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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.

Latest Foreign Policy Posts

 

Trump’s Damaging Syria Decisions

Policy Summary Earlier this month, in response to a phone call request from Turkish President Erdogan, President Trump announced the evacuation of US troops from northern Syria. Shortly thereafter Turkish troops invaded an area of Syria, formerly held by US forces,...

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The Trump Administration’s Anti-Peace Plan

The Trump Administration’s Anti-Peace Plan

Policy Summary:

On January 28th the US government unveiled its long awaited Middle Eastern “Peace Plan” by Jared Kushner. The plan would permit Israel to annex all its illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley. The Palestinian government is striving for an independent state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, areas currently under Israeli control. The peace plan, announced by Jared Kushner, would permit Israel to maintain such territories as the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem. This would allow nearly 700,000 Israeli settlers to remain on lands captured by Israel; settlements the UN has deemed illegal. The plan would further permit Israeli authority over the currently divided Jerusalem, pushing the Palestinians to establish the capital of a new Palestinian state in a poor neighborhood in east Jerusalem, and cutting it off from the city by a concrete separation barrier. This new Palestinian state would be demilitarized and left under the significant security control of Israel.

Policy Analysis:

The “peace deal” was authored by White House adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. Critics are claiming Trump’s plan is the antithesis of a peace plan as well as the timing of its release being of great question. The proposal was unveiled just hours after Netanyahu was formally indicted on corruption charges in Israel and also during the second week of an impeachment trial against Trump in the U.S. Senate. Following the announcement, the Plan was met with protests and denunciation by Palestinians.

To date, 94% of Palestinians reject Trump’s plan. Palestinian political leadership pressed the international community to reject the Trump administration’s plan. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said of the deal, “nothing but a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause.  “This is a plan to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison. It is not a Middle East peace plan. We reject it and we demand the international community not be a partner.” After the announcement of the peace plan, Kushner blamed Palestine’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, for the escalation in violence occurring in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Kushner claimed President Abbas “calls for days of rage in response and (Abbas) said that even before he saw the plan.”

On February 7th, over 100 House Democrats signed a letter, renouncing President Trump’s Middle East peace plan. The letter addressed to the President claimed it would “hurt Israelis and Palestinians alike, pushing them toward further conflict.” The open letter, spearheaded by Democratic Representatives Alan Lowenthal of California and Andy Levin of Michigan, warned that Trump’s plan “paves the way for a permanent occupation of the West Bank. It does not have our support, and the Israeli government must not take it as license to violate International law by annexing all or portions of the West Bank.”

Trump’s Peace Plan is not only impacting Israel and Palestine. On February 6th, the Tunisian government fired their ambassador to the United Nations, Moncef Baati. Baati was accused of “leading diplomatic negotiations on a Palestinian draft Security Resolution declaring U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan in breach of international law, according to three diplomats”, according to the Foreign Press. A foreign ministry statement expressed the government’s explanation for the dismissal of Baati, “Tunisia’s ambassador to the United Nations has been dismissed for purely professional reasons concerning his weak performance and lack of coordination with the ministry on important matters under discussion at the UN.” However according to three diplomats, Baati had allegedly  been heading “diplomatic negotiations on a Palestinian draft Security Resolution declaring US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan in breach of international law,” reported by Foreign Policy. However, the Tunisian President Kais Saied’s choice to fire Baati seems to have backfired. President Saied’s methods were called into question over the dismissal of Tunis’ UN envoy. “The manner in which the dismissal was carried out raises many questions around the diplomatic strategy of the presidency” said political commentator Youssef Cherif.

Engagement Resources:

  • Alliance for Middle East Peace envision a Middle East in which Israelis and Palestinians have built the trust necessary to live in peace and security, prospering in societies that protect their human and civil rights. The group secures and scales up funding to expand trust-building interactions between Palestinians and Israelis.
  • A Land for All is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization that strives to promote a new paradigm for solving the conflict based on trust and partnership rather than separation. The solution derives from the confederation model and suggest two independent states within the 1967 borders in a way that will meet the desire of the two peoples for self-determination alongside freedom of movement and residence in the entire area between the Jordan River and the sea.
  • Arab-Jewish Community Center, Jaffa, fosters better understanding, tolerance, and democratic values among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim populations in Jaffa while preserving ethnic, religious and national identities. The Center provides the community with a wide variety of programs, ranging from social welfare and assistance to families in need, to educational programs, empowerment initiatives, multi-cultural events and celebrations.
  • MEPEACE is a non-profit organization, which aims to foster a growing community of peacemakers. Its peacemakers, from 175 countries, are committed to realizing peace in the Middle East through online and on the ground efforts.

