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Entries in State Department (9)


Syria Feature: US Finds "Assad Forces Probably Used Chemical Weapon" in Homs (Rogin)

Testimony of victims of the "toxic gas" incident in Homs on 23 December

A secret State Department cable has concluded that the Syrian military likely used chemical weapons against its own people in a deadly attack last month....

United States diplomats in Turkey conducted a previously undisclosed, intensive investigation into claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, and made what an Obama administration official who reviewed the cable called a "compelling case" that Assad's military forces had used a deadly form of poison gas.

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Middle East Video: US Embassy Promotes Opposition's "Support Yemen" Campaign

Last week, opposition activists posted the video "Support Yemen --- Break the Silence" on YouTube. 

In the two-minute production, a series of men and women powerfully put out the message of a peaceful call for change, defying the repression of the regime --- "My heart beats to the tune of Yemen" --- steadily stating their demands for basic rights and asking, "Will you support us and break the silence?"

The initiative is notable in itself, but there is a diplomatic twist. The video's activists may claim, "The world is blind to Change Square," but the US Embassy in Yemen certainly is not. Yesterday it put the video on its Facebook page.

The Embassy makes no political comment but urges, "Check out this video by alumni of the MEPI LDF program." That is a reference to the Middle East Partnership Initiative, started under the George W. Bush Administration, and its Leaders for Democracy Fellowships. The annual three-month programme works with 20-25 "civic leaders", between the ages of 25 and 40, from the Middle East and North Africa.

The homepage for the programme sets out the combination of academic work and an internship in Washington: "participants gain a practical understanding of the interactions between government and civil society, while also gaining valuable knowledge, skills, and professional contacts to benefit their professional pursuits in their home countries".


Middle East Analysis: Dennis Ross & the Battle Within the Obama Administration

Israeli PM Netanyahu and Dennis RossIn February 2009, we headlined, "Treading Softly on Iran: Dennis Ross Sneaks into the Administration". Our analysis at the time:

He has been brought [into the Administration] with a remit so broad that it threatens to be vague. Now he is not focused on Iran but overlapping with both [Afghanistan-Pakistan envoy Richard] Holbrooke and [Israel-Palestine envoy George] Mitchell. There may be some State Department master-plan setting out how Ross, a forceful personality, will work with those two envoys --- equally forceful personalities --- and how he and his staff will in turn work with permanent State Department desks overseeing the Middle Eastern, Persian Gulf, and Southwest Asian regions.

More than two years later, Holbrooke is dead and Mitchell has resigned in frustration. But Ross is still very much present in the National Security Council. And the operative term is not "work with" other personalities and other departments but "work against".

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Tunisia Latest: World Starts to Notice as Protests and Detentions Continue

Protest on Friday at a High School

UPDATE 8 December, 1100 GMT: Activists claim blogger and university theatre professor Fatma Riahi was arrested today.

Riahi, who blogged as Arabicca, was also arrested in Novmeber 2009.


Over the last 48 hours, as protests (see video) over economic conditions and political repression continue in Tunisia, international attention to detentions and censorship has emerged.

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Pakistan Snapshot: "Hundreds" of Detainees Disappearing (Schmitt)

The Obama administration is expressing alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan’s police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed.

The issue came up in a State Department report to Congress last month that urged Pakistan to address this and other human rights abuses. It threatens to become the latest source of friction in the often tense relationship between the wartime allies.

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WikiLeaks Follow-Up: Columbia University to Students "You Can Discuss the Documents"

"Last Tuesday, SIPA’s Office of Career Services received a call from a former student currently employed by the U.S. Department of State who pointed out that the U.S. government documents released during the past few months through WikiLeaks are still considered classified.  The caller suggested that students who will be applying for federal jobs that require background checks avoid posting links to these documents or making comments about them on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter."

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WikiLeaks: A Guide to EA's Saturday-Monday Coverage


1. A two-part special evaluating the January 2010 assessment of the Green Movement and Iranian politics by the US Consulate in Dubai:

Part 1: "US Diplomats Assess the Green Movement and the Political Situation"

Part 2: "US Diplomats Assess Green Movement and Politics 'From Crisis to Stalemate'"

2. Getting behind misleading headlines to assess the claim "Saudi Arabia: A Cash Machine for Terrorists"

3. Getting to the real significance on an American assessment of the situation in Iraq: "Comparing the Threats from Saudi Arabia and Iran"


1. A November 2009 diplomatic episode involving the US and Libya: "When the Nuclear Deal Almost Unraveled...Because Qadhafi Couldn't Camp in New York"

2. The State Department warns students, "Link to Documents and You'll Never Work for Us"


WikiLeaks Warning: State Department to Students "Link to Documents and You'll Never Work for Us"

UPDATE 1400 GMT: State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson comments:

To talk about current events is one thing. Would talking about it make you ineligible for a job at the State Department? No. But to go into detail, and propagate information that was illegally obtained—I don't think that's a good move for anyone. Not Julian Assange, not Wikileaks, and not any U.S. citizen.


DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.

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Iran Interview: The State Department's New Man for Tehran 

UPDATE 1420 GMT: An EA correspondent adds: 

The resignation of John Limbert was almost entirely because he had only a one-year leave of absence from his faculty position with the US Naval Academy. If he was a bit frustrated, I think it would be more accurate to say that he was in a learning mode for the entire time. He has almost always served overseas and was not familiar with the Washington policy process. 

Limbert's expertise on Iran is without parallel, but I was always sceptical that he could translate that into policy actions while swimming with the likes of officials like Dennis Ross and other denizens of the policy deep. 

As head of the Northern Gulf desk in the State Department, a lot of Dibble's effort went into Iran. He is no match for Limbert in terms of Iran expertise, but neither is anyone else. Dibble is a bit more of an operator, so the State Department could be trading depth of expertise for policy acumen. There is a question of how long Dibble is slated to be in the post: it is not really clear that anyone can come in temporarily and have a major impact. He does have a really smart and experienced staff.

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