The Envoy
  • Hillary Clinton promotes American jobs

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted international women's business leaders Jan. 24, 2012. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will kick off the next phase in her recent initiative to mobilize the State Department and U.S. diplomatic corps to promote American jobs. On Tuesday, Clinton will address some 200 U.S. company executives at a two-day global business conference hosted by the State Department.

    "It's clear there's a yearning and appetite to use the State Department even more aggressively than we've used it in the past to help promote American jobs," Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides told journalists in a phone call Friday previewing the Global Business Conference.

    In attendance will be executives from some 200 U.S. companies working in 120 countries.  Boeing CEO James McNerny will be there along with executives from Cargill, Estee Lauder and Qualcomm. Vice President Joe Biden will also make an appearance.

    "Every agency in this government needs to be focused on job creation," Nides said.  "And the State Department is uniquely positioned to do that because of our

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  • Amid a growing chorus of conservative voices urging the arming of the Syrian opposition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday it's trying to broker a ceasefire that would bring at least a temporary halt to violence that has killed over 6,000 people.

    "We are currently discussing several possibilities with all those concerned, and it includes a cessation of fighting in the most affected areas," the ICRC's spokesman Carla Haddad told the Associated Press from Geneva on Monday. "The idea is to be able to facilitate swift access to people in need."

    The ceasefire efforts come as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to travel to Tunisia later this week for an international "Friends of Syria" group meeting on the Syrian crisis.

    Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) called for the arming of the Syrian opposition, to defend itself from Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown. "It is time we gave the (opposition) the wherewithal to fight back and stop the slaughter," McCain said at a Cairo news conference on Monday, Agence-France Press reported.

    But top U.S. officials and analysts dismissed such proposals as hasty and unwise, especially given recent U.S. intelligence assessments that al-Qaida is operating in Syria to conduct attacks against the Assad regime.

    "I think it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview broadcast Sunday. "There are indications that al Qaeda is involved and that they're interested in supporting the opposition. ... And until we're a lot clearer about, you know, who they are and what they are, I think it would be premature to talk about arming them."

    In a new Center for New American Security (CNAS) report released Tuesday, author Marc Lynch argues that the U.S. and its international partners should apply pressure against the Assad regime instead of resorting to arming the opposition. "What I think we should be looking for is to accelerate the process of high-level regime defections," Lynch said in an interview with Yahoo News on Monday, noting that there have been very few so far. "Give Assad a make or break ultimatum. Tell him he can make a deal or go to the ICC [International Criminal Court] to face war crimes charges. That will deliver a real message to the next layer down in the [Assad regime] that they don't have forever."

    Among the CNAS report's recommendations: presenting Assad and top Syrian regime officials with the choice of resigning or facing possible war crimes prosecution; increasing international economic sanctions that target top Syrian political and military leaders; stepping up international efforts to help unify the Syrian opposition; and forging a strategic communications campaign to publicize the Syrian regime's atrocities.

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  • The FBI arrested a man suspected of planning to carry out a suicide attack against the U.S. Capitol on Friday. But the would-be suicide bomber, identified as a Moroccan national who resided in Alexandria, Virginia, was the target of a lengthy FBI undercover investigation and the public was never in any danger, FBI and Justice Department officials stressed.

    The man, identified as Amine El Khalifi, 29, was charged Friday by criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property, according to the Justice Department. If convicted, he could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.

    According to the criminal complaint affidavit, a confidential source reported to the FBI that El Khalifi met with other people at a home in Arlington, Virginia and expressed sentiments that the group needed to be ready for war. Over the next month, El Khalifi made frequent trips to the U.S. Capitol for surveillance and observation, finding where he would enter the

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