Year of Firsts: I’m here

And I’m staying on top of things. Yay me! If you’re new here: I made a NYE resolution to try and do one new thing a day. I try and document my new experiences on this blog. Keyword: Try.

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day but I was not fooling around. As some of you know, I was recently diagnosed with a tumour and had to have surgery to remove it. The myofibroma was in my hard palate and my doctor had to dig out a good part of my mouth, nose, sinus area. Painful indeed, but what was worrying were these boney, hard ridges that had grown on the resection site. It was painful, almost like having little knives on the roof of my mouth. Well yesterday, one of them ripped itself out of my mouth. It is so bizarre. It is sharp and difficult to break and disgusting and a mini-shank.IMG_3601.jpg

April 2nd… Today… Yay!

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My kitty has been chewing on my wires, literally killing them with his punctures. And now I’m giving these babies a go because I can’t afford to buy new wires on the regular (And I obviously want to keep my furrbaby safe.)  I hope it works.

Wish me luck.

Until next time…

Peace and Pistachios,

Heba

 

Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death

contact@ifamericansknew.org

 

 

Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.

#SupportPalestineInDC2016

U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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Protest AIPAC in DC on March 20th! Join this rally spearheaded by Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

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The Left in Israel: Zionism vs Socialism

For a presentation of Zachary Lockman’s article go here

http://prezi.com/i5ylcubkx4da/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

 

Writing the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Historical Bias and the Use of History in Political Science

For a presentation of Jonathan B. Isacoff’s article go here

http://prezi.com/wztnt5-r802z/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Transcript: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Donald Booth

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH SPECIAL ENVOY TO SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN AMBASSADOR DONALD BOOTH AND DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS IN THE BUREAU OF AFRICAN AFFAIRS DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY TODD HASKELL

TOPIC:  THE AGREEMENT ON THE RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT IN SOUTH SUDAN AND ROLLOUT OF THE YOUNG AFRICAN LEADERS INITIATIVE

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2015, 1:00 P.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center.  This is an on-the-record briefing today.  We are honored to have with us the Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Ambassador Donald Booth.  We also are lucky to have with us today the Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Todd Haskell, who will take questions at the end of this briefing on the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, which is rolling out this year today.  And that’s all I’ll say for now.  I’d like to please welcome Ambassador Donald Booth.  (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR BOOTH:  Okay.  Well, thank you.  A pleasure to be here again, UNGA week in New York.  Let me just say a few words as an introduction and happy to take questions.

On South Sudan, as you may be aware, there was a high-level event on South Sudan that the Secretary-General hosted on Tuesday morning.  And the thrust of that meeting and the thrust of what the United States has been pushing is for forward movement on implementation of the peace agreement that was signed by the parties in late August.  Since the signing of the peace agreement by the opposition and group of former detainees on the 17th of August and by the government on the 26th of August, both armed groups have ratified the agreement through their legislative assemblies.  They have issued orders for a cessation of hostilities for a ceasefire, and they have engaged in a workshop on security issues in Addis Ababa under the aegis of the IGAD mediation team.  There has been progress made in that regard. 

However, there was an interlude of an increase in fighting that happened shortly after the order for the ceasefire went out.  The United States acted in the Security Council to propose sanctioning those generals that we felt were most responsible for that uptick in fighting.  We believe that that action helped to contribute to the diminution of fighting that occurred a few days after that action was initiated.

At this point, the focus really needs to be on getting stood up the mechanisms foreseen in the peace agreement, the most critical being that of the joint monitoring and evaluation committee, the JMEC.  The IGAD is supposed to appoint the chairman of the JMEC.  We are hoping that that might happen this week.  We, again, continue to urge IGAD to move forward and do that as quickly as possible.  The JMEC will, in effect, become the locus for moving forward the implementation process.  It will then be responsible for the monitoring mechanism, which will oversee the ceasefire and the security arrangements.  It will take over from IGAD’s monitoring and verification mechanism. 

There are a number of other activities that need to be undertaken.  The peace agreement itself needs to be reconciled into the existing South Sudanese constitution through the national constitutional amendment commission.  And the parties also need to get together and begin the actual preparations for the formation of the cabinet of the transitional government. 

The security arrangements – there is the need to move forward now on the separation of forces that was discussed at the Addis workshop, the cantonment of forces by both sides, and the establishment of the joint military command center and a joint operation center that would also coordinate with the UN as well.

All of these things need to move forward.  We continue to press the parties to do so.  We will be continuing to engage the South Sudanese parties on that and as well as continuing to engage with the UN Mission in South Sudan on the role that they can play.  We are trying to move forward a resolution to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan and hope to be – that that will be accomplished in the next few days.

So that’s really the focus on South Sudan – I can just repeat it one more time – implementing the peace agreement.  That is the focus that we have. 

On Sudan, which is the other account that I have, I have – about a month ago did a visit to Khartoum, my first visit with engaging the government there since I had become envoy.  It followed on a visit that we had by then Professor Ghandour, now Foreign Minister Ghandour, to Washington in February, where we were trying to resume the dialogue and the engagement necessary to find a way to address the issues of concern to both of our countries and to address the concerns in the bilateral relationship.

From the U.S. perspective, the key message remains that Sudan needs to stop fighting its people, stop the wars in Darfur and the Two Areas and find a way to move forward toward a political accommodation that will enable Sudan, which is a diverse country, to live at peace with itself.  So that is the message we continue to press on that.  We, again, will be engaging the Sudanese here on that, trying to advance that agenda. 

So let me leave it at that and take questions from you.

QUESTION:  Vasco de Jesus, VascoPress Comunicacoes, Brazil.  I’m curious to know, you mention about the need for the constitution to be amended to accept the peace agreement.  And how far are we from that happening, if you have – you can help me?  Thank you. 

AMBASSADOR BOOTH:  The National Legislative Assembly has already ratified the peace agreement.  So now this is really a technical legal matter of areas where the peace agreement may not be consistent with the existing constitution.  For example, the peace agreement calls for the creation of the position of first vice president.  It also calls for an expansion of the legislative assembly.  So those are the types of issues that, for legal purposes, would need to be reconciled with the existing constitution.  The national constitutional amendment commission – the parties have nominated their representatives to that, but it has not actually sat down to meet.  But it should be a relatively straightforward part of the implementation of the agreement. 

QUESTION:  I had a couple questions.  My name is Ashish Pradhan.  I’m from International Crisis Group.  On South Sudan, I was wondering, you mentioned the JMEC chair position that hasn’t been filled yet.  I was wondering your views on why that hasn’t happened.

And on Sudan, you mentioned that the issue of – yeah, on the issue of the national dialogue, your views on that, and why that has or hasn’t been taken forward.

AMBASSADOR BOOTH:  Well, on the JMEC chair, the IGAD heads of state need to discuss that and come to an agreement on the candidate, because the JMEC, in the first instance, will report to IGAD.  It will also – the chair has the ability under the peace agreement to report also to the African Union Peace and Security Council and to the chairperson of the African Union as well as to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the Security Council of the United Nations.  But the first line of reporting is to be guarantors of the agreement and the guarantors are the other states of IGAD.  So as soon as the heads of state have finished their consultations and agree on that candidate, I’m sure they will move forward.  Again, we urge them to do that as quickly as possible.

I did not actually mention the national dialogue, but it is something that when President Bashir first announced the idea of a national dialogue in January of 2014, he announced a dialogue that would be inclusive, that would include the armed as well as unarmed opposition, and would address the issues of peace, the economy, and national identity.  And there was a welcoming of such a broad, inclusive national dialogue by the United States and by many other international partners.  Because the – as President Mbeki, who has now long headed the African Union’s efforts to not only to resolve outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan but also to try to find a way to resolve the conflicts in Sudan – one statement he said that there’s not a Darfur problem in Sudan, there’s a Sudan problem in Darfur.  And by that he meant that it’s the way that Sudan has been governed basically since independence with a very centralized focus that has resulted in various elements of population in the periphery of the country feeling disenfranchised, feeling not to be fully participating in the political life of the country. 

As you know, the civil war – the Anyanya I and Anyanya II that resulted ultimately in self-determination and independence for South Sudan – had gone on for the better part of 50 years, basically since independence with only about a 11-year break between 1972 and 1983.  So this idea of not just addressing cessation of hostilities from one conflict and then another conflict, but to truly get at the underlying causes of those conflicts.  And so the national dialogue was foreseen by many South Sudanese, including by the armed opposition, as a possible way forward on that. 

Unfortunately, the conditions for moving forward on that were not met.  The idea of a pre-dialogue to discuss how to move forward on a dialogue that would have raised the confidence particularly of the opposition to participate in this was not attended by the government when President Mbeki tried to convene it in March this year.

So after the elections, the government announced that they would once again resume this national dialogue.  They’re talking about doing it this month, October.  But again, there have been no actions taken that would create the conditions to bring in particularly the armed opposition but also many of the unarmed opposition into this dialogue at this point.  So we continue to encourage the government in Sudan to look at creating a conducive environment if it’s to move forward on this. 

But our focus right now is encouraging both the government, which recently announced that it would undertake a two-month cessation of hostilities, and the armed opposition, the Sudan Revolutionary Front, which recently indicated a willingness to undertake a six-month cessation of hostilities, just to get those – the government and the opposition to move forward on actually changing things on the ground, actually to stop the fighting, give that opening for negotiations to begin.  And that, I think, would be one of the best confidence-building measures that could occur, which is if there’s an absence of fighting, then the confidence to be able to go in and talk will be vastly increased.

QUESTION:  Our VOA correspondent for Sudan is not here today but submitted a question; I’m going to read that aloud:  “The State Department yesterday congratulated the AU Peace and Security Commission for releasing the report on human rights violations committed during the conflict in South Sudan.  The last time the AU said it was releasing the report, it was given only to the Government of South Sudan, and after some militating, to the opposition.  Has the report been made available to the public this time around if it has been released?  And if it has been published, is the United States satisfied that this is, indeed, a full report into what happened in South Sudan?  If not, do we know when it will be available?”  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BOOTH:  Well, we’ve welcomed the decision of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, which met at summit-level here last Saturday to release the report.  As far as I’m aware, at this very moment we have actually seen a copy of it, but they have committed that it will be released in the very near future.  So we look forward to that.  We obviously would like to read it – we have not seen it to date – and we’ll then decide, obviously, what we think of it.  We can’t prejudge what we haven’t read. 

But we believe that the report – it covers a crucial period of the conflict in South Sudan and will contribute, I think, to the work of accountability and reconciliation that is foreseen in the peace agreement, both to contribute to the work of the National Commission for Healing and Reconciliation and to the Hybrid Court which the peace agreement called for the African Union to work with Sudan to establish. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Are there any other questions? 

QUESTION:  Ambassador Booth, a quick question.  To the many people in South Sudan who may feel apathetic towards the peace process, do you have any words to the people of South Sudan regarding U.S. support and international support to the people? 

AMBASSADOR BOOTH:  The U.S. commitment has been very consistent and very strong to the people of South Sudan as they have endured this totally unnecessary and manmade conflict which has inflicted so much pain and suffering and death on many of them, created a humanitarian crisis in the country.  We have been the leading donor.  We have contributed over $1.3 billion of humanitarian assistance.  We’ve also maintained some of our development activities in areas such as health, education, and agriculture, which directly benefit people.

So the United States has stood with the people of South Sudan.  We stood with them during their long fight to achieve self-determination and independence, and we’ve stood with them through this conflict and we will continue to stand with the people of South Sudan and with those of their leaders who will commit themselves to making this peace agreement work.  It’s absolutely essential that we have the leadership of South Sudan committed to this peace agreement.  That really is going to be the peace dividend for the people of South Sudan.  It’s going to be the absence of fighting and being able to move forward once again to try to move on development of the country and to create that sense of nationhood so that, again, that diverse country can begin to move forward in peace and tranquility. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR BOOTH:  My pleasure.

MODERATOR:  (Inaudible) YALI.  Again, we have Deputy Assistant Secretary Todd Haskell here to announce the rollout of the Young African Leaders Initiative.  Thank you. 

MR HASKELL:  Thanks very much.  I mean, this is a very important day for us and we’re very excited at the State Department about it.  Today online is the – for the third time is the application for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative.  Some of you might recall that this program online has attracted literally tens of thousands of applicants over the last couple of years, and this year I think we’re going to do even better.  There’s tremendous excitement about it. 

The President has declared at the African Leaders Summit last year that the number of people participating in the Mandela Washington Fellowship this year would double from 500 as it was the last two years to a thousand this year, so it’s a much larger group.  And as President Obama has said, we’ve had many initiatives in Africa, many efforts, and some of them certainly cost a lot more than YALI.  But the President has said that this is, he believes, his most important legacy in our relationship with Africa and to the outreach to young Africans. 

So what is it and where does it come from?  I think we have to – President Obama laid out his vision for this that there is a tremendous youth bulge in Africa and that we, the United States, needed to reach out to young people in Africa.  So in order to do that, he has established a series of different initiatives within the Young African Leadership Initiative, but the flagship program is, again, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is going online today and people are beginning to apply. 

Those selected to participate in the fellowship will be brought to the United States next summer for six weeks of academic study.  They’ll be participating in America’s finest universities.  These are people between the ages of 25 and 35.  And at the end of their academic period, they’ll come to Washington and they’ll actually have a summit with, among others, President Obama, who will spend time with the leaders.  Then when they get back to Africa and their home countries, they’ll be eligible for numerous grants, professional development opportunities, possibilities of meeting with senior U.S. officials visiting the region, the ability to travel in the region and meet with other fellows. 

And I’ve actually just come back from the region traveling through, and as I always do whenever I travel in the region – and the same is frankly true of Secretary Kerry, it’s true of Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, and it’s true of the President on his last trip – we always make an effort to meet with the YALI fellows in the countries we visit to see how they’re doing. 

And it’s really an amazing and inspiring group.  When I was just there I talked to folks who were starting businesses that were employing other young people, acting as mentors for other young people.  They’ve formed NGOs to fight gender violence.  I would note that in the Ebola-affected countries at the center of the U.S. (inaudible) efforts to battle Ebola, the YALI fellows stepped up in each of those three countries and played really important roles.  So this is the beginning, I think, of an outreach by the U.S. Government to the young people of Africa, who, frankly, are the majority of Africans right now, and an effort to establish a channel of communication with which we can work to them and bring about positive change in the future in Africa. 

So I would urge young people across Africa.  The website is YALI, Y-A-L-I.state.gov.  Go there. Please start your application.  The application closes November 11th.  This is – as so many of the fellows have told me, this is a life-changing opportunity, the opportunity to attend our finest university, meet with senior U.S. Government officials, have the opportunity to apply for different grants and professional development opportunities, a real opportunity to move forward and take your country and your continent with you in partnership with the United States.

Thank you very much.  I am happy to take any questions if you have them.  Okay.

QUESTION:  I’m Vasco de Jesus with Press Communications Brazil.  It is great to hear and I commend the American Government for this initiative.  And I’m wondering, has the United States done anything such as big and revolutionary towards the youth anywhere else?

MR HASKELL:  In fact, there has been such a tremendous response to YALI – which was the Young African Leadership Initiative – the White House, in conjunction with the State Department and USAID, have actually looked at doing it in other places.  So we actually have a program, and I’m sorry if I’m going to go all acronym on you, but there is – for Southeast Asia we have YSEALI now, which is starting out, but it’s the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative.  And then actually in Latin America as well we are looking at the somewhat unfortunate acronym, YLAI, which is, I believe, Y-L-A-I, Young Latin American Initiative, yes?  Those – YALI is definitely the leader because it’s been going for three years, and frankly, has – the President has pushed a lot of resources.  But we’re looking at youth outreach around the world.  It’s definitely – I mean, it’s almost a cliche.  But obviously the youth are our future, and it’s where our relationships have to be.

Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.

MR HASKELL:  Great.

# # #

TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security

 

 

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH JOHN P. CARLIN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

TOPIC:  UPDATE ON U.S. GOVERNMENT COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015, 4:30 P.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center.  This is an on-the-record briefing on Department of Justice measures to combat violent extremism with Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin.  We’re very pleased to host him today.  I would like to ask, after his initial remarks we’ll go to Q&A, and please wait for the microphone and please identify yourself. 

Thank you.  Mr. Carlin.

MR CARLIN:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  At the Department of Justice, the National Security Division was the first new litigating division created in about 50 years.  And we were created in 2006 as one of the post-9/11 reforms.  And our number one mission, simply, is to prevent terrorist attacks here inside the United States.  And our mission, first and foremost, when it comes to ISIL is to prevent attacks against U.S. citizens here in the United States and abroad.  And we work in coordination with our law enforcement intelligence community partners and with countries around the world to ensure that we can disrupt terrorist actors before they commit those acts. 

This is a good week with UNGA in town and the Global Counterterrorist Forum to take a step back and talk a little bit less about our efforts to protect U.S. citizens and more about our responsibilities as global partners to prevent terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world.  We have a fundamental responsibility to prevent ISIL from having U.S. citizens join ISIL in its campaign to rape, to commit sexual slavery, and to murder innocent civilians, including children, as tactics.  And so together last year, when I was here in New York for these same events, we worked on the UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which was an unprecedented mandatory resolution for every country around the world to work to put laws on the books to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from their country from going to join the fight and also to make – take steps to keep them from returning to commit terrorist attacks once they left the battleground in Iraq or Syria. 

Since that resolution last year, we commend the over 20 nations that since last year have put new laws on the books that are specifically designed to combat the support for these foreign terrorist organizations either through actual citizens from their countries or from providing material or financial support.  And among those since last year, over three dozen nations have taken law enforcement actions, have arrested individuals before they could go join these foreign terrorist organizations. 

At the Justice Department we’ve provided assistance both in the legislation and as some countries try using these statutes for the first time.  And we’ve sent our prosecutors over the last year on countless trips to work hand-in-hand with foreign partners all over the world as they draft these new laws. 

We also house and support Interpol.  And since last year, when there was a commitment by countries at this very event – and in conjunction with 2178 and also with the Global Counterterrorism Forum that consists of over 30 countries, there was a new commitment to provide information to Interpol, which we house and support.  And since last year, that has resulted in six times the amount of information being shared, approximately 4,000 new profiles on foreign terrorist fighters, from over 45 countries.