This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact ErinMayer@USResistnews.org

Trump Lifts Restrictions on Military Use of Land Mines

Trump Lifts Restrictions on Military Use of Land Mines

Policy Summary

Last week, the Trump administration announced that it would be lifting the 2014 Obama-era restriction on the use of so-called “smart” landmines for the Department of Defense in conflict areas, which had been previously confined to the border of North and South Korea. In statements made by both Pentagon and administration officials, it was said that the new policy would only pertain to the use of anti-personnel landmines in war zones where “exceptional circumstances” required or there were “major contingencies” that demanded said use. There was no given clarification on what these circumstances or contingencies were. The reversal was limited to new age, non-persistent anti-personnel mines that are advertised as being specifically designed to diminish accidental damage and injury to civilians, American troops, and allied forces. These mines are built with internal or on-command self-destruct or self-deactivation mechanisms and are referred to as “smart” rather than “dumb” mines that lack such features. The Trump administration took the policy a step further by reassigning authority to deploy smart landmines from the Secretary of Defense to military commanders directly involved in the conflict in question. However, the commander must notify the Secretary of Defense after they have authorized the use of mines, although it was not said whether an explanation had to be given as to why. This decision cannot be made by any military official under the rank of four-star, and the smart mines must self-destruct or self-deactivate after 30 days have passed.

Smart landmines have been in development by arms producers since at least the Bush-era, with self-destruction and self-deactivation typically being accomplished through an internal clock, a battery that eventually runs out, radio communication, or network sensors. There has been some debate over whether smart mines are actually as smart as they claim to be, however. Some will likely fail despite not being designed to, with the Landmine Protocol of Certain Conventional Weapons allowing for an expected 10% failure rate in smart mines.

The Trump administration defended its reversal of landmine policy by claiming that Obama’s restrictions placed U.S. troops and the military as a whole at a severe disadvantage against its enemies and that Trump himself was unwilling to accept the risk to troop’s lives. The Pentagon’s interim Assistant Secretary for Strategy Vice Mercado said that the policy shift was made due to a calculation of “great power competition,” which points to the belief within the executive branch that China and Russia will either utilize landmines in conflicts, leaving the U.S. at a disadvantage, or that landmines are critical to U.S. resistance to expansionist foreign powers. When asked, Mercado added that he did not anticipate a need to use landmines in war zones similar to Afghanistan and Syria.

Analysis:

Any discussion of landmine use has to begin with the fact that the vast majority of landmine-related casualties are civilians. Mines are not designed to nor are they intelligent enough to differentiate between combatants and civilians. 71% of the global casualties caused by landmines in 2018 were civilians according to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. This is actually lower than previous years, with the highest reported in recent times being 87%. According to New Atlas, half of adults who step on land mines die before reaching the hospital, with the number being even higher in children due to their smaller size. Mines themselves are exceptionally expensive to clear, with the average cost being around $2,000 per unit. The cost of clearing all of the world’s currently sown landmines is estimated at $33 billion dollars. The Federation of American Scientists have also pointed out that along with smart mine technology, weapons producers have also rolled out innovative designs that boast little to no metal content to evade detection and increased shrapnel projection, making modern mines even more difficult to detect and far more deadly. Some landmines now incorporate anti-handling devices that make clearing near impossible, with a few particularly horrific examples being specifically designed to appeal to children. According to CARE, someone dies every 15 minutes from a land mine.

The case of using landmines must be weighed against the significant cost to civilians. Although smart landmines may reduce the number of civilian casualties, they do not wholly eliminate them. There is still a 10% allowable failure rate, and even if it does deactivate or self-destruct as designed, within the 30 days that it is live, it can just as easily kill as a civilian as it can a combatant. It is immoral and reprehensible for the U.S. to willing allow the use of devices of war that so disproportionally affect non-combatants. The Trump administration also said that it only reversed the ban on smart mines on the basis of suspicion that “great powers” (which likely refer to China and Russia) would use them or that landmines are needed military resource. First, this is rather hypocritical, as the U.S. has similarly refused to sign international standards that would limit the use of landmines in combat. Second, China and Russia have appeared to challenge the U.S.-led world order through either proxy wars, such as the Syrian Civil War, or slow on-set testing, such as Chinese maneuverings in the South China Sea. Will American military commanders be green lighting the sowing of landmines against proxy forces or only against Chinese and Russian troops? There is an extreme degree of ambiguity and free reign under this policy, and it should worry any who are concerned about executive power, military power, the military-industrial complex, and humanitarian issues. Are landmines so critical to “great power competition” that the U.S. can justify enormous civilian casualties? The U.S. should be leading by example, not given the military a long and rather vague leash to determine where and when it is appropriate to utilize devices that overwhelmingly affect innocent lives.

Engagement Resources:

  • The HALO Trust – committed to demining efforts the world over.
  • GICHD – devoted to assisting states in managing their ammunition according to humanitarian best practices.
Trump’s 3 Million Dollar Iran Problem

Trump’s 3 Million Dollar Iran Problem

Policy Summary:

After Iran attacked Iraqi bases that house U.S. forces with missiles and only a few, short days after the Trump administration assassinated Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking military commander, the president addressed the nation. Trump began his speech, with “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” The President also confirmed that there were no American deaths due to the attacks and only “minimal” damage to the bases. He also said Iran “appears to be standing down.”

