One donor - Rilin Enterprises - pledged $2 million in 2013 to the Clinton Foundation's endowment. The company is a privately-held Chinese construction and trade conglomerate and run by billionaire Wang Wenliang, who is also a delegate to the Chinese parliament. Public records show the firm has spent $1.4 million since 2012, lobbying Congress and the State Department. The firm owns a strategic port along the border with North Korea and was also one of the contractors that built the Chinese embassy in Washington.
That contract is a direct tie to the Chinese government, according to Jim Mann, who has written several books on China's relationship with the U.S. With "embassy construction, one of the most important tasks is making sure that there are no bugs there," he said. "So you want to have the closest security and intelligence connections with and approval of the person or company that's going to build your embassy."
The tie to the Chinese government is troubling enough, but the CBS News report doesn't elaborate upon the firm's ties to North Korea. The port owned by Rilin in Dandong, China has long been suspected of helping North Korea evade western sanctions. Not three days ago, the Washington Post published this report on it:
DANDONG, China — The textile factories producing “made in China” goods from compounds just across the Yalu River from North Korea offer a glimpse into a hidden world that is helping North Korea’s economy to thrive.
Operated by North Koreans, the factories produce clothes and other goods that are exported under foreign-company labels, making it impossible to tell that they have been made with North Korean hands and have contributed to North Korean profits. ...
A lot of that growth comes through Dandong, a hive of North Korean and Chinese managers and traders, with middlemen helping them all cover their tracks. One local Chinese businessman estimates that one-quarter of this city’s population of 800,000 is involved in doing business with North Korea in some way.
And according to the Telegraph, Dandong "is Pyongyang's only major link to the outside world. Full of smugglers, spies and military officers it often feels as if the normal rules do not apply in this shady border town. Around 70 per cent of the £4 billion of annual trade between North Korea and China flows through the city, and there is, perhaps, another £6.5 billion of black-market trade." It's not just the Clinton Foundation, either. Per this New Republic report last fall, Rilin Enterprises has been buying influence at other foreign policy think tanks in D.C. And Wang Wenliang, the former Dandong municipal official and billionaire owner of Rilin, also sits on the board of trustees at NYU and has donated $25 million to the school.
In a preview of Barack Obama's interview with Vice, the president of the United States says he's "embarassed" Republicans sent a letter to Iran:
"I’m embarrassed for them," says Obama in the preview. "For them to address a letter to the Ayatollah — who they claim is our mortal enemy — and their basic argument to them is, 'don’t deal with our president because you can’t trust him to follow through on an agreement.' It's close to unprecedented."
Last week, the Obama administration succeeded in pressuring Democrats to insist there not be a vote on the Senate floor in support of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 until after the March 24 deadline for negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear weapons program. Lacking the votes in the Senate to impose cloture, Republicans had little choice but to go along. But the delay is unfortunate.
In John Kerry's statement on President Obama's Cuba policy changes, the secretary of state doesn't simply suggest the policies in place for five and a half decades are outdated. He seems to be suggesting they were a failure from the start. And in doing so, he apparently misstates his own age at the time President Kennedy made one of the most well known presidential addresses in our nation's history, and certainly the most notable regarding Cuba.
Imagine for a moment that you are a Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian, or Israeli. Your main national security worry these days is Iran—Iran’s rise, its nuclear program, its troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, its growing influence from Yemen through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.
Foreign Policy reports that the U.S. believes Iran is cheating on U.N. nuclear sanctions. "The United States has privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium," reports Colum Lynch.
It's heartening these days to see an outbreak of bipartisan seriousness, given how rare those instances have become. Herewith some excerpts from a statement delivered by Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the committee’s December 3 hearing on “Dismantling Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” which The Scrapbook enthusiastically cosigns:
How to explain America’s failure, after 20 years of efforts, to impose genuinely crippling sanctions on Iran? Start with the penchant of the executive branch—from Presidents Clinton to Obama—for excluding Congress from the process.
At the White House Wednesday for bilateral talks with President Obama, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu rather publicly reminded the president of how seriously Israel takes the threat of a nuclear Iran.
When nations start imposing sanctions and embargoes on each other, black markets and hoarding follow as light comes with dawn. Witness Cuban cigars, which never went away and became even more desirable, especially as a status item favored by international types who smoked them to demonstrate that they knew where, and how, to get them.