Photo credit: U.S Department of State
On July 16, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of State released the findings of its inspection of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, conducted from February 17 to March 12, 2015. The report concludes that the embassy’s leadership and institutional processes have hindered its efficiency and productivity. The OIG makes a total of 33 recommendations to Embassy Tunis and various bureaus of the Department of State.
The OIG report begins with an evaluation of the embassy’s leadership. Based in part on OIG-administered questionnaires given to Embassy staff, the report concludes that “the Ambassador has advanced U.S. national interests in Tunisia,” but that his “communication, coordination, feedback, and interpersonal behaviors, as well as his intolerance for dissenting views on policy and management issues, had contributed to low morale.” Furthermore, the report cites “the Ambassador’s failure to involve senior embassy staff members in decision-making processes” as damaging to interagency coordination. It also goes on to criticize the deputy chief of mission, concluding that her “unwillingness to consider dissenting or alternative views and her inability to provide explanations or feedback for the decisions and instructions she relays to staff from the Ambassador were …
Photo Credit: Saleh Al-Obeid, AFP
Yemen’s exiled vice president Khaled Bahah announced on his Facebook page today “the liberation of the province of Aden,” after an offensive by pro-government forces to drive Houthi rebels out of the southern province began earlier this week. Several ministers and intelligence officials from the exiled government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi have since returned to the country from exile in Riyadh, “with instructions to prepare for the government’s return.” This government victory marks a turning point in the country’s civil war, where “battle lines seldom changed but more than 3,500 people have been killed and a million displaced.” However, a spokesperson for Houthi forces told Al-Jazeera that the Hadi government is exaggerating their victory, stating that “fighting is still raging at high intensity,” and asserting “we will not give up until we liberate Aden inch by inch from the invading powers.”
According to local residents, pro-government forces had support launching “Operation Golden Arrow” to retake Aden from Saudi Arabia, special forces from the United Arab Emirates, and al Qaeda militants. Western officials are reportedly concerned that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is “exploiting the chaos to expand across Yemen,” and the pro-government …
Photo credit: AP
Government officials across the Arab world and Turkey responded to the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 on Tuesday. While official reactions generally praised the deal, many qualified their comments with a sense of hesitation.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the deal would bolster regional peace and stability, while the Finance Minister called the deal “great news” for the country’s economy. Even so, Turkey also hopes Tehran will change its policies towards Syria and Yemen. The Palestinian response was positive, although an official in Ramallah said that the Palestinian leadership now expects the international community to devote similar attention to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Lebanon, officials seemed hopeful that the deal would promote peace in the conflict-ridden region, and the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar ran a headline in Farsi that read “Yes We Can.” Iraqi officials also welcomed the deal; Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi lauded the deal as an expression of “a common will to bring peace and security to our region.” The most controversial response from the Levant came from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who praised the deal and expressed his expectation that Iran would increase its support of “just causes.” “We …
On July 14th, the P5+1 countries and Iran signed a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that seeks to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is used solely for peaceful purposes. The nuclear deal now awaits U.S. congressional approval within the next 60 days, as well as approval by the Iranian Parliament. During the announcement of the deal in Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted the significance of the deal, saying, “I believe this agreement actually represents an effort by the United States of America and all of its member – its colleagues in the P5+1 to come together with Iran to avert an inevitability of conflict that would come were we not able to reach agreement.”
In response to the finalization of the deal, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted, “Bringing negotiations to conclusion was a milestone; #IranDeal text, however, needs scrutiny and channeling into the defined legal process.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also tweeted, “Today is a new chapter to work towards growth & development of our dear #Iran; a day for our youth to dream again for a brighter future.”
Reactions from the U.S. side varied. President Barack Obama stated that the finalization of …
The State Department recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, and the following pertains to the sections on Algeria. The lists the three most serious human rights concerns as “restrictions on the freedom of assembly and association, lack of judicial independence and impartiality, and overuse use of pretrial detention.” The report also states that impunity is a problem among security elements.
There were reports of coerced confessions and torture at the hands of government forces, and no reports of prosecution of those responsible. Prison facilities “generally met international standards,” but some were reportedly overcrowded. No ombudsman exists to collect complaints from prisoners, but prisoners are allowed to submit complaints to other authorities.
One reason for overcrowding is the extensive use of pre-trial detention. According to the report, “most detainees have prompt access to a lawyer of their choice,” yet “authorities held some detainees incommunicado without access to their families or lawyers and reportedly abused them physically and mentally.”
Arbitrary arrests occurred during the year, with the use of “vaguely worded laws to arrest and detain individuals considered to be disturbing public order.” Of particular concern to the U.N. and Amnesty International was the law prohibiting unauthorized …