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FOREIGN POLICY POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

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

Latest Foreign Policy Posts

 

Trump and Kim Fail to Reach Agreement in Hanoi

Brief #58—Foreign Policy Summary President Trump and Chairman Kim’s departures from Hanoi last week, Trump by plane and Kim by way of an over 60-hour train ride, signaled the disappointing conclusion to the second in-person meeting between the two leaders. The first,...

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State Department Announces Commission on Unalienable Rights

State Department Announces Commission on Unalienable Rights

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

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

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

Resistance Resources 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resistance Resources

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

Photo by unsplash-logoSara Kurfeß

Trump Kills Agreement with Cuban Baseball Federation

Trump Kills Agreement with Cuban Baseball Federation

Policy Summary

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

Engagement Resources:

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

Photo by unsplash-logoJose Morales

The Trump Administration’s Relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran

The Trump Administration’s Relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resistance Resources

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

White House Obstructs International Investigation of War Crimes in Afghanistan

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

 

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

Resistance Resources

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

Trump Recognizes Israeli Sovereignty Over the Golan Heights

Policy Summary
On March 25th, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House, President Trump formalized a statement made the week before recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a territory which lies to the north-east of Israel. The contested region was first seized from Syria during the Six Day War of 1967, leading to a decades-long diplomatic dispute. During a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump stated “We do not want to see another attack like the one suffered this morning north of Tel Aviv”, referring to a series of rockets fired from Gaza which killed seven civilians. Trump’s stated goal was to ensure Israel’s strategic position in its ongoing conflict against Iran. The decision was not received well by the international community, with the UN Security Council, the EU, China, and multiple Middle Eastern nations all decrying Trump’s announcement. Thousands of Syrians gathered in multiple cities to protest the recognition.

Analysis
After Syria failed to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur war the territory was divided and a disengagement agreement was made in order to calm hostilities. Soon after, Israel began construction of settlements on the two-thirds of the territory they occupied. In 1981 Israel annexed the region and extended the civil administration over it, a move which was never recognized internationally and provoked the UN Security Council to demand its retraction. Now, the buffer zone is monitored by a 1,000 strong UN Disengagement Observer Force. Throughout the Syrian Civil War, Israel used its side to covertly funnel arms and funding to twelve rebel groups operating in southern Syria. While Syrian forces were sometimes aided by Israel in their fight against local ISIS affiliates, most of Israel’s firepower was focused on Iranian and Syrian government forces, including air strikes on Iranian bases deep within Syria towards the end of the war.

Considering Israel’s preeminence over the portion of the Golan Heights they currently occupy is uncontested, this decision has no material consequences at this time. However, the precedent it sets is a major shift from the international consensus on the rule of law. Upon landing at Ben-Gurion airport after meeting with Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu told reporters that “Everyone says you can’t hold an occupied territory, but this proves you can.”

The UN Charter, however, states that territory cannot be acquired through force. By blurring the lines on the legality of such aggression Trump provides cover for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and encourages Israel to move forward with its long considered goal of annexing the West Bank. It’s important to remember here that land such as the Golan Heights is more than just a state’s possession, another bargaining chip for geopolitical maneuvering, but a home to thousands of people. When Israel first occupied the Golan Heights 95% of the native population was forced to flee. Now, the Arab Human Rights Centre In Golan Heights asserts that “Syrians in the occupied Golan face calculated Israeli efforts to restrict their building and land use, destroy their enterprises, cleanse their Arab culture, manipulate their Syrian identity, and suffocate their freedom of movement.” While Trump’s decree may advance the military goals of an ally and give Netanyahu a needed boost in next week’s election, he is once again stepping on the right to peace and self-determination for thousands of people.

Resistance Resources
● Al-Marsad, the Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights: An independent, not-for-profit, international legal human rights organization that operates in the Occupied Syrian Golan.
● UN Relief and Works Agency: The UNRWA was founded in 1949 to support those Palestinians displaced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Photo by Robert Bye

Trump’s European Foreign Policy

Trump’s European Foreign Policy

Last February, Nancy Pelosi led a bipartisan delegation of over 50 US lawmakers on a trip to Brussels in order to reaffirm US support for NATO and US-European relationsThere, at the Munich Security Conference, a senior German official anonymously spoke with the New York Times about the diplomatic crisis to which Pelosi was responding, stating “No one any longer believes that Trump cares about the views or interests of the allies. It’s broken”. This division among American leadership shows just how far  off Trump stands in relation to many traditional conventions of US foreign policy.

Trump ran for President on a platform which blamed China and Mexico for the lack of economic security in the US, but it didn’t take long for his derision to spill over onto Europe. Central to Trump’s ideology is a strong skepticism of multilateral agreements and a transactional view of foreign relations – a position which does not fit with the European strategy of previous presidents. In July of 2017, Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, citing the restrictions it placed on US production capabilities. Last year, Trump went on to end the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Deal – two deals Europe depended on for assurances of security. The INF treaty reduced the danger of further Russian expansion into Eastern Europe, while the Iran Deal prevented Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program that could easily target Europe. Trump has also tried to leverage Europe on trade, including them last year on steel and aluminum tariffs originally targeted against China, and more recently threatening to tariff automobile imports.

Any possible interpretations of these actions as the rectifying of an uneven but collaborative alliance were negated last July when Trump named the EU first when asked who he sees as being the “foes” of the United States. “In a trade sense, they’ve really taking advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills,” Trump told the BBC.

EU leaders have slowly accepted this new paradigm, with French President Emmanuel Macron stating last November that “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States”, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel joining him in advocating for the creation of a European Army which would complement NATO. These leaders no longer see a point in combating Trump over the issue of American defense expenditure in Europe, and would rather take threats such as that posed by Putin into their own hands.

However, it hasn’t only been rivals that Trump has found across the Atlantic. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish President Adrzej Duda have both earned Trump’s appreciation as they drift further from the EU and take a more nationalist tone. Duda is hoping to have a US military base built in Poland to deter Russian aggression, publicly offering to name it “Fort Trump”. Trump also complimented Poland for “standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty” while the country was in the midst of a conflict with the EU over its undermining of its own Supreme Court. Viktor Orban has earned the support of Trump due to his similar policies of blaming immigration and globalism for the breakdown of  Hungarian identity. Trump also complimented the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK, viewing it as a parallel accomplishment to his own election later that year.

While Trump often picks out specific issues with the EU, it seems that his eventual goal is the dissolution of the Union.  What is less clear is how much of Trump’s support for these nationalist, anti-EU movements is rooted in his desire to surround himself with like-minded heads of state or the belief that a more fractured global order will be easier to dominate economically and militarily.

Engagement Resources:

  • Human Rights Watch – An international human rights organization which has worked to support Crimean autonomy against Russian aggression.
  • Roots Action – An online activist group devoted to pushing US domestic and foreign policy in a progressive direction.

 

Photo by Hoil Ryu

Trump and Kim Fail to Reach Agreement in Hanoi

Trump and Kim Fail to Reach Agreement in Hanoi

Brief #58—Foreign Policy

Summary
President Trump and Chairman Kim’s departures from Hanoi last week, Trump by plane and Kim by way of an over 60-hour train ride, signaled the disappointing conclusion to the second in-person meeting between the two leaders. The first, held last June in Singapore, prioritized the achievement of symbolic cooperation over the arrangement of concrete policy agreements. One major question left unanswered was whether nuclear production or sanctions would be suspended first. The Trump administration hoped to settle these uncertainties and plan the specificities of the peace process during this second summit, which was held from February 27-28th.

Stating the week before that  “I’m in no rush for speed. We just don’t want testing”, Trump arrived in Vietnam with an outlined proposition for the codification of the goals outlined last June: the Korean War would be formally ended, North Korea would return the remains of US troops killed during the conflict, both countries would establish liaison offices as quasi-embassies in each other’s countries, and North Korea would stop producing nuclear materials at the Yongbyon facility in return for the lifting of some sanctions.

This last objective proved to be too great a point of contention, with both parties leaving with different versions of the dividing issue. According to Trump and Pompeo, Kim wanted the erasure of all sanctions in return for the suspension of nuclear production in the Yongbyon facility, said to be the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program. According to North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, Kim only asked for the lifting of the most recent five of the eleven UN Security Council sanctions levied against the country. Ultimately, no deal was reached and a planned lunch and signing ceremony were canceled.

 

Analysis
This lack of accomplishment can come off as a major defeat in the context of such a drawn-out peace process. The fact that almost a year after Trump and Kim declared to the world their willingness to work towards peace and denuclearization neither could gain any concessions from each other is disheartening. If Trump and Pompeo’s  account of the issue is correct, and Kim expected the complete eradication of the greatest leverage the US holds besides military action in return for the closing of a facility which doesn’t even constitute the entirety of North Korea’s nuclear production, it doesn’t bode well for North Korea’s actual willingness to compromise.

