Operation Lifeline Syria

July 25, 2014

Madeleine Albright (Ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Secretary Albright’s July 23, 2014 post to Foreign Policy.  The article was coauthored by David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee.


The Middle East suffers a new trauma every week. Iraq is disintegrating, as the Syrian conflict crashes across its borders. Gaza is in flames, as long-term neglect takes its toll. No wonder it seems difficult for policymakers, never mind the public, to get their priorities straight.

One consequence is that the humanitarian crisis in Syria threatens to become a sideshow — not because things are getting better, but because complexity has become an excuse for inaction. Suffering on an appalling scale is now the new normal: In the last few days, upwards of 700 people have been killed in Syria, a fact that has gone unremarked in most news outlets.

For three years, humanitarian action and political progress have been put in separate boxes. On both counts the international community is failing. U.N. appeals are not funded, and U.N.-sponsored peace talks are going nowhere. Aid convoys are blocked, and U.N. resolutions are ignored.

Yet two recent developments — one humanitarian, one political — have provided a potential for a breakthrough.

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Mexico’s Energy Reform: One Critical Step Closer

July 24, 2014

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s July 2014 newsletter.


Mexico’s landmark constitutional energy reforms, approved last December, moved another step towards final passage this week when Mexico’s Senate gave final approval to key parts of the secondary legislation necessary to regulate the opening of the country’s oil and gas industry to private investment.  That secondary legislation now goes over to the house where, within weeks, it is expected to pass.

The full legislative package addresses 21 laws necessary to implement the reform and support its goals of transparency, competition and growth. Anticipation of a new energy era in Mexico is building and expectations for the reform’s beneficial economic effects are great.

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Education is Best Way to Defeat Radical Islam

July 17, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s July 17, 2014 blog post.


On June 10, 2014 our family returned to Africa as we do every year. Kenya’s Masai Mara was again selected. There were fourteen of us, including twelve family members and two close friends, ranging in age from eight to eighty. The youngest family member had been to Africa six times. Marcia and I first visited Africa in 1970, on a fact-finding mission to review CARE, UNICEF and World Food Program operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We have since been to over twenty-five countries–some a number of times. As U.S. ambassador from 2002 to 2005, I oversaw three Indian Ocean island nations off the coast of Africa–Mauritius, Comoros and Seychelles.

On our visit this year we stayed in two tented camps–Bateleur at Kichwa Tembo and Cottar’s Camp. In addition to enjoying the vast savannah with its abundance of wild life, we visited the Emurutoto Primary School again. Since our first visit twelve years ago the school had grown to almost 400 students with fifteen teachers. The school administrator reviewed with us a list of immediate needs, including adequate toilet facilities for the students, and new housing for the teachers.  At the time construction was underway for a new dormitory to house up to 200 girls, who have been sleeping on the dining hall floor, sponsored by the non-profit organization Angels in Africa. Our son Steven had brought along several soccer balls. It didn’t take long for the grandchildren to be involved with the school children in a scrimmage. On leaving we agreed to build the needed restrooms and teacher housing facilities.

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How a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal could help save Iraq

July 15, 2014

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s July 11, 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post. Ambassadors William Luers and Thomas Pickering co-authored the article.


An Arab proverb advises, “A problem is solved when it gets tougher.”

Illustrating that point, the advance in Iraq and Syria of the Islamic State poses a threat to the United States while clarifying choices for U.S. policymakers. The question confronting the United States and Iran is no longer whether to work together but how to do so. And in light of decades of distrust and animosity, communications between the two countries can be greatly facilitated by reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement in talks underway in Vienna. Failure, however, would leave only bad options.

If the Islamic State is to be contained, the United States and other nations will have to reconsider past policies and manage enmities.

For Iran, the breakup of Iraq and the creation of a radical Islamist Sunni state next door would be catastrophic. Iranian leaders now must decide whether to join Iraqi Shiites in a bloody sectarian war or, along with the use of force, work with others to build a federalized Iraq in which ethnic groups share in the responsibilities and benefits of statehood.

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A Caliphate has been declared in the Middle East

July 8, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s July 3, 2014 blog post.


Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 did not diminish al-Qaeda’s quest to destroy Western civilization. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it” was the ‘fatwa’ issued by bin Laden in 1998. Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, the aging Egyptian Islamic theologian who leads al-Qaeda today, is having difficulty controlling the newly formed Islamist affiliates.

The U.S.-led incursion into Libya in 2011 emboldened a new breed of Islamist extremists—young, eager and brutal—wanting to take control. In addition they have infiltrated the Maghreb and Sahel regions in Africa, and the Middle East.  Al-Qaeda’s mission of destroying western interests will continue, while the newer Islamist groups have a more territorial plan–creating Islamic states, ruled under Sharia law.

New recruits have been inspired by radical Wahhabist and Salafist clerics believing Islam has been disenfranchised and want to create a caliphate, taking the region back to the 12th century when Islam reigned under Sultan Saladin, and more recent past under the Ottoman Empire. The irrational borders created by the European powers after World War I separated tribes and religious factions, which is at the heart of the conflicts today, with everyone wanting their piece of the turf.

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Ambassadors discuss the U.S. image abroad

July 1, 2014

Ambassadors Anne S. Andrew (Ambassador to Costa Rica, 2009-2013), Donald Gips (Ambassador to South Africa, 2009-2013), Ford Fraker (Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2007-2009) and Laurie Fulton (Ambassador to Denmark, 2009-2013) appeared on “This is America & the World” to discuss the U.S. image abroad.

Mexico’s economic transformation means change for Texas

June 25, 2014

Antonio O. Garza, Jr. (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassadors Garza’s June 10, 2014 special to The Dallas Morning News.


Texas has worked for many years to cultivate greater private sector opportunity. We’ve gotten a lot of things right, as a look at the most recent report from the Dallas Federal Reserve makes clear. But with the profound process of change now underway in Mexico, the competitive dynamics of our region, and very possibly of the global economy as a whole, will shift. That means it’s imperative that Texans look beyond the good news of today and prepare for the challenges — and opportunities — of tomorrow.

Mexico’s historic reforms, including the much talked about energy sector opening, will recast its economy. The bonds Mexico shares with Texas are sure to deepen and grow more complex, a fact that should compel state policymakers here to address issues that are important to our own economic vitality and competitiveness.

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It’s not too late to reengage with Iraq

June 24, 2014

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s June 19, 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post.


The news from Iraq is, quite frankly, terrifying. And it was utterly predictable.

I have been saying for months that we must do everything we can to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan, Lebanon and especially Iraq — to ensure that the al-Qaeda contagion in Syria does not spread. It has. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now occupies much of the area between Kurdistan and Baghdad. Although the capital is unlikely to fall into its hands, ISIS has effectively established a radical Islamic state.

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America’s duty is to provide real help to embattled Ukraine

June 16, 2014

Victor H. Ashe (Ambassador to Poland, 2004-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ashe’s June 15, 2014 special to the Knoxville News Sentinel.


President Obama visited Poland on June 3 and 4 as part of the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Poland’s free elections in 1989 which led to a freely chosen democratic Poland and the fall of Communism. Poland since then has joined NATO and the EU and enjoyed an economic growth which others envy.

Immediately after the Obama visit, the 5th annual Wroclaw Global Forum was held in southwestern Poland sponsored by the US-based Atlantic Council which I attended. This three day conference brings governmental, academic, commercial and civic leaders from Central and Eastern Europe together.

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Ambassador Elson on Europe

June 13, 2014

Edward Elson (Ambassador to Denmark, 1993-1998)


Following President Obama’s trip to Europe, what do you think the top US foreign policy priorities should be in Europe? Do you agree with the President’s call to provide $1 billion to boost the US military presence across Europe?

While serving as in Europe, I was constantly challenged as to the amount of money allocated by the US for the purpose of foreign aid. Frustrated by the lack of gratitude to the US for the security safety-net provided over the then past 50 years, I developed a standard reply about their trading their foreign aid budget percentage for our defense spending percentage. I was inevitably met with a stony silence but the accusation would never be brought forward again. I found our trusted European allies willing to hold our coats in a fight but reluctant to join in, an attitude both craven and selfish. Nothing seems to change.


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