Friday, May 29, 2015

Administration Won’t Comment on Whether Russia, Qatar Should Host Soccer World Cup

A State Department spokesman on Thursday repeatedly refused to take a position on whether Russia and Qatar should have the honor of hosting the soccer World Cup in 2018 and 2022, despite allegations of corruption in the awarding process and concerns about the two regimes’ policies. Read

State Dep’t: Claims of Iran-North Korean Nuclear Cooperation Won’t Impact Talks

A State Department spokesman on Thursday was unable to confirm or deny new allegations of nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea, but played down the likelihood of them affecting talks aimed at reaching a nuclear agreement with Tehran by June 30. Read

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kerry Attending Inauguration of Nigeria's New Muslim President, Who Once Advocated Shari'a Law

President Obama's top diplomat is traveling to Nigeria on Friday for the inauguration of the Muslim former military dictator whose successful presidential election campaign benefited from the efforts of a consultancy founded by President Obama’s strategist David Axelrod. Read

Putin’s Right to Host World’s Biggest Sporting Event Could Be in Jeopardy

Along with a U.S. Justice Department corruption case against officials from soccer’s governing body FIFA, a separate investigation by Swiss authorities could have an even greater impact on the world’s most popular game. The Swiss are probing the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the World Cup tournament to Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Read

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

‘China-Demonizers’: Beijing Scorns Western Reaction to Its Assertive New Military Doctrine

China’s controversial actions in the disputed South China Sea and the release of a new, more assertive military doctrine are making international headlines, but state media complained Wednesday that China’s “peaceful intentions” are purposefully being ignored. Read

French Envoy: Don’t Expect a Final Iran Deal by the End of June

France’s ambassador to Washington said Tuesday it was unlikely a final nuclear agreement with Iran will be reached by the June 30 deadline. Read

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Biden Tries to Placate Iraq Over Pentagon Criticism, as Abadi Vows to Retake Ramadi ‘Within Days’

Stung by U.S. criticism of his troops’ performance against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed in comments aired Monday to recapture the city of Ramadi from the jihadists “within days.” Read

Gov’t Urged to Consider Religious Freedom in Trade Deal Talks; 3 TPP Partners Have Poor Records

The “fast track” trade promotion bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Friday night includes an amendment requiring the administration to take into account religious freedom conditions in countries negotiating trade agreements with the United States. Read

Friday, May 22, 2015

Israel’s New Deputy FM: ‘This Land is Ours. All of It’

Israel – all of it – belongs to the Jewish people, the country’s new deputy foreign minister declared Thursday, citing a religious text and saying it was time Israeli diplomats stop using smart arguments in explaining Israel’s case to the international community, and “tell the world that we’re right.” Read

State Dep’t: We Never Called ISIS ‘Ragtag’

The Obama administration has never described the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) as a “ragtag” group, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday, after describing the fall of Ramadi to the jihadist group as a “serious setback” but also saying that any conflict will have “ebbs and flows.” Read

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Iran’s Idea of a ‘Snap’ Inspection: 24 Days’ Notice

Lifting a lid on the confidential negotiations for a final Iran nuclear agreement, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius disclosed Wednesday that Tehran wants to be given 24 days’ notice ahead of any inspection of its nuclear facilities. Read

Syria Tops List of Countries Where Minorities Are Most at Risk of Mass Killings, Genocide

An organization that tracks threatened minorities has placed Syria at the top of its annual rankings for the first time, making it one of seven countries in the region where attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists on Christians and other minorities have worsened the risk of genocide, mass political killing or systematic violent repression. Read

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Iran's Ayatollah: Nuke Inspectors Will Not Have Access to Military Sites, Scientists

As the Iran nuclear talks were due to resume in Vienna on Wednesday, Iran's spiritual leader and it main nuclear negotiator both doubled down on rejecting a core element of any deal – the right of international inspectors to access military sites. Read

Burma’s New Population-Control Law Calls Recent ‘Reforms’ Into Question

Burma’s president is about to sign a law giving the government far-reaching powers in determining the size and spacing of families. Read

Friday, May 15, 2015

Iran Nuclear Deal Review Legislation Heads to President’s Desk After Easy House Passage

President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran is set to come under congressional review – with the possibility of a vote against sanctions relief – after the U.S. House on Thursday voted 400-25 to pass legislation that now heads to the White House for signature. Read

WH: Pressing Gulf States on Human Rights Unlikely to Change Them

The Obama administration does talk to Gulf states about human rights concerns, but applying pressure on them to reform would not necessarily “lead these countries to embrace different political systems,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Thursday. Read

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Restrictive Saudi Arabia Eyeing Presidency of UN’s Top Human Rights Body?

Saudi Arabia, viewed by human rights activists as one of the world’s most severe violators of religious and other freedoms, reportedly is seeking the presidency of the U.N. Human Rights Council next year. Read

You Will Become Muslims When We Rape You, ISIS Told Yazidi Girls

Yazidi girls kidnapped by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria jihadists were given the chance to convert to Islam but told if they refused they would automatically become Muslims anyway the moment an ISIS fighter raped them, U.S. lawmakers heard on Wednesday. Read

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WH Threatens to Veto Defense Bill Over Gitmo, Arming the Kurds

A defense bill that places restrictions on the administration’s ability to release or transfer terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, blocks funding for military base closures, and seeks to bypass the Iraqi government in providing arms directly to Kurdish and Sunni fighters has become the latest target of a White House veto threat. Read

Kerry in Russia Holds Out Possibility of Easing Sanctions; Crimea Not Mentioned

Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday held out the prospect of an easing of sanctions against Moscow, using his first visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis erupted to stress the importance of the two countries cooperating in the international arena. Read

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Russia Slams ‘Unfriendly’ U.S. Ahead of Kerry Visit

As Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Russia for a meeting Tuesday which the State Department said would be with President Vladimir Putin – but Moscow did not immediately confirm – the foreign ministry blamed the United States for tensions between the two countries. Read

EU Pushes Mandatory Quotas for Migrants, Military Action Against Smugglers

European Union bureaucrats desperate for solutions to the Mediterranean refugee crisis are proposing a strategy of military action against people smugglers, and a mandatory quota system for E.U. member-states to accommodate migrants. Read

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carson: U.S. Response to Putin’s Aggression ‘Not a Good Sign’ to Other Allies

The United States’ failure to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression – despite post-Cold War pledges – was “not a good sign” to send to other allies around the world, Republican presidential aspirant Ben Carson said on Sunday. Read

Snub: Saudi King to Skip Obama’s Gulf States Summit This Week

President Obama is hosting what's billed as a landmark summit with Arab Gulf leaders this week, but amid displeasure over U.S. Mideast policies, the region’s most important figure has decided to stay away. Read

Friday, May 08, 2015

United Nations to Sit in Judgment of U.S. Human Rights Record

From police shootings of African-Americans to the failure to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the United States’ human rights record will be in the spotlight at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday. Read

State Dep’t: US Supports Israel at UN to Defend UN Credibility

The Obama administration fights against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations because Israel is a close ally, but also because “undue focus on any one particular country in the U.N. system threatens to undermine the credibility of the entire system,” a State Department official said on Capitol Hill this week. Read

Thursday, May 07, 2015

U.S. Pays $3B for UN--More Than 185 Other Countries Combined

American taxpayers will pony up around $3.024 billion this year towards the United Nations’ regular and peacekeeping budgets, more than what 185 other countries combined are paying, an expert on the international body told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday. Read

State Dep’t Official Ducks Question on Whether Global Climate Deal Will be Brought Before Senate

A State Department official on Wednesday sidestepped a senator’s question on whether the administration would seek Senate advice and consent for a global climate treaty expected to be finalized in Paris late this year, saying simply that “it’s at a very early stage in the negotiations.” Read

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Muzzling Republicans, McConnell Moves to End Debate on Iran Nuke Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday evening moved to end debate on bipartisan legislation that will allow Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal, after amendments proposed by some Republicans threatened to cost it Democratic support. Read

WH: ‘Common Sense’ That Iran Will Use Money From Lifted Sanctions to Boost Economy, Not Fund Terror

White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. cannot proscribe how Iran chooses to spend the money it will get as sanctions are eased under a proposed nuclear deal. Read

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

US Religious Freedom Commissioners Differ Over Egypt

A recommendation by a statutory watchdog that the State Department blacklist Egypt for religious freedom abuses caused some dissent in the ranks, with three of the nine commissioners – all appointees of President Obama – withholding their support. Read

Iran’s Military Chief Says No Inspection of Military Sites Under Any Nuclear Deal

Iran will never give international inspectors access to its military facilities under a negotiated nuclear accord, the country’s military chief declared at the weekend, underlining the regime’s rejection of what the Obama administration portrays as a core element of a proposed agreement. Read

Monday, May 04, 2015

Kerry to Israel: ‘I Absolutely Guarantee’ the U.S. Can Stop Iran From Getting Nuke

Secretary of State John Kerry told Israelis in an interview broadcast Sunday that he could “absolutely guarantee” that under a proposed nuclear deal with Iran the U.S. will be able to monitor its activities, “so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.” Read

India Bristles Over Criticism From US Religious Freedom Watchdog

Just three months after President Obama made a precedent-setting visit to New Delhi, the Indian government is sharply rejecting a U.S. statutory watchdog’s criticism of its religious freedom record, suggesting it reflects ignorance of how India works. Read

Friday, May 01, 2015

Sen. Cotton: Don’t Want to Vote on Iran Amendments? ‘You Shouldn’t Have Come to the Senate’

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Thursday criticized senators leery of two controversial amendments to a bipartisan compromise bill seeking to give Congress a say on the Iran nuclear agreement, saying if they did not want to vote, they “shouldn’t have come to the Senate.” Read

House Defense Bill Sends 25% of Iraq Funding to Kurdish, Sunni Fighters

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee passed a defense bill Thursday including a provision that allocates to minority Kurdish and Sunni fighters one-quarter of a $715 million tranche for training and equipping Iraqi forces to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL). Read