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Episode 29: Chris Hill

Chris Hill was born into the foreign service…and stayed there. He has served as Ambassador to Iraq and was the lead American negotiator in the six party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Ambassador Hill sits down with Mark to discuss managing US relations with key allies as the Iron Curtain fell, facing down Slobodan Milosevic, negotiating with North Korea and the current problems facing Iraq.

Ambassador Hill just completed his highly anticipated memoir (to be published this fall) so these stories are fresh in his mind. Have a listen!




Previous Episodes

The International Criminal Court’s Palestine Problem

Episode 28: Nancy Birsdall, founder of the Center for Global Development

Why this Ebola Outbreak is So Hard to Contain

Episode 27: Daniel Drezner, counter-intuitive wonk

How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

Episode 25: Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, USA. Long-time AIDS-Fighter

How Humanity is Winning the Fight Against AIDS

Episode 24: Joseph Cirincione, Nuclear Policy Wonk 

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2); A special edition with a slew of UN officials.

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk


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Refugees Escape Sinjar Mountain

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The US airstrikes are having an effect. “At least 20,000 Iraqi civilians who were besieged by jihadists on a mountain have managed to flee after US air raids on Islamic State (Isis) forces, officials have said. Shawkat Barbahari, an official from the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, said 30,000 people had escaped to Syria and then been escorted back into Iraqi Kurdistan by Kurdish forces. A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Iraq said officials had been reporting to the UN that 15,000 to 20,000 people had escaped the siege. Fears had been growing for the civilians, mostly Kurds of the Yazidi faith, trapped on Mount Sinjar in north-west Iraq in the searing summer heat with little to eat or drink.” (Guardian

But Iraqi politics is still as fractious as ever. “Iraqi news reports says troops loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have surrounded the home of President Fouad Massoum.” (VOA

Ebola Outbreak

Patient Zero in the Ebola outbreak, researchers suspect, was a 2-year-old boy who died on Dec. 6, just a few days after falling ill in a village in Guéckédou, in southeastern Guinea. Bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guéckédou is at the intersection of three nations, where the disease found an easy entry point to the region. (NYT

Nigeria has banned the transport of corpses over national and state borders. This comes a day after Guinea closed its borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia in a bid to halt an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 900. (DW


French forces have bombed Islamist militant positions in northern Mali. Four or five bombs were dropped in the Esssakane region, west of the city of Timbuktu on Sunday morning, the BBC’s Alex Duval Smith in Mali reports. (BBC

Kenya’s tourism industry has taken a big hit amidst increased violence in tourist hotspots. (Al Jazeera


Yet another ceasefire has begun between Israel and Hamas. (NYT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country has started to evacuate wounded people from Gaza to Turkey for treatment.  (Times of India


China appeared to rebuff pressure from the United States to rein in its assertive actions in the South China Sea on Sunday as Southeast Asian nations declined to overtly back Washington’s proposal for a freeze on provocative acts. (Reuters

The United States portrayed  the outcome of a meeting in Myanmar among Southeast Asian nations as a setback for Beijing’s attempts to minimize territorial disputes in the South China Sea. (VOA

The Americas

Just two days after Chinese President Xi Jinping finished his visit to Latin America on July 23, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe landed in Mexico to start his 11-day visit to the region. (China Daily

Some international-aid charities are joining forces to challenge the Canada Revenue Agency’s increased scrutiny of the sector, saying onerous new demands are draining them of resources that are badly needed overseas. (Guelph Mercury


Is Africa the next frontier for global capitalism? Ken Silverstein in Bloomberg

How to get a digital job in international development. (Guardian

Why are children fleeing Central America? (Bloggingheads


MIT scientists have discovered and easier way to manipulate malaria genes. (MIT

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WHO Declares Ebola Emergency

The World Health Organization took the extraordinary step today of officially declaring the Ebola outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”  This is a bureaucratic designation that triggers a number of responses by the World Health Organization and its member states — it is also a very apt description of the current Ebola virus outbreak.

Here’s the latest data on the outbreak from the WHO

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As part of its declaration today, the WHO made a series of recommendations to states directly affected by ebola, states that neighbor countries affected by ebola, and the rest of the world.

These recommendations are fairly specific. For example, the WHO recommends that Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria “conduct exit screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings, for unexplained febrile illness consistent with potential Ebola infection.  The exit screening should consist of, at a minimum, a questionnaire, a temperature measurement and, if there is a fever, an  assessment of the risk that the fever is caused by EVD.  Any person with an illness consistent with EVD should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation.”

And for the rest of the word:

States should provide travelers to Ebola affected and at-risk areas with relevant information on risks, measures to minimize those risks, and advice for managing a potential exposure.

States should be prepared to detect, investigate, and manage Ebola cases; this should include assured access to a qualified diagnostic laboratory for EVD and, where appropriate, the capacity to manage travelers originating from known Ebola-infected areas who  arrive at international airports or major land crossing points with unexplained febrile illness.

The general public should be provided with accurate and relevant information on the Ebola outbreak and measures to reduce the risk of exposure.

States should be prepared to facilitate the evacuation and repatriation of nationals (e.g. health workers) who have been exposed to Ebola.

It’s worth stating that emergencies like this demonstrate the value of an entity like the WHO. The WHO exists to facilitate that cooperation and its mere existence greatly lowers the transaction costs associated with fighting a deadly virus across borders. If this ebola crisis peters out in the next few months it will be because the international community heeds these recommendations, and funds the international response that the WHO is coordinating.

Ebola will only be contained through international cooperation and collective action.  The WHO has laid out a strategy for the international community to follow (and fund). It’s now up to member states to implement this plan.

Hear directly from the WHO about why this particular outbreak has been so hard to contain. 

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USA Launches Airstrikes in Iraq

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As the situation of 40,000 ethnic Yazidi’s in western Iraq becomes increasingly dire, the White House says it will launch military strikes against ISIS targets besieging the threatened population. “President Obama on Thursday announced he had authorized limited airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, scrambling to avert the fall of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and returning the United States to a significant battlefield role in Iraq for the first time since the last American soldier left the country at the end of 2011. Speaking at the White House on Thursday night, Mr. Obama also said that American military aircraft had dropped food and water to tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped on a barren mountain range in northwestern Iraq, having fled the militants, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who threaten them with what Mr. Obama called ‘genocide.’” (NYT

Ebola Outbreak

A Saudi man is suspected to have died from Ebola after he visited West Africa. (WSJ

Police and soldiers in Sierra Leone blockaded rural areas hit by the deadly Ebola virus on Thursday, a senior officer said, after neighbouring Liberia declared a state of emergency to tackle the worst-ever outbreak of the disease. (Reuters


An oil company owned by Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler said on Thursday it had discovered reserves of around 3 billion barrels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Reuters

The scale of humanitarian operations in South Sudan is now the largest in any single country and the world’s youngest nation is on the brink of catastrophe as a famine looms, the UN deputy peacekeeping chief said. (Reuters

The United States announced plans to spend $110 million a year over the next three to five years to help African nations develop peacekeeping forces that can be rapidly deployed to head off militant threats and other crises. (Reuters

Uganda’s overturning of anti-gay laws is a win not a defeat for President Yoweri Museveni, analysts say, with the veteran leader thawing donor relations while burnishing a strongman image at home. (AP

A recent slump in the Ghanaian currency and political stabilization in Ivory Coast, however, have tipped the balance. Ghanaian farmers are now the ones who smuggle their beans into Ivory Coast, where they get more money for them. (VOA

Africa is looking to the United States for help modernizing industry and combating terrorism, according to the deputy chairman of the AU. Erastus Mwencha also said AU officials are negotiating with Washington at the U.S.-Africa summit to improve the trade framework in the African Growth and Opportunity Act to include investment opportunities for American businesses and investors as the U.S. Congress readies to begin discussions on reauthorizing the law. (VOA


Two Italian aid workers have been kidnapped in war-torn Syria, the Italian foreign ministry said. (Reuters

Libya’s deteriorating security situation has led to an exodus of aid workers and suspension of development programmes, leaving tens of thousands of displaced and vulnerable people relying on skeleton networks manned in part by volunteers. (IRIN

For the tens of thousands of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in Libya, the only possibility for escape lies in the hands of smugglers. (AP

A coalition of British charities is launching an appeal to help the people of Gaza recover from what the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has called the nightmare of the last four weeks. (Guardian


A United Nations-backed tribunal has convicted two aging Khmer Rouge leaders of crimes against humanity, three-and-a-half decades after the communist group’s bloody rule left nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population dead. (VOA

China has suspended work at more than 200 factories in an eastern province for safety checks as part of a nationwide review following an explosion at an auto parts plant that killed 75 people, government officials and state media said. (AP

The Americas

Mexico’s Congress approves sweeping changes to the country’s energy industry which will see private oil contracts awarded for the first time since 1938. (BBC


Poverty is not a Disease (Think Africa Press

When land is degraded, its people and their prospects are degraded too (Guardian

Toward an Inclusive TPP Trade Pact (IPS

For Nigerian Girls, Education Is the Key That Opens Doors to Progress (IPS

The U.S.-Africa Summit Missed its Chance (DW

Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak (World Bank

The truth about Ebola: battle starts with accurate information (Guardian

Starving for awareness (WhyDev


How communities in Myanmar manage natural disasters (ActionAid

Top of the Morning | Leave a comment
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Why We Should Expect US Airstrikes in Iraq

For the past two days ethnic Yazidi in Iraq have emptied towns and villages ahead of an unrelenting advance by sunni extremist militants. The ISIS group espouses a hateful, extremist and supremacist ideology. In towns they have captured they have killed civilians based solely on their religion and ethnicity, including Christians and Shia muslims.

This second hand account told to George Packer of the New Yorker gives some indication of the threats faced by the Yadizi, not because of anything they have done–but because of who they are.

Karim heard that one young man had been executed by ISIS for no reason other than being Yazidi. A friend of Karim’s was hiding in the mountains, running low on supplies, and out of battery power in his phone. Another friend, an Arab (“He is not a religion guy, he’s open-minded, it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or Yazidi,” Karim said), had stayed in Sinjar and was trapped in his home. Now ISIS was going house to house, with information provided by locals, looking for Iraqi soldiers and police, for people with money, for Kurds. They had already taken away the friend’s brother, a police officer. No one knows for sure how many people ISIS has killed since the attack on Sinjar. Karim heard that it is many hundreds.

Now, there are about 40,000 Yazidi who have fled to a mountain in Sinjar, Iraq. They are running out of food and water, but are trapped on all sides by ISIS militants. This has all the potential to be sudden and catastrophic mass atrocity event.  The White House said today that President Obama is considering authorizing military force to prevent this slaughter.

The administration official said that “the president is weighing both passive and active options,” defining passive action as dropping humanitarian supplies. He added, using an alternative name for ISIS, “More active, we could target the ISIL elements that are besieging the base of the mountain.”

If I had to guess, I would think that President Obama will decide to use military force to strike at ISIS targets besieging this civilian population. The precedent here is Libya. You will recall that in February of 2011, Gaddafi’s soldiers had surrounded the city of Benghazi as the Libyan leader broadcast his intention to commit a mass slaughter of the residents therein.  President Obama famously “led from behind” to advance a Security Council resolution authorizing strikes against Gadaffi’s forces. Benghazi never fell to Gaddafi.

 I think it’s fair to say that President Obama is deeply wary of the value and utility of military intervention in most circumstances (see: Syria). But his actions in Libya suggest that he is willing to use American military power to prevent the imminent and sudden mass slaughter of civilians, at least when such intervention comports with international law. In this case, the decision is even easier because the Security Council would not need to approve this intervention for it to be formally legal, as Iraq has requested assistance.  So, I would expect that US airpower will be summoned in the very near future to strike at ISIS targets in Iraq. The key question though is how limited will those strikes be? Will they simply target the ISIS forces in Sinjar, or be more of a decisive blow against ISIS elsewhere in Iraq?

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Middle East; Iraq; Ebola

Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.” The UN held a moment of silence outside the Secretariat building today in remembrance of the colleagues killed in Gaza including eleven UNRWA personnel.

Iraq: A small religious sect in Iraq known as Yazidi came under attack from the Islamic State today and forced 50,000 people to climb nearby Mount Sinjar to escape the violence. UN agencies are providing those displaced with emergency assistance and the situation in Iraq will be further discussed by the Security Council this afternoon.

Ebola: WHO will convene a panel of experts to explore the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa next week. Two health workers have already been treated with experimental medicine, but Assistant Director-General of WHO noted that guidance from medical ethicists is necessary.

Cambodia: The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found two former Khmer Rouge leaders guilty of crimes against humanity today and sentenced them to life in prison. The sentence comes 30 years after the incident and is in accordance with the SG’s commitment to accountability for those who perpetrate such crimes as it sends a message to all those considering committing such crimes in the future.

South Sudan: The SG condemned the killing of five South Sudanese employees of NGOs and called for an investigation into the incident. He urged parties to cease their military operations and seek peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Afghanistan: US Secretary Kerry arrived in Kabul today to meet with Afghan leaders and encouraged the presidential candidates to help accelerate the audit process and work together to ensure national unity.

Russia: In response to the sanctions placed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, Moscow banned Western food imports for one year beginning today.

CAR: OCHA expressed concern over the looming food security crisis in CAR. Despite WFP’s assistance to 372,000 people in emergency food insecure areas over the last month, UNICEF  has reported 10,000 cases of child malnutrition across the country.

UN Direct | Leave a comment

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