Jimmy Carter is set to travel to North Korea very soon, according to two sources familiar with the former president's plans, in what they characterized as a private mission to free a U.S. citizen imprisoned there.
Carter has decided to make the trip and is slated to leave for the Hermit Kingdom within days, possibly bringing his wife and daughter along for the journey. His goal is to bring back Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a 30-year-old man from Boston who was sentenced to 8 years in prison in April, about three months after he was arrested crossing into North Korea via China. In July, North Korea's official media organ reported that Gomes had tried to commit suicide. Earlier this month, the State Department secretly sent a four-man team to Pyongyang to visit Gomes, but was unable to secure his release.
There will be no U.S. government officials on the trip and Carter is traveling in his capacity as a private citizen, our sources report -- much like when former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang last August to bring home Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had wandered across the North Korean border with China and were promptly arrested and threatened with years of hard labor.
A senior administration official would not confirm that Carter has decided to go but told The Cable, "If anyone goes it would be a private humanitarian effort." Carter's office did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
The Obama administration wants desperately to avoid conflating the Carter trip with its current stance toward North Korea, which is to engage Kim Jong Il's regime only if and when North Korea agrees to abide by its previous commitments and agrees to return to the six-party talks over its nuclear program, which Pyongyang abandoned in 2008.
Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, had offered to go to pick up Gomes and has been working on the case for months, but our sources report Carter was selected because he is not a serving U.S. official. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had also been considered, but it's not clear why he was not chosen.
Carter has personal experience dealing with North Korea. In a dramatic and controversial June 1994 trip, after North Korea threatened to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel and the Clinton administration called for U.N. sanctions, the former president flew to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Il's father, Kim Il Sung, and successfully persuaded him to negotiate.
This time, leading Korea experts say, Carter's trip should not be seen as a change in U.S. policy toward Pyongyang and will likely not yield any breakthrough in what most see as a diplomatic stalemate between the two sides.
"Obviously, State and the White House had to be involved in the planning of this. But if you're going to try to pitch this as a foreshadowing of a new diplomatic engagement or a breakthrough, it's certainly not going to be that," said L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation, a think tank Focused on Northeast Asia.
When Clinton flew to Pyongyang to free the two Current TV reporters, who received a "special pardon" from the Dear Leader, he was extremely careful not to wade into policy matters.
"I don't anticipate that in any way President Carter will be carrying water for Obama or for any change in policy toward North Korea, because what is required for North Korea to move forward in negotiations with the United States is clear," said Flake.
But although Carter doesn't have official sanctioning to wade into North Korea policymaking, he might just do it anyway. Carter is known for having an independent streak, boldly taking on foreign-policy issues whether invited to do so or not.
Many former officials reference Carter's last trip to North Korea as evidence of this phenomenon. According to several officials who were involved in the policy at that time, Carter's deal with Kim Il Sung went beyond what the Clinton administration had authorized.
After the elder Kim's death the following month, the United States and North Korea entered talks in earnest, resulting in the 1994 Agreed Framework, which represents the most comprehensive cooperation between North Korea and the West to this day.
"As a result of his going slightly off the reservation, we got back to productive negotiations and before long negotiated the most effective agreement we've ever had with the North Koreans," said former ambassador Thomas Hubbard, who was then deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and deputy to the lead negotiator for the Agreed Framework, Robert Gallucci.
"You can't expect President Carter to take orders and do things the way the president wants it done, but to my mind it's a risk worth taking," Hubbard said. (Clinton himself later told former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell, "I took a chance on him in North Korea, and that didn't turn out too badly," according to an account by the late David Halberstam.)
Not everyone remembers Carter's trip so fondly. Some Clinton administration officials were furious with Carter at the time for coloring outside the lines, and saw him as being deliberately roguish, considering that he brought a CNN camera crew with him and announced his deal before the Clintonites could object. The Clinton White House decided to take his ball and run with it after the fact.
"There are a lot of memories of Jimmy Carter's last trip to North Korea and a lot of people kind of thought he hijacked our diplomacy," said Joel Wit, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator who is now a visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies and the founder of its website about North Korea, 38 North. "The bottom line is he did a good thing and the work he did there helped to pave the way to get the Agreed Framework."
Some experts argue that sending Carter is a bad idea that will only encourage further bad behavior on the part of Pyongyang.
"Sending another ex-president establishes a very bad precedent," said Amb. Charles "Jack" Pritchard, who served as special envoy to North Korea during the George W. Bush administration. "Mr. Carter has a history, an understanding, and a point-of-view where I can't imagine he would not, on his own, engage the North Koreans on substantive issues more than just the return of Mr. Gomes."
"If that's what they want," he said, referring to the Obama administration, "then he's a very appropriate choice."
Obama's tough posture toward Pyongyang, which includes as yet unspecified new financial sanctions and repeated military exercises with U.S. ally South Korea -- all of which are meant to show solidarity and strength after North Korea sunk the South Korea ship the Cheonan -- could be compromised, said Pritchard.
"It sends a signal, whether intended or not, that the United States is trying to get past the Cheonan incident, with the potential that we would be slightly out of step with the South Koreans," Pritchard said.
That's not a universally held view among former Bush administration officials, however.
"In the end, if the priority is to get the American out and that is what's required, then it's worth it, you've got to do it," said Victor Cha, Asia director for the National Security Council during the late Bush era. "If Carter can be helpful in getting some diplomatic dialogue going, that's fine. I hope he doesn't have some package to pull out of his pocket; that wouldn't be helpful."
Yet there are already signs that the Obama team's decision to essentially forgo direct engagement for the time being while concentrating on pressure and coordination with allies is fraying at the top levels.
We're told that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is said to be frustrated with the policy, had her Policy Planning chief Anne Marie Slaughter convene a high-level meeting at the State Department earlier this month to examine fresh options.
No matter what Carter does or how the North Koreans respond, the debate in Washington is likely to ramp up due to this trip, said Wit.
"The minute you send Jimmy Carter to North Korea, you've got to believe the pot is going to be stirred."
The Middle East Quartet is expected to release its long-awaited statement on direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians Friday, as negotiations at the U.N. continued into late Thursday afternoon.
State Department officials had been sure that the statement, a formal invitation for both parties to enter direct negotiations, would be released earlier this week. But last-minute objections from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides forced new rounds of discussions, culminating in what Reuters reported was a conference call between Quartet members Thursday afternoon to discuss the latest draft.
"There are details that are still being worked out. You could quote Yogi Berra, I suppose, ‘It's not over till it's over,'" State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. "We think we're very, very close to an agreement."
Multiple diplomatic sources confirmed that the substance of the reported draft represents a compromise intended to accommodate the Palestinians' calls for the pending Quartet statement to include several specific items that they believe are "terms of reference" for the direct talks but which the Israeli side sees as "preconditions" that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to reject.
The apparent compromise would result in a statement whereby the Quartet reaffirms a "full commitment to its previous statements," according to Reuters, a reference to the March 19 Quartet statement issued in Moscow, but doesn't explicitly repeat certain contentious language from that document.
Among the disputed items in that statement, which Netanyahu ultimately rejected, were calls for a Palestinian state to be established in 24 months and for Israel to halt all settlement building, including natural growth of existing settlements, as well as building and evictions in East Jerusalem.
Neither side wants to be seen as resisting the move to direct talks, which the Obama administration has been pushing hard to begin before Netanyahu's 10-month settlement moratorium expires next month. If the Quartet is able to get its new statement out Friday, it will be about a week later than State Department sources had predicted, due to some extra shuttle diplomacy that the U.S. team had not anticipated.
When Special Envoy George Mitchell traveled to the region last week, he believed he had a deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the wording of the statement, but it was clear upon arrival that Abbas had additional concerns, multiple diplomatic sources said.
So, Mitchell called back home to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to inform her that the Palestinians were not on board. After further negotiations, Abbas set forth his demands for what the statement should include, but when Mitchell brought those terms to Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister told Mitchell he couldn't accept them.
"We wanted the statement to include the same elements the March 19 statement included," the PLO's Washington representative Maen Rashid Areikat, who is in the region, told The Cable in an interview.
"The Quartet statement must be clear about how the quartet sees the terms of reference, the time frame, and the situation on the ground, such as the cessation of settlement activity," Areikat said.
Mitchell was forced to return to Washington empty-handed, but left the National Security Council's David Hale in the region to continue working the problem and negotiations continued.
Mitchell's trip wasn't a failure, according to Areikat. "I believe it was part of an overall discussion of progress with the parties, and if we see progress in the statement it will have been worth it," he said.
The Quartet seems to be calculating that by referring to the March 19 statement but not repeating the items explicitly, Israel will be able to accept the invitation to the talks without technically backing down from its demand that no preconditions be set. Netanyahu has repeatedly called for direct talks to begin forthwith.
Although it's too early to tell because the final Quartet statement hasn't been released, the compromise might be crafty enough to get the job done.
"I believe we could be able to accept such a statement if it doesn't assume to determine the terms of reference and doesn't pre-empt the negotiations," one Israeli official told The Cable, responding to a query about the leaked draft.
Some reports blamed the delay on disputes inside the Quartet between the United States and the EU, largely about the same issues. But one European diplomat in Israel said that these reports were misleading and the real dispute was over how to accommodate both the Israelis and Palestinian on substance and choreography.
There is a sense of urgency about the Quartet statement, because Friday is seen as the last day that key U.S. officials, including Clinton, will be working before their August vacations and because preparations will be needed to get the direct talks underway in time to beat the deadline, assuming there are no further delays.
The State Department has been working the issue hard, and Clinton has spoken in the last 24 hours with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan, Quartet Representative Tony Blair, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
If the Quartet can act Friday, diplomatic sources said the direct talks could commence in as little as a few days but probably no later than two weeks from now.
Crowley predicted that the United States would issue an accompanying statement that will have some additional details, such as where and when the negotiations will take place.
Crowley wouldn't comment on speculation that the administration's statement is meant to accommodate Netanyahu's concerns about the scope of the negotiations and provide him with domestic political cover.
"Members of the Quartet will demonstrate their support for the process, we will demonstrate our support for the process, and we will outline specifics of where we go from here," he said.
An international who's who of development and political leaders are meeting today at the U.N. to raise funds for Pakistani flood relief. At the panel's opening session, American and Pakistani officials argued that global climate change is increasing the risk of humanitarian disasters and probably contributed to the scale of the current crisis.
"We should expect to have more large-scale weather events as we see more systematic warming of our planet," said Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, pointing to what he described as a clear trend of increasing natural calamities tied to climate change. USAID has already responded to 64 natural disasters this year.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the unprecedented size of the flood was due at least in part to warming factors, such as the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas. He said the catastrophe was a perfect storm due to the combination of "exceptionally high rainfall in the north, converging with the monsoons and the glacier melt."
Only after the floodwaters recede will the true extent of the damage become known. Qureshi said. He also defended the Pakistani government's widely criticized relief efforts.
"People have complained that the response hasn't been quick enough, nationally and internationally. Frankly, nobody was expecting to have something like this, at this scale," he said. "Initially there was shock and paralysis. But we are out of it now; we are getting our act together."
"We do need international assistance and we need international assistance now," Qureshi added.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to announce an increase in U.S. aid for the flood from $90 million to $150 million today. As of yesterday, the U.N. had received less than half of the $450 million needed for immediate relief.
Raymond Offenheiser, the president of Oxfam America, cautioned that vigilance is needed to ensure that countries follow through on the funding that will be promised at today's conference. The Asian Development Bank pledged Thursday morning to grant a $2 billion loan for long term reconstruction.
"It's one thing to pledge the money; it's another thing to deliver it. We've got to keep the pressure on," he said.
Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, acknowledged that the international community is competing with militant organizations in the relief effort and that the flood crisis does have strategic implications for the region and for the United States. But that's not what's important right now, he said.
"Obviously we are aware of this. But we are focused solely on helping people in this extreme situation. We will sort out all of the other implications later."
Holbrooke encouraged the audience at the event to text "SWAT" to 50555, which will automatically send $10 to the U.N.'s refugee agency. Donation information for other groups working on the relief effort can be found here.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced a new international panel to oversee investigations into the Gaza flotilla incident, a decision that came after heavy U.S. involvement and with the support of the Israeli government.
The four-member panel will be led by the former prime minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, and the outgoing president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe. Turkey and Israel will each appoint one member in the coming days, both expected to be high-level diplomats or judicial officials. It will meet on Aug. 10 and issue its first report in September. U.S. representative to the U.N. Susan Rice issued a statement Monday praising the panel and clearly defining its limits.
"This panel is not a substitute for those national investigations. It complements them, affording Israel and Turkey the opportunity to present the conclusions of their investigations to the international community," she said. "The focus of the panel is appropriately on the future and on preventing such incidents from recurring."
A U.S. official speaking on background said that Rice was heavily involved in the formation of the panel and met or spoke with several senior Israeli officials about it in the past weeks, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"The U.S. was in close communication with Israel throughout the process to make sure this ended up in what we felt and they felt was a constructive place and we believe this is a good outcome," the official said.
The Israeli public reaction was a positive one. Netanyahu released a statement saying, "Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing."
An Israeli official told The Cable that the panel was a compromise in the face of repeated calls for an international investigation coming from both the U.N. and some of the countries involved, including Turkey.
"We're not thrilled about it. It's a kind of compromise but it is in the general framework of an improved political climate," the official said, noting the need to repair relations between Israel and Turkey as well as the positive steps taken by the Arab League in endorsing the move to direct peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian governments last week in Cairo.
"It's not investigative. It's a panel. A fair and balanced panel that allows us to sort of live with it," the official said. Notably, this is the first time an Israeli will sit on a U.N. panel that is commenting on Israeli actions.
The new U.N. panel will likely head off an inquiry by the U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva. That body, which includes several countries critical of Israel, might have launched its own investigation if Ban had not acted.
The U.S. involvement in forming the panel has a tinge of self-interest as well. Had the Human Rights Council been allowed to proceed, that might have created a precedent paving the way for future investigations into U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Palestine Liberation Organization praised Ban's panel as a victory for those who have been fighting for an international investigation and believe it will take a new look into the flotilla incident.
"We are very happy that at the end of the day, despite the refusal in the beginning to go along with this position ... that Israel finally complied with this global consensus regarding the need for this international investigation," the PLO's "permanent observer" at the U.N., Riyad Mansour, told The Cable in an interview.
Mansour said his understanding is that the panel will investigate the incident from scratch, with an eye toward bringing anyone who violated international law to justice -- a description that appeared to be at odds with the more limited scope put forth by Rice.
"The next issue will be where the report of this panel will be dealt with. We believe it should be the Security Council, because it was the Security Council who requested it," Mansour said.
Top U.S. development officials met with development community leaders Friday to roll out the U.S. plan for speeding up progress toward global development goals over the next five years.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a worldwide effort organized by the U.N. to make substantial progress on eight major areas of development through coordinated efforts by 2015. While there has been some success in each of the areas, expectations for reaching the goals in time are low ahead of a major international conference on the issue slated for September.
Friday's meeting, hosted by the U.N. Foundation, was meant to stake out the U.S. position ahead of the conference and get community leaders on board in the hope that the U.S. proposal can shape the conference. The National Security Council's senior director for global development, Gayle Smith, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, and Rick Barton, the U.S. representative to the U.N.'s economic and social council, led the meeting.
The U.S. strategy, released online over the weekend, stresses innovation and economic growth as the keys to meeting the global targets. Innovation and "sustainability," meaning good stewardship of the programs, and governance, are also key themes.
"If we are to meet the ambitious objectives we have set, historic leaps in human development will be needed. For this reason, we must be even more determined, strategic, and focused on results as we chart the path to 2015," the document reads.
The meeting was closed, but three participants spoke on the record about it. All three said that U.S. officials and development leaders were on the same page and universally supported the document, but that much more would work would be needed to make the plan operative.
"The document states very clearly that the U.S. takes the MDGs very seriously," said Ben Hubbard, deputy chief of staff at USAID. "We're very clear that we're embracing them and thinking hard about the kind of investments and engagement we need in terms of working toward meeting them."
"Just doing more of what we've been doing is not going to get us there. We need some important shifts in our approach to make the leaps to get us on track," he said.
USAID's newly revamped policy shop prepared the document, which observers said signaled that USAID is increasing its capacity to play a larger role in setting development policy.
David Lane, CEO and president of the ONE campaign, said the document was a modern take on development that echoes where community leaders think policy should head, but noted that it could only be implemented if more detail were added later and proper resources were provided to support it.
Development community leaders hope to build international consensus around the plan ahead of next month's conference.
"Right now, this is a U.S. plan," said Lane. "The biggest challenge between now and September is how to make this more than just an American statement, and whether the U.N. will be able to build momentum around it."
Other development hands lamented the fact that the Obama administration is promoting a global development strategy before announcing its own policy framework. Two key documents -- the White House's Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7) and the State Department's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which will define the role of USAID -- have yet to be released.
"Without those policy documents, there's still not clarity about what the broader mission is beyond the MDGs and how all these pieces fit together," said Greg Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America.
The policy documents help avoid bureaucratic delays caused by confusion and will also help mobilize support in Congress and show Obama's leadership on development issues, according to Adams.
"The president is the straw that stirs the drink. Until we hear him issue this policy, we don't know whether this plan can be operationalized," he said.
Even before the release of tens of thousands of classified Afghanistan war documents Sunday, a clearly worried Obama administration had embarked on an aggressive campaign to reach out to domestic and international stakeholders in the hopes of mitigating the fallout.
Administration officials, alerted to the pending leak of reams of reports from the warzone by news organizations, launched a two-pronged, preemptive response: They started calling around to leaders of foreign governments who might be affected to warn them of the story and allay any concerns about U.S. government involvement in the leak, and started working Capitol Hill to limit any misinterpretation as congressmen reacted to the disclosures, which include reports accusing Pakistani intelligence operatives of links to anti-coalition attacks.
"Once we became aware of the existence of this story, we proceeded with several country notifications, as is the case when we are aware of major news stories," a senior administration official told The Cable. "These notifications included Afghanistan and Pakistan, at multiple levels, as well as Germany and the U.K. (given that the documents were leaked to the foreign news outlets Der Spiegel and the Guardian)."
"We've also been in touch with members and staff on the Hill over the last couple of days," the senior administration official said.
One particularly important call was between Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Zardari has at times tangled with his country's top spy agency, the powerful Inter Services Intelligence directorate, and Holbrooke himself said last week while in India that "The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem."
Other than Holbrooke, officials involved in the notifications included U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who happened to be in Pakistan and held a high-level meeting with Pakistani officials Saturday night.
After leaving Pakistan for Afghanistan, Mullen had the difficult task of assuring Afghan tribal leaders that the U.S. government was aware and dealing with the problem of Pakistani links to Afghan insurgents. "I've raised that issue. The Pakistani leadership knows it's a priority," he said Monday at a meeting at a U.S. military base outside Kandahar, according to Agence France Press. "Long-term pressure" on Islamabad, he said, would likely bear fruit.
Although some press reports cited anonymous Pakistani sources speculating that the Obama administration was behind the document dump, Pakistani civilian leaders contacted by the administration over the last couple of days appeared to accept that the U.S. government had no role in the leaks. The message to the Pakistanis was that the information was old, not reliable, and shouldn't derail ongoing and increasing cooperation between the two governments.
"The White House succeeded in calming our people," said one Pakistani source. "I think we've contained the damage on this one, at least on our end."
"Obviously we'll be watching closely to see how various countries and populations respond to the information that's here," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who added that the State Department believes Pakistan is committed "at the leadership level" to rooting out terrorists. According to Crowley, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was contacted directly. "We also gave a heads-up to India," he said.
Jones was also working the phones Sunday night and hosting meetings for foreign representatives at the White House Monday to make sure there was no ill will resulting from the revelations. Jones's statement released Sunday night praised recent Pakistani cooperation in fighting terrorism and included the line, "These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people."
The administration's relationship with the ISI has apparently not been derailed by the Wikileaks disclosures. ISI chief Lt Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha is expected to visit Washington soon, one of a series of meetings he's been having with U.S. officials.
On the Hill, offices contacted included those of Senate Foreign Relations heads John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, R-IN, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, D-MI, House Foreign Affairs chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton, D-MO, and others.
One source said that Skelton's statement, which heavily criticized the actions by Wikileaks and praised recent Pakistani cooperation using themes similar to Jones's statement, was coordinated with the administration. Skelton could not be reached for comment.
"It is critical that we not use outdated reports to paint a picture of the cooperation of Pakistan in our efforts in Afghanistan," Skelton said. "Since these reports were issued, Pakistan has significantly stepped up its fight against the Taliban, including efforts that led to the capture of the highest-ranking member of the Taliban since the start of the war."
Other leading Democrats were more critical of Pakistan.
"Some of these documents reinforce a longstanding concern of mine about the supporting role of some Pakistani officials in the Afghan insurgency," read Levin's statement. "When Sen. Jack Reed and I visited Pakistan this month, we strongly urged the Pakistanis to take forceful action against militant networks using Pakistan as a base to attack Afghanistan and our troops."
The administration got some rare support Monday from Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, who condemned the leak in a statement. "The disclosure of tens of thousands of classified documents on the Afghanistan war is profoundly irresponsible and harmful to our national security, Lieberman said.
The State Department said it had not decided whether one person, such as Private Bradley Manning, who already stands accused of leaking classified information to Wikileaks, was the source of the documents.
"We're trying to determine if this is related to that ongoing investigation or a new leak," Crowley said.
When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible -- and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors.
"I think it is important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said May 21 while visiting her Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.
Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn't even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.
The statement acknowledges that the South Korean investigation, which included broad international participation, blamed North Korea, and then "takes note of the responses from other relevant parties, including from the DPRK, which has stated that it had nothing to do with the incident."
"Therefore, the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," the statement reads.
The White House's spokesman on such matters, Mike Hammer, issued a statement clearly stating that the Obama administration believes North Korea was responsible and arguing that the U.N. statement "constitutes an endorsement of the findings" of the Joint Investigative Group that issued the report blaming North Korea.
So the U.S. and the South Koreans believe North Korea was guilty but the U.N. isn't willing to go that far. But what about the next step? Will there be any follow up, any "consequences" for North Korea, as Clinton seemed to promise in May?
"I think right now we're just allowing North Korea to absorb the international community's response to its actions," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday.
North Korea's representative to the U.N., Sin Son Ho, called the statement a "great diplomatic victory."
"That doesn't sound like a lot of absorption," one member of the State Department press corps shot back at Toner.
When asked what comes next, Toner said there were no plans to pursue additional measures, other than enforcing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, and there were no outstanding requests from South Korea for additional measures. "We'll wait and let the statement stand," he said.
So what happened between May and now? According to both South Korean and U.S. officials, the countries pushing for actual penalties were serious about it at first, as is shown in the June 4 letter from South Korea, endorsed by the U.S., which urged the Security Council to "respond in a manner appropriate to the gravity of North Korea's military provocation in order to deter recurrence of any further provocation by North Korea."
But as China, ever the defender of the Hermit Kingdom, stalled on making any definitive statements about the incident, officials in Seoul and Washington began to worry that they might not be able to get any U.N. action whatsoever.
Then, toward the end of June, Beijing became nervous about the mounting international pressure and decided to try to wrap up the U.N. discussions as quickly as possible. They calculated that it was a losing game, so moved to get a statement out quickly with a small concession as a means of getting the whole issue behind them.
"This is less than we expected from the beginning," a South Korean official told The Cable, "But it clearly says the Cheonan was sunk by an attack, cites the five-country international joint-investigation result, and condemns it as a deplorable behavior. Even though it did not clarify it was North Korea's torpedo attack, it theoretically points the finger at North Korea as being responsible."
The South Korean official pointed at Russia and China as being responsible for the weakness of the statement.
"Definitely there has been a tough negotiation, especially to persuade the PRC and Russia, and this is result," the official said, "All the other countries except [China and Russia] strongly supported putting pressure on them."
Korea experts and former officials in Washington are sympathetic to the Obama administration's compromise in terms of the statement, but strongly lament that this administration seems not to be in any rush to do anything to engage North Korea or get back to tackling the problem of its growing nuclear arsenal.
"This is a glass one third full, with an explanation to convince you that it's not two thirds empty," said former North Korea negotiator Jack Pritchard, now president of the Korea Economic Institute. The statement was meant not to identify winners, but to allow everyone to avoid being named losers, he said.
"It's not clear cut and it's unsatisfactory, but it may have been the best that we could do," Pritchard acknowledged. The problem as he sees is it that now the Obama administration is back to the status quo, which means no discernable progress on North Korea nuclear discussions, something referred to as "strategic patience."
Joel Wit, another former negotiator who is now a visiting fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said the time is way past overdue to find some way to get back to talking with North Korea.
"The key issue here is, are we ready to turn this corner and try to return to some sort of negotiation, some sort of dialogue that tries to deal with the problems between us, or do we just continue with strategic patience?" Wit said.
Pritchard warned that because Pyongyang has backed off its promise to move towards denuclearization and the Obama administration can't accept a nuclear North Korea, the only way to move forward would be to get North Korea to change its calculus... and that can only be done with Chinese help.
"It requires at least a perception that the Chinese will abide by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 and that's not currently the case," said Pritchard. "Strategic patience is an attitude, not a policy."
LEE JAE-WON/AFP/Getty Images
As this week's warm Washington welcome for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was clearly intended to show, U.S.-Israeli relations are certainly on the mend. But President Obama's new deadline for moving the Israeli and Palestinian sides to direct talks is looming large over the peace process -- setting the stage for a summer of frantic diplomacy after 18 months of little discernable progress and raising the risks of a dramatic failure on one of his signature diplomatic priorities.
Obama announced the deadline after meeting privately with Netanyahu Tuesday, saying he wants the direct talks to begin "well before" Israel's 10-month settlement freeze expires at the end of September.
An Israeli official told The Cable that Obama and Netanyahu discussed specific confidence-building measures that Israel could take to help get to the direct talks by the deadline. The details of those measures are being closely held, but they are intended to show tangible evidence that Israel really wants to move the peace process forward.
The Israelis see Obama's deadline as a useful tool to press the Palestinians to move to direct talks -- but warn that if face-to-face negotiations don't start by the time the settlement freeze expires, it will be difficult for Netanyahu to justify extending it.
