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Archive for Americas

Newsline: American Citizen Says He Was Denied Refuge in Hong Kong’s U.S. Consulate

An American citizen facing prosecution related to his participation in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong said he was turned away after seeking protection at the U.S. consulate in the city. “I am running out of options,” said the man, Ansen Wong, a 20-year-old student-turned-activist. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-citizen-says-he-was-turned-away-after-seekingrefugein-u-s-consulate-in-hong-kong-11604863457) Mr. Wong was convicted this year on a charge of taking part in illicit protests in Hong Kong.

Newsline: Hillary Clinton under consideration for Biden’s U.N. ambassador

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s transition team is reportedly considering installing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as his administration’s ambassador to the United Nations. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a person familiar with the matter said Clinton was “being discussed” as a potential pick because it would purportedly raise the prestige and standing of the U.S. after President Trump’s time in office. (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-administration-hillary-clinton-for-u-n-ambassador) News of Clinton’s potential nomination came as Biden attempted to alter world leaders’ perceptions of the U.S. in foreign relations. “I’m letting them know that America is back. We’re going to be back in the game,” he said. Clinton famously lost her 2016 presidential bid against Trump and has become a lightning rod for criticism of the left. During the campaign, she testified before Congress over her role in the 2011 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That incident has stuck with her as a prominent point line of attack among critics.

Newsline: US ambassador to Denmark makes Twitter claim about own vote

The United States Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands has been criticised for tweeting a claim that her own vote had not been counted in the country’s general election. Earlier this week, Sands posted on her personal Twitter account a screenshot which she claimed showed her absentee ballot in the state of Pennsylvania had not been registered. (https://www.thelocal.dk/20201112/us-ambassador-to-denmark-makes-false-twitter-claim-about-own-vote) Absentee or mail-in votes in the state can be tracked using the voter’s name, date of birth and the county they voted in. All of this information for Sands is public. Several other Twitter users – as well as the New York Times – then looked up Sands’ vote on the Pennsylvania state government website and found it was indeed registered, on October 15th. It is unclear when the information on Sands’ vote would have been updated to Pennsylvania’s election website. Sands, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, has made several Twitter posts since the US election in support of Trump’s claims of election fraud. The NYT writes that the US State Department did not respond to its request for comment after the paper sent press officers screen shots of both Sands’ tweets and the Pennsylvania election website showing her vote was counted. Danish broadcaster TV2 said it was unable to reach Sands for comment.

Newsline: Trump’s refusal to concede leaves diplomats unclear on what to tell allies

As President Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, he has put American diplomats in an awkward and untenable position — leaving them confused about what they can say to foreign counterparts about the election results and distressed about the possibility of waning global confidence in American democracy. The State Department had not provided diplomats with guidance for how to discuss the election results as of Monday night, five US diplomats told CNN. (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/10/politics/diplomats-post-election-guidance/index.html) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further complicated the matter on Tuesday when he refused to acknowledge Biden’s win and when asked if the State Department would cooperate with Biden’s transition, said that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Two US diplomats said they had been looking forward to hearing Pompeo speak in the hope that it would give them a sense of how to discuss the election results. But Pompeo’s comments instead drew outrage and confusion from US diplomats who argue that they further undermine US credibility. “I am sick,” said one US diplomat overseas. “How dare he undermine our work.” “How can he be serious?” said another US diplomat. Traditionally, the secretary of state congratulates the President-elect and sends department-wide notes committing the department to a constructive transfer of power. In the more than 72 hours since CNN protected that Biden won the presidential election, US diplomats had asked the State Department for clarity but they have not received any guidance, four diplomats told CNN prior to Pompeo’s remarks. Without guidance from the department, America’s diplomats do not know the appropriate way to describe Biden’s victory and Trump’s allegations of fraud. Another US diplomat said that “it is Trump’s behavior that puts democracies in jeopardy.” “This is what we have spent a tremendous amount of time lecturing other countries against doing — undermining a legitimate democratic process. I wonder why they would take us seriously now,” this person said.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Pakistan Apologizes for Retweeting Anti-Trump Post

