News / USA

Kerry's First Trip Abroad Tackles Familiar Issues

Kerry First Trip Abroad Covers Familiar Issuesi
X
March 08, 2013 8:27 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s first trip abroad last week made news on a couple of issues, but largely covered familiar ground with longtime U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East. VOA’s Al Pessin in London looks at how the trip was perceived in the two regions and what it says about U.S. foreign policy during the second Obama administration.
Al Pessin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s first trip abroad last week made news on a couple of issues, but largely covered familiar ground with longtime U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East.

Kerry’s first stop was familiar territory for a U.S. secretary of state, number 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British prime minister.

Xenia Dormandy of London's Chatam House said it was a "soft introduction" to his new role delivering American soft power, President Obama's preferred approach to global issues.

“America is choosing to have a different approach," she said. "That's not necessarily about less power. That's about using your power differently."

Kerry took that approach to European allies early in this trip and also applied it to the Syria conflict at a conference in Rome, announcing  the first direct American aid for Syrian rebel fighters, but only food and medical supplies.  

“I am absolutely confident from what I heard in there, from other foreign ministers, that the totality of this effort is going to have an impact on the ability of the Syrian opposition to accomplish its goals,” he said.

But Syrian opposition leaders complained that the aid is not enough to change the desperate situation inside Syria...or at refugee camps in neighboring countries that now hold more than one million people.

And as Kerry moved into the Middle East, dissatisfaction with U.S. policy came even more into focus, even though he stuck to traditional allies like Egypt.

The United States sees itself as a champion of human rights and is a leader in providing humanitarian aid and economic help to struggling countries. But many in the Middle East see U.S. policy in a different light, including Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo, who spoke via Skype.

“As long as they don’t clash with American strategic interests, they don’t care what really happens inside those countries," said Sadek. "And this is the moral question regarding American foreign policy in the area. All they care about is the cheap flow of oil.”

American officials likely would not agree with Sadek on that, but they might agree with his view that U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East, and indeed around the world, remain constant.

And that leads Xenia Dormandy to conclude that the new of secretary of state won’t bring big policy changes.

“You’re going to absolutely see something different in style," she said  "The substance is led by the White House, more than most presidencies. So I think the substance won’t change quite so significantly, but style absolutely.”

For Kerry, four years of difficult and intractable issues lie ahead, coupled with often hostile foreign populations. Along the way he'll look for some opportunities to advance U.S. interests and perhaps to do some good in the world.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs