We welcome expressions, support, and collaboration from like-minded organizations

 

 

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.

Trump Goes It Alone at a Global Summit Meeting(As Usual)

Trump Goes It Alone at a Global Summit Meeting(As Usual)

Summary
Donald Trump’s lone wolf mentality towards foreign policy has become a detrimental issue for the United States. President Trump has goaded our enemies with dramatized negotiations without sticking to promises. The administration has lost the faith of our allies by focusing energies on twitter and fruitless trade wars. He has allowed tensions to worsen when he pulls out of global promises. His international track record is crucial. This may be why President Trump had the limelight at the G7 gathering past week.

For starters, President Trump shocked the international world when he openly expressed regret over the escalating trade war with China. “I have second thoughts about everything,” he said. Later his aides walked that comment back, reiterating that Trump’s only regret was not placing higher tariffs on Chinese goods. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham later issued a statement. “This morning in the (meeting) with the UK, the president was asked if he had ‘any second thought on escalating the trade war with China. His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.” However, a transcript of Trump’s back and forth with journalists clarifies that Trump was questioned on three separate occasions whether he had any regrets on the trade tensions with China. During each instance, Trump indicated that he did have regrets. That being said, the U.S. will apparently sign a new trade agreement with Japan at an upcoming NATO meeting and talks are back on with Beijing. Stocks are predicted to rise as Japan and China trade optimism will ease investors’ concerns about economic instability caused by tariffs.

The President expressed on multiple occasions that he would like Russia to rejoin the G7. Russia was removed from attending these summit meetings when it annexed Crimea several years ago. Since, the Russian government has displayed more aggression toward the Ukraine. Russia will not be welcome to attend unless all member nations agree on their return. This invitation is highly unlikely as Russia would have to reverse its annexation of Ukraine. Many international leaders were taken aback when Trump pushed for Russia’s attendance at summits in the future. The President denied Russia’s responsibility in the past and instead cast blame on former President Barack Obama for Russia’s violation of international law, expressing his sympathies for Putin.

Prior to the G7 summit, Emmanuel Macron, the French president wrote on Twitter, “The Amazon rainforest—the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen—is on fire…Our house is burning. Literally. The French President referred to the Amazonian fires as an “international crisis”. Across the board, leaders agreed to join forces to battle the disastrous Amazon rainforest, including a surprising show of support from Trump and U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson. Soon afterward, $20 million in aid was announced by French president Emmanuel Macron.

Sadly, climate change did not receive  much attention from our POTUS. As international leaders gathered to discuss climate change and what could be done to address the gradual warming of our planet, President Trump made himself scarce. “The President had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the Administration attended in his stead,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed. However, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were witnessed as attending the climate change meeting. For many this does not come off as a surprise, as Trump has  repeatedly voiced skepticism about climate change in the past.

Iran’s foreign minister made a surprise appearance at the G7 summit. This was an unanticipated occurrence to an already heated gathering, adding only one more controversial subject to stand between President Trump and our western allies. Mohammad Javad Zarif, flew to the summit in southern France by way of an invitation from President Emmanuel Macron of France, in an attempt to reconcile relations with the United States and Iran. All in attendance agreed on a common interest in obtaining stability in the Middle East and not wanting Iran to obtain access to nuclear weapons. Officials claim Macron discussed Iran at length with Trump and by the next day the Group of 7 leaders had agreed on a common outreach to Iran.

Analysis
During the 2019 Group of Seven summit, President Trump faced backlash from international leaders over his policies on China, trade, Russia and Iran. Disappointingly, President Trump did not attend the global climate meeting and at one point reportedly suggested using nuclear weapons to combat hurricanes. Trump went as far as to offer that next year’s summit be held at his Miami resort.  “They love the location of the hotel,” he said, referring to the G7 leaders.

However it was not all a loss. When it came to international relations,  Trump said Iran is “not the same country that it was two and a half years ago,” and he noted that the US is “not looking for leadership change.” When questioned about whether he was willing to come to a trade agreement with China, Trump said, “Only if it’s a fair deal and a good deal for the United States. Otherwise, I will not make a deal.” This may not seem like much but in comparison to his past comments in regards to trade with the country in the far east, this was an improvement.

Engagement Resources:

  • Rainforest Alliance announced earlier this month that it would be redirecting 100% of its donations to frontline organizations in Brazil working to “protect the Amazon and defend the rights of its Indigenous people,” including the Brazil chapter of Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin and sustainable agriculture partner IMAFLORA.
  • The Rainforest Foundation is one organization that works to support thousands of indigenous communities, especially those that depend on the Amazon’s habit to survive. The group is accepting donations, 100% of which will go to support “on-the-ground indigenous organizations in Brazil” focused on stopping illegal deforestation and securing land claims, as well as building campaigns aimed at mobilizing government action.
  • Amazon Watch works with the Munduruku people and has supported the community’s efforts to stop the proposed dam, and this year, helped convene an assembly of Munduruku youth with Munduruku chiefs. Amazon Watch helps provide legal defense, convening community assemblies and workshops, as well as mapping and monitoring initiatives.
  • Earth Alliance is a joint environmental conservation project founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, and private equity guru Brian Sheth. On Sunday, the organization formed an Amazon Forest Fund, with an initial $5 million pledge from DiCaprio. The fund will be focusing resources toward local communities and groups working to protect the Amazon, as well as those affected by the fires.

Photo by unsplash-logoJose Moreno

THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL: A VALUABLE RESOURCE IGNORED

THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL: A VALUABLE RESOURCE IGNORED

By Colin Shanley

Summary

The Council consists of senior analysts within the intelligence community as well as subject matter experts from the public and private sectors. The NIC does not traditionally have a public face, operating instead as a source of information for internal decision-making. The Council  also supports the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), a position formed in 2004 as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act. The DNI serves as the intelligence adviser to the President and rhe Department of Homeland Security, and also informs the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and others in the President’s cabinet. A major responsibility of the DNI is to present the President’s Daily Brief, which encapsulates all current intelligence concerns around the globe.

The NIC grew in institutional power after the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY1993, due to concerns that the intelligence community had grown to be too detached from the White House and private sector. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the NIC assisted the Clinton Administration in analyzing and predicting the new global environment and its implications, particularly concerning non-traditional concerns such as the effects of environmental change on national security. In 2002, the Council was criticized for failing to predict the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, and later again when they inaccurately reported that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. However, according to recollections from then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the plan to invade Iraq had already been set in motion by the time of the NIC’s report. Two 2003 reports warning of the dangerous reaction that an invasion would provoke were ignored by the Bush administration.

When the Obama administration organized a NATO intervention in Libya in 2011, they again ignored NIC warnings about the potential for US involvement to lead to larger consequences. After the pursual of Moammar Gadhafi lead to the collapse of the Libyan government and years of turmoil in the region, Obama reflected on this decision as his “worst mistake”.  President Trump’s administration attitude towards the NIC has been characteristically incurious, ignoring the former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ assertion that Iran was in compliance with the Iran Deal and that North Korea was unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons program.

Coats, a former Senator from Indiana and friend of Mike Pence, has drawn Trump’s ire by criticizing the President’s comments on Putin and expressing doubt regarding Trump’s optimism with regards to negotiations with North Korea. In July, Trump was reported to have privately discussed Coats’ removal. On July 28th, Trump announced that Coats would be replaced by John Ratcliffe, a Texas Congressman known for his strong public loyalty to Trump. In response to widespread criticism that this choice would further politicize the intelligence community, Trump announced on August 8th that Joseph Maguire, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, would fill the role instead.

Analysis

The fact that Trump backed down from choosing Ratcliffe is notable, and suggests that he appreciates the value that much of Washington places on the intelligence community remaining isolated from such politicized conflict, due to the role it plays in preserving national security. Whether this means that Trump will begin to listen more closely to his intelligence briefs remains to be said. The Council has made serious miscalculations in the past, particularly under the Bush administration, but has also been a voice of moderation and sobriety in other cases. If Trump can learn to work with Maguire, as unlikely as this may be, it could help move the United States closer to a reasonable, consistent, and informed foreign policy.

Resistance Resources: 

  • Peace Action: A grassroots peace network which has helped reduce US aggression towards countries such as Iran.
  • Human Rights Watch – A non-governmental, non-profit, international organization which provides a source of research and advocacy for human rights and anti-war causes around the world.

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

US Sanctions Myanmese Officials Responsible for Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya

US Sanctions Myanmese Officials Responsible for Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya

Summary
When an insurgent Rohingya militia attacked a series of 30 police posts in the Rohingya dominated Rakhine state, the Myanmarese government responded with a brutal campaign of violence which drove over 700,000 out of the country. The bulk of these refugees ended up in the largest refugee camp in the world, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. State oppression of the Rohingya has existed since the two sides aligned themselves on opposite sides during World War II, and in 1982 led to the military government denying citizenship to most Rohingya, seen by the Buddhist majority as foreign “Bengalis”. The Myanmarese government sent a delegation to Bangladesh on Saturday in an attempt to convince the refugees to return home. Thus far, representatives for the refugees have refused, demanding assurances regarding their safety and the question of their citizenship.

On July 16th, the US State Department announced sanctions on four high level Myanmarese military officials that they claim are directly responsible for the campaign of ethnic cleansing. Acknowledging that the US remains “concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country.”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s Armed Forces Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo, and Brigadier General Aung Aung were responsible for “gross human rights violations,” and would not be allowed to enter the United States.

Analysis
As it stands, these sanctions serve a mostly symbolic purpose. Being unable to enter the United States is unlikely to have an effect on these military officials. However, this could be the first step towards an actual reckoning for those responsible for these crimes against humanity. Dan Sullivan of Refugees International expressed hope that these sanctions would lead to “international efforts to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or to establish an ad hoc tribunal”. As it stands now, even de facto leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who fought for democracy in her country, has largely given up on reigning in the largely autonomous Myanmese military, instead refusing to call the campaign ethnic cleansing and telling the BBC that “Muslims have been targeted but Buddhists have also been subjected to violence”. If the US State Department can maintain restrained and cooperative pressure on the Myanmese government, the international community may be able to provoke the change needed to allow the Rohingya people to return home.

Resistance Resources:

  • Refugees International – An international organization advocating for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promoting solutions to displacement crises.
  • Helping Hand Relief and Development – A global humanitarian relief and development organization which has been working to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

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

Photo by Evgeny Nelmin

Confusion Results from Trump’s Meeetings  With Chinese and North Korean Leaders

Confusion Results from Trump’s Meeetings With Chinese and North Korean Leaders

Summary
The meeting, which took place between Presidents Trump and Xi during the G20 summit at the end of last month, was an attempt to resuscitate trade negotiations which derailed in May, leading to a mutual rise in tariffs. The June meeting produced an agreement from both sides to hold off on imposing new tariffs. As it stands, the US has placed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, with China returning tariffs on $110 billion in US goods. Trump also promised to ease-up on the supply ban on Huawei Technologies, a Chinese company whose ability to purchase US technology has been restricted due to cybersecurity concerns regarding the possibility that it may facilitate surveillance on the behalf of the Chinese government.

After the meeting, Trump announced that “We’re holding on tariffs, and they’re going to buy farm products,” but this seemed to be a misunderstanding of the agreement. A source briefed on the meeting told Hong Kong’s South China Post that Xi had made no such commitment. On Thursday, Trump took to Twitter to state that “China is letting us down in that they have not been buying the agricultural products from our great Farmers that they said they would.”

Just before the G20 Summit, Trump tweeted “After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Kim took Trump up on the informal invitation, and Trump ended up taking ten steps into North Korea, becoming the first US President to do so. Trump and Kim then spent an hour meeting privately in a South Korean building known as the Freedom House. This marked the third time the two had met and the first since talks had collapsed in Hanoi last February. Trump did not share any details of their meeting but did say that he would be willing to invite Kim to the White House.

Analysis
The connecting issue preventing progress in America’s relationships with these two countries is Trump’s lack of commitment to a foreign policy t which accounts for the interests of the parties on the other side of the table. His foreign policy vacillates constantly, seemingly in response to whoever he has in his ear at the moment. Trump had previously insisted that North Korea completely denuclearize before expecting any sanction relief. Now, accompanied by anti-interventionist Fox News host Tucker Carlson while war hawk National Security Advisor John Bolton was sent to Mongolia, Trump conceded that “At some point during the negotiation, things can happen… So we’ll be talking about sanctions.” However, it remains to be seen whether Trump was able to use the closed meeting to move the two countries closer to peace, or whether the trip was nothing more but a photo op.

Trump’s inconsistent one-man diplomacy has also prolonged the trade war with China. China knows that the longer the negotiating process goes, the more desperate Trump gets to return results before the 2020 election. Trump also has avoided  confronting China on humanitarian issues such as the uprising in Hong Kong. Trump’s support for the Hong Kong protests has been vague, telling reporters earlier this month that “they’re looking for democracy. And I think most people want democracy. Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy.” After the G20 meeting, the State Department intervened to change a speech that was to be made by Kurt Tong, the US consul general in Hong Kong, on July 2nd. Three days later, Tong stepped down from his post.

Trump needs to fully staff his State Department, and actually listen to them. With a team of informed people behind him, he would be able to move more consistently through negotiations, and avoid embarrassing public mistakes like misunderstanding what is in an agreement. Trump also needs to determine what the other side can reasonably concede, and commit to pursuing that result. By reverting to shows of blusterous outrage whenever negotiations don’t immediately go his way, he only encourages the other side to be skeptical of diplomatic solutions and hurts the interests of the US.

Resistance Resources

  • 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.
  • United for Peace and Justice: The UFPJ is a network of hundreds of peace and justice organizations with the shared goal of promoting a culture of demilitarization and cooperation.

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

President Trump Paves the Way Towards War With Iran

President Trump Paves the Way Towards War With Iran

Summary
On June 20th, the New York Times reported that President Trump had ordered a military strike against Iran but canceled it while the planes were in the air. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die” the President tweeted, “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” The day before, Iran had shot down an unmanned US surveillance drone. The US and Iranian governments both released conflicting reports of the GPS coordinates at which the drone was destroyed, with Iran claiming it was within Iranian borders and ignoring radio warnings, while the US claimed it was 20 miles into international airspace.

A week before this incident, US Central Command reported that two vessels were hit by a limpet in the Gulf of Oman, and released a video claiming to show an Iranian Revolutionary Guard boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers, the Japanese owned Kokuka Courageous. The next morning the Courageous’s owner contested the US military’s version of events, stating that the ship was attacked by a flying projectile. The attack came just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as part of a diplomatic mission to smooth over contentions with the United States.

The tension between the two countries has steadily grown ever since President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Deal in May of last year, despite Iran’s commitment to the terms of the deal. Sanctions were placed upon Iran, severely hurting the country’s ability to export oil – a painful erosion of Iran’s economy. In May of this year, US National Security Advisor John Bolton sent an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Gulf of Oman. The stated goal of this military buildup was to “send a clear and unmistakable message” in response to unspecified threats. Iran has recently resumed stockpiling low-enriched uranium. If it passes the 300kg cap it will be considered to be in violation of the Iran Deal.

Analysis

Even if the US government is telling the truth with regards to the destroyed drone, military action against Iran is still not legally justified. The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, of which both the US and Iran are signatories, maintains that “every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.” Former Air Force navigator and intelligence officer H. Bruce Franklin explained that even if the drone was in international waters, there is a further range for which a state has the right to demand identification, and that “any unidentified drone flying within 17 miles of the US would most likely be shot down.” The United Nations Charter also requires that military force be used only in self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council. Even under US domestic law, military force is only allowed after a declaration of war by Congress, a national emergency created by an “attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces”, or “specific statutory authorization”, per the US War Powers Resolution. None of these requirements have been met, meaning this would be an illegal war.

On Wednesday, President Trump told Fox News that a war with Iran “wouldn’t last very long.” This represents a vast underappreciation of the challenge presented by a military standoff with Iran. In 2002 the US military conducted a war game in the Gulf of Oman to test and display its new military capabilities called Millenium Challenge 2002. The opponent, referred to simply as “Red”, was a clear stand-in for Iran. As soon as the battle began, Red overwhelmed the US Navy with a bombardment of low-tech weaponry, quickly destroying the US carrier and dozens of ships. The simulation had to be restarted with the Red team severely handicapped for the US to achieve victory. The exercise laid bare the hubris and weakness of a military which prioritizes expensive defense contracts over military utility, as well as the difficulty of defeating a capable opponent in the region.

What makes it so easy to illustrate the disaster that would be a war against Iran is that we have such clear examples of comparable mistakes in just the past two decades. The Iraq War was sold based on fabricated threats and billed as a simple in-and-out regime change. When Iraq was invaded, it had less than a third of the population of modern-day Iran, as well as a smaller military and less wealthy society. Defeating the Iranian military would be a long and expensive conflict, but it’s important to remember that’s just the beginning of the true war. It took a little over a month to defeat the Iraqi military and seize the country, but US armed forces remained in the country for a decade, fighting a brutal war against a lingering insurgency. A war in Iran would likely pull in other militant groups, particularly Hezbollah, who have shown themselves to be highly proficient in asymmetrical warfare. The Straight of Hormuz would likely be shut down, preventing the transportation of one-third of the world’s oil supply. The Middle East would certainly be further destabilized, and conflict would likely spill over into Israel, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In the past five years, the Syrian Civil War spurred a migrant crisis which placed enormous strains on the institutions of European governments and prompted the rise of far-right political parties across the continent. It’s difficult to imagine the number of ways that this war could, and likely would go wrong. We see foreshadowing in the regional conflicts of the past several decades. The difference here is that it would all be magnified to a level we likely haven’t seen before. If President Trump, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton push us into this war it will be a historical catastrophe, and the only solution would be a return to the anti-war solidarity and activism our country has seemed to have forgotten.

Resistance Resources

  • Peace Action: A grassroots peace network which has helped reduce US aggression towards countries such as Iran.
  • Veterans for Peace: An international organization made up of military veterans, military family members, and allies, working to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war

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

State Department Announces Commission on Unalienable Rights

State Department Announces Commission on Unalienable Rights

Summary
The Commission is tasked with meeting once a month to provide “fresh thinking about human rights” and propose “reforms of human rights discourse where it has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that the goal of the panel was to determine “how do we connect up what it is we’re trying to achieve throughout the world, and how do we make sure that we have a solid definition of human rights upon which to tell all our diplomats around the world.” This Commission is separate from, and would presumably bypass the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs formed in 1977.

Analysis
The State Department Notice announcing the creation of the Commission is brief and vague, but suggests a significant shift in the State Department’s attitude towards international human rights with ominous implications. The State department’s announcement calls for a return to the support of “natural rights”, rather than the more contemporary notion of universal rights. This implies a more religious attitude towards human rights, which many have taken as a threat against LGBT and abortion rights. The State Department notably threatened to veto a UN Security Council resolution on sexual violence in war zones unless a passage referring to the provision of “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors was removed. Distinguished Princeton University professor Robert P. George, co-founder of the anti-LGBT group National Organization for Marriage, is reported to have played a large part in designing the commission.

The adoption of natural rights also challenges the increasingly popular conception of a social and economic component to human rights. The rights to clean water, food, housing, healthcare, and economic security are often left out of discussions of natural law, considering the necessity of direct government facilitation to provide these rights. The Trump Administration’s reverence for the founding fathers’ attitude towards human rights, and their distaste for the moral and legal evolutions of the past two centuries is also cause for concern. While the founding fathers facilitated an advance in the ideological understanding of human rights, their legal system allowed for slavery and the oppression of women and landless men. Many of our most sacred rights were fought for many years, and a return would betray that struggle for justice. President Trump and his administration have long had a spotty relationship with the concept of human rights, often using them only as a rhetorical weapon against individual enemies while ignoring the crimes of our allies. While the exact intent of this new commission remains unclear, it’s safe to expect that it will be used to invoke the language of human rights while undermining them internationally.

Resistance Resources 

  • Human Rights First – An independent advocacy and action organization who have criticized Trump over this new commission.
  • Human Rights Watch – A non-governmental, non-profit, international organization which provides a source of research and advocacy for human rights and anti-war causes around the world.
Trump Declines to Join Global Effort to Prevent the Use of Social Media to Promote Violence

Trump Declines to Join Global Effort to Prevent the Use of Social Media to Promote Violence

Summary
The horror of such an appalling act being directly broadcasted to so many people around the world provoked New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron to propose the Christchurch Call to Action on May 16th. The initiative, which was also supported by India, Australia, Canada, Germany, and several more countries, as well as several tech companies, sought to prohibit the use of social media in support of violence. It suggested collective, voluntary commitments form governments and companies to prevent the production and dissemination of terroristic content on social media, while still being supportive of  international standards of freedom of expression. It also specifically outlined industry standards for media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist attacks, and called for real-time review of live-streams.

In response to the call, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Amazon pledged to update their terms of use, enhance user-report systems, advance technology to recognize dangerous content, and release regular reports on their efforts. The Trump Administration, however, refused to sign on, stating that “While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the call” and that “We encourage technology companies to enforce their terms of service and community standards that forbid the use of their platforms for terrorist purposes”.

Analysis
Some, such as Adrian Shahbaz, a research director for watchdog group Freedom House, have warned of potential dangers that the Christchurch Call could pose to freedom of speech. “There is a tendency after large-scale, national security crises and terrorist attacks to overreact to the problem”, Shahbaz told NPR. “One of the ideas Jacinda Ardern mentioned was perhaps delaying any live-streaming. The fear we have is that we’re sort of sleepwalking towards a future in which all social media posts are filtered prior to being posted.” For better or worse, some of the Call’s signatories also already regulate speech in a far more restrictive manner than the United States. Under French law, individuals can be imprisoned for making supportive statements about terrorists or terrorist attacks. “However, most have identified Trump’s refusal to sign on as being due to his long-standing belief that tech companies are politically biased against conservative voices rather than any universal commitment to freedom of speech.

Earlier in May, Trump stated that he was “continuing to monitor the censorship of American citizens on social media platforms” and declared that “it’s getting worse and worse for conservatives on social media” after Facebook banned several far-right figures including Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson. He also specifically demanded that Twitter unblock right-wing actor James Woods, who was temporarily suspended for using the hashtag “#HangThemAll” in response to the Mueller report. Trump hasn’t been quite so supportive of the freedom of speech of those who don’t support him, such as threatening jail-time for flag burners.  There is certainly a need for a national conversion about the need for laws that address the responsibilities  of social media companies with regards to extremist violence,  but that also keep in mind the constitutional need to protect freedom of speech . Trump, however, does not have a real interest in this conversation, and would rather avoid taking action in preventing terrorist attacks to protect his own supporters.

Resistance Resources

  • Freedom House – An independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world
  • Love Aotearoa Hate Racism – A coalition of unions, migrants, community and faith groups which led an anti-Islamophobia rally last March in New Zealand to support victims of the Christchurch attacks.

Photo by unsplash-logoSara Kurfeß

Trump Kills Agreement with Cuban Baseball Federation

Trump Kills Agreement with Cuban Baseball Federation

Policy Summary

The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua  in April, using the language of the Cold War. The most severe regulations were focused on relations with Cuba. U.S. citizens will now be permitted to sue any entity or person “trafficking” in property from U.S. citizens after the 1959 revolution. The three Presidents before Trump had suspended this legal option, as it would interfere with trade and national security. The amount of money that Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the Caribbean island will also be limited by the Trump administration, and there will be new restrictions on travel to Cuba for all U.S. citizens. Those actions further reverse President Barack Obama’s attempts to thaw the long-term frozen political relations with Cuba, which Trump has called “terrible and misguided.”

In December of 2014, President Barack Obama attempted to normalize relations with Havana. Major League Baseball negotiations were soon initiated with the Cuban Baseball Federation in order to begin legally transferring Cuban stars to play in the United States. These moves were viewed as a progressive means to deal with the illegal cross-border smuggling of ballplayers. The attempt to normalize Cuban-American relations was strongly opposed by anti-Castro Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American. Finally on April 2nd of this year, the Cuban Baseball Federation released the first list of players able to sign contracts directly with Major League Baseball organizations. However the progress was soon came to an abrupt stop this month, after the Trump administration ended the deal.

Analysis

Officials in the Trump administration claimed Cuba’s support for the Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro as their main reason for the change of heart. The day previous to the canceled baseball agreement, John Bolton, the national security adviser, commented about Maduro and Washington’s attempts at trying to oust the dictator. On Twitter Bolton wrote, “America’s national pastime should not enable the Cuban regime’s support for Maduro in Venezuela.” But that is not entirely what this is about.

President Obama’s attempt to end more than five decades of stone walling Cuba was supported by a large portion of Americans, who saw the deal as long overdue. For many, granting certain athletes from Cuba the ability to perform legally in the major leagues was a win for both sides, in a few ways. Players who often attempted dangerous ventures, such as hiring smugglers, could legally and safely pursue their long-strived for careers overseas. Currently, the average salary for players in Cuba is $50 per month. Therefore, many players rationalize the risks of leaving Cuba illegally. To date, more than 350 Cuban ballplayers have defected since the start of 2014Accepting the claim of an “independent” Cuban Baseball Federation was considered a necessary unpleasantry.

The Trump administration did not see it this way. The current administration instead claimed the Cuban federation was not independent of the Cuban government, as the Obama administration had ruled.  Nikole Thomas, the acting assistant director for licensing at the Office of Foreign Assets Control, explained the U.S. government’s reasoning to end the deal, claiming the Cuban federation would receive 25 percent of a player’s signing bonus for a minor league player and between 15 and 25 percent for a major league player.

Yet it can be said that revoking the agreement was a bad choice. There are those that see Cuba’s decision allowing their athletes to work in the U.S. as a step in the right direction, even if some finances may have ended up in the hands of the Cuban government. Although Cuba should be discouraged from supporting the Maduro administration, it seems to have become the excuse for those on the right to indulge in their obsession to continue with the international freeze on relations with Cuba. Sadly, what the Trump administration and Marco Rubio have achieved is to prevent Cuban baseball players to reach their professional aspirations without having to enter into the United States at  great peril and  abandon their right to ever return to their homeland or families on the Caribbean island.

Engagement Resources:

  • Roots of Hope is an international network of students and young professionals working to inspire young people across the globe to think about and proactively support our young counterparts on the island through innovative means.
  • Engage Cuba is a national coalition of private companies, organizations, and local leaders dedicated to advancing federal legislation to lift the 60-year-old Cuba embargo in order to empower the Cuban people and open opportunities for U.S. businesses.
  • The U.S.–Cuba Cooperative Working Group (USCCWG) promotes mutually beneficial engagement between the U.S. and Cuba’s cooperative sectors in an effort to support US cooperative growth and Cuban economic progress that will result from the ongoing success of strong and vibrant cooperatives in both countries.
  • 14Ymedio is the daily digital newspaper founded by human rights activist and Cuban Hero, Yoani Sanchez. They are established in the USA as a non-profit, which can receive donations from US individuals and entities.
  • The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (“FHRC”) is a nonprofit organization established in 1992 to promote a nonviolent transition to a free and democratic Cuba with zero tolerance for human rights violations.

Photo by unsplash-logoJose Morales

The Trump Administration’s Relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran

The Trump Administration’s Relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran

If one were to attempt to understand the Middle East solely by means of the rhetoric of the White House and State Department, it would be reasonable to assume that Saudi Arabia is an unlikely ally, slowly making its way towards Democracy, while Iran is a tyrannical regime bent on military expansion and hegemonic rule.

Of course, this framing conceals a far more complex state of affairs and does so on behalf of the Trump administration’s interests in both countries.

The differing attitude of President Trump – and by extension the US foreign policy – towards these two countries was demonstrated in two events last year, the May withdrawal from the Iran Deal, and the December murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The first apparent difference between these conflicts is that while Khashoggi was clearly assassinated by the Saudi government, perhaps even at the request of its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Iran never violated the Iran Deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The responses were similarly disproportionate. The Trump administration has done everything in its power to isolate Iran, sanctioning the Iranian energy, shipping, and financial sectors, leading to a drought in foreign investment in the country. Britain, Germany, and France have found a way to circumvent the sanctions to import food, medical goods, and humanitarian aid into the country, but this may not be enough to rationalize Iran’s continued participation in the Iran Deal.

For a few weeks following Khashoggi’s murder, US lawmakers gathered on cable news to condemn Saudi leadership, the fawning profiles of MBS and his “revolution” came to a halt, and Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative conference – once hyped as “Davos in the Desert” – was largely boycotted. However, as Trump explained in a statement which opened with a denunciation of Iran and cited the billions of dollars worth of arms the Saudis have bought from US arms companies Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, “[Saudi Arabia] have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and other partners in the region.” There were no large-scale sanctions of the Saudi government, and the story faded away.

This unequal attitude towards the two countries is not new. Saudi Arabia has long been the number one buyer of US arms, even if it required President Obama to slip arms deals past Congress as they returned to their home districts for the 2010 midterms. This patronage has not  bought the United States enough goodwill from the Saudi government to prevent them from suppressing Arab Spring protests in Bahrain or enforcing a brutal military campaign and blockade on Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, which has led to a massive famine and cholera outbreak considered by the UN to be “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Hostility towards Iran, however, has been a key component of US foreign policy for decades, with neoconservatives threatening and joking about attacking Iran since the fall of Saddam Hussein. In Washington its accepted without question that Iran is the ultimate source of evil in the Middle East, and war is inevitable. US support of Saudi troops in Yemen, which was stated by one former CIA official to be the deciding factor keeping Saudi Arabia in the war, are excused on the basis of curtailing Iran’s influence in regional affairs. However, this justification is flimsy considering the tenuous connection between Iran and the Yemeni Houthis. In fact, the fear-mongering about the dangers of Iranian expansionist ambitions is dubious as a whole. Iran has relatively limited military capabilities, as most of its military assets are left over from the cold war, and militant groups such as Hezbollah act independently, not as the pawns of Iran they are described as. The anti-Iran Middle Eastern coalition of Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates vastly outperform Iran economically, and wield state of the art militaries. Even if Iran wished to significantly expand its influence, a Shiite country in the largely Sunni Middle East wouldn’t have much success. If we remove the distorting filter of the US government’s rhetoric on Iran, we see a country striving for some semblance of independence and stability in an unstable region, not a world power with imperialist dreams.

The real danger to the stability of the Middle East lies in the United States refusal to accept Iran’s sovereignty. By constantly placing so much importance on countries like Saudi Arabia due to their anti-Iran attitude, we overlook egregious violations of human rights. If the neoconservatives do get their wish, and goad Saudi Arabia and Iran into war, it might not turn out as well as they hope. Saudi Arabia is perched on an uneasy alliance between the oil-rich House of Saud and the extremist Wahhabist religious establishment. Through the funding of oil profits, most of the Saudi population enjoy basic social provisions, with the exception of foreign workers and Shiites. The Mullahs provide divine endorsement for the House of Saud in return for their government’s spreading of fundamentalist Islam in the region. Mass support for the government is faint, and can vanish in the event of a crisis. The Saudi government has abandoned much of its ambitions of diversifying the economy away from oil, a short-sighted approach in the era of rising ecological crisis.

Iran’s government enjoys far more support from its population, largely due to its allowance of democratic control of large parts of the government. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected in 2017 with a higher margin than the previous election, and US antagonism  will only increase domestic support in the face of foreign intervention. If the Trump administration doesn’t start playing fair with Iran, they may get the war they’ve been striving for, but it may not go their way. We have seen the devastation created by proxy wars such as Syria and anti-insurgency efforts  such as Iraq. A war between powerful states, between Sunnis and Shiites, each with complicated sets of interests and alliances across the region, could give rise to a level of destruction that we’ve never seen  in a region known for its destructive conflicts.

Resistance Resources

  • Peace Action: A grassroots peace network which has helped reduce US aggression towards countries such as Iran.
  • Equality Now: An international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters holding governments responsible for ending legal inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence & harmful practices against women.
White House Obstructs International Investigation of War Crimes in Afghanistan

White House Obstructs International Investigation of War Crimes in Afghanistan

Summary
This was not due to a lack of reasonable suspicion; the decision stated that “there is reasonable basis to believe that, since May 2003, members of the US armed forces and the CIA have committed the war crimes of torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and other forms of sexual violence pursuant to policy approved by US authorities.” What prevented the investigation from getting off the ground was the persistent defiance and obstruction of the United States government. In September, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that “We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.” On April 5th, the US government revoked the entry visa of Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor leading the investigation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened “additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course”. Amnesty International described the decision as “a shocking abandonment of the victims” that “ultimately will be seen as a craven capitulation to Washington’s bullying and threats”

 

Analysis
While revoking Bensouda’s visa marks an increase in the recent level of direct interference in the affairs of the ICC, it falls in line with the US government’s longstanding attitude towards the institution. During the initial negotiations, the US threatened to withdraw troops from Germany to prevent the formation of the ICC. While in 2000 the US agreed to sign the Rome Statute which formed the ICC, President Clinton refused to submit it to the US Senate for ratification. The government has since continued to hold the position that the ICC’s oversight is not necessary for a country like the US which has its own independent court system. However, the failure of that court system to investigate abuses committed by its own government, including torture and wars of aggression. The Philippines followed the same path last week by withdrawing from the ICC to avoid any investigation of illegal killings as part of its war on drugs. By disrespecting the ICC, the US sets a precedent for more countries hoping to excuse themselves from similar universal conceptions of the rule of law.

Resistance Resources

  • Amnesty International: A London-based organization seeking to fight the abuse of human rights worldwide through lobbying, reporting, and activism.
  • Human Rights Watch: A US-based organization dedicated to researching and advocating against the cause of human rights.
x
x

GET CONNECTED---signup to receive free, just in time briefs on government policies and the organizations working to resist them, IN YOUR INBOX.

USRESISTLogo

GET CONNECTED

signup to receive free, just in time briefs on government policies and the organizations working to resist them, IN YOUR INBOX.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest