Diplomats shaken for now after Britain’s US ambassador quits

Kim Darroch is a well-known figure in Washington. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Diplomats shaken for now after Britain’s US ambassador quits

  • Darroch resigned on Wednesday, citing the environment at the moment made it “impossible” for him to work
  • He said the US administration policy towards Iran is “incoherent” in one of the leaked cables

WASHINGTON: The abrupt resignation of Britain’s ambassador to the United States over leaked cables critical of the Trump administration may have jolted official Washington, but it’s unlikely to have a lasting impact on the US-British relationship or diplomatic practice.
Current and former diplomats say the leak of Ambassador Kim Darroch’s sensitive reports is unfortunate and alarming, particularly given the apparent political motive behind it. Yet, they believe any complications will be temporary even as they create short-term turbulence in relations.
“It’s a problem, but I don’t know that it has a chilling affect over time because in the end people have jobs to do and they do their jobs,” said Ronald Neumann, a retired three-time US ambassador who is the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. “It’s wrong and it’s too bad. Still, you move on because there’s work to be done.”
Darroch, a well-known figure in Washington, resigned on Wednesday amid an uproar over the candid cables, saying “the current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.” The resignation followed President Donald Trump’s furious caustic response to the leaked cables in which Darroch offered candid negative views of his administration.
In the cables, Darroch called the administration’s policy toward Iran “incoherent,” said the president might be indebted to “dodgy Russians” and raised doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent.”
Trump’s lambasting of Darroch on Twitter — he called the ambassador “a pompous fool” and “a very stupid guy” and criticized outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May — drew condemnation from both sides of the Atlantic.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is in the running to replace May, replied: “Allies need to treat each other with respect.”
Others suggested that Trump’s reaction proved Darroch’s point.
“Trump’s petty and vindictive overreaction not only reinforces the accuracy of Darroch’s portrait of him in his leaked cables, but further erodes an already complicated bilateral relationship,” said William Burns, a highly respected retired career diplomat who served as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration and is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The State Department downplayed the fracas, saying: “The United States and the United Kingdom share a bond that is bigger than any individual, and we look forward to continuing that partnership. We remain committed to the US-UK Special Relationship and our shared global agenda.”
But Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House intelligence committee, said Trump’s comments make the work of American diplomats abroad harder than they already are.
“Diplomats the world over, including ours, are expected to provide candid assessments and advice to their home governments,” he said. “If a foreign leader treated an American ambassador as President Trump treated the British ambassador, we would be up in arms, and justifiably so. “
In fact, US diplomats have already felt the consequences of leaked cables that laid out unvarnished and often unflattering impressions of foreign leaders and governments.
The 2010 publication by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of classified and sensitive documents had a direct impact on at least three US ambassadors, including one, Carlos Pascual, who resigned as envoy to Mexico over fallout from cables critical of then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Pascual was traveling Wednesday and not immediately available to comment on any similarities between his resignation and Darroch’s.
Carnegie’s Burns, who was serving as the third-ranking US diplomat at the time, recalled that the leaks had “negative practical implications” for the day-to-day conduct of embassies.
“The immediate impact was to make US diplomatic missions more careful, so there is, at least initially, a dampening effect,” he said. “But, we got over it in time.”
In the long run, though, few believe damage to the “special relationship” caused this week will be severe or lingering.
“The state-to-state relationship is much more than one person, particularly with Britain,” Neumann said. “This is probably one of the least ambassador-dependent relationships we have, which is why we are able to send whoever we want to London, including some who are not so able.”


Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

Updated 22 min 10 sec ago
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Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

  • At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week
  • South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season

GAUHATI, India: The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has risen to 152 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday.
At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week. A dozen have been killed in Bangladesh.
Shiv Kumar, a government official in Assam, said 10 rare one-horned rhinos have died in Kaziranga National Park since the Brahmaputra River burst its banks, flooding the reserve.
Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages across the state are still affected by the floods, though the frequency of rains has decreased in the past 24 hours, the Assam Disaster Response Authority said. More than 2.5 million have also been hit by flooding in India’s Bihar state.
Amid the flooding, 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon delivered her first baby on a boat in floodwaters early Friday while on her way to a hospital in Assam’s flooded Gagalmari village, locals said. The woman and the newborn were brought back to their home without getting to the hospital.
Community health worker Parag Jyoti Das, who visited the family, said there were no post-delivery health complications. However, the mother and the child were moved to a hospital on a boat to the nearby town of Jhargaon because of unhygienic conditions due to floodwaters, Das said. The health center in Khatoon’s village was flooded and closed.
“I would have felt happier if the baby’s father was here,” said Khatoon, whose husband works in a hotel in the southern state of Kerala.
More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, officials said.
Authorities warned they would take action against suppliers who were reported to be distributing poor quality rice and other essentials to marooned people and inmates of temporary shelters at some places.
“We have ordered the arrest of those unscrupulous elements supplying substandard materials and playing with the lives of the affected people,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s finance minister.
In Nepal, the Home Ministry said about 36,728 families were affected by the monsoon rains. The flooding and mudslides forced some 13,000 families to flee their homes.
In at least two of Nepal’s districts, helicopters were used to transport emergency food supplies, while other transport means were being used to move tents and other supplies to the victims.
South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season.