Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: US’s new $1 billion embassy in London unveiled ahead of Trump’s state visit

A new billion dollar US Embassy has been unveiled on the banks of the River Thames. A key part in the rejuvenation of Nine Elms, in Wandsworth, the US Embassy replaces its former offices in Grosvenor Square with a distinctive cube building, surrounded by a pond and topped with solar panels. The building, which will be a workplace for diplomats and home to a contingent of US Marines from January, cost around £750m ($1bn). Unusually, there is no perimeter fence around the new building. Instead, public benches give people access to the banks of the River Thames, while a pond, not a moat, stops unauthorised persons getting too close to the building. US Ambassador Robert “Woody” Johnson, who opened the building, said he hoped President Donald Trump would come to London for its official dedication.



Newsline: US embassy unlikely to move to Jerusalem before 2020

Relocating the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will likely take at least three years, and quite possibly longer, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday. “It’s not going to be anything that happens right away,” Tillerson said in a speech at the State Department, reported upon by the New York Times. “Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.” Tillerson said last week that the planned move would likely take several years. “This is not something that is going to happen this year or probably not next year but the president does want us to move in a very concrete, very steadfast way to ensure the embassy is located in Jerusalem when we’re able to do so, at the earliest possible time,” Tillerson said on Friday. Listing the steps involved in moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, Tillerson said the United States needed to acquire a site, develop plans, receive congressional authorization for the spending, “and then actually building the embassy.” US President Donald Trump last Wednesday signed a waiver putting off any such move by another six months, hours after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Newsline: Possible Sites of US Embassy in Jerusalem

There is land in Jerusalem set aside for a new US Embassy, according to The Washington Post. It is located on the edge of the Talpiot neighborhood in southeast Jerusalem. In 1989, under US President Ronald Raegan, then-US Ambassador to Israel William Brown signed a contract for this piece of land for $1 a year on a 99-year lease. The Israeli government later zoned the area for a diplomatic premises with the intention of constructing a US Embassy there, according to the newspaper. According to the RIA Novosti correspondent, the area is now an empty field enclosed with a ramshackle fence on one of its sides. Nearby, there are small cozy homes surrounded by flowers. The site seems looks like no-man’s land. Old tires, mattresses and other rubbish can be seen strewn across the territory. The second possible location is just a 15 minute walk away from the territory in Talpiot. It is part of a complex of buildings operated by the US Consulate General. According to Israeli media, the US State Department bought a piece of land adjacent to the Consulate, where a hotel called “Diplomat” is located.


Newsline: Trump Ambassador to Czech Republic Beat and ‘Kidnapped’ Woman in Watergate Cover-Up

American presidents have a long history of awarding ambassadorships to colorful characters as a way to thank them for their campaign donations. Roughly a third of U.S. ambassadors have no diplomatic experience beyond rounding up cash for successful presidential candidates. Among them is Stephen King, 76, a longtime confidante and booster of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is the new U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. King, who is also a former business partner of Ryan’s brother Tobin, has no diplomatic experience and had never spent a day in Prague before taking up his post there on December 7. Radio Prague, the official state news outlet, called him “a rich Republican businessman…who worked for the FBI early in his career.” Left unsaid was that King played a crucial role in the 1972 Watergate affair—and not a good one. According to several accounts over the years, King helped cover up ties between President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign and the burglars arrested inside the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex—and in a particularly violent fashion. None of that came up during his confirmation hearing. In June 1972, King was an ex-FBI agent working as a security aide for the Committee to Re-elect the President, or CREEP, Nixon’s campaign arm. His duty on the week of the break-in was to protect—and keep a close eye on—Martha Mitchell, the talkative wife of Nixon’s campaign director and former attorney general John Mitchell, while the Mitchells were on a campaign swing in California. An outspoken Arkansan dubbed “the Mouth of the South” in press reports, Martha Mitchell had been complaining vaguely to anyone who would listen about campaign operatives carrying out “dirty tricks” against the Democrats. So when she learned that James McCord, the security director of CREEP, who had served as her bodyguard, was among those arrested at the Watergate—and described by her husband as a private security contractor who was “not operating either on our behalf or with our consent”—she picked up the telephone and called a favorite reporter, UPI’s Helen Thomas. Enter King. He “rushed into her bedroom, threw her back across the bed, and ripped the telephone out of the wall,” wrote veteran Washington reporter Winzola McLendon in her 1979 biography of Martha Mitchell, to whom she was close. But Thomas was still on the phone and taking notes. “The conversation ended abruptly when it appeared someone took away the phone from her hand,” Thomas reported. “She was heard to say, ‘You just get away.’” A veteran crime reporter, Kramer described Mitchell as “a beaten woman,” with “incredible” black and blue marks on her arms from what looked like a “totally professional job.” A later account in McCall’s magazine said that King “summoned” a doctor who gave Mitchell “a tranquilizing shot” and “[saw] to it that no more of her outgoing calls [would] be taken by the hotel switchboard.” When Mitchell learned that King had been promoted to security chief for the campaign, she wrote a letter to Parade magazine, the Sunday newspaper supplement, saying that he “not only dealt me the most horrible experience I have ever had, but inflicted bodily harm upon me.” Mitchell told The New York Times. “I was not only kidnapped but I was threatened at gunpoint, and you can put that in.” During his August 1 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, King was not asked about his role in allegedly roughing up Mitchell to keep her from exposing McCord’s connection to CREEP. On Monday, King said, “With due respect to the privacy of the Mitchell family and in light of previous responses I have given to these allegations in decades past, I do not wish to comment further on this old story.”


Newsline: US Consulates Resume Visa Services in Russia

U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok have resumed processing applications for travel visas, after suspending their work this summer as relations between Washington and Moscow soured. The U.S. Embassy has warned consulate services might still be affected by low staff numbers. The consulates temporarily suspended processing non-immigrant visas in August after Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its staff to 455. The move came after U.S. President Donald Trump signed fresh sanctions against Russia in July.


Newsline: Protests at US Embassy in Lebanon turn violent

Demonstrations near the U.S. Embassy Sunday turned violent as protesters took to the streets to denounce U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Security forces suppressed the demonstrations with water cannons and tear gas. Later in the afternoon riot police assaulted protesters and journalists attempting to cover the clashes. The Internal Security Forces released a statement Sunday evening saying they had intervened after protestors “insisted on carrying out a riot and did not keep the peace during the sit-in.” The statement added that, “19 members of the Internal Security Forces were wounded and one of them underwent surgery due to a minor injury to the face,” while not presenting any figures on the number of civilians wounded.


Newsline: US Diplomat’s Resignation Signals Wider Exodus From State Department

An award-winning U.S. diplomat who was seen as a rising star at the State Department has issued a scathing resignation letter, accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Donald Trump administration of undercutting the State Department and damaging America’s influence in the world. Elizabeth Shackelford, who most recently served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the U.S. mission to Somalia, wrote to Tillerson that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work, according to her letter, obtained by Foreign Policy. Her former colleagues said her departure — and the sentiments expressed in her letter — reflect a wider exodus of midcareer diplomats who have lost confidence in Tillerson’s management and the Trump administration’s approach toward diplomacy.

U.S. Diplomat’s Resignation Signals Wider Exodus From State Department