"If it was up to the prime minister, it would have happened yesterday," the Israeli official said. "There's only so much that can be demanded of Israel for just sitting down and talking," the official said. "There should be now a lot of pressure on Palestinians."
Obama didn't bring up the settlement freeze in his meeting with Netanyahu. "It wasn't discussed," the official said, "but obviously it's going to be an issue in three months' time."
For their part, the Palestinians see a continuation of the settlement freeze as a precursor to serious face-to-face negotiations, not a reward.
"I hope [Obama's deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don't move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank," PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat told The Cable.
Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that Obama is trying to delink the settlement freeze from the move to direct negotiations. The thinking is that if direct talks begin first, "by the time the Israeli government reaches the decision point [on extending the freeze], there will already be a different context."
But Netanyahu will have trouble justifying an extension of the settlement freeze either way, Satloff argued, and the Palestinians could manipulate the situation by accepting direct talks in some sort of symbolic way while keeping the U.S. heavily involved and making few concessions. This would shift the pressure back to Netanyahu, who would then have little progress he could use to convince the Israeli public that the settlement freeze worked.
Netanyahu had lunch Tuesday with almost the entire Obama Israel team, including Vice President Joseph Biden, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Special Envoy George Mitchell, Ambassador James Cunningham, U.S. Representative Susan Rice, and NSC staffers Tom Donilon, Dennis Ross, and Dan Shapiro.
Among those on the Israel side of the table were National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, Ambassador Michael Oren, policy advisor Ron Dermer, and special advisor Isaac Molcho, who has served as an important go-between in recent months.
The kosher lunch menu included chopped White House garden salad with honey-apple cider dressing, thyme-roasted chicken with spring peas, leek puree and potato croutons, with apricot torte with White House honey ice cream for dessert (dairy-free, of course).
On Tuesday afternoon, Clinton, Mitchell, Cunningham, and Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman went to see Netanyahu at Blair House for a 45-minute working meeting that largely tracked Netanyahu's White House meetings. Gates came to Blair House Wednesday morning for a one-on-one with Netanyahu that focused on bilateral defense cooperation.Netanyahu traveled to New York Wednesday afternoon to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He will address the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations Wednesday night and give a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday before heading back to Jerusalem.
The head of all United Nations operations in Afghanistan visited Washington Thursday and met with Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and other administration officials.
Staffan de Mistura, a Swedish diplomat who previously served in Iraq, replaced former U.N. Kabul chief Kai Eide, who left his post after a bitter public feud with his second in command, Amb. Peter Galbraith, about the U.N.'s lack of reponse to the allegedly massive fraud perpetrated by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai in last year's presidential elections.
As Kabul races toward new elections and Karzai leads a project to seek reconciliation with the Taliban, de Mistura serves as the watchful eye of the international community and the leader of over 7,000 U.N. international and local employees in and around Kabul. He sat down for an exclusive interview with The Cable to give his take on all things Afghanistan.
JR: What is your message to American policymakers about Afghanistan?
Staffan de Mistura: The message here is basically threefold. We are poised in focusing on three areas ... the U.N. is focusing on elections, on the regional context, and on the internal dialogue. The second message is that we are maintaining a substantial number of our own people and that we will do so by being very attentive of the security situation but also staying to do our job during this critical period. The third one is about the Kabul conference, which is the next rendezvous taking place on the 20th of July, and to make sure, since the U.N. is co-chairing the conference, that it is very productive.
JR: What is your current assessment of the progress of the international mission in Afghanistan?
SDM: We are just in the middle of crossing a river at the moment. It can go in all directions, but it is a critical, crucial moment. And therefore, when you are swimming in the middle of a very heavy current, and you are in the middle of the river, you had better be resilient and determined ... I would like to meet you in three months' time to make an assessment instead.
JR: How does the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan change the situation on the ground?
SDM: I've met and seen and worked with General Petraeus when we were in the same city [Baghdad] for two years and I saw him in action. So I feel very comfortable that he will be bringing his own style. I'm not talking about policy, but he will be bringing his own approach. Not about a change in strategy but in the way you operate, in the way you respect the local environment and combine military, political, and diplomatic skills. In that sense, I see a lot of positive opportunities in the arrival of General Petraeus.
JR: You worked with Amb. Ryan Crocker in Iraq. What were some of his traits that made him successful in that role?
SDM: He had remarkable diplomatic skills. Second, he was an extremely good listener. At the same time, he had very good knowledge of the Arab mentality and the Islamic environment. He had the capacity, which is rare, to have a quick analysis, synthesis, and then come up with the operational points, which makes him a born leader.
JR: Who do you consider to be the lead U.S. official on Afghanistan? Ambassador Holbrooke? General Petraeus? Ambassador Eikenberry?
SDM: As far as I'm concerned, it's President Obama.
JR: Do you acknowledge that President Obama's July 11 timeline to begin withdrawing troops is being manipulated by America's enemies to dissuade Afghans from relying on the coalition?
SDM: What I do acknowledge is the fact that President Karzai and many Afghans are very much aware of the fact that in the past there have been many occasions where the Afghans felt they were abandoned and that has an impact on them ... That aspect is an important psychological and historical factor that is affecting not only the president but every Afghan. So some type of formula or assurance that whatever happens in July will not mean that the international community turns the page and says goodbye to Afghanistan, particularly if at that time we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, becomes an important psychological factor, even in ensuring that the Afghans believe they need to find a solution.
JR: You are personally involved in reviewing the list of terrorists used to govern the reconciliation process.
SDM: The list includes 137 names ... We need to revisit this list. There is no other way than to do it case by case, one after the other, obtain the sufficient documentation and evidence that either they are not alive or that they have given up on their militancy and their use of violence to obtain whatever they want. I'm optimistic that there is momentum around that.
JR: Do you believe groups such as the Haqqani network and Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar can or should be reconciled with?
SDM: The basic parameters set up by the Afghans themselves at the peace jirga are quite clear: Give up on your connection with foreign terrorists, give up on the use of violence and force, and respect the constitution. If anyone among those on the list or anywhere else would be acknowledging these three points, I would be surprised if the Afghans themselves or the Security Council would not take that into serious consideration.
JR: Do you believe General Petraeus should change the rules of engagement in Afghanistan?
SDM: Any civilian casualty produces a lot of outrage and can produce additional insurgency instead of the opposite. From a human rights point of view it's a very difficult thing to accept. So I'm expecting if he would be very much conscious of that in Afghanistan, like he was in Iraq... I can tell you that 72 percent of all civilian victims are not caused by the international community but by the insurgency.
JR: About Karzai, what is being done to make sure the next elections don't have the same massive fraud as the last one?
SDM: President Karzai has probably the most dangerous, complicated, and difficult job as a president at the moment. So one has to acknowledge this is quite a challenging job. I think Karzai is aware that the U.N. -- and it's going to be my job to show that -- that the U.N. has a moral authority and an autonomy, independence, and impartiality that needs to be respected. The president is fully aware of that. The test will be when there will be moments when we have to exercise that aspect. At the same time, we need to be aware of one thing: We are guests, all of us, and we need to respect the culture, the tradition, and the pride of the Afghan people. So a combination of the two elements will probably be the best formula.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
The White House confirms that President Obama will sign into law Thursday sweeping new measures to impose unilateral penalties on companies that contribute to broad swaths of Iran’s energy and banking sectors.
The signing will take place in the East Room of the White House, and will include "members of Congress, leaders of organizations that worked to pass the bill," and U.S. officials including U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, according to an adminstration official.
The legislation, led by Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT, and House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, was passed by the House and Senate last week by votes of 408-8 and 99-0, respectively.
The administration has said repeatedly that implementing the sanctions does not signal an end to its two-track policy of mixing engagement and pressure. The White House hopes the measures will convince Iran to come back to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, Iran is planning to meet again with Brazil and Turkey to follow up on the nuclear fuel-swap deal the three countries announced just before the U.N. Security Council voted to impose its own new sanctions on Tehran. The Obama administration has been clear that it considers the Brazil-Turkey deal insufficient and inadequate in dealing with international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.
In an interview in his office Tuesday, Israel's ambassador to the United States warned that Iran might unleash a wave of terrorist violence in the Middle East in retaliation for the tough new sanctions that passed the U.S. Congress last week.
"What better way to divert attention from a sanctions regime than by starting another Middle East war?" the ambassador, historian and author Michael Oren, asked. Iran might respond to severe restrictions on its ability to buy gasoline and finance its state-owned companies by returning to the negotiating table, or use its connections to Hezbollah and Hamas to fight back by having those groups attack Israel and perhaps others, Oren said.
"The next step is not to fall into that trap," Oren said, arguing that the international community shouldn't be deterred from enforcing the sanctions. The question would then be who can hold out longer, the international community-or the regime in Tehran.
