Washington, Nov 2 (UNI) A near-revolt is brewing in the US foreign service with several career diplomats strongly protesting against what they say, are the Bush administration's move to 'force them into foreign service assignment in Iraq or face dismissal' according to media sources here.
The diplomats are angry over a new order issued recently requiring all the 200-300 prime candidates to fill the 48 upcoming vacancies at the US Embassy in Baghdad next year. They will be given ten days to accept or reject the offer under this order. If enough number of diplomats are not available to take the offer, others would be ordered to go to Iraq under threat of dismissal from the service.
The controversy over this move came to a head yesterday at a town-hall-type meeting held at the State Department when several diplomats took strong objections to the move.
Matters came to such an end that Secretary of State Condoleeza quickly tried to quell the revolt by trying to assuage the feelings of the officers. She is sending a cable to all the missions abroad to explain the rationale behind the biggest move to dispatch diplomats to Iraq since the Vietnam.
Rice who did not attend the meeting, will make it clear in the cable that foreign service officers have a duty to uphold the oath they undertook to abide by the policies of the government and to serve anywhere in the world, according to media sources here today.
Even though no American diplomats have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, the security situation there is dangerous and the construction of a new embassy compound and staff quarters have not been completed due to logistic problems.
Under the new order, only those with compelling reasons, such as a medical condition or extreme personal hardship, will be exempt from disciplinary action. Diplomats forced into service in Iraq will receive the same extra hardship pay, vacation time and choice of future assignments as those who have volunteered.
More than 1,200 of the department's 11,500 Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq since 2003. The move to direct assignments is rare but not unprecedented. It had happened during the Vietnam war when an entire class of entry-level diplomats was sent to serve in Vietnam.
According to reports published in the media, the town-hall meeting brought into focus the anger and frustration among the diplomats who described 'forced assignment' in Iraq to 'a potential death sentence.' Some vehemently complained about who will be responsible for their children if they were killed or severely injured in Iraq.