Hesham Islam is the aide to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England who rocketed to fame in the recent Stephen Coughlin imbroglio. “Pentagon Aide’s Invitations Contradicted U.S. Policy,” by Steven Emerson for IPT News (thanks to Kemaste):
At the urging of a subordinate, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England scheduled at least two meetings with foreign emissaries in direct contradiction of U.S. policy at the time. The meetings date back to 2005. They involved a Lebanese ambassador considered a proxy for the Syrian government and a leading member of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.
U.S. policy at the time was not to engage in talks with either man, because they represent groups with whom the United States was not to communicate. The meetings were organized by England’s special assistant for international affairs, Hesham Islam.
An invitation to Muslim Brotherhood official Husam al-Dairi was canceled in late 2005 after a senior State Department official heard about it and insisted it not take place. That official, J. Scott Carpenter, told IPT News he was shocked that such an invitation was issued, let alone that it was done without anyone consulting the State Department.
Carpenter was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs at the time and knew the meeting went against U.S. policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I said, “˜what are you talking about?'” he remembered in an interview last week. “It was a bad idea.”
Without due deliberation, it is easy to send the wrong message “broad and near,” Carpenter said. “If something like that were to come up and be blindsided “¦ it’s not just a procedural foul up. It could unwittingly create bigger problems for the United States government.”
“When you have somebody who has a controversial background,” Carpenter added, “you don’t want to give the impression that the United States government is standing behind them.”
Two discussions should have taken place, he said. One would debate whether the meeting should take place at all. If it was agreed it should, the next question should determine the level of government appropriate to meet someone from the Brotherhood. Deputy Defense Secretary is far too high, Carpenter said.
After Carpenter relayed his concerns to England’s office, a staff member called back. She told him it would be “a huge hassle to postpone it” and if that happened, England’s office would make it clear this was the result of the State Department “putting its foot down and [saying] the meeting should not take place.”
Carpenter said that was fine by him. The episode, including the serendipitous way he learned about it, made him wonder whether other meetings like that took place without State Department consultation, he said.
“When the United States is meeting with dissidents, it is important to know who those dissidents are and what message we send by meeting with them. It is incredibly important that the wrong signal not be sent,” Carpenter said.
Indeed. Read it all.