Foreign Policy Advisory Index
In the Foreign Policy Advisory Index, The National Interest tracks links and media buzz on Barack Obama's foreign-policy team.
Tuesday, April 27
Christopher Hill is very worried about how slowly the government-formation process is moving forward. This from the ambassador who warned before the election that the hardest part would be getting everyone to agree to a government after the vote, which took place on March 7. He wants the Iraqis to "pick up the pace," adding that "while we always knew this was going to be a tough period, we are approaching almost seven weeks." The clock is ticking for Washington, as a troop drawdown deadline is set for the end of August. The U.S. commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno is gearing up to make a decision about those dates. He previously said that two months after the election he would make a decision about whether the timeline was feasible.
Finally, some good news for special envoy George Mitchell, who just got back from a trip to the Middle East. The Israeli government quietly froze settlement construction in East Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to restart indirect talks. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, is hopeful that the two sides will kick off discussions within the next two weeks. Abbas will talk to Arab League representatives on Saturday to help decide whether to get back to the proximity-talks setup.
President Obama and his National Security Adviser James Jones are also inserting themselves into the Israeli-Palestinian process. Ehud Barak was in Washington yesterday for a meeting with Jones and Obama dropped by to speak directly to the Israeli defense minister. Details, as has been the case lately with the peace process, were hard to come by, but Obama did reiterate the administration's support of Israel even though the road has been rocky of late. Jones conveyed the same message last week, which was clouded by a joke about a Jewish merchant. The national security adviser apologized in statement: "I wish that I had not made this off-the-cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it. It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct."
And Defense Secretary Robert Gates isn't the only Obama official looking to shake up business-as-usual. CIA Director Leon Panetta is looking to get more technology into the hands of his officers. Yesterday, Panetta announced a five-year strategic plan, which included investing in technology that would help counter evolving threats from the cyber world and that would help spies gather more intel, as well as a plan to for a surge of CIA officers into Pakistan, East Africa and other global trouble spots.
Friday, April 23
Pyongyang is getting riled up. South Korea thinks that the North sank one of its warships on the North-South border. North Korea claims it had nothing to do with the incident, and responded by seizing some South Korean-owned assets. As reports fly that the two countries are creeping toward the brink of war, Hillary Clinton reiterated that "the North Koreans should not engage in provocative actions, and that they should return to six-party talks." She hopes that there will be "no action or miscalculation that could provoke a response that might lead to conflict." Don't we all.
George Mitchell has gotten back on the horse. The U.S. envoy started a day of talks today to try to get the peace process restarted. Right off the bat, he had a face-to-face with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He'll also be spending time with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Last year, the United States, along with other wealthy nations, made a pact that they would establish a fund to help fight hunger and poverty around the world. Financial crises and all, the countries have kept their promise. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithener was one of the movers and shakers on hand at the kick-off ceremony for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. Geithner felt the need to allude to all the bailouts and economic problems. In his speech he said that "at a time of limited resources and large global challenges, this fund will leverage support from around the world to achieve lasting progress against hunger and bolster agricultural productivity and growth." Bill Gates was also there. His foundation has already given $1.5 billion to global agricultural development.
Thursday, April 22