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FOREIGN POLICY POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

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

Latest Foreign Policy Posts

 

Korean Peace Process Stalls

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

read more

President Trump Ends US Participation in the Iran Deal

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

read more

Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

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

read more

US, UK, and France Attack Syrian Chemical Sites

Just before dawn on April 14th, The United States, United Kingdom, and France launched a joint missile attack against two Syrian chemical weapon storage facilities and one research center. The strike was described by the western governments as a retaliation for a chemical attack against a rebel held Damascus suburb, Douma, on April 7th.

read more

Trump Issues Global Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports

Summary “The actions we are taking today are not a matter of choice; they are a matter of necessity for our security” declared President Trump last week, as part of his announcement on a new set of tariffs targeting the import of steel and aluminum. The announcement,...

read more

Trump Institutes New Sanctions Against North Korea

On February 23rd, in the final minutes of an 80-minute speech, President Trump offhandedly mentioned a new set of sanctions against North Korea. What Trump called the “heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before” targeted 27 entities and 28 vessels in North Korea, China, and Singapore accused of helping the North…

read more

Trump Administration Presents Nuclear Posture Review

On February 2nd, the Trump administration released a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) which revealed an eager attitude towards the development and use of nuclear weapons. Highlighting the dangers posed by North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran, the review called for a vast renovation of our nuclear arsenal. While new nuclear…

read more

Trump Signs Executive Order to Keep Guantanamo Bay Open

One of the revelations drawing criticism from President Trump’s January 30th State of the Union address was the announcement that he had signed an executive order requiring the Guantanamo Bay military prison to be kept open indefinitely. Signaling a departure from US policy for the past decade, new inmates will also be brought…

read more

Korean Peace Process Stalls

Foreign Policy Brief #41

 May 16th, 2018

Summary

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

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

Analysis

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

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

Engagement Resources

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

 

 

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

 

 

President Trump Ends US Participation in the Iran Deal

Foreign Policy Brief #40

May 15th, 2018

Summary

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

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

Engagement Resources

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

 

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

 

Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

Brief #39, Foreign Policy

May 14th, 2018

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

Engagement Resources

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

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

 

US, UK, and France Attack Syrian Chemical Sites

Foreign Policy Brief #38

April 21st, 2018

Summary

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

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

Analysis

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

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

Engagement Resources

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

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

 

Trump Appoints John Bolton as New National Security Adviser

Summary

On March 22nd, only a week after the replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump announced the departure of national security adviser General H.R. McMaster. On April 9th, the seat will be filled- for the third time in fourteen months- by John Bolton. The position does not require congressional approval, which is a blessing for Bolton considering he  has historically been unable to succeed in convincing even a Republican controlled congress that his views are sufficiently restrained for public office. An Ivy League trained renowned war hawk who never served time in the military, Bolton is a strong stylistic departure from his predecessor. McMaster’s military background had instilled a preference for order and procedure which clashed with the looser methodology of President Trump. He also prefered a more diplomatic approach to Iran, an increase in troops in Afghanistan, and a stronger front against Russian election interference- the evidence of which he called “incontrovertible”. Many have suggested that the final spark which set his departure into motion was his possible involvement in leaking the news that Trump had ignored memo’s asking him not to congratulate Putin on his recent electoral victory. Despite this, McMaster’s exit has been far more amicable than that of his former colleague Tillerson.

Analysis

To be frank, the appointment of John Bolton may be the most dangerous personnel decision Trump has ever made. There is rarely a foreign policy dispute to which Bolton would not recommend war in response. He entered that national stage as President Reagan’s Assistant Attorney General, a position which he used to suppress information on the Iran-Contra affair. Under President George W. Bush, Bolton worked as the Undersecretary of State in Charge of Arms Control. Perhaps foreshadowing what we have seen from the Trump administration, he viewed his objective as completely antithetical to his job title, going as far as to block the passage of a ban on the personal ownership of military grade weapons. After failing to attain congressional approval for his radical views, Bush appointed him to UN Ambassador while the Senate was on recess. Bolton was one the main figures supporting the invasion of Iraq. In the lead-up to the war he told the Director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague that he would need to resign after he requested chemical weapon inspections in Iraq. Bolton feared that a sincere investigation of the facts at hand would interfere with the case for invasion.

Since the Bush administration, Bolton has resorted to using any media appearance to call for war against Iran and North Korea, while also calling Russia and China two of our greatest enemies. Just recently he wrote an op-ed titled “The Case for Striking North Korea First”, a terrifying prospect considering the Presidential sit down with Kim Jong-un coming this May. In 2014 his Super PAC was involved in hiring the now notorious consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to conduct “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging”.

To this day, he continues to be a strong defender of the decision to invade Iraq. With the ten year anniversary of the invasion last week, Perhaps the answer to Bolton’s unrepentant commitment to the legacy of the Iraq invasion is that, unlike many of his contemporaries, he does not brand himself as a neo-Conservative. What this means is that he does not bother to concern himself with the same veneer of respectability. His desire for war is not founded in any ideal of promoting democracy and freedom around the world, but rather a method for advancing American interests through any way possible. As a pro-intervention nationalist, he fits nicely alongside Trump, who once asked why we didn’t fully pillage Iraqi oil fields for our own supply. But beyond that, the man is capable, with extensive experience in foreign policy and bureaucratic process. And for that reason, the danger is perhaps more tangible than it ever has been.

Engagement Resources

  • Stay Up to Date With the Struggle for World Peace With the World Peace Council: The WPC is an alliance of pro-peace, anti-imperialist organizations, based in over 100 countries around the world. You can learn more about their work on their website.
  • Listen to a Podcast on the Dangers Posed by John Bolton: This episode of the Intercept’s podcast, Intercepted, covers the history and implications of John Bolton.

Trump Issues Global Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports

Summary

“The actions we are taking today are not a matter of choice; they are a matter of necessity for our security” declared President Trump last week, as part of his announcement on a new set of tariffs targeting the import of steel and aluminum. The announcement, coming just hours after a number of countries signed onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership, of which we are no longer a part of, is yet another step towards his campaign promise of a protectionist resurgence of American manufacturing. The tariffs, which would target steel by 25% and aluminum by 10%, are allegedly a response to a Department of Commerce report from last December, calling attention to the national security threat posed by our reliance on foreign steel production. The White House announced that temporary exceptions would be made for our neighbors in Canada and Mexico, pending upcoming discussions on the amendment of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). These two countries provided a quarter of US steel imports and 42% of aluminum imports last year. Despite the small amount of steel we actually receive from China, they have been designated as the primary target behind this global tariff, due to their alleged unfair trading practices, such as overproduction. China currently produces almost as much steel in a month as the US produces in a year. The countries who would be primarily affected by this decision, however, are Brazil, South Korea, and Russia.

This latest tariff has proved extremely controversial, even among those who often support Trump’s policies. 107 Republican lawmakers signed a letter asking for Trump to reconsider his decision, and the President’s chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, resigned after failing to prevent this move. “There are unquestionably bad trade practices by nations like China, but the better approach is targeted enforcement against those practices”, said Republican Majority Leader Paul Ryan, “Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies and promoting the rule of law”

Analysis

It’s no surprise that the newest tariffs would be unpopular to anyone not directly working in American steel or aluminum production. Trump’s stated reason for the tariff is that of national security, but the Department of Defense issued a statement which, while agreeing that unfair trade practices could pose a risk to our security, declared that there is no danger of any failure to produce sufficient steel domestically to meet national defense requirements, and instead, once again, called for targeted tariffs. If the World Trade Organization agrees with many of the tariffs’ critics- that the purpose of the decision is to support American industry rather than secure our National Security- Trump will be forced to choose between rescinding his decision or causing a worldwide breakdown in global trading rules. The fact that Trump’s stated reason for providing exceptions to Canada and Mexico is due to NAFTA talks weakens any chance of passing this off as a national security measure. The risk of a trade war is high, with the EU releasing a list of American-made goods which would be penalized if the tariff went through.

