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Public Diplomacy in Cyprus: Reaching Across the Green Line

Marked by broken glass, sand bags, and abandoned buildings, the Green Line dividing Nicosia is a place out of time. One hundred twelve miles across and up to 4.6 miles wide, this barren strip has divided the Greek and Turkish sectors of the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus since 1964, when UN peacekeeping forces helped quell a violent conflict between the two communities. The force remains in Cyprus to this day. Described as “Paradise with a Problem” and graveyard for diplomatic initiatives, the reunification of Cyprus has been the goal of NATO, the EU, the UN, the United States and countless individual diplomats since the establishment of the Green Line in 1964.  

As a public diplomacy officer, Judith Baroody sought to bring the people of the two sectors together through a range of initiatives:  public dialogues, cultural events, and exchange programs bringing young leaders to the United states. She looks back on her time in Cyprus (1996-99) with a mixture of frustration and hope.  The island remains divided—but people-to-people contacts also continue. In a long Foreign Service career, this was Baroody’s favorite assignment.

Judith Baroody joined the old United States Information Agency (USIA) in 1984, and transferred to the State Department when that agency was abolished in 1999.  A self-described “Arabist” who primarily served in the Middle East, Judith’s career took her to Damascus during a period of political stability and relative religious tolerance (1985-86), to Tel Aviv with the formidable Ambassador Thomas Pickering (1986-88), and to Baghdad during wartime (2008-09). Just before retirement, Baroody served as the executive director of the Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training (2015-17). 

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Fighting LGBT Discrimination, and Fighting to Stay in the Foreign Service

Up until the late 1990s, Foreign Service careers were denied to openly gay men under the pretense of security concerns. Jan Krc was one of the men who faced–and overcame–this form of prejudice. After being interrogated about his sexual orientation, Krc was fired from his job at the U.S. Information Agency. Instead of lying down and accepting his fate, Krc became embroiled in a decade-long legal battle. Krc–who came to the United States as a child and a Czechoslavkaian refugee–had a passionate desire to serve his country and work for the Foreign Service. Despite the many obstacles he faced, he never stopped pursuing this goal.  Accepting another position at the State Department, but not in the Foreign Service, Krc ultimately exhausted his legal appeals after ten years of struggle. Seizing on a technicality, he was able to reapply to the Foreign Service and went on to serve for over two decades in Russia, Turkey, and Central Europe as a public diplomacy officer. In his oral history, Krc reflects on the ups and downs of this legal drama from his unique and engaging perspective. He is ultimately optimistic about the progress that America has made and its role in promoting LGBT+ rights across the globe.

Jan Krc graduated from Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1981. He then went on to work in a wide range of locations, including Belgrade, Istanbul, Frankfurt, St. Petersburg, and Vienna. Krc finally retired in 2018, after over 30 years of working in–or fighting to work in–the Foreign Service.

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“I am a Plant:” An Apparent Iraqi Spy Among U.S. Diplomats

Would you be willing to hire a potential foreign intelligence agent if it meant direct access to an antagonistic, elusive foreign government? During his time in Baghdad in the 1970s, Allen Keiswetter had to make this crucial decision. After the Six Day War, Iraq severed diplomatic ties with the United States. Keiswetter and other members of the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Iraq had to utilize back channels to communicate with an Iraqi government led behind the scenes by an increasingly powerful Saddam Hussein. When the exceedingly overqualified son of an Iraqi diplomat, Khalid Talia, applied for a job at the USINT, his connections were too good to turn down. Keiswetter’s suspicions about Khalid’s ties with the Iraqi government were confirmed when, several months later, the new employee told Keiswetter, “I am a rose, I am a plant. You understand?”

Khalid’s relationship with the Iraqi elite was a double-edged sword. It gave the USINT access to resources, information, and channels of dialogue that would otherwise be denied. One night under the shroud of darkness, for instance, Khalid showed up outside Keiswetter’s window with an important message: the Iraqis were ready to take significant steps to improve relations with the United States. Was the message real? Or did Khalid have something to gain? Keiswetter never knew. When the Iraqi government moved the UNIST offices to a building without water, electricity, or telephone service, Khalid came to Keiswetter with a solution: obtain a visa for the Iraqi Foreign Minister so he could visit New York. That seemed to work.

Keiswetter had a distinguished and varied career in the Foreign Service. His first post was in Vietnam from 1968-1969, during the height of the war. He then worked for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from 1972-1975. For the next decade, Keiswetter was employed at various embassies across the world. He worked in Beirut, Khartoum, Sanaa, and Riyadh, in addition to the U.S. Interests Section in Baghdad. Before retiring in 2003, he also worked for NATO and as a professor at the National War College.

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