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FOREIGN POLICY POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Foreign Policy Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with US treaty obligations, relations with other countries, engagement with international organizations, and trade policies. The domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Department of State, United States Agency for International Development, Office of the US Trade Representative, and Office of the US Representative to the United Nations.

Latest Foreign Policy Posts

 

Trump’s Damaging Syria Decisions

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

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Comparing the Ukraine Policies of Obama and Trump

Comparing the Ukraine Policies of Obama and Trump

Policy Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resistance Resources

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

Photo by unsplash-logoRae Tian

Trump’s Damaging  Syria Decisions

Trump’s Damaging Syria Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engagement Resources:

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

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

Photo by unsplash-logoAhmed Abu Hameeda

Hong Kong and U.S. Relations Examined

Hong Kong and U.S. Relations Examined

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

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

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

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

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

Engagement Resources:

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

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

Photo by unsplash-logoSHUJA OFFICIAL

Trump’s Middle East Fiasco: Enter Iran

Trump’s Middle East Fiasco: Enter Iran

Policy Summary

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

Engagement Resources:

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

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

 

Photo by unsplash-logoRyan Miglinczy

Iran’s Diplomatic Offensive

Iran’s Diplomatic Offensive

Policy summary

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

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

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

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

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

ANALYSIS

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

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

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

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

Photo by unsplash-logoMajid Korang beheshti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engagement Resources:

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

Photo by unsplash-logoJose Moreno

THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL: A VALUABLE RESOURCE IGNORED

THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL: A VALUABLE RESOURCE IGNORED

By Colin Shanley

Summary

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

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

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

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

Analysis

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

Resistance Resources: 

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

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

US Sanctions Myanmese Officials Responsible for Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya

US Sanctions Myanmese Officials Responsible for Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya

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

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

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

Resistance Resources:

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

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

Photo by Evgeny Nelmin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resistance Resources

  • Women Cross DMZ: Women Cross DMZ is a coalition of activists from around the world, including both North and South Korea, who are calling for a peaceful solution to the Korean conflict.
  • United for Peace and Justice: The UFPJ is a network of hundreds of peace and justice organizations with the shared goal of promoting a culture of demilitarization and cooperation.

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

President Trump Paves the Way Towards War With Iran

President Trump Paves the Way Towards War With Iran

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

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

Resistance Resources

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

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

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