It’s questionable whether the tariff would even be beneficial for domestic industries. If the US cannot fill the gaps in steel and aluminum production caused by reduced imports, the result will be considerably higher prices for steel and aluminum, which could have waves of impact throughout the economy, with higher costs passed on to American consumers. With so many allies offended, such a small likelihood of boosting our economy, and so many ways this move could go wrong, this is truly right in line with Trump’s economic policy so far.

Engagement Resources

  • Read an Assessment of the Potential Impact on American Labor: This piece, published by the Nation, contests the suggestion that this tariff would even be beneficial for American steel workers.
  • Read a Summary of Trump’s Use of Tariffs: This summary, published by USResist, indexes Trump’s use of tariffs to exert global influence.

Trump Institutes New Sanctions Against North Korea

February 2nd, 2018 

Summary

On February 23rd, in the final minutes of an 80-minute speech, President Trump offhandedly mentioned a new set of sanctions against North Korea. What Trump called the “heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before” targeted 27 entities and 28 vessels in North Korea, China, and Singapore accused of helping the North Korean government fund its weapons program. They specifically target sea trade, which has been exploited thus far as a difficult to trace source of income. Trump ominously threatened that a failure of the sanctions to solve the North Korean crisis would trigger “phase 2” which may be “ very, very unfortunate for the world”. While the increase in sanctions pushes us closer to a full economic blockade, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin clarified that we would petition China and other countries to inspect suspicious vessels rather than involving the US military.

Analysis

The Trump administration’s hope is that by blocking trade they can starve the North Korean government, forcing them to end their nuclear program. Thus far North Korea has been able to skirt many of these restrictions. Recorded Future, a private digital intelligence firm, estimated that the country has earned somewhere between $15 and $200 million through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The Institute for Science and International Security reported in December that 49 countries have violated UN resolutions regarding North Korean trade restrictions. North Korea also evades restrictions by changing the names of ships. Chinese banks are another major source of income to the country. Many have been accused of laundering money to help fund North Korea’s nuclear program, yet they have been largely avoided by sanctions.

The world witnessed allusions towards a potential for peace during the Winter Olympics, but the Trump administration seem to be failing to share the enthusiasm. The White House only agreed to pursue talks with North Korea after pressure from South Korean President Moon Jae-in. President Moon’s administration, which began this year and has taken a more friendly approach towards North Korea, has caused strain between South Korea and the United States. Trump doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to surround himself with much expertise in the region, considering over a year into his presidency he has yet to appoint an ambassador to South Korea. His previous pick, Victor Cha, was withdrawn after expressing disapproval towards the Trump administration’s suggestion of attacking North Korea before they can attack us. After the news broke Cha published an op-ed decrying this prospect. This is part of a longstanding approach by the Trump administration, preferring hard-nosed militarism and aggression over diplomacy, cooperation, proficiency, and judgment.

Engagement Resources

  • Read a USResist Summary of the Trump Administration’s Use of Sanctions: Here is the full summary, which covers sanctions against Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
  • Support the International Peace Bureau: The IPB is a peace federation founded in 1981 with the expressed priorities of disarmament and reallocation of military expenditure. Consisting of 300 member organizations across 70 countries, the IPB is building an international movement to reduce unnecessary conflict among states. You can support by donating or applying to become a member.

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


 

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Trump Administration Presents Nuclear Posture Review

February 8, 2018

Summary

On February 2nd, the Trump administration released a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) which revealed an eager attitude towards the development and use of nuclear weapons. Highlighting the dangers posed by North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran, the review called for a vast renovation of our nuclear arsenal. While new nuclear warheads would not be produced, they would be repurposed for additions such as General Dynamics built Columbia-class nuclear missile submarines (a $270 billion project), Northrop Grumman built B-21 strike bombers ($550 million per plane), and Lockheed Martin built F-35 stealth fighters (a $406 billion project). Our 400 current silo-based Minuteman III missiles would be replaced, and hundreds of ICBM launch facilities would be updated.

