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.

Latest Foreign Policy Posts

 

The Venezuela Crisis Explained

Brief #56—Foreign Policy Policy Summary On January 23rd, Venezuelan lawmaker Juan Guaido surged from relative obscurity to the focus of international attention when he declared himself the interim President of the crisis ridden nation. Just weeks before, Guaido was...

read more

Trump Announces Withdrawal From Syria

Brief #54—Foreign Policy Policy Summary With Syria nearing the eighth year of its brutal war, one which has claimed the lives of an estimated 300,000-500,000 people, President Trump declared on December 19th that Isis was defeated and the United States would withdraw...

read more

Senate Passes BUILD Act

Brief #52—Foreign Policy Policy Summary In a show of bipartisan support, the “Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018”, or the BUILD act, was passed on October 5th and later signed by President Trump.. First introduced in February by...

read more

Saudi Dissident Journalist Murdered in Istanbul

Last February, Senators Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee introduced legislation to invoke the 1973 War Powers act in order to withdraw the United States from Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on Yemen – a war which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with three quarters of its 28 million citizens in need of humanitarian aid, 8 million in starvation, and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.

read more

Trump Administration Cuts Aid to Palestinian Refugees

On August 24th, the Trump administration announced that over $200 million in aid intended for Palestinian refugees would be cut from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Rather than directing funds through the Palestinian Authority, the UNRWA provides food subsidies, medical services, and youth programs directly to poor Palestinians.

read more

North Korea Peace Process Stalls

The International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental forum which reports to the UN, has reported a lack of progress in the denuclearization of North Korea.

read more
The Pros and Cons of Withdrawal in Syria and Afghanistan Brief

The Pros and Cons of Withdrawal in Syria and Afghanistan Brief

Brief #57—Foreign Policy

Summary
Over the past three months the United States has begun the process of ending its military involvement in both Afghanistan and Syria. In December, Trump announced that Isis had been defeated in Syria and the United States would begin sending troops home immediately. Some US officials did not entirely back up the President’s statements. John Bolton insisted that the US would remain “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias”. The Pentagon stated that they would “continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region”. Concurrently, the US has initiated talks with the Taliban to negotiate the withdrawal of at least half of the 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The meetings, held last month in Qatar and last week in Moscow, have both failed to include the involvement of the Afghan government, which currently holds roughly half the country. Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan has stated that there is currently no order to withdraw from Afghanistan, but any such actions would be fully coordinated with our allies. Both of these decisions have provoked a firestorm of controversy among both allies and opponents of President Trump

Withdrawal from Syria

Pros

  • US involvement in Syria, which began with the arming of rebels in 2014 and grew into the military suppression of the development of Isis in the region has helped lead to the deaths of over 400,000 people and the creation of a humanitarian crisis
  • Continued US presence in the region has been a destabilizing force, preventing the state from providing security to its populace and creating a hotbed of extremist militant groups.
  • Trump’s intermittent proclivity for ending military interventions is somewhat of an anomaly in Washington, and despite his tactical clumsiness we may lose the chance for a withdrawal in the event of a change in political leadership in the near future.

 

Cons

  • The US has no plan to protect the Kurdish people living in Northern Syria. The Kurds were an invaluable ally in combating Isis on the frontlines, and Turkey, a US ally with a history of repressing the Kurds, has been attempting to coordinate with Russia in the interest of enforcing its dominion over the region.
  • The Pentagon estimated last month that 20,000-30,000 Isis forces remain in Syria, posing a significant predicament for the still somewhat weakened Syrian government.
  • President Trump has neglected to lead a withdrawal with any kind of political settlement with the many actors in the region, surrendering any kind of leverage the US may hold in leaving Syria in a less fractured state.

 

Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Pros

  • The United States has spent almost two decades and over a trillion dollars on the war, and has yet to defeat the Taliban.
  • US presence in the country may be a galvanizing force for the Taliban. The group’s extremism, alliance with Pakistan, and primary association with the Pashtun ethnic group is alienating to many Afghani when not juxtaposed with an occupying force. Much of the persistent resistance to the Afghan government is due to its perception as a US puppet.

