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Tauscher to speak at Cal on U.S.-Russia relations

Ellen Tauscher started the summer optimistic that the improving U.S.-Russia relationship would provide fertile ground for new arms-control agreements – but it’s been a tough couple of months since then.

“This is like batting-cage practice when the machine goes wild and is throwing balls at you left and right,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “Events can overtake you.”

negotiating aloneTauscher, a former East Bay congresswoman who served for three years as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, will be back in the Bay Area on Oct. 30 to deliver a speech entitled “Negotiating Alone? The United States, Russia and the Prospect of Arms Control.”

Sponsored by the Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, Tauscher’s address will assess the prospects for future arms control agreements between two nations that still retain vast nuclear arsenals.

Tauscher in June had co-authored an article in Foreign Policy magazine with Igor Ivanov – a president of the Russian International Affairs Council and former Russian Federation foreign minister – in which they wrote the U.S.-Russian political dialogue was finally gaining momentum toward mutually assured stability.

But things turned sour this summer. Russia in June enacted new laws limiting civil liberties for gays and lesbians; in August gave asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden; and throughout maintained its support for its longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad during that nation’s brutal civil war. President Obama cancelled a September summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Can this marriage be saved?” Tauscher quipped Monday, before adding that it must be.

“It is a fundamentally important relationship for many, many reasons, and we are not at our best right now – that is for sure – but I think that everybody who has been part of this for a long time knows that relationships ebb and wane,” she said, adding efforts are afoot to “try to get back to a better footing” and “find a way to remember that we do some of the best works in the world together.”

Ellen TauscherThe Syria situation – in which Russia for years has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Assad’s government, and then last month brokered a deal for destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons – has been particularly trying, Tauscher said.

“This is when it’s very difficult to keep a sense of equilibrium in the relationship because it’s not just the obvious bilateral and international roles that we play,” she said. “It’s very complicated when third, fourth and fifth parties are involved, and that’s part of the situation we find ourselves in now.”

She said she hopes the “Track II” nonofficial talks that she’s a part of will be fruitful as a “back channel way for conversations to keep going when the public face of the relationship is not the prettiest.”

Tauscher is now senior public policy adviser to the Baker Donelson law firm in Washington, D.C. Registration for her Matsui Lecture is available online.

Posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013
Under: Ellen Tauscher, International politics | 2 Comments »

Israel re-opens probe of Oakland activist’s injury

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to reopen an investigation into the grievous head injury suffered by an Oakland activist during a West Bank protest in March 2009, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

Tristan AndersonTristan Anderson, then 39, was at a protest of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank city of Na’alin when a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier struck him in the head, causing severe brain damage.

The Israel Defense Force investigated whether the Border Police were at fault following the incident, but a petition to the court – filed by attorneys for Anderson’s family and by Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights group – claimed the probe was inadequate. The petition said the army did not visit Na’alin and questioned only a few soldiers who were on the scene; it’s not clear whether the army questioned the soldier who fired the canister. No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the case.

“It is the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate suspicions of unwarranted injury of protesters, which occur time after time,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said in a news release issued by Anderson’s supporters Wednesday. “It is a shame that it took three-and-a-half years for the High Court to intervene in order to force the investigators to implement basic investigative procedures.”

Anderson’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said in the release that her son “will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.” The family’s civil lawsuit against the Israeli military and government is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Gabrielle Silverman of Oakland – Anderson’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was injured – said Wednesday that Anderson was released from an Israeli hospital in June 2010 and now lives with his parents in Grass Valley. He remains hemiplegic – paralyzed on his left side – and suffers permanent cognitive and emotional impairments from his injury; he requires around-the-clock care, Silverman said.

Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Under: International politics, Israel, Oakland | 35 Comments »

Romney, Obama spar over U.S.-Israel relations

Mitt Romney’s stumbles over the nation’s “special relationship” with Great Britain aside, it’s the American relationship with Israel that’s fueling a lot of the fire this week between the presidential campaigns.

Romney will be in Israel on Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Kadima Party Leader Shaul Mofaz, and Labor Party Leaders Shelly Yachimovich and Isaac Herzog. The Republican candidate, speaking this past Tuesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Reno, had trashed President Obama’s treatment of Israel.

Romney at VFW (James Glover-Reuters)“President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He has undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was. And even at the United Nations, to the enthusiastic applause of Israel’s enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem,” Romney said. “The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world. And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the President of the United States.”

Romney’s campaign also Tuesday issued a policy paper saying he would make Israel the destination of his first foreign trip as president; within 100 days of taking office, reaffirm as a vital U.S. national interest the existence of Israel as a Jewish state; work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge and increase military assistance; reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, while making clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations is unacceptable; and reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas.

Vice President Joe Biden shot back that same day.

