Facing the Congressional Music

Next week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head to London for a meeting on Libya. The Tuesday conference, announced yesterday after Clinton and her counterparts from the UK, France and Turkey chatted on the phone, will likely come as NATO begins to take command of military efforts. Despite countries’ differing opinions on who should take control of the Libya operation (Turkey said NATO, France said a coalition should lead with the support of NATO, and so on), White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama expects Washington to hand over control, probably to NATO, “relatively soon.” After the transition, the United States will play a “support and assist” role in the operation.

Secretary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, DNI James Clapper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen will soon find themselves on the Hill to talk to members of Congress about the Libya situation. They’ll give the House a classified briefing on Wednesday of next week, followed by testimony by James Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner sent a letter to President Obama requesting more information on the intervention in Libya. Lawmakers have been criticizing the administration for not consulting them before engaging in military action.

Gates is in the Middle East right now working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the first visit ever by a U.S. defense secretary, Gates went to Ramallah today, the West Bank base of the Palestinian Authority. The secretary of defense has had a relatively tough sell, with violence escalating between the Israelis and Palestinians after a bombing in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as an example, had a less than peaceful statement to make: “We stand ready to act with great force and great determination to put a stop to” attacks on Israel. For his part, Gates said both sides had the right to self-defense, but called on them to remain focused on the peace process. He sat down with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah after a slew of meetings with other Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

On an unannounced stop, Gates then traveled to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II. He broadened his focus a bit, calling on Arab leaders to make reforms as popular unrest continues to swell.

Back at home, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reassured the public in a meeting in El Paso, Texas, that the Obama administration is dedicated to keeping the border secure and safe while making sure “trade, travel and tourism” are protected.