The Cable

State Dept to Americans: Don’t go to Libya

Carjackings, robberies, kidnappings, and militia violence all are on the rise in Libya, prompting the State Department to warn U.S. citizens to stay away from the North African country, nearly a year after Libyan rebels seized the capital Tripoli from Muammar al-Qaddafi's forces.

Ironically, the State Department resumed full consular services for travel to and inside Libya today, but simultaneously advised Americans the country was too dangerous to visit. Militias are rounding up foreigners with little regard to the actual law or due process and the State Department has little influence with them, the department is warning.

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Libya," reads the new travel warning issued today. "The incidence of violent crime, especially carjacking and robbery, has become a serious problem.  In addition, political violence in the form of assassinations and vehicle bombs has increased in both Benghazi and Tripoli."

The warning is the first the State Department has issued since September 2011 and the first since the July 7 elections in Libya, which saw the Transnational National Council, which has been running the country since Qaddafi's fall, replaced this month by the General National Congress. Those elections were deemed to be free and fair, but now political uncertainly has been replaced by insecurity on the streets of Libya's major cities.

"Despite this progress, violent crime continues to be a problem in Tripoli, Benghazi, and other parts of the country," the travel warning said. "In particular, armed carjacking and robbery are on the rise. In addition, political violence, including car bombings in Tripoli and assassinations of military officers and alleged former regime officials in Benghazi, has increased. Inter-militia conflict can erupt at any time or any place in the country."

The State Department noted the kidnapping of 7 members of the Iranian Red Crescent delegation by an Islamic Libya militia late last month. The delegation had been invited by the government but was being questioned by the militia "to determine whether their activities and intentions aimed to spread the doctrine of Shiite Islam," a Libyan official told AFP.

Islamic extremists are also blamed for a string of attacks on historical and sacred religious sites over the past days aimed at Muslims of the Sufi sect and conducted in some cases with the help of uniformed members of Libya's Interior Ministry. Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel A'al resigned due to the scandal Sunday night.

Militias are also apprehending foreigners for "perceived or actual violations of Libyan law," and the State Department might not be able help because the militias may not be sanctioned or controlled by the government.


The Cable

Coming soon on The Cable: Full coverage of RNC 2012 in Tampa

Republican officials, candidates, pundits, and supporters are flocking en masse to Tampa next week for the Republican National Convention -- assuming Tropical Storm Isaac doesn't disrupt the festivities. The Cable will be on the scene covering all the foreign policy and national security news in and around the event.

For the campaign of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, the convention is an opportunity to bring foreign policy into the election discussion in a way he hasn't before and to showcase the support of major national security surrogates, lawmakers, and advisors who will be speaking at a host of convention events, panels, and receptions throughout the week. The campaign isn't planning on rolling out any grand, new national security themes, though there will be plenty of criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of foreign policy.

"It will be a reaffirmation of Romney's commitment to peace through strength," senior campaign foreign-policy advisor Rich Williamson told The Cable. "You're not going to see a lot of new stuff. Romney has shown his approach in the tradition of Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, in contrast with the Obama approach, which is really out of the mainstream and radical."

Romney foreign-policy advisors who will be speaking on the sidelines of the convention include Williamson, Tim Pawlenty, Norm Coleman, Jim Talent, Vin Weber, John Bolton, Mitchell Reiss, and others. Several current and former GOP officials are also slated to give public speeches that will touch on foreign policy and national security themes, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ),  Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Rand Paul (R-KY), John Thune (R-SD), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

The first major foreign-policy news from the convention will come Monday, Aug. 27, when the GOP rolls out and then officially approves its platform, which has several foreign policy planks. Although the platform is not yet public, Williamson said the document will stress the need for economic renewal so that the United States can lead abroad and this can be "an American century."

The platform will also emphasize the imperative of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, the view that Obama's Russian "reset" policy has failed, and that the GOP has concern about the impotence of the United Nations and what it argues is the Obama administration's overdependence on multilateralism. The platform condemns authoritarian regimes in Cuba and Venezuela, and criticizes the Obama administration for leaking classified national security information to the press.

On Israel, the platform will codify Romney's position that Jerusalem is the capital while also calling for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for. The platform will "envision two democratic states -- Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine -- living in peace and security," a commitment to a two-state solution that evoked considerable debate during the drafting process.

The platform supports foreign aid, saying, "Foreign aid should serve our national interest, an essential part of which is the peaceful development of less advanced and vulnerable societies in critical parts of the world. Assistance should be seen as an alternative means of keeping the peace, far less costly in both dollars and human lives than military engagement."

Some big foreign-policy issues not debated in the platform drafting process will be brought out during the course of the convention week. On Syria, Republicans plan to try to sharpen the distinction between how Obama has handled the crisis and what they say Romney would have done in the same situation.

"The president's risk-averse path of leading from behind creates greater risk than if he acted. By not acting, we now face greater dangers and more costly action to protect our interests," Williamson said.

Several think tanks and issue organizations are planning events around town to feature surrogates, advisors, and lawmakers in somewhat more intimate settings. The International Republican Institute is hosting a panel Aug. 28 on the future of U.S. national security with former Rep. Jim Kolbe, Williamson, Coleman, Talent, and Weber.

The Foreign Policy Initiative is hosting an event Aug. 28 on the future of U.S-Russia relations with Bolton, Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, and another event Aug. 29 on restoring American leadership with Pawlenty and William Kristol. Also on Aug. 29, IRI is teaming up with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition to present an international development-focused event featuring Rice, Reiss, Williamson, Pawlenty, Paula Dobriansky and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX).

"The convention's a real opportunity for Governor Romney to sharpen his foreign-policy critique of the Obama administration and for the greater Republican foreign-policy community to showcase what foreign policy in a Romney administration would look like," said Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative.

Follow all the action here on The Cable and on Twitter @joshrogin.

UPDATE: The RNC accidentally posted the draft platform today and then took it down, but you can find it here.