Shortly thereafter, Iran stated that several individuals were apprehended in regard to the Islamic Republic’s firing down of a Ukrainian jetliner killing all 176 people on board, earlier this month. Although, Iran admitted to the demise of the aircraft, due to intense international pressure, the president of Iran still attributed “root causes” of the attack were U.S. actions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, “It was the US that caused such an incident to take place.” The Iranian regime has accused the U.S.’s administration for straining relations with the assassination of senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on January 2nd, in Baghdad. Most recently, this Tuesday, Ahmad Hamzeh, an Iranian legislator, offered a three million dollar bounty to “anyone who kills” US President Donald Trump in retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Analysis:

The assassination of General Qassem Suleimani has crippled the Trump Administration’s priorities in much of the Middle East. The assasination of Suleimani will come with numerous ramifications for the area’s international relations, military balance in the region, the ongoing battle against islamic extremist groups and Iran’s nuclear program. The Iraqi parliament has decided to have five thousand U.S. troops removed from the country. Nearly two decades following the United States’ invasion, the status of American troops is quickly no longer secure. Soon after, Baghdad requested a plan for withdrawal from the Trump Administration.

The Trump Administration’s has to consider how this will impact relations with Iran. After decades of U.S. leaders attempting to broker the Iran nuclear deal, curbing Tehran’s nuclear program for a projected 25 years, the plan may be in shambles. International tensions have increased dramatically since Trump pulled out of the nuclear accord and imposed overwhelming US sanctions. In response, Iran has gradually moved back from their initial agreements and compromises to the deal. A mere two days after the assassination of  Suleimani, Iran stated they would no longer abide to a limitation in the number of centrifuges for enriching uranium.

The three-million-dollar death threat hanging over Trump’s head was announced on Tuesday evening. American disarmament ambassador Robert Wood dismissed the reward as “ridiculous”, telling reporters in Geneva it showed the “terrorist underpinnings” of Iran’s establishment.”(Read more here)  Hamzeh has accredited the bounty he declared on Trump’s head as one of Iran’s last choices after the Iran Nuclear Deal left the country without nuclear weapons. “If we had nuclear weapons today, we would be protected from threats. … We should put the production of long-range missiles capable of carrying unconventional warheads on our agenda,” Hamzeh told the parliament, according to ISNA. “This is our natural right.” Hamzeh’s statements were declared after the United Kingdom, Germany, and France began considering possible sanctions to be re-imposed on Iran if the nation persists in moving away from the international nuclear deal. “We have therefore been left with no choice, given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments,” the foreign ministers of the three countries had written in a letter to the European Union’s foreign policy chief.

Engagement Resources:

  • Peace Action works for smarter approaches to global problems, addressing problems like war, the nuclear threat, poverty, climate change, and terrorism. The organization believes the U.S. needs to work together, cooperatively, with other nations.
  • Peace Spirit Foundation is a civil society organization which has been working for 13 years. Their main goal is to attempt to bring peace to Iran.
  • Ploughshares Fund has supported the most effective people and organizations in the world to reduce and eventually eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Sign their petition urging Congress to stand up against war with Iran here

This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact ErinMayer@USResistnews.org

Photo by unsplash-logoOmid Armin

A Review of the Trump/Soleimani Incident

A Review of the Trump/Soleimani Incident

As your news feed can no doubt tell you, Qassem Soleimani, Major-General of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed in an air strike on the Baghdad International airport at the direction of President Trump on January 3rd. This brief is not interested in the event itself, but in the justification for and the potential fallout surrounding the killing.

In order to understand the potential impact of the air strike, we must first look at the man at the center of it all: Qassem Soleimani. He was not a terrorist leader of the same ilk as Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Soleimani was one of the foremost public figures in Iran, perhaps even the most admired and well-liked official in a regime that was and continues to lack in public support. Soleimani had commanded forces in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980, for which he gained widespread acclaim and was later hailed as a national hero. He would eventually rise through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guard to command the Quds Force, an elite branch responsible for overseas clandestine operations such as sabotage, terror attacks, and equipping militias that act as Iran’s proxy forces in regional power struggles. Due to his popularity, distinguished military service, and command of the Quds Force, Soleimani became the mouthpiece for Iran’s expansionist aspirations in the Middle East. He reported directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and controlled a network of over 10,000 troops that stretched across international borders. He was not and should not be seen as equivalent to other terrorists that the U.S. has killed in the past. This would be both a falsehood and utterly disregard Soleimani’s importance and power.

Turning to Iran itself, it has been steadily increasing its regional control, taking advantage of the power vacuum that was created by the U.S.’s toppling of the Hussein regime and then largely abandoned by the slow U.S. withdrawal following the contracted occupation of Iraq. Iran also capitalized on the supplementary destabilization of the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War, with much of the Middle East dissolving into sectarian Sunni versus Shi’a conflicts as state identities collapsed.

The Trump administration has been progressively re-instituting and increasing economic sanctions upon Iran following the administration’s refusal to abide by the Obama-era nuclear deal, with the hope being that Iran would be forced to rejoin the negotiation table on the Trump administration’s terms. Despite Trump’s tough talk on Iran, he has been largely reluctant to resort to military means despite Iran progressively pushing the envelope. Iran has attacked oil tankers, shot down a U.S. drone, and bombed Saudi oil facilities. However, Trump largely ignored these provocations outside of threats; only responding with force when an Iranian-backed militia killed a U.S. contractor at an Iraqi military base in December. In both this case and the case of Soleimani, Trump retaliated using air strikes. This appears to be his punitive tool of choice, and it would seem that outside of the death of Americans, he is unwilling to react militarily against Iran. Punishment appears to be his driver, not defense or offense.

