiple times to the region to encourage direct negotiations, he hasn’t sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It’s no wonder the two sides haven’t spoken formally since September 2010. Instead, the Obama strategy has been to push the Israelis to accept Palestinian demands even though their unity government includes Hamas, a group the U.S. government classifies as a terrorist organization.
The Arabs have been waiting for Obama to make his move for quite some time. Before the beginning of the Obama Administration in January 2009, candidate Obama spoke of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict in simple terms. His belief that he could bring the opposing sides together to find a solution was based on the premise that he is a likeable guy and if he could just get the two sides to sit down together their issues would be secondary. The Arabs saw Obama’s characterization of Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his willingness to directly negotiate with Hugo Chavez his first year in office as promising. While Obama’s bold moves once prompted Hillary Clinton to call him “irresponsible and frankly naïve” during her primary race against him, the Palestinians believed he would be willing to push back on Netanyahu too.
So it’s no wonder Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas exclaimed Friday, “We are going to the Security Council.” Despite some media reports that the U.S. has been working hard to convince the Palestinians to drop their bid for statehood at the UN, the Administration’s late discussions with lower level diplomats signals something different. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice spent this past week in what seemed anything but frantic. She hosted a documentary film screening, tweeted about the International Day of Democracy and Friday spent the afternoon at a local New York City high school with Congressman Joe Crowley at what was billed as a “Back-to-School” event. She didn’t even mention Israel or Palestine.
It’s happened again – Susan Rice has skipped another UN meeting critical to U.S. interests. Today’s UN Security Council debate on the Middle East was the last open meeting scheduled before the planned UN vote to recognize Palestinian statehood. The Obama Administration has said it doesn’t think it’s a good idea for the Arabs to push for a General Assembly vote on the issue, but U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice obviously doesn’t translate that into working against the dress rehearsal. Does Rice think it’s none of America’s business if the UN recognizes a government that includes Hamas? Does Rice believe the UN should take up other statehood issues? Her silence
confuses our allies and sends the wrong signals to the UN.
While this isn’t the first time Rice has avoided controversial and difficult UN issues, she issued a long public statement yesterday on a separate subcommittee’s non-controversial work and today has tweeted multiple times about a UN youth conference. Rice also held a press conference last year with the Russian Ambassador and the UN Secretary-General to discuss texting while driving. While Rice feels compelled to speak up on safe driving and youth conferences, she failed to show up for the emergency UN meeting on the Gaza flotilla debate, she failed to condemn Libya when it was elected to the human rights commission, she failed to speak out against Iran’s election to the women’s committee and she failed to attend the first Security Council meeting to confront the Arab Spring issues. And that only scratches the surface. Whether it’s adding Haiti peacekeepers to the beleaguered peacekeeping force or keeping the pressure on North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs, Rice has failed to deliver
resolutions despite promises that the Obama team would lead the world.
Inside the Security Council today, the debate raged over the Arab’s planned UN vote on behalf of the Palestinians:
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN pointedly asked the Palestinian representative, “On behalf of whom will you present a resolution in September? Mr. Abbas or Hamas? Will it
be on behalf of both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorist organization, which advances a charter calling for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews?”
Palestine’s Representative called out the international community for not doing enough and said failure was “…due to Israel’s relentless violations of the law and the failure to hold Israel accountable for its illegal actions.”
The Palestinian representative also appealed for assistance, “The Security Council convenes this open debate at a moment requiring serious reflection and candid deliberation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the international efforts to resolve it and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole.”
The speeches today called for American leadership, participation and perspective. But Ambassador Rice didn’t attend the meeting. One Security Council diplomat
told me, “Ambassador Rice is seldom here and (Deputy) Ambassador (Rosemary) DiCarlo always has a good statement.”
Over the last few years, Rice has avoided tough negotiations and public feuds and has subsequently produced very few UN resolutions on America’s priority issues. She has consistently avoided the difficult issues where negotiations take patience, skill and aggressive advocacy. An absent U.S. Ambassador surely entices others to take full advantage of the void. One sure way to weaken the UN is to placate it, neglect it and marginalize it, as Rice has done these past years. The UN and the American people deserve better.
