The Cable

Clinton and Davutoglu discuss Turkey-Syria cross-border violence

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Wednesday afternoon with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu about the Syrian shelling in Turkey that killed five civilians and provoked Turkey's retaliatory strikes inside Syria.

"The secretary condemned the Syrian attack and expressed the United States' heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims," State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a readout of the phone call. "She pledged the United States' strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Turkish ally and endorsed the statement in the North Atlantic Council this evening, which condemned Syria's aggression and called for Alliance solidarity with Turkey.  She also made clear that the United States would support Turkey in the United Nations Security Council as well."

Before the call took place, Clinton condemned the Syrian attacks and called on the international community to bring more pressure on the Assad regime to stop killing civilians.

"We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful about the loss of life that has occurred on the Turkish side," Clinton said. "But this also comes down to a regime that is causing untold suffering to its own people, solely driven by their desire to stay in power, aided and abetted by nations like Iran that are standing firmly beside the Assad regime regardless of the damage, the loss of life, the violence that is happening both inside of Syria and now increasingly across Syria's borders with their neighbors. It's a very, very dangerous situation."

Earlier Wednesday at the State Department's daily briefing, Nuland said that Clinton is still pushing the Geneva agreement for a political transition in Syria that all the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed to, but she said Russia was still blocking any stronger action in the U.N.

"That's something that the Russians themselves signed up to -- but that we only think it's going to work if it has real consequences, consequences for both sides, if it's not implemented," Nuland said. "So you know, we are prepared to move forward on that basis. It's been the Russian side that has blocked consequences in the Security Council."

The North Atlantic Council, the main deliberative body within NATO, met Wednesday evening within the framework of NATO Article 4 and issued a statement condemning the Syrian regime's actions. Turkey previously invoked Article 4, which calls for consultations among NATO member states when one state's sovereignty is violated, earlier this year when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish F-4 reconnaissance jet.

"In view of the Syrian regime's recent aggressive acts at NATO's southeastern border, which are a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security of one of its Allies, the North Atlantic Council met today, within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty, and discussed the continuous shelling of locations in Turkey adjacent to the Turkish-Syrian border by the Syrian regime forces," the NATO statement read. "In the spirit of indivisibility of security and solidarity deriving from the Washington Treaty, the Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law."

Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay reported Wednesday that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also spoke with Davutoglu and pleaded with him to work with Syrian authorities to prevent a further escalation of the cross-border violence.

"The secretary general has repeatedly warned that the ongoing militarization of the conflict in Syria is leading to tragic results for the Syrian people," a statement from Ban's office read. "Today's incidents, where firing from Syria struck a Turkish town, again demonstrated how Syria's conflict is threatening not only the security of the Syrian people but increasingly causing harm to its neighbors."

The Cable

Report: 25 percent of State Department posts have weak leadership

A full quarter of the State's Department's overseas posts and Washington, D.C.-based bureaus inspected this year are suffering from weak leadership that the State Department needs to address, according to a new report by the State Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

"OIG's FY 2012 inspections found that while 75 percent of ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers are doing a good to excellent job, 25 percent have weaknesses that, in most cases, have a significant impact on the effectiveness and morale of their posts and certainly warrant intervention by the Department," Acting Inspector General Howard Geisel wrote in a memorandum to Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy that was released by the OIG office today.

Geisel said that the OIG typically inspects posts that are flagged for their attention, so the figure may not represent the total proportion of poorly led posts in the entire State Department. But he added that even those posts that were judged not to have weak leadership could benefit from more feedback and oversight of what's going on at the top of their shops. Geisel didn't explain how he determined "weakness" at each post.

"OIG therefore reiterates the importance it places on adopting an effective assessment and performance improvement system for ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers," Geisel wrote.

The State Department should issue a new section of the Foreign Affairs Handbook to define exactly what leadership and management principles and skills should guide diplomatic officials and should also increase the use of candid surveys to get better feedback about management problems, Geisel said.

In a June memo to State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull, Geisel wrote that in high stress postings, 45 percent of respondents cited leadership as a cause of their stress. He also singled out the Bureau of African Affairs, saying that leadership was a problem in "certain posts overseas as well as in the bureau itself under its previous management."

"OIG has found problems in posts in every region, under both career and political ambassadors," Geisel wrote. "The results of poor leadership include reduced productivity and effectiveness, low morale, stress, and curtailments."