In terms of U.S. national interest, it is good that Soleimani is dead. His Quds Force provided Iraqis with bomb-making equipment and training during the Iraq War, along with funding and arming militias that attacked American troops and diplomats. The air strike was lauded by regional American allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who view Iran as a rising and hostile regional power. Russia denounced the air strike, but this is to be expected, as it approves of Iran’s regional aspirations that disrupt American influence in the Middle East.

The justification for the air strike was to deter Iranian attacks upon Americans, particularly U.S. embassies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the administration received evidence of pending Iranian strikes, with Soleimani having developed plots to target American diplomats and military forces in Iraq and the region. Ayatollah Khamenei has promised reprisals for the killing of Soleimani, and cyber and terrorist attacks are anticipated against American national interests and allies. The U.S. Iraqi embassy has urged all Americans to leave Iraq and 3,500 troops have been deployed to the Middle East. The supposed outcome of deterring Iranian aggression has not taken place. In fact, assassinating an enemy politician is not a typical form of deterrence. Usually one would expect a threat. Putting this aside, it would appear that neither the Trump administration nor the world believes the claim that Soleimani’s death will discourage Iranian attacks.

There are also questions of whether Trump ordered the strike to distract from or increase his backing for the impending Senate impeachment trial. It was said by intelligence officials informed of the strike that the provided data on Soleimani’s movements was imperfect at best. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he had not been given any specific evidence that Iran was planning to attack four U.S. embassies as Trump claimed. Even Republican Senator Mike Lee said that many of those Republican congressmen given access to justification for the strike were concerned about the reliability of the evidence provided and were not given specific details outside of the assertion that attacks upon U.S. embassies were imminent. Trump also reportedly told allies that he was under pressure from key Republican senators to somehow take care of Soleimani. Vice President Pence further contradicted the official story of imminent threats to U.S. embassies by opening a Trump rally in Toledo with the statement that as soon as the U.S. contractor was killed in the Iraqi rocket strike, that the Trump administration had decided to retaliate. All of these statements would suggest that Soleimani’s killing was not an act of deterrence nor was it based upon credible evidence of future attacks. It was at best a political calculation, and at worst a gamble by a desperate president.

Before Soleimani’s assassination, Iran’s influence in Iraq was under attack and the Iranian regime itself was under pressure at home. In early December, Iraqis were protesting and setting fire to the Iranian consulate in Najaf and calling for Iran to be expelled from the country. In November, Iran was rocked by a series of wide-spread anti-government protests and rioting that developed into calls for the Ayatollah’s resignation and against regime corruption. It seemed that before the strike the U.S. had a rare opportunity to capitalize upon demands for a reduction in Iranian influence and an Iranian population that desired change. As you read this brief, there is domestic backlash in Iran against the regime and calls for the Ayatollah to step down due to the downing of a Ukrainian Boeing civilian aircraft. This is not the Iran of the late 1970s. It would appear that young Iranians and many others are not pleased with the regime and are demanding coherent change.

In conclusion, Trump has gambled military losses, regional stability, terrorism, and national interests for political interest. The Iranian regime is unpopular. Iraqis were calling for resistance against Iranian influence. Soleimani’s death was not viewed as deterrence. Iraqi popular opinion has turned against the U.S. Evidence of justification was limited. All of these factors should have been considered or should further illustrate that the Trump administration is neither effective nor prudent when it comes to foreign policy. In addition, last Tuesday, Iran launched a missile strike upon an Iraqi military base known to house U.S. troops, but no Americans were present. It would appear that although Iran is attempting to flex its muscles and demonstrate capacity, it is altogether unwilling to commit to war, as is the U.S. The supposed showdown could be and is looking like nothing but hot air, but this does not excuse the actions of the Trump administration. As said before, it was gamble that may be paying off, but a gamble nonetheless that was expected to and could still have staggering ramifications.

Engagement Resources:

Photo by Hasan Almasi

Trump, Israel and the Middle East

Trump, Israel and the Middle East

Policy Summary

Military relations between Israel and the United States have remained close year after year. This union portrays a mutual interest in security throughout the Middle East. This was confirmed this Sunday as President Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Iran and a number of other international issues. The White House released an email statement reading, “The leaders discussed the threat from Iran, as well as other critical bilateral and regional issues”. Reuters reported, “Relations between Iran and the United States have worsened since last year when Trump pulled out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and re-imposed sanctions on the country.”

Analysis

During the Obama Administration’s time in the White House, U.S.-Israel relations took a significant hit. In many ways, the Trump administration has created a sentiment of good will between the two nations. It began with the controversial choice to position the American embassy to Jerusalem as a reassuring nod that the city was the capital of the Jewish state. Eventually this led to the State Department announcing that it will no longer regard Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as “illegal”, although the UN has indeed deemed them as so.

This new sense of mutual kinship between the two countries has been further strengthened by Israel’s increasingly bolstered alliance with Saudi Arabia. Israel and Saudi Arabia creating these ties greatly benefits the U.S. First, the two are arguably the United States’ most crucial allies in the Middle East. Secondly, both nations are also leading purchasers of arms made in the U.S. Lastly, the two nations are predicted to band together to work to impede  Iranian expansionism in the area. All of these reasons result in a very pleased Trump Administration.

However, it has been made clear by Iran that they are not turning a blind eye to the union. Hossein Salami, the Head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, made the statement in a televised speech, making sure not to mince his words. “We have shown restraint … we have shown patience towards the hostile moves of America, the Zionist regime (Israel) and Saudi Arabia against the Islamic Republic of Iran … but we will destroy them if they cross our red lines,” he said in response to the developing multi-national ties.

Recently, Iran has proudly claimed responsibility for the September attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned that he believed Iran was devising “additional attacks.” The Prime Minister employed the international community to put pressure on the state of Iran and to “support Israel when it is acting against this aggression.” The United States involvement with Saudi Arabia and its patent  favoritism toward Israel, while shunning Palestine, has only heightened current tensions with Iran. Where these potentially deadly tensions will lead to has yet to be seenn

Engagement Resources:

  • Peace Action places pressure on Congress and the administration through write-in campaigns, petitions, internet actions, grassroots lobbying, direct lobbying, electoral campaigns and direct action for issues such as international relations
  • Alliance for Middle East Peace works for peace in the Middle East, specifically between Israelis and Palestinians, by securing and scaling up funding to expand trust-building interactions between Palestinians and Israelis.
  • United Nations Peacekeeping’s (UNTSO) military observers have remained in the Middle East to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region to fulfil their respective mandates
  • The Foundation for Middle East Peace promotes a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through education and advocacy.

 

This Brief was posted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst  Erin Mayer

Photo by Mariam Soliman

Comparing the Ukraine Policies of Obama and Trump

Comparing the Ukraine Policies of Obama and Trump

Policy Summary

To help understand heightened tension between Ukraine and the United States in recent weeks, we need to trace  U.S. foreign policy with Ukraine from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. It is essential to note the similarities and differences between the two administration policies. The Obama Administration knew it was necessary to help Ukraine during her struggle with Russia in 2014. However President’s Trump’s policy towards Ukraine seems to be based on (a) his wish to appease Russia or at least avoid a conflict with Russia; and (b) his desire to use Ukraine to serve his own political interest.

In 2014, during Obama’s presidency, Russia wanted to undermine the post-Cold War order that was established in Europe. President Putin claimed it was his right to intervene in the lives of Russians wherever they lived. Putin justified his invasion of Georgia 2008 and Ukraine 2014 with this claim. The actions taken by Putin in 2014 lead to the U.S. promoting sanctions against Russia and supporting increased economic and security aid to Ukraine.

Why did Obama care so much about aiding Ukraine? The answer is simple; in 1994, the United States, Britain, and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum. Signees to the Budapest Memorandum made the commitment to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and pledged not to use force against Ukraine. President Obama and the other signers of the Memorandum were concerned about preventing Russia from re-establishing its sphere of  influence over former Soviet-bloc countries.

Countries that signed The Budapest Memorandum also pressured Ukraine to  give up  thousands of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers. The Obama administration provided aid to Ukraine to support its political and military reforms. Ukraine was the Obama administration’s beacon of light  towards democracy in Eastern Europe.

Trump on the other hand has proven to not be a huge supporter of Ukraine. Trump  has shown his admiration for Russia and Putin and. Perhaps because of this, has shown little interest in Ukraine. President Trump has done very little to reverse Russia’s 2014v invasion of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In fact he claimed at the G7 Summit meeting in France that, the invasion of Crimea was a strong move  that proved the United States,  under the Obama administration, was weak.

So far Trump’s policy towards Ukraine has been focused on getting Ukraine to dig up political dirt on potential Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and on trying to prove a far right conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine not Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee server in the 2016 Presidential  election. Trump insisted on the withdrawal of the American Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch and halted military aid that Ukraine. Coincidently at the same time he asked Ukrainian President Zelensky for a “favor.” The favor being to investigate fictions about Ukrainian interference in the U.S. elections and the investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. After his talk with Zelensky on July 25, Trump’s hold on the military aid was lifted. President Zelensky has tried to run a campaign that focused on anti-corruption in Ukraine.With the current scandal between the United States and Ukraine, Zelensky’s anti-corruption campaign may have been tarred and weakened.

Analysis
The Obama and Trump Administration view US foreign policy towards  Ukraine differently. The Obama administration focused more on the security and economic reform of Ukraine, because of the 2014 invasion of  Ukraine by Russia. The goal for US foreign policy at that time  was to make sure Ukraine would regain its democracy and protect its sovereignty. US/Ukraine policy was grounded in the Budapest Memorandum 1994. The question is, why? The Memorandum allowed for Ukraine to give up thousands of dangerous nuclear weapons, missiles, and bombers. If the United States does not continue to support Ukraine, it will show other countries that they should not forfeit their weapons of mass destruction if the protection they were promised is a lie.