The sanctions might work to convince Iranian leaders to change their calculus over their nuclear program, if the energy measures are enforced, Oren said. The test of whether the sanctions are having an effect will be if the Iranian regime reacts, either by coming back to the negotiating table or waging a proxy war on Israel or the West.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said Sunday that Iran was likely two years away from having a nuclear weapon. Without getting into specifics, Oren said Israeli estimates "dovetail" with U.S. intelligence conclusions, but that Israel believes that Iran has made the decision to weaponize nuclear material, while U.S. officials have only concluded that Tehran is on that path.
He said he did not believe that the Obama administration was meeting in any way with Hamas, as some in the militant group have reportedly claimed. Oren said that no one should deal with Hamas, which he called a "genocidal, racist organization."
Iran and Hamas will be near the top of the agenda next week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to Washington. On July 6, Netanyahu will meet with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates before moving on to New York. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will still be on her Europe trip.
One key aim of the short visit will be to show that the U.S.-Israel relationship is healthy and that the White House isn't avoiding a public embrace of the Israeli government.
"There will be a big public component of this trip that will remove any perception of snubbery," Oren said. "There's going to be a lot of photographers," he joked, referring to the fact that at the last Obama-Netanyahu meeting, no pictures were ever taken -- and the two leaders' conversation was widely reported to be tense and unproductive.
A shift, not a rift
Oren also responded to reports that he told a private group that U.S.-Israel relations were "are in a state of tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart."
He acknowledged that the U.S. approach to Israel had changed since President Obama took office, but said that it has both positive and negative consequences for an Israel that is adapting to the new atmosphere.
"The Obama administration is not a status-quo administration; it came in with a policy of change," Oren said. "It's not headed in a direction of abandonment, it's a shift and our job is to figure where that shift is going and how to adapt."
He also predicted that as the Obama administration gets more experience in dealing with Middle East politics, it will slowly but surely come back around to agreeing with more and more of Israel's positions.
"My working assumption is that any encounter by American policymakers with Middle East realities almost invariably redounds to Israel's favor," he said.
Oren pushed back at reports that senior Obama administration officials are all over the map on Israel policy. The conventional wisdom pits National Security Advisor Jim Jones and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice as advocating a tougher line, while Biden and the National Security Council's Dennis Ross are said to be more inclined toward the Israeli position. According to Oren, in private communications, the messages are all identical.
Oren's real worry is not the White House, but Democrats in Congress. "My deep concern is that American support of Israel will become a partisan issue," he said, referring to a Jan. 26 letter urging Israel to ease the Gaza blockage that was signed by 54 Democrats and zero Republicans.
Oren said he was discomforted by attempts from some Republican quarters calling Obama "anti-Israel". He also said that statements from Democrats immediately after the flotilla incident were often harsher on Israel than Republican ones.
What's next for Gaza
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still seeking further "adjustments" in Israel's Gaza blockade, Oren said, including opening additional border crossings, giving a greater role to the Palestinian Authority, and adding international observers, perhaps from the European Union.
Israel would love to see more of a Palestinian Authority presence in Gaza, but opening another crossing or adding EU monitors is dangerous, he warned.
"We've had EU observers there before. Hamas threatened them, and they ran away," Oren said. "If you send them to Gaza, they're likely to get killed."
Oren said the Gaza blockade was not just vital to Israel's security, but vital for the pursuit of a two-state solution as well.
"Once you open up the sea lanes to Gaza, that spells the end of the peace process," he said.
He defended the Israeli-led investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident as a "South Korea-style investigation" on a smaller scale, referring to the international team that, in conjunction with South Korean experts, determined that Pyongyang was responsible for sinking a South Korean naval vessel.
Oren said the Israeli government has no idea if U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will launch or support a new international investigation on top of the Israeli probe. He also said he has never asked, nor has he been told, whether the Obama administration would vigorously oppose such an investigation if and when it surfaces.
"Why make an issue of something that's not even happening as far as we know?" Oren said, explaining Israeli thinking on the subject. "To the best of our knowledge, the U.S. is saying that our investigation fulfills the request for transparency and international participation."
The White House is pushing back hard against a claim by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol that the administration is preparing to support an independent U.N. investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident.
Kristol, writing on the Weekly Standard blog, claimed he had heard, "the administration intends to support an effort next week at the United Nations to set up an independent commission, under UN auspices, to investigate Israel's behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident."
The White House quickly and sharply denied that account.
A White House official told multiple reporters, "We've said from the beginning that we support an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent. We are open to different ways of ensuring the credibility of this Israeli-led investigation, including international participation."
The official also said, "We know of no resolution that will be debated at the U.N. on the flotilla investigation next week."
Kristol's allegation, and the White House's rebuttal of it, is further illustration of the ongoing tension between some in the pro-Israel advocacy community and the administration over how strongly and aggressively to defend Israel in the international arena.
While it's true there is no specific resolution expected, sources close to the issue say, what pro-Israel leaders like Kristol are worried about are continuing calls for tougher measures against Israel, such as the vote in the Human Rights Council, and whether or not the administration will really oppose them with vigor.
That point is made clearly in the first line of a letter addressed to the president that is currently being finalized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY. In a rare show of bipartisan comity, the two Senate leaders are calling on Obama not just to oppose new efforts to isolate Israel at the U.N., but to openly declare America's support for the Jewish state.
"We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations," the letter reads.
Commending the administration for working to craft a presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council that didn't call for an international investigation in the first place, the senators asked him not to support any new ones.
has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough investigation of
and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted," they wrote. "In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Washington called on the Obama administration Monday to lead an effort to raise another $45 billion for maternal and child health at the upcoming meetings of the G-8 and G-20 in Canada.
"We need U.S. leadership. I hope the U.S. will come out with strong additional support," Ban said, noting that the U.S. government has invested in programs to combat HIV/AIDS but arguing that it must now make the same level of commitment on child and maternal health. "I know President Obama and Secretary Clinton will exercise their strong leadership role in the G-8 and the G-20."
Ban declined to say how much exactly the new U.S. contribution should be, but he did say he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue recently.
"As the world's biggest leader and power, the U.S. should be able to mobilize, together with major donors, strong financial support," Ban said. "I know the economic situation is quite difficult, but still, the economic situation should not give any excuse to give any less attention on this. There must be strong and focused attention by the U.S. government."
Ban stopped in Washington to attend the "Women Deliver" conference being held Monday at the convention center and spoke to reporters with Melinda Gates, the wife of Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates. The Gates Foundation announced Monday a new $1.5 billion commitment to maternal and child heath.
Gates said that the U.S. government must "step up" the way that the new British government has done and commit to funding this effort.
"You need to see these developed nations step up and say ‘This is the right thing to do,'" she said. "That's how you get leadership on this."
The effort is part of Ban's drive to meet the deadlines laid out in the Millennium Development Goals, specifically goals four and five, which set out ambitious targets for reducing deaths for mothers and their children by 2015.
None of the new Gates money will go to fund abortions, Gates said, and the U.N. has no official position on abortion other than to support its safety where legal, Ban explained. One out of seven deaths among pregnant women result from illegal or unsafe abortions, but this will not be a focus of the new initiative.
Ban said the initiative dovetails with the third Millennium Development challenge goal of "gender empowerment," even though it doesn't address women's rights or human rights directly.
"To be empowered, women should be healthy. That's the basic starting point," Ban said. "Human rights is a cross-cutting agenda ... Simply because there is less mention of human rights does not mean there is a lack of willingness."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stunned the world Tuesday morning when she testified that the United States had reached an agreement with other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on a draft resolution leveling new sanctions against Iran. But there's one body that the administration still does not have an Iran sanctions agreement with: the U.S. Congress.
Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers pledged to swiftly reconcile the two versions of the Iran sanctions legislation, one sponsored by Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT, and another led by House Foreign Affairs Committee head Howard Berman, D-CA.
"We hope it will move out of conference this week and be on the floor next week," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, said Tuesday.
"International sanctions make a lot more sense than unilateral ... But we're not going to retreat from the unilateral sanctions effort," said Dodd.
Inside the conference process, there's a lot going on. Conferees and non-conferees alike have been holding meetings on the legislation both at the staff and member level. Dodd and Berman have been engaged with the administration to work on the fixes the Obama team wants to see in the bill.
The drive to complete the bill quickly, ahead of the U.N. Security Council process, is bipartisan and bicameral. Republicans don't believe the U.N. language will be tough enough and are resisting administration efforts to have Congress wait for the U.N. track to play out. Democrats don't want to be pegged as weak on national security, and are cautiously trying to accommodate the administration's request for a delay.
But leading Republicans are growing impatient.
"I hope that the Democrats and the administration would move forward with that as quickly as possible. They clearly have been stalling for a long period of time," Senate Armed Services committee ranking member John McCain, R-AZ, told The Cable.
Tonight in New York, representatives of all the United Nations Security Council members will meet and break bread at the Iranian mission, a dinner called at the last minute by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice won't attend, instead sending deputy permanent representative Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff. "She has prior obligations," a U.S. official told The Cable. Our UN sources said that although every Security Council country will be at the table, none of the P5+1 countries are sending their top UN diplomats.