This week, United States Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford participated in a tour sponsored by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the Northwest province of Idlib. The propaganda tour was organized to show the devastation caused by what government officials described as “foreign outlaws” and “radical Islamists”. The excursion included Syrian officials who explained to Ford that Islamic extremists were responsible for the more than 1,500 deaths that have occurred since anti-government protests began on March 15. Government officials also told Ford that there have been no peaceful freedom marches, as has been reported by the international media, only foreign radicals looking to destabilize Syria. Ambassador Ford dutifully attended the government’s tour but has since failed to respond or react.
Ford’s silence dramatically contrasts with his tough talk during his confirmation hearing in March 2010 when he told Senators, “Unfiltered straight talk with the Syrian government will be my mission priority.” We can only hope Ford’s public silence means he has been giving it to Assad privately. But unfortunately there are press reports
indicating that Ford hasn’t been able to schedule a private meeting with any senior government officials. So the U.S. Ambassador to Syria just sits and waits.
Ford’s stiff upper lip seems exactly what President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton want. While they cling to the idea that Assad may still yet be a reformer, the
Obama team misses the opportunity to topple the Syrian dictator and blunt Iran’s influence in the region. A review of Ford’s Embassy website shows a similar silence from Ford on the Syrian crackdown of the last three months. With foreign journalists not allowed inside Syria, you might think the U.S. Embassy staff would be working overtime to tell the world and specifically the U.S. taxpayer just what is happening inside Assad’s world. Shouldn’t Ford be calling attention to and showing the violence coming from Assad’s government? How about demanding that the IAEA come in to inspect the Israeli-bombed suspected nuclear site Al Kibar? Now seems like a good time to take advantage of a distracted dictator. But our U.S. Embassy’s website is embarrassingly outdated and irrelevant. On the home page there is a link to the text of Obama’s speech Wednesday on Afghanistan, a June 17th news summary from Washington’s Information Bureau quoting an unidentified official on Syria and an op/ed from Secretary Clinton dated June 17. A closer look and you can find links to statements dated June 8th, June 4th and May 31 on HIV/AIDS and the internet. There are also stories on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and former astronaut Marsha Ivins. But there is nothing from Ford on his reaction to the Syrian propaganda tour or the violent government crackdowns.
It’s time to end this charade and show Assad what the American government thinks of his phony excuses of “64,000 outlaws” and a “revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood who are agents of America and the West”. Surely Ford must know Assad is not telling the truth and that Americans are not responsible for Assad’s troubles. With 10,500 Syrians having fled into Turkey, Assad’s problem has become an issue of international peace
and security. If U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice can’t show regional instability and thus an urgency for UN action then it’s time the U.S. act in other ways. With more promises of reforms, new committees and conspiracy charges from Assad’s Damascus University speech on Monday, the time to do more is now. Opposition forces need to know that the U.S. stands with them. It’s also a chance to show the Iranian people what is possible. Ford and Clinton look foolish doing nothing. While some may say that the U.S. has little it can do outside of military action, Obama can still squeeze the Assad regime and isolate it further with these actions:
1. Order Ford home immediately, and shut down the Embassy.
2. Publicly call upon Assad to resign and ask other countries to do the same.
3. Call upon the Europeans and others to pull their Ambassadors from Damascus too.
4. Restrict the movement of the Syrian Ambassador to Washington and the Syrian Ambassador to the UN to a small radius around their offices.
5. Ask European capitals to restrict the movement of Syrian Ambassadors in their countries too.
6. Force the UN resolution on Syria to a vote and dare the Russians to veto it.
7. Move USAid employees into southern Turkey to care for the Syrian refugees arriving daily.
8. Schedule an Al Jazeera TV interview with President Obama to explain our actions and why Assad must go.
9. Demand the IAEA inspect Al Kibar and offer an immediate UN resolution authorizing it.
One sure way to ruin American credibility in the Arab world is to sit silently in Damascus and look like your part of the Assad show.
From the moment Moammar Gaddafi started his vicious military campaign against his people, French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of confronting the Libyan madman. While President Obama thought about what to do, Sarkozy met with members of the Libyan opposition at the Elysee Palace on March 10 to support an overthrow of the Libyan leader. Soon thereafter, France became the first country to formally recognize the Libyan opposition group “The Interim Transitional National Council.”
Sarkozy’s government started planning for a No Fly Zone over Libya before the thought of a UN resolution or NATO endorsement was pushed upon the world stage.