“Governor Romney continues his long litany of untruths about our administration’s policies toward Israel. We’ve provided record levels of security assistance, funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system that intercepted nearly 80 percent of the rockets recently fired from Gaza, close collaboration on longer range missile defense systems, the largest joint military exercises in history, the most consistent and comprehensive exchanges ever between our top political, defense, security and intelligence officials,” Biden said. “And, contrary to Governor Romney’s outrageous accusation that the President joined in the chorus of insults levied against Israel at the United Nations, President Obama has stood up repeatedly, publicly and often alone against efforts to delegitimize Israel at the U.N. and around the world.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, July 27th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama, International politics, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

Barbara Lee becomes Sudan Caucus co-chair

Rep. Barbara Lee is the newest of four co-chairs of the Congressional Sudan Caucus, which is still trying to draw more attention to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in that African nation.

Lee, D-Oakland, succeeds the late Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., as a co-chair; the other three co-chairs are Michael Capuano, D-Mass., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Michael McCaul, R-Tex. The caucus was founded in 2005.

In her news release Tuesday, Lee noted ongoing strife in the Sudanese border areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei, and Darfur, and in Yida and other refugee camps in South Sudan. Civilians are subject to the Sudanese government’s indiscriminate bombing and denial of humanitarian aid, leaving nearly half a million at risk of starvation.

Lee said she’ll work with the other co-chairs “to bring Khartoum, Juba, and all stakeholders together to ensure that peace prevails in the region. At this critical time with Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, it is critical that Congress and the United States use all tools at its disposal to bring the two sides to the negotiating table for peace talks.”

Lee will take part in a subcommittee hearing on Sudan this Thursday and will host U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for a special briefing with members of Congress on international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution.

Lee has been active on the issue for some time, sponsoring legislation recognizing acts of genocide in the region and urging China as well as the Arab League to step up efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur. Her bill to allow divestment from companies doing business in the region was enacted into law in 2007.

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Under: Barbara Lee, International politics, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Nancy Pelosi and George Miller are in Egypt

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, are part of a Congressional delegation to Egypt that arrived in Cairo yesterday.

Pelosi & Tantawi 3-15-2012 (AP Photo)The delegation met today with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi – commander in chief of Egypt’s armed forces, and the nation’s de factor head of state since February 2011 – and will be seeing other high-ranking Egyptian government officials, as well as civil society and religious minority leaders.

After meeting yesterday with Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Wafaa Bassim, Pelosi said the U.S.-Egypt relationship “is an important one I believe to both our countries, I know to the U.S. We have always had a relationship with the people of Egypt and we hope to continue that in a very important way. The strength of Egypt, its stability, is important to the region and to world, and we want to be helpful in that regard.”

Other delegation members include Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012
Under: George Miller, International politics, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Several Bay Area guests at tonight’s State Dinner

Several Bay Area residents will be on the White House’s South Lawn for tonight’s State Dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron:

  • SPO Parnters & Co. private investment firm managing director John Scully, chairman of Advent Software, and his wife Regina, of San Francisco;
  • former Symantec CEO John Thompson and his wife, Sandi, of Woodside, who hosted a big-ticket fundraiser for the president at their home last September; and
  • California Attorney General Kamala Harris of San Francisco, and her sister, Maya Harris, who is the Ford Foundation’s Vice President for Peace & Social Justice.
  • Others on the long list of guests include various administration officials, diplomats and lawmakers; Virgin group founder Sir Richard Branson; Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour; movie mogul Harvey Weinstein; American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; and actors George Clooney and Idris Elba. The British folk-rock group Mumford & Sons and Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter John Legend will perform.

    They’ll be chowing down on a first course of crisped halibut with potato crust, shaved Brussels sprouts and applewood-smoked bacon; a second course of spring garden lettuces with shallot dressing, shaved breakfast radish, cucumbers and avocados; a main course of bison Wellington with red wine reduction, French beans and Cipollini onions; and a dessert of warm Meyer lemon steamed pudding with Idaho huckleberry sauce and Newtown Pippin apples.

    Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
    Under: International politics, Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

    South Bay prof takes State Dept. war-crimes job

    A Santa Clara University law professor is going to work for the U.S. State Department, helping to shape the nation’s responses to war crimes committed around the world.

    Beth Van Schaack, an expert in international law, will serve as deputy to Stephen Rapp, the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues, in the state department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. She’ll take a leave of absence from her teaching duties in order to take this appointment, which will last up to two years starting next Friday, March 23.

    Van Schaack will work closely with international tribunals, non-governmental organizations and foreign governments to ensure accountability for international crimes according to international human rights principles. She’ll also help the office in its role advising governments on implementing other forms of transitional justice, such as truth commissions and commissions of inquiry.

    Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Donald Polden said Van Schaack’s “considerable skills as a lawyer, her knowledge and expertise in the areas of human rights and international criminal law, and her judgment and professionalism make her an ideal candidate” for this job.

    Van Schaack has prosecutors of international crimes committed in Uganda and Cambodia, and formerly was executive director and staff attorney at the Center for Justice & Accountability, an international human-rights law group. She has served as an observer or NGO delegate at sessions of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as well as meetings of other United Nations bodies. In 2002, she was on the defense team for John Walker Lindh, the American citizen with Marin County roots who was convicted of joining the Taliban.

    She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from Yale Law School.

    Rapp is the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he initiated the prosecution of former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. Earlier, he prosecuted cases arising out of the Rwandan genocide as a senior trial counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

    The Office of Global Criminal Justice, formerly known as the Office of War Crimes Issues, advises Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights.

    Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012
    Under: International, International politics | 2 Comments »

    Tauscher named to help lead new international policy think-tank

    Former East Bay Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher has been named to the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think-tank, as the vice president of its new Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    Tauscher recently announced her resignation as under secretary of arms control and international security under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying she wanted time to pursue other projects including advocacy for cancer patients. The former Alamo resident was named to the high-ranking post in mid-2009 after serving 13 years in Congress. She successfully battled esophageal cancer in 2011.

    Tauscher will continue to consult the State Department on Russian-U.S. negotiations.

    At the Scowcroft Center, Tauscher will join friend and colleague, retired Gen. James Jones, also a former national security advisor to President Barack Obama.

    Here’s what she told Politico.com for its playbook: TAUSCHER, who won a tough battle with esophageal cancer last year , told us she’ll remain in Washington and continue her cancer advocacy work: “The worst thing anybody can do when you get the tough news that you’ve got cancer is to actually go to the Internet, because it will blow your mind and it will scare you to death … So, for you and your family, it’s important to have a source of good information, serious and sober information … I want to … also advocate for earlier endoscopes … [L]ike Katie Couric talks about colon cancer, this is something not to scare people but to raise awareness … [T]he scary thing isn’t want somebody tells you; it’s what you don’t know. Early treatment is still the best cure for any kind of cancer.”

    Click through to read the Atlantic Council’s press release and Tauscher’s email to family, friends and colleagues.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
    Under: International politics | 4 Comments »

    House passes Eshoo’s bill on religious minorities

    The House today overwhelmingly approved a bill by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, to create a special State Department envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

    The bill, HR 440, was introduced in January in the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations. The House voted 402-20 today to approve it and send it on to the Senate.

    Wolf co-chairs Congress’ bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, named for the late congressman from San Mateo. Threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months, he said, and the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in broader U.S. foreign policy.

    “The U.S. government needs an individual who can respond and focus on the critical situation of religious minorities in these countries whose basic human rights are increasingly under assault,” Wolf said in today’s news release. “If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak.”

    Eshoo, who co-founded and co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus with Wolf, has long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of small, indigenous faith communities in Iraq that are being targeted for violence.

    “In a time of partisanship and polarization, it’s gratifying when members from both parties can come together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been unfolding in the Middle East, and has not been given the attention it deserves,” she said. “As the daughter of Assyrian and Armenian immigrants who fled the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, it’s terrifying to see history repeating itself in today’s Iraq. I’m hopeful that the special envoy created by this legislation will elevate the crisis of the Middle East’s religious minorities, giving them the diplomatic attention they so badly need and deserve.”

    Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – Lantos’ successor – are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

    Posted on Friday, July 29th, 2011
    Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, International politics, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, Tom Lantos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

    John Yoo defends Obama’s war powers in Libya

    Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department attorney helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a new way to make Bay Area liberals mad: supporting President Barack Obama’s stance on his power to attack Libya.

    In an op-ed piece that appeared in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Yoo argues House Republicans are sacrificing constitutional principle for partisan advantage in battling the President on Libya.

    John Yoo “By accusing President Barack Obama of violating the War Powers Resolution, House Republicans are abandoning their party’s longstanding position that the Constitution allows the executive to use force abroad, subject to Congress’s control over funding,” Yoo wrote. “Sadly, they’ve fallen victim to the siren song of short-term political gain against a president who continues to stumble in national-security matters.”

    OK, so he’s not an Obama fan by any stretch of the imagination. But Yoo wrote that “Mr. Obama’s constitutional position today on war powers is little different from that of President George W. Bush, whom Democrats portrayed as a warmongering dictator.”

    “If the Constitution gives the president the executive authority to use force abroad, Congress cannot take it away,” Yoo wrote. “Surely Mr. Boehner agreed with this proposition before the current president took office. He, for instance, never claimed that President George W. Bush’s exercise of broad executive powers in the war on terror violated the Constitution. Nor does he appear to have thought that legislative authorization of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was constitutionally necessary in 2001 and 2002.”

    If Republicans want to end U.S. involvement in Libya, Yoo concludes, they should cut the operation’s purse strings; refuse to lift the debt ceiling until they get what they want; or even start impeachment proceedings. “But holding hands with isolationist Democrats out of political convenience is no way to defend the Constitution.”

    So, Yoo’s tally is: House Republicans are wrong; antiwar Democrats are wrong; and the President is wrong but constitutionally protected.

    UPDATE @ 9:50 A.M.: Liz Cheney and Karl Rove agree.

    Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
    Under: International politics | 1 Comment »