Memo to 2016 Presidential Candidates: How to Fix the Iran Nuclear Agreement

August 28, 2015

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s August 21, 2015 special to the Huffington Post.

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Congress will shortly vote on a resolution of disapproval on the Iran nuclear agreement (formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or “JCPOA”). Whether you are for or against the agreement, whether you have promised to rip it to shreds on your first day in office, or not, its aftershocks are going to reverberate throughout your presidency.

It is obvious to those of us who have spent weeks carefully studying the JCPOA’s fine print and the expert analysis written by the deal’s opponents and proponents that on the two most important tests to our national security the JCPOA does not: 1) prevent Iran from ever building a bomb; and 2) provide adequate deterrents if Iran commences a grinding, grueling effort to cheat & retreat. Consequently, the agreement falls quite short of its Broadway billing.

While the agreement is what it is and is likely to survive a Congressional vote of disapproval there is much you can encourage President Obama and Congress to do before you are elected to improve the agreement’s chances of fulfilling America’s national security objectives.

As I note below, there is a hidden minefield of national security challenges in the JCPOA. President Obama has worked hard to secure this deal, so he should be more open-minded about what negotiations did not achieve and commence his own repair job in order to reduce those national security threats. But the President seems quite content with his handiwork and has not evidenced an intent to take a presidential glue gun to fill in the agreement’s gaps.

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Ambassador Roosevelt on the Iran Nuclear Deal

August 28, 2015

Selwa S. Roosevelt (Ambassador and Chief of Protocol, 1982-1989)

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I believe the Iran nuclear is in the best interest of the USA, and certainly think we and our allies will be better off with the deal than if we walk away from it.

I would urge the Congress to vote in support of the deal–regardless of how they might feel about Iran’s compliance. I believe Iran will comply and I also believe that in 15 years so many factors will come into play–the possibility of a new regime in Tehran, the hope for a new government in Israel that will be more willing to accept this new look.

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Turkey and the West — Getting Results From Crisis

August 11, 2015

Stuart E. Eizenstat (Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, 1999-2001; Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, 1997-1999; Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, 1996-1997; Ambassador to the European Union, 1993-1996)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Eizenstat’s August 7, 2015 special to Foreign Policy. The article was co-authored by Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan.

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The Turkish government’s dramatic decision to engage militarily in Syria against the Islamic State, its agreement to allow the United States to use its air base in Incirlik to strike Islamic State targets, and its request for consultations with NATO last week no doubt can be helpful to the West. Turkey’s change of heart came after an attack, attributed to the Islamic State, near the Syrian border on July 20 which killed over 30 Turkish citizens and wounded scores more. In the days that followed, the Turkish government implored NATO to help it combat the terrorist threats it faces from both the Islamic State and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the PKK, the latter sworn enemies of Ankara. These security developments should also be a wake-up call for the European Union, the United States, and Turkey to comprehensively reinvigorate a relationship that has fallen into disrepair.

Ankara’s dramatic military actions have created an opening which the European Union and United States should seize to help Turkey regain the political, economic, and security footing lost because of its own shortsighted actions. In recent years, the Turkish government has too often chosen to repress rather than address the views and frustrations of its people. The economy continues to deteriorate as a result of poor economic and political policies. In no small measure, these bad policy choices are what cost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, its 13-year majority in the June parliamentary elections.

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T-TIP Promises New Opportunities for U.S. and European SMEs

August 7, 2015

Anthony Luzzatto Gardner (Ambassador to the European Union, 2014-present)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gardner’s special to the 2015 issue of European Entrepreneur.

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U.S. trade negotiators will “seek to strengthen U.S.-EU cooperation to enhance the participation of SMEs in trade between the United States and the EU.” These words are clearly stated in President Obama’s letter of March 20, 2013, to the U.S. Congress and the related fact sheet, spelling out for our legislators and the general public that our negotiators for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) recognize the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as engines of growth and producers of jobs. As the USTR fact sheet describing our negotiating priorities puts it, “SMEs are the backbone of the American and European economies…SMEs that export tend to grow even faster, create more jobs, and pay higher wages than similar businesses that do not. T-TIP will enhance already strong U.S.-EU SME cooperation and help SMEs on both sides of the Atlantic seize job-supporting trade and investment opportunities.

Shortly after I arrived in Brussels to start my work as the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, in March 2014, President Obama came for an EU-U.S. Summit. During his press conference with then President Van Rompuy and then President Barroso, he noted that:“…part of the suspicion about trade is whether globalization is benefiting everybody as opposed to just those at the top… or large corporations as opposed to small- and medium-sized businesses. I think it is important for us as leaders to ensure that trade is helping folks at the bottom and folks in the middle and broad-based prosperity, not just a few elites. And that’s the test that I’m going to apply in whether or not it makes sense for us to move forward in a trade deal. I’m confident we can actually shape a trade deal that accomplishes those things.”

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5 Steps for Engaging With North Korea

August 3, 2015

Governor Bill Richardson (Ambassador to the United Nations, 1997-1998)

Cross-posted from Governor Richardson’s July 22, 2015 special to Time.

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Reports that North Korea has ruled out denuclearization talks following the signing of the Iran nuclear agreement should come as no surprise. Nor should these reports discourage the U.S. and other world powers from engaging Pyongyang. The initial objective of this engagement should be to halt testing of nuclear devices, stop the launching of ballistic missiles, and prevent proliferation.

In order to successfully engage with North Korea, one has to keep in mind several perspectives. First, saying they are not interested in talks does not necessarily mean the North Koreans are not interested in engaging. In fact, I believe North Korea is interested, but wants the engagement to be on its terms and acknowledging its status.

The North Koreans are following recent U.S. engagement strategy very closely: in Myanmar, Cuba and now Iran. The engagement momentum itself should be used to spark conversations.

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Wanted: Bold Steps and Rule of Law in Mexico

July 23, 2015

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s July 2015 newsletter.

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Less than two months after the PRI gained a marginal victory in Mexico’s midterm elections, the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been hit by two stinging setbacks.
First was the humiliating escape of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, and soon after was the energy reform’s less than stellar first bidding round. All is not lost on either front, but moving forward will require a dramatic change of tone and direction on security measures, and serious recalibration on the energy side.

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The Ambassador’s Tale: Lessons I learned about Success and Scandal

July 20, 2015

Howard Gutman (Ambassador to Belgium, 2009-2013)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gutman’s July 16, 2015 special to the Washington Post.

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I first thought Dickens had characterized my time in Belgium succinctly: “It was the best of times” (four years), “it was the worst of times” (two months). I then considered Howard Beale’s “I am as mad as hell” and Raymond Donovan’s “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” But in hindsight President Obama may have said it best: “Just watch ESPN.

Most Americans might imagine the biggest challenge facing the U.S. ambassador to Belgium as fighting through the chocolate, beer and waffles. But during the Bush tenure, Belgium had been at the European forefront in its opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq and its cynicism about America. Before I arrived, Belgium had sought to close the port of Antwerp to U.S. ships, ban American planes from Belgian airspace, and apply its law of universal jurisdiction to indict senior U.S. Defense Department officials, including then-Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Gallup poll of foreigners’ views of America, taken in 2007 (less than two years before the Obama administration and my arrival in 2009 in Belgium), revealed that 65 percent of Belgians held an unfavorable view of U.S. leadership.

The U.S. Embassy and I understood that, to achieve our policy goals, we needed to change public opinion about America.

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The Iran Deal and the Prague Agenda

July 13, 2015

Norman L. Eisen (Ambassador to the Czech Republic, 2011-2014)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Eisen’s July 12, 2015 op-ed in the Huffington Post.

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As we near what may be the endgame of the current negotiations with Iran, I am reminded of the place where President Obama announced the overarching strategy that helped produce this moment: Prague. After stating his readiness to speak to Iran in a Democratic primary debate in 2007, and following that up postelection in 2009 with a series of initial statements directed to the Iranians, the President chose the Czech capital to lay out his vision of dealing with the dangers of nuclear weapons in April 2009. That included emphasizing that Iran would not be permitted to obtain a nuclear weapon on his watch: “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”

As a result of that 2009 speech, the President’s nuclear strategy became known as the Prague Agenda. I had the privilege to travel with President Obama back to Prague in April 2010 to witness the signing of a major accomplishment in another area under the Prague Agenda, namely the New START treaty. By the following year, April 2011, I was in Prague as U.S. Ambassador. That year, and in the each year that followed, we held an annual Prague Agenda conference to assess the steps that had been taken and the challenges that lay ahead.

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20 years after Srebrenica massacre, women are the healers

July 6, 2015

Swanee Hunt (Ambassador to Austria, 1993-1997)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Hunt’s July 6, 2015 special to the Boston Globe.

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As US ambassador to Austria, I took part in a ceremony in May 1995 marking the half-century anniversary of the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp by American forces. One after another, envoys stood at the wreath-laying and declared: “Never again.”

Yet within a few hundred miles, in a genocidal land grab, Serbian nationalists were conducting a campaign of terror that cost more than 200,000 Yugoslav lives, left 60 percent of Bosnian homes destroyed, and planted millions of landmines in fields. With no international resistance, the horrors peaked in the worst atrocity in Europe since 1945: On July 11, Serb forces began to slaughter 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica. That carnage became a tripwire for US-led intervention to end the atrocities.

On the 20th anniversary of the massacre, the women of the Balkans are finding strength in their calls for justice and their work for reconciliation. Some have defied trauma and moved back to Serb-dominated Srebrenica, managing to put aside memories of rape and torture to breathe life into a place of death. Even as they’ve planted crops in soil where their husbands and sons lie in mass graves, their sisters have built organizations bridging ethnic divides. Together, they have catalyzed a global movement to change the way we halt and heal the wounds of war.

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Defeating ISIL Requires US Leadership Now!

June 30, 2015

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

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I have written here before on Syria and radicalism in the Levant—once in September of 2013, and again in September of 2014. Nearly a year later, I am disheartened to see that US leadership continues to be timid in its struggle with ISIL and Syria, in spite of our warnings and prediction that if the US didn’t define and lead the effort in this fight, radical elements would take over against our interests. This didn’t have to be the case and doesn’t have to be in the future. However, the problem cannot be simply wished away and we can’t wait two long years for a new Administration to take action.

When the popular uprising in Syria began in 2011, the US had to confront just one threat: President Assad. Today, we have at least three others: ISIL threatening not only Syria, but Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with terrorist activities; a refugee problem that could overwhelm our friends in those countries; and finally, the Iranian arc of resistance which, stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and to Lebanon, is gaining ground as it firms up support in its fight against ISIL and its support for Syria.

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