Entries in Obama Administration (11)


Obama Administration: Hamas to Blame for Gaza Violence

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to the escalating border violence between Israel and the Gaza strip, Obama administration officials have made the U.S. position clear: Hamas is to blame.

Aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the administration strongly condemns the ongoing  rocket fire from Gaza. Carney lamented the civilian casualties among both the Israelis and Palestinians over the last few days, but said it is Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, which governs the Gaza strip, that is instigating the violence.

“Hamas claims to have the best interest of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause,” Carney said. “Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self-determination.”

This is the worst flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in several years. After contending with a steady stream of missiles being fired by Hamas into Southern Israel over the course of this year, the Jewish state launched its own offensive on Wednesday, killing Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas military leader. In retaliation, the group launched nearly 150 more rockets at Israel on Thursday. The attack killed three Israelis in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi, with rocket fire reaching Israel’s largest city of Tel Aviv.

In just the last two days at least 15 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, in addition to the Israeli casualties. There are also reports that Israel may be preparing for a ground operation as it moves troops near the border. A ground incursion by Israel into Gaza could signal the beginning of an all-out war.

When asked about the possibility of a ground offensive, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call that the United States respects Israel’s right to defend itself, but would not like to see the conflict escalate further.

“Our view is the Israelis have a right of self-defense when their citizens are faced with the threat of indiscriminate rocket fire from within Gaza. Ultimately it’s up to the Israeli government to make a determination about how they are going to carry out their military objective,” said Rhodes. "But we’ve also said the best course of action would be for there to be a general de-escalation of the violence, but the onus is on Hamas and those with influence over Hamas to help bring about that de-escalation so we don’t see a widening conflict.”

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told ABC News that there are no immediate plans to begin a ground operation in Gaza,  though the military is prepared to do so if needed.

“At this point, we have not received directives from the political echelon to embark on a ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman said. "We are prepared for the possible expansion of the operation if necessary but are currently engaged in the aerial phase that has included pinpoint targeting of approximately 250 sites. These sites include medium- and short-range rockets, launching pits, storage depots and senior terrorist leaders.”

Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have contacted leaders in Egypt, Turkey and other European allies who have influence with Hamas.

Egypt, whose new governing Muslim Brotherhood party has a relationship with Hamas, also has a binding peace treaty with Israel. Under the previous regime, led by Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was one of the staunchest and most reliable U.S. allies in the region. State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters Thursday that the administration is imploring Egypt to use its regional influence to help stop the escalating conflict.

But Egyptian officials have publicly said that the Palestinians have the right to self-defense, and diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt have been strained over the violence. This week  Egypt’s ambassador to Israel returned to Cairo for consultations, and Israel’s ambassador to Egypt also returned to Jerusalem before the offensive was launched. On Friday Egypt’s prime minister, Hesham Kandil, will travel to Gaza to speak with Hamas officials.

Toner refused to characterize the substance of the conversations between U.S. and Egyptian officials over the conflict, but said that both countries remain in agreement that the violence needs to end.

“There is a very clear path here to ending the violence and that’s for the rocket attacks to stop, so we would hope that that’s a message that would be delivered,” he said.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sen. McConnell: Obama Administration Libya Explanation ‘Disturbing’

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(DANVILLE, Ky.) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday blasted the Obama administration’s “disturbing” explanation for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“We’re finally getting the right story from the professionals down at the State Department who have been saying from the very beginning that it was a terrorist attack,” said McConnell, R-Mo., on the ABC News/Yahoo News pre-vice presidential debate live stream show.  “I don’t know where this notion that this thing was video-inspired came from in the first place.”

Republican lawmakers have skewered the Obama administration this week in the first Congressional hearings on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Libya, suggesting that the administration altered its explanation for the attacks for political reasons.

“It leaves you with the suspicion that since the president was in the campaign going around reminding everybody that [Osama] bin Laden’s gone and we were out of Iraq and we would soon be out of Afghanistan, and implying that the war on terror was over, that the campaign just felt it was inconvenient that we had a terrorist attack that killed four Americans,” McConnell said.  “As I said, inconveniently -- a month before the election.”

McConnell said that State Department officials never believed that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a hijacked protest over an anti-Islamic film that was released on YouTube.

“There’s no evidence that the video was the cause of this theorist attack,” he said.  “The professionals in the State Department felt that from the very beginning."

“So, yes its quite disturbing,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Distances Self from Statement Issued by US Embassy in Cairo

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration Tuesday distanced itself from a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

In a statement online, the Embassy of the United States in Cairo said that it “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

The statement was issued before the attacks on the compound, but given the subsequent attack -- and the interpretation that the statement was somehow apologizing for free speech in regards to an anti-Muslim film that caused the uproar -- the Obama administration itself took issue with it.

