Party loyalists fill out religious freedom commission
International | Plus a shock victory in Iraq, delayed payback in India, and more international news and notes
by Mindy Belz
Posted 5/16/18, 06:38 pm
UNITED STATES: Republicans went down to the wire in naming or renaming by Wednesday commissioners to the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., named Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins to a two-year term, and the White House announced three appointments: Gary Bauer, FRC’s founder; Nadine Maenza, a top aide to former presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum; and Johnnie Moore, an evangelical adviser to President Donald Trump. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., named California State University, Fullerton, professor Tenzin Dorjee to another term, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., named Gayle Manchin, wife of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has yet to reappoint Commissioner Kristina Arriaga or name a new person to that slot.
In an era when religious persecution feeds terrorism and national security issues, USCIRF was constituted as an independent commission to investigate and report on global incidents. Yet we are seeing its roster taken over by commissioners who are long on party loyalty (and for GOPers, pro-Trump) and short on expertise. The commission’s website, which as of this afternoon lists only two current commissioners, touts in Manchin’s bio that she served as “the official hostess of the Governor’s Mansion” while her husband was governor of West Virginia (more on that here).
IRAQ: Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won a shock victory in Iraq’s parliamentary election, putting Iran to a major test against a formidable opponent who defeated its allies in Baghdad. Long an outsider who helped to lead the insurgency against U.S. forces more than a decade ago, the insider now may pick Iraq’s next prime minister.
ISRAEL: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem will cause “some instability” in the region, but was mild in his first public comments on the issue. Israel credited Egyptian efforts in easing the situation in Gaza, where protests dropped Wednesday after clashes with Israeli forces on Monday resulted in the deaths of at least 60 Gazans (many of them Hamas leaders) and hundreds of injuries. I shared my thoughts on Wednesday’s The World and Everything in It podcast.
NORTH KOREA canceled high-level talks with South Korea and threatened to walk away from next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump over ongoing South Korea–U.S. military exercises.
INDIA: After a long-fought campaign by religious freedom advocates, a court in Odisha has agreed to enhanced compensation to family survivors of a 2008 attack by Hindu nationalists that killed 14 Christians and left 56,000 Christians homeless.
IMMIGRATION AND CLARIFICATION: A Monday Globe Trot item noted 1 million legal U.S. residents “have had their status revoked,” but Jubilee Campaign director and immigration lawyer Ann Buwalda was quick and helpful to clarify their status:
“It is true that based on the Trump Executive Order, the DACA recipients are revoked as of March 5, 2018. However, in each of the other TPS [temporary protected status] related cases, the USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] announcements ended further extensions of their status after 12-18 months (depending on the nationality and when the non-renewal of the TPS was announced). So, their status is not yet currently revoked, and I am not sure that the word ‘revoked’ is the appropriate term to the TPS non-renewal of the extensions of the TPS status. The TPS announcements were not as a result of an EO [executive order], but as a result of the administration’s decisions not to renew the TPS for these countries. Although to me it makes a difference in the usage of the term, the impact on the beneficiaries will feel like a revocation.”