Cons

  • Isis has been increasing activities in eastern Afghanistan and some fear that Isis fighters forced out of syria will join them
  • The US wants to pull out on the conditions that the Taliban will join the government and the country won’t be used by independent armed groups such as Al Qaeda and Isis. However, many doubt that the Taliban is even willing to commit to working directly with the government.
  • If the Taliban retakes power it may mean the return of harsh repression of Afghan women.

Resistance Resources

  • 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. Read their statement on our withdrawal from Syria here.
  • Codepink – A women-led grassroots organization working to end US wars and militarism.

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

Donate

Photo by unsplash-logoAhmed Abu Hameeda

The Venezuela Crisis Explained

The Venezuela Crisis Explained

Brief #56—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
On January 23rd, Venezuelan lawmaker Juan Guaido surged from relative obscurity to the focus of international attention when he declared himself the interim President of the crisis ridden nation. Just weeks before, Guaido was appointed the leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, the legislative body representing the opposition to President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido’s Presidential legitimacy was immediately recognized by President Trump, after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro similarly declared his recognition five days before Guaido even made the pronouncement himself. European Union nations including Britain, Germany, France, and Spain followed suit in the subsequent weeks when Maduro neglected to call a new election to placate critics of his dubious re-election in May of last year, which was boycotted by the opposition.

With Maduro still in control of the government, Guaido’s international allies are driving pressure against him by targeting the state’s resources. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton asked the Bank of England to deny the Venezuelan government’s withdrawal of $1.2 billion in gold. A Portuguese bank similarly blocked a $1.2 billion transfer of assets to Uruguay. The White House has added new sanctions against the state oil company PDVSA, allowing US companies to continue to buy oil from them but preventing that money from reaching Venezuela until Guaido takes power. On Monday, the EU said that additional sanctions were being considered. These would accompany other sanctions ordered by Washington in 2014, 2015, and 2018. With economic ties to many western countries severed, the Venezuelan government is leaning more on allies in China, Russia, and Turkey. One US official warned on Thursday that the White House would “take action” if Turkey violated sanctions in supporting the Venezuelan government.

Analysis

In the past five years, the Venezuelan economy has endured an economic collapse, marked by shortages of food and medicine, as well as rising poverty and inflation. The political system has become completely polarized. The roots of these issues are not new, and are in many ways familiar for a post-colonial Latin American nation. Before Hugo Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” in 1999, the country exhibited many of the symptoms it shows today, with frequent economic crises, massive inflation and corruption, and a lack of consideration for constitutional rights. The country had been developed largely on the strength of oil exports alone, and Chavez attempted to direct oil revenue towards the funding of social programs which provided healthcare, education, food and social mobility to the masses, making him widely popular. This enthusiasm was not shared by all Venezuelans, and in 2002 a faction of the military, with the support of much of the Venezuelan upper classes and United States, staged a brief coup, during which businessman Pedro Carmona was installed as interim President and the constitution and legislative bodies were abolished, before Chavez retook power. With Chavez’s death and replacement by Maduro in 2013 and oil prices dropping from $160 per barrel in 2008 to $51 in 2019, the Venezuelan government suddenly no longer held the same political mandate or financial resources to maintain its path towards international independence and an egalitarian society.

President Maduro compensated for his government’s weaknesses by pursuing increasingly authoritarian methods of reaching his political goals. When the National Assembly, the country’s primary legislative body, was taken by the opposition in 2015, the outgoing lame duck lawmakers stacked the Supreme Tribunal of Justice – the highest court in the country – with Maduro loyalist judges. When the Tribunal accused three opposition lawmakers of electoral “irregularities”, the charges were disputed by the National Assembly and Maduro formed the Constituent National Assembly in 2017 as a parallel legislative body. While a precedent for forming a similar body had been set in 1999 by Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor had asked for a national referendum first, and used the body to restructure the functions of the government – not simply buttress political support. Maduro has stripped away many of the electoral protections which led former President Jimmy Carter to state in 2012 that “of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

However much of the US media coverage of the Venezuelan crisis depicts the opposition as the embodiment of the “Venezuelan people”, and the US as a solely emancipatory force. The United States has a history of utilizing a strategy of “making the economy scream” to undermine democratic Socialist regimes. The constant use of sanctions has most likely contributed to food and medicine shortages, an issue noted even by the US Congressional Research Service. John Bolton recently boasted of “$7 billion in assets blocked today. Plus, over $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year”, which amounts to 94% of what the country spent on imports last year.

The State Department has spent millions of dollars funding the Venezuelan opposition, even before democratic norms had begun to erode. Last year, opposition leader Henri Falcon was warned by US officials that the Trump administration would sanction him if he ran against Maduro, despite the fact that polling showed he had a strong chance of beating Maduro, especially if the election was monitored by UN observers, who were turned away by the opposition.

Now the US and opposition seem to be willing to help drive Venezuela into a deep enough crisis that the population will accept a complete departure from the paradigm of the Bolivarian Revolution rather than participating in a democratic process which would involve the sharing of power between parties. Despite the abuses of the Maduro regime, there is no evidence to suggest that he does not maintain the support of a significant portion of the population who have not given up on the dream promised by Chavez two decades before.

As long as Maduro controls the government and military, there is not a clear situation where the opposition can unilaterally take power without a military intervention from either the United States or Brazil. In a region already habituated to anti-imperialist resistance, this could mean an enormous and destabilizing civil war in the region. The other alternative is a mediated political resolution, most likely involving Maduro stepping down and the holding of new, UN monitored elections. The US government cannot maintain a presence in these negotiations, as it has forfeited its position as both an interventionist force around the globe and a neutral arbiter in Venezuela. The solution to this crisis can only come from the voice and democratic power of the Venezuelan people themselves.

Resistance Resources

  • CodePink: A women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, and support peace and human rights initiatives.
  • Washington Office on Latin America: A research and advocacy organization providing independent analysis of issues such as the Venezuelan crisis.

 

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

Donate

The Many Global Agreement Withdrawals of the Trump Administration

The Many Global Agreement Withdrawals of the Trump Administration

Brief #55—Foreign Policy

President Trump’s campaign was defined by the complete rejection of international cooperation and multilateral agreements. According to Trump’s mindset, in every deal the United States was either being cheated or doing the cheating, and his predecessors had been doing too much of the former. This turned out to be a popular message, with many of his supporters believing that these agreements were crafted without the interests of common Americans in mind. Trump once would have had to secure the permission of Congress before withdrawing from these agreements, but precedence has changed over the years, allowing the President to single handedly remove the country from agreements which took years of political maneuvering and Congressional approval to sign in the first place. Below we consider the effects of some of Trump’s most notorious withdrawals.

The Iran Deal

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the Iran Deal, was a historic product of the Obama administration’s attempts to build a stable network of international cooperation. The deal placed restrictions on the amount of nuclear energy produced by Iran, in the interest of avoiding the possibility of enriched Uranium being used for nuclear weapons, in return for an end to the crippling sanctions levied against them by the United States, EU, and UN. Despite assurances by the International Atomic Energy Agency, who were granted permission under the deal to inspect nuclear facilities, that Iran remain in accordance, President Trump ended US support of the deal in May of 2018.

In response, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron declared their continued support for the deal, and the EU threatened to sanction firms who abided by new US sanctions. Nevertheless, the Iranian economy now operates under the weight of both the JCPOA’s energy restrictions as well as US sanctions. The Iranian Rial dropped by 14% in the three days following the announcement of the withdrawal of the United States. The destabilizing of the agreement also encouraged Israel to take the opportunity to strengthen its position against Syria, an ally of Iran. Immediately following Trump’s announcement of withdrawal, the IDF launched artillery strikes at the Syrian city of Baath, which lies in the demilitarized zone just outside of the Golan Heights, a region of Syria which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Iran responded, launching missiles towards Israeli bases in the Golan Heights, to which Israel responded with Operation House of Cards, which involved strikes against over 50 Iranian targets across Syria. Iran may continue to comply with energy restrictions for now, assuming the continued support of EU nations, but with continued military tension against neighboring states, and anti-American sentiment rising in response to sanctions, they may give up the hope of international cooperation, never mind enter into to a future deal.

