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Monday, May 16, 2011 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Wikileaks: Darrell does diplomacy

Leaked state department memos reveal Rep. Darrell Issa's interactions in Finland, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Pakistan

By Dave Maass
issa When he's not in San Diego or DC, where is Darrell Issa?
- Credit: Congressman Darrell Issa's office
As we predicted, Wikileaks' slow release of confidential State Department cables continues to reveal Rep. Darrell Issa's activities abroad. In the latest batches released over the last two weeks, the Republican from Vista plays a leading role in discussions with leaders in Egypt, Israel and Finland. So far, the picture we're seeing is of a critical-minded diplomat, who's focused on national security, but uses his influence to advocate on behalf Lebanese interests as well as the pharmaceutical and nuclear-energy industries.

As always, these memos are only of limited reliability since, as confidential records, they are nearly impossible to fact check. Issa's press office did not respond to our inquiries. Here's the break down:

FINLAND

Issa visited Helsinki in June 2005 as part of a Congressional delegation led by Rep. Henry Hyde, according to an unclassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. The delegation met with the parliamentary speaker and former Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, along with other top officials, whom Issa questioned on trade policy regarding medical devices:
Representative Issa asked about Lipponen's vision for Finland's pending medical reform bill, which is expected to contain better protection for the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies. How does Finland plan to balance cost of pharmaceuticals with protection for those who invent and invest? Lipponen said that the major pharmaceutical companies are a significant part of the Finnish economy, and it is important that they remain in Finland. Finland wants to develop its biotechnology sector, and realizes that IPR protection is the key.
It's worth noting that during the 2004 election, pharmaceutical and health-product interests donated almost $30,000 to Issa's campaign. According to OpenSecrets.org, the industry is the No. 1 donor over the course of his career, representing almost $270,000 in campaign contributions since 2000.

Issa also advocated for protecting the Arctic, but used it as an excuse to advocate for nuclear power:
Representative Issa, referring to cooperation within the Arctic Council, asked whether Lipponen thought the U.S. was doing enough to protect the Arctic. It sometimes seemed, Issa remarked, that U.S. legislators think of the Arctic only in terms of its oil reserves. The Speaker urged the U.S. to do more in the area of energy efficiency and diversification. Issa, who chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Resources of the House Government Reform Committee, noted that if the United States had built every nuclear power plant that had been on order at the time of Three Mile Island, we would be Kyoto-compliant today. Lipponen agreed that one cannot say "renewable energy is good, nuclear energy is bad." Finland's experience shows that nations can safely produce nuclear energy. Critical rhetoric is sometimes hypocritical: the Swedes "made a big deal" of closing two reactors, but at the same time raised capacity in existing reactors, so that overall Sweden now gets seven percent more of its power from nuclear sources than before.
As the liberal attack blog Issa Exposed pointed out in March, Edison International, which runs the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, has been the third largest corporate donor to Issa since 2000, donating $46,000 to his campaign.  Energy and national resources interests have donated nearly $360,000 to his campaign over the same period.

EGYPT

According to a confidential diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Issa, his wife Katherine and his press secretary, Frederick Hill, visited Egypt in March 2005 as part of a Congressional delegation led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi. The cable describes a "particularly relaxed meeting" with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, though Issa seems to have challenged the leader on his plans for ushering in a new age of democracy.
Representative Issa asked about Mubarak's initiative to propose a referendum to amend the constitution to allow for multi-candidate elections for President. Mubarak explained that he had been considering this move since 2003 and had almost announced it in February of 2004, "but the time was not right." The move was for "the future, not for me," Mubarak declared, stating he was "begging" others to participate in the presidential elections.
Rep. Henry Waxman, also on the delegation, asked Mubarak whether he would hold presidential debates. The Egyptian leader, who has since been deposed, simply laughed and said, "You can have debates in your country." That led Issa to further inquire about what the election might look like:
Representative Issa asked whether Mubarak had thought about the number of candidates that would be appropriate to run in a presidential election, proposing that a limited number might force groups to form serious alliances rather than just running for themselves. Mubarak did not respond on the number of candidates, noting only that he was most concerned that religious extremists would run for president and then take over the political system. This possibility was the "greatest threat" to the process, Mubarak insisted.
Issa, who is Lebanese-American and a board member of the American Task Force for Lebanon, also inquired about Mubarak's take on the Syrian intrusion into Lebanon. Mubarak said he was advocating for withdrawal. 

Issa returned to Egypt the next year, according to another Cairo embassy cable, this time joining Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone in a meeting with Mubarak's son, Gamal. They discussed the parliamentary session, U.S. aid to Egypt and Gamal's visit to Lebanon. Gamal also expressed anger at State Department Secretary Condoleeza Rice's remarks that violence in Lebanon was simply the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

JORDAN

According to a "confidential" memo from the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Issa was part of a congressional delegation led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra in July 2005. They met with King Abdullah and Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein to discuss Iran and Lebanon. Issa, of course, was more interested in the latter and discussed a disputed Israeli-occupied territory in Golan Heights, on the border with Lebanon, called Shebaa Farms.
Congressman Issa raised the Sheba Farms. In the medium-term, the King identified the opportunity posed by this crisis to establish the conditions needed to move toward an Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement and a complete break between Lebanon and Syria. An intelligent approach to defusing the Sheba Farms issue could be a key element in this process; addressing Lebanese sensitivities about Sheba couldclear the path to Syrian isolation. Congressman Issa acknowledged the King's point about Arab participation in an MNF, but hoped he would leave open the possibility of Arab involvement in the monitoring group, in a non-combat role.The King again reiterated that Jordan and Egypt might be just too close geographically to avoid certain political sensitivities.

ISRAEL

Two days after the Jordan visit, the Hoekstra delegation met with Israeli Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, according to a second memo classified as secret, this time from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The meeting focused on the Lebanese political and militant organization Hezbollah, with Issa emphasizing the need to respect the rights of Lebanese civilians caught in the crossfire:
Rep. Issa urged that Peretz establish "green lines" for the safe transit of displaced persons throughout Lebanon as soon as possible. He recognized that these lines might have to shift over time, but the [Israeli Defense Force] could advise of these changes through leaflets. Peretz admitted that Israel was aware of the [internally displaced persons] issue and the need to protect them. He agreed to consider Issa's proposal, but noted that the IDF is not on the ground and thus cannot guarantee anyone's complete safety. He suggested that the IDF could coordinate with the UN on the matter and might designate some such areas in the northern part of the country.

PAKISTAN

A memo classified as "Secret" from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan details a congressional delegation's meeting with President Pervez Musharraf in April 2007. Issa was one of the members of the delegation, but nothing more is said about his involvement in the meeting, which focused on security and democracy issues.


 
 
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