It is clear President Trump is not supporting democracy in Ukraine. Trump sees Ukraine as another pawn in his chess game of ruling. Reformers in Ukraine are questioning what it means when the American President stands against them in their battle towards democracy. The Trump administration has forgotten how foreign policy and aid work. They have discredited the values of freedom and democracy for all, that our founding fathers had established in 1776. The Trump administration has failed to support democracies around the world, with Ukraine being the latest example.

Resistance Resources

  • PopularResistance.org  is a resource and information clearinghouse for this movement of movements. They provide a daily stream of resistance news from the United States and around the world, and a national events calendar.
  • http://unitedhelpukraine.org is a non profit organization in support of Ukraine’s freedom and independence. They organize multiple protests in response to Russia’s unlawful action in and against Ukraine.

Photo by unsplash-logoRae Tian

Trump’s Damaging  Syria Decisions

Trump’s Damaging Syria Decisions

Policy Summary
Earlier this month, in response to a phone call request from Turkish President Erdogan, President Trump announced the evacuation of US troops from northern Syria. Shortly thereafter Turkish troops invaded an area of Syria, formerly held by US forces, who were there to help support America’s Kurdish allies in their fight against ISIS. US troops were mandated to abandon the Kurds, former US allies.

Last week the US negotiated a “ceasefire” with Turkey that enabled  Kurds flee the region, a deal that forced our Kurdish allies to relinquish territory to the Turks. Viewing themselves as abandoned by the US, the Kurds then formed an alliance with the Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government. The Russians then struck a deal with the Turks that enabled them to take over  territory near the Syria-Turkey border that was formally held by the US.

Last week, the President changed his path. Trump began to favor a new Pentagon plan allowing a small contingent of American troops, approximately 200,  to remain  in eastern Syria in order to resist the Islamic State and to prohibit the advancement of the Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s sought after oil fields.

At a Cabinet meeting President  Trump addressed his choice to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, contending that the US “never” agreed to protect Syrian Kurds indefinitely. The President suggested that the US should arrange an oil deal in order to help the Kurds financial situation, saying, “We want to keep the oil, and we’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, have some cash flow. Maybe we’ll have one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly”. President went on to say that he was “the one that did the capturing” of ISIS fighters in Syria. During the Cabinet meeting, the President defended his earlier choice to remove troops from northern Syria, stating that the driving reason behind his decision was because he had campaigned on it. Trump stated that though his decision was not well received in Washington, crowds at his rallies cheered loudly when he said he’d bring American troops home. However, it was then subsequently learned that the troops that were withdrawn from Syria were sent to Iraq and not back to the US.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated they believed the Syrian government should maintain control of all the oil facilities in the area. The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also commented, “The United States was the closest ally of the Kurds over the past few years. But in the end, the U.S. abandoned the Kurds, actually betraying them.” The same day, Russian military police started patrolling specific areas of northeastern Syria, including  joint Turkish-Russian patrols of the border region “as part of an agreement with Turkey that cemented Russia’s commanding role in the Syrian conflict as U.S. forces withdraw”. President Trump responded to the events on Twitter on Wednesday, “Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border. Safe Zone created!”

Analysis
Trump’s choice to remove US troops from Syria  is not sitting  well with the Republican party. Some of Trump’s  staunchest Republican allies are highly concerned with the removal of U.S. armed service in the area, as it has allowed for a Turkish offensive that in just over two weeks has killed scores of Syrian Kurdish fighters and civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.

Some lawmakers believe that severe damage has been done to the counterterrorism mission and the international credibility of the United States. Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called the cease-fire agreement, “terms of surrender” to Turkey. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is asking U.S. allies to contribute more to the defense of Saudi Arabia in order to protect from Iranian threats. “The plan is part of a broader U.S. campaign to get NATO allies to take on more responsibility for security in the Gulf, including pleas for nations to send ships, aircraft and air defense systems to the region”, reported by U.S. News

Mr. Trump has also come under heated backlash from numerous military leaders. This week, military officials are planning to brief Mr. Trump  on a  plan  to allow a small number of  troops to remain in Syria working with Iraq-based commandos. The President would have to sign off on any plan to leave forces in Syria. However, the President has openly stated he has little interest in leaving troops in Syria with the exception of protecting oil. “I don’t think it’s going to be necessary. I don’t want to leave any troops there. That’s very dangerous territory,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting. “I don’t think it’s necessary other than we secure the oil. It’s a little different section, but we need to secure the oil.”

Engagement Resources:

  • Across Syria, the International Rescue Committee provides lifesaving support to close to 1 million people—half of them are children—who are struggling to survive a war now in its ninth year. Learn how to help
  • Save the Children’s teams in Syria are working across three displacement camps, preparing to scale up to meet the increased needs of vulnerable children. Urgent support is needed to help this impending humanitarian disaster. Donate here
  • UNICEF is providing water, nutrition, education and protection to families and children in Syria while collaborating closely with partners to meet all the needs of the most vulnerable children. Learn more here
  • UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting human rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR is monitoring the situation and remain ready to assist those most in need. Give here

This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact ErinMayer@USResistnews.org

Photo by unsplash-logoAhmed Abu Hameeda

Hong Kong and U.S. Relations Examined

Hong Kong and U.S. Relations Examined

Policy Summary
President Trump has been reluctant to address the escalating situation in Hong Kong. However, this week he spoke out about the protest movement occurring as the island city seeks its independence from mainland China.

“We discussed Hong Kong and I think great progress has been made by China in Hong Kong, and I’ve been watching and I actually told the vice premier it really has toned down a lot from the initial days of a number of months ago when I saw a lot of people, and I see far fewer now,” Trump told reporters last week.

An interim trade pact was announced on Friday between the United States and China. The announcement comes at a time when leaders from both countries are experiencing escalating political pressures at home. President Trump claims the latest US-China trade deal could be “very positive” for Hong Kong. The President stated that protests in Hong Kong protests have de-escalated.

Analysis
President Trump’s remarks defy the reality of what has been occurring overseas. To many political observers, the Hong Kong protests have done the opposite of “tone-down” and are being met with increased resistance from China. Although Hong Kong’s government has vowed to withdraw an extradition law that initially sparked the protests, the protest movement has increased in size and transformed its demonstrations into a call for democratic reform. Often protesters are seen waving U.S. flags and the flags of other democratic nations in order to garner international support, in the “hopes to pose a potential challenge to the Trump administration as it seeks to negotiate a trade deal with Beijing”. However, these efforts seemed to be in vain with regards to President Trump.

Protestors in Hong Kong are disappointed with the U.S. leader as Trump has not backed their cause and instead has focused his sights on China. His effort to ratchet down the tariff war and reach a new trade agreement with China seems to be an effort that will help both Mr. Trump and Xi Jinping score points back home. Mr. Xi is dealing with the persistent protests occurring on the streets of Hong Kong, along with drastically increasing grocery prices which could be helped with imports of American food. On the other hand, President Trump is intent to shift attention away from an impeachment inquiry into his efforts to extort political favors from the leader of Ukraine. This past week both sides agreed that a tariff war compromise was necessary.  How this will continue to affect relations between Hong Kong and the United States is still to be determined.

Engagement Resources:

  • PopularResistance.org is a resource and information clearinghouse for this movement of movements. They provide a daily stream of resistance news from the United States and around the world, and a national events calendar.
  • Human Rights Watch is calling for the immediate release of the supporters of Hong Kong protests. Donate here
  • Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong. is fighting for independence and peace in Hong Kong. Join them here: https://standwithhk.org
  • Amnesty International is fighting to protect the rights of people in Hong Kong. Write to the government here and demand they respect and protect the rights of people in Hong Kong now.

This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact ErinMayer@USResistnews.org

Photo by unsplash-logoSHUJA OFFICIAL

Trump’s Middle East Fiasco: Enter Iran

Trump’s Middle East Fiasco: Enter Iran

Policy Summary

In the midst of the shocking announcement of the Trump Administration’s plans to send troops to Saudi Arabia, it is becoming apparent that the President’s erratic and miscalculated take on Middle East policy has led us to a place with few allies. In the days preceding the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities, the United States made it clear who they believed were the culprits. The Trump administration blamed Iran. Political analysts worldwide have been aghast at the United State’s consistent accusations against Iran, and it’s constant defense of Saudi Arabia. It has contributed to what one political reporter called, “an almost comical display of indecision, confusion and bluster by the leader of the world’s most powerful country”.

While announcing the plan to ship troops to Saudi Arabia for defensive purposes, Trump also imposed additional sanctions on Iran. Iran has  denied allegations of responsibility via a formal notice sent to Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly accused Iran of being behind the attacks on Saudi Arabia, which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pompeo wrote on Twitter, “Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani [Iran’s president] and Zarif [Iran’s foreign minister] pretend to engage in diplomacy”. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Pompeo’s comments were “fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless.” Iranian officials then went a step further in cautioning that US military assets in the region are within range of its missiles.

President Hassan Rouhani and President Trump did not meet at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, this week. However on Thursday, Mr. Rouhani did not dismiss the idea that a future meeting with an American president was entirely possible as long as it was set by the Iranians. President Rouhani spoke of the intensified sanctions the United States has reimposed on Iran, “If he removes these preconditions, then negotiations with the U.S. are a possibility.”

Analysis

Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran is not working. Furthermore, it would appear that Trump has no official strategy. He does what his gut tells him to do. This means that on his own Trump could start a missile attack between the two nations with his erratic behavior. Military analysts say missile strikes or a naval siege could result in disastrous retribution.

Aggression toward Iranian allies, such as Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah party, could result in unfavorable tensions with Israel. Last week, the Pentagon advised the Trump administration against undertaking further exacerbating actions with Iran. Iranians, stirred by the recent accusations, could easily overreact resulting in deadly casualties or even war.

Focusing on diplomatic relations, European governments have been outwardly supportive of the Iranian nuclear agreement, negotiated by President Obama and our allies.  Trump pulled the US out of this agreement last year. Now European nations cast blame on hostile US policy for the current tensions with Iran. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, said recently, “The deal to stop Iran acquiring military nuclear capabilities is a building block we need to get back to”. Pushing the cliche,“America first” rhetoric,  secretary of state, Mike Pompeo is attempting to establish an anti-Iran international coalition, claiming that relations with Iran is the “world’s problem”.  Ironically, Saudi leaders have asserted that they do not trust Trump if war were to break out. But the Saudis may not be a match for a provoked Iran.

However, there is possibly a silver lining to the ongoing international fiasco involving Iran. It is causing many Americans to wake up to the importance of reasonable, thought out relations with the Middle East. The looming, global consequences of having a trigger-happy POTUS are becoming more and more defined by the day. Iran’s reluctance to succumb to Trump’s frequent hurling accusations should serve as a warning to the current administration.

Secretray of State  Pompeo is now stating the US seeks a “peaceful resolution” and is emphasizing a non-military means to address the crisis. With any luck, the Trump administration will realize that the ongoing strife between Iran and Saudi Arabia is not worth American lives, and will decide to take President Rouhani  up on his offer to meet.

Engagement Resources:

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a multilateral, international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives.
  • USAID leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance.
  • The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
  • The Economic Commission for Western Asia (ECWA) is a UN organization with a purpose to stimulate economic activity in Western Asia member countries, strengthen cooperation between them and promote development.

This brief was compiled by Erin Mayer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact ErinMayer@USResistnews.org

 

Photo by unsplash-logoRyan Miglinczy

Iran’s Diplomatic Offensive

Iran’s Diplomatic Offensive

Policy summary

In an interview with NPR, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that Iran would not succumb to economic pressure by the Trump Administration. At this week’s UN General Assembly Zarif mentioned how Iran would not allow any foreign country to threaten Iran’s domestic law. This comes after the September 14, 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

At the Iranian Mission to the UN in New York, Javad Zarif spoke about how Iran has no intentions to meet or negotiate with President Trump or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He also declared that if the countries were to speak, it should be at the International Criminal Court due to US Sanctions sending Iran into a state of starvation.

Zarif also directed his speech to the European nations of Germany, Britain, and France demanding they own up to the legal responsibility they have under the 2015 accord on Iran’s nuclear program, from which the US has now withdrawn.. Zarif demanded that these countries  ignore or break with US economic sanctions on Iran. He also called upon non-American oil firms to continue business with Iran in solidarity against US harassment.

Zarif also made it clear that if Iran’s oil was to be boycotted than why  should they care about the security of the oil of other countries? Zarif stated; “We will not invest in the security of the Persian Gulf if it is not secure for us, If we cannot sell our oil, why should we invest in other people’s security?”

The mentioning of not investing in other oil facilities security sends out a message based on the aftermath of oil and gas facilities being bombed by missiles and drones in Saudi Arabia. Both Trump and Pompeo have blamed Iran for the attacks calling it “an act of war.” However, Iran denies any allegations of being involved in the September 14 attack but has mentioned it could have been Yemeni forces (Yemeni forces are Iran-allied). The attacks at Saudi Arabia oil facilities was a message from Tehran to the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the world saying Iran will not fall to respond to threats from President Trump or Mike Pompeo.

ANALYSIS

Iran has no desire to negotiate with the Trump Administration. It is seeking to convince European nations and other world powers to stand up to US “bullying.” By not wanting to speak to both Trump and Pompeo, Iran has made it clear the she believes it is the US who is starting an act of war with the unfair economic sanctions being imposed on them.

The Iranian delegation’s purpose for their speech at the UN General Assembly was to strike a diplomatic offensive with European Unions  and others in defiance of the United States. They aim to have countries stand up against the US and more specifically, the Trump Administration. Seeing that the Iranian government has no interest in speaking with the United States, Zarif has declared that President Hassan Rouhani will meet individually with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

President Trump’s behavior towards Iran might make other world powers stand on Iran’s side. With Trump deciding to abandon the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, Iran has concluded  that negotiating with the United States is a waste of time. Iran at this week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) expressed the view that anyone can stand up the United States.
During his speech at the United Against Nuclear Iran Summit on 25 September, Mike Pompeo had said the United States is still open to speak to Iran and peacefully resolve issues. However, shortly after Pompeo’s speech the Trump Administration barred senior Iranian government officials and their family members from entering the United States. The Trump Administration talks about seeking a peaceful resolution while still imposing sanctions and negating visas to Iran. This type of erratic behavior from the United States contradicts Mike Pompeo’s talk of  a diplomatic resolution.

Why speak about making peace when it is clear the United States wants to mark her superiority through hostile actions. If President Trump continues to anger the Iranian government, there cannot be a peaceful resolution to America’s ongoing conflict with Iran. In order to seek peace you must stop all threats and diplomatically address the problems on the table. If not the People and all foreign powers will ask the question ; are continued hostile actions by the US proving Iran’s diplomatic offensive to be correct?

Photo by unsplash-logoMajid Korang beheshti

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