The United States will sign the international Arms Trade Treaty on Wednesday, agreeing to the accord to stem the flow of weapons to human rights violators and conflict zones, over the strong opposition of the U.S. gun lobby, according to a senior State Department official.
The treaty, to be signed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry on behalf of President Obama, requires countries to put in place a system for keeping track of transfers of conventional weapons, from battle tanks and warships to small arms, and to ensure they are not sold to countries that are under international arms embargoes, that promote genocide or war crimes, or that might use them against protected civilians.
The National Rifle Association has said the treaty will be used to regulate civilian weapons and to create an “unacceptable” registry of civilian firearms purchasers.
The administration disagrees. The main purpose of the treaty is to “stem the international, illegal and illicit trade in conventional weapons that benefits terrorists and rogue agents,” said the official, who was authorized to anonymously announce the planned signing.
The treaty will go into effect once it is signed and ratified by at least 50 U.N. member states. The United States will be the 89th country to sign the treaty, which was adopted in a 153 to 3 vote, with 20 abstentions, in April.
Although the treaty, the first to regulate the $70 billion annual arms trade, is considered historic, the names behind those numbers indicate why its implementation will be difficult.
Syria, North Korea and Iran, the three countries that voted against it, are all under international arms sanctions. The 20 abstentions included Russia and China, the world’s largest arms exporters along with the United States. Russia is Syria’s main arms supplier, China is North Korea’s, and North Korea itself is a weapons exporter.
Only four countries have ratified the treaty — Iceland, Nigeria, Guyana and the Caribbean island state of Antigua and Barbuda. U.S. ratification requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, where many Republicans and some Democrats are strongly opposed, and the administration is unlikely to submit it in the near future.
h/t: Washington Post
Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday said the U.S. and Russia had reached a deal outlining how the international community plans to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
Syria must hand over a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week to ensure their elimination in the “soonest and safest manner,” Kerry said during a press conference Saturday. The Assad regime must also allow United Nations inspectors on the ground no later than November.
“There can be no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime,” Kerry said.
If Syria fails to comply, the Assad regime could then face punitive action from the UN Security Council, Kerry said.
The U.S. secretary of state ended three days of talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva Saturday to outline the scope of Syria’s chemical weapon draw down. While pointing out the many differences that separate the U.S. from Russia, an ally to Syria, Kerry said the two countries agreed on the size of Syria’s stockpiles.
“We have no illusions about the challenges ahead,” Kerry said.
Talks of diplomacy broke through in recent days after the Obama administration lobbied Congress, the international community, and the American people for over a week to support a military strike against Syria. However, after what appeared to be off-the-cuff remarks from Kerry suggesting that the Assad regime should simply hand over its chemical arsenal to the international community, Russia agreed to set a political solution into motion.
In his weekly address recorded prior to the deal in Geneva, President Obama argued that the threat of U.S. military action triggered the diplomacy talks.
“Since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime,” Obama said in his weekly address.
U.S. officials accuse the Assad regime of carrying out a chemical weapons attack on its own people Aug. 21, killing over 1,400 people, including more than 400 children.
The international community said it would await UN inspectors’ preliminary reports from the region before agreeing to take military action forward. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was confident Friday that his agency’s report will confirm that chemical weapons were in fact used in the Aug. 21 attack. The report is expected Monday.
The Senate this afternoon overwhelmingly voted in favor of approving John Kerry’s nomination to become Secretary of State, with only three Senators — Cruz (R-TX), Cornyn (R-TX), and Inhofe (R-OK) — voting against their colleague. Earlier today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee moved forward Kerry to the full Senate unanimously, reflecting the relative ease that Kerry has had in ascending to Obama’s second term cabinet.
Kerry has spent the last twenty-eight years in the Senate representing Massachusetts, all of them serving on the Foreign Relations committee, the last four as Chairman. The closeness inforeign policy vision that he shares with the Obama administration made Kerry one of the most likely choices to take the reins of State for the next four years. The ties between the two during Kerry’s chairman ship was close enough that former Sen. Gary Hart once called Kerry effectively “the congressional secretary of state.”
Kerry is the first of the President’s nominees to be confirmed following his inaugural. Kerry and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been speaking “almost daily” to prepare him to move into the 7th floor office in Foggy Bottom. Secretary Clinton will be stepping down following her last day on the job, Friday, Feb. 1.
Starting then, Kerry will have a full diplomatic plate, including pending negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, managing a rising China, limiting fallout from the Arab Spring in the Middle East, and advancing international action on climate change. In meeting these challenges, Kerry will find himself working closely with his replacement as Chairman on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
H/T: Think Progress
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been admitted to a New York hospital after the discovery of a blood clot stemming from the concussion she sustained earlier this month.
Clinton was admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital so doctors can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours.
WASHINGTON — An investigation into the State Department’s preparations for and management of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, has concluded that “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies” within the department played a major role in the devastation that took place there last September.
Four Americans were killed in the overnight raid on the compound, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The ensuing controversy over the incident, and the administration’s handling of it, threatened to derail President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign through the fall.
The new report, by an independent Accountability Review Board established by the State Department, concluded that two bureaus at the department — Near East Affairs and Diplomacy Security — failed to properly recognize the rising dangers of Eastern Libya despite the lack of any specific threats, and neglected the growing concerns of security analysts on the ground about the capabilities of the local Libyan guard force.
The result, the report said, was a “security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”
But while the unclassified version of the report, which was released Tuesday night, is undeniably harsh in its analysis of the State Department’s management ahead of the attack, it also appears to undermine a number of the more outlandish charges made during the heat of the uproar this fall.
For instance, while many figures — led, in large part, by the news analysts at Fox News — suggested that the administration had opted to watch the crisis unfold rather than send military reinforcements, the report found “no evidence of undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington.”
Many critics of the administration had raised question about why a team of specially trained military operators had been dispatched to an airfield in Italy but not, apparently, sent to help fend off the attack.
Another accusation rebutted by the report was the notion that senior-level officials had in some way refused to permit CIA operatives working out of a nearby annex to travel to the main compound to assist in repelling the attack.
That detail, first reported by Fox News, was not correct, the report said.
Instead, a “team leader” at the annex had “decided on his own” to delay leaving the facility briefly to see if local security elements would arrive with reinforcements. After “a brief delay,” and determining that they would not, the team leader made the decision to move some units toward the compound, the report said.
It is also not clear from the report if the attackers of the compound were aware that Ambassador Stevens was there on the night of the attack, or if he was their target.
The night before the attack, the report notes, local media turned up at an event that the embassy had believed to be an undisclosed meeting with the Benghazi City Council, meaning that at least some people in town were aware of Stevens’ visit.
The report also upholds much of the basic outline of the course of events on the ground in Benghazi as described by the State Department in a briefing for reporters that took place almost a month after the attack, and adds some striking details of bravery.
And while the report does not focus on the more heated controversy about how the Obama administration opted to share information with the public about the raid, it does make clear that the initial claim that the attack was simply an outgrowth of a larger protest is not correct. There was no protest outside the compound, the report states.
In a letter accompanying the release of the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her department was accepting all 24 of the report’s recommendations.
I knew what the #TCOT morons have been saying about Benghazi was just lies and myths and was also a power play of trickery to attempt to get Scott Brown back in the Senate.
h/t: Huffington Post
President Barack Obama has chosen U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to be the next Secretary of State, a source has told Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed.
His replacement as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Sneed source said.
Embattled U.N. envoy Susan Rice is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments, she told NBC News on Thursday.
“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, saying she’s saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her prospects.
“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time,” she wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News.
Rice had been viewed as one of the front-runners to replace Hillary Clinton as the nation’s top foreign policy official.
She has been under intense fire from Republicans for initially characterizing the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as a spur-of-the-moment response to a crude anti-Muslim film.
“What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video,” Rice said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” five days after the attack.
Her withdrawal leaves Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as a possible candidate for the job, and Republicans have said he would have a smoother run.
"I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues," Collins said last month.
President Obama has not yet even made a final determination on whom he will appoint to serve as his administration’s secretary of state during his second term, but Congressional Republicans are already severely concerned about one possible nominee: Susan Rice, who currently serves as ambassador to the United Nations. Even though the House of Representatives has no role whatsoever in the appointment or confirmation of cabinet-level appointments, 97 House Republicans have signed a letter to President Obama opposing the possible nomination of Ambassador Rice to head the Department of State, presumably because House Republicans have never had anything better to do since their 2010 ascension besides attack the president for things he hasn’t even done yet.
The opposition to the potential nomination of Ambassador Rice is rooted in Republican desperation to turn the tragedy in Benghazi into a scandal for the Obama administration. The Romney campaign was licking its chops at the prospect of attacking President Obama on Benghazi until facts stubbornly got in the way. Joe Scarborough decided to interrupt an entire broadcast and repeated the word “Benghazi” no fewer than 23 times on air. And now, Republicans have it in for Susan Rice, who, according to the previously mentioned letter, is too incompetent to head up the state department:“Though Ambassador Rice has been our Representative to the U.N., we believe her misleading statements over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world,” the letter reads, later adding: “Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi affair.”
The accusations of incompetence leveled against Rice derive from her appearance on Sunday morning talk shows, in which she attributed the incident at Benghazi to protests against a sacrilegious anti-Islam movie, rather than a premeditated attack. Rice, of course, was simply repeating the most current intelligence assessments available at the time, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans in the House, as well as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, from trying to stop any potential nomination of her in its tracks before it even gets started.
And yet, on January 26, 2005, Condoleezza Rice was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 85-13. Voting in favor? Lindsey Graham, as well as John McCain. Why? Because they, like so many of their Republican colleagues, are nothing more than hypocrites who believe that their past actions and statements can simply slip down the memory hole without anyone remembering.
Legendary civil rights leader and current Congressman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) felt that the accusations against Rice smacked of racial dog whistles—and given the way Republicans have acted since President Obama was first elected, that argument certainly holds weight. However, I feel it is preferable to compare this situation to the last time a black woman with the last name of Rice was considered for an appointment as secretary of state.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has not hesitated to voice his distaste towards U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who may be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. On Face the Nation Sunday morning, McCain went even further than simply opposing Rice’s nomination and said that, “until we find out all the information” on the Benghazi consulate attacks, he would not support any Secretary of State nominee.
McCain at first said it “might be a beginning” if Rice could come on the program to explain her position. But when pressed by host Bob Schieffer, the Arizona senator dug in and refused to support any nominee “under the present circumstances”:
SCHIEFFER: Until then, you will remain opposed to her nomination?
MCCAIN: Under the present circumstances, until we find out all the information as to what happened, I don’t think you would want to support any nominee right now. Because this is very very serious and it has even larger implications than the deaths of 4 Americans. It really goes to the heart of this whole light foot print policy that this administration is pursuing.
President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.
Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made.
Petraeus’s resignation last week after revelations of an extramarital affair have complicated what was already an intricate puzzle to reassemble the administration’s national security and diplomatic pieces for Obama’s second term.
Rice, one of an inner circle of aides who have been with Obama since his first presidential campaign in 2007, is under particular fire over the Benghazi incident, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Some Republican lawmakers have suggested that she was part of what they suspect was an initial, election-related attempt to portray the attack as a peaceful demonstration that turned violent, rather than what the administration now acknowledges was an organized terrorist assault.
Rice’s description, days after the attack, of a protest gone wrong indicated that she either intentionally misled the country or was incompetent, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday. Rice, he said, “would have an incredibly difficult time” winning Senate confirmation as secretary of state.
But administration officials, one of whom described Kerry as a “war hero,” said his qualifications for the defense job included not only his naval service in Vietnam but also his knowledge of the budget and experience in the diplomacy that has increasingly become a part of the defense portfolio. They said the Democrats’ retention of the Senate majority, with a net gain of two seats, in last week’s election provided a cushion that allowed them to consider Kerry’s departure from the chamber.
Many had expected Petraeus to stay in place for Obama’s second term, and he had spent recent months planning transitions at other key posts at CIA headquarters. Now, four of the agency’s most critical positions — director, deputy director, head of the National Clandestine Service and chief of the Counterterrorism Center — have become question marks.
Within hours of Petraeus’s resignation Friday, his biography was excised from the CIA Web site and replaced with that of Morell.
Michael G. Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, also has been mentioned as a candidate for CIA director.
If Morell ends up permanently in the job, he will need to designate a new deputy and would be in charge of other pending personnel decisions that Petraeus had been poised to make.
H/T: Washington Post