This Week at State: October 13, 2017

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This Week at State: October 13, 2017

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week, DipNote recaps the latest U.S. Department of State highlights spanning a wide range of global issues, events, and initiatives in one blog post.

Here are the highlights from This Week at State:

President Trump Announces New Strategy on Iran

President Donald J. Trump announced a new strategy on Iran on October 13. The new strategy focuses on neutralizing the Government of Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region; revitalizing traditional alliances and regional partnerships; denying funding to the Iranian regime; countering missile threats to the United States and its allies; rallying the international community in condemnation of Iranian human rights abuses; and denying all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on the President’s strategy saying, “To our friends and allies in Europe, I think we have a real opportunity to address all of the threats that are posed by Iran. I think the plan the President has laid out is quite clear.” He added, “I fully expect that our allies and friends in Europe and in the region are going to be very supportive in efforts undertaken to deal with Iran’s threats.”

Secretary Tillerson Announces Release of U.S. Hostage in Pakistan

On October 12, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the United States, working in conjunction with Pakistan, secured the release of U.S. citizen Caitlan Coleman and her family from captivity in Pakistan. The Boyle-Coleman family was taken hostage by the Haqqani network in 2012.

Secretary Tillerson applauded “the innumerable lines of effort from across the U.S. Government,” especially those of Ambassador Hale and the staff of U.S. Embassy Islamabad. Secretary Tillerson also expressed the United States’ deep gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation.

United States Expresses Concern Over Turkish Detentions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his profound concern over the detention of Turkish nationals employed at the U.S. Mission in Turkey during an October 11 phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Secretary Tillerson emphasized the importance of transparency in the accusations made by the Turkish government and the need for the Turkish government to present the evidence behind these accusations.

On October 10, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert addressed the detentions and the status of U.S.-Turkey relations. Quoting United States Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, Spokesperson Nauert said, “The arrest has raised questions about whether the goal of some officials is to disrupt the longstanding cooperation between Turkey and the United States.” The Spokesperson added, “I think the Secretary would like to see our relationship improve with Turkey, as we would with other countries. But right now, that is being called into question with the actions that the Turkish Government took.”

United States Outlines Efforts to Counter Hizbollah

In a special briefing on October 10, Nathan Sales, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State, outlined the United States’ approach to countering Hizbollah. Ambassador Sales was joined in the briefing by Nicholas Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

“This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the United States designating Hizballah as a foreign terrorist organization. With backing from its patron, the Iranian regime, Hizballah remains one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations. It continues to commit terrorist attacks and to engage in other destabilizing activities across the globe.”

– Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales

During the briefing, Ambassador Sales also announced rewards for information regarding two senior Hizbollah officials under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program. The rewards for information leading to the location, arrest, or conviction in any country are related to Talal Hamiyah, the head of Hizbollah’s international terrorist branch, and Fu’ad Shukr, senior military commander of the Hizbollah’s forces in southern Lebanon. 

Secretary Tillerson Meets With Secretary General of the OAS

On October 13, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) for a meeting at the Department of State. 

President Trump and Secretary Tillerson Meet With Canadian Counterparts

On October 11, President Trump met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada at the White House. Secretary Tillerson hosted Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland for a bilateral meeting at the Department of State. The leaders discussed a range of topics, including NAFTA.

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Highlights Potential of Blockchain Technology

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan addressed participants at a forum on Blockchain on October 10 at the U.S. Department of State. Deputy Secretary Sullivan highlighted the importance of Blockchain technology saying, “Blockchain has the potential to become a transformative technology of our lifetime...I am excited about the many ways Blockchain technology could also increase transparency and accountability here at the State Department and across the federal government.”

Using Blockchain as an example, Deputy Secretary Sullivan also highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships. “The global challenges we face are too complex for any single entity to tackle alone. We need each other. Through these partnerships, we can take advantage of the creativity, unique capacity, and resources of all sectors to advance our diplomacy and development objectives,” he said.

#HiddenNoMore: Deputy Secretary Sullivan Emphasizes Importance of Women in STEM

On October 12, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan gave remarks at the #HiddenNoMore: Empowering Women Leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) event at the Department of State. While underscoring the fact that promoting women in STEM is a top priority for the Trump administration, Deputy Secretary Sullivan also acknowledged, “We know that we have more to do to remove barriers to women in STEM. Our fundamental belief is that when women do better, families do better, countries do better, and the world does better.” 

Deputy Secretary Sullivan also spoke directly to the 50 female STEM leaders from around the world participating in the #HiddenNoMore International Visitor Leadership Program, encouraging them to take seriously their responsibility as role models for the next generation of female STEM leaders.

“The more girls and women who are able to see and emulate role models who look like them, the more encouraged they will be to pursue their passions and succeed. When you return home, please share your experiences from this project with others in your communities, especially with girls and young women who might never dream that there is a place for them in STEM. Each of you is living proof of the fact that there is.”

–Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan

The United States Withdraws from UNESCO

The United States notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO. In announcing this decision, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert noted this action reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.

“The United States has indicated its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”

– Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert

United States Calls on Venezuela to Hold Free and Fair Elections

The United States called on  the Government of Venezuela to ensure that the October 15 Gubernatorial Elections are free and fair.

During the Department Press Briefing on October 12, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert noted with “great concern” that the regime will not permit the presence of independent international electoral observers, adding, “We call on the Venezuelan government to permit independent domestic observers to fully monitor the election and its tabulation of results.”

Follow the State Department on Twitter and Facebook for additional information and updates.

Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.