Top Headlines

February 28, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Who’s in the News

Wolf, Activists Urge Administration to Increase Pressure on Sudan (Emily Cadei, CQ) (Subscription required, document attached)

Sudan activists called on the Obama administration to mobilize a more muscular response to the humanitarian crisis building in southeastern Sudan at a Capitol Hill press briefing on Monday.

House appropriator Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., who was joined by the leaders of several aid groups working in the region, said that while “there are a lot of things happening” on Sudan policy, “I think at the highest level the president’s going to have to get directly involved.”  Much of the foreign-policy community in Washington has been focused on the violence and human rights violations that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is committing in Syria. However Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir could well end up with more blood on his hands in the current assault.  “We have half a million people facing starvation,” warned Tom Andrews, a former congressman from Maine who now heads United to End Genocide, a non-profit that advocates for humanitarian interventions to prevent mass human rights violations. “The President of the United States and the Secretary of State have to personally stand up and call upon [Bashir] to lift this blockade and to allow humanitarian aid and food in,” he said.

Smart Power

The end of poverty: Is America in it to win it? (Gregory Adams, MFAN)

The Obama administration has been forcefully arguing why our investment in fighting global poverty is so important to the United States’ core interests. The President’s FY’13 budget request explicitly links foreign affairs funding to efforts to advance “the security of the American people, the prosperity and trade that creates American jobs, and support for universal values around the world.” And Congress seems to be agreeing; last year, Congress eventually voted to maintain U.S. spending to fight global poverty.  I say “eventually” because, at the beginning of last year, some Members of Congress wanted to eliminate all international affairs spending. Some called for cuts to prove their commitment to cutting the deficit—despite the fact that, at only one percent of the budget, cutting all foreign aid wouldn’t even dent the deficit. Others wanted to cut foreign aid because they don’t think the problems of other countries are actually important to U.S. interests. Meanwhile, those cuts would put America at risk, and pull the rug out from under the very people who are trying to fix problems like poverty, hunger, and human rights abuses that cause problems for us here at home.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Why the U.S. should reverse course on Iraq (Danielle Pletka and and Gary Schmitt, Washington Post)

Far from distancing ourselves from Iraq, we should draw it, and its Shiite prime minister, closer still. Iraq could be the linchpin of a new U.S. strategy for the Middle East at a time when one is desperately needed. After the military exited, U.S. officials quickly decided that Iraq was too unstable for a full, continuing engagement with its government.  As Sunni gulf nations look with growing concern toward Iran, they must be convinced that supporting Iraq’s government and empowering Maliki against Iranian predations and Sunni extremists is in their vital interest. Americans, working in concert with Iraq’s neighbors, including Turkey and countries along the gulf, must fight diplomatically and economically to retain the territory that was won militarily. None of this will be easy. But with so much of the Muslim world in turmoil, the last thing we need is to compound that turmoil by turning our backs on Iraq.

U.S. Should Hold Off on Cutting Aid to Egypt, Arming Syrian Rebels (Sara Sorcher, National Journal)

Even though Congress is fuming over Egypt’s decision to prosecute American civil-society workers in its courts, two-thirds of National Journal‘s National Security Insiders said the United States should not yet cut off aid to the country.  Egypt’s planned trial of dozens of nonprofit workers—at least 16 of whom are American—for allegedly accepting illegal foreign funds and stirring unrest in the country sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill. If Egypt goes ahead with the prosecution of personnel from prominent Washington-based groups like the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, including the son of a U.S. Cabinet member, the virtually sacrosanct package of U.S. military aid could be in real jeopardy for the first time in three decades.  Yet Insiders were wary of severing the aid package. “Cutting off aid means losing Egypt. We can reduce aid; we can seek other forms of pressure. But a total cutoff will backfire,” one Insider said. Another added: “Our interests in Egypt are bigger than these Americans facing trial.”