While the French were leading the world to confront Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi’s brutal air and ground attacks, the indecisive Obama Administration was “weighing their options and discussing the issue” as one official said.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were surprised when British Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed Sarkozy’s No Fly Zone on March 11. And the White House had still not decided what to do about Libya when the Arab League endorsed the idea on March 12.
America’s sidelined spectator status during a developing foreign policy crisis highlighted Obama’s strategy to make the United States equal among many and not unique within the international community. Obama blinked and democracy seekers around the world have taken note of America’s timidity. The U.S. inaction in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia will surely encourage despots and may even send the unfortunate message to human rights activists that America will not support their bravery.
Sarkozy and the Arab League took control of the world stage after watching the indecisive Obama Administration hem and haw over what to do about a madman shelling his people. Obama met with his national security team multiple times only to disclose more meetings and deliberation. Sarkozy had promised to formally establish diplomatic relations by exchanging ambassadors between Paris and Benghazi before Obama decided what to do. And Britain’s Cameron seemingly left the United States out of his planning when he proclaimed, “It’s important that the countries of Europe show political will, show ambition and show unity in being clear that Col. Gaddafi must go. His regime is illegitimate.” World leaders were reading the clues coming from Washington and deciding to act without the U.S.
By the time Obama decided to seek support from the United Nations, our Ambassador Susan Rice was left on the sidelines because the French, British and Arab League had already written a draft resolution. When the votes were finally called in the Security Council, Susan Rice and the Obama team had failed to convince India, Germany and Brazil to support the No Fly Zone Resolution. So much for an administration that had promised to lead the world.
“The turning point was really the Arab League statement on Saturday (March 12),” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on March 16. “That was an extraordinary statement in which the Arab League asked for Security Council action against one of its own members.” But the Obama team had still not acted a full week after the Arab League statement. State Department officials say Hillary Clinton was pushing President Obama to do something but was being told to slow down. “S was frustrated and embarrassed” by the lack of U.S. action, one official told me using the lingo S for Secretary of State.
While some Obama supporters defend the President’s delay by saying that a President must “take their time and be deliberate” about military decision making of this magnitude, it was an uneasy President Obama that was left to read a teleprompter statement voicing support for the Libyan opposition a full 7 days after the Arab League had done it. Unlike Obama’s base of support in the U.S., the French centre-left opposition is largely supportive of Sarkozy’s leadership on Libya. Jake Tapper of ABC News tweeted that protesters were already gathering at the White House to demand that Obama stop any U.S. military involvement in Libya.
Obama’s indecisiveness and lack of resolve infuriated the right and his decision to follow the Europeans and the Arab League into a No Fly Zone has angered the left. The President and his team must decide if they will retreat in the face of our international obligations or live up to his promise that “The U.S. will not sit idly by”. The simple fact is that the U.S. did sit idly by while a madman attacked his people with military aircraft. Obama either is strategically withdrawing America from the world stage or crippled with indecision. Vacillation and fear are terrible messages to send to our enemies.
At great personal risk to himself and his family, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, pushed the UN Security Council to take up the violence in his home country. Dabbashi said he could no longer support the regime of his boss Moammar Gadhafi and stepped out to condemn what he called “a genocide”. The dramatic event prompted the first UN meeting of the 15 member Security Council on the uprisings sweeping across the region since the beginning of Tunisia’s revolution, Egypt’s violence and the developing protests in Bahrain, Yemen, Palestine and Iran.
The United States was represented by Foreign Service officer and Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo. The Obama Administration’s appointed Ambassador, Susan Rice, skipped the Libya meeting and instead flew to South Africa to attend a UN panel discussion on global sustainability.
Missing the only Security Council meeting on the Middle East revolution was not Rice’s first absence from high profile UN business. Rice was absent when the UN held an emergency Security Council meeting on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza and when Iran was elected to the UN Women’s Commission. Rice also failed to speak out when Libya was elected to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2010.
While Rice was traveling to South Africa, the State Department ordered Embassy family members, non-essential personnel and other Americans out of Libya. The evacuation of roughly 600 Americans is being done via ferry from Libya to the small island of Malta. The urgent evacuation coincided with more violence and bloodshed and emphasized the seriousness of the developing situation. Human Rights Watch reported that at least 230 people have been killed in the fighting while Italy’s government puts the number at 1,000.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the bloodshed “completely unacceptable” and said that the U.S. will take “appropriate steps” to deal with the escalating situation. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-MA, called for strong action by the United Nations Security Council. “While it’s true that America has less influence in Tripoli than elsewhere in the region, we’re not without options, particularly in partnership with the broader international community,” Kerry said. Secretary Clinton also called for the U.S. “to work in concert with the international community.” But the directives from Kerry and Clinton were ignored by the U.S. Ambassador to the UN who failed to attend the meeting and rally the world body.
Rice’s prioritization of the global sustainability meeting over the Libyan crisis sent a terrible signal to American allies at the UN. Rice’s absence was not lost on foreign ambassadors and highlighted the inconsistencies of the Obama Administration’s handling of the Middle East crises. One Arab diplomat told me, “Egypt’s violence could hardly be compared to Tripoli’s but the (administration’s) reaction was much harsher. We aren’t sure what Washington is thinking. Ambassador DiCarlo was very strong but more needs to be done.”
Rice’s interest in South Africa was highlighted in a wiki leak produced cable from November 3, 2009. U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips mentioned Rice’s interest in hosting an event with South Africa during his first courtesy call meeting with Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Pretoria. Ambassador Gips noted that “US UN Ambassador Susan Rice would like to host the Minister for an event when she next visits New York.” Now Rice can deliver the message in person. State Department sources tell me she will have a courtesy call with Minister Mashabane while in town for the global sustainability discussion. Rice will also speak to the international Chamber of Commerce before heading home to Washington. Rice’s spokesman said the Ambassador will use her travels as an opportunity to ask South African business and civic leaders to serve as an example by speaking out when they see oppression and brutality. But Rice would be more effective at this time asking South Africa to facilitate such actions back home and staying in New York to push the UN to take the strongest stands possible.
Meantime, the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Libya is a member, today struggled to issue a condemnation on the Libya violence. The draft HRC statement is being watered down by Cuba, Russia and China and may not even pass. If Susan Rice felt the need to travel, she should have flown to Geneva to lobby the UN Human Rights Council not to South Africa to speak on a panel discussion about global sustainability.
The escalating violence in Libya and throughout the region has also spiked oil prices for Americans and given the crisis a blatant U.S. economic angle. Daniel O’Connell, vice president of energy at MF Global, said if gas prices continue to accelerate ahead of May, when “driving season” picks up, “it will cripple the economy.” Rice’s absence from the UN meeting neglects not only an events-changing revolution and unspeakable violence, but also an issue that will impact Americans’ pocketbooks. She belongs in New York, not South Africa.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced to the UN’s Arab group that she will support their statement condemning Israel for its settlement construction after failing to convince the group to support her language. Rice previously offered the Arab group a plethora of U.S. government compromises in exchange for different language – language they rejected outright. The Arab group immediately responded to her acquiescence by announcing that they will turn the statement she is supporting into a legally binding and more serious UN resolution to be voted on soon. Rice’s failed UN engagement strategy highlights the dangerous slippery slope of bringing delicate foreign policy crises to the 15 member Security Council. Her actions also perilously miss the message of Egypt’s protesters who are demanding economic reform from their dormant and manipulative leaders.
The incentives Rice offered the Arab Ambassadors at the UN included a harsh condemnation of the Israeli settlements in a future statement from the mid-east Quartet negotiators (comprising of the U.S., UN, Russia and the EU) and an official UN organized tour of the Middle East. But as foreign policy experts hail the region’s recent democracy movement and its’ “Berlin Wall moment”, Rice is at the UN agreeing to condemn the Middle East’s strongest democratic government.
Over the last several days Rice has been negotiating with Lebanon, the UN Security Council’s Arab Group representative, to find settlement language acceptable to both sides. But after offering her compromises, Rice agreed to language saying the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity” and that the settlements are “a serious obstacle to the peace process.” The agreement sharply diverges from previous U.S. government statements insisting that the Israelis and the Palestinians negotiate directly to decide for themselves what issues are obstacles to peace. Shouldn’t we spend what little political capital we have left pressuring both sides to sit down face to face?
Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) called Rice’s compromise “too clever by half”. Weiner said, “Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the U.N.”
Arab experts have long believed that Americans need to re-think their relationship with Israel in order to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict. But with the youth revolution moving quickly throughout the Middle East, it is the traditional Arabists who are scrambling to understand the largely peaceful and economically driven coups on non-democratic regimes. Arab leaders have consistently framed the Palestinian-Israeli issue as an Arab-Israeli issue. They have spent considerable capital trying to convince their publics and Americans that Israeli settlements and Palestinian border issues are the highest priority issues for Arab youth throughout the region.
But the recent tumult in Tunisia and Egypt have proven that Arab youth, like their counterparts in America and elsewhere, want economic freedom and good paying jobs first and foremost. Arabs want and deserve economic and political freedom. And the silent majority must have a stronger voice than the loud radicals trying to take advantage of the current chaos. Washington must stand solidly with the strongest democracy in the region, Israel, and make clear that economic freedom, individual human rights and security are our priority goals.
To understand why her UN engagement strategy was destined to fail, Susan Rice only needs to watch the news to grasp the universality of the impassioned people pleading for greater freedom in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Bahrain and even Palestine. Maybe then she wouldn’t fall for the canard we consistently hear at the UN that if we could only settle the Israeli problem then all would be right in the region. America should be standing with the Arab youth demanding an end to the status quo. Rice’s actions play into the hands of the self-interested leadership and their UN based support system hoping it all stays the same. If the Arab group brings forward their promised resolution, the U.S. will have to decide if it will veto the resolution or not. The predicament the U.S. finds itself in is much of Rice’s own making.
The United Nations General Assembly elected five new Security Council members this week. India, South Africa and Colombia ran in uncontested races from the Asian, African and Latin American regional groups and will begin serving on the Security Council in January. But the remaining races were contested, with Germany, Portugal and Canada competing for two seats from the Western European and Others group. With the European Union already represented by veto-wielding France and Great Britain on the Security Council, and either Portugal or Germany certain to win another seat for the EU, it was critical that America’s close ally Canada win a two-year term. The U.S. could use the help in pushing for UN reform and advocating pro-democracy policies. The current conservative government in Canada had been campaigning for months to sit on the UN’s most powerful committee with no public support from the Obama Administration. In fact, U.S. State Department insiders say that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice not only didn’t campaign for Canada’s election but instructed American diplomats to not get involved in the weeks leading up to the heated contest. With no public American support, Canada lost its bid to serve. That gives the EU more than 25% control of the body and a strong voting block to ensure EU priorities become global priorities. This was the second time a high profile ally could have used U.S. help yet Rice chose to stay silent.
Israel was left to defend itself against a full-out assault from the UN after it captured a flotilla aid ship headed to the Gaza Strip on May 31. Susan Rice never showed up for the marathon emergency UN meeting and left Israel without its most powerful friend. “It was a crucial moment for Israel and for the top American Ambassador to not even show up to the meeting where Israel was being attacked by hypocritical dictatorships was a powerful sign to others,” one current UN diplomat said.
While Rice is currently in Africa on an official UN trip and was unable to attend Tuesday’s actual vote, she could have had her team work to Canada’s benefit. Instead she instructed colleagues to steer clear, effectively abandoning Canada. By contrast, when Venezuela wanted a seat on the Security Council over U.S. objections in 2006, then-US Ambassador John Bolton aggressively campaigned for Guatemala instead. Bolton met with a plethora of UN diplomats and publicly pushed the UN to vote 48 times over 3 weeks until Venezuela finally gave up its campaign and was denied a seat. Rice’s actions also differ greatly from the words she used during the 2008 presidential campaign when she promised that the Obama Administration would “lead our friends and allies.”
Some conservatives in Canada believe that the Obama team worked with Canadian liberals to leave Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government hanging without vocal U.S. support. In the past, American ambassadors around the globe were instructed by Washington and led by the US Mission to the UN to work aggressively behind the scenes rallying capitals around the world to support certain countries in crucial Security Council elections. At other times, vocal American support was needed to highlight a priority U.S. issue. In Canada’s case, Rice chose to say nothing publicly and declined to lead a global campaign on behalf of our northern neighbor. Her silence also seemed politically coordinated when Canadian Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff criticized his own country’s policies on climate change and its staunch support for Israel – policies the Obama team disagrees with.
For Rice, this latest episode highlights her willingness to put partisan liberal policies above representing the American people at the UN. Ambassador Rice’s consistent silence when faced with difficult issues is exactly what America doesn’t need at the UN and our allies are beginning to take notice of her timidity.
President Barack Obama today told the United Nations General Assembly that America’s financial crisis was the reason their economies were suffering and promised to not rest until people around the globe prosper. “Two years ago this month, a financial crisis on Wall Street devastated American families on Main Street. The global economy suffered an enormous blow during the financial crisis, crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent.” Obama also assured the 192 nations gathered for the opening of the 2010 UN meeting that he has had “no greater focus as president than rescuing our economy from potential catastrophe.” In taking credit for saving mankind from financial ruin with his administration’s actions, Obama went on to say, “The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression, and is growing once more…We are exploring ways to expand trade and commerce among nations. But we cannot — and will not — rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, for all Americans, and for people around the globe,” In a stunning pledge for an American president, Obama told the UN diplomats that since Wall Street caused their problems, he would take responsibility for fixing their financial mess.
Surprisingly, Obama’s UN speech also seemed to make clear that his UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, was not following his instructions when she refused to call out Libya for their election to the Human Rights Council and Iran’s election to the UN Women’s Committee. Obama bluntly told the UN crowd that “Human rights have never gone unchallenged — not in any of our nations and not in our world”. The simple instruction was seen by some as a directive to Rice since she has consistently stayed silent when confronted with human rights violators winning coveted UN committee spots. Obama made clear that America and its’ Ambassadors should not sit quietly when freedoms are eroded, as Susan Rice has done on a number of occasions. Obama told the 192 nations gathered, “Do not stand idly by when dissidents everywhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten. Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.” The President’s language reads like an instruction to Ambassador Rice to start standing up to violators and a strong message to the diplomats in the room that her actions should not be interpreted as U.S. policy.
Obama also seemed to chastise Susan Rice when he spoke about America’s support for Israel. While Rice was roundly criticized for skipping the Emergency Security Council session on the Gaza flotilla crisis opting instead to stay on vacation in Washington, DC, Obama made clear to the UN diplomats that they should not confuse her actions with his Administration’s support for Israel. Obama said, “It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” But Rice’s refusal to back Israel at one of the most critical moments the jewish state has faced at the UN was seen by Arabs as a sign that America’s support is not unconditional. I guess for Rice, unshakeable support doesn’t include a shuttle flight from Washington to New York during an emergency session lasting several days and was covered extensively by the international and domestic media. Rice, who is supposedly stationed in New York at the UN, has missed a plethora of important UN meetings and has been criticized for spending too much time in Washington so it wasn’t out of the ordinary for her to not be in New York at the time.
Rice’s refusal to defend Israel at the UN certainly hasn’t been the only time the Obama Administration and Israel have been at odds. And although President Obama has tried to repair the damage, the Israeli delegation to the UN today was not present for President Obama’s speech and the six chairs reserved for Israel could be seen empty on UN TV. Additionally, President Obama has no bilateral meetings scheduled with Israel during his visit this week. In years past, President Bush always met privately or formally with Israeli officials during the UN meetings so the Obama team’s snub to Israel is seen as another misstep in their Middle East peace efforts.
Today’s UN speech is also a clear sign that Obama is more interested in being President of the World than he is in being President of the United States.
*This piece was picked up by FoxNews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/09/23/richard-grenell-obama-united-nations-speech-susan-rice-israel-washington-new/
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has been on the job for 18 months now, but she doesn’t have much to show for it. Her record of accomplishments and performance on behalf of the American people is embarrassing. While Rice has been active in the social scene of Washington and The White House, a study released by the uber-serious non-profit group Security Council Report suggests that the past year has been the most inactive Security Council since 1991. Rice missed crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, she failed to speak out when Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, she failed to call-out Libya when they were elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, she recently delivered an Iran sanctions resolution with the least support Iran resolutions have ever had and she called her one and only press conference with the UN Secretary General on the issue of texting while driving. For an Administration that promised to utilize the UN and improve our reputation around the world, its dinner party circuit strategy isn’t making America more secure.
Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues. When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation. While other foreign Ambassadors speak fondly of Rice and the Obama Administration’s easy ways, they have been weak negotiators for the American people.
This lack of American leadership at the UN has resulted in the general Security Council inactivity spotlighted in the study by the Columbia University-affiliated group – Security Council Report.
The Report says:
“In 2009 the total number of Council decisions (resolutions and presidential statements) decreased by 26 percent from 2008. The number dropped from 113 to 83, the lowest level since 1991.
Resolutions dropped from 65 to 48 and presidential statements from 48 to 35.
This significant trend is also mirrored in a matching reduction in formal Council activity. The number of formal Council meetings decreased by 20 percent, from 243 to 194.
