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FOREIGN POLICY POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Foreign Policy Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with US treaty obligations, relations with other countries, engagement with international organizations, and trade policies. The domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Department of State, United States Agency for International Development, Office of the US Trade Representative, and Office of the US Representative to the United Nations. Our Principal Analyst in Jacob Malinowski who can be reached at jacob@usresistnews.org.

Latest Foreign Policy Posts

 

Trump Administration Announces Sanctions Targeting Iran and Russia

The Trump administration has responded to perceived transgressions by Russia and Iran with two new sets of sanctions this past month. Following through on the cancellation of the Iran deal, Trump has announced that, starting August 7th, restrictions will be placed on the Iranian government’s ability to purchase or acquire US dollar banknotes, trade in gold and precious metals, sell or transfer to or from Iran of graphite and metals

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Trump Shames NATO Leaders in Brussels

Trump met with NATO leaders in Brussels on July 11th, marking the beginning of a week-long trip which would later include a visit to Britain and a summit with President Putin in Finland. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.

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The United States Leaves the UN Human Rights Council

Brief #44---Foreign Policy Policy Summary On June 19th, Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was finally following through on threats to depart from the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it “an exercise in shameless hypocrisy - with many of the...

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What Happened at the US North Korea Summit

On Tuesday June 15, President Trump and Chairman Kim broke a history of isolation by being the first leaders of their respective countries to ever meet in person. A longtime goal of Kim’s predecessors, few imagined this event taking place, especially considering Trump’s frequent use of his Twitter account to call for the destruction of North Korea throughout his presidency.

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Trump Cancels, Then Resumes US-North Korea Summit

Last Thursday, President Trump announced the cancellation of the historic US-North Korea summit, originally slated for June 12th in Singapore. The cited reason was the “open hostility” exhibited by the North Korean government, including the suggestion that a diplomatic failure would lead to a “nuclear to nuclear showdown”.

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Korean Peace Process Stalls

The peace process with North Korea nearly derailed this week as the North Korean government canceled high level talks with South Korean leaders, just hours in advance. The future of the planned summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has also been placed in jeopardy as relations have regained hostility.

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President Trump Ends US Participation in the Iran Deal

On May 8th, President Trump announced that sanctions would be reimposed on Iran, violating and thus jeopardizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an integral part of the legacy of President Obama. The JCPOA, colloquially known as the Iran Deal, was formed as a solution by the US, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, and Iran to stem fears that Iran’s nuclear energy program could be used to build nuclear weapons.

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Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

After a year as the Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate in a 57-42 vote as the new Secretary of State. While he eventually secured more votes than his predecessor Rex Tillerson, his path to the confirmation was originally not so assured.

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Trump Administration Announces Sanctions Targeting Iran and Russia

Trump Administration Announces Sanctions Targeting Iran and Russia

Brief #47—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
The Trump administration has responded to perceived transgressions by Russia and Iran with two new sets of sanctions this past month. Following through on the cancellation of the Iran deal, Trump has announced that, starting August 7th, restrictions will be placed on the Iranian government’s ability to purchase or acquire US dollar banknotes, trade in gold and precious metals, sell or transfer to or from Iran of graphite and metals – such as aluminum and steel- or conduct unspecified transactions relating to the Iranian currency, the Rial. Tariffs will also be placed on Iran’s automotive sector, Iranians will no longer be able to purchase US passenger aircrafts, and the US will no longer import Iranian carpets or certain foods. This November, additional sanctions will be placed on Iranian oil/energy imports, as well as financial institutions.

The stated goal is to cripple the Iranian economy to the point that the regime must end what the Trump administration calls its support for terrorism, and negotiate an end to its nuclear energy program. Trump said that the Iranian government “faces a choice: Either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation”. Mike Pompeo outlined American expectations for negotiations, demanding that “Iran end all nuclear enrichment and development of nuclear-capable missiles; release all American citizens end its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Houthi militias; and withdraw its forces from Syria”. Woody Johnson, the American Ambassador to the UK, threatened “serious consequences” for businesses that continue to deal with Iran.

The Trump administration also announced sanctions on Russian exports in response to accusations that Moscow was behind the chemical attack in Britain last March, which targeted a former Russian spy. Immediately following the incident, the UK, US, and several other countries expelled over 100 Russian diplomats. These sanctions are legally justified under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which requires the US to impose sanctions on any foreign power determined to have used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law within 60 days of assigning blame, a deadline now missed by over a month.

