ROS-LEHTINEN: NEW FOREIGN POLICY CHAIRMAN OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS
Friday, 05 November 2010 12:10
Washington / Morocco Board News Service---- The recent alteration of the political landscape in Washington had to do more with domestic issues than foreign policy. However, a shift to a Republican control of the US House of Representatives (the House) will undoubtedly influence the conduct and the proprieties of the United States diplomacy. The Republican’s recent gains in the midterm elections will alter some elements of president Obama diplomatic agenda and will likely set different priorities for the US foreign policy around the world.
As the current House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is expected to chair over the committee. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is described as a conservative on foreign policy, tough on the United Nations bureaucracy and not as eager to embrace president Obama’s goodwill overtures toward Iran and Venezuela.
With the anticipated arrival of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen at the helm of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congress will likely show more interest in the security and political affairs of North African and the Sahel nations. As a former Chair of the House Africa Subcommittee, Ros-Lehtinen is familiar with the Sahara and the Sahel regions. Her knowledge of Africa and her interest in the security and the stability of the Continent will add more urgency and bring more lucidity to the Obama administration’s approach to the conflict in the Western Sahara and the ongoing fight against extremist groups in the Sahel, among other hot spots.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has sponsored and co-sponsored several legislation recognizing the threat of terrorism in the Sahel. Several of Ros-Lehtinen House resolutions dealt with the danger of the proliferation of violent groups in the Sahel and the danger these group pose for the national security of the United States. Some Security experts in the Maghreb hope to see this heightened Congressional interest in North Africa translates into a concrete approach to resolving various ambiguous security circumstances surrounding recent political and military activities in the Sahel and the Sahara.
As a Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen will be in position to hold hearings on the “growing threat that al Qaeda and its affiliates in Africa, particularly al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), pose to the United States and its allies and interests”. Such hearings can be a venue to clarify allegations of collaboration between some members of the Algeria-backed Polisario front and AQIM elements, and the extent and the sincerity of the Algerian efforts to “confront the growing regional and global threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates in Africa.”
According to Congressional sources, AQIM is now considered one of al Qaeda's most robust affiliates and is pursuing a sophisticated agenda, including targeting western interests. In adition to adopting a tough approach to the AQIM threat in the Sahel, the US Congress ought to pressure Morocco and Algerian to resolve their conflict over the Sahara.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen appeal to countries in North Africa and the Sahel to prevent the spread of extremisms; disrupt the operations of extremist networks; and deny safe haven to extremist groups in Africa can be achieved only if all parties involved including Algeria and Morocco make significant, honest and straightforward efforts to assist the world community in this fight. Algeria’s recent diplomatic spats with several Sahel countries took European observers by surprise adding to the already swirling misgivings about Algeria’s efforts to collaborate with others in the fight against AQIM.
As the Washington Post put it: Ros-Lehtinen, a feisty Cuban American conservative, will "bring additional scrutiny to some issues that wasn't taking place before.” This new attitude will bring to the forefront certain unpleasant realities regarding the involvement of the Polisario and other organisms in the spread of extremist groups in the Sahel, and the damaging impact of the Western Sahara conflict on American efforts to eliminate terrorist groups in The Sahel.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was elected in 1989 to the United States Congress, she has proudly represented Florida’s 18th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Forced to flee with her family from the oppressive communist regime of Fidel Castro, she became the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban-American elected to Congress.