This week's three-day White House summit on "countering violent extremism" ended Thursday, but the community-focused spirit of the summit lives on. In a Friday blog post at the State Department's "Dip Note," the Obama administration asks readers a question: "What Solutions Do You Think Are Most Critical To Countering Violent Extremism?"
Late Thursday afternoon, guards at Venezuela’s infamous Ramo Verde military prison attempted to abduct opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from the cramped dungeon cell in which he has been held incommunicado. Lopez refused to leave unless he was in the presence of his lawyers and a representative of the “People’s Defense,” a branch of the Venezuelan government charged with defending the rights of people in detention. While the guards attempted to remove him by force, a prison functionary blocked the cell door.
Not long after his inauguration in January 2009, President Barack Obama penned a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. As a presidential candidate, Obama had promised to conduct “tough, direct diplomacy” with the Iranians. And Obama figured, correctly, that all diplomatic entreaties would end up on Khamenei’s desk. So, the newly elected president decided to write Iran’s ultimate decision-maker directly. And he has written several letters since.
Failing upwards is a Washington tradition, but even The Scrapbook was taken aback by the promotion of Jennifer Psaki from State Department spokesperson to White House director of communications. Psaki, along with her State Department colleague Marie Harf, had acquired quite the reputation for putting the “foggy” in Foggy Bottom.
Last week’s Minsk agreement, by which France and Germany in effect codified the cession to Russia of Kiev’s sovereignty over southeastern Ukraine, has temporarily taken the issue of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine off the table and thus off the conscience of the West. But the question whether the United States and its allies should arm Ukraine (and later Georgia? Moldova? Estonia? Latvia?) is going to arise again and again in the months and years ahead.
In Chechnya, Georgia, and Ukraine, Russia works through bribery, fear, and force to destroy its opponents. In the West, it works through Interpol and the U.S. Treasury. If Moscow decides to target you, being in the United States won’t protect you from Russian harassment. In fact, it makes you a better victim.
Kim Jong-un, seeking to escape international isolation, has found a willing partner in Russia’s Vladimir Putin and thereby revived Pyongyang’s Cold War art of pitting Moscow against Beijing, perfected by his grandfather Kim Il-sung. The collapse of the Soviet Union just prior to Kim Jong-un’s father’s ascent in 1994 ended the game for a time. But Kim Jong-il tilted a bit back toward Moscow after the arrival of Putin, and his son is doubling down.
Last week, outgoing chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz told an American audience that it’s important the international community defeat both camps of regional extremists. The way Gantz sees it, on one side there are Sunni radicals, like the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate. On the Shiite side are Iran and the Revolutionary Guards expeditionary unit, the Quds Force, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias.