Trump – a nightmare for foreign policy

Republicans who served under George W. Bush recognized that the US had to play a leadership role in the world.  I like to say, “what goes around, comes around.”

Stronger together- really does work.  Make American Great through insults to our fiends (Mexico) doesn’t work.

Enough.  Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw.  As a Republican I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run to the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.

Condoleezza Rice,  Former Secretary of State under George W. Bush.

Nicholas Burns was undersecretary of state for political affairs under Bush.  Here is what he said today on CNN:

I hope she’s  [Clinton] going to be the president.  If it’s Donald Trump, I think all bets are off given his unorthodox and I think, very weak and very dangerous views about Russia.  I think we can say with some certainty that Vladamir Putin and the Russian government would like Donald Trump to be elected president because Trump has been denegrating NATo; he’ll make NATPO weaker. He won’t be the strong American leader in Europe that Europeans are accustomed to.  It is clear by their actions and words that the Russians support a Donald Trump candidacy.  Every other European government, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, desperately want Hillary Clinton to be elected because they want stability and a traditional American leader and a leader who is sophisticated enough to know how the US can be effective in that region.

 I think for most Europeans and East Europeans,  Trump is a real danger to them.

Republicans working for President Bush have either remained quiet or turned their back on Trump.  Here’s a sampling:

“If Donald Trump wins, he will, by definition, have created a new template of success for Republicans,” said Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush’s first White House press secretary. “But if he loses, and particularly if he is crushed, it will reset the party back more in the direction of President Bush.”

Because Mr. Trump represents something far greater in the eyes of the Bush veterans than just an unfortunate party nominee, their determination to defeat him has become more intense.

The vast majority of the approximately three dozen veterans of Mr. Bush’s administration contacted for this article indicated that they would not cast a ballot for Mr. Trump.

“I can count on one hand the number of people I worked with who are supporting Trump,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former Bush State Department official who has been calling his onetime colleagues to solicit support for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

R. Nicholas Burns :

Nicholas Burns (born January 28, 1956) is a university professor, columnist, lecturer and former American diplomat. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a member of the Board of Directors of the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. At the Harvard Kennedy School, he is Director of The Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for the programs on the Middle East and India and South Asia. He is Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group and serves on the Board of Directors of Entegris, Inc. He writes a biweekly column on foreign affairs for the Boston Globe and is a senior foreign affairs columnist for GlobalPost.

This I promise you will be my very last post until after the election.   I also will post all comments on these issues.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Trump Lies on the Benghazi

Republicans prepared a report  in June 2016 which none of the Democrats supported.  They issued their separate report.   But both Democratic and Republican reports and prior investigations state that the embassy in Benghazi was inadequately protected.  Hillary Clinton agrees with this assessment and as Secretary of State accepted all recommendations made at the time to improve security.  Of course, you are not going to hear this from Trump.

The big lie is that Secretary Clinton did nothing while 4 Americans were killed in Benghazi. Not even the Republican version of the Benghazi has any conclusion remotely similar to this.  The Republican report states it was impossible to save the two lives in the embassy.  The discussion is on the two lives while guarding the CIA annex.    This is all about an attack that lasted a total of 11 minutes.

Here’s the reporting from the New York Times, June 28, 2016:

“The Republican-led committee found no evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton, then the secretary of state.”

What the Republican version did, was to suggest, just possibly, more could have been done militarily to save the two lives and  suggest Leon Panetta and the Department of Defense.   acted too slow.  NYT reports:

 Senior Pentagon officials have consistently said that they were constrained by the “tyranny of time and distance” — that is, that the military could not have sent troops or planes in time to have made a difference.

NYT reports:

Even the report acknowledges the challenges facing the so-called FAST teams: These troops did not have their own planes, which meant delays waiting for flights; did not travel with their own vehicles (they would need to find some in Benghazi when they landed); and were designed to deploy before a crisis hit, not during hostilities.

Essentially, the hypothetical rescue mission would have been sent to save the lives of two servicemen guarding the CIA Annex.  More lives could have been lost in this mission.  And then the Pentagon, Obama, or even Secretary Clinton would have come under serious attack.

Full NYT article

The best summary I’ve seen on Benghazi is from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Benghazi_attack

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Hillary Clinton- Best Choice for President

As President, she will have a lot to deal with.  The most critical will be international policy, with the crises in Syria, being number 1.   Syria is a complex mess, and can only be put back together by cooperation from many countries, including Turkey, Iran and Russia.  Her slogan,  “Stronger Together”,  is the right path forward.

Obama and Bush have never found a way to persuade North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-un to halt his quest for nuclear weapons.   He is truly a scary leader.  Libya is battling ISIS, yet the country still in broken into various factions.

Donald Trump has demonstrated his ineptness with his insulting comments to Mexico.  It doesn’t take much to be friends with Mexico- but he blew it big time.  He seems to start little wars at the drop of a hat.  Even insulting Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz’s father  and many other Republicans.

It is not the time to elect a president who has zero knowledge of diplomacy.  This is not the job who calls our elections rigged when he’s behind in the polls. There is no on-the-job training program.

Vote for Hillary to keep our nation great by working with others to find solutions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

This election is a total fraud!

Ok- did I get your attention?

I’m not talking about the 2016 election here in the US.   I’m going all the way back to 1992, in a very different part of the world,  in the country of Angola in their very first open election since independence from Portugal.

These six words were uttered by  a representative for Jonas Savimbi,  the losing candidate in the Angolan  election in 1992.   I was in Angola, and I understand Portuguese, so as I heard this on national television,  it frighten me.  I knew it was untrue.  The UN had monitored the election, and while there were irregularities, it was, on balance, a fair election.

What came through on that day in 1992, was the intense  anger in place of a concession speech.    Savimbi’s representative blasted away at the government,. declaring the entire election system was rigged.   All election results were false.  To Savimbi’s supporters,  the government had stolen the election.  If someone steals something, the natural reaction is revenge.

Savimbi did not blast away at the election results. He let others do the dirty work  for him.

Lost in all of this was the respect for  the people who worked to make sure fair elections were held in Angola.   The Carter organization had helped to monitor the elections, along with UN monitors.  My friend was one of the election monitors.  It was a dangerous voluntary work.

The trust we have in our election system,  can also be undermined by politics.   Hateful and dishonest rhetoric is dangerous.  Volunteers from the Women League of Voters, help keep our elections fair and honest.

What followed in Angola, was a resumption of a civil war, which lasted until year 2002.   So people died believing in hateful lies.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Greatness and Goodness from the Donald

“Most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant. That is an unhealthy condition in a country in which foreign policy has to be endorsed by the people if it is to be pursued. And it makes it much more difficult for any president to pursue an intelligent policy that does justice to the complexity of the world.”

― Zbigniew Brzeziński

It also means that presidential candidates can run on slogans rather than substance:

Trump’s head-spinning and secret plans for foreign policy

To be honest, I did not listen to Trump’s speech.  I have pointed out in the past, how crazy it would be to punish China for currency manipulations, then to solicit their help in pressuring North Korea to give up their planned nuclear weapons program.

Stay tuned,

 

 

Just another Dilma post!

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is in trouble.   Is she being treated  fairly?  It seems more in line with “kick me when I’m down”  than cleaning up government.  In fact, post Dilma, the government or at least the democratic process might be worse off.

I don’t know any better source than the New York Times, which now provides for free, an online collection of their articles,  bringing together insightful analysis:

New York Times Articles

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

And after Dilma goes?

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff isn’t accused of participating in the Lava Jato scandal.   There is zero evidence linking her to this.  Instead, she is accused of allowing  a  misleading presentation of the budget deficit by including funds from state-owned banks. Whether this was illegal will be hotly contested during the impeachment proceedings.  She claims other presidents have presented the budget in this manner. Opponents  claim this helped her win the election.

Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer and  Leader of the Lower House Eduardo Cunha might have something in common-  a desire to  quickly  end  the Lava Jato scandal to save themselves and/or their friends:

Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment isn’t a coup, it is a cover-up

The conclusion of Brazilian journalist, Celso Rocha de Barros, is that after Dilma, there are a variety of tactics to “declaw”  the investigation.

So, Dilma becomes a scapegoat for all that’s wrong in Brazil, and the music plays on.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Winning

Trump hit upon a very simple analogy to politics- sports.  You support your local team.  You don’t say anything good about the New York Yankees if you support the Chicago Cubs.

But Trump’s analogy just doesn’t work in politics.   What gets big results is diplomacy and consistency.  – and that  takes a lot of time and international cooperation.  You can’t slam China one day for currency exchange manipulation  with hostile trade  policies aimed at coercing them into changing, and then the next minute, expect their assistance in an embargo of goods to North Korea.  That’s Trump’s plan apparently.  It really makes no sense.

