Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 26, 2008

Homeland Security Secretary in Middle East

Filed under: International HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 26, 2008

We’ve discussed on this blog the opportunities for greater cooperation between the U.S. and critical countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions that is focused on the shared interest we have in protecting civilians.  Secretary Chertoff is in Kuwait today meeting with government counterparts, including:

  • Assistant Undersecretary of Kuwait’s Interior Ministry for Border Security Affairs Major General Suleiman Al-Fahad,
  • Director General of the General Directorate of Security of Land Borders Brigadier Abdullah Al-Mehanna, and
  • Undersecretary of the Interior Ministry Lieutenant General Ahmed Al-Rujaib.

The focus of his meetings appears to be on border security and what he called “security cooperation.”  This is critically important dialogue that can enable the U.S. to demonstrate both our capabilities and our lessons learned over the past five years of having the Department of Homeland Security.  However, Kuwait is low-hanging fruit in the diplomatic realm.

Working with Kuwait is valuable, but it isn’t exactly difficult to obtain their cooperation.  (Long history there.)  However, the same cannot be said about their media. Chertoff sat for a brief media roundtable yesterday (transcript here) in Kuwait City to field some questions. Sure there were some softballs about our airports, but these questions typified the exchange:

President Bush has mentioned…that the … U.S. fights terrorism overseas to prevent terrorists from performing terrorist acts in the U.S. What’s your comment on these thoughts and these statements from the President, given the fact that some Arab countries are in contradiction with those statements?

How are you trying to convince Arab countries with this policy, and is that part of your agenda for the trip?

Can you comment on the policy of the U.S. to manage crisis in the Middle East, given the fact that Syria and Iran are in almost a war state?

Is there a list of what’s called the blacklist of people (inaudible) to the U.S…?

But this question is the one that we sort of expected:

Since the U.S. announced a launch on a war on terrorism after the event of September 11th, in your assessment is the world a safer place now after all that has been done? And… what is the level of cooperation between Kuwait and the United States in achieving a safer world?

Hmm. Is the world safer? He didn’t ask whether terrorism has been vanquished. Just whether there’s been any improvement since the several hundred billion dollars have been spent over the past seven years in response to the 9/11 attacks.  The answer?

“Well, let me answer the second question first — it’s easier.”

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 26, 2008 @ 8:21 am

Like all major departments and agencies of the Executive Branch, DHS has important international relations and can even learn from foreign governments and their advisors, especially Israel, to upgrade our Homeland Security. It is interesting to me, however, to see that the International section of the DHS organization is essentially a step-child, handed around periodically, and without formal delegations of authority or really precise organizational arrangements. In this case, actions (or non-actions) speak louder than words. Interesting question would be what languages DHS staff are fully qualified in, even FEMA and Border Security types have some Spanish capability, but I am referring to more exotic languages, particularly those of the Islamic world.

Comment by Jason

April 1, 2008 @ 7:57 am

Re: The focus of his meetings appears to be on border security and what he called “security cooperation.”

You know, I seem to remember that there is a government agency responsible for topics like this, especially when dealing with a foreign nation. It’s called “The State Dept.” I know, it’s crazy to think that the State Dept should actually do its job, but there it is.

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