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Leaked Memo: Eritrea’s Plan To Neutralize Susan Rice

The following memo, written on January 23, 2015 by Mr. Berhane Gebrehiwot, Eritrean Chargé d’affaires to the United States and addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was leaked to asmarino.com, a US-based Eritrean website, which published it on July 2, 2015. The gist of the memo is a report of his meeting with Ambassador Herman Cohen and the two’s strategy on how to get the United States to lift sanctions against Eritrea and normalize its relations.  awate.com is translating it to English. The original, written in Tigrignya, can be accessed here.

Embassy of the State of Eritrea
United States of America

23 January 2015
N/n: EOE-US-00415

To:          Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asmara
RE:          Meeting with Herman Cohen

On Wednesday 21 January 2015, to follow up on prior understanding I had with him, I met at my office with Ambassador Herman Cohen, formerly Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and now President and CEO at Cohen and Woods International. The purpose was to focus and exchange ideas on issues we had discussed in prior occasions.

It will be recalled that the understanding we had reached in the past [was the following]: that the subject he had initiated of “resolving the tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia”, and that it cannot be addressed via meandering discussions with Weyane [Ethiopian government], is a conclusion even he has come to understand; thus, his efforts should focus on lifting the sanctions [on Eritrea] and improving relations between Eritrea and America; that he should write another [editorial] piece as he had done before [Herman Cohen wrote “Time to Bring Eritrea In from the Cold in December 2013]; to reach out to the US Department of State and find out what their position is; and, whenever he gets an opportunity, to positively influence the anti-Eritrea stand [of the United States.]

On my part, I thanked him for his concern and efforts, and updated him on new developments since our last meeting: multi-pronged efforts we are making to address challenges; how we have accelerated and bolstered Eritrea’s diplomatic efforts and cooperation near and far. Then, I referred him to our prior understanding: has he met with the State Department and what are the results; his research on the issue of lifting sanctions; his writings that will focus on these issues.

Ambassador Cohen informed me that he had spent a month focusing his efforts on lifting sanctions and improving relations between Eritrea and America. Related to this, the latest reports submitted by the [Somalia Eritrea]Monitoring Group to the Security Council indicate that Eritrea is blameless on issues it had been accused of [helping Al Shabab]; that, on the basis of this report, he has surveyed the wishes of many members of the Security Council on lifting sanctions; that he has decided that the decisive role on lifting of sanctions is going to be the United States of America and it should play a positive role by at least abstaining in the vote; and that, to research this possibility, he had reached out to the State Department and met with several officials of the Bureau of African Affairs. His meetings were with Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs as well as Nancy Cohen, [Acting] Director for East African Affairs. In his meetings, he brought up the fact that, in consideration of the prevailing conditions in East Africa, it is in America’s interest to improve its relations with Eritrea. Relative to the environment in its region, [Eritrea] is stable and, from the perspective of America’s security, it is an article of faith that it can play a decisive role in the struggle against terrorism. To normalize the hitherto complicated relationship, a gesture of goodwill would be lifting the sanctions because even America’s allies who have been forced to play a negative role believe that it should be [lifted] and that America should engage Eritrea. Towards this end, his discussions focused on researching the possibility of the United States, at the very least, abstaining [the next time the issue comes up for a vote.]

From the perspective of Ambassador Donald Teielbaum—whose views he expresses as candid—and his assistant Nancy Cohen: [he quotes them as saying] from the perspective of the State Department, his assessment on the issue of normalizing relationships, his [Teitelbaum’s] views are not that different [from Cohen]; that he understands lifting sanctions would play a big and decisive role in re-engagement. However, because the White House’s stand is that “Eritrea is not yet ready to improve our relations”, it remains firm in its stand and its directive of using its veto to defeat any effort to lift the sanctions remains in place.

Continuing on, Ambassador Cohen states that when he asked Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum and Nancy Cohen what can then be done to restore normality to the relationship, they said that now, more than ever, restoring relationship is in America’s interest but to overcome the obstacles presented by the White House, if Eritrea—“similar to Cuba’s”—were to show a few gestures, it would help them change the viewpoint of the White House. Of those helpful gestures, they listed “freeing the two [Eritrean] employees of the American embassy; elevating diplomatic relations to the ambassadorship level” as strengthening the hand of the State Department over that of the National Security Adviser (Susan Rice) and that this is the message he wants to transmit to the Government of Eritrea.

