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As if color-coded domestic terror advisories were not vague enough, the U.S. State Department has now issued a travel alert, set to expire on Jan. 31, 2011, for Americans in Europe. According to The New York Times, “The decision to warn travelers came as officials in Europe and the United States were assessing possible plots originating in Pakistan and North Africa, aimed at Britain, France and Germany.” The Christian Science Monitor notes: “Media reports have linked the plot to US drone strikes in Pakistan. But it is unclear whether the Al Qaeda plot was an attempt to respond to the drone strikes, or whether the strikes were intended to disrupt the plot – or both.”
Following are a few excerpts from the State Department teleconference briefing yesterday with Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, who does not discuss drone attacks on Pakistan but does discuss how important it is, in light of the travel alert, that Americans know how to operate foreign pay phones. Why the Pakistani government does not issue terror advisories of its own is meanwhile called into question by headlines like this one.
UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: … [O]ne has to understand how I guess we get to a Travel Alert. It is a cumulative process. The State Department, every day, has personnel who monitor the world, looking at conditions that might have an impact on American citizens, and as information comes on, there could be a eureka moment where there is information that comes to our attention that – bingo, that’s it, we issue the – an alert immediately.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently categorized as “black propaganda” the claim that Turkey is shifting its foreign policy orientation away from the West, especially in the aftermath of the May 31 Israeli murder of 9 Turkish humanitarian activists on the Mavi Marmara.
Explaining that his administration’s policy of improved relations with neighbors—manifestations of which include the waiving of visa requirements for citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Libya—has drastically increased tourism revenues, Erdoğan has also reminded the West of Turkey’s application for European integration, pending since 1963, and has threatened the European Union with the label “Christian Club” in the event that Turkey is not admitted.
A June 23 article in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera entitled “Berlusconi: ‘Rapporti con Iran? Solo se condivisi con Usa e Israele’” registers the Italian premier’s pledge to tailor his country’s foreign relations to the needs of the US and Israel. The pledge came during a visit to Italy by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who then invited Berlusconi to Israel to address the Knesset and to inaugurate an annual incontro bilaterale between the two nations. In addition to gushing support for the demilitarization of any Palestinian state, Berlusconi gushed his appreciation for the invitation to visit friends in friendly realms whose friendliness showed no signs of abating: “Sarò molto lieto di visitare un amico, in un Paese amico che resterà amico per molti anni.”
Berlusconi’s emphasis on comradeship may have minimized the worries of an Israeli official featured in a June 23 Jerusalem Post article, who “said it was just ‘bad luck’ that [Netanyahu’s] visit was taking place in the midst of a salacious sex scandal swirling around Berlusconi, a scandal that is eating away at his credibility and will detract from [said] visit and any gestures of Italian-Israeli friendship the Italian leader may have wanted to bestow on the prime minister.” Additional gestures were bestowed following Netanyahu’s departure when Rome granted honorary citizenship to Gilad Shalit, raising the issue of whether Iran might start adopting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.