The number of press statements, which is one indicator of Council decision making at the informal level, also decreased by 23 percent, from 47 to 36.”
While Rice launched her tenure at the UN with a glamour spread in Vogue Magazine by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz showing her kicking back in an empty Security Council Chamber, she seems to not enjoy the Chamber when it’s full of diplomats. During the Haiti crisis, Rice was not only absent from the Security Council vote to expand the UN’s peacekeeping operation, but she also failed to call an emergency meeting in the immediate aftermath to request more help. In fact, 7 days after the Haiti earthquake left tens of thousands of people in the streets without food or shelter, it was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that came to the Security Council to request more troops – the American Ambassador hadn’t bothered.
Earlier this summer, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice was a no-show during the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left Israel fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. The UN Security Council ultimately issued a statement on the situation in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 1, after starting deliberations on Monday, May 31 – the American Memorial Day holiday. Rice never showed up for any of the meetings. Coming on the heels of Rice’s silence and absence from the meeting where Iran was elected to the UN Women’s committee and Rice’s refusal to call out Libya after it was elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, Rice’s performance is leaving Americans wondering if she really wants to be the American Ambassador to the UN.
More than 30 human rights organizations appealed to Rice before the crucial Human Rights Council membership vote in an effort to get her to find another country to run against Libya. The activists pleaded, “This contravenes the 2006 promise that the reformed Council would bring competitive elections, and sets a poor example.” The groups urged Rice to do something. But Rice ignored the human rights leaders’ appeal and didn’t try to make a competitive race for Libya. Rice didn’t speak up to highlight the problem, didn’t try to find another candidate and couldn’t utter Libya’s name to condemn Libya’s successful election after the vote.
Rice‘s avoidance of tough negotiations on matters important to America is unfortunate, but her lack of engagement on UN budget reform is shameful. U.S. citizens pay 22% of the UN’s regular budget, 26% of the UN Peacekeeping Budget and give millions more in voluntary contributions to a plethora of other UN programs. They deserve an ambassador who doesn’t duck a messy public fight with other countries looking to spend American taxpayers’ dollars.
But perhaps the Rice’s most astonishing failure was that she only was able to get 12 of the 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council to vote for increased sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. On Fox News Sunday, Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”.
Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own poor performance look better isn’t factual. The vote was the first Iran resolution for the Obama team but not the first time the Security Council pressured the government of Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activity. President George W. Bush and his team wrote, negotiated and forced a vote of the 15 nations that sit on the Council a total of five times. Three Iran resolutions under Bush passed unanimously. Two other resolutions passed with only one country voting against sanctions and one country abstaining (singular abstention, not plural as Rice claimed).
After so much hype about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy engagement strategy, the UN resolution was remarkably weak, took too long to get and received less support than Bush’s team’s. Bush lost two countries’ support in five Iran resolutions; Obama’s team led by Rice lost three countries’ support in one resolution. It’s ironic that the Obama team labeled the Bush team devoid of friends around the world. Obama’s foreign policy weakness and acquiescence has made him an international celebrity guest, but it isn’t producing the promised results on U.S. foreign policy priorities. The Obama team’s poor performance calls into question its overly diplomatic strategy to lead the world through excessive talk.
Rice has gambled this past year that keeping America unengaged at the UN is the best way to keep the Obama Administration, and herself, popular with other countries. But while the newly released report suggests that the Security Council has been cordial and pleasant in 2009, the number of crisis situations, international conflicts and peacekeeping operations haven’t decreased. No meaningful improvement has been seen to the international issues monitored by the Security Council; in fact, the study suggests that some situations have gotten worse. Without American leadership at the UN, countries just continue to talk and socialize at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense.
The facts show that the Bush style that Obama routinely ridiculed and derided produced better results than his exaggerated diplomacy has achieved. If you are comfortable living in a world where America has no more influence than China, then you may like Obama’s softer, quieter, weaker America. Iran certainly loves the breathing room they got from Rice waiting 17 months before increasing the pressure on their illegal nuclear weapons program. And allies like Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon now find it easy to ignore Obama. It isn’t popular to say, but the world needs a strong America. The world needs an America that leads our allies and isn’t troubled by certain charges of hubris from elites on the Upper East Side of New York City or in capitals around the world. One thing is clear – Obama’s easy professorial attitude isn’t winning us votes.