That may be a sign that that they don't see the dinner as substantive, but rather as one more attempt by Iran to defend whatever it is doing on the nuclear front and argue why they shouldn't be sanctioned.
"We see this as yet another opportunity for Iran to show the council that they are prepared to play by the rules and meet their international obligations," the U.S. official said, "That being said, they have not shown any recent indications that they are ready to do so and we come in with a realistic set of expectations."
The U.S. is prepared to portray the event as a sign that Iran is feeling the heat, is actually more worried about the UN sanctions resolution currently under negotiation, and it scrambling to turn the momentum back their way.
"This dinner, which is unusual, is a good indication to the lengths that Iran is going right now to combat the sanctions effort and that they recognize how isolated they have become," the U.S. official argued.
So where is that UN sanctions resolution right now? Our UN sources report that the relevant delegations are going through the proposed provisions line by line and are having extremely detailed negotiations, but there is still no timeline for when the text might surface.
And while the U.S. side doesn't expect much to come out of the dinner, their role tonight will be to play defense, making sure Mottaki doesn't sway any of the other council members by bending the truth, the U.S. official said.
"We want to be there to make sure the facts are represented and there is no opportunity for obfuscation."
Americans are responding to President Obama's embrace of the United Nations with increased support of the organization, even as their support of Obama himself declines, according to a new survey released Wednesday.
New polling data shows that nationwide, Americans view the United Nations with increased praise and support. The national survey of 900 likely voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates from April 10-14 on behalf of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity that works closely with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The firms also conducted four focus groups in Virginia and Washingon, D.C. to round out their findings.
But while the survey had some good news for the U.N., the news on respondents' views of the direction of America and the Obama administration wasn't so rosy.
According to the data, 60 percent of those surveyed had a positive view of the United Nations, that's up ten points from data only 10 months ago. Two-thirds said it is "an organization that's still needed today." Thirty percent said they viewed the U.N. unfavorably and 26 percent said it had "outlived its usefulness."
"This new data confirms that Americans recognize that working together with our international partners through the U.N. is more effective than trying to solve the world's challenges alone," said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation.
Natural disasters are the top news stories of the past few months, the survey found, and "The U.N.'s image has been impacted by a very positive news environment around the organization providing humanitarian relief during the natural disasters that have happened recently around the world," the organization's press memo argues.
But the same respondents criticized the Obama administration while praising the U.N.
As of April, only 36 percent of those surveyed said they believed the U.S. is going in the "right direction," down from 41 percent last June. Fifty-eight percent said the country is on the "wrong track," up from 51 percent only 10 months prior. (That's still up from the 21 percent of people who said America was headed in the right direction when Obama took office.)
President Obama's direct approval rating fell to 49 percent in April, down from 57 percent last June. His disapproval rating rose from 38 to 47 percent during the same time period.
The survey also revealed some serious gaps in the knowledge base of Americans following foreign policy. For example, although 78 percent of respondents claimed to "closely" follow international affairs, an equal 78 percent said they had "never heard" of Ban Ki-moon when asked about him.
When those surveyed were told that Ban was the secretary-general of the United Nations, 41 percent of respondents still had no idea who he was.
One of the main goals of the survey was to gather opinions on U.S. foreign assistance and the U.N.-led Millennium Development Goals. Eighty-seven percent said they supported U.S. involvement in achieving the goals by 2015.
But in a blow to Bono and a boost to North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, only 40 percent of respondents said they would support spending an additional 1 percent of the U.S. budget on foreign assistance, with 55 percent opposed.
The margin of error for the sample was +/- 3.27 percent.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Speaking at an event Monday previewing Sergio, HBO's forthcoming film about the life and tragic death of U.N. diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke took what appeared to be an unplanned sideswipe at Kai Eide, the former head of the U.N. mission in Kabul.
"A few days ago I was in Kabul with General Petraeus, and we had 300 people gathered in a conference room at the airport to discuss civilian military relations in Afghanistan going forward," Holbrooke said.
"And we had the U.N. representative there with us, Staffan de Mistura, who had come from Iraq ... a very good man, and we're very fortunate to have him. He's a substantial step forward over what preceded him."
"And the issue came up in the meeting of what to do about the elections coming up in Afghanistan. And the issue was: If there's a piece of bad news to give to the government, who will give it? And de Mistura said something that I thought kind of reflected the dilemma that the U.N. [faces]. ... He said, ‘We get paid to get blamed for delivering the bad news on behalf of everyone else.' I think it's a line he's used before."
Former U.N. representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide is greatly exaggerating his new claims that he had months of discussions with senior Taliban leaders, his former top deputy tells The Cable.
"He was not meeting with senior Taliban leaders," said Peter Galbraith, who was Eide's No. 2 and close friend until Eide fired him for raising questions about the U.N.'s lack of action over the massive election fraud perpetrated by President Hamid Karzai's government last September, in an interview. "He's greatly exaggerating."
Galbraith, who was aware of the meetings but did not participate in them, said that they were with lower-level people who may or may not have had ties to the Taliban.
"The meetings were not particularly often and it was never clear where these people stood and what their connections were to the Taliban," he said, suggesting they might have been disgruntled former Taliban associates.
Galbraith also rejected Eide's contention that the recent arrests of Afghan Taliban leaders by the Pakistani military was the reason the talks broke down, as Eide claims.
"The discussions ended when he left UNAMA," he said, referring to the removal of Eide by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in December. "The arrests have nothing to do with it."
Galbraith is clearly no disinterested observer, but Special Representative Richard Holbrooke also said Friday that the recent arrests and the drive to pursue reconciliation with the Taliban have nothing to do with each other.
"We are extremely gratified that the Pakistani government has apprehended the No. 2 person in the Afghan Taliban ... this is a good thing," Holbrooke said. "It's not related [to reconciliation] ... We don't see this as linked."
The U.S. government was aware of Eide's discussions. "He had mentioned this to us in a general way," Holbrooke said, responding to questions posed by The Cable at a Friday press conference, adding that there was no U.S. involvement in the talks.
Holbrooke had called the press conference to discuss the next week's landmark meetings between the United States and Pakistan in Washington, the first round of the new "strategic dialogue" between the two countries.
"It's a major intensification of our partnership," said Holbrooke. "This is not a photo op ... this is an intense, serious dialogue between the U.S. and Pakistan."
The Pakistani delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and will also include Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, incoming Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Prime Minister Zardari's advisor Wazir Ali, Ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani, and many others.
The U.S. contingent will be led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and will include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Holbrooke, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, NSC Senior Director David Lipton, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, and many others.
The trilateral dialogue between the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will still go on and another meeting could come later this year, according to Holbrooke. Holbrooke is headed back to the region next week, stopping off in Brussels before going on to Afghanistan. He was going to stop in Pakistan but that became unnecessary because the Pakistanis are coming to Washington, he said.
The question of how to disperse billions of dollars of new aid to Pakistan, a point of contention between Holbrooke and Senate leaders, was discussed during a high-level meeting at the White House Friday morning, Holbrooke said, where "almost every senior person in the United States foreign policy community was in the room."
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Over at FP's newest blog Turtle Bay, Column Lynch reports that Steffan di Mistura has turned down the job of U.N. mission chief in Afghanistan. The Cable first reported that di Mistura had been offered the job, based on an interview with Richard Holbrooke.
From Lynch's post:
The decision by Staffan di Mistura, a veteran U.N. envoy who headed the U.N. mission in Baghdad, complicates the U.N.'s effort to ensure a smooth leadership transition when Kai Eide, the U.N.'s current chief in Kabul, steps down in March.
Eide said that he had informed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of his decision to step down months before his scheduled departure to avoid a leadership vacuum.
U.N. diplomats said that the U.N. has reopened its consideration of a short list of potential candidates, including Jean-Marie Guehénno, the former U.N. peacekeeping chief, Knut Vollebaek, Norway's foreign minister, and Atonio Gutteres of Portugal, the head of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Jan Koubis, the director of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, is also under consideration.
The White House is pushing for Clinton-era National Security Advisor and Obama campaign advisor Tony Lake to be named the next head of UNICEF, a source working closely on U.N. issues tells The Cable.
The potential naming of Lake, the 70-year-old professor and former diplomat, to lead the agency could increase calls by European countries for a change in the custom of having an American at the helm, the source said. Others say that Lake's long experience and well-known reputation would make him a good fit for the job.
Spokesmen for the White House and the U.S. delegation at the U.N. would neither confirm nor deny that they are suggesting Lake for the job.
A UNICEF spokesman would only say, "The selection of a UNICEF executive director is made by the secretary general in consultation with the executive board."
That executive board meets Tuesday in what will be the last series of consultations before the term of current Executive Director Ann Venemen expires in April, so it would be logical that consultations over the next leader of the agency would commence, a U.N. source said.
Venemen, a former U.S. secretary of Agriculture, was appointed head of UNICEF in 2005 but wrote a letter Dec. 23 stating she would not see a second term.
The custom is that the U.S. recommendation for the post would be accepted and the head of UNICEF is traditionally an American. But such customs may be changing since the ascension of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. For example, the U.N. Department of Management is no longer American-led.
"It's not codified anywhere that the U.S. has any special role in running UNICEF, although that's the practice," the U.N. source said.
Lake has a long and storied career in foreign policy and development, dating back to his time as an assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., during the Vietnam War. More recently, he has spent nine years on the board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and also has worked on children's welfare with the Marshall Legacy Institute, which tries to elevate the condition of children in war torn countries.
He was a senior foreign-policy advisor to the Obama campaign last year but wasn't nominated for any administration position. The Clinton administration withdrew Lake's name for CIA director amid controversy stemming from his failure to divest in energy stocks in 1993 and his failure to inform Congress that President Clinton condoned Iran's arm sales to Bosnia in 1994.
Lake's appointment to lead UNICEF is far from certain. The secretary general could ask the administration for a menu of names or could appoint someone else entirely.
"The secretary general consults widely among member states before reaching a decision of this kind on appointments of this nature," said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Lake could not be reached for comment.
Swedish diplomat Staffan di Mistura has been offered the job as the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, replacing the recently departed Kai Eide, according to Richard Holbrooke.
Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told The Cable in a brief interview Friday that di Mistura had called him to consult with him as he considers the offer.
"I had a very good talk with him, quite a long talk, we went over every aspect of the relationship," Holbrooke said. "He wanted to discuss how he could relate to us ... I assured him that the U.S. government and the U.S. Embassy look forward to working with him [if he takes the job]."
Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the United Nations, said that no official appointment had been made and that until there was an announcement, nothing was certain.
But Holbrooke seemed confident that di Mistura would soon be named to the post, and said he is "very pleased" with the selection. "Di Mistura has the unanimous support of the U.S. government," said Holbrooke.
From 2007 to 2009, di Mistura was the U.N.'s special representative in Iraq. He left Iraq last July to become deputy executive director of the World Food Programme.
Holbrooke said that during his time in Iraq, di Mistura earned the respect of leading U.S. national security officials including National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Central Command head Gen. David Petraeus. Di Mistura also has experience working with Karl Eikenberry, the current U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Holbrooke remembered.
Di Mistura has served in Afghanistan before, as the director of fundraising and external relations for the U.N.'s office in Afghanistan from 1988 to 1991. He has also worked for the organization in Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sarajevo, and several other places, in addition to Iraq. (Interestingly, one of Di Misura's deputies in Iraq was Siddharth Chatterjee, who happens to be U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's son-in-law.)
Di Mistura would face close scrutiny of his ability to work with both U.S. officials in Kabul and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Eide, who was seen as too close to Karzai, left the post after a bitter feud with his former deputy, American diplomat Peter Galbraith. Galbraith was fired at Eide's behest and subsequently accused Eide publicly of ignoring widespread election fraud perpetrated by Karzai.
The New York Times noted in an editorial last week that Ban was also considering Jean-Marie Guéhenno of France and Ian Martin of Britain for the Kabul mission.
Jide Zeitlin, the Obama administration's nominee to be America's point man for financial reform at the United Nations, has withdrawn himself from consideration for the job, an administration official tells The Cable.
Zeitlin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and telecom entrepreneur, had faced criticism for his business dealings related to Indian contractors and was also accused of identity fraud for an incident in which he admitted to sending an email to investors masked as coming from one of his competitors. Zeitlin testified before Congress that the email was a prank.
He was approved out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee in November. Just before his hearing, the Washington Post detailed some of his business dealings that have come under scrutiny. For example:
A New Delhi court last month ordered the liquidation of Zeitlin's wireless firm, Independent Mobile Infrastructure Ltd., which stands accused of failing to pay about $2.4 million in supplies, services and interest to a client. The client, Unitech Power Transmission, charged that Zeitlin's company reneged on an agreement to pay for 34 wireless towers as part of a larger deal to construct a network of 137 towers throughout India. The issue is still being litigated, with Zeitlin's firm contesting the liquidation and saying it is financially strong; a hearing is scheduled for March.
The police in Lucknow, India, got involved in the case just after Zeitlin's hearing and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-IN, followed up with Zeitlin about the incident. But Zeitlin denied the allegations and the charges were dropped. Very soon thereafter, the case was settled between IMIL and Shatakshi Contractors, according to settlement documents obtained by The Cable.
Zeitlin was also sued in 2007 by competitor American Tower over an incident where Zeitlin forwarded an article that contained negative information about the company to two of its biggest investors. Zeitlin admitted to using a computer program to make the email seem like it was sent by American Tower CEO James D. Taiclet, Jr.
"This was a joke that clearly fell flat," Zeitlin told the committee about the email.
But concerns about his nomination grew as rumors swirled around Washington and New York that Zeitlin was engaged in other activities that called into question his overall character and also may have included elements of identity fraud.
Specifically, one woman contacted several government offices and multiple news outlets, including The Cable, with allegations that Zeitlin had used deception to lure her into what eventually she claims was a romantic relationship. Those allegations could not be independently confirmed by The Cable. The administration official declined to comment as to whether they had been investigated as part of Zeitlin's vetting process or afterwards.
In his letter, Zeitlin said his withdrawal was due to "personal reasons," the administration official said.
"We appreciate his willingness to serve and wish him the best of luck in the future," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, when contacted about the story.
Zeitlin could not be reached for comment.
President Obama entered office vowing to fully pay U.S. dues to international organizations, but his administration's efforts to do so have hit a snag: Tom Coburn.
Today comes word that the State Department is circulating a memo on Capitol Hill opposing a measure by the Oklahoma Senator that would shift funds currently designated for U.S. contributions to the United Nations for new benefits for American veterans.
The document points out that the U.S. has just finally paid its back bill owed to the U.N. after 10 years of being in arrears.
"The full payment of assessed contributions affects the standing and influence that the U.S. has at these organizations," the State Department memo reads. "As we call upon others to help reform and strengthen the UN, the United States must do its part -- and pay its bills."
Foggy Bottom is just the latest actor to be roped into Coburn's ongoing feud with Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-HI, over Akaka's bill to authorize money for family caregivers tending to injured soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan and other new benefits that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost $3.7 billion. Akaka's bill has wide support, but Coburn has been holding it up as part of his promise to oppose any bill that isn't specifically paid for in advance.
The fight got dramatic last week when Akaka held a press conference to criticize Coburn's intransigence and Coburn showed up and sat in the front row. Coburn waved smugly at Akaka during the event and then got up and held his own impromptu presser to defend his position. Senate Democrats were not amused.
Late Tuesday, the Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement to vote on the bill, including a separate vote on Coburn's amendment.
"Paying for veterans' benefits is a cost of war; this is not the appropriate place or time for a debate about the United Nations," Akaka's spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke told The Cable. "Diplomacy can prevent wars so we shouldn't shortchange that. Our veterans shouldn't be used as pawns in that debate."
Coburn spokesman John Hart disagreed. "Dr. Coburn hopes his colleagues will put the needs of our wounded veterans ahead of the wishes of corrupt bureaucrats at the United Nations," he told The Cable.
The vote on Coburn's amendment will probably come tomorrow.
The House is preparing to vote on a resolution condemning the U.N.'s Goldstone Report, but not before making changes to the text to respond to the complaints of Goldstone himself.
Meanwhile in New York, the U.N. General Assembly was preparing for a possible vote on a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report on Wednesday and Arab U.N. delegations were circulating a draft today.
The Congressional resolution, which simply expresses the opinion of Congress and has no actual force of law, deems the report "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy," and "calls on the President and the Secretary of State to strongly and unequivocally oppose any further consideration of the [report] and any other measures stemming from this report in multilateral fora."
Sponsored by House Foreign Affairs heads Howard Berman, D-CA, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, the measure is expected to pass by a wide margin.
Justice Richard Goldstone, the primary author of the report, wrote a lengthy memorandum to the bill's sponsors criticizing the text of the House resolution. In a dear colleague letter circulated Monday, Berman and Gary Ackerman, D-NY, responded to each of Goldstone's complaints.
Chief among them was the issue of whether the U.N. Human Rights Council issued a mandate for the report that prejudged Israel's guilt in alleged war crimes committed during the Gaza operation. Berman and Ackerman rejected Goldstone's contention that he altered the mandate to include the examination of rocket attacks on Israel in addition to Israeli actions in Gaza.
"The broadened mandate Justice Goldstone sought was discussed, but not voted on, at an UNHRC plenary session. It was then announced via a press release in an altered formation, more restrictive than the formulation envisioned by Justice Goldstone," Berman and Ackerman wrote.
"Even though Justice Goldstone made earnest efforts to alter the mandate, he did not fully succeed ... we intend to alter the resolution to take account of Justice Goldstone's effort."
UPDATE: As expected, the House overwhelmingly passed the measure, with 344 members voting for, 36 voting against, and 22 voting "present."
Here are the new test portions of the resolution added before passage:
Whereas Justice Richard Goldstone, who chaired the `United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,' told the then-President of theUNHRC, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, that he intended to broaden the mandate of the Mission to include "all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after," a phrase that, according to Justice Goldstone, was intended to allow him to investigate Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians;Whereas a so-called broadened mandate was never officially endorsed by a plenary meeting of the UNHRC, neither in the form proposed by Justice Goldstone nor in the form proposed by Ambassador Uhomoibhi;
Whereas Ambassador Uhomoibhi issued a statement on April 3, 2009, that endorsed part of Justice Goldstone's proposed broadened mandate but deleted the phrase "before, during, and after," and added inflammatory
And this clause has been expanded, so it now reads that resolution:
calls on the President and the Secretary of State to continue to strongly and unequivocally oppose any endorsement of the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict' in multilateral fora, including through leading opposition to any United Nations General Assembly resolution and through vetoing, if necessary, any United Nations Security Council resolution that endorses the contents of this report, seeks to act upon the recommendations contained in this report, or calls on any other international body to take further action regarding this report.
Amb. Peter Galbraith, who was recently fired from his job as the second-highest ranking U.N. official in Afghanistan, admitted Thursday that he had financial interests in Kurdish oil dealings at the time he was helping to craft the Iraqi constitution.
Galbraith has been under pressure to talk about his dealings regarding the Norwegian oil company DNO, which had been part of an agreement to develop Kurdistan oil fields beginning in 2004. The Kurdistan Regional Government's own dealings with DNO are controversial in and of themselves.
Last month the KRG temporarily suspended DNO's operations in the Kurdish areas to allow time to settle a dispute between DNO and the Oslo Stock Exchange. The exchange suspended trading on DNO stock after it was revealed that the KRG aided in the selling of DNO stock to the Turkish company Genel, in what some see as an example of insider trading.
But Galbraith's involvement with DNO dates back to 2004, when he was actively involved in helping the new Iraqi government sort out its structure in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. Galbraith pushed hard for the Kurds to seek maximum autonomy at the time, but now denies there was any conflict of interest.
"The business interest, including my investment into Kurdistan, was consistent with my political views,'' he told the Boston Globe, "These were all things that I was promoting, and in fact, have brought considerable benefit to the people of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan oil industry, and also to shareholders.''
The Globe also has details of how Galbraith was playing both the political and financial sides of the Kurdish issue:
In speeches, meetings with US officials, and articles in the New York Review of Books, Galbraith said Kurds should be given maximum autonomy and should have the right to develop their own oil fields, free of control by Iraq's central government.
But the same time, Galbraith was quietly entering into business deals that gave him a financial stake in the positions he was advocating. In late 2003 and early 2004, he worked as a paid consultant to Kurdish politicians, advising them on legal language they should seek to insert into Iraqi laws to keep future oil development under their control. Later, in 2005, he advised them again on an unpaid basis.
On June 23, 2004, Galbraith and his son, Andrew, registered a Delaware partnership called Porcupine, which entered into a business arrangement with DNO, a Norwegian oil company, according to company documents and a statement recently circulated by Porcupine.
Two days after Porcupine was established, the Kurdistan Regional Government signed a contract to develop Kurdistan's first oil field with DNO, ushering in a potential economic windfall for the semiautonomous region. DNO eventually struck oil, and currently owns a 55 percent stake in the Tawke field.
Many also see the revelations of Galbraith's involvement in DNO, which were detailed in a harsh manner on the Norwegian Web site historiae.org, as part of a retribution campaign following Galbraith's public and scathing criticism of his former U.N. boss Kai Eide, the Norwegian diplomat who stands accused of helping to ignore massive election fraud in Afghanistan.
Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith, who was removed today as the second highest ranking U.N. official in Afghanistan, gives a behind the scenes account of his dismissal in an interview with The Cable.
Chiefly, he blames his former longtime friend and boss Kai Eide, the U.N.'s top official in Kabul, for demanding that the U.N. remove Galbraith after differences between them over how to handle fraud in the Afghan elections spilled over into the press.
"Basically, it's my understanding that Kai told the U.N. leadership 'he goes or I go,'" Galbraith said, adding "It was clear that Kai had been lobbying strongly against my return" to Afghanistan after Galbraith took a leave from his post there earlier this month.
Galbraith was surprised to hear he had been sacked, especially since he and Eide had agreed on a specific time he would return to Afghanistan and because he had not been told anything and had to call in to the U.N. undersecretary general for peacekeeping to learn of his dismissal.
Eide, who long ago had introduced Galbraith to his wife, turned on him after their long running and multi-faceted dispute over how to handle the fraud discovered in the election became a public issue.
"He's hyper sensitive against the press coverage," Galbraith said of Eide, "And at some point he decided he had enough of me and he wanted me gone."
Although the differences between the two were many, he said, one key difference was over how to handle what Galbraith calls "ghost polling centers," mostly in the southern part of the country, where Galbraith said massive fraud took place.
"These ghost polling centers had no pollsters, never opened, but had huge potential for fraud and in fact the fraud took place at these polling centers," Galbraith said.
Additionally, Galbraith alleges that Eide refused to hand over to the electoral complaints commission massive evidence that their staff had collected about actual incidents of vote fraud. Staff was frustrated that their evidence was going to waste after they put themselves at risk to collect it, he said.
Another major dispute was over whether the independent election commission would abandon its published safeguards against fraud in the wake of the disputed election. Galbraith wanted those standards upheld but Afghan President Hamid Karzai protested and Eide sided with Karzai, Galbraith explained.
A senior U.S. diplomat told The Cable that Eide's repeated resistance to stronger anti-fraud measures both before and after the election was because his influence was directly tied to his relationship with Karzai.
"It's a classic case of clientilism," the diplomat said.
Galbraith said that his relationship with Eide broke down in mid September, when Eide returned from a trip away from Afghanistan and determined he and Galbraith weren't on the same page.
"He had no confidence that I would carry out his orders and I had no confidence in his leadership," said Galbraith.
Looking ahead, Galbraith said the U.N. can still play a constructive role in Afghanistan and that the process of examining sample ballots should move forward.
But, Galbraith quickly added, "If you don't have a run-off election, the crisis continues."
There's a massive manhunt underway following a prison break in Iraq.
The White House is starting over with its strategy to close the Guantánamo Bay prison.
The United Nations moved to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.
Allies will confront Iran about a secret nuclear fuel facility.
The new Japanese prime minister speaks English very good!
In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. Here are the highlights of today's briefing by spokesman Ian Kelly:
Susan Rice was one of the top foreign-policy advisors on Barack Obama's presidential campaign. A fierce advocate for her candidate, the former Brookings Institution fellow and Clinton-era assistant secretary of state for African affairs was a frequent presence on cable television and a go-to source of quotes for reporters.
Seven months into the job as Obama's ambassador to the United Nations and a month before the annual U.N. General Assembly opening, Rice plans to deliver a speech Wednesday night at an event cosponsored by New York University's Center for Global Affairs and its Center on International Cooperation. In her address, a Rice advisor tells Foreign Policy, the U.N. ambassador plans to detail how the Obama administration is changing the U.S. relationship with the world, and how, as part of that new direction, it is dramatically altering its approach to the United Nations. In turn, the advisor says, the speech will explain how those changes advance U.S. interests and make Americans safer.
"Today, as we steer a new course at the United Nations, our guiding principles are clear: We value the U.N. as a vehicle for advancing U.S. policies and priorities, and universal values," Rice's prepared remarks state. "We work for change from within rather than criticizing from the sidelines. We stand firm in defense of America's interests and values, but we don't dissent just to be contrary. We listen to states great and small. We build coalitions. We meet our responsibilities. We pay our bills. We push for real reform. And we remember that in an interconnected world, what's good for others is often good for America as well."
The speech, crafted by Rice and senior policy advisor Warren Bass, echoes those given recently at the six-month mark by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and other cabinet heads. Rice will likely further raise her public profile next month when the U.N. General Assembly opens its annual session in New York in September, with the United States presiding over the Security Council for the month.
Since taking the job, Rice has been consumed with responsibilities ranging from U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea, to the sentencing Tuesday of Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months' detention, to a resolution passed last month related to sexual violence, a major subject of Clinton's visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week.
U.S. officials have signaled recently that if Iran hasn't positively responded to the offer to engage on its nuclear program by the General Assembly opening, they plan to start pushing for a harsher set of international sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic -- a push that Rice would likely be a key player in shaping.
Foreign-policy watchers will be looking out for Rice's comments on the situation in Darfur, a subject on which she has long been active.
Rice is scheduled to deliver her address Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Greenberg Lounge in Vanderbilt Hall, NYU School of Law.
UPDATE: Rice's remarks as delivered can be found here.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.