Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: US Embassy in Baghdad accused of serving as headquarters for Mossad, ISIS

Senior Iraqi parliament member Hassan Salem issued a warning about the US embassy’s “suspicious activities,” saying that it hosts Mossad and ISIS agents. Salem claimed that “the US embassy in Baghdad has turned into a center for Israel’s Mossad” and ISIS terrorists, additionally claiming that the embassy is “interfering in the country’s internal affairs by spying, spreading rumors and hatching plots,” Fars News reported. The lawmaker further claimed that the embassy should be closed down for its illegalities. “The US embassy’s violation of laws and forgetting its responsibilities based on the international laws mean that the center could not be called an embassy and therefore, its closure is legally necessary,” Salem said. (https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iraqi-PM-US-embassy-hosts-Mossad-agents-ISIS-terrorists-595644) Salem has previously accused the US of providing a terrorist with protection. In February, he said that the US have ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in their care in the western desert of the Iraqi Anbar province. “Al-Baghdadi is using the Anbar desert as a safe haven, while the US forces provide him with all means of support from their station at the Ain Al-Assad military base in the Anbar province,” Salem said.


Newsline: Ecuador Counts Cost to Spin Assange’s Asylum at Its U.K. Embassy

Ecuador’s London embassy spent $144,000 on public relations associated with the asylum it gave to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the country’s Comptroller General’s Office found in an audit. The embassy also spent $332,000 on legal advice during the same 2012-2013 period, and $105,000 on food for Assange during his seven-year stay, according to the audit, which was signed by auditor Sonia Sierra. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-12/ecuador-counts-cost-to-spin-assange-s-asylum-at-its-u-k-embassy) The government of President Lenin Moreno had Assange expelled from the embassy in April. He is currently in jail in the U.K., and is facing an extradition request from the U.S., which has charged him with 18 counts related to endangering national security by conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information. Some of the embassy’s public relations spending went to MCSquared, which represented the government of Rafael Correa, the country’s president from 2007 to 2017, in a campaign against U.S. oil company Chevron Corp, the audit found.

Newsline: The UK ambassador scandal will make diplomats think twice before hitting send

Diplomacy was dealt a hammer blow this week. Kim Darroch’s sudden departure from Washington will have many diplomats wondering if they could be next. The UK ambassador’s resignation — after his assessment of Donald Trump was leaked — has created a global chill that will undoubtedly be felt for some while, and not just by British diplomats. It’s no secret that many foreign ambassadors have sent home scathing assessments of the President. “The leaker is guilty of the worst breach of trust in our service in my career. The damage after three days is evident in the resignation of the most senior British diplomat,” said Simon McDonald, head of Britain’s Diplomatic Service. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/12/europe/kim-darroch-diplomacy-impact-robertson-gbr-intl/index.html) So what should diplomats do? Stay shtum when your capital asks for your unvarnished assessment of person A, or situation B? In so doing, you would fail your central mission of ensuring your country has every advantage. Or would you tone down your assessment, risk under-informing your political bosses, and by extension undermine your national interest ? Theresa May wants a third way: Keep up the frank exchanges but find new ways to avoid leaks. Following his resignation, she praised Darroch and told UK lawmakers: “Good government depends on public servants being able to give full and frank advice. I want all our public servants to have the confidence to be able to do that.” To restore that confidence might require a shakeup in the way diplomats report. Currently “diptels” — the cables which Darroch used to tell May that Trump and his White House were “inept” and “dysfunctional” — get security gradings based on “national security” rather than political sensitivity. To counter leaks, a new, more restrictive grading could take into account the political impact a leaked diptel might have, which would mean fewer people would see the ambassador’s raw assessments.

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.

Newsline: UK ambassador to US who criticized Trump resigns

The British ambassador to the U.S. who criticized President Trump has resigned, the U.K. Foreign Office said on July 10. Ambassador Kim Darroch — in documents leaked in recent days — slammed the Trump administration as “diplomatically clumsy and inept,” and said he doubted it would become “substantially more normal.” In a resignation letter on Wednesday, Darroch said “the current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.” (https://www.foxnews.com/world/uk-ambassador-to-us-who-criticized-trump-resigns-british-foreign-office-says) “Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador,” he wrote, noting the situation “has brought home to me the depth of friendship and close ties between our two countries.” Darroch said he is “grateful to all those in the U.K. and the U.S., who have offered their support during this difficult few days.” Prime Minister Theresa May said it was a “matter of regret” that Darroch resigned. A day before Darroch’s resignation Downing Street said he “continues to have the prime minister’s full support,” adding that “we have made clear to the U.S. how unfortunate this leak is” and that “the selective extracts leaked do not reflect the closeness of, and the esteem in which we hold, the relationship.” A source close to the matter told Fox News that Darroch will remain in Washington, D.C. until the prime minister chooses his replacement — and with May leaving her role, it’s unclear when the next ambassador will arrive in the U.S. The source added that Darroch is leaving his post with his “head held high.”

Newsline: US ex-marine tied to North Korean embassy raid in Spain to be released on bail

hristopher Ahn, a former U.S. marine who Spanish authorities have linked to the February break-in at North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, was at a hearing at a California court on July 9 ordered to be freed on a $1.3 million bail. Ahn — who the U.S. government has asked be held in captivity since his detention in April — must remain under house arrest pending further proceedings into his potential extradition to Spain. He will be required to use an ankle monitor, and will only be permitted to leave home for medical appointments and to attend church. (https://www.nknews.org/2019/07/chris-ahn-ex-marine-tied-to-north-korean-embassy-raid-to-be-released-on-bail/) Family and friends who put up the bail, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth said, stood to risk losing the money should Ahn, previously described as a “flight risk,” flee. “I spent a lot of time reading about you and I’m confident you’re going to do the right thing,” Rosenbluth was quoted as having told the former marine, first tied to the mystery break-in at the DPRK embassy in Madrid back in February. That raid, Spanish authorities have alleged, saw Ahn and others from the “Free Joseon” group forcibly enter the DPRK embassy, before allegedly assaulting and restraining diplomatic staff.