An administration official tells ABC News that “no one in Washington approved that statement before it was released and it doesn’t reflect the views of the U.S. government.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Why Did the Obama Admin. Deny Bolivia’s Extradition Request?

AIZAR RALDES/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- On Friday, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, announced that the U.S. government was refusing to extradite former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who is facing formal charges of genocide.

“A document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,” announced Morales, who called the U.S. a “refuge for criminals.”

The controversy dates back to October 2003 when Sanchez de Lozada sent his military forces to quell protests against his government, resulting in the deaths of 67 men, women, and children, mostly from the impoverished indigenous Aymara community. Sanchez de Lozada eventually fled his country and sought refuge in the U.S. In 2007, Bolivian prosecutors brought charges against him.

The move has prompted some harsh criticism from critics of U.S. policy. Writing in the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald calls this “a classic and common case of the US exploiting pretenses of law and justice to protect its own leaders and those of its key allies from the rule of law, even when faced with allegations of the most egregious wrongdoing. If the Obama DOJ so aggressively shielded accused Bush war criminals from all forms of accountability, it is hardly surprising that it does the same for loyal US puppets. That a government that defies US dictates is thwarted and angered in the process is just an added bonus. That, too, is par for the course.”

So why wouldn’t the U.S. cooperate with this request?

On Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell was asked about this, and he said “we reiterate our expressions of sympathy to the victims and their families who lost their lives or were injured in the civil unrest surrounding the protests of October 2003.  But as a matter of longstanding policy, we don’t comment on specific extradition requests, so I simply can’t get into that.”

Trying to shed some light on what’s going on behind the Obama administration denial of the request, ABC News granted anonymity to a source familiar with the matter to give some perspective. The source said there were serious technical problems with the Bolivian extradition request.

“The former president is accused of genocide for ordering security forces to suppress some violent demonstrations where people were killed,” the source recalled. “For extradition requests to be successful, there are two standards that must be met. One, the accused crime has to be a crime in both jurisdictions, and two, there has to be a reasonable belief that the individual committed the crime.”

The Bolivian request failed to meet both of these requirements, the source said.

As a technical matter, the U.S. criminal code doesn’t have the crime of “genocide,” so an extradition request would need to accuse Sanchez de Lozada of murder or conspiracy to commit murder or some similar charge.

Moreover, the source said, “the accusation is of genocide but there was no proof presented” in the extradition request that Sanchez de Lozada knowingly ordered the killing of these individuals. Clearly the military forces were acting on his orders to suppress the demonstrations, but so far the U.S. has yet to see any evidence that Sanchez de Lozada ordered anyone killed.

“The was virtually no evidence presented in the petition,” the source said, adding that the Bolivian government by reputation often sends “very defective requests” to the U.S. government, and suggesting that this may have been more of an attempt by the Bolivian president to get on his “anti-American soapbox” than anything else.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Does Not Agree With McCain’s Call for Airstrikes in Syria

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain Monday called for the United States to begin airstrikes against the government of Syria, but the Obama administration indicated it did not agree with his strategy.

“Foreign capitals across the world are looking to the United States to lead, especially now that the situation in Syria has become an armed conflict,” the Republican from Arizona said on the Senate floor. “But what they see is an administration still hedging its bets -- on the one hand, insisting that Assad’s fall is inevitable, but on the other, unwilling even to threaten more assertive actions that could make it so.”

But a senior Obama administration official indicated to ABC News that the president and his advisers did not agree with the Republican senator.

“We share his concern and outrage about what’s taking place,” the official said. “We’re also concerned that further military intervention will accelerate the conflict on the ground and worsen the humanitarian situation without stopping the violence the Syrian regime is committing against its own people.”

The official said the U.S. “wants to keep putting pressure on the Assad regime.”

The official noted that the Syrian situation is very different from Libya in many key technical ways that make them question how effective airstrikes against the Syrian regime would be.

“There aren’t air attacks on the opposition, nor are large sections of country in control of the opposition,” the official said. In Syria, there are “snipers and artillery units in these populated areas” that would also make airstrikes a dicier proposition.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Adm. Mullen Stands by His Pakistan Comments

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In a series of media interviews conducted prior to his stepping down Thursday as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen did not soften his critical views on Pakistan’s support for the Haqqani Network.

Mullen told NPR’s “Morning Edition” that he would not change “a word” of the testimony he gave to  the Senate Armed Services Committee last week when he described the Haqqani Network as “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and that Pakistan was “exporting violence” to Afghanistan.

“I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased,” Mullen said.

Pakistani government officials have vehemently denied Mullen’s claims, which are seen as a reflection of the Obama administration’s growing impatience with Pakistan’s inability to shut down safe havens on Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network uses those safe havens to launch attacks against U.S. troops inside Afghanistan and the recent series of high-profile attacks in the capital city Kabul.

