A Busy Week Begins

September 19, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Congress is working this week to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through November 18.  The House will take up the measure first, with both chambers expected to pass the legislation by the end of the week before they adjourn for a week-long recess.  The Senate is continuing its FY12 appropriations process with markups of several appropriations bills scheduled this week.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to hold its markup of the FY12 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which provides $44.64 billion in core funding, this Wednesday, September 21st.

 Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Wendy Sherman…Confirmed! (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy)

The Senate confirmed Wendy Sherman as undersecretary of State for political affairs late Thursday by unanimous consent, despite reports that she would face stiff GOP opposition. In the end, no one on Capitol Hill had an appetite for a fight over Sherman’s nomination, despite the fact that multiple GOP Senate staffs had been compiling research to use against her. Senate staffs had raised questions about her ties to Chinese businesses, her stance on North Korea, and her stint as head of the Fannie Mae Foundation — but ultimately not even one senator put a hold on the nomination.

A troop drawdown that would fail Iraq (John McCain, Joseph I. Lieberman, and Lindsey O. Graham, Washington Post)

Recent media reports have suggested that the Obama administration has decided to reduce sharply the number of U.S. troops it is willing to keep in Iraq beyond this year, possibly to as few as 3,000. Administration officials have denied that any decision has been made on force levels. We hope that is true, because such an approach would disregard the recommendations of our military commanders, jeopardize Iraq’s tenuous stability and needlessly put at risk all of the hard-won gains the United States has achieved there at enormous cost in blood and treasure. We have frequently traveled to Iraq, meeting with national leaders in Baghdad, local officials throughout the country, and U.S. military commanders and diplomats. What we have consistently heard on these visits is that Iraq’s security and stability will require a continuing — though greatly reduced — U.S. military presence after the end of this year, when our current security agreement with Iraq expires.

Smart Power

Jobs to be focus at Clinton’s CGI (MG Lee, Politico)

At the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting this week, Bill Clinton will urge all participants to help reinforce President Barack Obama’s jobs package, which the former president believes is a “very good plan.”  “I believe that we, those of us who aren’t in government, can think of ways to create jobs which will reinforce what I believe are the positive suggestions coming out of Washington,” Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week” two days ahead of the seventh annual conference that kicks off Tuesday.  During the three-day summit, Clinton said he will push world leaders and CEOs to “put aside” their own interests and focus on brainstorming specific ways to create jobs and support the $447 billion jobs package that Obama announced earlier this month.

Technology that protects protesters (Doyle McManus, LA Times)

Early this year, as street protests began spreading across the Arab world, a young Internet expert from Germany, Katrin Verclas, asked Egyptian democracy activists what kind of technology they needed most. More laptop computers? Better access to the Web? Tools to evade censorship? Software to post videos? The activists’ biggest desire, Verclas said, was simple: They wanted safer cellphones. “They store an enormous amount of information on their phones,” she said. “Contact lists. Text messages. Videos.” When a protest organizer was arrested, she noted, all the information on his or her phone — including names and phone numbers of other activists — could fall into the authorities’ hands.

Congress Creates Bipartisan HIV/AIDS Caucus, 30 Years After HIV Discovery (Christina Wilkie, The Huffington Post)

The first ever bipartisan congressional HIV/AIDS caucus officially launched on Thursday, 30 years after the human immunodeficiency virus was first identified.Led by House members Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the group marks the first time Republicans have joined with Democrats to create a group aimed at eradicating AIDS, which has claimed 25 million lives around the globe since 1981. Prior to Thursday, similar groups in Congress contained only Democrats.

Glimpses of the Next Great Famine (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)
The famine is caused by drought – the worst in 60 years – but even more by the intransigence of the fundamentalist Muslim militia, known as the Shabab, that rules part of Somalia. The area where large numbers of people are dying almost perfectly overlays the regions where the Shabab is in control. In a sense, that marks progress in the world’s struggle against hunger. Kenyans and Ethiopians have planted drought-resistant crops, built water projects and diversified their livelihoods, so this drought has affected them less than it would have in the past. An early-warning system gave a year’s notice that a famine was on the way, and aid agencies moved in supplies. In Somalia, however, the Shabab keeps out most aid workers and has blocked most food shipments. It also tries to block Somalis from fleeing to get food elsewhere. The Shabab has also tormented its people with taxes and oppression.

Brunswick-based organization hits $4 billion milestone in medical relief (Terry Dickenson, The Florida Times-Union)
With the packing of a carton of medicines and medical supplies Thursday morning, MAP International passed the $4 billion milestone in providing badly needed aid to about 100 countries. The Brunswick-based Christian relief organization’s board of directors all took a hand in packing antibiotics, multivitamins, anti-infection drugs, examination gloves and other supplies into a cardboard box as it rolled along a short assembly line. The box will be shipped to Liberia this fall where, MAP hopes, the country’s president will meet it at the airport.

Punitive Measures (James Traub, Foreign Policy)

Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat and the ranking member on the House committee overseeing foreign aid, has been a leading supporter of the move to threaten the cut in funding. Unlike Walsh, who has said, “There is no such thing as a two-state solution” and believes that peace will come through “Israel having sovereignty over the whole land,” Lowey has been a strong supporter of the PA’s state-building process and the U.S. funding that has helped make it possible. I asked why she was prepared to put all that in jeopardy to punish the Palestinians for seeking a vote on statehood. “There has to be a line in the sand,” she said. The unilateral bid for statehood undermines the peace process. “The Palestinians,” Lowey said, “will have to deal with the consequences.”


Politics/Foreign Policy

Somalia needs much more aid than it’s getting (Washington Post)

THE FAMINE IN Somalia continues to spread. Last week the United Nations added a sixth area of the country to the zone where starvation has become acute and said 750,000 people could die in the next four months if aid does not get through. Already, tens of thousands have perished, most of them children; hundreds more are buried every day. Some 400,000 people seeking food have flocked to Mogadishu, the capital, while hundreds of thousands more have fled to neighboring Kenya. The international response to this terrible crisis continues to be too slow and too weak.

Momentum Wanes for Strong Legislative Response to Situation in Syria (Emily Cadei, CQ)
The anti-government protests in Syria appear to be losing momentum, and so do lawmakers’ efforts to increase pressure on Syria’s government.  Both houses of Congress have introduced legislation that would tighten sanctions against the Syrian regime. The Senate also has a resolution (S Res 180) pending that expresses support for peaceful protests in Syria and condemns the human rights violations being committed by autocrat Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But the resolution has been held up for more than four months by Rand Paul, R-Ky., as Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., revealed last week.

Public opinion and foreign policy (Manal Abdul Azis, The Egyptian Gazette)
Erdogan’s visit to Egypt was timely, reflecting the real wisdom of a noted politician that wished to convey a clear message to the world in general and the US and Israel in particular. Its content was that Turkey would stand by the side of post-revolution Egypt to restore the country’s leading position in the region so that they could work together to form a strong front changing the image of the Middle East. All of the Egyptian people and the government should be committed to this concept. Post-revolution Egypt should follow in the steps of Turkey in having a strong economy, grounded in well established industry, agriculture and tourism, to enable it to acquire a strong position on the world map and so enjoy an independent political vision, similar to that of Turkey.

Runaway Spending on War Contractors (The New York Times)
Tales of waste, fraud and mayhem by private contractors have been commonplace during 10 years of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now a Congressional study commission has put a “conservative” estimate on waste of between $31 billion and $60 billion in the $206 billion paid to contractors since the start of the two wars. Excessive reliance on badly supervised private contractors indulging “vast amounts of spending for no benefit” is the heart of the problem, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan panel established by Congress, which conducted the three-year study.