And we recognize, to talk a little bit about what we face in the United States versus other countries as they face this foreign terrorist fighter threat, although the overall number some put at 25,000 or 30,000 individuals – and that’s higher than what we saw even at the height of the conflict in Afghanistan and the FATA – that when it comes to the numbers that are from the United States, our numbers are lower, particularly even compared to our Western partners.  And we have about – we estimate around 250 U.S. citizens who have either attempted to or gone over to fight or who have gone over and returned.  That number also includes those we’ve arrested.

Since about last year, we’ve brought criminal cases against 70 individuals.  Sixty of those individuals, it was for conduct related to either supporting foreign terrorist fighters or attempting to join the group.  The other 10 is a trend that we’ve started to see here in the United States since ISIL changed its tactics and called on individuals to commit terrorist attacks where they live, particularly in Western countries.  We have over 10 criminal cases brought to date of individuals inspired by ISIL or other terrorist groups to commit attacks here in the United States.  So between the 60 who wanted to join the foreign terrorist fighter groups and the 10 who wanted to commit attacks here in the United States, that’s how we have over 70 cases.

In terms of trends inside the United States, in almost every case social media is involved.  Unlike some other countries, we’re not seeing it in any particular geographic part of the United States nor confined to any ethnic group.  The FBI currently has open investigations in all 50 states, and we have brought criminal cases in 25 different jurisdictions to date across the United States, so places that have not traditionally confronted a foreign terrorist threat.

Consistent with the fact that this is a social media-driven threat here, in over 50 percent of the cases the defendants are 25 years or younger, and in over a third of the cases they are 21 years or younger.  And for us in confronting the terrorist threat, that is different than the demographic we saw who went to support core al-Qaida in the Afghanistan FATA region. 

I think what you’ll hear tomorrow under the President of the United States leadership is the summit that he’s convening of countries throughout the world – over 60 countries – dedicated to combating this terrorist threat.  And what you’ll see is a focus – in addition to the efforts that I’ve talked about to date, the law enforcement criminal justice efforts – is a focus on efforts to prevent it from ever reaching the law enforcement system in the first place.  And that means working on countering the message and propaganda that ISIL uses to draw recruits from our communities, and it means exposing ISIL for what it really is and not what it pretends to be.

They put out images of child soldiers handing out candy to children, but in reality they’re a group that beheads and kills Muslims and non-Muslims alike with equal impunity, that rapes and sells women and children into sexual slavery, and that deliberately looks to destroy the cultural heritage of the countries in which it resides.  So a law enforcement response is essential, and we need to continue the progress that we’ve made since last year’s resolution.  But it also can only be part of the answer, and others need to dissuade would-be foreign fighters from joining ISIL in the first place. 

You’ll see the attorney general of the United States convene a first-of-its-kind Safe Cities Forum tomorrow as well that will consist of mayors across the United States but also from other countries across the world, because fundamentally to dissuade individuals in the first instance from joining these types of groups is going to require local-level, community-driven engagement.  And so I think tomorrow’s forum, the Safe Cities Forum, is going to work and introduce mayors to each other so they can talk about best practices at keeping these individuals from ever going down the path of radicalization.

I will stop there and open it up for questions.

QUESTION:   Hajime Matsuura, Japan, Sankei’s columnist here based in New York.  A question about the most – the breakdown of the social media ISIL is using.  Do you have the breakdown of which social media is popular and how you’re working with the host of or owners of the social medias?

 

MR CARLIN:  So when it comes to social media, I think you see ISIL use pretty much every available service that they can find, and they target people according to who uses the service.  So – and it’s different depending on which country that you’re in, although it is a global problem.  So here in the United States, we’re seeing it with those who are using sites that are frequented by English-language speakers or are popular in the United States.  And that really ranges through the most familiar names, be it Twitter to Facebook to YouTube videos. 

And what they do is they blast out these often slickly produced propagandistic messages using the same type of techniques that Madison Avenue advertisers use to put out images like handing out candy to children, or they’ll have an ISIL soldier in the caliphate with a kitten in one hand and a gun in the other and they’ll say, “Come join the caliphate.”  They bombard the internet with thousands and thousands of these messages a day, and the number of people who respond to them is a tiny, tiny percentage of those who they reach with that message, but it only takes a very small number from each country to either prevent – present a terrorist threat our home country, but also to reach the numbers that they’re reaching of getting people to join the fight when you’re talking about having that message reach 100 different countries.

So to the extent they’re able to get people who are language or cultural experts, then they will use those individuals who have joined ISIL already to target a particular country or audience.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  Diego Senior from Caracol Radio in Colombia.  I know you’re focusing on ISIL, but this is a question that I have to ask, and it’s about a terrorist organization – deemed terrorist organization by the U.S. Government in Colombia.  And they just reached this peace accord – not a complete peace accord, but one regarding transitional justice in our country.  I’m wondering what the strategy from your department or from wherever within the Justice Department is capable of doing.  What are you guys doing or thinking to do facing terrorism – that terrorism threat which it might stop be or at some point – when will you stop calling them terrorists since they’re going to give in their weapons?

MR CARLIN:  So I’ll describe generally.  In the American legal system, the model that we’ve used to confront the international terrorist threat is using a statute called the material support to terrorism statute.  As we’ve discussed, as countries around the world are putting new statutes on their books, this is one model that they’ve – that some countries have elected to follow.  And what it hinges upon is there’s a formal process for the designation of a group or an individual as an international terrorist organization, and then the criminal consequences of that designation follow.  So to the extent that there is an armistice, what would be the key for those of us in the prosecution and law enforcement community would be whether or not they remove the FARC as a designated terrorist organization as part of the reconciliation process, and so we’ll wait and see what occurs in that regard. 

And obviously, long-term, and this includes ISIL, the endgame – we need to use law enforcement and prosecution as a tool to prevent these terrorist attacks from occurring, but we recognize that the long-term solution is one that requires the participation of states and local governments to prevent these groups from existing in the first place, and that’s what success looks like.  And that’s why I think you’ll see the President tomorrow emphasize the need to combat violent extremism and the attorney general at the Safe Cities event talk to mayors about getting rid of those root causes to that these groups don’t exist in the first instance.

MODERATOR:  We have a question from Washington.  Washington, please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My name is Anatoly Bochinin, TASS News Agency, Russia.  Sir, as you said today, this ISIL problem affects many countries – also Russia.  So my question is:  Do you cooperate with Russian security services?  And are you going to work with this new informational center in Baghdad which will be established these days?  Thank you.

MR CARLIN:  So I’ll say that generally, that the FBI has partnerships with law enforcement agencies throughout the world, and some countries have made a real dedicated push to share intelligence or law enforcement information regarding the terrorist threat.  Some countries have work to do in that regard, but it’s going to take a partnership when it comes to combating these foreign terrorist organizations.  And we’ve seen improvements, like I discussed in terms of INTERPOL and sharing information about terrorist identities, or since last year, with a dedicated focus on this, the number of terrorist identities has increased six times.  We have 4,000 identities into that system. 

It needs to improve further, and we hope it will.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Harriet Alexander from The Telegraph.  You spoke about the 250 estimated citizens who’ve gone or attempted to go, and those against which you’ve got criminal cases.  I wondered if you’d talk a little bit more about the backgrounds of those people, just generally, because – I ask because in Europe, we find that an awful lot of people who are going to join these organizations have already got criminal records and have previously spent time specifically in prison.  That was very much the case in France with the Paris attacks and with the Toulouse attacks.  And I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about any de-radicalization programs that you may have in prisons.

MR CARLIN:  That’s a good question, Harriet.  So I’d say in terms of the trends that what we’ve seen is there isn’t a particular profile other than the common factors that I discussed, which is, one, in almost every case there’s some connection to social media; and two, the general demographic trending young.  And as you can imagine, as it trends younger and younger, these are not people with long criminal histories inside the United States.  And although we remain very much vigilant and concerned about the issue of prison radicalization and what occurs to individuals when they are released, that has not comprised currently the majority of the cases that we’ve seen.

What we are seeing is with this new focus on targeting the young or the unstable, that you’ll – they’ll attract individuals who you would not necessarily think of as being ISIL adherents but end up getting – going down the process of radicalization after being exposed through one of these general social media sites.  And then what they do often is once they have someone on the hook, if you will, they end up in direct communication in some of these cases – so the terrorist overseas is in direct communication with the young person or troubled person here, personally walking them down the path towards radicalization using social media.  And this is new, I know, for the United Kingdom, having talked to counterparts there, and for the United States.  In terms of a trend, I think both our countries together are struggling on new approaches to combat what is a new strategy or tactic by the terrorist group.