When asked to comment about Mullen’s comments Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “It’s not language that I would use.”

Mullen clarified his earlier remarks, telling NPR, “I’m not asserting that the Pak mil or the ISI has complete control over the Haqqanis.”

He added, “But the Haqqanis run that safe haven. They’re also a home to al Qaeda in that safe haven. And I am losing American soldiers. The Haqqanis are killing American soldiers. And from that perspective, I think it’s got to be addressed, which is the reason I spoke to it.”

Mullen also said that the United States and Pakistan must continue to work together to address reducing those ties, and have coordinated in recent years to eliminate the safe havens.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Backs Christine Lagarde to Lead IMF

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration announced Tuesday that the U.S. is throwing its support behind French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to take over as the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), replacing Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was ousted from the position amid accusations of sexual assault last month.

“Minister Lagarde’s exceptional talent and broad experience will provide invaluable leadership for this indispensable institution at a critical time for the global economy,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a written statement.

By endorsing Lagarde, the U.S. essentially guarantees she will win the position over Mexico’s central bank governor, Agustin Carstens, who Geithner commended for “his strong and very credible candidacy.”  Lagarde would be the first woman at the helm of the lending organization.

The U.S., which has the largest vote on the IMF’s board, has been silent until now about who should replace Strauss-Kahn.  Geithner said on Tuesday that the administration was “encouraged by the broad support” that Lagarde secured from the Fund’s membership, including emerging economies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Sanction Bans Export of Aircraft Parts Used by Syrian VIPs

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Friday announced it had taken action to prohibit the export of parts for small VIP passenger aircraft used by the leadership of the Syrian government.

Since the U.S. controls the licensing of U.S. origin parts for these planes, it has the right to ban their export from the U.S. to Syria, or their “re-export” from other countries to Syria. 

The move was done as part of the Obama administration’s effort to sanction leaders of the Syrian government in response to  their violent crackdown and human rights abuses against demonstrators. A statement from the BIS called the export or re-export of those parts “contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The move impacts four relevant licenses for exports and reexports of parts to these planes, which are small civilian aircraft used by Syrian leaders.

The Obama administration said this was being done as a reaction “to the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Syria.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


No Move Yet by the West to Intervene in Libyan Conflict

Rebel fighters opposing Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi organize ammunition at Ras Lanuf. ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is still reluctant to take any concrete action to stop the bloodshed in Libya following a meeting of senior advisors at the White House Wednesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, "We are not at a decision point.  We are considering these options.  We are actively considering a no-fly zone; we are very committed to pursuing a process by which the options that we do decide on that we work with our international partners to take them and implement them."

The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have already made it clear that there will be no steps taken without the consent of the international community.

Getting approval from the United Nations for a no-fly zone over Libya, which would follow some military action, might be difficult since Security Council members Russia and China are allies of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

As it is, Gadhafi has stressed that imposing a no-fly zone would compel his followers to take up arms against Western nations they already blame for the unrest in Libya that began three weeks ago with a rebel uprising that wrested control of much of the eastern part of the country from government forces.

However, since then, Gadhafi has managed to hold onto his power base in Tripoli while beating back rebel advances.  There is uncertainty over whether government loyalists have retaken some western cities, including Zawiya, which is just 30 miles from the capitol.

In the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who heads the interim government, implored the U.S. and its allies to quickly establish a no-fly zone, saying otherwise, "the longer the situation carries on, the more blood is shed.

Gadhafi has responded to this plea by offering a $400,000 reward to anyone who captures and hands over Abdul-Jalil to him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Libya Unrest: Calls for No-Fly Zone Grow

US State Department(WASHINGTON) -- As forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi battle the opposition for control of key cities, the Obama administration is under growing pressure to do something to stop the violence.

Although rebels celebrated after pushing Gadhafi's forces out of Misrata, this increasingly appears to be a fight no one is winning.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon talked to Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and called for an end to the fighting, according to a U.N. statement Sunday.

The fighting in Libya has escalated with forces loyal to Gadhafi using helicopter gunships and rockets to pound rebel forces over the weekend.  Gadhafi says his forces have retaken rebel occupied cities, while the rebels say they are still in control of the east.

And there have been more calls for the United States to step in with a big move: enforcing a no-fly zone.

A no-fly zone could allow rebels to take a decisive step forward and stop Gadhafi's ability to launch air attacks.  But it could also require U.S. bombing inside Libya to take out air-defense systems.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tried to shut the idea down and was joined Sunday by President Obama's chief of staff, Bill Daley.

"Lots of people throw around phrases of 'no-fly zone,' and they talk about it as though it's just a game on a video game or something," Daley said on NBC's Meet the Press.

One fear is a public relations victory for Gadhafi if he managed to shoot down a U.S. jet. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio