Several days after Israeli commandos raided an aid ship headed for Gaza, heads of state around the world are focusing their attention towards investigating the events of May 31 and working towards ending the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been very vocal in condemning Israeli actions after the death of several Turkish citizens, has made a statement calling for the formation of an international investigation. According to Erdogan, the acceptance of such an investigation would be the only way to better Israeli-Turkish relations. He went on to say that if Israel refused an international investigation that, “it means that they are hiding some facts.” In addition, Prime Minister Erdogan has been reported to be considering a trip to Gaza aboard a Turkish Naval vessel. While this has caused some in Israel to threaten violence at another attempt to breach the blockade, the official tone is much more moderate and IDF leaders have made statements essentially telling their colleagues to calm down. (more…)
This morning I attended a hearing on the Hill to confirm the nomination of the new Ambassador to Syria, Ambassador Robert Ford. This will be our first Ambassador to Damascus in five years, (when in 2005 diplomatic relations became strained following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister), and Ambassador Ford seems perfect for the job. He served as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) to Bahrain, head of the Political Section in Iraq, Ambassador to Algeria, and he is currently DCM in Baghdad. In addition to his experience in the Middle East, he also speaks Arabic and Turkish and seems well versed on the issues facing this troubled region.
The hearing began with a short statement by Chairman Kerry. He started out by bringing up some of the regional issues that Syria has a hand in, including: the flow of fighters into Iraq, the transportation of weapons, the support for terrorist organizations, and the failure to cooperate with the IAEA. And he brought up the importance of negotiations with Israel over the Golan and the need to protect Lebanese sovereignty. But most importantly, he stressed the need for engagement and diplomacy to show Syria the benefits of modifying its behavior. He stated,”…If we do succeed, it could be transformative in galvanizing the Arab-Israeli peace process and dramatically improving the situation for our friends in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, and the West Bank. In short, this presents us with an opportunity to change the strategic landscape in the Middle East that we cannot afford to ignore.” (more…)
Last week I attended the Senate hearing to discuss 2011 Foreign Policy Priorities, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the State Department budget and priorities and was questioned by each of the Senators on the committee. Nothing groundbreaking occurred. The emphasis was on the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, with sprinklings of other Middle Eastern issues thrown in.
The first priority on the agenda was Iran. The Secretary brought up the dual approach to Iran’s nuclear development in the first few minutes of her opening remarks. This approach is basically shaking hands if Iran unclenches its fist, while tightening the noose if they refuse to cooperate. Most of the senators also brought up the issue and emphasized the need to deal with the threat and the Secretary agreed with their remarks, continuing to emphasize the dual policy approach. The absence of internet freedom was also briefly brought up. (more…)
I have been working with Dominic Musacchio, the videographer from our November ‘Political pilgrimage’ study tour to Israel and all its neighbors, to present some good short cuts from the many hours of footage he took on the tour. We’ve finally come up with a good, illustrative collection of his films, which you can view here.
I’ve also been doing a huge amount of reorganization in our office. (We may have some candid shots of us all moving the furniture around, that we’re willing to post here, later on… Or not.) We have a few more days of the reorganizing to be doing– and then it’ll be full steam ahead, getting back to running the excellent lineup of programs CNIF has planned for 2010.
The films present views and voices that people in the U.S. don’t get to hear enough from. Tell us which ones you find most interesting!