It is different than – although we still remain concerned, and al-Qaida still has the intent to commit the large-scale spectacular attack against a Western target, as does al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Nusrah, the al-Qaida franchise in the Syria region.  So we remain concerned and need to disrupt that large-scale spectacular attack, but this new tactic of urging people to commit the attack, even small-scale, immediately – we use the expression sometimes “the short flash to bang,” which is social media-driven, which means if you think about a fuse of dynamite, the time between when you light the fuse and when the dynamite explodes is very, very short.  That’s a hard problem for the intelligence community and law enforcement to crack and really is going to rely on partnerships.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Justin Fishel with ABC.  I have two quick questions.  The first is about the migration issue and the refugee crisis.  As you know, the U.S. wants to bring in 85,000 refugees from Syria next year, and there are some sort of opposing views about whether this – there’s risks associated with this and risks of ISIL infiltration.  So what’s your assessment of that risk and plan to combat it?  Then I have one more other question.

MR CARLIN:  Look, our job in the law enforcement/intelligence community is to see what the decision is by policymakers to try to accommodate those who are in a terrible situation and who are facing unbelievable brutality, both by the regime and by ISIL.  And whatever decision is made, then we need to work and apply the resources to make sure that the terrorist groups don’t try to take advantage of a humanitarian gesture to get individuals predisposed to commit terrorist attacks either into Europe or the United States.  And we’ve faced that sort of challenge before and we’ll apply the resources necessary to combat it.

QUESTION:  Okay.  My last question, more a domestic politics issue.  Your division of the Justice Department is overseeing the email review, and the one piece of clarification I think – and one of the things that got really confused throughout this whole thing was why this is not a criminal probe but the – there are federal – there are people like yourselves involved in it, so how is it that it is not criminal?  That’s something that I think a lot of people are confused about, and I apologize to my colleagues for the domestic nature of this question.

MR CARLIN:  Well, I’m going to stick to the foreign press questions for this event.

QUESTION:  I’m Sajidu Haque from Bangladeshi television channel.  Do you think Bangladesh fall in high risk in near future?  Because some existing terrorist group like ISIL and al-Qaida, they are all in Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Pakistan, India fall in high risk.

MR CARLIN:  I’m sorry, I didn’t fully catch the question.

QUESTION:  Do you think near future, Bangladesh fall in high risk for terrorism – in terrorism?

MR CARLIN:  Oh, do I – do I think that there’s a high risk of terrorism occurring in Bangladesh?

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR CARLIN:  I confess to not being an expert in terms of what the risks are of terrorist attacks occurring inside Bangladesh.  I’d say more generally, as we’ we’ve seen, this is a phenomenon that has already crossed in an unprecedented way.  It has foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries.  I believe Bangladesh is one of those 100 countries.  And there is a concern, certainly, if any citizen goes over to fight with one of those foreign terrorist groups, what happens when they return armed, trained on how to commit attacks, and spending a long time being steeped in this ideology?  So in that sense there’s a concern that cuts across all of these countries.

And the other issue would be the same social media phenomenon of individuals who stay at home and are contacted by this terrorist group and are encouraged to commit, if they can’t travel, terrorist acts where they live. 

QUESTION:  Vasco Jesus, VascoPress Communications, Brazil.  (Inaudible.)  Is there any sharing of information, collaboration, between the Government of Brazil and United States, your department, concerning the threat of international terrorism?  I ask you this because next year – well, Brazil doesn’t have a history of international terrorism on its borders, but next year Brazil is hosting the Summer Games, and our neighbor Argentina in the ‘90s had two huge cases – the AMIA case and the bombing of the Israeli consulate.  I would like you to comment on those, thank you.

MR CARLIN:  I’d say prior to each of the last Olympics – and this is the world in which we live now – I know that we have offered assistance, including the sharing of information, primarily through the channel of the FBI and law-enforcement-to-law-enforcement channels but also in others, to help protect not only our own citizens participating in the Games but to help protect the Games themselves.  And I know we have extended and will extend similar outreach to Brazil and look forward to working as appropriate with their authorities to help protect the Games.

QUESTION:  So far?

MR CARLIN:  I’d have to refer you probably over to FBI or other avenues to talk about current efforts to date. 

QUESTION:  Sorry, me again.  Can I just ask for a bit more information about this Safe Cities Forum?  So what actually do you think will come out of that?  I mean, is that just a talking shop where people are going to be exchanging ideas, or do you think that there’ll be concrete policies and agreements resulting from that?

MR CARLIN:  I think it is both.  It is, one, to make sure to focus individuals’ attention on this issue and to make sure that they – there’s a channel for community-to-community engagement.  But I also think they hope to, if not at that forum, to kick it off into smaller sessions to develop best practices similar to the type of best practices we’ve developed through the Global Combating Terrorist Forum that led to resolutions like encouraging the changes in – certain changes in the criminal code, like protecting classified information and figuring out a way to do that while preserving due process or undercover operations.  That’s been the type of best practice produced in my space, in the space of a group focused on criminal prosecutions.  I think for the mayors, they’re hoping when it comes to combating violent extremism that similarly there may be some community-based, local-oriented best practices for cities to take into account when they’re developing their own programs as to how to keep people from going down this path in the first instance. 

QUESTION:  Alexey Osipov from Israeli Novosti.  Most of the international media and of course politicians are politically correct; they call terrorism as at least international, but for sure 99 percent of terrorism have specific religion or specific nationality.  In your department, in your office, do you use the words like “Islamic terrorist,” anti-Israel terrorism, Palestinian terrorism, et cetera?

MR CARLIN:  So for us as lawyers under our statutes, we have the full remit for the prosecution of terrorist cases.  When it comes to international terrorism, the statute that we use, as I was describing earlier, is based on whether or not the particular group is designated as an international terrorist group.  So it keys off identifying that group and then if you provide any support – financial, even yourself to support to the group – you fall within our criminal laws.  So I wouldn’t – I don’t indict a religion or a nationality, but the name of the designated terrorist group will – will be in the indictment. 

For our domestic terrorism groups, those without an international connection, there is not a similar statute in U.S. law.  There’s a definition of terrorism that works as a sentencing enhancement and for certain evidentiary purposes, but usually what we’re charging will be the actual criminal conduct, because many times under our system – and this is different than most countries throughout the world – because of the First Amendment and our dedication to free speech and free expression and the way it plays out in our legal system, in many instances talking the talk, if you will, in support of these groups is not sufficient for a criminal charge.  You have to show some type of overt act in furtherance of a violation of a criminal statute. 

QUESTION:  Me again.  For domestic enforcement, sort of ethnic or racial profiling has been an issue under scrutiny.  How about your stance with this regard?  And is there any possibility that you’re using that kind of screening? 

MR CARLIN:  So you cannot profile an individual based on their – or target an individual and use legal tools against an individual based on their – solely upon their First Amendment-protected rights under our guidelines.  And as I said, when it comes to who that profile would be, at least with our current version of the ISIL terrorist threat, what we’re seeing is a threat that cuts across all 50 states, where we’ve currently brought criminal cases in over 25 different jurisdictions and where there’s little in common between the 70 individuals who are currently charged other than their – some connection to social media and being connected to one of these groups. 

And so I think we do need to look for – this is a lesson even in the criminal realm – but is to make parents, community members aware of what could be going on with their friend or neighbor when they’re on social media, because it’s new for a lot of parents that they’re facing this type of threat, and look for those signs which both law enforcement but also community organizations are putting out of someone who’s started down this path of radicalization. 

According to one study of cases that did end up in the criminal justice system, in 80 percent of those cases there was someone who saw that process of radicalization occurring, and in over half of those cases they did not take a step to intervene.  So if we can improve those numbers and have people in the community take steps to intervene, hopefully we can reduce the number of people that ever enter the criminal system.

MODERATOR:  We are out of time.  I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there.  Thank you very much.

MR CARLIN:  Thank you.

# # #

TRANSCRIPT: Press Call on Upcoming UNGA Events

 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                       September 24, 2015

 

 

PRESS CALL

BY BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS;

STEVE POMPER, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR MULTILATERAL AFFAIRS;

AND CELESTE WALLANDER, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR RUSSIA

ON THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

Via Telephone

 

5:06 P.M. EDT

 

     MR. PRICE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  And thanks for joining the call.  We wanted to convene this call to preview next week’s activities at the U.N. General Assembly up in New York City. 

 

     First ground rule, this call is on the record.  It is embargoed until the conclusion of the call, so we would ask you not tweet or otherwise use this material until the call concludes.

 

     We have three senior administration officials on today’s call.  First we have Ben Rhodes; he’s the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.  We have Steve Pomper; he is the National Security Council Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs.  And we have Celeste Wallander; she’s the National Security Council Senior Director for Russia. 

 

     So, again, this call is on the record and embargoed until its conclusion.  And I will turn it over to Ben to start.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  I’ll just say a few opening comments and go through some of the main elements of the President’s schedule at the U.N., and then Steve can talk through a number of the summits that we’re hosting or participating in.  And Celeste can talk through the bilat with President Putin of Russia.

 

     First of all, every year at the U.N it’s an opportunity for us to try to address global crises, but also to make progress on an affirmative agenda.  And this year is, of course, no different.  There have been some very noteworthy, positive developments since last year’s session.  For instance, last year the President had to convene an emergency session to deal with the spread of Ebola.  The collective action that came out of that effort successfully stopped the spread of Ebola, and now we are working hard to try to stamp it out while also building a broader architecture of global health security.

