The Cable

Huntsman hits Perry on foreign policy

GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is going after Gov. Rick Perry for his flub of a foreign policy question during last week's debate.

In a new video titled, "Foreign Policy Experience: It shows," the Huntsman campaign juxtaposed Perry's rambling answer at last week's debate to the question of what he would do if told the Taliban had gained control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons with Huntsman's answer to the same questions on Michael Smerconish's radio show today.

"Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That's one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with -- and that's the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States," Perry said in a rambling answer that did not even mention nukes. "For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16's, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

In fact, India chose not to buy American fighter planes and the United States sells F-16s to Pakistan.

In his answer, Huntsman suggested he would use U.S. forces to infiltrate Pakistan and attack the Taliban almost immediately.

"You convene the National Security Council staff immediately, you look at the intelligence, you call your closest friends and allies in the region, and you say ‘we've got to take after it  and we're going to deploy every means we have at our disposal to track down that material, to track down those weapons, and to do those people in,'" said Huntsman. "That's the only option you have. You sit around and you consider your options for too long, and the proliferation concerns are going to mount."

Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller sent out the video to reporters and wrote a note that said, "Unlike Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, Governor Huntsman has real, hands-on foreign policy experience. It showed. Compare the two responses in the video below, and then ask yourself: who would you want as Commander-in-Chief?"

The Cable

Robert Ford: Families of Syrian-American protesters being tortured by regime

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford confirmed to The Cable widely held suspicions that the Syrian government is arresting and torturing Syrians whose family members have spoken out against the regime here in the United States.

The FBI is investigating claims that the Syrian embassy staff in Washington has been collecting information on Syrian-Americans in and around Washington, especially those who dare to protest against the regime. That embassy is led by Ambassador Imad Moustapha, who has updated his blog only intermittently since the outbreak of violence in Syria.

Ford did not directly accuse Moustapha of spying on American citizens and transmitting that information back to the regime, to be used to punish family members as part of an organized campaign of fear and intimidation. But he said that those families are being tortured.

"We know of families here in Syria who have been arrested, who have been beaten, whose homes have been broken into, because of activities against the Syrian government - participation in marches, for example - by family members in the United States," Ford said in a phone call from his post in Damascus.

Ford said he couldn't comment on the Moustapha investigation specifically, but confirmed that the State Department is tracking these cases and has evidence of multiple instances of retribution against Syrian-Americans by the Assad regime.

"We know of at least three instances of that. How does the Syrian government know about [the Syrian-Americans' activities]? You and I can speculate," Ford said.  "We do know of families that were attacked here. It's really serious."

Without directly accusing the Syrian embassy in Washington of spying, Ford said, "It is entirely unacceptable for any foreign embassy in the United States to facilitate the harassment of American citizens."

The Wall Street Journal has reported on several claims by activists of retribution brought down on their Syrian-based family members. Ford's comments represent the highest level public acknowledgment of these activities to date.

At Ford's confirmation hearing in August, Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) spoke about how the regime treats those Syrians who try to maintain contacts in the United States.

"The terrible reach of this regime has directly affected constituents in my home state of Pennsylvania," said Casey, who told the story of Sakher Hallak, a Syrian who traveled to the United States to attend a medical conference with his brother Hazem Hallak, a Syrian-American living near Philadelphia.

"Upon his return to Syria, Sakher was missing. His wife contacted the authority to confirm that he was in their custody but would be released shortly," Casey said. "Two days later, his body was discovered in a village 20 miles south of Aleppo. The authorities then denied that he was ever in their custody and claimed that they found his body in a ditch, by the side of the road."

"Sakher's body was subjected to brutal torture. His bones were broken and his body was mutilated in unspeakable ways," said Casey. "Sakher was not a political activist. He was not involved in the demonstrations. His sole offense appears to be his visit to the medical conference and his visit with his brother in the United States of America."

If the Syrian regime's intention was to intimidate Hazem Hallak, their strategy surely backfired. He became an outspoken and fierce critic of the regime in response to his brother's death.