Gates and the Pastor
Vice President Joe Biden gave Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a call on Friday to reiterate Washington’s support as Islambad continues to struggle with the repercussions of recent floods. According to a statement, Biden stressed that the United States isn’t just providing immediate aid but is also engaging in diplomatic outreach to try to get the international community to contribute to the effort. Also on Pakistan, President Obama announced that he would be appointing Cameron Munter to take over as ambassador to Islamabad.
The secretary of defense played mediator last week, calling Pastor Terry Jones to defuse the Koran burning situation. Administration officials spent a good amount of time weighing the pros and cons of even making such a call. Stepping in could spur copycats bent on extracting concessions from officials. In the end, the administration tapped Robert Gates to make the call, an “unusual measure” as Geoff Morrell, spokesman for the Pentagon, put it last week. But had the event proceeded, it could have “seriously endanger[ed] our forces,” and for that reason it had to be stopped.
Special envoy George Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Sharm el-Sheikh tomorrow for the next set of Israeli-Palestinian talks. Then they’re off to Jerusalem for a second day of discussions on Wednesday. On Friday, President Obama said that he had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew a freeze on settlement construction as long as progress was being made in the negotiations. Netanyahu has long said that he will allow the moratorium to expire, which for the Palestinians would mean an end of talks. If things are going well this week, Obama will likely meet with the two leaders next week at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Stephen Bosworth is back on the radar. The U.S. envoy for North Korea will visit Seoul and Beijing this week to talk about Pyongyang. Last week, Clinton said that Washington is keeping close tabs on the “leadership process” in North Korea as it seems evermore likely that Kim Jong-il’s son will take over for his ailing father.