 

     Last year we were in the midst of the Iranian nuclear negotiations.  This year we clearly will have an opportunity to mark on the global stage the progress that has come with the nuclear deal, which is set to be implemented and will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

 

     The President goes to the U.N. focused on a number of affirmative priorities that are represented in this schedule.  Our commitment to development and the goal of eradicating extreme poverty is going to be on display as we attend the Sustainable Development Goals Summit meeting.  The President’s commitment to build capacity around international peacekeeping, which has been a priority of ours at the United Nations, will be on display at the summit he’s convening. 

 

Importantly, climate change will be a focus at the United Nations this year.  This has been a core priority of the President’s, at home and abroad.  It’s been a priority of the Secretary General.  And this session at the U.N. is an important opportunity for nations to come together once more before the Paris discussions at the conclusion of the year where we’re aiming to reach a global agreement to combat climate change.

 

     Of course, we will have to be addressing some very significant global challenges.  Certainly, the counter-ISIL efforts, which was a focus last year, will continue to be a focus this year given the summit the President is convening.  And it relates to both the situation in Iraq and Syria, and our efforts to combat ISIL, and also the humanitarian challenges that are emanating from the region will certainly be a topic this year.

 

     And the situation in Ukraine continues to be of significant concern, and our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine will be front and center throughout our discussions, particularly with President Putin.

 

     So with that as a backdrop, let me just go through the schedule, and turn it over to my colleagues to go into more detail.

 

     The President will arrive on Sunday afternoon, and the first thing he will be doing is giving remarks at the Closing Session of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  This is the world’s commitment to embrace a set of sustainable development goals that hold out extraordinary promise for lifting people out of poverty and promoting the type of development that, again, will lead to not just better standards of living for individuals, but broader and shared economic growth and good governance.  And Steve can speak to that.  That’s the main element of his agenda on Sunday at the United Nations.

 

     On Monday morning the President will address the United Nations General Assembly.  Again, this will be an opportunity for him to review the progress that’s been made over the course of the last year while addressing a range of global challenges.  And he will be making the case about the type of leadership that is needed to build on the progress that’s been made, but also to confront the very real challenges we face.  And I’d be happy to take any additional questions around the speech.

 

     Following his address, he will be having a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi of India.  This will give the two leaders an opportunity to build on the discussions they had earlier this year during the President’s historic trip to India.  We are deeply committed to strengthening the U.S.-Indian relationship, building our economic and commercial ties, advancing our political and security cooperation in Asia and around the world.  Notably, India will be critical to a successful global effort to combat climate change, so the two leaders will certainly address their shared vision of how to approach the upcoming meetings in Paris.

 

     Following the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi, the President will attend, as he does every year, the lunch that is hosted by the Secretary General for the leaders.  And he’ll have an opportunity to have brief meetings, as he does every year, with the U.N. Secretary General and the President of the U.N. General Assembly.

 

     Then the President will convene a summit on peacekeeping, which again has been a priority for us at the United Nations.  Steve will speak to that in more detail.  Following the summit on peacekeeping, the President will have his bilateral meeting with President Putin of Russia.  And I’ll let Celeste describe the agenda for that.  And then that evening, the President will host his traditional reception for the leaders who are attending the U.N. General Assembly.

 

     On Tuesday, the main event on the President’s schedule is a summit that we are convening that is focused on countering ISIL and combating violent extremism.  This builds on the meeting the President chaired last year — the Security Council focused on this issue — and brings together our broad counter-ISIL coalition and other partners committed to combating terrorism and countering violent extremism.

 

     I’ll stop there.  I would just note we expect that there will be additional bilateral meetings that may be scheduled in the coming days, so we will keep you updated as that comes together.

 

     But I’ll turn it over to Steve now to go through the summit.

 

     MR. POMPER:  Hi.  So thanks for joining us on this call.  And some of what I say will be a little bit reiterative of what Ben has already mentioned, but I’ll try and give a little bit more detail, and then leave plenty of time for questions.

 

     So this is the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ founding, and it’s the kickoff, therefore, to the U.N. General Assembly’s 70th session.

 

And high-level week — which is what this is — it’s always a busy time for the diplomatic community, but particularly so in the 10-year anniversaries, which are really a particular focal point for the world leaders to come in and hone in on the challenges facing the international community and to plot a course for the future.  And really, that’s a consistent theme that unites the three major leader summits that President Obama will be participating in.

 

So Ben has already alluded to them, but I’ll just highlight a few details with respect to each of them.  So on Sunday, he’ll be speaking at the Secretary General’s Summit on Sustainable Development Goals, which are also known in shorthand as the SDGs.  The adoption of these goals marks the culmination of a multiyear process where the international community has come together and thought through I think the 17 goals that are going to organize its work on development for the next 15 years.

 

The last set of goals, the Millennium Development Goals, are timing out.  Those goals really did galvanize international action on a host of issues, including reducing the global share of people living on very, very small amounts of money every day, helping to achieve gender parity in primary school enrollment, reducing rates of child mortality, et cetera.  So these are really very important organizing principles for the international community’s work on development, and the President’s participation in this even demonstrates a commitment to the agenda and our sense that its implementation will both bolster, frankly, international peace and stability, and promote inclusive economic development and American values all around the world.  So we’ve very excited to be able to participate in that event.

 

On Monday, the President will be co-hosting a summit on U.N. peacekeeping with Secretary General Ban and eight other co-hosts.  Now, U.N. peacekeeping has been — never been, I should say, more stretched or more important than it is to international peace and security right now.  I believe there are probably 100,000 troops deployed around the world under U.N. blue helmets in something like 16 missions.  It’s a critical tool for the advancement of both U.S. security and humanitarian interests, and we have a very strong interest in seeing this system sort of strengthened as we sort of face the future.

 

Last year, Vice President Biden co-hosted the summit where participants were invited to make concrete pledges in support of a more modern, nimble and capable U.N. peacekeeping architecture.  And this year’s summit is the culmination of a years’ worth of efforts, in the meantime, to generate very concrete commitments towards those ends. 

 

We expect to hear very significant pledges, some from states that will be returning to U.N. peacekeeping in important ways after years of essentially non-participation.  And we also anticipate this will be a forum for states to support reform initiatives recommended by a high-level panel appointed by the Secretary General that will also help gird this instrument for the future.

 

The final big multilateral event in which the President will participate will be on Tuesday.  It’s an event focused on countering ISIL, and, more broadly, on countering violent extremism and on the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.  This summit will focus not only on counter-ISIL coalition efforts, but, more broadly, on what the international community is doing to counter violent extremism a year after the President chaired a Security Council summit that produced a resolution on countering foreign fighters.  And we’re going to be looking at how implementation of that resolution has been going and what more we can be doing as an international community to counter that threat.

 

So really, this is an event that’s about addressing a broad spectrum of issues relating to the terrorism threat at every stage in its life cycle.  And the summit will include leaders and other officials from governments and other multilateral organization, and also, importantly, partners in civil society who are critical to the countering violent extremism effort.

 

I think that’s all I’m going to say about the summits right now.  Maybe it’s time to turn it over to Celeste.

 

MS. WALLANDER:  Thanks, Steve.  Thanks, Ben and Ned.  So as we confirmed today, there is a bilat between President Obama and President Putin scheduled for Monday.  The two agenda items that we will focus on in that summit are the continuing situation in Ukraine, and, of course, the new issues raised by Russia’s involvement in Syria.

 

On Ukraine, this moment comes at a particularly opportune time.  The implementation of all of the elements of the Minsk Agreement, which were signed by President Putin and President Poroshenko, Chancellor Merkel, and President Hollande back in February, are coming to a critical turning point in October.  Ukraine has scheduled local elections for October 25th, and it remains insufficiently clear that Russia is committed to implementing its obligations under the Minsk Agreement, which is to support a local election that is consistent with Ukrainian law and that will be overseen by the international community — that is, specifically, the OSCE and its particular election-monitoring agency, ODIHR.

 

     So this is an opportunity for President Obama to make crystal-clear to President Putin that the United States supports full implementation of the Minsk Agreement; fully supports the diplomacy of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande in advancing implementation; and make clear our expectations that Russia, and President Putin in particular, fully lives up to the commitments that Russia overtook in signing that implementation agreement back in February. 

 

Those elections are critical because they unlock the opportunity to implement all the other elements of that Minsk Implementation Agreement, including the special status for regions of eastern Ukraine, constitutional reforms that have made their way to the Ukrainian Rada, and then eventually to get, before the end of the year, to Russia’s commitment to fully withdraw its military forces and return control of the international border — the Ukrainian-Russian international border back to the Ukrainian government.

 

     So October is really important, and the opportunity to speak to President Putin directly is something that President Obama will embrace in this bilat.

 

     The second issue that the Presidents will discuss will be  — Russia has now announced clear military involvement in Syria, which goes beyond the assistance and the training that Russia has noted that it has been involved in for years in Syria, and has now involved the direct Russian military presence in Syria  — which we’ve talked about in other for a, but I can talk about in more specificity if needed.

 

     And in particular, President Obama will seek to understand what Russian government means when it states that it is enhancing or increasing its military involvement in Syria in order to support efforts to counter ISIL — because the United States certainly would welcome a constructive Russian contribution to counter ISIL — so the meeting is an opportunity to understand whether and how President Putin can see the Russian involvement and increased military presence might lead to that objective, and to make clear, of course, our longstanding policy and strongly held view that the only resolution to a conflict in Syria which allows us to tackle the problem of ISIL obviously involves a political transition of the Syrian regime — and that remains as key to the successful resolution of the challenge of ISIL in Syria as any other element that the Russians may bring to bear in terms of a new military presence.

 

     So let me leave it there.

 

     Q    Celeste, you mentioned a few of the other conversations that have happened between the U.S. and Russia.  And I’m wondering if there were any assurances or any more clarity that what Russia is doing there is not going to be enormously destabilizing or destructive to the situation as it stands.

 

     And secondly, a year after we heard the President’s resolution on foreign fighters, we’re hearing from military leaders that the flow continues as it has been.  As soon as you get rid of them, more pour in.  So is there going to be an effort to kind of realign or change the effort in that respect? 

 

     Thanks a lot.

 

     MR. RHODES:  So I’ll take the second question, Michelle, then I’ll turn it over to Celeste.

 

     First of all, I think we have seen progress over the course of the last year.  There have been significant efforts to work with dozens of countries to share more information about the flow of foreign fighters to align some of our laws and authorities that relate to stopping the flow of foreign fighters to address the challenge on the border between Turkey and Syria.  So nations have taken concrete steps to enhance their own capabilities in this space and we have been able to disrupt some of the foreign fighter flows. 

 

And, frankly, we’ve seen some progress in recent weeks as Syrian Kurds have been able to take territory along that Turkish border that was previously used by ISIL to move fighters into Syria.  That said, you are absolutely right that there continues to be a challenge of foreign fighters going to Syria and then potentially leaving the battlefield and returning to countries where they might conduct attacks. 

 

That’s part of the reason why the agenda for the summit is broader than just the foreign fighter issues.  So, for instance, we’re going to be focused on efforts to counter violent extremism.  This gets at what are respective countries doing to counter the ISIL ideology — which is the attraction, in part, that draws people to Syria — just as we’ll have an opportunity to update our efforts on the military side in degrading the ISIL safe haven in Syria. 

 

So the purpose of the summit is to look across all these different elements of the challenge — how are we using our military to go after ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq; how are we using our various authorities and capabilities, and sharing information to stop the flow of foreign fighters; and also how are we getting at the ideology that has been an attraction for some people to go to Syria.

 

Clearly there’s much more work to be done.  This is going to a long-term effort.  The counter-ISIL campaign is going to be measured in years.  But what we do have is a significant coalition of countries that are seized with this threat and that are enhancing their capabilities, and that are joining with us in this effort.  And I’d note, for instance, importantly, that Prime Minister of Abadi of Iraq will be attending that summit given the challenge he faces in his country.

 

But I’ll stop there and turn it over to Celeste.

 

MS. WALLANDER:  On assurances, we haven’t gotten any specific assurances in the conversations that have taken place so far with Russian officials.  The Russian public narrative has been very focused on the argument that the way to counter ISIL is to work with the Assad regime.  President Putin gave a speech just this week where he made that argument.  And this has certainly been one of the themes that Foreign Minister Lavrov has consistently advanced.

 

We think they got this backwards.  We think that one of the reasons why ISIL has taken hold and been able to attract support and gain recruits is because of the actions of the Assad regime.  So there’s clearly a difference of views in that regard.  And right now, that difference of views tends to take place — at least coming from the Russian side — in public rhetoric and speeches.  So this is an opportunity for the Presidents to talk directly about this very key issue face-to-face and one-on-one.

 

     Q    Hi, Ben.  Can you give us any indication whether President Obama might meet with President Rouhani, if there has been an overture to the Iranians, if the Iranians are giving you any indication whether they’re willing to meet, whether it’s in a bilat or in a broader setting at the reception?

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Robin.  We currently don’t have any plans for a meeting with President Rouhani, and we’re really not expecting one. 

 

     Secretary Kerry I’m sure will have the opportunity to have discussions with Foreign Minister Zarif.  That has been our effective and direct channel of communication with the Iranians on a host of different issues.  And I’m sure there will be other activities among foreign ministers who are engaged in the P5+1 discussions.

 

     Our general approach to this in the past has been that the President is willing to engage President Rouhani if it can make constructive progress.  Back in 2013, they did not meet but they spoke on the phone.  And that was an important moment because that was the initiation of the public discussions devoted to the P5+1 process that ultimately resulted in the nuclear deal.  So they had a clear purpose for that engagement at that time to try to catalyze those negotiations.

 

     So again, we don’t expect a meeting at this session.  We do expect engagement with the Iranians, however, through Secretary Kerry, of course.  And I’d also note that some our key allies who share many of our interests and concerns as it relates to regional issues regularly engage President Rouhani.  And so we’ll have the opportunity to follow up with them as they have those discussions.

 

     Q    Hi, everyone.  Thanks for doing the call.  I was hoping that you could talk in a little bit more detail about the climate summit on Sunday.  Are you looking at specific deliverables, pressure on sort of non-players to step up their game ahead of Paris?  Do you think there will be any announcements or conclusions out of there?  And also can you talk a little bit about what the Vice President’s role this year will be at UNGA, whether he and the President will be doing something jointly and/or whether he’ll be doing some things on his own?  Thanks.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Margaret.  So in terms of the Secretary General’s event on Sunday, President Obama won’t be attending the climate discussions.  He’ll be attending the SDG summit.  However, we very much welcome the Secretary General’s focus on climate change.

 

     And what we want to get out of the discussions in New York is a sense of momentum for a successful outcome in Paris.  Many nations have made commitments in terms of their emissions reductions targets, in terms of their contributions to Green Climate Fund, in terms of various steps that can be taken to phase out the use of fossil fuels, but some countries have been more forthcoming than others.  So I think, first and foremost, we welcome the Secretary General’s effort to catalyze further action from all nations — major economies and developing countries — around this challenge.  And we see the U.N. this year as a key milestone on the pathway to Paris.

 

     Now, in terms of what President Obama will be focused on, first and foremost, of course, we’ve done significant amount of work on the domestic side with respect to the Climate Action Plan to ensure that we are going into Paris with very concrete steps that we’re prepared to take to support a successful outcome.  But we’ve also spent a lot of time — and I can tell you in his diplomatic engagements this year, climate has been front and center.  So in terms of how I think this plays out, you heard Pope Francis here at the White House the other day issue a very strong call on the United States and the nations of the world to confront climate change. 

 

You then will have President Xi Jinping of China here tonight and tomorrow.  Climate change will be high on the agenda in that bilateral meeting.  As the two biggest emitters of the world, the leadership shown by the U.S. and China heading into the U.N. session and the meetings in Paris will be critical to a successful outcome.  So after the breakthrough last year in terms of the United States and China both announcing targets in terms of emissions reductions, we’ll have an opportunity to put some additional meat on the bones in the discussions over the next two days about the commitments the United States and China will be taking into Paris.

 

     So I think what you can see very clearly is the moral authority of the Pope behind global efforts to combat climate change, the leadership of the Secretary General in making this at the top of the U.N.’s agenda at this moment in time, the leadership of the two largest emitters in the world coming together to support aggressive action to reduce emissions and have a successful agreement in Paris.  And then the President’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi will be very important because India, of course, is also another major economy — major emitter and we’ll want to continue the discussions that we had in India about what Prime Minister Modi is prepared to do to support successful international action against climate change. 

 

     So this will feature in the President’s diplomacy.  It will feature in his remarks certainly.  And I think taken together, all of those different elements provide very strong momentum towards Paris and, frankly, puts pressure on countries to step up and make some meaningful commitments.

 

     I don’t know, Steve, if you have anything to add on that.

 

     Next question.

 

     Q    Ben, can you just talk a little bit more about the priorities that the President will lay out going forward?  You already said that he is going to talk about some of the accomplishments, but what do you see as a couple key things that he is going to emphasize with this?  And also, how significant in the big picture of the attendance of Raul Castro is as well as his speech — can you put that into some perspective for us?  Thanks.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, I always appreciate Cuba questions, Chris.  I think it’s very significant.  This is Raul Castro’s first time at UNGA.  It comes on the heels of the United States and Cuba establishing diplomatic relations earlier this summer, and on the heels of Pope Francis traveling to both Cuba and the United States on this trip of his.  I think it’s a symbol that things have changed and that the United States’ approach to Cuba has changed. 

 

And one thing that you can be sure of is that the nations of the world overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, support the President’s policy.  One of the many things that was wrong with our Cuba policy is that it was succeeding only in isolating ourselves.  It was a major irritant in the hemisphere, but even around the world, frankly, we did not have any support for a policy of embargo and isolation that was only failing to improve the life of the Cuban people.

 

     So I think, symbolically, it’s important that President Castro is coming to the U.N. General Assembly.  I think it’s a symbol that we’re in a new era.  I think that the world will welcome the steps that President Obama has taken, and we see this as a way to unlock positive cooperation particularly in our hemisphere, but also around the world.

 

     Now, we’ll have differences, and particularly with respect to human rights, we have been very clear with Cuba that we’ll continue to raise those differences.  But we also believe that the best way to advance our interests and our values in Cuba is to open it.

 

     I’d expect that the President will have some opportunity to see President Castro at some point during the days that we’re there.  So we’ll certainly keep you updated on any interaction that they may have.

 

     On the question about the President’s speech, first and foremost, I think the President made clear time and again at the U.N. the necessity of an effective international system that can solve problems and advance collective action and burden-sharing.  So when you look at our affirmative agenda in the world, so much of it depends upon building coalitions and advancing collective action. 

 

     So, with respect to climate change, we need all of the nations of the world to step up and be a part of the solution.  With respect to peacekeeping that can help resolve conflicts and advance stability, the concrete contributions that we are seeking with other countries to U.N. peacekeeping missions will help make us more secure and help make the world more secure.

 

     With respect to development, we have the opportunity to promote global health security in ways that can prevent pandemic that could threaten us and save countless lives around the world just as we have the opportunity to lift many people out of poverty in the coming years.

 

So there’s a set of affirmative items I think the President will be speaking to.  He’ll also be underscoring the importance, however, of there being a rules-based approach to solving problems.  Now, some of that is on the firmer side, as well; the Transpacific Trade Partnership that we’re pursuing aims to establish rules of the road that apply to trade that opens markets, but also protects workers and the environment.

 

But when we look at conflict, the President will certainly be focused on the situation in Syria and Iraq, and he’ll be focused on the situation in Ukraine.  And there, too, I think our focus is going to be on the fact that there has to be a cost for a nation like Russia that is violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and that cost has been imposed through sanctions, even as we’re focused on and have a preference for diplomacy in resolving that crisis.

 

At the same time, in Syria, even as we have an aggressive military effort underway against ISIL, the only lasting resolution to that challenge is for there to be a political settlement, as well. 

 

So I were to say there’s a common thread between (inaudible) and diplomacy.  Diplomacy has borne significant fruit this year with the Iran deal, with the Cuba opening, with the advances on the TPP negotiations.  Diplomacy is necessary to bring about a conclusion, or at least a political resolution, as it relates to the situation in Syria.  Diplomacy is necessary to resolving the tensions in Ukraine.  But diplomacy has to be backed by teeth, and, in some cases, that’s force, as we’re using against ISIL.  In some cases that’s sanctions, as we’re using against Russia. 

 

But in all cases, I think the case the President will be making to the world is we need to remain invested in an international order that can solve problems and hold people accountable when they break the rules.

 

Q    Hi.  Thanks a ton for doing the call.  My question is for Celeste.  The administration has repeatedly said that Russia’s intentions in Syria remain unclear.  I was wondering if there’s been any update, if you could provide more clarity as to what Russia is perhaps up to in Syria, and if not, why is it still unclear?  Thanks a ton.

 

MS. WALLANDER:  Thanks.  As I tried to indicate earlier, we have a lot of public statements from Russian officials, senior Russian officials — including President Putin himself — about what he argues is necessary to successfully counter ISIL.  Since that argument doesn’t fit with our understanding of what’s necessary to counter ISIL, it doesn’t really hold water as far as we’re concerned, we’re going to use the opportunity to talk to President Putin and understand what he means by that, and make clear what we think is necessary to successfully counter ISIL, and test whether Russia’s efforts to basically deal itself in to a counter-ISIL effort will yield a constructive approach.

 

     So there’s a lot of talk, and now it’s time for clarity and for Russia to come clear — come clean and come clear on just exactly how it proposes to be a constructive contributor to what is already an ongoing multi-nation coalition. 

 

     So, no, I’m not going to — that’s a question for President Putin, and it’s a question we’ll be posing to President Putin.

 

     MR. RHODES:  Let me add just very quickly in addition to the current military deployments that we see, President Putin had reached out and initiated a phone call with President Obama earlier this year to discuss his concerns about the situation in Syria and to discuss the potential for a political resolution.

 

     Now, we continue to have very serious differences with the Russian government about the nature of the Syrian government that would emerge from that political resolution.  We believe Bashar al-Assad will have to leave power as a part of any durable solution given that he has lost the legitimacy with his own people.  Russia is continuing to support Assad.

 

     But again, even as we have this discussion about the very specific issue related to military deployments, I think we will want to be discussing, what are the prospects for advancing a political resolution?  And clearly any successful political resolution would have to benefit from the support of Russia and the United States and the countries in the region, and of course, importantly, the Syrian people.  So the political element will be discussed as well as the military.

 

     Q    Thank you.  It seems like it’s been a real long time before the President and Putin have met face to face.  Can you explain policy-wise what seems to be a shift away from a position of isolation, particularly a shift that’s happening when Russia is only escalating its intervention in Syria?  And is the President going to walk into that meeting with any new clarity or any new elements to the U.S. position in Syria?

 

     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Margaret.  Well, you’re absolutely right.  It has been some time since they had a bilateral encounter.  We canceled the summit that had been planned in Russia for a variety of reasons.  And we have not had bilateral discussions.

 

     They have seen each other at global summits like the G20, and had conversations on the sidelines of those summits, but frankly, given the situation in Ukraine, we wanted to make very clear that Russia was going to pay a cost for its actions in terms of not being isolated from groups like the G8, which is now the G7, and in terms of the sanctions we’ve imposed.

 

     All that said, at every juncture we said that we remain open to engagement if it can make progress.  They’ve spoken on the phone a number of times.  I think — to your question very specifically — given both the situation in Ukraine and the critical juncture that we’re at there, and the situation in Syria, it would be irresponsible to not have a face-to-face encounter and to not directly address with President Putin our positions and concerns on these two issues.

 

     I should also add that President Obama was urged to have this meeting with President Putin by some of our closest European allies who thought it would be constructive in the context of Minsk for him to hear directly from us as well as them about the importance of following through on the Minsk agreement.  So this is something that we’re doing with respect to Ukraine very much in coordination with our European allies who have taken the lead on many elements of the diplomacy with Russia, even as we’ve of course led with them in imposing consequences on Russia for its actions.

 

     I think with respect to Syria we’ll be making — the President will have the opportunity to make clear to President Putin that we share the determination to counter ISIL, that we welcome constructive contributions to counter ISIL.  But at the same time, we believe that one of the principal motivating factors for people who are fighting with ISIL is the Assad regime.  And its zero justification, obviously, for the horrific extremism we’ve seen in Syria, it’s simply a pragmatic fact that if there is a political transition in which Assad leaves then, frankly, we have the opportunity to better focus on going after ISIL because there will be a better political context in the country to do so.

 

     So I think that both — as I said, both the military and the political components will be discussed, and the key question, right, is how do those two converge.  And how do you have both a successful counterterrorism effort against ISIL alongside a political resolution that can ultimately restore some semblance of stability to Syria.

 

Q    Thank you.  Ben, quick question regarding the conversation that Secretary Kerry will have with Foreign Minister Zarif.  As you said, if there is nothing to be happening between two leaders, what do you expect to get out of that now that the deal is in the implementation phase other than the nuclear deal?  Are you hoping — are you seeing signals that the Iranians are more willing to talk about Syria?  Or is that — we know there’s going to be that bilateral on Saturday, then the P5+1 will have another one on Monday evening.  What do you expect to get out of that?

 

MR. RHODES:  Well, I don’t want to speak too much for Secretary Kerry.  I’ll just say a couple of things.  Number one, I think it is important to discuss implementation of the Iran deal.  We are nearing adoption day, at which point Iran will have to take — or begin to take its significant nuclear steps.  And in terms of how that implementation goes forward, it’s always important to have direct communication among the P5+1 and with the Iranians, because there are significant moving parts associated with Iran’s nuclear steps, the institution of the verification regime, and then, after Iran completes its key steps, the provision of our sanctions relief.

 

I think, secondly, we always raise with the Iranians the detained Americans.  And so I’m certain that there will be a clear message about our continued and grave concerns about the ongoing detention of Americans in Iran. 

 

With respect to regional issues, as we’ve made clear throughout the debate over the Iran deal here, we continue to have significant differences and concerns about Iranian destabilizing activities in the region — whether it’s in Syria or Iraq or Yemen, or threats to Israel.  In the past, issues like Yemen and Syria have come up in these discussions.  At times, Foreign Minister Zarif in his public comments has suggested a desire to play a constructive role with respect to regional challenges, but we have not seen actions from Iran that follow through on that.  So, for instance, with respect to Syria, again, their ongoing support for the Assad regime is what — is part of what is fueling this conflict. 

 

So I would imagine that regional issues may come up, but again, our position has been to underscore our concern with destabilizing Iranian activities.  And again, we’d have to see in actions, not just words, that Iran, after this nuclear deal, is prepared to move in a more constructive and less-destabilizing direction on these issues.

 

Q    Yes, hi.  Thanks for doing the call.  You’ve insisted on the fact that Mr. Putin is the one who asked for the meeting at the U.N., but what kind of interaction are you — can you expect?  Do you believe — does the President believe that Vladimir Putin can be trusted or that he can be a partner in Syria? 

 

MR. RHODES:  The Russians requested the meeting.  President Obama, like I said, believes that it would be wrong to not engage at this critical time given the pressing issues.

 

     I think our approach with respect to trust is one of watching deeds, as well as listening to words.  With respect to Ukraine, what Russia says publicly has often not matched what the world has seen happening — whether it’s the provision of arms to separatists or other activities.  So look, we would be measuring the outcome of this meeting not just by the nature of their discussion by what follows. 

 

     The one thing I would say is even as we’ve had these differences — and very significant ones — on Ukraine and Syria, Russia was a very constructive partner in the P5+1 process.  They very much were united with the P5+1 and insisting on a good deal.  So it does demonstrate that we can have sustained cooperation on critical global issues even as we have very significant differences.  And we would not want to deny ourselves the ability to have that cooperation because of our differences on important issues.

 

     So again, that’s a demonstration of the fact that we will follow these things in deeds, not words.  And Ukraine, the deeds have rarely matched the words.  But in the Iranian nuclear issue, Russia did follow through on its commitments and played a constructive role.

 

     Q    Yes, thank you.  Thanks for having the call.  I’m just wondering about the meeting with Raul Castro.  Are you trying to set up a bilat?  Are you thinking they might run into each other in the hall?  How hard are you guys pushing that?

 

     MR. RHODES:  I don’t know that they’ll have time for an extended bilat.  I would just expect that they’ll be able to see each other at some point over the course of the several days.  They’ll be both at the U.N. I expect on Monday and perhaps Tuesday morning. 

 

     So I think that they’d just look for an opportunity to exchange some words.  But we’ll keep you posted if anything is scheduled.  What I would say is that they spoke on the phone in advance of the Pope’s visit to Cuba and the United States.   They were able to note the — and speak the first time since the establishment of diplomatic relations.  Note that there are areas where we are working to cooperate constructively — whether it’s on counter narcotics, counterterrorism, the provision of health assistance in Haiti, which we just did jointly with Cuban medical professionals — while also continuing to have very real differences from our standpoint with respect to the human rights of the Cuban people.  From their side, certainly issues like Guantanamo come up.  So I think they’ll have some opportunity to speak with one another and continue this process of normalization.

 

     And I think the message to the world — and it will be very powerful that the United States has turned the page on a failed policy, that we’re willing to pursue our interests and values through engagement.  And I believe that will be very welcome here in the hemisphere and around the world.

 

     And one opportunity for me to note that one area where there’s been U.S. and Cuban involvement is in the Colombian peace process, where Cuba has hosted discussions between the Colombian government — a close stalwart, ally, and security partner of the United States — and the FARC.  And we’ve had an envoy who has been able to participate in those talks and we just had a significant breakthrough.  That’s separate and apart from our bilateral normalization process, but I think it shows that we’re committed to broader efforts in the hemisphere to solve problems.

 

     All right, thanks, everybody, for getting on the call.  And we’ll keep you updated as any other bilateral meetings are scheduled.  I wouldn’t anticipate there being many, but there may be one or two so we’ll keep you posted in the coming days.

 

                        END                 5:57 P.M. EDT

 

 

 

 

 

—–

Allegations of Chemical Weapons Use in Sarmin, Syria

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 STATEMENT BY SECRETARY KERRY

March 19, 2015

Allegations of Chemical Weapons Use in Sarmin, Syria

The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that the Assad regime used chlorine as a weapon again, this time on March 16 in an attack on the town of Sarmin.  We are looking very closely into this matter and considering next steps.  While we cannot yet confirm details, if true, this would be only the latest tragic example of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people, which the entire international community must condemn.

What is clear is that the Assad regime continues to flout international standards and norms, including, if these latest allegations are verified, the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The international community cannot turn a blind eye to such barbarism.  As has been well documented, the Assad regime continues to terrorize the people of Syria through indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder, and starvation.  The Assad regime must be held accountable for such atrocious behavior.

A chemical weapons attack through the use of chlorine would not only be the latest example of the regime’s brutality towards the Syrian people, but also a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2209, which specifically condemned the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria and made clear such a violation would have consequences.  Any and all credible allegations of chemical weapons use, including the use of toxic industrial chemicals, must be investigated, and we continue to support the OPCW Fact Finding Mission in its continuing critical mission.

The Assad regime’s horrifying pattern of using chlorine as a chemical weapon against the Syrian people underscores the importance of investigating this allegation as quickly as possible, holding those who perpetrated such abhorrent acts in violation of international law accountable, and continuing to support the complete elimination chemical weapons in this volatile region.

###

MENA Internship – Summer/Fall 2015: Search For Common Ground

JOB DETAILS:

Organisation: Search For Common Ground

Deadline Sat, 28 Mar 2015

Job type: Volunteer

Location: United States

The Organization

Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is an international non-profit organization that promotes peaceful resolution of conflict. With headquarters in Washington, DC and a European office in Brussels, Belgium, SFCG’s mission is to transform how individuals, organizations, and governments deal with conflict – away from adversarial approaches and toward cooperative solutions. SFCG seeks to help conflicting parties understand their differences and act on their commonalities. With a total of approximately 600 staff worldwide, SFCG implements projects in 35 countries, including in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.  The organization is an exciting and rewarding place to work, with a dedicated and enthusiastic staff who love their work.  You will be joining a highly motivated staff with a good team spirit and there will be opportunities to grow in the role.

Summary of Position

Search for Common Ground seeks a professional, motivated, and creative intern to join the Middle East – North Africa regional team. Based in Washington, DC, the intern will provide support to SFCG’s offices and programs in MENA, including Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, and Jerusalem. Duties of this internship will contribute to the development of programs for sustainable peace and conflict transformation in the MENA region, and will give interns an opportunity to practice high-level, professional skills.

Interns must be available to work 24-40 hours per week. This internship is unpaid. We are looking for an intern to begin mid-May 2015. Interns must commit to at least 3 months, but preference will be given to those who can continue through Fall 2015.

Responsibilities:

  • Assisting with grant proposal development for country and regional programs.
  • Researching contextual information to enhance program design.
  • Editing reports from country offices for language and fluidity.
  • Assisting with donor reports and other communications.
  • Maintaining the MENA team’s communications strategy, including compiling updates from country offices, revamping website content, and creating visibility pieces for social media.
  • Collaborating with other departments to share MENA expertise.
  • Provide front desk back-up support through greeting visitors, answering calls and receiving packages during the receptionist’s lunch hour. (For this service you will remunerated if eligible to work in the US.)
  • Planning travel and meeting logistics
  • Performing other supportive duties as needed.
  • Perform French and/or Arabic translations if possible.

As job descriptions cannot be exhaustive, the position-holder may be required to undertake other duties that are broadly in line with the above key responsibilities.

Required Qualifications:

  • BA or MA (completed or in progress) in international relations, conflict resolution, Middle East studies, international development, or a related field.
  • Excellent writing, editing, and communication skills in English.
  • Computer proficiency.
  • Interest in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
  • Familiarity with the MENA region.
  • Ability to maintain professionalism, creativity, and enthusiasm while working in a fast-paced, multi-cultural environment with minimal supervision.
  • Self-starter, able to work independently, and willing to take on tasks small and large.
  • Prior international or cross-cultural experience.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Ability to write and translate in French and/or Arabic preferred.

Salary: This internship is unpaid.

To Apply:

Please submit a (1) resume, (2) cover letter, and (3) writing sample (400-600 words: NO MORE) through our online application system at https://sfcg.bamboohr.com/jobs/view.php?id=219. This should be combined into 1 document and all uploaded into the “resume” space in the online system. Please follow this instruction. In the cover letter, besides highlighting your qualifications, please include the dates you will be available, the number of hours per week you are able to commit, and your goals for the internship. Submission deadline is March 28, 2015. 

Readout of President Obama’s Video Conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and European Council President Donald Tusk

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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 3, 2015

 

Readout of President Obama’s Video Conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and European Council President Donald Tusk

 

President Obama today spoke about Ukraine with his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom as well as European Council President Tusk.  They reaffirmed their support for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine as expressed in the Implementation Plan agreed to on February 12 and the Minsk agreements signed in September 2014.  They condemned the attack on Debaltseve by Russia and the separatists it backs that immediately followed and violated the February 12 Minsk Implementation Plan.  The leaders called on all parties to cease all military action, cooperate with the OSCE so that its monitors can verify a full pull back of heavy weapons, and complete the exchange of all prisoners.  They emphasized their support for the OSCE and the need for its monitors to have full and unfettered access to the entire area of conflict, and they discussed ways to strengthen OSCE monitoring activities.  The leaders expressed their hope for the successful and complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and agreed that the easing of current sanctions would be linked to the full implementation of these agreements.  They also affirmed their determination to act quickly and in unison to impose significant additional costs, if serious violations of the Minsk agreements occur or if Russian-backed separatists seek to gain new territory.  The leaders welcomed the Ukrainian parliament’s passage of an ambitious package of reforms and reiterated their commitment to work alongside international partners to provide Ukraine with the financial assistance it needs to stabilize its economy.  They also discussed the continuing violence in Libya and the terrorist threat from ISIL and agreed on the need to consult further on ways to address this threat and support a political resolution of the conflict in Libya.

A photograph of President Obama speaking with the leaders can be found HERE.