The first set of sanctions, due to take effect on August 22nd, will restrict exports to Russia for the purchase of items which could have military uses, such as gas turbine engines and calibration equipment. Russia also now has 90 days to provide assurances that they will allow inspections to placate fears of any future chemical attacks. If Russia does not comply, the Trump administration will impose a second set of sanctions, restricting bank assistance, exports and imports, air carrier landing rights, and US bank loans to Russia, as well as downgrading diplomatic relations. The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, supported by a bipartisan group of senators, has the potential to further destabilize the Russian economy. If passed, it would freeze all dollar operations of Russian state banks. In response to this recent set of sanctions, the Ruble fell to its lowest value in two years.

Analysis
The most important thing to keep in mind when discussing the destruction of the Iran deal, one of the most important pieces of Obama’s legacy, is that Iran has not violated the deal in any way. This fact has been confirmed by international inspectors. The European Union, Britain, France, and Germany have issued a statement saying that “The JCPOA [Iran Deal] is working and delivering on its goal, namely to ensure that the Iranian programme remains exclusively peaceful. Iran’s nuclear program has the stated purpose of building a foundation of cheap energy which would allow Iranian oil to be sold overseas. The enactment of the Iran deal in 2015 allowed Iran to recover from a disastrous economic recession. Like the most recent set, Obama’s 2010 sanctions were described as “smart sanctions”, designed to target the elite of the country rather than the innocent greater population. In reality, there was no such precision of consequence, with the percentage of Iranian families living in poverty almost doubling, and millions being left without access to essential medical treatment. Since the announcement of these newest sanctions, the Rial has dropped by 80%, causing protests around the country. These new protests will only further harm the middle and lower classes, creating hunger and unemployment.. Trump is not trying to simply coerce the Iranians into returning to the table to enact a newer, stronger Iran deal. Iran has no reason to expend the time and political capital to restart this arduous process. Iranian voters have less reason to support friendlier relations with America now, and Iran won’t want to make a new deal when the last one was cancelled through no fault of their own. What the Trump administration wants is further unrest, driven by the lower and middle classes, which could create an opening for an American-led regime change.

The Russian sanctions, while more justifiable, will contribute to similarly harmful conditions for many civilians who have had no part in the sinister actions of their oligarchy. The Defending American Security Act, if passed, would force Russia into an ultimatum which may not go the way Trump hopes. Either Russia will back down, or the oligarchy will be given a political mandate to act even more aggressively against the West.

Resistance Resources

  • Human Rights Watch – An organization dedicated to fighting oppression from a global perspective
  • Beyond the Bomb – An activist group looking to reduce the danger of nuclear war around the world.

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Colin Shanley: Contact Colin@usresistnews.org

Trump Appears Docile and Contradictory in Putin Summit

Trump Appears Docile and Contradictory in Putin Summit

Brief #36—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
Last Monday, following a scornful conference with EU leaders, President Trump met with President Putin in Helsinki for a two hour meeting followed by a joint press conference. The meeting was held privately with no notes taken and two interpreters as the only witnesses of what was discussed between the two leaders. The idea for a summit was conceived last March, when Trump called Putin to congratulate him for his successful re-election, against the recommendations of his national security advisers. The summit was held in the midst of a pair of significant advancements against Russian intelligence operations, with 12 Russian intelligence agents being indicted for their involvement in a plan to hack into the emails of democratic campaign officials, and an alleged Russian spy being arrested following involvement with the Republican party and pro-gun organizations. Documents revealed that the intelligence agents first attempted to breach  Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s email servers the day that Trump publicly suggested they do so

In the face of these developments, Trump held a completely different take on Russian involvement in American affairs. Trump stated that US intelligence officials “think its Russia” but Putin had told him that it is not, concluding “I don’t see any reason why it would be”. While this is not necessarily a major departure from previous statements he has made on the matter, hearing this from our President as he met with one of our biggest political rivals was enough to provoke significant domestic objection, even among GOP allies. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”. John McCain called it a “disgraceful performance”. The next day Trump read a statement explaining that he “accepts the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place” but it “could be other people also”. “A lot of people out there”, the President added. Trump also clarified that when he said that he didn’t “see any reason why it would be” Russia who interfered with the 2016 election, he actually meant he didn’t “see any reason why it wouldn’t be”.

For the amount of controversy generated by the summit, there was a noticeable lack of progress on tangible issues. Crimea was barely mentioned, and Trump seemed satisfied with Putin declaring the Syrian war over. Putin said that the two had made an agreement to hold talks in the future on the extension of the START treaty once Russia had a chance to examine whether the US was compliant in the historic arms reduction pact.

Analysis
For a man who so clearly dislikes foreign excursions, one would think President Trump would work harder to ensure that they were worthwhile for American interests. Instead, he seems to believe these summits are simply about the handshakes and photo-ops. We have no idea what was discussed during the two hours that Trump and Putin met in private, but it must not have been anything very promising considering the vagueness of the press conference. By dismissing Russian aggression only to unconvincingly walk his statements back the next day, Trump doesn’t even present himself as capable as a foreign asset. In times like this all we can do is be thankful when his blunders do not hold major consequences. Trump didn’t concede Crimea to Russia or do anything else to alarm European allies. It is naive to expect Trump to hold Putin accountable for anything. Even in the small possibility that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, Putin compliments him too much to ever be seen as an enemy. Perhaps as a country we will need to weather the international embarrassments until the next election, as long as it means no major wars or concessions of human rights.

Resistance Resources

  • Human Rights Watch – An international human rights organization which has worked to support Crimean autonomy against Russian aggression.
  • Amnesty International – A longstanding human rights organization which led protests in Helsinki against both the policies of Trump and Putin.

 This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Colin Shanley. Contact Colin@usresistnews.org

Trump Shames NATO Leaders in Brussels

Trump Shames NATO Leaders in Brussels

Brief #36—Foreign Policy

Policy
Trump met with NATO leaders in Brussels on July 11th, marking the beginning of a week-long trip which would later include a visit to Britain and a summit with President Putin in Finland. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?” Trump commented upon departing from the White House. The NATO summit was just as contentious as his remarks foreshadowed. Trump continued his campaign of abuse against fellow NATO leaders over a perceived lack of commitment to military spending, referring to them as “delinquent” for not yet reaching the goal set in 2014 to reach 2% of GDP spending for defense. He went as far as to ask for 4% defense spending from all NATO nations. Trump’s ire was focused primarily on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and accused the country of being “totally controlled by Russia”. The source of this claim is a $10 billion pipeline project from Russian energy giant Gazprom which has now been confirmed to pass through German territory. Despite the rhetoric, Trump still agreed to sign onto a joint statement reaffirming previous goals and commitments. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was wholly non-confrontational in the face of Trump’s insults, agreeing that more military spending was indeed necessary.

Analysis
The accepted implication of Trump’s remarks is that the failure of European allies to divert a sufficient amount of spending towards defense creates an unnecessary burden for the United States to overspend. Trump presents the United States as a country suffering to defend its allies. Of course, the Trump administration has no real incentive to ever reduce defense spending. Increasing our military arsenal has been a frequent talking point, and Congress has been working on passing a massive bipartisan spending increase. The United States is by far the largest arms dealer in the world and convincing allies to increase spending is a top priority for domestic business interests.

Trump’s attitude towards NATO threatens to undermine a seventy-five year old alliance between America and its European allies that has helped preserve peace and stability throughout Europe since the end of World War II. Article V of the NATO Agreement calls for all NATO countries to come to the defense of countries in the alliance when they are attacked. This article was invoked after 9/11 when America’s European allies rushed in to provide help to the US. European members of NATO have fought side by side with the US in countries like Bosnia and Afghanistan. It is impossible to put a price on what NATO has contributed to peace and stability in much of the world. All this is in play now that Trump is breaking NATO down into a business transaction of who pays for what.

Resistance Resources

  • World Beyond War – An organization dedicated to reducing militarization around the world
  • Amnesty International – A longstanding human rights organization which has led protests in Europe opposing Trump’s policies over the past two weeks.

Learn More: Here is the joint statement signed by all NATO representatives

This Brief was authored by Colin Shanley Colin@usresistnews.org

The United States Leaves the UN Human Rights Council

The United States Leaves the UN Human Rights Council

Brief #44—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
On June 19th, Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was finally following through on threats to depart from the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it “an exercise in shameless hypocrisy – with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored and most serious offenders sit on the council sitting on the council itself”. While one concern of US Ambassador Nikki Haley and the White House included the closed election system which allowed candidates to join the council without an open vote, the primary contention was what Haley called “unending hostility towards Israel”. While Haley previously insisted the agenda of the US was to reform the council rather than leave it, she refused to cooperate with an effort led by the Netherlands to reduce the number of resolutions passed against Israel. One of the more controversial examples included a 2016 resolution which condemned a number of mostly US and Israeli businesses which had invested in illegal Israeli settlements in the West bank. Since the council’s inception in 2006, it has passed 310 country specific resolutions, with 76 targeting Israel. The final straw came earlier in June when the council voted 120 to 8 condemning Israel’s massacre of Palestinians peacefully protesting the occupation of their land.

