Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton gave her advice on issues ranging from British politics to Afghanistan and Iran while she was secretary of state even though he was not employed by the US government, according to emails released on Tuesday.

    The emails from 2009 show informal adviser Blumenthal, whose ties to the Clinton family date back to former President Bill Clinton's White House years, actively trying to shape the early months of Hillary Clinton's time as America's top diplomat.

    Clinton's close links to Blumenthal could rebound on her as she runs for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential election.

    Republicans in Congress have sought to put a spotlight on his influence over Clinton on Libya as it descended into chaos in 2011. A former journalist, Blumenthal sent her lengthy memos about the north African country, many of them containing intelligence reports from a former Central Intelligence Agency officer.

    The emails released by the state department showed that the issues on which Blumenthal gave advice went far beyond Libya. He gave Clinton information on other sensitive issues as early as 2009.

    He seemed to be a middle-man between Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the Northern Ireland peace process, according to an email he sent on June 14 that year.

    "Gordon Brown called me today to convey his very best to you," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton. He mentioned her possible involvement in a meeting between Brown, Irish Republican leader Martin McGuinness and a man named Shaun, who appears to be Britain's former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward.

    "I said that he and Gordon should let me know before Wednesday whether your involvement is essential and what they request. That is fine with them and Shaun will get back to me," Blumenthal wrote.

    Controversy over Clinton's emails has dogged the start of her campaign for the White House in November, 2016 after she acknowledged using a personal email account rather than a government one for State Department business.

    The emails released on Tuesday are among some 30,000 work emails that she handed over to the State Department in December that a judge has ordered to be released in batches.

    Blumenthal was barred from a job at the state department by aides to President Barack Obama because of lingering distrust over his role advising Clinton's run against Obama in the acrimonious 2008 Democratic primary, according to The New York Times.

    Blunt advice

    But in July 2009, he gave the former first lady blunt instructions ahead of a speech she gave at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in Washington.

    "For most policy speeches a generic tone and workmanlike prose are acceptable. But for this one it's not. This speech can't afford to be lackluster," he said in an email, offering her a possible draft copy of the speech.

    On June 23, Blumenthal emailed Clinton around 10pm with the subject line, "Hillary: if you're up, give me a call. Sid." In the preceding days, he had sent her detailed memos on Iran's 2009 election crisis with media clips.

    Later that year, Blumenthal wrote to Clinton that delay in announcing a strategy for US forces in Afghanistan was putting serious strains on Washington's relations with close ally Britain.

    "Consensus across the board in Britain - center, right, left- is that the Atlantic alliance - the special relationship -the historic bond since World War II - is shattered," he wrote.

Is the Modi magic wearing off?

  • Sujata Anandan
  • |
  • Updated: Mar 04, 2014 20:55 IST

There can be no greater admission of the fact that there is really no Narendra Modi wave in the country than the attempt by former BJP president Nitin Gadkari to woo Raj Thackeray at this late hour and win him over to the saffron side this election.

I was surprised to see the party scraping the bottom of the barrel for alliances with the Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar and the DMK in Tamil Nadu because both these parties are on a losing wicket. I am amazed that the BJP has so little confidence in the so-called overwhelming personality of its prime ministerial candidate that it should jeopardise a possible post-poll tie-up with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and show such scant regard for the sensitivities of its long-time all-weather friend, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, by wooing its greatest enemy Raj Thackeray so brazenly.

But while it has to be acknowledged that these might not be Modi’s moves, it goes without saying that asking Raj Thackeray not to put up candidates in the Lok Sabha polls to avoid a split in the Sena-BJP’s votes is akin to shouting from the rooftops that there is a lack of confidence in the saffron alliance about sweeping 40 out of the 48 seats they have been saying they will win in these elections.

Although the Shiv Sena has been in a lasting alliance with the BJP for nearly three decades now, it is clear there is no love lost between the new generation of BJP and Sena leaders. Gadkari has always spoken privately (but quite openly) about how little he thinks of Uddhav Thackeray’s political skills and has avowed many times that Raj is the one that the BJP should really be looking to for a future alliance. The BJP stays with the Sena only for what it can benefit from the party and not what it could give to its junior partner — in 2009 then prime ministerial candidate LK Advani stopped the BJP’s GenNext from severing ties with the Sena in order not to jeopardise his own chances. Now clearly the Sena after Bal Thackeray seems less of a winner than Raj to the BJP and it is Modi’s ambitions that must now be bolstered.

However, in the eight years of its existence, I do not see much progress in the MNS — there is not a single leader in the party apart from Raj Thackeray that one can write home about; the party has simply run out of issues and since it cannot get away with beating up either Muslims or Uttar Bharatiyas any longer, it is now targeting toll workers on the highways and – dare I say it — just survives by coming to arrangements with various political parties, most particularly the ruling Congress in Maharashtra.

Then, again, the MNS is now so clearly associated with its anti-North Indian agitation of the recent past that I wonder how the BJP’s core voters in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will react to a potential tie-up with Raj Thackeray. I recall when the Sena-BJP came to power in 1995 in Maharashtra and Bal Thackeray threatened to deny ration cards to Uttar Bharatiyas, BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan had to twist the Sena tiger’s arms to get him to retract – the party’s voters in the Hindi heartland who had loads of relatives living and working in Bombay had taken exception and threatened to transfer their allegiance to other political parties in those states.

I, therefore, see little benefit to the BJP in this move – for Raj is unlikely to withdraw from the Lok Sabha race which can only be detrimental to his interests. But I smell a fixed match here: neither Gadkari nor his party seniors would be foolish enough to make such a move without some shrewd calculations. As I see it, it can only be to subtly reduce Modi’s numbers without seeming to do so.

The only gainer in this game then is Raj Thackeray. His stock just went up with those he is purported to be helping in these polls. And Gadkari, denied his own ambitions last year,  could be killing two birds with one stone.


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