The Cable

Short takes: Clinton on Goma, OMB budgets coming due, human rights/int'l appointments, USAID chatter

Clinton on Goma: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes to People magazine to write about the massive scale of sexual violence she witnessed in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on her Africa trip earlier this month, and what she plans to do both to alleviate the situation for its victims, and to try to prevent it in the future:

"In Goma, I met doctors and advocates who work every day to repair the broken bodies and spirits of women who have been raped, often by gangs, and often in such brutal fashion that they can no longer bear children, or walk or work," Clinton writes. "The United States will stand with these brave people. This week I announced more than $17 million in new funding to prevent and respond to gender and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We will provide medical care, counseling, economic assistance and legal support. We will dedicate nearly $3 million to recruit and train police officers to protect women and girls and to investigate sexual violence. We will send technology experts to help women and front-line workers report abuse using photographs and video and share information on treatment and legal options. ...

"While I was in the DRC, I had very frank discussions about sexual violence with President Kabila," Clinton continued. "I stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes, no matter who they are, must be prosecuted and punished. This is particularly important when they are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military, who have been allowed to commit these crimes with impunity."


Budget brainstorming: Not so slow an August after all, several folks pulled into intense interagency planning exercises for formulating their agencies' fiscal year 2011 budgets have said. Obama has promised to stop using supplemental budgets to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But putting those prospective expenditures in the regular budget means agencies have to get their FY'11 prospective budget requests into the Office of Management and Budget by September. The task means key agencies are having to brainstorm intensively these days how much they think the U.S. will need to be spending on Iraq and Afghanistan up through January 2012, in other words, to try to predict the future more than two years out amid all that is unpredictable. "We're not doing a separate war budgeting," an OMB official confirmed. "This is part of the normal process. Budget guidance was sent out to all the agencies a couple months ago." As for the myth of slow Augusts, he said, it's something of a fantasy unlearned by government officials every August.


Appointments: Human Rights Watch's COO Suzanne Nossel, a former aide to Richard Holbrooke at the United Nations, and the author who first put into circulation the "smart power" concept that has gained strong traction in Democratic foreign-policy circles and the Clinton State Department, will join the State Department at the end of the month as deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations, reporting to Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer. Among Nossel's initial tasks will be helping shepherd U.S. goals at the U.N. General Assembly opening session next month, around which time several Obama administration foreign policy initiatives -- including its Middle East peace plan vision or parameters -- are expected to be announced.

The nominee to be assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, Michael Posner, is expected to be confirmed after Congress returns from August recess. Some sort of administrative issue or amended paperwork requirements apparently prevented Posner from getting confirmed with a slate of other nominees just before the recess, but is said to be close to being resolved. Hill sources said they believe he'll be up for consideration at the first business meeting following recess.


Veep photo: Politico's Ben Smith reports that Vice President Joseph Biden has finally settled on an official photograph that can be distributed to federal offices, where his portrait has been missing.


USAID speculation returns: Who is being considered for USAID administrator now that the leading candidate Paul Farmer has moved on? Sources in the development community and on the Hill say they are hearing that it is likely to be a safe candidate, someone already in place in the administration and possibly confirmed for something else. Sources have speculated on the names Aaron Williams, a former senior USAID official who has just gotten into place as director of the Peace Corps, the NSC's senior director for development Gayle Smith, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, and longtime Clinton advisor and former Albright-era North Korea hand Wendy Sherman, but the names appear to be in the realm of speculation at this point. One government source said he heard former Secretary of State and Obama-endorser Colin Powell recently floated but from an outsider. "People are desperate for someone," a development hand said on condition of anonymity. So all these names "could be the rumor mill spinning out of control." 

It's not just USAID getting itchy for leadership. Almost eight months into Obama's presidency, "fewer than half of his top appointees are in place advancing his agenda," the New York Times reports Monday. "Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled - a reflection of a White House that grew more cautious after several nominations blew up last spring, a Senate that is intensively investigating nominees and a legislative agenda that has consumed both."

The Cable

Short takes: Hurricane Bill

Mixed signals on Iran nuclear cooperation:

In new cabinet packed with loyalists, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed a Reformist-era official and physicist as vice president and head of Iran's atomic energy agency, the New York Times reports. Ali Akbar Salehi "served as Iran's representative to the I.A.E.A. when the reform leader Mohammad Khatami was president," the Times writes. 

In the past few days, Tehran has apparently stepped up its cooperation with the UN atomic energy agency. "Iran allowed the agency's inspectors to visit the nearly finished Arak heavy water reactor last week after a yearlong ban, diplomats told The Associated Press," the paper says. "Last week, they added, Tehran acceded to the agency's requests to expand its monitoring of the Natanz uranium enrichment site, which produces nuclear materials that could be further enriched to weapons grade."

Salehi "is known to be decent and so this is apparently a good sign," a nonproliferation expert experienced with Iran tells The Cable. "Anyway the 'signs' should not be overemphasized. The choice of people has more to do with internal politicking, with family relations, ... than with political orientation." Salehi replaces Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, said to be an ally of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi.

After earlier reports it was considering appointing chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili as foreign minister, Iran kept holdover foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki in the job.

"I don't share the view of some in Washington that the hardliners for ideological reasons cannot make a deal with the U.S.," said the National Iranian American Council's Trita Parsi. "On the contrary, they can and they want to. But they insist that deal has to be with them, not with the reformists. Once in a more comfortable situation - that is, having incapacitated their reformist opposition - it wouldn't be surprising to see the hardliners show a modicum of flexibility at various phases of diplomacy.

"The current nuclear moves, however, may be more geared towards teasing the West to move closer towards recognizing Ahmadinejad," Parsi added. "The moves may have more to do with domestic Iranian politics than a larger nuclear negotiation tactic."

A European diplomat told The Cable that Iran's recent reported increased cooperation with the IAEA and appointment of some women to the cabinet among other moves could be a way to do just enough to further divide the international community from approving international sanctions.

Moscow said Thursday that the "P5+1" would meet September 2 to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

Russian honeytrap:

A U.S. diplomat was allegedly caught in an apparent Russian sting. Russian papers allege the second secretary at the U.S. embassy in Moscow is an intelligence officer with diplomatic cover to do outreach to Russian religious groups. That's totally false, the State Department says: "Kyle Hatcher is a valued member of the U.S. Foreign Service assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said by email Friday. "He has been recognized with an award for his outstanding work on human rights and religious freedom."

Hatcher "has been the subject of a smear campaign to discredit him and his work in the Russian press and on the Internet," Kelly continued. "We deplore this type of smear campaign. Hatcher enjoys the full confidence of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia and will continue in his current tour of duty in Moscow."


Israel poll: Ha'aretz reports on a new poll that indicates only 12% of Israelis believe Obama supports Israel.

Hurricane Bill: As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton arrive in Bermuda for a few days break, Hurricane Bill set to flood island's coastlines.