The Paris Climate Accord

On June 1st, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, a historic 2015 international agreement to reduce emissions in an attempt to avoid the worst effects of climate change. In response to the withdrawal, Syria and Nicaragua signed onto the agreement, making the United States the only non-participatory country in the world. Technically, the US is still included in the agreement, and must remain so until after the 2020 elections, as per the initial rules of the agreement. For now, State Department officials continue to show up at all periodic meetings concerning the future of the agreement, but no longer take a leadership role in the proceedings. Trump has continued to cut environmental protections, rolling back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and canceling a planned $2 billion payment to the Green Climate Fund, which would have helped developing countries transition to renewable energy production. However, the environmental movement in the United States has been invigorated in the face of these cutbacks, with freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement pushing climate change action to the front of the Democratic party’s platform and calling for a Green New Deal to build a new non-extractive economy.

Trans-Pacific Partnership 

Signed in 2016, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a sweeping trade agreement which would have strengthened economic ties between the United States and twelve Pacific nations, primarily through reduced tariffs. The agreement was signed but never ratified, with Trump withdrawing in the first week of his presidency, a month before it would have gone into effect. During his campaign Trump frequently denounced the TPP, along with the modern consensus of low barriers on the international flow of capital from which it came. This globalist tradition was seen to have helped cause the domestic evaporation of manufacturing jobs from which Trump drew so much support.

The remaining nations ended up proceeding without the US, signing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The EU has also been forming trade agreements with many of the TPP signatories, and China has been moving forward with their own version of the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Trump suggested last August that the US might rejoin the deal after receiving pushback from Republican lawmakers concerned over the profits of exporting companies in their states. Japan and Vietnam are both major food importers who would have been included in the TPP. Lawmakers were also concerned that the US had given away a strong tool for competing with China in the Pacific region. Returning now would mean that the United States would have given away much of the leverage it built in the original preparation for the deal.

UN Councils

The UN has always been a specific target of Trump’s ire, partially due to the significant funding we have provided for its support. This has so far manifested in our withdrawal from two important UN councils. One is The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which promotes international respect and awareness for the importance of human rights, education, and peace. UNESCO originally lost US funding in 2011 when its members voted to recognize Palestine as an independent participant in the agency. Trump pulled the US out of UNESCO in October of 2017 after it designated a Palestinian region of the West Bank as an endangered World Heritage Site. Now the US cannot contribute to the management of the 1,073 World Heritage Sites around the world, and surrenders any possibility of resuming funding for the many programs UNESCO operates to reduce illiteracy and oppression.

The United States is now also the only country other than Iran, North Korea, and Eritrea to refuse to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council. Former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley justified the withdrawal last July by denouncing the council’s five resolutions passed against Israel that year, particularly one which condemned US and Israeli businesses investing in illegal Israeli settlements in the West bank. By removing itself from the Human Rights Council, our government reduces both international oversight over its actions as well as international legitimacy in its criticism of others.

Resistance Resources 

  • Human Rights Watch – An organization dedicated to fighting oppression from a global perspective
  • Roots Action – An online activist group devoted to pushing US domestic and foreign policy in a progressive direction

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

Photo by Kyle Glenn

Trump Announces Withdrawal From Syria

Trump Announces Withdrawal From Syria

Brief #54—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
With Syria nearing the eighth year of its brutal war, one which has claimed the lives of an estimated 300,000-500,000 people, President Trump declared on December 19th that Isis was defeated and the United States would withdraw the 2,000 soldiers still deployed within the country. The announcement came as a surprise to much of Washington, given that the Pentagon estimated last month that Isis forces, who continue to hold pockets of territory across Iraq and Syria, remain somewhere in the number of 20,000 and 30,000 fighters. Just last week, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat Isis Brett McGurk told reporters that the US wanted “to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas”.

The White House has been vague in its plan for withdrawal since the initial announcement with one official disclosing an intent for departure within 60-100 days, and another suggesting it could come sooner. Trump tried to clarify on the 23rd that the withdrawal would be a “slow & highly coordinated pullout”, and on Sunday Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that Trump was now more willing to maintain a presence in Syria in order to deter Isis. Senator Graham, who previously called the withdrawal a “huge Obama-like mistake” and “a big win for Isis, Iran, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and Russia” is not the only one outraged by Trump’s decision. The announcement unleashed a storm of indignation from nearly every corner of Washington, providing the opportunity for every liberal pundit to brandish their best John Bolton impression and decry the threat of Iranian influence in Syria. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis tendered his resignation, using his resignation letter to condemn China and Russia for their desire to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies” and insisting that the United States “must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values”.

Analysis
 Announcing unprovoked that the United States would withdraw its military presence from Syria was certainly a rash decision. The country is awash with loose ends and instability, and the United States could have maintained a certain temporary strategic position to provide a better outcome for the Syrian people. By announcing an unconditioned withdrawal, Trump is giving away his leverage in negotiating a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

As it stands, the mostly Kurdish militia YPG (People’s Protection Units), is under siege from the Turkish army, who view them as a threat due to their potential to provoke the many Turkish Kurds vying for self-autonomy and an end to their repression. The YPG has been one of the primary forces facing Isis on the battlefield, and is in the process of building a semi-autonomous region in northern Syria known as Rojava, where ethnic Kurds are protected from both the immediate threat of Isis and the potential repression of the Syrian government.

The FSA (Free Syrian Army), a loosely associated collection of Sunni militant groups still fighting the government, have been mostly cornered in the north-western province of Idlib, and their numbers dwindle as many attempt to return to their former lives. Isis still holds one major pocket, but is in the process of transitioning from an actual Islamic state to a simple insurgency. Both Russia and Iran, countries allied with the Syrian government, have provided support in returning territory to the control of the Syrian army, who currently hold 2/3rds of the country, including all major cities.

Ideally, Trump would try to leave Syria in a more stable condition, suited to returning some sense of stability and normalcy to those who have yet to flee the country. This would first mean cutting off support for the Turkish government. We should not be handing over territory, expanding trade, or selling a $3.5 billion weapon system to a country who has exploited a humanitarian crisis to backstab the most democratic force in the country that are on the frontlines fighting Isis. Trump should be working to support the Kurdish political umbrella group Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their recent talks with the Syrian government to address Turkish encroachment, and continuing to provide them with funding to defend their nascent democratic experiment. Trump should also try to negotiate critical support for the Syrian government in their attempts to rebuild their country after almost a decade of war.

The United States has a strong responsibility to help the Syrian people in their struggle for peace, just not through more war. The war fully erupted when the Obama administration chose to capitalize on the relatively minor upheavals of 2011 by flooding the country with arms. The UN has certified that the FSA is not a mass democratic movement, but rather little more than a brand name encompassing a multitude of interest groups, and that foreign intervention has led to the rise of an extremist Salafi insurgency. The US ignored the fact that many of these militias were not the agents of freedom and democracy that they would have liked, and became cavalier in their willingness to hand out arms and support for any group willing to target the Syrian government. This led to the rise of militias such as the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front, who took a leading role in the uprising. In 2012, a classified memo was distributed by the Defense Intelligence Agency which warned of a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” caused by the power vacuum created by an internationally funded uprising. This would be proven painfully true the next year, as Isis took hold of large swaths of territory. The United States took a leading role in destabilizing and provoking war in Syria in order to remove Assad from power, and there is no reason to believe that our military is in any way capable of cleaning up its own mess.

A sudden withdrawal of forces , as proposed by President Trump,  does nothing to make amends for the mistakes our country has made in Syria. It leaves the anti-ISIS coaltion of coutries, that the US assembled, in a lurch without leadership; and it abnegates our ability and responsibility  to support the reconstruction of a country that we helped to destroy. Foreign policy made by a tweet and a whim is a poor substitute for foreign policy made with a well coordinated and thought out strategy.

Resistance Resources

  • 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. Read their statement on our withdrawal from Syria here.
  • Codepink – A women-led grassroots organization working to end US wars and militarism. Read their statement on our withdrawal from Syria here.

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

Senate Passes BUILD Act

Senate Passes BUILD Act

Brief #52—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
In a show of bipartisan support, the “Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018”, or the BUILD act, was passed on October 5th and later signed by President Trump.. First introduced in February by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Chris Coons, the act creates the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) as a successor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), with an increased budget of $60 billion, and the intent to facilitate public spending and federal support to encourage private investment in foreign markets. Supporters have promised that this will lead to sustainable, broad-based economic growth, and an increase in public accountability and transparency.

Analysis
The most apparent absence from the BUILD act is the lack of enforceable restrictions preventing investments from supporting regimes which participate in the abuse of human rights and/or have corrupt ineffective governance systems.. The bill promises to ensure an increase in social stability and decrease in poverty, but it’s mostly worded in vague aspirations. It’s also questionable whether the intent of the bill is even to benefit the host countries of these investments. Part of the billions in taxpayer money apportioned to the IDFC will be used to reduce risk for companies investing in foreign countries, but many of these risks are caused by the instability created by US exploitation of the labor and resources of the global south. The strategy of funneling private capital into these economies has been the modus operandi of the US for years, and rather than resulting in greater development in poor countries, it has reduced access of the residents of those countries to their own land and resources, while pushing them further into debt. If there is a surplus of taxpayer money which can be used to benefit those living outside our borders, perhaps it could be better allocated canceling foreign debts and supporting foreign businesses trying to build a stable economy within the confines of their own border.

Resistance Resources:

  • International Labor Rights Forum: The ILRF is a US-based nonprofit advocacy organization working to develop a safe working environment for the international working poor.
  • International Centre for Trade Union Rights: The ICTUR is an international NGO that brings together trade unions, human rights organisations, research institutions, and lawyer’s associations to defend the rights of workers around the world to organize.

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

Photo by unsplash-logoJoakim Honkasalo

Saudi Dissident Journalist Murdered in Istanbul

Saudi Dissident Journalist Murdered in Istanbul

Brief #51—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
Last February, Senators Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee introduced legislation to invoke the 1973 War Powers act in order to withdraw the United States from Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on Yemen – a war which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with three quarters of its 28 million citizens in need of humanitarian aid, 8 million in starvation, and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. The measure, which hoped to end American provision of arms and intelligence to the Saudi war effort, was defeated in a bipartisan show of support for one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East. Now, eight months later, that support has finally begun to erode with what seems to be the shocking assassination of a world renowned Saudi journalist.

Jamal Khashoggi built a reputation for himself covering  Afghanistan, Algeria, and Kuwait in the 1980’s and 90’s for the Al-Hayat newspaper. He formed a relationship with Osama Bin Laden while covering the jihad against the Soviets, and attempted to convince him to pursue peace during the 90’s before cutting ties after September 11th. While often seen as a sort of de facto spokesperson for the Saudi Arabian royal family, and a useful source for Western insight into the relatively closed political society of Saudi Arabia, he periodically ran into trouble for his reformist views. In 2003 he was fired from his editorial position at the Al-Watan newspaper, which some blamed on his editorial policy. Later reinstated, he was fired again in 2010 for “pushing the boundaries of debate within Saudi society” according to his website. His dissent grew stronger during the rise of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in 2017, when he criticized the hypocrisy of those who “vigorously applaud social reforms and heap praise on the crown prince” but ignore the continued authoritarian policies as well as the history of those who have fought them for years. The 33 year old MBS has received lavish praise for his modest reforms, including allowing women to drive, all the while cracking down on women’s rights activists. His sudden rise to power included the arrests of hundreds of clerics, business leaders, and royal family members who stood in his way.

Fearing being targeted himself, Khashoggi moved to Washington D.C. in 2017 and entered a role as an opinions editor at the Washington Post. He wrote disparagingly of MBS’s regime, beginning with an article titled “Saudi Arabia Wasn’t Always This Repressive. Now it’s unbearable”. Last month Khashoggi published an article entitled “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Must Restore Dignity to His Country – by Ending Yemen’s Cruel War”. By this time he had become estranged from his Saudi wife and had become engaged to a Turkish researcher. On October 2nd, he flew to Istanbul to obtain documents from the Saudi consulate which would verify his divorce and allow him to proceed with his wedding which was planned for the next day. His fiancee waited outside the consulate but he never left it. Four days later, the Turkish security announced that they believed he had been killed

Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumptive murder have led to a rift between Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US political establishment, and Trump. The Turkish government has reported that they possess tapes proving that Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured, and killed by a team of 15 Saudis who stayed in Turkey for a brief period and then left. While Turkish President Erdogan has refused to explicitly call for the help of the US, in a country which was economically destabilized by Trump’s recent tariffs, he has refused to take action himself and a Turkish official anonymously conceded that “At the end of the day, the U.S. has to take action.”

Republican lawmakers have begun criticizing the Saudi Regime, with Mitch McConnell calling US-Saudi relations “not great” and Lindsey Graham stating that MBS has “got to go”. Trump has appeared far less concerned with Khashoggi’s death, telling reporters after speaking to Saudi King Salman “it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers – who knows.” He later said “They’re spending $110 billion purchasing military equipment and other things. If we don’t sell it to them, they’ll say, ‘Well, thank you very much. We’ll buy it from Russia.’ ” Trump also took to Twitter to lie that he did not have any personal financial interests in Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with MBS on Tuesday to “reiterate the President’s concern”, where they “agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation”. Some American CEO’s have backed out of next week’s Future Investment Initiative conference, a major part of MBS’ plan to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. At this time, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly still plants to attend. Saudi Arabia is reportedly working on a report which will conclude that Khashoggi was killed in a botched interrogation, without clearance from MBS.

Analysis
Saudi Arabia has long been a strong ally of the United States, only ever receiving minor admonishments for its horrific human rights record. The country serves as a powerful opponent of Iran, a military outpost, and a crucial source of oil. In the past, Saudi Arabia also helped suppress Communist influence in Afghanistan and fought alongside the US in the Gulf War. The fact that MBS has presumably overstepped so far as to murder a high profile journalist on foreign soil suggests that he has overestimated the blank check for terror the US has given him. Khashoggi was not a vital political enemy. His colleagues described him as a moderate reformer rather than revolutionary, a “loyal Saudi” who still hoped to return to his homeland. His editorials mostly fell on deaf ears in a country spoiled by Saudi military spending. MBS’  recklessness may doom him here, as some in Washington seem eager to replace him with a more cautious leader, one willing to continue to support US interests in the region without stirring up this sort of attention.

Engagement Resources

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

President Trump Addresses United Nations

President Trump Addresses United Nations

Brief #50—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
On September 25th, President Trump delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, complete with all of his signature vague jingoism and confrontational barbs. Following a year of withdrawals and cuts to international agreements and organizations, from the Iran Deal to the UN Relief Works Agency funding for Palestinian refugees, Trump’s speech reflected this desire for nationalist individualism, stating “I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”

Trump’s speech comes at a period of great tension with the EU, largely in response to his withdrawal from the Iran Deal. While the US has promised sanctions on businesses dealing with Iran, the EU has threatened sanctions on those who withdraw, forcing them to choose their allegiances. After a recent announcement of tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports, Trump also claimed that  China “has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election… against my administration”, but failed to provide any evidence for his claim.

The following day, Trump addressed the United Nations Security Council. The council session had originally been called by the UK to discuss last July’s nerve agent attack on Russians living in the UK within the context of the global issue of weapons of mass destruction. When Trump learned that Vice President Pence was planned to represent the US, he insisted on his own presence in his stead, and changed the topic of the talk to the danger of Iran. When he later learned that this would involve inviting a delegation from Iran to respond, he changed the topic to that of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, just days before the council session. While much of Trump’s speech still focused upon Iran, he did mention the necessity maintaining sanctions on North Korea, a position opposed by China and Russia, who announced that it was time to ease sanctions, citing the recent halting of nuclear testing.

Analysis
Trump has no real ideological commitment to American isolationism. He wields the vast power the United States holds over the global community when it serves his interests, and many of his isolationist positions are simply rejections of the weak international restraints placed on American power. The United States has not been, as Trump claims, “committed to a future of peace and stability in [Israel], including peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians” but rather sold billions of dollars worth of weapons to the Israeli government, unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, withdrew US aid to the Palestinians,  and bullied third party countries who voted in support of Israel at the UN.

Billions of dollars in weapons have also been sold to the Saudi Arabian government as part of the United States’ support for a brutal war in Yemen which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Breaking the Iran Deal is an enormous aggression against the prosperity and security of Iran, levying sanctions which once led to an almost doubling of the poverty rate and a rise in anti-American sentiment in the region. Trump also  has reportedly considered an invasion of Venezuela. It’s become clear that he only remembers his isolationist principles when he wants to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council, or ignore the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court in investigating war crimes, fearing that these organizations could stand in the way of US/Israeli/Saudi hegemony in the Middle East.

Resistance Resources

  • Roots Action – An online activist group devoted to pushing US domestic and foreign policy in a progressive direction
  • The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians.

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

Photo by Jose Moreno

Trump Administration Cuts Aid to Palestinian Refugees

Trump Administration Cuts Aid to Palestinian Refugees

Brief #49—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
On August 24th, the Trump administration announced that over $200 million in aid intended for Palestinian refugees would be cut from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Rather than directing funds through the Palestinian Authority, the UNRWA provides food subsidies, medical services, and youth programs directly to poor Palestinians. While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly opposed the cuts, Jared Kushner pushed for them as a way of “strengthening his negotiating hand when he introduces his long-awaited Middle East peace plan”. Trump agreed that the cuts were a way of forcing Palestinian leadership to come to the table and tweeted that Palestinians show “no appreciation or respect”. A State Department Spokesperson explained that while the US is “the most generous country in the world”, this aid spending “does not benefit the taxpayer”.

Analysis
The US is not the most generous country in the world. The majority of our taxpayer funded foreign aid goes towards controlling the destruction caused by our imperialistic foreign policy, and even then it is often, as in this scenario, then used as a leveraging tool for controlling opposition to US hegemony. Palestinians are crowded into a steadily vanishing territory within West Bank and the small open air prison that is the Gaza Strip. Surrounded by a US supported embargo, where even fishing too far off the coast triggers a military response, Palestinians have been forced to depend on the aid such as that previously provided by UNRWA. Starving them even thinner, as Trump and Kushner hope to do, will not lead to an amicable conclusion to the Israel-Palestinian crisis. It leaves Palestinians with few good options.  They can sell what little rights they still hold for a secure if impoverished future – one where the dream of self determination and sovereignty is compromised for an end to Israeli bombings, a lightening of the embargo, and a weakened position at a negotiation table dominated by Trump and the Israelies. Or they will be further driven to the conclusion that violent revolution is the only escape from a permanent apartheid state – possible ending any possibility of peace and justice in the region.

Resistant Resources

  • UN Relief and Works Agency – The UNRWA was founded in 1949 to support those Palestinians displaced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians. You can donate on their website.

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

North Korea Peace Process Stalls

North Korea Peace Process Stalls

Brief #46—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
The International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental forum which reports to the UN, has reported a lack of progress in the denuclearization of North Korea. The “continuation and further development” of nuclear facilities are “cause for grave concern”, assessed the organization. This contradicts the statement made by the President following his June summit with Kim Jong-un, declaring that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea”. On August 24th, Pompeo announced plans to visit North Korea, only for Trump to nix the plans the next day. “Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our trading relationship with China is resolved”, the President tweeted. The Korea Times, a South Korean newspaper, reported that sources had informed them that North Korea planned to hand over a list of secret nuclear test sites as well as information about its nuclear warheads, information long sought by the US State Department.

While the relationship between the US and North Korea has stalled, South Korea has forged ahead. President Moon and Chairman Kim’s April meeting has resulted in a series of family reunification meetings, allowing 174 North and South Koreans, chosen by lottery, to meet with relatives they have not seen since the Korean War of the early 1950’s. An inter-Korean liaison office is set to open this week, and South Korea is reportedly considering removing North Korea from their official list of enemies. This Wednesday, President Moon will be sending envoys to Pyongyang to discuss plans for a future summit between the two leaders. South Korea’s continued pursuance of peace despite lack of concrete denuclearization milestones has led to tension with the US, further indicated by the US led United Nations Command vetoing required inspections of a prospective inter-Korean railway.

Analysis
North Korea’s lack of current commitment to denuclearization is not an indication of a lack of desire for peace. A formal end to the Korean War has been a top priority goal for Kim for a while. Meanwhile the US continues to beat the war drums. Last week, Secretary of Defense Mattis threatened military drills on the Korean border, a hot point of contention for decades, stating “We took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises”. Besides the constant mixed messages from US leadership, Trump’s cancellation of the Iran deal proves that US led peace deals are little more than fragile, temporary assurances. Until the Trump administration and US military and diplomatic leadership embrace an authentic strategy of pursuing peace, we will be caught in this this tense game until war is unavoidable.

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.
  • Beyond the Bomb – An activist group looking to reduce the danger of nuclear war around the world.

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

x
x

Freedom to report and non-violently resist government policies are part of a free society.

Help us raise $100,000 so we can continue to cover the unjust policies of this administration and the organizations working to resist them.

Pin It on Pinterest