While these renovations fall in line with a trajectory set by the Obama administration in 2010, Trump varies from his predecessor in his stated willingness to use nuclear weapons to strike against even a non-nuclear state. The NPR affirms an intent to use nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” which would include “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” such as “attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.” The NPR also introduced a plan to “strengthen the integration of nuclear and non-nuclear military planning” and develop “low-yield” weapons, fireable from submarines and capable of more moderated destruction. The Trump administration argues that our nuclear arsenal has been the subject of “consistent underfunding” only fixable by “significant and sustained investments”.

Analysis

The Nuclear Posture Review claims to reaffirm our commitment, in line with the 1968 nuclear treaty, to “arms control and nuclear non-proliferation”. It’s hard to imagine a strategy further removed from that goal. Trump, who famously threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen” upon North Korea, is pushing us closer than ever to nuclear armageddon with this document. By integrating nuclear and non-nuclear military programs, developing more usable “low-yield” weapons, and threatening nuclear attack over increasingly smaller disputes, he blurs the line between conventional warfare and what is supposed to be a distant last resort. The description of “low-yield” weapons as a more harmless alternative to nuclear war is deceiving; these weapons hold roughly the destructive power of the bombs which killed over a hundred thousand people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What Trump considers to be an “extreme circumstance” warranting nuclear attack includes any attack on an allies civilian population or infrastructure. This exhibits a dangerous willingness to wildly destabilize the globe over a minor conflict. Aggressively pursuing a stronger nuclear arsenal and threatening its use over uncertain conditions does not serve to reduce the threat of nuclear war, if anything its normalizes its possibility. It’s hard to imagine a policy pushed by the Trump administration thus far which puts more lives in danger.

Engagement Resources

  • Assess the Doomsday Clock: Published yearly by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Doomsday Clock is a yearly measurement of our proximity to nuclear devastation. You can read a summary for the threat level each year here.
  • Donate to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): ICAN is a coalition of non-government organizations in one hundred countries advocating for a strong and effective nuclear weapon ban treaty. Last year their lobbying lead to a UN proposition of a treaty which would ban and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. The treaty, which lead to a Nobel Peace prize for ICAN, was backed by 122 nations, with the US boycotting negotiations. You can donate on their website here.

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


 

Trump Signs Executive Order to Keep Guantanamo Bay Open

February 8, 2018 

Summary

One of the revelations drawing criticism from President Trump’s January 30th State of the Union address was the announcement that he had signed an executive order requiring the Guantanamo Bay military prison to be kept open indefinitely. Signaling a departure from US policy for the past decade, new inmates will also be brought to Guantanamo, falling in line with Trump’s campaign promise to “load [the prison] up with some bad dudes”. “Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil. When possible, we annihilate them,” explained Trump during the State of the Union. The prison currently holds 41 captives, with five already cleared for transfer by either Bush or Obama. Upon taking office, Trump suspended the release of those five, and refused to staff the department responsible for negotiating transfers. While Guantanamo has long been a target of international criticism over abuse of human rights the order insisted that the prison is “legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law.”

Analysis

This is not a situation most would have forecasted in 2008. The prison had been a blight on the legacy of outgoing President Bush, drawing criticism from around the world due to accusations of people being illegally detained and tortured, most famously through the process known as waterboarding. Amnesty International went as far as to call it the “gulag of our times”. The three leading contenders for the presidency, Obama, Clinton, and McCain, all supported its closing. Obama had gone as far as to say that “In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values,” and made the prison’s closure a focus of his campaign. In his first week in office, Obama signed Executive Order 13492, which required the detention center to be closed within a year, and for all detainees to be transferred or released. By the end of his Presidency, he reduced the number of detainees from hundreds to dozens, but the prison remained open. Legislators who supported its closing balked at the prospect of bringing detainees to American soil, and other nations weren’t any more receptive.

Part of the difficulty with dealing with the cases of these prisoners is that there isn’t much of a historical precedent. Currently, they aren’t being treated as civilians charged with criminal acts such as terrorism, but as prisoners of war. The problem is, the wars we are fighting now are not comparable to the wars of the 20th century, when these standards were set. Wars such as World War II and the Vietnam War generally had somewhat of a foreseeable end. We could hold German prisoners until Berlin fell, after which they were eventually repatriated. However, the War on Terror will most likely not reach this kind of resolution any time soon. We aren’t fighting a regime, we are fighting anti-American sentiment. On the campaign trail, when asked about waterboarding, Trump stated “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and that “torture works… if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing to us.” This kind of gleeful embrace of brutality, free of concern for either strategy or humanity, is the reason why anti-American sentiment is so rampant. As long as brute force is our one and only tactic for fighting terror, the War on Terror will never win, and those detainees will languish forever, whether they are guilty or not.

Engagement Resources

  • Donate to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR): PHR is an independent group tasked with reporting and combating human rights violations through the lens of health and science. They have been longstanding vocal opponents of Guantanamo Bay. You can donate on their website here.
  • Watch an Explanation of the Consequences of the War on Terror: The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan narrates this video explaining how the invasion of Iraq and US ran prison camps such as Camp Bucca helped to create Isis. You can watch it here.
  • Read an Article on the Dangers of Bringing Isis to Guantanamo: Here is an article by the Daily Beast on how bringing Isis members to Guantanamo would be a gift to the terrorist organization, strategically speaking.
  • Learn More About Why Guantanamo Has Yet to be Closed: This article by the New York Times goes into depth on the long struggle to close the prison throughout the Obama presidency, and the varied actors and motivations involved.

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


 

A History of the Trump Administration’s Sanctions

Foreign Policy Brief #32: A History of the Trump Administration’s Sanctions

 Update – April 3rd, 2018

On March 15th, the White House finally followed through on demands to sanction Russian individuals and entities, mostly for their involvement in the 2016 US election. Other factors leading to tensions between the two countries have included the recent nerve gas attack in the UK as well as a newly disclosed alleged cyberattack against the US power grid. In August 2017, Trump signed a bill passed nearly unanimously passed by the Senate authorizing him to sanction Russia. In January, Trump shocked many by missing the deadline to enforce those sanctions, instead arguing that by naming Russian offenders the intent of the bill had been fulfilled due to lost revenue.

With pressure finally building due to the UK attack and a letter penned by 140 House Democrats, Trump applied sanctions to a multitude of Russian government officials, the Internet Research Agency – an alleged internet troll farm, the Federal Security Service, and the Main Intelligence Directorate – both intelligence agencies. The sanctions would bar individuals from traveling to the US and freeze their assets. On March 26th, Trump also joined with over 20 other countries in expelling 60 Russian diplomats, to which Putin responded with the planned expulsion of an equal number of US diplomats and the closing of the St. Petersburg American Consulate. 

Iran

  • February 3rd, 2017: The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and companies allegedly connected to either Iran’s ballistic missile program or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quods Force. This move was in response to recent ballistic missile testing.
  • January 4th, 2018: The Trump administration announced sanctions on five subsidies of the already sanctioned Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group. The group’s logo appeared on missiles used by Yemeni rebels opposing the US-Saudi coalition, suggesting involvement by the Iranian company.
  • January 12th, 2018: The Trump administration issued sanctions on 14 Iranian entities and people while issuing a last chance for European leaders to fix the Iran deal. The most prominent target was Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the leader of the Iranian Judiciary. Larijani, a close ally of Ayatollah Khamenei, is accused of committing “torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran”
  • February 2nd, 2018: 6 individuals and 7 businesses across Lebanon, Iraq, and Western Africa suspected of aiding Hezbollah were the target of the most recent set of sanctions. The Lebanese militant group has been accused of being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps to destabilize conflict zones in Iran, Yemen, and Syria. The targets are presumed to be connected to the prominent Hezbollah financier Adham Tabaja.