It sounds as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had enough. Her new strong tone on North Korea is a welcome, albeit overdue, shift. The Obama Administration’s North Korea policy for the past 18 months has consisted of public relations ploys of pretending to get tough on the rogue state and a propensity to re-package the hard work of the Bush team and call it something new and improved. Her announcement that the Obama Administration will enforce the existing sanctions on nuclear related materials and luxury goods going in and out of North Korea is yet another example. While many members of the mainstream media have fallen for the Obama team’s marketing efforts, veteran North Korea experts and UN observers aren’t fooled. Still, Clinton’s new forceful language signaled that even she believes the current policy isn’t working and more must be done. She, seemingly alone among the Obama Administration foreign policy team, is aware that success in North Korea requires more than just talking.
What Secretary Clinton really said is that the Obama Administration will finally start enforcing the demands placed on North Korea during the Bush Administration. Although the announcement claims to be fresh and innovative, the only thing new and improved is that the Obama team is admitting that its global celebrity status isn’t enough to convince other countries to actually act on their international obligations.
Even South Korea, who has the most to lose from a provocative North Korea, isn’t buying the “new” argument from the Administration. “I don’t really think there’s anything new,” Han Sung-joo, a former South Korean foreign minister, told the Christian Science Monitor. And he is correct.
In 2006, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton led the UN Security Council to unanimously pass an unequivocal resolution, number 1718, stating that all UN members must inspect all cargo going in and out of North Korea to ensure that there is no transfer of any nuclear related products or luxury goods. The language is absolute and written under the strongest possible terms – that is to say it acts under Chapter 7 of the UN’s charter which allows countries to use legal force to restore international peace and security. It was also passed just 5 days after North Korea conducted a nuclear test.
In 2009, 18 days after yet another North Korea nuclear test, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and her team re-packaged resolution 1718 into their own UN resolution with the same mandates but different language in an effort to look like they were doing something new. While many in the media took the bait, analysts who took the time to look at the language of both resolutions concluded there was nothing in Rice’s resolution that wasn’t already barred in the original Bush Administration resolution. With inspections required on every ship and plane going in and out of North Korea, it’s impossible to suggest that searches are somehow new. The only thing that may be new is that the Obama team is consistently leaking the details of vessel seizures to David Sanger of The New York Times. And in return, Sanger has been all too willing to act like something is actually new with their North Korean policy.
The hard work the Bush team did in passing unanimous Security Council resolutions and the ridicule from Obama and Rice at the time now seems ironic given the poor performance the current Administration has in passing strong resolutions. Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues. When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she avoids confrontation. It took Rice 103 days to move the Security Council to issue a statement after North Korea sank a South Korean ship that killed 46 sailors. And on Iran, Rice was only able to get 12 countries to support new sanctions compared to the Bush team’s unanimous support for three separate resolutions. Secretary Clinton seems all too willing to let Rice’s failed record stand alone. Clinton has done little to help her fellow cabinet member with international negotiations and State Department insiders say that the two seldom speak or coordinate directly.
While Obama has long believed that his personal story alone would compel leaders to follow him, Clinton’s frustration with the Administration’s lack of progress on issues like North Korea and Iran is beginning to bubble up. Today’s tough talk of enforcing previous international obligations is the first sign Clinton has given that she is irritated with the weak Obama policies. But it isn’t the first time Hillary Clinton disagreed with Barack Obama’s foreign policy vision. During the 2008 campaign, candidate Clinton called candidate Obama’s ideas on rogue nations “naïve”. Clinton also criticized Obama as someone that “wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world’s most intractable problems and advocating rash unilateral military action”. Clinton went on to say, “We need a president who understands there is a time for force, a time for diplomacy and a time for both.” But in perhaps her strongest criticism of Obama, she said he would need “a foreign policy instruction manual” if elected.
Obama’s foreign policy weakness and acquiescence has made him an international celebrity, but he isn’t producing the promised results on our international priorities. The Obama team’s poor performance calls into question its overly diplomatic approach and its fixation with trying to lead the world through excessive talk. But Clinton signaled that she is frustrated with just talk and wants action. Clinton’s reference to the Bush Administration’s North Korea sanctions resolution is a sure sign she wants more than a PR strategy to deal with rogue nations. It remains to be seen if the Secretary of State has enough capital inside the Administration to start teaching the President a few things about being tough with dictators.