Archive for the ‘Near East’ Category

Remembering Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed

December 2, 2016

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

Ambassador Gabriel delivered these remarks at the November 29 Memorial Service for Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed held at the United Nations in New York.


Mr. Secretary General, Honorable Ambassadors, distinguished guests, and Joseph’s family members and colleagues of the UN, it is my honor to say a few words about our friend, Joseph Verner Reed.

Joseph once wrote to his Deputy, Dick Jackson, “Morocco is the mystery, beauty, and exoticism that I myself experienced and was witness to for four unforgettable years as US Ambassador from 1981-1985″. My fellow colleagues and I, who followed Joseph as US Ambassador, would agree with his assessment.

There are now 8 former living Ambassadors who have served in Morocco, plus one current Ambassador, all following in Joseph’s footsteps. He personally touched the lives of each of us in many ways, and brought us together as good friends. And each of us has wonderful stories about Joseph.

Ambassador Tom Riley, who served as our Ambassador to Morocco under President George W. Bush, wrote me last week to say, “I am one of many with the experience of getting my first call of congratulations upon release of my nomination from Joseph. Not my family, not the White House, not any friends, but from none other than JVR.

Frecky Vreeland, US Ambassador to Morocco under President George HW Bush, said of Joseph, “he traveled widely in what he called ‘The Kingdom.’ Time and again when I was introduced to local Moroccans as the American Ambassador, they would object, saying that they do know the ambassador in question — and flash a photo taken of themselves with Joseph”.

Mike Ussery, US Ambassador to Morocco also under President HW Bush met Joseph when he was a young political appointee at the State Department. Mike said, “He always stopped by to check on me during his trips to DC, and years later he helped me prepare for Morocco and made sure I was well received there… wonderful and kind gestures that helped me in my mission in Morocco”.

For me personally, Joseph was a mentor, friend and role model. He cared dearly that each of us succeed in a country he believed was so important to the United States. He was truly a Patriot’s patriot, and put Country ahead of personal glory.

At lunch with Joseph soon after I was nominated to be Ambassador by President Clinton, he gave me a written list of ten things I must do if I was to be successful in Morocco. Knowing of Joseph’s fame in Morocco, I was grateful for the advice and followed it in the exact order he gave it to me.

One of the ten things Joseph told me to do was get out into the countryside and see every corner of Morocco and visit as many Moroccans as I possibly could. Joseph and I actually shared one body guard, who stayed on through five US Ambassadors. His name is Bouchaib.

I remember travelling to the border of the Sahara in the Western edge of Morocco, almost to Mauritania, and asked Bouchiab, did Joseph ever come this far? Bouchaib answered, Yes Sir.

I went to the most remote and highest villages in the high Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas, and even the small villages in the mountains of the famous Rif Mountains, where in 1904, Berber Chieftain Raisuli faced the wrath of Teddy Roosevelt for kidnapping an American. Each time during these many trips, I would ask Bouchaib, did Joseph ever come to these places? And each time he would answer, Yes Sir.

Finally, we are on the outer reaches of the desert in Eastern Morocco, past the town of Figig, within eye sight of the Algerian army in a tiny little town among Sahrawi nomadic tents. I asked Bouchaib, OK, was Joseph ever here, to which he surprisingly said No Sir. As we walked into the village and met with cheering crowds of adults and children, one young boy ran up to me and handed me a pencil, with an inscription, “compliments of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed”! This must have been one trip that even Bouchaib missed.

That’s just the kind of man Joseph was: generous and totally engaged. Every Ambassador to Morocco was asked by Joseph if they would kindly receive a package from him every quarter. We were instructed to carefully remove the outer package containing the embassy address and underneath was another wrapping addressed to the orphanage in Azroul, Morocco. The box was filled with clothes and other useful items. I do not believe Joseph missed sending a package since 1984.

David Rockefeller said Joseph was a true ‘character’ in the very best sense of the word. “He was a man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor sharp intellect, a diplomat’s diplomat”. He said he will miss Ambassador Reed “more than words can express. We 9 colleagues of Joseph agree with you Mr. Rockefeller.

Joseph positively affected the mission and performance of each US Ambassador to Morocco who followed, and I know that each of us would say that although we were successful in our own missions, there has been no more successful US Ambassador to Morocco before or since than Joseph Verner Reed.

Thank You.



Syria’s “Surrogates R Us”

August 31, 2016

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s August 30, 2016 worldpost piece in the Huffington Post.


Sur-ro-gate: a substitute or deputy for a person in a specific role.

The crumbling, decrepit remnants of the Syrian state are overrun by the pestilence of so many mini-conflicts it is impossible to know who is fighting what at any hour of any given day, or which devastated rubble of a city or town is under control of what Sunni Islamist of Shiite faction or proxy of Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia or the United States. Syria is a veritable cauldron of killing field upon killing field. One day a surrogate force is on one side, the next day, on the other — depending on the highest bidder and the gravest threat to their proxy hosts.

Syria’s butcher-in-chief — Bashar al-Assad — courtesy of Russia’s Putin, Iran’s Khamenei, and the terrorist group known as Hezbollah, has clung to power by controlling a sliver of territory around the capital, Damascus, while his beleaguered forces barrel-bomb and deploy poison gas (yes, poison gas) to subdue a civilian population not under his regime’s direct control into starvation and submission. That is what is taking place in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo.


Obama Flies to Riyadh: Are U.S.—Saudi Ties Too Big to Fail?

April 22, 2016

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s April 19, 2016 special to the Huffington Post.


President Obama leaves Washington today for his third and final presidential “hajj” to Saudi Arabia for tense meetings with newly installed Saudi King Salman. By any measure, the once “enduring” U.S. – Saudi alliance is on a collision course, triggered by a fateful election year reckoning long overdue of the costs and benefits to a “friendship” that strains the credibility of that word. No amount of diplomatic doublespeak from Mr. Obama or his press secretary can camouflage the President’s ire at the Saudis, who were shocked at Mr. Obama’s unprecedented public rebuke last month of their unhelpful conduct in the Middle East.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Obama told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that the Saudis are not only among “free rider” allies that ask the United States to fight their battles for them and “exploit” American muscle for their own narrow, sectarian end, but are also responsible for encouraging anti-American militancy (his sanitized expression of spreading radical Islamic jihadi ideology).


The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Saving the Lost Generation and the Communities that Serve Them

October 23, 2015

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


The Syrian refugee crisis is nearing a tipping point, beyond which no near-term solutions are possible. On this website, many of us have discussed policy options to stem the Syrian crisis and get to the negotiating table. In the meantime, we have a crisis that can’t wait for diplomacy or military action: the lost generation of uneducated young refugees, and the host communities struggling to bear their weight.

More than four million Syrians have fled the country, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Though in absolute numbers Turkey hosts the largest community, about 30% of Lebanon’s population and 20% of Jordan’s population are now Syrian nationals. To the 4 million refugees, add the 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced and you end up with about half of Syria’s population as either displaced or refugees. One-third – and as much as half – of the housing stock and a large percentage of economic infrastructure have been destroyed or damaged in Syria, and mistrust of the current Syrian security forces abounds. Without homes and jobs and fearful of the government, refugees will not return any time soon and host countries will have to cope with refugees for years to come.


Agreement with Iran: The Future

October 1, 2015

Thomas Graham, Jr. (Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 1994-1997)


After the signing of the Agreement in Geneva between the Permanent Five of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, France, Russia and China plus Germany (P-5+1) and Iran in July there was an outburst of twitter messages in many cities, not least in Teheran. One message from a young Iranian woman to her boyfriend read: “What this Agreement means to me is good-bye falafel and hello McDonald’s.” Perhaps this comment is not entirely frivolous as Thomas Friedman, the New York Times correspondent once said—in 1996—that “No two countries with a McDonald’s will ever go to war.”

This highly complex Agreement designed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon—which Iran easily could do today should it so decide—is almost certain to come into force as planned. It has been approved 15-0 with the United States voting in the affirmative—which was all that was required to bring it into force. But two nations decided to submit their participation in the Agreement to a vote in their national legislatures. The U.S. Congress did not take action to prevent the President from lifting sanctions related to Iran’s program, the U.S. obligation under the Agreement, therefore the U.S. will participate. The Iranian Parliament has yet to vote but this vote is expected soon and it is anticipated to be positive. As a result the Agreement will come into full force in the latter half of October. But what then?


U.S. Policy Advisors on the Middle East Region

September 30, 2015

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s September 28, 2015 blog post.