Syria

  • April 24th, 2017: The Trump administration announced sanctions on 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, allegedly the source of the government’s chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Assad’s government was accused of using sarin gas on civilians earlier that month. This follows the sanctioning of 18 Syrians, including 6 others from the Research Center, who were sanctioned by the Obama administration that January in response to chlorine gas attacks.
  • May 16th, 2017: The treasury department imposed sanctions on 5 individuals and 5 companies in response to the Syrian government’s “relentless attacks on civilians”. The Trump administration accused the Assad regime of cremating the remains of thousands of hanged prisoners in an effort to “cover up the extent of mass murder”. Amnesty International previously reported that between 5,000 and 13,000 people were hanged at the prison from 2011 to 2015.

North Korea

  • September 21st, 2017: Trump announced sanctions targeting any company or person doing business with North Korea by cutting off their access to the US financial system.
  • December 24th, 2017: Lead by the US, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2397, which cuts exports of refined oil products by 89%, bans exports of industrial equipment, resources, and vehicles to North Korea, limits use of North Korean laborers, and requires countries to stop ships from illegally providing oil to North Korea.
  • December 26th, 2017: The US sanctioned Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol, 2 top North Korean officials in the ballistic missile program, in response to last November’s ballistic missile testing.
  • January 24th, 2018: The US issued sanctions on 9 entities, 16 people, and 6 ships accused of “working on behalf of North Korean financial networks”

Analysis

            Sanctions are a tool frequently reached for by the administration to backup Trump’s aggressive rhetoric. We haven’t seen much for positive diplomatic effects of these sanctions and they have lead to some tense exchanges. The Iranian State Media stated that recent sanctions “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community and is a violation of international law and will surely be answered by a serious reaction of the Islamic Republic,”. North Korea called last December’s sanctions an “act of war”. With supply lines to China largely cut off, Kim has turned to business fronts in Mozambique to fund his Nuclear slush fund. What is conspicuously missing from Trump’s sanction crosshairs is Russia. In fact, Trump has gone so far as to trigger a constitutional crisis to protect Putin, neglecting to impose Russia sanctions overwhelmingly supported Congress last year. This hypocrisy is evidence of the Trump administrations motivation for sanctions, using them as a display of authority rather than a tool to enforce human rights.

Engagement Resources:

  • Read a Previous USRESIST Brief on the Iran Deal: Here is a brief assessing the implications of Trump’s attitude towards the Iran Deal, which reduces sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Read an Assessment of All Sanctions Remaining on Iran: This article summarizes the many sanctions which remain on Iran, going back to those initially imposed after the 1979 revolution.

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

Update – April 3rd, 2018 

On March 15th, the White House finally followed through on demands to sanction Russian individuals and entities, mostly for their involvement in the 2016 US election. Other factors leading to tensions between the two countries have included the recent nerve gas attack in the UK as well as a newly disclosed alleged cyberattack against the US power grid. In August 2017, Trump signed a bill passed nearly unanimously passed by the Senate authorizing him to sanction Russia. In January, Trump shocked many by missing the deadline to enforce those sanctions, instead arguing that by naming Russian offenders the intent of the bill had been fulfilled due to lost revenue

With pressure finally building due to the UK attack and a letter penned by 140 House Democrats, Trump applied sanctions to a multitude of Russian government officials, the Internet Research Agency – an alleged internet troll farm, the Federal Security Service, and the Main Intelligence Directorate – both intelligence agencies. The sanctions would bar individuals from traveling to the US and freeze their assets. On March 26th, Trump also joined with over 20 other countries in expelling 60 Russian diplomats, to which Putin responded with the planned expulsion of an equal number of US diplomats and the closing of the St. Petersburg American Consulate.

 

 

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