Analysis
Leaving the Human Rights Council is par for the course for this administration. Trump has pursued an agenda of complete seclusion from the world, interacting only through threats and ultimatums rather than treaties and cooperative diplomacy. Since the last election we have most notably withdrawn from the Paris Climate Change Acord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, UNESCO, and all global health programs which support abortion rights. This isn’t to say there aren’t issues within the council which warrant attention. The membership of human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia and China in an anti-human rights abuse organization is hypocritical. Of course this isn’t Trump or Haley’s true concern. Their issue is with the council working as it should: allowing a certain amount of international democracy in the condemnation of human rights abuses rather than filtering such moral conversation solely through the channels of those in power.

The United States has never been the champion of human rights that Nikki Haley would like us to believe. We have supported Israel and Saudi Arabia both economically and militarily in what borders on ethnic cleansing in Palestine and Yemen. US ships enforce the embargoes which have created a critical lack of clean water in the Gaza Strip and the worst cholera outbreak in history in Yemen. Trump has complimented and allied himself with authoritarian human rights abusers such as The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and of course Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The US has used their position in the council to vote against a resolution decrying the use of the death penalty against LBGTQ citizens. A recent UN report highlighted the humanitarian concerns of economic conditions within the United States, citing our position as the country with the highest income inequality and lowest intergenerational social mobility among Western countries. With our historical willingness to overlook glaring human rights abuses within our borders and commit them overseas, any moral condemnation of corruption within the Human Rights Council rings hollow. This is only another tactical move from a government wholly uninterested in the ideals America prides itself upon.

Engagement Resources

  • Donate to the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians.
  • Learn More About Domestic Human Rights Issues Caused by the Trump Administration: Philip Alston is the UN official which published the recent report examining how the economic policy of our political establishment has led to inhumane living conditions for low income Americans. You can listen to his interview on Democracy Now here.


This Brief was prepared by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley. For further information contact Colin@usresistnews.org

Photo by Rob Bye

What Happened at the US North Korea Summit

What Happened at the US North Korea Summit
Brief #43—Foreign Policy

Summary
On Tuesday June 15, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un broke a history of isolation by being the first leaders of their respective countries to ever meet in person. A longtime goal of Kim’s predecessors, few imagined this event taking place, especially considering Trump’s frequent use of his Twitter account to call for the destruction of North Korea throughout his presidency. Nevertheless, Trump actually managed to surprise some allies with the concessions he provided to the North Korean dictator.

The Summit, held in Singapore, consisted of a one-on-one meeting with interpreters, followed by a larger meeting and working lunch with aides, and produced a signed joint statement declaring a set of vague goals for the two sides. North Korea would advance towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in return for assurances of security from the United States. Trump, without the apparent knowledge of US military officials or the South Korean government, announced the halting of “very provocative” war games, which are held annually on the Korean border in cooperation with South Korean troops.

North Korea, had announced the suspension of Nuclear testing and destroyed a testing site in Punggye-ri in the lead up to the summit. Trump has said that sanctions would remain in place, but that he expected Kim to move “very quickly” on the dismantling of his nuclear arsenal. He also claimed that after the statement was signed, he managed to convince Kim Jong Un to destroy an additional missile-engine testing site. “Follow-on negotiations” between Pompeo and a North Korean official have been announced for the earliest possible date, in the interest of implementing the outcomes of the joint statement. While South Korean military officials expressed confusion at the sudden cancellation of military exercises, President Moon Jae-in called the Summit “a historic event that has helped break down the last remaining Cold War legacy on earth”. Chairman Kim announced that “We’ve decided to leave the past behind… The world will see major changes”. Trump has stated that he is “absolutely” willing to invite Kim to the White House.

Of course, even in the face of a historic diplomatic event, Trump couldn’t contain who he really is: an elderly man solely experienced in pageantry.  “I said, ‘Boy, look at that view”, Trump told reporters referring to a photo of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang , “Wouldn’t that make a great condo?”. He also presented Kim with a strange video, falsely attributed to “Destiny Pictures”, consisting of shots of Sylvester Stallone, bumper cars, and nuclear warfare.

Policy Analysis

Much of the controversy surrounding the Summit had been due to the vagueness of the assurances provided by North Korea. Denuclearization has been a stated goal of the North Korean government before, with little to show for it. Trump didn’t offer any evidence of concrete guidelines for how denuclearization will be monitored. International inspectors will have a hard time finding evidence of rule-breaking activity when any North Korean who speaks with them can be whisked off to prison. Trump also did not ask for the advancement of human rights within the country as a precondition for the lifting of sanctions.

However, much of the reaction to the Summit has bypassed this critical assessment of the progress made, and wandered into pro-war hysterics. Pundits on traditionally liberal outlets have expressed disgust at minor ornamental insults, such as the American flag being held beside the North Korean flag, or even Trump simply meeting Kim Jong-un as an equal. Some also suggested that the entire concept of demilitarization in the region is simply a handout to Russia. This response recalls Fox news’ reaction to Obama’s diplomatic behavior during his administration, and appears in bad faith when similar abusers of human rights such as Mohammad bin Salman Saudi Arabia are fawned over without critique by the American media and government.

These pundits, along with the American government, have relied on force alone to deal with the issue of North Korea since its inception, and have failed miserably thus far. 81% of South Koreans, the most ignored demographic in these discussions, supported the Summit beforehand. That’s because the people of Korea, on both sides of the border, are tired of this tension. There is no desire by the North Korean government to wage a war of conquest across Asia, or somehow extend themselves into a war with the largest military in the world. What they want is security, to hold onto power for as long as possible. For now it is acceptable that the assurances we have gained from them are vague, because the ball is in our court. Since the Korean War, during which we destroyed essentially every town in the country, the people of North Korea have known nothing but brutality from the United States. It is no wonder the people are afraid to revolt against what they believe is the only bulwark against an empire of terror. It shouldn’t be any more surprising that the North Korean government sees its only salvation to be the development of the one weapon we cannot ignore. If we provide a sense of safety for the North Korean regime, they will have no need for their expensive defenses. If we return to aggression, as the unholy alliance of John Bolton and MSNBC seem to want, we will only be ignoring the people of Korea in return for a proven strategy of failure.

Engagement Resources

  • Read the Joint Statement: Here is the joint statement produced by the summit, which outlines the goals of each side.
  • Learn More About the Korean Peace Movement Through Women Cross DMZ: Women Cross DMZ is a coalition of activists from around the world, including both North and South Korea, who are calling for a peaceful solution to the Korean conflict. They are organizing a protest on the DMZ later this month in partnership with the Nobel Women’s Initiative. You can learn more on their website.

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

Trump Cancels, Then Resumes US-North Korea Summit

Brief # 42: Foreign Policy

Summary

Last Thursday, President Trump announced the cancellation of the historic US-North Korea summit, originally slated for June 12th in Singapore. The cited reason was the “open hostility” exhibited by the North Korean government, including the suggestion that a diplomatic failure would lead to a “nuclear to nuclear showdown”. These comments were in response to recent threats by Vice President Pence that North Korea could end up like Libya if they failed to make a deal.

Trump’s cancellation of the summit provoked a disappointed and conciliatory response from North Korea, who stated that they were “willing to sit face to face at any time”. Trump called it a “very nice statement” which would lead “hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace”. As for the future of the summit, Trump stated that “We’ll see what happens. It could even be the 12th”. On Saturday, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a surprise summit, during which Moon said there had been a candid exchange of views, and made plans for another meeting this Friday. The North Korean state media declared that they would meet frequently in the future “to make dialogue brisk and pool wisdom and efforts, expressing their stand to make joint efforts for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”. The White House has confirmed that a team of officials have departed for Singapore to prepare for the possible summit. On Wednesday night, North Korean General Kim Yong-chol met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, for what Pompeo tweeted was discussions for the “potential” upcoming summit.

Analysis

Peace talks between North Korea and the US would be an enormous step forward for world peace. The hostility between the two nations, and the militarism it creates has led to brutal living conditions for the North Korean people, and a world living under the threat of nuclear war. The diplomatic process needs to be approached with care and patience, two qualities which our President has failed to exhibit thus far. By allowing his administration to continue to name-drop Libya, he’s putting any hopes of diplomacy in jeopardy. In Libya, Gaddafi agreed to a denuclearisation deal, similar to what Trump hopes to accomplish with North Korea. Once Gaddafi gave up his weapons, he was killed by US supported rebels. Any mention of Libya will only threaten to ruin any hope for a deal. North Korea needs to have US sanctions lifted. so they can finally be allowed some economic breathing room.

Resistance Resources

  • Read a Previous USRESIST Assessment of the North Korean Peace Process: Here is the brief, published earlier this month. (NOTE KIM PLEASE MAKE THE LINK TO COLIN’S LAST BRIEFG)
  • Donate to Peace Action: Peace Action is a network of peace activists committed to pressuring Congress into passing legislation supporting a foreign policy which respects human rights and non-violence. You can donate on their website.