The world is wondering why the United States has moved so slowly to wipe out radical Islamist groups, as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that are destabilizing much of the Middle East and parts of Africa. Battle-hardened rebels have been waiting for military assistance from the U.S. to attack the ISIS strongholds in Syria. The recent resignation of General John Allen leaves a major void in the U.S. military strategy to support the rebel groups. Reportedly, Allen did not receive the necessary authority for action against the radical Islamists, which has allowed their rapid expansion to continue throughout the region.

In Afghanistan the Taliban has affiliated with ISIS, despite the 10,000 U.S. peacekeeping forces there. The new president, Ashraf Ghani also has not been able to bring peace, as terrorist attacks continue daily.


Ambassador Smith on US-Saudi Relations, ISIS, and the Iran Nuclear Deal

September 28, 2015



The guest for this interview is CAA member Ambassador James Smith. Ambassador Smith was U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009 to 2013 and now is the President of C&M International, an international policy consulting firm. He is a former U.S. Air Force brigadier general and F-15 fighter pilot who served in Operation Desert Storm. Ambassador Smith is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Naval War College, and the National War College, where he served as a professor of national security strategy.


Ambassador Susman on the Iran Nuclear Deal

September 23, 2015

Louis Susman (Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 2009-2013)


The Iran nuclear agreement is clearly in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the entire region. The agreement will achieve the primary objective of stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon for at least a decade and possibly longer.

If this agreement had not been reached, the economic sanctions would have been eliminated by our allies; including Russia and China. Iran would receive not only economic relief but would be the recipients of substantial bi-lateral trade agreements with many countries. They would have no restrictions on their nuclear program with no inspection or verification process in place. If Iran chose to go ahead they would probably have a nuclear weapon in six months versus ten years. It is hard for me to believe the world would be safer if this agreement had not been reached.


Ambassador Stephenson on the Iran Nuclear Agreement

September 17, 2015

Thomas Stephenson (Ambassador to Portugal, 2007-2009)


Most of us would concur that diplomacy should always be the preferred route to resolving conflicts, and few doubt that the efforts of the Obama Administration were well-intentioned as they prepared for the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  From an outsider’s perspective, however, the Administration’s negotiating approach to Iran’s nuclear aspirations and capabilities appears to have been poorly conceived and ineptly executed.  What was said up front and along the way in terms of an acceptable outcome bore little resemblance to the final agreement.

I was in Israel with a delegation shortly before the negotiations with Iran commenced, and the Israeli government and intelligence people with whom we met were extremely apprehensive that we would end up “negotiating with ourselves” and “giving away the store”.  Their biggest concern was that we would change the discussion from one of “whether” Iran would be allowed to process and possess enriched uranium to one of “how much” uranium Iran could enrich and retain.  They were also highly skeptical regarding our ability to enforce any agreement with Iran, and finally they were dismayed that at a point in time when we were gaining increasing leverage on Iran with our economic sanctions, we were proposing to prematurely let Rouhani and the mullahs off the hook.  The Israelis were convinced that Rouhani’s mission was twofold only, to dramatically reduce the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S., the U.N., and the E.U. and to preserve Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability.  It’s fair to say he succeeded brilliantly on both fronts.


Iran deal is a win-win

September 3, 2015

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

Cross-posted from Secretary Albright’s September 2, 2015 special to CNN.


I teach my students that foreign policy is persuading other countries to do what you want. The tools available to accomplish this include everything from kind words to cruise missiles. Mixing them properly and with sufficient patience is the art of diplomacy, a task that for the United States has proved challenging even with our closest allies, and altogether necessary with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The United States and Iran have been locked in an adversarial relationship since the 1979 hostage crisis. Having worked for President Jimmy Carter, I viewed the country through the prism of that experience when I served in the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, as secretary of state I felt it important to explore the possibility of developing a less chilly relationship with Iran.

During my time in office, we offered to engage in dialogue, but the Iranians were not ready. In the end, although we improved the relationship on the margins, we failed to make much of a dent in the thick wall of mistrust separating our two countries.

These experiences lead me to be wary of the Iranian regime and realistic about the prospects for an overnight change in U.S.-Iranian relations. But it is dangerous not to pursue dialogue, and experience convinces me that the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran is a wise diplomatic initiative.

After careful review of its provisions, I have given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action my strong endorsement.