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad apologized on Wednesday after saying that its official Twitter account had been used without permission to retweet an anti-Trump post from a Pakistani opposition politician and rival of Prime Minister Imran Khan. “The U.S. Embassy Islamabad Twitter account was accessed last night without authorization,” the American diplomatic mission said in a message on Twitter. “The U.S. Embassy does not endorse the posting or retweeting of political messages,” the post added. “We apologize for any confusion that may have resulted.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/world/asia/pakistan-embassy-retweet.html) The opposition politician who was retweeted, Ahsan Iqbal, is a former federal minister who is a member of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. On Tuesday night, Mr. Iqbal posted an image of a Washington Post headline, “Trump’s defeat is a blow to world’s demagogues and dictators,” with the comment: “We have one in Pakistan too. He will be shown way out soon,” referring to Mr. Khan, the prime minister. The U.S. Embassy’s account retweeted Mr. Iqbal’s message, causing an uproar on social media in Pakistan. The hashtag #ApologiseUSembassy was trending on Twitter in the country on Wednesday, when the retweet was deleted. There was no immediate indication that the account had been hacked, but the embassy declined to comment further.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Pakistan Apologizes for Retweeting Anti-Trump Post

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad apologized on Wednesday after saying that its official Twitter account had been used without permission to retweet an anti-Trump post from a Pakistani opposition politician and rival of Prime Minister Imran Khan. “The U.S. Embassy Islamabad Twitter account was accessed last night without authorization,” the American diplomatic mission said in a message on Twitter. “The U.S. Embassy does not endorse the posting or retweeting of political messages,” the post added. “We apologize for any confusion that may have resulted.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/world/asia/pakistan-embassy-retweet.html) The opposition politician who was retweeted, Ahsan Iqbal, is a former federal minister who is a member of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. On Tuesday night, Mr. Iqbal posted an image of a Washington Post headline, “Trump’s defeat is a blow to world’s demagogues and dictators,” with the comment: “We have one in Pakistan too. He will be shown way out soon,” referring to Mr. Khan, the prime minister. The U.S. Embassy’s account retweeted Mr. Iqbal’s message, causing an uproar on social media in Pakistan. The hashtag #ApologiseUSembassy was trending on Twitter in the country on Wednesday, when the retweet was deleted. There was no immediate indication that the account had been hacked, but the embassy declined to comment further.

Newsline: U.S. Ambassadors: Who Might Stay And Who Might Go Under Biden

Come January, many U.S. diplomats overseas may be packing their bags along with President Donald Trump. All U.S. ambassadors – the envoys to nearly 200 countries and organizations, such as the United Nations, NATO and the European Union — are formally asked to send in their resignation shortly after a new president is elected. However, resignations submitted by career foreign service professionals are, as a rule, not accepted. They usually continue to serve until they complete their three-year stint. It is a different story, though, for those known as political appointees — ambassadors chosen directly by the White House. These political appointees are often assigned to “comfortable countries” in Europe, Asia, and a few in South America, said John Herbst, a retired career foreign service officer who served as ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Some could also be assigned as ambassadors to organizations like NATO and the EU. (https://www.rferl.org/a/u-s-ambassadors-who-might-stay-go-under-biden/30938395.html) “Given the way our political system works, candidates for president require thousands of political professionals whom they don’t pay, so they may say ‘debts are incurred,'” Herbst, who is now an analyst at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, told RFE/RL. The issue of political appointees received significant scrutiny in 2019, when U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland was swept up in the impeachment investigation into whether Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, now president-elect, and his son Hunter. Trump was impeached by the Democrat-led House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate in February 2020. Historically, administrations have assigned from one-quarter to one-third of the ambassador positions to political appointees, Herbst said, adding that the percentage has risen over the years. The Trump administration chose 81 political appointees, equivalent to 43 percent of the total. According to research by the American Foreign Service Association, that is the highest ratio of any administration since at least 1974, when Gerald Ford became president upon Richard Nixon’s resignation. Data prior to Ford’s presidency has not yet been compiled. The resignations of political appointees are generally accepted by the incoming administration, meaning that Biden is expected to have plenty of positions to fill at the outset of his term.

Newsline: Abbas to ask Biden to move US embassy to Tel Aviv

Following President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the US elections, the Palestinian Authority is reportedly planning on asking him to immediately move the US embassy back to Tel Aviv, i24 news reported, citing Israel Hayom. (https://www.jpost.com/us-elections/abbas-to-ask-biden-to-move-us-embassy-to-tel-aviv-report-648471) The reports cited a Palestinian Authority senior adviser named Nabil Shaath, who told the Hebrew-language newspaper that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been covertly communicating with the president-elect in an effort to go back on many of President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel policies, such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv.

Newsline: Biden’s victory to reset US foreign policy

Joe Biden’s victory, confirmed on Nov. 7, presents an opportunity to reset the White House agenda and put it on a different course. Biden will change the tone of U.S. foreign relations. The Democratic Party platform called its section on military foreign policy “renewing American leadership” and emphasized diplomacy as a “tool of first resort.” (https://theconversation.com/biden-wins-experts-on-what-it-means-for-race-relations-us-foreign-policy-and-the-supreme-court-149327) Biden seems to sincerely believe in diplomacy and is intent on repairing relations with U.S. allies that have been damaged over the last four years. Conversely, while Trump was, some say, too friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him a “terrific person,” Biden will likely take a harder line with Russia, at least rhetorically. This change in tone will also likely include rejoining some of the treaties and international agreements that the United States abandoned under the Trump administration. The most important of these include the Paris Climate Agreement, which the U.S. officially withdrew from on Nov. 4, and restoring funding to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If the U.S. is to extend the New START nuclear weapons treaty, the arms control deal with Russia due to expire in February, the incoming Biden administration would likely have to work with the outgoing administration on an extension. Biden has also signaled a willingness to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal jettisoned by Trump, if and when the Iranians return to the limits on nuclear infrastructure imposed by the agreement.

Newsline: What Lies Ahead for US Foreign Policy After the Elections?

The presidential election in the United States has, sadly enough, progressed along lines many in its run-up had feared. At the time of writing, no clear winner in a surprisingly tight race has emerged. Incumbent President Donald Trump – in an astonishing break with U.S. political traditions – falsely and prematurely declared victory and demanded that the count of mail-in ballots be stopped. Challenger former Vice President Joe Biden earlier in the evening expressed optimism that he will prevail in the end. At this point, it is quite likely that it would take days, if not weeks, for a clear winner to emerge, with the possibility of litigation and possible involvement of the U.S. Supreme Court lurking in the background. There is also fear – not quite unjustified – that the United States may face civil unrest and possible violence in the intervening period. All in all, this has been an election quite in sync with how 2020 has progressed thus far. (https://thediplomat.com/2020/11/what-lies-ahead-for-us-foreign-policy-after-the-elections/) But whatever be the eventual outcome, one thing is clear: the forces that led to Trump’s victory in 2016 – nativism, xenophobia, and ethnic nationalism – are far from being spent. In fact, the close race indicates that the Republican Party’s bet on Trump has paid off handsomely for it. Even if Biden – aided by the U.S. legal system and constitutional checks and balances – does emerge as the victor, and is sworn into office come January, the tallied effect of 2016 and 2020 will bring pause to many, both in the United States and abroad, about the long-term future political trajectory of the country and what that means for U.S. foreign policy in the long run. Increasingly, it seems Trump is not a bug but a feature of U.S. political life.