Stan Collender Talks Shutdown, the Future, and More

On October 5, 2015, in DCView, by Focus Washington

Chuck Conconi is back this week with a new episode of Focus Washington! His guest is budget expert Stan Collender, lending his insights into the continuing resolution, the effects of a shutdown, and giving his predictions for the upcoming elections. 


Kurdistan is a roughly defined geo-culture located in the Middle East with a population of 28 million; however, the recent immigration crisis has resulted in the absorption of 1.8 million refugees into the region. This increase causes an extreme strain on Kurdistan’s available resources.

This article was originally posted on Bloomberg View, written by Eli Lake

<p>Displaced Iraqis at a camp near Erbil.</p> Photographer: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images


When the Islamic State in 2014 began its rampage throughout Iraq, many of the displaced people found a safe haven in the Kurdistan provinces in the north. That safe haven is now in danger.

This week at the start of the U.N. General Assembly, the Kurdistan Regional Government (or KRG) publicly warned that it was running out of money to provide basic services to the nearly 1.8 million Iraqis and Syrians who have fled there.

Unless the regional government receives a quick infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars, “there is going to be absolute destitution among the displaced population that we have not seen since the 1990s under Saddam,” the KRG’s U.S. representative, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, told me Tuesday.

The current refugee crisis created by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars has received significant attention in recent weeks as hundreds of thousands of refugees have sought new lives in Europe. But it’s the countries in the Middle East that are suffering the most as a result of the ongoing war.

In Jordan up to a quarter of the population is now Syrian refugees. The Kurdish region of Iraq has seen its population increase by 30 percent since the crisis began in 2014. Today the Kurdish region hosts 1.5 million displaced Iraqis and 280,000 Syrian refugees, according to the KRG’s statistics.

In the face of this crisis, one might think the Kurds would consider closing their border if the wave of migrants continues. But Abdul Rahman said that would be a last resort.

“We don’t want to close our borders,” Abdul Rahman said. “It’s not fair to someone running for their life. How can you shut your door to them?”

For Kurds the issue is a matter of principle. Almost all Kurds know the experience of being displaced. In Iraq they survived Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign, which included the use of chemical weapons in Halabja. “We’ve all been refugees at least once,” Abdul Rahman said. “Even people like me who are very privileged have been refugees. This is something we want to avoid at all costs.”

At the same time the situation in the Kurdish region is growing desperate. According to a recent estimate from the World Bank and the KRG’s own Ministry of Planning, the KRG will need $1.4 billion to stabilize the internally displaced people in its region if the flow of asylum seekers ended today. In a less optimistic scenario, it would need $2.4 billion.

In reality this would mean that even fewer children of the displaced in the Kurdistan region could go to school. Today 60 to 70 percent of school-age children do not go to school. Basic health services are often not available. Many of the internally displaced are living in shipping containers and half-built buildings without heat or electricity. Meanwhile, the U.N. vouchers for necessities like food could be eliminated, creating an even greater need.

When I was in the Kurdish region in January and February, I saw the misery for myself. The yards of churches and mosques around Erbil were turned into camps with tents and generators housing Iraqis who only a few months before had been comfortably middle class. Homeless Iraqis who couldn’t get housing at one of the seven U.N. camps in Erbil begged on the streets in broad daylight.

For now Abdul Rahman and other KRG officials in New York this week are appealing to Western governments for much-needed cash. But she told me she was also hoping for relief from other sources, including Christian charities and other private philanthropies.

Part of Abdul Rahman’s pitch is that over time, the young people displaced by the war will become a threat to the region and beyond if they are not integrated into society. She’s not alone in fearing this outcome. In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nancy Lindberg said the seven camps for the internally displaced just in and around Erbil were described to her by one aid worker as “seven time bombs.”

Abdul Rahman compared the fate of the displaced in the Kurdistan region to the generations of Palestinians who live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. “I don’t want to take a side in that conflict,” she said. “But it’s a fact that there is a Palestinian generation who have lost everything, who are radical and vulnerable and have no hope. I don’t want that in my backyard in Kurdistan. One Palestine is enough.”

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Immigration Crisis: A Disappearing Christian Middle East

On October 2, 2015, in DCView, by Chuck Conconi

The article below, written by Chuck Conconi,discusses the effects that the current European immigration crisis has had on Christian populations in the Middle East. It originally appeared on The Hill

Overriding all the public ceremonies dominating Pope Francis’s trip to Washington this month will be his growing concern about the bloody turmoil in the Middle East that has set off waves of refugees and threatens the few remaining Christians living in the region. It is a topic that will surface when he addresses the Congress and when he meets with President Obama.

For more than 2,000 years, Christians have been a significant part of the religiously complex Middle East, living side by side with Muslims and Jews, but that is changing and with it a growing fear that they no longer will be at home in the region. It seems that the political leaders are impotent in finding any resolution to the crisis, affecting not only Christians, but Muslims and Jews.

Religious leaders are finding the courage of their beliefs and are beginning to develop leadership roles to confront the seemingly endless violence and mayhem. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) mask criminality under the guise of conservative Islam, a convenient pretext to establish they are operating with the blessings of a God with a rigid code even for believers who don’t follow their narrowly defined tenets.

The diaspora of refugees desperately seeking sanctuary in Europe are Muslims as well as Christians. The Christian flight, however, is significant. While the statistical figures are not precise, The New York Times reported that the number of Christians in the Middle East has declined from 14 percent of the population to about 4 percent. Newsweek has reported a similar number, that the population in the region fell from 20 percent to 5 percent. In Iraq, the number of Christians fell from some 1.4 million to less than 500,000, and more than one-third of Syria’s Christians, some 600,000, have fled the country.

It is that festering crisis of fear and massacre that dominated a multi-religious conference this month in Athens, where top-level Christian and Muslim leaders met as part of a dialogue sponsored by the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

One of the principle participants of the interreligious gathering, Patriarch Aram I Keshishian, head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia and the Armenian Apostolic Church, said in an interview that he and other religious leaders have already met in Rome with the pope and in Washington with the president and members of Congress on this issue.

An imposing man with a commanding voice and obvious self-confidence, he said that “Christians are an essential part of the Middle East. We all share the problems with what is happening in Iraq and Syria. What is happening in Aleppo is an existential issue. Christians are leaving the region. We are not a minority; we are part of the culture and society of the Middle East. We have to look to our neighbors who are our brothers and sisters.”

He continued in saying that history is a passing thing and that ISIS will not last. But, he added, “Muslim leaders should speak out, they have to take the driver’s seat and confront a global evil.”

Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, the grand mufti of Lebanon, echoed the patriarch’s concern when he emphasized, speaking before the conference, that the Middle East crisis was one “we all have to endure. We are Christians and Muslims, two parts of one society. Both of us are suffering from colonialism … we are all in the same boat.”

That was essentially the consensus in the declaration of the conference that the Christian and other religious and ethnic communities are an integral and inseparable part of the Middle East’s cultural and religious diversity. The conference statement issued a condemnation of those “who manipulate religion to justify violence against people of other faiths and desecrate sacred sites and symbols.”

The conference representatives were aware that there must be movement beyond dialogue, but emphasized the importance of talking to each other is a significant beginning. They are aware that they have influence and expect that their concerns will be part of the political agenda of Pope Francis when he is in New York and Washington.

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Zack Space is an American politician and a former Congressman, representing Ohio’s 18th congressional district from 2007 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Space serve on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as on the Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection; Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet; and Subcommittee on Health. Space currently serves as a principal for Vorys Advisors LLC, a subsidiary of the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease.

Transcript below: Continue reading »


Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy’s Sue Sheridan discusses the impact of GOP control of the Senate on transmission policy.

Sue Sheridan is the President and Chief Counsel of CFTP. Ms. Sheridan began her work on Capitol Hill as counsel to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power when it was chaired by Rep. Philip R. Sharp, after stints at the Department of Energy and the White House Domestic Policy Council. She worked afterwards at the Energy and Commerce Committee for Chairman John D. Dingell, and served as Chief Counsel to the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment when she left the Hill in 2008. Ms. Sheridan now works as a consultant and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs and the George Washington School of Law. Ms. Sheridan graduated from Duke University and Vanderbilt Law School.

Transcript below. Continue reading »


IESC’s Watchen Bruce talks Ebola, Liberian economy

On December 4, 2014, in DCView, by Focus Washington

Watchen Bruce is Chief of Party for USAID’s “Liberia Investing for Business Expansion Program” or IBEX. Implemented by the International Executive Service Corps’ consultants and volunteer experts, IBEX works on the ground in Liberia to support small- and medium-sized businesses by offering technical advice and facilitating access to credit. IBEX is also helping to raise funds and conduct crisis mitigation training to help local businesses to cope with the disruptive effects of the Ebola virus.
Watchen Bruce


By Cui Tiankai

Originally posted on CNN

Editor’s note: Cui Tiankai is ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States. The views expressed are those of the author.

News that U.S. President Barack Obama is planning to attend next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing has been extremely welcome. China is thrilled to have President Obama as one of our guests, especially as the success of any initiatives that emerge from APEC rest squarely on cooperation between China and the United States.

Such cooperation is as important as ever, and this meeting — an event I have been involved in for many years — offers an opening to ending confusion among neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region while setting the stage for vigorous economic cooperation and integration in the coming decades.

The reality is that without strong participation by China and the United States, APEC would not have made such remarkable progress. When China and the United States find ways to work together, all nations benefit.

But shared economic growth cannot come through the decisions or actions of a single country. Instead, economic integration should be seen as a vital driving force for economic growth and prosperity in the region. Continue reading »


Careers in International Affairs

On September 16, 2014, in DCView, by Focus Washington

In the book “Careers in International Affairs” published by Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qorvis MSLGROUP’s Rebecca Bouchebel-MacMillan wrote about a career in Public Relations in the world of international affairs. The award-winning career book is the ultimate job hunting guide for anyone hoping to work in the US government, international organizations, business, or nonprofits.

Editors: Laura E. Cressey, Barrett J. Helmer, and Jennifer E. Steffensen.

By Rebecca Bou Chebel- MacMillan

When Tiger Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant at 2.25 am outside his Florida home he could not have anticipated the consequences – within days his life would be turned upside down and his public image damaged, possibly forever. By the time his managers came up with a strategy it was too late: a sporting icon and international household name had become damaged goods.

A good public relations campaign could have spared him the worst of the media onslaught but his team was too slow to act – they lost the golden hour and damage control became impossible.

The international free flow of information, globalization and the speed at which news is being disseminated via social media have made the fields of PR and Marketing imperative for any government or corporation.

From world-leading nations to small islands, global corporations to local businesses, all are finding themselves exposed and vulnerable to the speed of communication and the power of unchecked narratives channeled through the web. Today more than ever, they are vulnerable to crisis, as they are constantly put under the microscope. It is within this new media world order that the need for constant “engagement” and “relationship building” has become the bread and butter of PR and Marketing professionals. Continue reading »


Tom Miller is the President and CEO of International Executive Service Corps (, a U.S. nonprofit that promotes economic growth and stability around the world through programs that support private enterprise, business organizations and public institutions. He was previously U.S. Ambassador to Greece, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Special Coordinator for Cyprus at the rank of Ambassador in his 29-year career as an American diplomat.


Throwback Thursday: Matt J. Lauer on Public Diplomacy

On August 21, 2014, in EmbassyView, by Focus Washington

Here is a  throwback to ten year’s ago when QorvisMSL’S Matt J. Lauer was executive director of the commission on public diplomacy at the U.S. State Department.  He discussed  the Bush administration’s report on public diplomacy which was instrumental in updating America’s public diplomacy from the cold war days.  Here he is on CNN’s “Diplomatic License.” Matt J. Lauer on Public Diplomacy Reform on CNN’s Diplomatic License

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