Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for July 12, 2019

Newsline: Diplomats express solidarity with UK ambassador’s verdict on Trump

After Britain’s ambassador to the US resigned following personal attacks by President Donald Trump, one of the most powerful expressions of support for the UK envoy was only 23 words long — but it spoke volumes, diplomats and foreign envoys said. A photo tweeted of ambassadors from Germany, France and the European Union with outgoing UK Ambassador Kim Darroch literally showed the other envoys standing shoulder to shoulder with their British counterpart. “Honored to host my colleagues and friends,” German Ambassador Emily Haber wrote in her post. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/11/politics/trump-darroch-ambassadors-washington/index.html) Diplomats from around the world told CNN the image didn’t just symbolize solidarity, it also reflected the fact that most embassies have written cables very similar to the private messages — leaked in an act of political sabotage — that Darroch had sent to London describing the President and his administration as inept, insecure and incompetent.

Newsline: Pompeo Seeks to Make Baghdad Embassy Pullout Permanent

In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered a partial evacuation of diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq amid escalating tensions with Iran. Now, several State Department officials say they are being told the drawdown in embassy staff will effectively become permanent, a move that could leave the U.S. Embassy short-staffed to undertake important tasks like countering Iran on the diplomatic front—and in the short-term has marooned hundreds of diplomats in the Washington area without an embassy to go back to. A State Department spokesman said this characterization of the drawdown is “inaccurate.” He said: “No decision on permanent staffing levels have been made, but a review of staffing is in process.” But three other State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the staffing levels at the Baghdad embassy reached after the evacuation in May are being treated as a de facto permanent cap on State Department personnel in Iraq. “They’ve already quietly made the policy decision that they’re not sending these people back,” a senior State Department official familiar with internal deliberations told Foreign Policy. “But they’re not actually calling it a drawdown, they’re just saying they’re reviewing the ordered departure,” the official said. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/12/pompeo-seeks-to-make-baghdad-embassy-pullout-permanent-officials-say-state-department-diplomacy-middle-east-iran-tensions-embassy-drawdown-evacuation/) The embassy still has an estimated thousands of personnel in place, but only a small portion of staff at the embassy work directly on core diplomatic functions, including political officers, economic officers, and public diplomacy officers. The majority are contractors, security personnel, or officials from other federal agencies, including the intelligence community. After the partial evacuation, two officials told Foreign Policy, the embassy has less than 15 State Department officials left working directly on core diplomatic functions.