This “punch them in the mouth and then hug and praise them next , and ask them for a favor”  destroys trust and cooperation.

“To jaw-jaw is always better than war-war” is a famous quote from Winston Churchill.   International cooperation is a buzz word to many, but it is exactly what happens everyday in government.  A lot has happened in the last month that makes me optimistic.

It is not a case of wanting to win,  but how to do it.  The choice is “winning alone” or “winning together.”  The arrests of ISIL terrorists in Belgium made headline news.  But, the capture Khalid Al-Barnawi with Ansaru, a radical terrorist group associated with Boko Haram  in Nigeria and neighboring countries called for celebrations in the street.

“Put your money where your mouth is”, is a great saying.  The US  put a 5 million dollar bounty on Al-Barnawi’s capture.  It is obvious  terrorism doesn’t respect the boundaries of any country.    Boko Haram has caused the death of 17,000 people and caused millions to flee their homes.   Al-Barnawi- may you rest in peace along with your insane and barbarous gang of thugs.

The announcement that China was not going to import coal from North Korea, appears to be another big win for nuclear non-proliferation.  It is part of the UN sanctions against North Korea for their nuclear program.   I suspect a lot of credit goes to John Kerry and Sandra Powers (US Ambassador to the UN) for this  “win” – but it will be a long and frustrating road ahead.  A carrot and stick approach  must be applied and this requires cooperation of the major world powers working within the framework of the UN.  This is why the UN was created,  to resolve disputes without war.  You may get talks going through “stick” policy, but if the carrot isn’t there, nothing will change.    The carrot is a lifting of the sanctions, once North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons program and agrees to highly intrusive inspections.

The US international policy has been to villainize a country to a point, where there is no incentive to change.  The “jaws-jaws” approach has resulted in a better relationship with Cuba- and it was badly overdue. It will take time for many in the US to adjust to the new policy.    Efforts in international cooperation are really bearing fruits, with advances in world health and control of epidemics,  the space exploration and the international  agreements on  climate change.

Mr. Trump should know, the “jaw-jaw”  approach is working.  But, there are no quick wins, or home runs in diplomacy.  Translating talk into action takes time to achieve the necessary unity  and a lot of perseverance.

It is “together wins” not the US wins which will determine the future.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Cuba

Many Cuban-Americans feel betrayed.    They wanted the  lifting of sanctions tied to some grand change from the Cuban government.   It didn’t happen.  But nothing the Cuban government could have done would have satisfied many ardent anti-Castro, anti-communism  supporters.

Cubans in Miami will tell you how Fidel destroyed their country and imprisoned their   people trying to reform the government.  Good, hardworking  and honest people went to jail or escaped Cuba.  Those that left Cuba had to  leave all their possessions behind.

According to Wikipedia:

The Republic of Cuba is one of the world’s last remaining socialist countries following the Marxist-Leninist ideology. The Constitution of 1976, which defined Cuba as a socialist republic, was replaced by the Constitution of 1992, which is “guided by the ideas of José Martí and the political and social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin.”[4] The constitution describes the Communist Party of Cuba as the “leading force of society and of the state”.[4]

It might be in the Constitution, but by all reports, capitalism is far from dead in Cuba.  Increased tourism is creating a new economy.

Those supporters of  sanctions have a point- you can not have democratic reform with a one party system.   The economy was destroyed through government ownership of everything.  Those opposed to the embargo also have a point- this is a 50 year attempt to change Cuba and it  failed.  The other countries in South America and the EU do not support the sanctions.

There is no one more adamant on maintaining sanctions than Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,  representing Miami and Coral Gables, FL.   I have include a link to her speech to Congress below:

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Speech to Congress, March 21, 2016

Actually, this is fairly tame attack on President Obama and his efforts to restore relationships with the Cuban regime.  Some 13 years ago, Cuba included as one  of a handful of countries in the infamous “axis of evil”  which included Iraq (under Saddam Hussein), Iran,  North Korea and Libya.  This inclusion was done on in May 2002, by the Undersecretary of State John Bolton, in the Bush Administration warning these rouge states including Cuba,    “state sponsors of terrorism that are pursuing or who have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or have the capability to do so in violation of their treaty obligations.”[5]

I think Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen statement  that ‘The image of President Obama in Cuba says ‘no human rights are being violated.’”  is not valid.  Didn’t the Congresswoman see the image of Pope Francis in Cuba in September 2015?  Did that also mean “no human rights are being violated.”  This bit of fiction came  from the mouth of Raul Castro- and not President Obama or Pope Francis.   Was Congresswoman upset when Nixon visited Chairman Mao  in China in 1972, or Gerald Ford in 1975?

I like the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) – they are very courageous women.   I want them to succeed. (see description below)  Raul Castro still has many political prisoners.   I don’t think Obama trip hurt their cause and likely helped them. The Castro government was harassing members of this group.  The police were seen tearing down their banner as Obama came to Havana.  They didn’t want the media to film what was on the banner, “Cuba’s dream is Cuba without the two Castros.”  It got reported anyway- and so did Cuba’s harassment of the Ladies in White.

Ladies in White (Spanish: Damas de Blanco) is an opposition movement in Cuba founded in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. The women protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white dresses and then silently walking through the streets dressed in white clothing.

In the future, it will hurt Raul Castro if he attempts to blame the failure of his government on the embargo and the supposed threat from  the US.  President Obama said in Cuba at the joint press conference with Raul Castro:

I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity nor the intention to impose change on Cuba. What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.

We will not impose our political or economic system on you. We recognize that every country, every people must chart its own course and shape its own model. But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe, the things that we as Americans believe.

What has been surprising is how muted the response has been from Republicans.   One would expect former Ambassador John Bolton to be all over Fox News.    Of course,  all Republicans are right now focused on the election, and candidate Trump is not out there blasting Obama for embracing communist Cuba, but just saying he could have cut an even better deal.   About pare for the Donald.  Rubio and Cruz announced they would reverse course.

Rubio and Cruz Skeptical on U.S.-Cuba Relations, Trump Wants to Improve Them

MIAMI – The Republican candidates for the White House, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of Cuban origin, would reverse the US openness towards Cuba, undertaken by President Barack Obama, while Donald Trump said that he “would improve it.”

During the twelfth Republican debate in the primaries, held in Miami on Thursday, Rubio, a Florida senator, who needs to win in his state in order to stay alive in the race, claimed that the new US policy toward Cuba is “an unrewarded exchange,” adding that Cuba “has not taken a single change in human rights.”

“I would love the relationship between Cuba and the United States to change. But today, Cuba has not changed,” Rubio said.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he would reverse the diplomatic relationship steps taken by Obama with Havana, just as he would reverse other steps taken by Obama’s government, like the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump when asked the same question said he believes that “50 years is enough” referring to the embargo imposed on the island, but noted that he would like to “improve the agreement”, however without delving into details.

Latin American Herald Tribune detailing comments made during the last debate.

Rand Paul with his Libertarian leanings thought the lifting of the embargo might be a good for Cuba.   Libertarians believe in less federal government interference abroad.

So,  Trump is being really clever. It is his answer to almost anything. Elect me, and I’ll have this wonderful deal I’ve negotiated with the Cuban government.   American will be great again.  (Applause sign).   Note that international support for the embargo has pretty much gone.

So  the real problem with what Representative Ros-Lehtinen is saying, is not her characterization of Cuba today, but whether to use the whip or carrot to move the cart forward.  After 50 years,  the carrot seems far more productive

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Attack on ISIL in Libya

The town of Sabratha, just outside of Tripoli to the west,  would easily rank as one of the top 10 places I would want to visit in by lifetime.  It isn’t on many people’s list, and certainly not today, after the occupation of the town by ISIL.

Sabratha

It has beautiful beaches and well preserved Roman theatre.   But as reported on Feb 19, 2016, US warplanes have put a serious dent in ISIL’s plans by hitting a training camp.

US Daily News

Good.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Intervention in Libya

The latest news is that the British will send 1,000 troops to defend Benghazi in Libya against ISIL  This is excellent news.  I predict the Libyans will defeat the eastward advance of ISIL.

According to the “The Times” (a UK newspaper):

“Downing Street and the Pentagon are in talks to persuade Libya to take at least 1,000 British troops to bolster its forces in the battle with Isis, whose coastal stronghold is just 200 miles from Europe.”

So, the rationale for deployment is not to save Libya, but to keep ISIL terrorists from coming to Europe as refuges, to create more chaos in European cities.  I would rather intervention  be based on humanitarian reasons, but c’est la vie.

The role of these troops is to support the Libyan army, as advisers or trainers.  It is an attempt to put boots on the ground, but keep them away  from the front lines.   It may appear  the Europeans and the US are helping to support the Tobruk government over the Tripoli government- a very tricky situation.  I am certain that as Britain and others ally with the Libyans against jihadists, they don’t want to become enmeshed into the civil conflict.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Libya – Dire Situation

As Republican look through umpteen emails of Hillary Clinton,  the Benghazi committee is lost in the past.  It is not investigation; it is grand standing attack on Hillary.

The survival of  Benghazi  and 600,000 residents are imperil at this moment from ISIL.  Intervention from outside appears the only way to keep the country together,  but this could turn out to be a proxy battle, much worse than Syria.

Libya, Extremism and the Consequences of Collapse,  Al Jazeera, Jan 28, 2016

The above article is excellent, as it discusses the two main threats- ISIL and Al Qaeda. But the chaos created by the rival Tobruk and Tripoli governments, makes intervention very hazardous.

An initial attempt to assist in fighting ISIL with a US Special Forces Unit, on Dec 16, 2015 ended in disaster.  The group had expected a warm welcome from Libyan leaders.  Instead  as the soldiers were “captured” and  sent packing immediately.

Libyan Air Force Reveals Failed US Special Forces Mission, Newsweek

The UN Peace Talks looked very promising in December as a final peace ageement was ready for signing.  But, as reported on Dec 23, 2015, both the heads of state, of the Tobruk and Tripoli parliaments, refused to sign the peace agreement.

So, I guess the operating principle right now  with leaders in both Tripoli and Tobruk factions, is-  “whatever weakens my enemy, strengthens my position” and recognition of the absolute necessity of unity for battling the jihadists is lost.

Meanwhile,  I suspect a lot of options are being discussed, not really on how to save Libya, but with the limited goal of not seeing a ISIL flag raised over Benghazi.

Obama looks set to take fight to Islamic State in Libya

It is a terrible mess, and there are no really good alternatives, given the political disunity.  I feel for the people of Libya.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Dimming hope in Libya

My hope for Libya becoming a unified country is diminishing.  It is a sad conclusion.  I had hoped for peace would come through the very capable UN negotiator, Martin Kobler.    A peace agreement was finally ready for signing in December 2015, giving rise to hope. Kobler was able to convince lawmakers from the Tobruk and Tripoli factions to sign the agreement,  but the leaders of both factions would not.

Wikipedia has done a phenomenal job of impartially chronicling events as follows:

 Libyan Civil War (2014 to present)

The Libyan civil war end in November 2011, and a period of calm existed until May 2014 when the newly elected congress in Tripoli was attacked. Today, the country is broken into two main factions  with the Tripoli and Tobruk governments controlling large portions of the west and east of Libya, respectively  and several other groups controlling parts of the country.

To control Libya, the entire Mediterranean coastline of Libya  must be secured.  This is where the export ports and refineries are located.  The regional airports and roads must also be secured for commerce to continue.  The onshore  oil fields are located more in the central part of the country and pipelines are bring the oil to the coastline for shipping.

The Wall Street Journal reported the destruction of the oil tank storage facility at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf with a million barrels of crude going up in smoke.  This was a dramatic show of force.   An astute commentator asked what good is the facility to ISIL if it is burned to the ground.  The answer is, that they have denied Libya the ability to export their oil,  one more step is seizing control of Libya.

Wall Street Article on ISIL attack

ISIL has control of Sirte, so this attack is a move to the east.   Next stop is likely Brega, which has a refinery and export port.  It would be a major prize to ISIL.     It is headquarters to Sirte Oil Company,  which before being nationalized by Gaddafi, was the Exxon oil company concession headquarters.

The Gulf News has a very insightful and timely article on the peace talks provided below:

There’s a ray of hope for Libya’s Peace Talks

Basically,  hope springs from the fact that ISIL has not been able to forge the essential ties to other influential groups, as it did in Syria.  I feel that this is likely because there isn’t the same condition of extreme  poverty and xenophobia (eventhough Gaddafi tried to instill western hatred) as in Syria.  So, ISIL is fighting both Tobruk and Tripoli government, from Sirte, home base of Gaddadi.

But still, ISIL may develop ties to other tribal groups, with their own militias.  The New York Times article on Jan 18, 2016 further analyzes the complex situation of the US trying to help defeat ISIL, without a united government in place:

 US courts unreliable allies to combat ISIL

In sum, everybody  wants national unity and a defeat of ISIL, but compromise is very elusive.  The trajectory, if based on past events, is frightening.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American who did not return

Robert Levinson did not come home with the rest of the released  prisoners from Iran.  His family has been on a number of stations, including CNN and Fox.  People are suddenly interested in those Obama didn’t get released from Iran.

His case is quite different from the other Americans. In Mr. Levinson’s case, the leaders in  Iran say they don’t know where Mr. Levinson is.  They deny having any involvement with his disappearance.  Hence, it is difficult to negotiate for the release of a missing person.

I’ve combed the internet looking at what could have happen to Mr. Levinson.  Is there proof that Mr. Levinson is alive?   Honestly, I really hate to say this but the evidence is weak.  But, the family believes strongly that he is in fact, still alive and imprisoned in Iran.  They believe the Iranian officials are lying when they deny any knowledge of his whereabouts.  Their hope increased as the Iran deal was negotiated, and hope Mr. Levinson would be”found” and returned to the US as part of the negotiations.

There have been two photographs of Mr. Levinson, received by his family.  It is possible that these are fakes.  It is terrible that anyone could intentionally inflict more pain on the family by creating fake photos. But there are all sorts of very weird people in this country.

The proof that Mr. Levinson went to Iran in year 2007 is rock solid.  He was staying on Kirk Island which is part of Iran.  His signature on a check out bill, dated March 9, 2007 from a hotel in Kirk Island.  It was reported in the Iranian state  run PressTV  on April 4, 2007 that he had been take into custody on March 9, 2007 and would be released shortly.  His family has confirmed that his name does not appear on any flight manifests leaving Kirk Island.   This is where the trail goes cold.   And it’s been cold for nearly 9 years.

Unlike the other prisoners,  Iran has never accused Mr. Levinson of doing anything wrong.  In fact, when members of his family went to Kirk Island in December 2007,  they say the Iranian officials treated them well.

There are a lot more details on Mr. Levinson’s trip,  which had been summarize in Wikipedia:

Wikipedia- Robert Levinson

His family has created a website,  with many links to news media stories:

Help Bob Levinson Website

It is just possible that  Iranians just might be telling the truth.  Anyone who has knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, can make a quick 5 million dollars, courtesy of the FBI.

Of course, the news media has jumped all over the prisoner release and Mr. Levinson’s case.   Republican candidates like Marco Rubio has widely condemned the prisoner swap, as putting American’s imperil.  I guess the idea is that a president of any country can just scoop up a few Americans, and negotiate with the White House to get their countrymen released as part of an exchange.  It is pretty silly, as most of the foreigners in our prisons are people their own governments want to be released.

Travel always carries some risk, and in general, more care has to be taken in a number of countries.  I happen to have some experience with this, having visited a number of countries in South America, Africa and the Middle East, including Syria, Libya, Colombia  and Angola.  There is always a risk of kidnapping and robbery.   Interestingly, kidnapping of foreigners is rare in the Middle East countries, but theft occurs in all major cities.  Miami has a lot of theft too.   Take my word for it!

But Americans were safe from the possibility of kidnapping in Iran, because money could not be wired into the country.  But, with the lifting of sanctions, this has changed.   However, I do not expect kidnapping to be a major problem, as most tourists will travel in organized groups.   Any money wired into the country for ransom will be quickly tracked down, and the kidnappers will be arrested.

Countries like Egypt,  Algeria and  Libya can pose risks for foreign journalists, but not for tourists.  A journalist who is relocated to Iran from Nigeria may actually feel more secure.  It is all relative.  Tourists must behave themselves.  This is probably rule number 1 in travel: Respect,  courtesy  and patience are absolute requisites- it’s not your country.

A lot of good tips are available on the internet for the intrepid traveler.  The cell phone is your friend and constant companion.  Learn speed dialing!  If you enjoy wandering around strange places, as I do, learn to keep a low profile.   Learn from nature- it is always better to travel in a group.  Local contacts can be essential.

But, I seem to be digressing here.   Bob Levinson’s  disappearance is a tragedy.  The information on his disappearance is very sparse. The disappearance should not become political.   There is no evidence Iran is hiding him, and it is not particularly useful for the US to demand release of a missing person or to accuse Iran of lying.    The 5 million dollars reward by the FBI for information was a good idea.  Americans traveling abroad to Iran in general should not be worried about being detained by the Iranian government, but also follow safe traveling tips.

Stay tuned,

Dave