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Foreign Policy Tag

The Washington Post reported Friday afternoon that China arrested a handful of hackers at the American government's urging. The move would is a first for the Chinese and may be indicative of cooperation between the two governments. As we've discussed before, conventional wisdom holds the Chinese responsible for the massive OPM hacking, though the Obama administration refused to publicly blame China.
Citing concerns over national security, the Obama Administration has decided that they will not publicly blame China for the hack, even though conventional wisdom (and a fair amount of now-public evidence) suggests that they were responsible. Officials fear that coming out in an official capacity against Beijing will compromise what evidence investigators have been able to assemble. More from WaPo:

The United States will discontinue its efforts to create a new, moderate rebel fighting force in Syria as part of the effort to "degrade and defeat" the Islamic State, the Pentagon said Friday. Most analysts believe that this reflects a failure of the US's current strategy in the region. That strategy---which focused on training new fighters---drew widespread criticism, particularly from Congress. In a statement to the media, Defense Secretary Ash Carter defended the change in policy by emphasizing the Administration's continued commitment to relying on local forces to get the job done, saying, "I remain convinced that a lasting defeat of ISIL in Syria will depend in part on the success of local, motivated, and capable ground forces. I believe the changes we are instituting today will, over time, increase the combat power of counter-ISIL forces in Syria and ultimately help our campaign achieve a lasting defeat of ISIL." During a brief press conference, Carter cited the work that US forces have done with rebels in northern Syria as an example of what they would like to pursue with other groups in other parts of Syria going forward:

This morning negotiators from the United States and 11 Pacific rim countries announced that they had finally reached an accord on a free trade deal nearly a decade in the making. From the Wall Street Journal:
For the U.S., the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement opens agricultural markets in Japan and Canada, tightens intellectual property rules to benefit drug and technology companies, and establishes a tightknit economic bloc to challenge China’s influence in the region. President Barack Obama lauded the trade accord on Monday, saying it would open new markets to American products and set high standards for protecting workers and the environment. ... After dozens of rounds of negotiations and five days of haggling in Atlanta, trade ministers and other top officials said they resolved bitter fights over intellectual property protection for biologic drugs, automotive-assembly rules and dairy products.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is one of the key heads-of-state participating in the United Nations General Assembly's 70th meeting. President al-Sisi, an advocate of an Islamic "reformation" and one of the most engaged warriors in the war against terror, says the struggle he faces is "ferocious."
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said in an interview that the Mideast region needs to cooperate to defeat a worsening terrorist threat that has led to a "ferocious war" in Egypt and created the danger of some countries "sliding into failure." In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press Saturday night, el-Sissi also said that Syria should not be divided after its civil war, that the Egyptian military needs to be "augmented" to defeat terrorists fighting in the Sinai and Western Desert, and that efforts should be renewed to solve the Palestinian issue and expand Egypt's nearly 40-year-peace with Israel to include more Arab countries.
Egypt's President also indicated that the last two years were a "real test of the endurance and strength" of the ties with this nation. It appears that al_Sisi has a bit more to endure, as he has been given another taste of the Obama Administration's SmartPower™.
While Mr. Obama insists on welcoming the Russian autocrat whom the West has sanctioned for invading his neighbors and repressing his own people, he has refused to meet the president of Egypt, the most populous Arab nation and a traditional American ally that is battling Islamic extremists on two fronts.

As more details of the massive Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack are made public, China's likely roll in the unprecedented hack is increasingly difficult to ignore. In July, Amy explored why China is at least for official purposes, off the the hook for the OPM hack.
Citing concerns over national security, the Obama Administration has decided that they will not publicly blame China for the hack, even though conventional wisdom (and a fair amount of now-public evidence) suggests that they were responsible. Officials fear that coming out in an official capacity against Beijing will compromise what evidence investigators have been able to assemble. More from WaPo:

Today Wisconsin Governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker offered his comprehensive vision for what foreign policy, military policy, and diplomacy would look like under the Walker Administration. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
In his first foreign policy speech, presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday called for increasing military spending, securing the Mexican border, boosting surveillance programs and establishing a no-fly zone in Syria to help overthrow Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime. "As president, I will send the following message: The retreat is over," Walker told cadets at the Citadel military college in Charleston, S.C. "American leadership is back. American leadership is back and, together with our allies, we will not surrender another inch of ground to terrorists or any other power that threatens our safety. "America will not be intimidated. And neither will I." The GOP governor sought in his speech to put new substance and momentum behind his stalled campaign. Once soaring in Iowa and elsewhere, he has suffered in the polls in recent weeks as reality television star and real estate mogul Donald Trump's campaign has shot skyward.
His campaign may be stalled, but his apparent commitment to putting out a cohesive vision on foreign policy hasn't suffered. “We can no longer afford to be passive spectators while the world descends into chaos," stated Walker, in a speech that reflected on the troubled policies of the Obama administration, and labeled Islamic terrorists as "agents of pure evil."

The U.S. reopened its embassy in Cuba yesterday, which also happened to be Fidel Castro's 89th birthday. Castro used the occasion to insist that the United States owes Cuba millions of dollars over the trade embargo. Yahoo News reported:
Fidel Castro to US: You owe us millions Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday Thursday by insisting the United States owes Cuba "many millions of dollars" because of the half-century-old American trade embargo. Castro spoke out in an essay published in local media a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a historic visit to Cuba to reopen the US embassy as part of the countries' restoration of diplomatic relations. The trade embargo that the United States slapped on communist Cuba in 1962, three years after Castro seized power by ousting a US-backed regime, remains in effect despite the thaw. President Barack Obama wants Congress to lift it, although US officials say this will take time and is not an automatic part of the restoration of ties, as it requires congressional action. Many Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, oppose the idea, insisting Cuba has to improve its human rights record and make other democratic reforms.

You might think that the fact that four Americans died in the 2012 attack on our embassy in Libya (on Hillary Clinton's watch) was bad enough, but you'd be wrong. Stephen Collinson of CNN:
Hillary Clinton's real Libya problem Hillary Clinton has another Libya problem. She's already grappling with the political headaches from deleted emails and from the terror attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi. But she'll face a broader challenge in what's become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi. Libya's lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. Its plight is also creating an opening for Republican presidential candidates to question Clinton's strategic acumen and to undermine her diplomatic credentials, which will be at the center of her pitch that only she has the global experience needed to be president in a turbulent time.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has announced that it will host a series of talks in Riyadh to address the current crisis in Yemen:
Saudi Arabia said on Monday the Gulf Cooperation Council had agreed to host talks in Riyadh to end the Yemen crisis, the state news agency SPA said, quoting a statement by the Saudi King's office. The statement said Saudi Arabia had asked the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, on the request of Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to host the talks in Riyadh where the headquarters of the organisation was, and that they had agreed. Yemen, a neighbour of top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and global security worry because of its strong al Qaeda presence, is caught in a stand-off between Western-backed President Hadi and the Houthi clan, now the country's de facto rulers who are supported by Iran. "The security of Yemen is part and parcel of the security of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries," the statement said.
The situation in Yemen has been devolving at an increasing rate since last year, when Iran-backed Houthi insurgents began taking control of key locations throughout the capital city of Sana'a. In late January, the Houthi laid siege to the presidential palace and took the president hostage; the American embassy made preparations to evacuate. Just days after the attack began, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government resigned under pressure.

Didn't take long to drop some "we're still working on this" language, did it? The Obama Administration may have played their high-profile troubles over the pending Iran nuclear deal as a grudge match between the U.S. and Israel, but the Israelis aren't the only ones with questions about the President's "all or nothing" deal. France has a history of raising questions about how far the international community is and has been willing to go to gain concessions from Iran regarding its nuclear program. Recently, the French have publicly raised concerns that commitments made by Iran don't go far enough to ensure that any future nuclear program will make allowances for a system of inspections and verifications ensuring that the program is compliant with international standards. Secretary of State John Kerry has been busy over the weekend running damage control over France's most recent objections. Via Reuters:
"We are on the same page," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris. "If we didn’t think that there was further to go, as Laurent said, we’d have had an agreement already," Kerry added. "The reason we don't have an agreement is we believe there are gaps that have to be closed, there are things that have to be done to further strengthen this; we know this." The goal of the talks is to persuade Iran to restrain its nuclear program. In exchange, Iran would get limited relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy. EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, says the next two weeks will be crucial: "In the coming few days, there will be intense work from all sides to bridge the gaps that are still remaining and to make sure that this historic opportunity is not missed."

Over the summer I covered the Argentine government’s default on its debts owed to U.S. hedge funds—its second default in just 13 years. Now fellow Latin American socialist paradise Venezuela is gearing up for a default of its own, as precipitously falling oil prices have decimated the country’s budget and will continue to pressure its currency reserves. Since mid-June, crude oil prices have declined by more than 30%, with West Texas Intermediate (the benchmark measure for North American oil) dipping to $60.55/barrel before ultimately settling at a 5-year low of $61.54/barrel on Wednesday. A CNBC report on the prospect of a Venezuelan default cited a Capital Economics report stating that a default could be expected by next September or October when $5 billion in debt payments come due. Only an upswing of oil prices to somewhere around $121/barrel would allow Venezuela to balance its budget, according to some estimates. But with OPEC recently slashing its 2015 production levels to a 12-year low in response to decreasing estimated global oil demand and increasing supply via U.S. shale production, a significant oil price increase in the short-term seems highly unlikely. Bloomberg reports that the implied probability of default---derived from complex financial formulas---in the next five years stands at 93%, the highest in the world. Meanwhile, low oil prices translate into low oil revenues for PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company, which means the Venezuelan government will have to dip into dwindling reserves to service debt payments. Ratings agency Moody’s estimates that the country’s non-gold reserves are less than $7 billion, with only half of that “freely available and usable.” How is it that the country with the largest proven oil reserves—more than 297 billion barrels—sports an economy in such shambles? There are many reasons, but a few stand out:

In her sparsely attended speech at Georgetown University this week, Hillary Clinton gave attendees a glimpse of her views on foreign policy and national defense by saying America should empathize with its enemies. This leads to a natural question: How does one "empathize" with ISIS terrorists who are currently beheading and crucifying their way across the Middle East? Ed Morrissey of Hot Air:
It’s difficult to know where to start with this nonsense from a recent speech given by Hillary Clinton, in which the presumed Democratic front-runner finally defines what she sees as “smart power,” and what she claims is a 21st-century approach to diplomacy. In large part, the former Secretary of State says it means psychoanalyzing enemies to understand them better, which … is exactly what nations have been doing for centuries, if not millenia.
Watch the video: This world view reminds me of another Democrat who's not running in 2016:

After Russia's March annexation of Crimea, reports surfaced of serious human rights abuses against both Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who refused Russian citizenship. Now, threats of military action from pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine have eastern Europe on alert, and have motivated Poland to make changes to its military structure that haven't been seen since the Cold War. From the Associated Press:
[Polish Defense Minister] Tomasz Siemoniak said the troops are needed in the east because of the conflict in neighboring Ukraine. "The geopolitical situation has changed, we have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that," Siemoniak said. He said that at least three military bases in the east will see their populations increase from the current 30 percent of capacity to almost 90 percent by 2017, and that more military hardware will be moved to those bases as well. He said it was not some "nervous or radical move" but that because of this "situation of threat we would like those units in the east of Poland to be more efficient."
According to the AP report, current military establishments along the eastern border of Poland are only 30% staffed as part of a long term plan to move troops to those installations only in the event of serious conflict. This troop movement, then, is not insignificant.

A memo recently circulated amongst lawyers working for the Obama Administration and in the intelligence community has sparked debate about the future of the United Nations Convention Against Torture as it applies to enhanced interrogation techniques used by Americans overseas. The Administration has a month to decide its stance on the treaty in advance of a scheduled presentation before the UN Committee Against Torture. It will have to choose between the opinion of the State Department, that of the intelligence community, or something in between: From the New York Times:
State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation. Doing so would require no policy changes, since Mr. Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that forbade cruel interrogations anywhere and made it harder for a future administration to return to torture. But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad. They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.
You may remember that the Bush Administration used a constitutionally-based interpretation of the Treaty that allowed for the use of tactics covered by the treaty if they were used on non-citizens outside of the United States. The Administration took heat for the interpretation, and then-Senator Barack Obama spoke out in favor of adhering to the transnational spirit of the treaty and banning cruel treatment no matter where it may take place.

If Hillary Clinton runs for president in 2016, will she pull an Obama, and blame everything on her predecessor, the way Obama still blames Bush for everything? Even if it's a President from her own party?  And an administration she participated in? And a Foreign Policy she helped develop? From recent interviews, looks like Hillary has found her George Bush, and it's Obama. A new report from FOX News seems to indicate that when it comes to foreign policy, she she'll be running against Obama's legacy:
Clinton critical of Obama foreign policy, says 'failure' to act in Syria created vacuum for jihad Hillary Clinton, the front-runner among potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates, is sharply distancing herself from President Obama's foreign policy, particularly in Syria, as Americans appear to continue losing confidence in his handling of key international affairs. Clinton, who as secretary of state was Obama’s top diplomat, suggested during an in-depth interview with The Atlantic magazine that the president’s foreign-policy mantra of “don’t do stupid stuff” lacked sufficient depth. “Great nations need organizing principles,” she said in the roughly 8,000-word interview released Sunday. “And ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” The interview comes as Americans’ opinion of how Obama is handling crises in Israel, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, continues to sink. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released Tuesday, three days before Obama ordered airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops in Syria, showed a record-high disapproval rating. Sixty percent of those polled disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy efforts, compared to 36 percent who approved. The interview also could help or hurt the former first lady’s effort to burnish her own foreign policy credentials ahead of an official 2016 campaign.
The significance of Hillary's position wasn't lost on Maggie Haberman of Politico: