Around Town …

  • In a bizarre but an increasingly all too common approach in the new Washington of “change,” the U.S. Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, suggested this week that the U.S. should consider using economic sanctions to force Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians.  Our best ally in the region bullied, while we coddle terrorists. Some change.  It is more like back to the future.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a field hearing in California this past Friday: “The Impact of U.S. Export Controls on National Security, Science, and Technological Leadership.”  There have been many recent cases that illustrate how state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist groups, illegal arms dealers, and others are violating U.S. export control laws.  Yet, as has been the case in recent years with hearings on this issue, the witness panel was disproportionately stronger on the reform aspects of this issue and very weak on enforcement.  In an op-ed published the day of the hearing, Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) penned that “[y]ou practically have to have a law degree or Ph.D. to keep from running afoul of the increasingly complex export-controls regime.”  Unfortunately, this seems like another example of waving the export control reform talisman and not a reasonable way to go about engaging in truly substantive and much-needed reform.
  • Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times the editorial board called for increased economic sanctions on state sponsor of terrorism Iran.  In  the opening paragraph of the piece, editors write that  “[t]his week’s indictment of three Glendale men for allegedly smuggling vacuum pumps and other industrial equipment to Iran via the United Arab Emirates is the latest reminder of how easily and frequently U.S. trade sanctions against Tehran have been violated.”
  • Talking about reform, there is a new paper on export controls and spaceflight worth a read.  Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Professor Mark Sundahl has penned a new white paper: Export Controls and Human Spaceflight: A New Age of Reason?  He discusses, among other things, a recent Bigelow decision by the Department of State dealing with foreign nationals on board the international space station.  And, Members of Congress and staff should play close attention here, Professor Sundahl discusses how the recent “the DDTC ruling is also of interest to scholars of administrative law as an example of how discretion granted to administrative agencies can serve to remedy flaws in federal law when political dynamics prevent Congress from providing the remedies itself.”
  • The Coalition for Security and Competitiveness (CSC) sent a letter to President Obama last week that applauded the President’s decision to “undertake a thorough review of the U.S. export control system.” The group sent the President its reform recommendations that include some common sense approaches to dealing with the outdated portions of U.S. export control laws and regulations.
  • Defenders of state sponsor of terrorism Cuba wax nostalgically about why Cuba should be removed from the State Department terrorist watch list.  Again, strong on propaganda, weak on substance.  The Cuban regime has known for decades what it needs to do to have Cuba removed from the list.  It chooses to ignore it.
  • The former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega penned an excellent piece on the recent Haitian crisis that is well worth a read, Haiti’s Disasters: Natural and Man-Made.  Before U.S. taxpayers begin to dole out billions of dollars in long-term assistance, something must be done to address the various points raised in Noriega’s piece, among others, such as a serious review of the failed United Nation’s mission to the country.  U.S. leadership, not the U.N., will be critical to helping the future Haiti.
  • A Chinese state-controlled mining conglomerate – Northwest Non-Ferrous International Investment Company  –  has decided to withdraw its request for U.S. Government approval of its purchase of a controlling interest in a Nevada-based gold-mine.  According to an article by for U.S. Defense official Daniel McGroarty, “[p]recisely why the Chinese firm selected FirstGold from among scores of U.S. gold mining companies is not clear, but in recommending that the deal be refused, CFIUS apparently focused on “serious, significant and consequential national security issues” – namely, the proximity of one of FirstGold’s projects to Fallon Naval Air Station, home to the Navy’s TOPGUN training facility, as well as “other sensitive classified assets.”  For the benefit of readers outside the beltway, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, is an inter-agency committee that reviews transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person.  CFIUS ascertains if and how such transactions impact  U.S. national security.
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