Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for June 3, 2022

Newsline: Former U.S. ambassador points finger in Qatar lobbying probe

A former high-ranking U.S. ambassador is demanding federal prosecutors explain why he’s facing criminal charges for illegal foreign lobbying on behalf of Qatar while a retired four-star general who worked with him on the effort is not. The dispute involving two Washington power players has highlighted the often-ambiguous boundaries of foreign lobbying laws as well as what prosecutors say were high-level, behind-the-scenes influence dealings with the wealthy Persian Gulf country. Richard G. Olson, former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, is scheduled to attend a plea hearing Friday on federal charges that include improperly helping Qatar influence U.S. policy in 2017 — when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the gas-rich monarchy and its neighbors over the country’s alleged ties to terror groups and other issues. Olson has argued he’s entitled to learn why prosecutors aren’t also bringing charges against someone he says he worked side by side with on Qatar: retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being tapped in late 2017 to lead the influential Brookings Institution think tank. Allen has denied ever working as a Qatari agent and said his efforts on Qatar in 2017 were motivated to prevent a war from breaking out in the Gulf that would put U.S. troops at risk. A statement from his spokesman to The Associated Press on Thursday said Allen has “voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation.” (https://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Former-U-S-ambassador-points-finger-in-Qatar-17217471.php) Olson’s lawyers said in court papers that since 2020 he has been seeking to get a lighter sentencing recommendation by extensively cooperating with prosecutors “with the express goal” of bringing charges against Allen. Olson’s lawyers said prosecutors “reiterated their belief in the strength of their case against” Allen only to apparently drop their pursuit.

Newsline: Israel prefers diplomacy on Iran but could act alone

Israel told the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Friday that it would prefer a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme but could take independent action, reiterating a long-standing veiled threat to launch preemptive war. The warning to visiting International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi followed calls by Western powers on the IAEA Board of Governors to rebuke Tehran for failing to answer questions on uranium traces at undeclared sites. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “stressed (to Grossi) the importance of the IAEA Board of Governors delivering a clear and unequivocal message to Iran in its upcoming decision”, a statement from Bennett’s office said. “While it prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, Israel reserves the right to self-defence and action against Iran to stop its nuclear programme if the international community fails to do so within the relevant time-frame,” it added without elaborating. (https://whtc.com/2022/06/03/israel-prefers-diplomacy-on-iran-but-could-act-alone-bennett-tells-iaea-chief/) That dispute has further clouded so-far fruitless attempts by negotiators to resurrect a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that former U.S. President Donald Trump quit in 2018. Since Washington’s walkout, Iran – which says its nuclear designs are peaceful – has stepped up uranium enrichment, a process that could produce fuel for bombs. There was no immediate comment from Grossi’s office. Israel’s advanced military, widely assumed to have nuclear weapons, this week signalled strategic reach by going public with an air force strike exercise over the Mediterranean Sea and the rare deployment of a naval submarine to the Red Sea.

Newsline: Kuwait says it summoned U.S. diplomat over embassy’s Pride month tweets

Kuwait’s government said it summoned a senior U.S. diplomat after the American Embassy posted a pair of tweets supporting LGBTQ+ rights in English and Arabic to mark Pride Month on Thursday. Rights for LGBTQ+ people are severely restricted in Kuwait, but the embassy tweeted that President Biden is a “champion for the human rights” of LGBTQ+ people. Kuwait’s foreign ministry said in a statement saying it had summoned Jim Holtsnider, Acting chargé d’affairs of the U.S. Embassy, about “the embassy’s publication on its social media accounts of references and tweets supporting homosexuality” and reminded him of “the obligation not to publish such tweets” and “respect the laws and regulations in force” in the state. The statement claimed the tweets violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. (https://www.axios.com/2022/06/03/kuwait-us-diplomat-embassy-pride-month-tweets) In Kuwait, sex between men specifically is punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to rights groups. Representatives for the State Department did not immediately respond to Axios’ request for comment.

Newsline: US top diplomat urges diplomacy as DR Congo tensions soar with Rwanda

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for a diplomatic solution over the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rising tensions with Rwanda as he met with Kinshasa’s top diplomat. Receiving Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula at the State Department, Blinken said the United States wanted to support “peace and security and stability in the eastern DRC, which is under some challenge.” “We want to be very supportive of important African efforts that are ongoing,” he said. (https://news.yahoo.com/blinken-urges-diplomacy-dr-congo-202954214.html) Blinken praised talks earlier this year in Kenya’s capital Nairobi between the DR Congo’s government and several rebel groups. Relations have been strained since the mass arrival in the eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Friction spiked last week with both sides trading accusations of aiding armed militias.