On the basis of his meetings, Ambassador Cohen has reached a conclusion: with respect to lifting sanctions and normalizing relationship, there is visible difference between the State Department and the White House. Interrupting him, I asked him how prevalent is the State Department’s viewpoint [within the American government] on lifting sanctions and normalizing relationship? He replied: geopolitically, given the worrying and deteriorating developments in Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, there is clear understanding that it is in America’s interest to restore relationship with Eritrea and that this view is shared by the Department of Defense (Pentagon.) [According to Herman Cohen] the views expressed by the White House are those of Susan Rice and her followers and, although she considers herself an Africa expert, her approach is domination and suppression and her decision-making is based on whom she likes and hates. Because she is driven by personal animus, she is not one that is fit for diplomacy.

Finally, with respect to his research on an issue we had previously reached a common understanding as impractical and of low expectations and thus of low priority, on the issue of mediating between Eritrea and Ethiopia: based on information from those whom he described as his sources in Addis Abeba, there are members of EPRDF [Ethiopian governing coalition] who want to bring it [demarcation] to a close but a few but influential officials create hurdles by saying that “the government of Eritrea is going to fall on its own and there is no reason for us to address issues of troop withdrawal and border demarcation.”

On my side, I presented the following ideas:

  • First of all, he needs to follow up on a promise he had made: to write an article, to distribute it and, if he can, to gear up a campaign around the issue of lifting sanctions and normalizing relations between Eritrea and America, as this will help awaken consciousness. This will create pressure on those who are for continuing and strengthening the sanctions; and it will empower those who want sanctions lifted and relations normalized. Moreover, because this might create pressure on the prejudiced views of the White House, I asked him to accelerate it. (He, too, agrees with this. I will try to follow up as much as I can.)
  • Moreover, to help overcome obstacles, to help dissemination of truthful information and raise awareness—not just to improve Eritrea’s relations but to clarify America’s national interest—it’s important that a symposium be organized that reaches out to various interested reporters, government officials, members of congress and research centers. Although the organization he leads, Cohen & Woods International, is a lobby firm and can’t do this, I asked him if he could co-operate, use his influence to research if there are think tanks and institutions of higher learning willing to do it.
  • That I will relay the messages he wanted to relay to the Government, ie, the outcome of his meeting with officials of East Africa [within State Department] and, in addition to encouraging him to continue, that I, if I get the opportunity and if they are willing, will try to meet with them.
  • As for the suggestions he made that Eritrea take some goodwill gestures, Eritrea has been asked to do more than what it is capable of. For the sake of helping Ethiopia, a big wrong was done to Eritrea, and still is, over the last 17 years: one that endangered its existence and security. So, instead of adding a big pressure [on Eritrea] and correcting the fundamental wrong, focusing on small consequences is not only unhelpful, it creates an environment that confuses the main issue. Thus, I explained, it is best to focus on causes and not effects.

In the end, we came to a mutual understanding that we should continue our meetings on a regular basis, exchange ideas and strengthen our efforts.   On the occasion that we are making big preparations—one aimed at attracting foreigners– to celebrate the  35th anniversary of NUEW [National Union of Eritrean Women] on March 7, 2015, where we will hold a symposium on the role of women in [armed] struggle and development, I invited him and his wife to attend. He accepted the invitation.

Victory to the Masses!!

Berhane Gebrehiwot
Chargé d’affaires

Pinterest
  • Ali

    It is not Eritrea but HIGDEF must stay in the cold until it changes its character. Isayas is not an Eritrean he must go to Agame(Tigrai). The proportion of highlanders and lowlanders must come to equity. Lowlanders should benefit from their local resources. Highlanders can not decide who is going to use the ports. The local areas (Afar) must agree the use of the port with woyane.

  • haileTG

    Hello Awatista,

    Here is just for laughs… Berhane Gebrehiwet finally meeting Barrack Obama 🙂

    https://www.facebook.com/barackobama/photos/pb.6815841748.-2207520000.1436154052./10152322101146749/?type=3&theater

  • KeihKsad

    I read the leaked report purportedly written by Berhane Ghebrekristos who is the Charge De Affairs at the Eritrean Embassy in DC. Not that I am the mouth piece of Issaias or PFDJ, I think the whole thing may be a fraud perpetuated by our Tigrayan cousins to wedge bigger gap between the US and Eritrea and keep the status quo of Ethiopia having the upper hand in the bilateral relationship between their country and US. Even Berhane with his limited diplomatic skills would not diss Susan Rice the way the report did. Most objective Eritreans know that Susan Rice has a grudge against Issaias and Eritrea, because he called her the “inexperienced little girl” and refused to meet with her during the Ethio-Eritrea so called border war. We know most African Americans in power and who work in the State Department instinctively side on Ethiopia’s side and our dictator instead of working harder and smarter to counter it, he acts as a complete idiot by refusing to muster the art of diplomacy and a statesman. After all the Saudi wikileaks claims Isaias met with Susan Rice in Italy not long ago and according to Mr. Abdella Jabr who is outed as Saudi’s alleged spy. Knowing Issais and PFDJ no PFDJ official would put any thing in writing for fear of offending the ONE. I may be wrong but the leaked doc is the work of Weyane’s operators to embarrass and put Isaisas in a deeper hole where he belongs. I wish and pray the buffoon Isaias is deposed soon and on his place we have a true democratic country soon.

    • saay7

      Selamat Redneck:)

      Please read the report carefully: the disparaging remarks about Susan Rice were made by Ambassador Herman Cohen and not Berhane. He was merely reporting on the debriefing. I have heard some people say that this is the work of the two Yemanes going rogue; I am now hearing that this is the work of Weyane:)

      This is clearly the work of Isaias Afwerki policy in action. He badly wants to get out of sanctions, he knows he can’t do that unless veto-wielding US is willing and so he badly wants reconciliation with the United States. Beyond that, you can see that even the way the report is written is in such a way as to please the boss–the mediation with Ethiopia is dismissed as impractical and of low priority because Isaias Afwerki, slow-learner that he is, actually thinks that if the US snaps its fingers, Ethiopia will immediately comply and demarcate. He repeatedly ignored all hints, directions, helpful suggestions he was given not to be sanctioned and now he is going to continue to ignore all hints, directions, helpful suggestions he is being given on how to get out of sanctions: free the two employees of American embassy and accredit the US ambassador to Eritrea. He overestimates people’s patience with his BS, as well as his smarts so he will continue to sink in the quicksand. The only thing that can save him now is a new American president who wants to do the exact oppsite of Obama’s policy: a strong relationship with Israel. That is his only ticket.

      Finally, KeihKsad, please refrain from saying “Abdella Jabr who is outed as Saudi’s alleged spy.” The one thing all of us in the opposition have in common is our understanding that guilt and innocence is established in a court of law where the defendant has the right to self-defense. Let’s not fall for Isaias Afwerki’s tricks.

      saay

      • KeihKsad

        Merhaba Saay,
        Understood what you said on the content of the report; whoever, it has sufficient sophistication to make it look as PFDJ’s document by none other than Weyane. Do I have real evidence. No. But my gut feeling says so since I know a little bit about both. You have to remember Weyane knows the modus operandi of Issaias like his hands’ palm as they were on and off collaborators and competitors for almost half a century. They are capable to write a report that has the feel, look, verbiage use and veneer just like their former allies. I still believe it is the work of Weyane. As far as Abdella, I think you can read the original leaks in Arabic and decide for yourself. I tempered my statement as “alleged” in which if Abdella is lucky enough he can establish his innocent or guilt in a court of law as you said.

      • Wedi Chided

        Hello Awatistas,
        Can anyone give me the link to the original Papers regarding Abdula Jaber. I could not find It I google search it for one whole night.
        Thanks.
        Wedi Chided.

        • Pass the salt

          I had sent it few days ago. Thanks for paying attention:(
          http://50.7.16.234/hadas-eritrea/haddas_ertra_26062015.pdf

        • saay7

          Hey Wedi Chided:

          Here it is. While Isaias thinks this is incriminating Abdella Jaber, he is incriminating himself because the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea will be following up on this lead about his role in Somalia. After all, the UN Sanctions Committee has asked all member states of the UN, and that includes Saudi Arabia, to cooperate with the Monitoring Group. Of course Saudi Arabia did not cooperate with Commission on Inquiry and he might just hope that his luck holds up.

          saay

  • Biniam

    Yes ! Susan can be marginalized same way during bush junior’s era. Do not take ur self serious.