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

Korean Peace Process Stalls

Foreign Policy Brief #41

 May 16th, 2018

Summary

The peace process with North Korea nearly derailed this week as the North Korean government canceled high level talks with South Korean leaders, just hours in advance. The future of the planned summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has also been placed in jeopardy as relations have regained hostility. History was made late last April, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un became the first leaders of their respective countries to cross the border since the Korean War began in the 1950s. This followed the two countries’ unified performances at the last winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

North Korea previously offered an olive branch, calling for the unified pursuit of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Stating they no longer have a need for nuclear weapons, the North Korean government invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month. Three American prisoners were also released into the hands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a recent visit. The government’s tone shifted this past week in response to several perceived slights at the hands of America and South Korea. Firstly, the US and South Korean military engaged in a number of annually held military drills on the border, an act which North Korea warned would be seen as an unnecessary provocation. Second, the Trump administration has been shifting the goalposts for what they expect of North Korea, in advance of the upcoming summit. What started as a unified goal of heading down the path of denuclearisation, beginning with the lifting of sanctions, has shifted to a more direct demand. National Security Advisor John Bolton has more recently made it clear that immediate denuclearisation is non-negotiable, and that sanction relief would come in time. Bolton has also made remarks suggesting that the Trump administration wishes to follow the “Libya model” when it comes to handling the threat of North Korea. This has alarmed North Korean leadership, who released a statement declaring that the “Precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to the anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States.” After being asked whether the US-North Korean summit would proceed as planned, President Trump responded “we will have to see”.

Analysis

What’s missing from much of the discussion surrounding the North Korean government is an honest analysis of their intents. Kim Jong-un’s administration, as brutal as they may be towards their own people, are not interested in conquest. They see themselves as one of the few true rogue nations in the world, somehow allowed to remain in power after the brutality of the Korean War, and want to hold onto that power for as long as possible. They have witnessed what has happened to other nations who have stood up against the United States and our allies, and have no interest in following that same path. Muammar Gaddafi agreed to surrender Libya’s nuclear weapons program in return for reduced hostility with the West, and was killed by NATO supported militias once he was disarmed. Saddam Hussein never built nuclear weapons, and was killed by the United States. North Korea has watched this happen, and has no interest in being next on the chopping block.

For this reason, negotiations need to include a certain amount of understanding for the paranoia North Korean leaders must be experiencing right now. They have been sufficiently cowed by the reckless aggression exhibited by President Trump and will mostly likely agree to a denuclearisation process if they can be convinced that we are authentically pursuing peace. Conducting military drills on their border referring to the “Libya model” will only have the opposite effect. On top of this, Trump’s decision to forgo diplomacy and break the historic peace agreement that is the Iran deal only serves to feed the fears of North Korea. The peace process will never succeed if it continued to be viewed as a military maneuver instead of a universal commitment to demilitarization.

Engagement Resources

  • Learn More About the Korean Peace Movement Through Women Cross DMZ: Women Cross DMZ is a coalition of activists from around the world, including both North and South Korea, who are calling for a peaceful solution to the Korean conflict. They are organizing a protest on the DMZ later this month in partnership with the Nobel Women’s Initiative. You can learn more on their website.
  • Donate to Peace Action: Peace Action is a network of peace activists committed to pressuring Congress into passing legislation supporting a foreign policy which respects human rights and non-violence. You can donate on their website.

 

 

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

 

 

President Trump Ends US Participation in the Iran Deal

Foreign Policy Brief #40

May 15th, 2018

Summary

On May 8th, President Trump announced that sanctions would be reimposed on Iran, violating and thus jeopardizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an integral part of the legacy of President Obama. The JCPOA, colloquially known as the Iran Deal, was formed as a solution by the US, China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, and Iran to stem fears that Iran’s nuclear energy program could be used to build nuclear weapons. The deal, passed in 2015, removed heavy sanctions which had crushed the Iranian economy in the early 2010’s, in return for strong limits on the enrichment and stockpiling of Uranium and regular, independently conducted inspections of nuclear sites.

While Iran is widely considered to have been following the rules of the JCPOA, the Israeli government and elements within the Trump administration have insisted that the country is behaving duplicitously. President Trump considered Iran’s continued development of ballistic missiles as a violation of the spirit of the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held a press conference on April 30th claiming that Iran engaged in the development of nuclear weapons between 1999 and 2003, and never disclosed this during the formation of the JCPOA. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that wealth created under the deal “drove Iranian malign activity”

Now that the United States has withdrawn, the remaining six members of the deal are scrambling to keep it in place.  British Foreign secretary Boris Johnson stated after speaking with his French counterpart that they are determined to “conserve the essence” of the deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Russian and Chinese officials looking to weigh their options. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would increase Uranium enrichment if a solution was not found. President Trump has threatened to not only replace US sanctions on Iran, but also sanction “any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons”. Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us”.

Military conflicts have sparked between Israel and Iran, potentially in response to Iran’s reduced diplomatic security. On April 9th, Israel attacked the T-4 Syrian Air Force base near Homs, Syria. Earlier this month, they struck again, this time on a cache of Iranian missiles north of Hama, Syria. On May 9th, immediately following US withdrawal from the Iran Deal, Iran launched 20 rockets towards Golan Heights, an area of Syria occupied by Israel since 1981.

Analysis

The United States has been pushing for war with Iran ever since the Islamist revolution of 1979 replaced the western-backed dictatorship of the Shah. Iran has been largely spurned internationally since, leading to a reduced access to western weapons and capital. For this reason, the nuclear program has been essential for Iran, allowing them to avoid squandering their most valuable export – oil – on their own energy needs. Elements within the US military industrial complex have used this to push for regime change at every turn, even when diplomacy is working, as it was under the JCPOA. The hypocrisy here is pervasive. The United States has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and the White House announced an increase in that arsenal this week. Israel is one of only four countries in the world to refuse to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, and is widely believed to have built nuclear weapons in secret. Also, the treaty actually requires nuclear armed states such as the US to help non-nuclear armed states such as Iran build peaceful nuclear energy programs.

It’s no coincidence that this aggressive attitude also serves the interests of our most powerful allies in the region. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel are noted rivals of Iran and have used humanitarian disasters in Syria and Yemen as proxy wars to push their influence, all with the support of the US. This contrasts with our European allies, who have made major economic investments in Iran since the raising of sanctions. French energy company Total signed a $5 billion deal for Iranian natural gas last year, and has no interest in losing that investment.

Trump’s desire to end the Iran deal seems embarrassingly rooted in his fascination with tarnishing every aspect of Obama’s legacy. He has not suggested any possible solution now that the deal is nearly destroyed. It seems that his goal is a dependable way to ensure that Iran has no way of building weapons, but that is exactly what Obama and our allies painstakingly ensured with the Iran Deal. Nevertheless, the war hawks of his administration are surely delighted that the diplomatic route is being steadily closed off. And they aren’t alone. Iranian hardliners have long pushed for a complete break of relations with the US, who they deem untrustworthy. The more moderate Iranian President Rouhani is still very popular, but he spent a large amount of political capital on the dealmaking process, and he might not be able to accomplish that a second time. Not only is breaking the deal potentially helping hand Iran to the hardliners, it jeopardizes any future deals we might make. Now the rest of the world knows that even if they spend months or years forming a treaty with the United States, it might only last until the next administration. This is not the right message to send with the North Korean summit coming up.

Engagement Resources

  • Read Bernie Sander’s Op-Ed on the Danger Caused by Leaving the Iran Deal: Here is Sanders’ article, published by the Guardian last Monday. You can also watch his town hall discussion on the topic from the same day, hosted by The Intercept.
  • Get Involved with Beyond the Bomb: Beyond the Bomb is an activist group looking to reduce the danger of nuclear war around the world. You can learn about the campaigns they are involved with on their website. 

 

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

 

Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

Brief #39, Foreign Policy

May 14th, 2018

Summary

After a year as the Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate in a 57-42 vote as the new Secretary of State. While he eventually secured more votes than his predecessor Rex Tillerson, his path to the confirmation was originally not so assured.

As of mid-April, not a single Democrat or Independent on the  Senate Foreign Relations Committee was willing to go on the record as being in favor of his nomination. On the Republican side, Senator McCain was home battling cancer and Rand Paul had expressed opposition towards Pompeo. However, when Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp expressed eventual support for Pompeo, the dynamic shifted. Rand Paul’s vote was essential for the  Foreign Relations Committee to support Trump’s pick. Ultimately, Senator Paul changed his mind after being assured by the President that Pompeo regarded the Iraq War was a mistake and that US troops should leave Afghanistan. Pompeo secured the endorsement of the committee and Democratic Senators Bill Nelson, Claire McCaskill, and Doug Jones joined Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp in crossing party lines to vote in favor of his confirmation.

Much of the controversy regarding the idea of Mike Pompeo operating as our nation’s top diplomat regards his positions on the War on Terror and Islam as a concept. Deviating from Tillerson’s view of the United States as a country competing with other economic rivals such as China and Russia, Pompeo seemingly views the US as a crusades-era force defending the West from Iran and “radical Islamic terror”. He has found himself adjacent to a number of groups and individuals who push the narrative that the Muslim world is attempting to subvert the entire social framework of the United States. Pompeo arranged for a Capitol Hill briefing for Act for America, a group which awarded him their National Security Eagle Award in 2016. Act for America is renowned for protesting the building of mosques, pushing for anti-Sharia law bills in state legislatures, and describing terrorism as the “purest form of Islam”. In a 2015 interview, Pompeo agreed with radio host Frank Gaffney that President Obama displayed “kind of an affinity for, if not the violent beheading and crucifixions and slaying of Christians and all that, but at least for the cause for which these guys are engaged in such activities.”

While in a 2017 confirmation hearing Pompeo backtracked on previous statements and spoke in opposition of the use of torture, he is on the record as being in support of the continued use of Guantanamo Bay as a prison camp.

Pompeo spent his time as Director of the CIA personally delivering daily intelligence briefs to President Trump, which  earned him a reputation as a close confidant. While he has previously disparaged Obama for being weak on Russia, he has repeatedly falsely claimed that the intelligence community had concluded that Russian interference had no impact on the 2016 election, despite the fact that the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment stated that they “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election”. In a confirmation hearing, he also refused to clearly state whether or not Trump had directed him to push the FBI into backing off the Russia investigation. With his willingness to serve Trump’s corrupt interests, his ruthless worldview, and his ample experience in Washington, Pompeo will be a dangerous asset for the President to extend his influence worldwide.

Engagement Resources

  • Follow CREDO Action: CREDO Action is an activist organization which mobilizes support for progressive causes. Their petition asking the Senate to block Pompeo gained over 140,000 votes.
  • Donate to the ACLU: The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the most renowned groups involved in defending the rights of citizens. They were steadfast in their opposition of Pompeo’s confirmation. You can donate on their website.

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

 

US, UK, and France Attack Syrian Chemical Sites

Foreign Policy Brief #38

April 21st, 2018

Summary

Just before dawn on April 14th, The United States, United Kingdom, and France launched a joint missile attack against two Syrian chemical weapon storage facilities and one research center. The strike was described by the western governments as a retaliation for a chemical attack against a rebel held Damascus suburb, Douma, on April 7th. The White House and its allies have identified the Syrian government and its sponsor, Russia, as culpable for the chemical attack, which reportedly has killed 70 people. Both Russia and Syria have denied responsibility, with Russian state media claiming that the attack itself was staged by pro-opposition actors. US officials were apparently not completely certain of the culprit and thus launched a more restrained attack than what was available to them. After being delayed by Russian military police, a team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons finally reached Douma and are awaiting results on evidence divulged from the site.

This series of events comes almost exactly a year after a nearly identical exchange, although this time the US fired over twice as many missiles and are leaving the door open for further actions. At this time the Pentagon has stated that they are not aware of any civilian casualties and the Syrian government has stated that three civilians were injured. The Pentagon also stated that the attack was a complete success, with every missile hitting its target, while Russia and Syria have contested that the majority of missiles were intercepted. The attack, which President Putin called “an act of aggression” was not certified by Congress as the Constitution requires. General Mattis reportedly attempted to push for congressional approval prior to striking, but was turned down by Trump who hoped to back up his previously tweeted threats.

Analysis

The joint strike was not described by the aggressors as an attempt to influence the civil war which has raged for seven brutal years, but rather to draw a red line with regards to the use of chemical weapons. Multiple Israeli officials have complained that the strike does not meet this goal, and that Assad remains equally able to commit further chemical attacks. As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald recently argued, the US’s support of a number of regimes which use chemical weapons strongly undermines the suggestion that the attack is intended to send a humanitarian message.

The Trump administration has not been clear about their plan for Syria, and have wavered considerably throughout the past year on the fate of Assad. The American military apparatus is noticeably less eager for regime change as they were in the lead up to the Iraq war. At this point the possibility of deposing Assad is far less likely than it seemed in the early years of the war as Russia has continued to support him, his forces have won considerable territory, and the rebels have proven themselves to not be the champions of democracy and secular freedom that the west hoped for. While General Mattis declared the attack a “one-time shot”, Trump announced that our military is “prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents”. The most likely explanation for our government’s plans for Syria is that they are pushing neither for regime change nor the eventual victory of Assad’s forces. A rebel victory could lead to the quandary of a power vacuum, as we saw in Iraq and Libya after American intervention. An Assad victory would allow for regained stability for a Russian and Iranian ally. As long as Syrian is a drain on resources for Russia and Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia are protected and our government’s interests in the Middle East are advanced.

Engagement Resources

  • Support the Answer Coalition: The Answer Coalition was founded just after 9/11 as an opposition to the developing imperialist ambitions of the Bush administration. They have maintained that struggle through the years, and have been involved with anti-war protests in response to the Trump administration’s recent actions in Syria. You can donate on their website.
  • Orient Yourself to the Basics of the War in Syria: This video, produced by Vox, is an introductory explanation of the actors involved in the Syrian war and its progression of events.

This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.

 

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