However, there are a number of peripheral signifiers which allow for more optimism than this recent failure suggests. For one, the quality of the rhetoric between American and North Korean leadership has progressed significantly from the threats and hostility of years before. While this has sometimes gone too far (take for instance Trump’s willingness to deny Kim’s complicity in the murder of American student Otto Warmbier), the fact that the immediate threat of nuclear war is no longer at the front of every conversation regarding US-North Korean relations is a welcome relief. Perhaps it’s simply Trump’s dream of winning a Nobel Peace Prize, but our typically impetuous President has continued to refrain from criticism of North Korean leadership after the failed summit, and scrapped two joint military exercises previously planned to be held on the DMZ alongside South Korea. While the mood of North Korean officials is far more opaque, their state media continued to voice support for peace with the United States. North Korea has also avoided any missile testing since late 2017.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in responded to the summit with confidence, stating that “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and permanent peace will definitely come”, and South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon announced that “South Korea will talk to the United States about preparatory work for the future resumption of two key inter-Korean economic projects and about waiving sanctions on North Korea if necessary”.

However it is worth noting that two days after completion of the Summit satellite images reveal that North Koreas has started rebuilding key missile test-facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex north of Pyongyang, according to the New York Times

Resistance Resources

  • United for Peace and Justice: The UFPJ is a network of hundreds of peace and justice organizations with the shared goal of promoting a culture of demilitarization and cooperation.
  • Veterans for Peace: VFP is a global organization of military veterans and allies working to shift the rhetoric regarding war. One of their projects, the Korea Peace Campaign, has stood in opposition to American hawkishness regarding Korea since 2002.

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

Photo by unsplash-logoJonathan Simcoe

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A Review of Trump’s Withdraw from the INF Treaty with Russia

A Review of Trump’s Withdraw from the INF Treaty with Russia

Brief #58—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
On February 5, President Trump gave his second State of the Union address. Russia itself garnered few remarks during the speech, with Trump only referring to it in the context of his decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The President explained, the United States had “no choice” in the matter. Trump continued, “Perhaps, we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we cannot, in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.” He went on, disparaging Iran as a “radical regime,” and he stated that Tehran would never obtain nuclear weapons. Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg confirmed warning that US military forces would indeed respond to Russian breaches of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty via withdrawal.

Analysis
President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) elicited criticism from many quarters, including from Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev, the leader who signed the landmark agreement on behalf of the Soviet Union in 1987 with then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Initially, the treaty sought to rid the US and Russian of land-based ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and missile launchers. Eventually the result led to both sides dismantling missiles, with the Soviet Union demolishing 1,846 and the US 846.

Since 2005, Russia has approached the United States, on multiple occasions about jointly agreeing to withdraw from the INF Treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed that the INF treaty did not fit his country’s demands in regards to numerous, perceived international threats. Moscow’s argument has remained much the same: they believe the treaty only applies to the two nations and not to Russia’s neighbors, such as China or Pakistan. In the past America has always declined. For years, The United States has accused Russia of violating the treaty with its Novator 9M729 missile.  The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has recently said, “Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests, and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it”. However Russia has stated the U.S. is also in violation of the terms spelled out in the treaty due to the use of armed drones, ballistic missile target missiles used in missile defense tests, and the land-based Mk41 vertical launch system.

Many analysts have stated that without the INF Treaty, the U.S. may be tempted to return to producing intermediate-range missiles, potentially including nuclear weapons, in order to counter Moscow’s nuclear threat. However, many experts who support  the U.S. allegations toward Russia have warned that rejection of the treaty holds substantial risks, for the United States and Europe. Those in support of the treaty claim that even a flimsy agreement still promotes limitations in the development and use of such weapons, jeopardizing the safety of numerous European capitals and military bases.

The Trump administration deserting the INF Treaty void of any discussed alternatives, only sets to undermine general world stability. Currently, without sufficient political will and desire from both Moscow and Washington to save the treaty, it is proposed to end in approximately six months. Without the precautions of the INF treaty, we may be on the brink of an unnecessary arms race, leaving the world in a dangerous place.

Resistance Resources:

  • The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is a coalition of non-governmental organizations in one hundred countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.
  • Property of the People is an organization ensuring transparency and accountability for the Administration of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States
  • The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership is an organization dedicated to being a resource for those interested better understanding the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.
  • Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament is a non-partisan forum for parliamentarians nationally and internationally to share resources and information, develop cooperative strategies and engage in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues, initiatives and arenas.

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Erin Mayer, Policy Analyst  Contact ErinMayer@usresistnews.org

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

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Photo by unsplash-logoAhmed Abu Hameeda

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