  • Amanuel

    Hi Awatista
    This shows us that the regime in Asmara still doesn’t understand how the American foreign policy works. You can’t nautralise Susan Rise as she has the Presidents ear. For God’s sack she is a national security advisor of the president and the foreign policy is directed by him.

    Second, for Americans freeing their imprisoned staff is fundamental and has a priority regardless of time. They will try every thing with in their power to make it happen. For example they have sent Mr Clinton to N. Korea in 2009 and made him dine with Kim Jong-il and free two journalist. According the regime in Asmera the two US embassy staff may be forgotten as they imprison thousands and throw the key, but for The Americans that isn’t the case and they will not rest until they free them and why not if that means normalising relations, after all, they are Eritreans and I believe they are innocent.

    • Bayan Nagash

      Selamat Aman,

      I tell you Aman when you give an imbecile a big stick, he thinks he can politically outmaneuver the most powerful country in the world – how laughable is that – by creating a wedge between two departments of the same administration. This Berhane guy is way over his head on this one, and when the imbecile in chief calls him to report to Eritrea, he would be better off not going back, if he does, it will be in the dungeons much as what was done to those before him.

      If you have not seen the clip that Hayat availed for context, please forward the clip to the 32 minute mark as indicated there, and you will laugh your heart out as you hear the literal mind of the man at the helm interpreting the term “cold-war” with his oft-used unsavory language of a president, in this case bringing faHam aigaddf farnello aigaddf, etc. And one of the reporter’s face is just beaming – either thinking the idiocy of the man or it was so funny he just couldn’t contain himself- while the other reporter is stoic and so stiff one doesn’t know what to make of this bizarre scene. So, Berhane is made to look like a buffoon no matter how you look at the whole episode.

      At any rate, the following link is meant to give a little historical context that provides a bird’s eye view in how unlikely it is this seasoned politician and a diplomat would go on the record to badmouth any National Security Advisor let alone of a seating president.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvfvFA6Q2Go&sns=em

    • Bayan Nagash

      Selamat Aman,

      I tell you Aman when you give an imbecile a big stick, he thinks he can politically outmaneuver the most powerful country in the world – how laughable is that – by creating a wedge between two departments of the same administration. This Berhane guy is way
      over his head on this one, and when the imbecile in chief calls him to report to Eritrea, he would be better off not going back, if he does, it will be in the dungeons much as what was done to those before him.

      If you have not seen the clip that Hayat availed for context, please forward the clip to the 32 minute mark as indicated there, and you will laugh your heart out as you hear the literal
      mind of the man at the helm interpreting the term “cold-war” with his oft-used unsavory language of a president, in this case mdeGoli Hawwi aigaddf farnello aiterrif, etc. And the younger reporter’s face is just beaming – either thinking the idiocy of the man or it was so funny he just couldn’t contain himself- while the older reporter is stoic and so stiff one doesn’t
      know what to make of this bizarre scene.

      So, not matter how you slice it, on this end of the Atlantic, Berhane is made to look like a buffoon when the issue is seen in its wider context. On a second thought, let me just avail the link here if you have ten minutes to spare. Nsu even manages to poke fun at those of us who preoccupy ourselves in discussions of the sort here at Awate.

      https://youtu.be/WvfvFA6Q2Go

      At any rate, the following link is meant to give a little historical context that provides a bird’s eye view in how unlikely it is this seasoned politician and a diplomat would go on the record to badmouth any National Security Advisor let alone of a seating president.

      https://youtu.be/zyNMZYYfy1c?t=1736

      • Amanuel

        Thanks Beyan for the links. I though these interviews, specially IA’s one was for public consumption, specially targeting those hard core supporter who wait like the nestlings expecting their mother coming back to the nest. However, I was expecting the regime to have some thing like kind of plan B idea when it is dealing behind the scenes in the diplomatic arena. But, alas theses people are what do we call them in Tigrigna “ጸማም ሓደ ደርፉ”

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