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Ed Webb

Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump - Columbia Journalism Review - 0 views

  • “I can’t make a living reporting from the Middle East anymore,” said Sulome in mid-December. “I just can’t justify doing this to myself.” The day we spoke, she heard that Foreign Policy, one of the most reliable destinations for freelancers writing on-the-ground, deeply reported international pieces, would be closing its foreign bureaus. (CJR independently confirmed this, though it has not been publicly announced.) “They are one of the only publications that publish these kinds of stories,” she said, letting out a defeated sigh.
  • Sulome blames a news cycle dominated by Donald Trump. Newspapers, magazines, and TV news programs simply have less space for freelance international stories than before—unless, of course, they directly involve Trump.
  • Trump was the focus of 41 percent of American news coverage in his first 100 days in office. That’s three times the amount of coverage showered on previous presidents
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  • Foreign news coverage has been taking a hit for decades. According to a 2014 Pew report, American newspapers even then had cut their international reporting staff by 24 percent in less than a decade. Network news coverage of stories with a foreign dateline averaged 500 minutes per year in 2016, compared to an average 1,500 minutes in 1988, according to a study by Tyndall. “Clearly it’s harder for international stories to end up on front pages now,” says Ben Pauker, who served as the executive editor of Foreign Policy for seven years until the end of 2017. He is now a managing editor at Vox. From his own experience, Pauker says, it’s simply an issue of editorial bandwidth. “There’s only so much content an editorial team can process.”
  • In October 2017, Sulome thought she had landed the story of her career. The US had just announced a $7 million reward for a Hezbollah operative believed to be scouting locations for terror attacks on American soil—something it had never done before. Having interviewed Hezbollah fighters for the last six years, Sulome had unique access to the upper echelons of its militants, including that specific operative’s family members. Over the course of her reporting, Hezbollah members told her they had contingency plans to strike government and military targets on US soil and that they had surface-to-air missiles, which had not been reported before. Convinced she had struck gold, she was elated when the piece was commissioned by a dream publication she’d never written for before. But days later, that publication rescinded its decision, saying that Sulome had done too much of the reporting before she was commissioned. Sulome was in shock. She went on to pitch the story to eight other publications, and no one was interested.
  • I’ll go back to the Middle East on trips if I find someone who wants a story, but I’m not going to live there and do this full-time, because it’s really taking a toll on me
  • According to Nathalie Applewhite, managing director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the lack of international coverage has become a real problem for Pulitzer grant recipients. Those grants, she says, were established to address the earlier crisis in which news organizations were closing foreign bureaus and could no longer fund big foreign reporting projects. “Now we’re seeing an even bigger challenge,” she says. “We’re providing the monetary support, but the problem is finding the space for it.” Grant applicants, Applewhite adds, are finding it harder to get commitments from editors to publish their work upon completion of their reporting. And stories that already have commitments are sitting on the shelf much longer, as they are continuously postponed for breaking Trump news.
  • As the daughter of two former Middle East-based journalists, Sulome knows what it used to be like for people like her. “I grew up surrounded by foreign correspondents, and it was a very different time. There was a healthy foreign press, and most of them were staff. The Chicago Tribune had a Beirut bureau for example. So when people say we’re in a golden age of journalism today, I’m like, Really?”
  • The divestment from foreign news coverage, she believes, has forced journalists to risk their lives to tell stories they feel are important. Now, some publications are refusing to commission stories in which the reporter already took the risk of doing the reporting on spec. Believing that this will discourage freelancers from putting their lives in danger, this policy adds to the problem more than it solves it.
  • “When people lose sight of what’s going on around the world, we allow our government to make foreign policy decisions that don’t benefit us. It makes it so much easier for them to do that when we don’t have the facts. Like if we don’t know that the crisis in Yemen is killing and starving so many people and making Yemenis more extremist, how will people know not to support a policy in which we are attacking Yemenis?”
  • “Whether it’s environmental, ethnic or religious conflict, these are issues that may seem far away, but if we ignore them they can have a very real impact on us at home. International security issues, global health scares, and environmental crises know no borders, and I think we ignore them at our own peril.”
Ed Webb

Donald Trump's Year of Living Dangerously - POLITICO Magazine - 0 views

  • One year in, Trump’s much-vaunted national security team has not managed to tame the president or bring him around to their view of America’s leadership role in the world. Instead, it’s a group plagued by insecurity and infighting, publicly undercut by the president and privately often overruled by him. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, is regularly reported by White House sources to be on his way out, with his demoralized, depleted State Department in outright rebellion. Meanwhile, the brawny military troika of White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general; Defense Secretary James Mattis, another retired four-star Marine general; and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, a serving Army three-star general, has managed to stop the chaos of the administration’s early days while crafting a national security policy that gets more or less solid marks from establishment types in both parties. The problem is, no one’s sure Trump agrees with it.
  • sanctions remain in place despite, not because of, the White House, and sources tell me Trump personally is not on board with many of the more hawkish measures his team proposes to counter Putin, a fact underscored by his eyebrow-raising signing statement in December objecting to several tough-on-Russia provisions in a defense bill
  • The language of "principled realism" put forward by McMaster is so un-Trumpian that a top adviser who received a copy told a reporter it was simply “divorced from the reality” of the Trump presidency. “It’s the first time, maybe in history, key advisers have gone into the administration to stop the president, not to enable him,” says Thomas Wright, a Brookings scholar who has emerged as one of the most insightful analysts of Trump’s foreign policy
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  • One leading European official who came to town last January looking for answers told me that, at the time, the establishment types urged him to have “strategic patience”—not coincidentally the same phrase foreign policy hands used to use about North Korea’s nuclear program. By December, he was tired of waiting for Trump to improve. “When, finally, will this strategic patience pay off?” he asked.
  • Over their year of living dangerously with Trump, foreign leaders and diplomats have learned this much: The U.S. president was ignorant, at times massively so, about the rudiments of the international system and America’s place in it, and in general about other countries. He seemed to respond well to flattery and the lavish laying out of red carpets; he was averse to conflict in person but more or less immovable from strongly held preconceptions. And given the chance, he would respond well to anything that seemed to offer him the opportunity to flout or overturn the policies endorsed by his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
  • Another conversation, with Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law who had been given an expansive international portfolio ranging from restarting Middle East peace talks to dealing with Mexico and China, was just as troubling. Kushner was “very dismissive” about the role of international institutions and alliances and uninterested in the European’s recounting of how closely the United States had stood together with Western Europe since World War II. “He told me, ‘I’m a businessman, and I don’t care about the past. Old allies can be enemies, or enemies can be friends.’ So, the past doesn’t count,” the official recalled. “I was taken aback. It was frightening.”
  • The president really does see the world differently than his own national security adviser
  • “At least the first several months all of us in the building, we thought, ‘We’ve seen this movie before, it’s growing pains, we get it.’ But eventually it seemed clear this was no longer about transition, and this seemed to be about intent rather than incompetence and lack of staffing,” she says. By fall, the word in the Foggy Bottom halls was unequivocal: “The secretary has absolutely lost the building.”
  • for many the rebellion is just to quit, as Bennett has done, on the brink of serving as an ambassador for the first time in her career. On the day she left this fall, she was one of four acting assistant secretaries—all women in a field in which that is still rare—to resign. “I felt like half of my life was probably enough to serve given the climate within the department,” she says, “and given what appears to be such limited respect for expertise gained over long decades of service.”
  • disruptions with the NSC team, where McMaster grew to resent what he saw as Tillerson’s disdain for the interagency process the national security adviser oversees, and by the time the strains on Tillerson’s relationship with Trump became publicly evident over the summer, the secretary of state was losing his remaining internal defenders. The two, said an outside adviser, are now fundamentally at odds. “McMaster and Tillerson are in a death struggle,” he said, “each of them trying to get rid of the other.”
  • I recently met a senior general of a U.S. ally at a conference. What was it like to deal with Trump’s government, I asked? “It’s a vacuum, a void,” he said. “There’s a complete inability to get answers out of American counterparts who don’t know what policy is.” An international diplomat who has worked extensively on hot spots such as Afghanistan and Iraq told me he has been to Washington five or six times in recent months. His normal contacts at the State Department were so out of the loop, “Frankly, they were asking me, ‘What do you think the White House thinks?’”
  • Trump’s national security team and his allies are engaged in a silent conspiracy of sorts to guide and constrain him. America’s enemies in China and Russia have taken their measure of the man and are preparing to test him more decisively than they have yet ventured. Opportunists in the Middle East and elsewhere are taking what they can get. War talk with North Korea grows ever louder. And in Washington, the America Firsters have been purged from the White House staff—but not from the Oval Office itself.
  • “Nobody speaks for Trump,” he said. “He speaks for himself. The question is, are they allowed to do things notwithstanding? And the answer is yes, until he decides to pull the rug out from under them. Well, that’s the reality. That’s how this man works.” Isn’t that, I asked, an extraordinary statement of no confidence in the presidency they are supposed to serve? “It’s amazing,” he responded. “Look, the whole thing is amazing. We’ve never been here. But that’s where it is. So, at some point you have to sort of stop saying, you know, ‘This is terrible, it shouldn’t be this way.’ It is this way.”
Ed Webb

After Soleimani | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • The Trump administration assassinated Soleimani to compel change in Iran’s behavior and to throw a wrench in the gears of Iran’s expansive regional influence. Twelve months is too short a period to measure its impact in the realms of longstanding policy and force posture. Outside of some signs of disunity among some of Iraq’s Shiite militias, not much has changed. The impact of Soleimani’s death is therefore impossible to accurately gauge. What we can say is that his death unleashed an emotional and political wave that has surged from his legacy. It is driven almost entirely by his benefactors in Tehran and clients across the region and it is fueled by their desire to shape the memory of the man, myth and legend they helped create.
  • To some, his death was small justice, an emphatic ending to the life of a man who served as the backbone of Assad’s brutal war against the Syrian people and facilitated the empowerment of corrupt, coercive militias in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. To others, particularly his supporters and patrons, Soleimani was a hero: a leader in the war against ISIS and a champion of the Shiite Muslim minority.
  • To appreciate the complexity threaded throughout varying perceptions of Soleimani, it’s essential to understand what he symbolizes to Iran, to his military, and to the foreign groups he worked so closely with.
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  • The 1979 revolution was fueled by both desperate frustration and an abundance of hope. Across the various ideologies and sentiments that shaped the revolutionary movement, there was a common desire to break Iran’s subservience to foreign powers. This desire is often described as anti-Americanism or even anti-imperialism, and while that accurately reflects the language used by the revolutionaries at the time, it is also a reductive view.
  • under the stewardship of Khomeini, the architect of Iran’s theocracy and first supreme leader, justice was perceived much more broadly. It was primarily about two things: establishing an Islamic system at home and overturning the U.S. dominated status quo in the region, with an emphasis on countering Israel.
  • Prior to the revolution, the Shah had situated Iran as a bulwark to the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. Iran’s regional relations were driven by Cold War considerations and by the Shah’s desire to transform Iran into the predominant power in the Persian Gulf.
  • The 1953 coup d’etat was just one in a string of indignities that had been eroding the Iranian national character since the 18th century. It also marked the United States’ entrance into the Middle East, and the beginning of the love-hate relationship between Washington and Tehran.
  • When war came to Iran, IRGC units were among the first to deploy. With little training and spare resources, their response was sporadic and innovative.What they lacked in capabilities and training, they compensated with zeal and fearlessness. Eventually the IRGC began to use the tactic of “human wave” assaults that showcased those qualities on the battlefield. IRGC forces would charge en masse into Iraqi defenses, overwhelming the defenders by being able to absorb mass casualties without relenting the advance. Iraqis fired until they ran out of ammunition and then were forced to retreat. The IRGC used this tactic to impressive effect, winning battle after battle and eventually forcing a full-scale Iraqi retreat in the summer of 1982
  • Whereas much of the region and foreign powers were supporting Iraq, Iran was virtually alone in fighting the war, with only Syria providing it any meaningful political support. The war ended as a stalemate in 1988. Iran saw itself as up against the world and it could not overcome the vast amount of support buttressing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
  • as Khamenei’s main support base, the IRGC grew into a formidable political actor within Iran, and the primary strategic arm of the regime. Many of the young men who joined the IRGC during the war also rose to become commanders and officers with it. This included Soleimani, who became a rising star in the IRGC’s Quds Force division, which was responsible for all foreign activities and operations
  • the IRGC shot down a passenger jet, killing everyone on board. The narrative of the assassination was instantly overtaken by the grief and shock of the everyday Iranians who struggled to make sense of a preventable tragedy. Iran’s leaders attempted to skirt blame and cover up the IRGC’s catastrophic error. Family members who spoke out and demanded answers were cruelly silenced. Soleimani’s image was everywhere, yet justice was nowhere to be seen.
  • Iran knew that both Israel and the United States had to factor in potential attacks by Hezbollah were they ever to strike Iran, and Syria was the lynchpin for Iran’s sustained influence on the Lebanese organization. Syria was therefore key to Iran’s larger deterrence strategy vis-à-vis the United States and Israel
  • The irony of Soleimani’s successes in Syria and Iraq is that they prepared the ground for the rise of ISIS. The Islamic State’s explosion into Iraq should have been recognized as the product of Soleimani’s myopic view of Iraq and Syria as simply battlegrounds for Iran’s advancement. Yet, Soleimani and the IRGC seized the moment and self-consciously rebranded their enterprise. Iran was the first outside state to support Iraq’s war against ISIS, and Soleimani let the whole world know of his role. What appeared on social media as authentic and spontaneous pictures of Soleimani on the frontlines with Iraqi troops and commanders, was actually a deliberate effort by the IRGC to recast Soleimani’s image. He was no longer a shadow commander, but a MacArthur-esque figure almost single-handedly fighting the dark forces of ISIS. A national hero in Iran, and the savior of Iraq and Syria.
  • He was killed because he was important. He was killed because Iran was important.
  • The IRGC increased their investment in Soleimani after his death, using his persona to rebrand themselves and the regime to a new generation. Soleimani became the archetype of the Islamic Republic’s self-conception. His figure symbolizes how the regime desires to be seen by the Iranian people and by the world. Soleimani has been cast as brave, selfless and humble; a warrior, a believer and a patriot. His is a transnational community that connects Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen with Iran. He justifies Iran’s regional activities by casting them as an essential part of Iranian patriotism and national identity. To be Iranian in the narrative promoted by the regime is to be part of a larger Islamic enterprise. Not the umma or global Islamic community, but rather, the resistance: the militant groups and personalities who share the Islamic Republic’s enemies and its political aspirations.
  • mythologizing of Soleimani has not only been aspirational, it has also been driven by concerns within the IRGC that the regime is losing support and legitimacy among the Iranian people. This is particularly true for the younger generations, which know nothing of the Shah’s brutality, the sense of injustice that enveloped Iran during its war with Iraq, or the hope that accompanied President Khatami’s reformist platform in the 1990s. Instead, what they know is Iran’s 21st century experience, which has been one of near-constant antagonism and increasing privation.
  • the explosion of protests across Iran in 2018 and 2019. Iran has experienced episodic protest movements in the past, but these protests were different
  • The IRGC confronted the protests head-on and with unrelenting brutality. Using machine guns, tanks, and direct fire to murder Iranian youths in the streets and hunt them down in alleyways.
  • There was indeed something personal about Soleimani’s death. No matter what he represented, he was an Iranian. That he was singled out and murdered by a foreign power sat uncomfortably with most of his compatriots, regardless of their politics
  • It wasn’t until the U.S.-led 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq that Iran was provided an opportunity to change its regional position. Soleimani, who had by then become the leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force, saw opportunity and peril in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Iran’s allies benefited from the end of the Baathist regime, but a longstanding U.S. military presence in Iraq was also a threat to Iran. Soleimani championed a policy that sought to exploit both the political landscape and the shadows of the new Iraqi frontier. He encouraged political participation of Iran’s Shiite allies while also developing an insurgent network that waged war against the U.S. and coalition forces, killing or maiming hundreds of servicemembers in the process. The effort was largely effective. When U.S. forces departed Iraq in late 2011, Soleimani’s clients were among the most powerful political actors in Iraq and Iran was the most influential outside power in the country.
  • Just as Apple carried on without Steve Jobs, the IRGC will retain the ability to manage its proxies and exert influence beyond Iran’s borders without Soleimani at the helm. The law of inertia also applies. Unless the IRGC and its proxies are challenged directly, momentum will carry them forward.
  • Both Lebanon and Iraq have been hit by intense protest movements over the last year, with much of the anger of the younger generations being aimed at the political elite and their foreign backers. Even though Iran’s influence has helped empower Shiite elites in each country, an increasing number of younger Shiites appear to have soured on Iran and blame it for their country’s morass. This is especially true in Iraq, where young Shiites make up the vast majority of the protest movement that has railed against government corruption and the political power of Iran-backed militias
  • while Soleimani helped expand Iranian influence in the region, that influence rests on shaky ground. The height of Iran’s influence — at least as presently expressed through the IRGC — has probably passed.
Ed Webb

Where Will Everyone Go? - 0 views

  • The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60% in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83%. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third.
  • As their land fails them, hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan to the Mekong Delta will be forced to choose between flight or death. The result will almost certainly be the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen.
  • For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north.
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  • the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1% of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing 1 of every 3 people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on
  • In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than 8 million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations.
  • Migration can bring great opportunity not just to migrants but also to the places they go
  • Northern nations can relieve pressures on the fastest-warming countries by allowing more migrants to move north across their borders, or they can seal themselves off, trapping hundreds of millions of people in places that are increasingly unlivable. The best outcome requires not only goodwill and the careful management of turbulent political forces; without preparation and planning, the sweeping scale of change could prove wildly destabilizing. The United Nations and others warn that in the worst case, the governments of the nations most affected by climate change could topple as whole regions devolve into war
  • To better understand the forces and scale of climate migration over a broader area, The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica joined with the Pulitzer Center in an effort to model, for the first time, how people will move across borders
  • The story is similar in South Asia, where nearly one-fourth of the global population lives. The World Bank projects that the region will soon have the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world. While some 8.5 million people have fled already — resettling mostly in the Persian Gulf — 17 million to 36 million more people may soon be uprooted, the World Bank found. If past patterns are a measure, many will settle in India’s Ganges Valley; by the end of the century, heat waves and humidity will become so extreme there that people without air conditioning will simply die.
  • If governments take modest action to reduce climate emissions, about 680,000 climate migrants might move from Central America and Mexico to the United States between now and 2050. If emissions continue unabated, leading to more extreme warming, that number jumps to more than a million people. (None of these figures include undocumented immigrants, whose numbers could be twice as high.)
  • As with much modeling work, the point here is not to provide concrete numerical predictions so much as it is to provide glimpses into possible futures. Human movement is notoriously hard to model, and as many climate researchers have noted, it is important not to add a false precision to the political battles that inevitably surround any discussion of migration. But our model offers something far more potentially valuable to policymakers: a detailed look at the staggering human suffering that will be inflicted if countries shut their doors.
  • the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes
  • Climate is rarely the main cause of migration, the studies have generally found, but it is almost always an exacerbating one.
  • Drought helped push many Syrians into cities before the war, worsening tensions and leading to rising discontent; crop losses led to unemployment that stoked Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Libya; Brexit, even, was arguably a ripple effect of the influx of migrants brought to Europe by the wars that followed. And all those effects were bound up with the movement of just 2 million people. As the mechanisms of climate migration have come into sharper focus — food scarcity, water scarcity and heat — the latent potential for large-scale movement comes to seem astronomically larger.
  • North Africa’s Sahel provides an example. In the nine countries stretching across the continent from Mauritania to Sudan, extraordinary population growth and steep environmental decline are on a collision course. Past droughts, most likely caused by climate change, have already killed more than 100,000 people there. And the region — with more than 150 million people and growing — is threatened by rapid desertification, even more severe water shortages and deforestation. Today researchers at the United Nations estimate that some 65% of farmable lands have already been degraded. “My deep fear,” said Solomon Hsiang, a climate researcher and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is that Africa’s transition into a post-climate-change civilization “leads to a constant outpouring of people.”
  • Our model projects that migration will rise every year regardless of climate, but that the amount of migration increases substantially as the climate changes. In the most extreme climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the course of the next 30 years
  • every one of the scenarios it produces points to a future in which climate change, currently a subtle disrupting influence, becomes a source of major disruption, increasingly driving the displacement of vast populations.
  • rough predictions have emerged about the scale of total global climate migration — they range from 50 million to 300 million people displaced — but the global data is limited, and uncertainty remained about how to apply patterns of behavior to specific people in specific places.
  • Once the model was built and layered with both approaches — econometric and gravity — we looked at how people moved as global carbon concentrations increased in five different scenarios, which imagine various combinations of growth, trade and border control, among other factors. (These scenarios have become standard among climate scientists and economists in modeling different pathways of global socioeconomic development.)
  • We are now learning that climate scientists have been underestimating the future displacement from rising tides by a factor of three, with the likely toll being some 150 million globally. New projections show high tides subsuming much of Vietnam by 2050 — including most of the Mekong Delta, now home to 18 million people — as well as parts of China and Thailand, most of southern Iraq and nearly all of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket. Many coastal regions of the United States are also at risk.
  • Around 2012, a coffee blight worsened by climate change virtually wiped out El Salvador’s crop, slashing harvests by 70%. Then drought and unpredictable storms led to what a U.N.-affiliated food-security organization describes as “a progressive deterioration” of Salvadorans’ livelihoods.
  • climate change can act as what Defense Department officials sometimes refer to as a “threat multiplier.”
  • For all the ways in which human migration is hard to predict, one trend is clear: Around the world, as people run short of food and abandon farms, they gravitate toward cities, which quickly grow overcrowded. It’s in these cities, where waves of new people stretch infrastructure, resources and services to their limits, that migration researchers warn that the most severe strains on society will unfold
  • the World Bank has raised concerns about the mind-boggling influx of people into East African cities like Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, where the population has doubled since 2000 and is expected to nearly double again by 2035
  • now a little more than half of the planet’s population lives in urban areas, but by the middle of the century, the World Bank estimates, 67% will. In just a decade, 4 out of every 10 urban residents — 2 billion people around the world — will live in slums
  • El Paso is also a place with oppressive heat and very little water, another front line in the climate crisis. Temperatures already top 90 degrees here for three months of the year, and by the end of the century it will be that hot one of every two days. The heat, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, will drive deaths that soon outpace those from car crashes or opioid overdoses. Cooling costs — already a third of some residents’ budgets — will get pricier, and warming will drive down economic output by 8%, perhaps making El Paso just as unlivable as the places farther south.
  • High emissions, with few global policy changes and relatively open borders, will drive rural El Salvador — just like rural Guatemala — to empty out, even as its cities grow. Should the United States and other wealthy countries change the trajectory of global policy, though — by, say, investing in climate mitigation efforts at home but also hardening their borders — they would trigger a complex cascade of repercussions farther south, according to the model. Central American and Mexican cities continue to grow, albeit less quickly, but their overall wealth and development slows drastically, most likely concentrating poverty further. Far more people also remain in the countryside for lack of opportunity, becoming trapped and more desperate than ever.
  • By midcentury, the U.N. estimates that El Salvador — which has 6.4 million people and is the most densely populated country in Central America — will be 86% urban
  • Most would-be migrants don’t want to move away from home. Instead, they’ll make incremental adjustments to minimize change, first moving to a larger town or a city. It’s only when those places fail them that they tend to cross borders, taking on ever riskier journeys, in what researchers call “stepwise migration.” Leaving a village for the city is hard enough, but crossing into a foreign land — vulnerable to both its politics and its own social turmoil — is an entirely different trial.
  • I arrived in Tapachula five weeks after the breakout to find a city cracking in the crucible of migration. Just months earlier, passing migrants on Mexico’s southern border were offered rides and tortas and medicine from a sympathetic Mexican public. Now migrant families were being hunted down in the countryside by armed national-guard units, as if they were enemy soldiers.
  • Models can’t say much about the cultural strain that might result from a climate influx; there is no data on anger or prejudice. What they do say is that over the next two decades, if climate emissions continue as they are, the population in southern Mexico will grow sharply. At the same time, Mexico has its own serious climate concerns and will most likely see its own climate exodus. One in 6 Mexicans now rely on farming for their livelihood, and close to half the population lives in poverty. Studies estimate that with climate change, water availability per capita could decrease by as much as 88% in places, and crop yields in coastal regions may drop by a third. If that change does indeed push out a wave of Mexican migrants, many of them will most likely come from Chiapas.
  • even as 1 million or so climate migrants make it to the U.S. border, many more Central Americans will become trapped in protracted transit, unable to move forward or backward in their journey, remaining in southern Mexico and making its current stresses far worse.
  • Already, by late last year, the Mexican government’s ill-planned policies had begun to unravel into something more insidious: rising resentment and hate. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has effectively sealed borders, those sentiments risk bubbling over. Migrants, with nowhere to go and no shelters able to take them in, roam the streets, unable to socially distance and lacking even basic sanitation. It has angered many Mexican citizens, who have begun to describe the migrants as economic parasites and question foreign aid aimed at helping people cope with the drought in places where Jorge A. and Cortez come from.
  • a new Mexico-first movement, organizing thousands to march against immigrants
  • Trump had, as another senior government official told me, “held a gun to Mexico’s head,” demanding a crackdown at the Guatemalan border under threat of a 25% tariff on trade. Such a tax could break the back of Mexico’s economy overnight, and so López Obrador’s government immediately agreed to dispatch a new militarized force to the border.
  • laying blame at the feet of neoliberal economics, which he said had produced a “poverty factory” with no regional development policies to address it. It was the system — capitalism itself — that had abandoned human beings, not Mexico’s leaders. “We didn’t anticipate that the globalization of the economy, the globalization of the law … would have such a devastating effect,”
  • No policy, though, would be able to stop the forces — climate, increasingly, among them — that are pushing migrants from the south to breach Mexico’s borders, legally or illegally. So what happens when still more people — many millions more — float across the Suchiate River and land in Chiapas? Our model suggests that this is what is coming — that between now and 2050, nearly 9 million migrants will head for Mexico’s southern border, more than 300,000 of them because of climate change alone.
  • “If we are going to die anyway,” he said, “we might as well die trying to get to the United States.”
  • In the case of Addis Ababa, the World Bank suggests that in the second half of the century, many of the people who fled there will be forced to move again, leaving that city as local agriculture around it dries up.
  • Without a decent plan for housing, feeding and employing a growing number of climate refugees, cities on the receiving end of migration can never confidently pilot their own economic future.
  • The United States refused to join 164 other countries in signing a global migration treaty in 2018, the first such agreement to recognize climate as a cause of future displacement. At the same time, the U.S. is cutting off foreign aid — money for everything from water infrastructure to greenhouse agriculture — that has been proved to help starving families like Jorge A.’s in Guatemala produce food, and ultimately stay in their homes. Even those migrants who legally make their way into El Paso have been turned back, relegated to cramped and dangerous shelters in Juárez to wait for the hearings they are owed under law.
  • There is no more natural and fundamental adaptation to a changing climate than to migrate. It is the obvious progression the earliest Homo sapiens pursued out of Africa, and the same one the Mayans tried 1,200 years ago. As Lorenzo Guadagno at the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration told me recently, “Mobility is resilience.” Every policy choice that allows people the flexibility to decide for themselves where they live helps make them safer.
  • what may be the worst-case scenario: one in which America and the rest of the developed world refuse to welcome migrants but also fail to help them at home. As our model demonstrated, closing borders while stinting on development creates a somewhat counterintuitive population surge even as temperatures rise, trapping more and more people in places that are increasingly unsuited to human life
  • the global trend toward building walls could have a profound and lethal effect. Researchers suggest that the annual death toll, globally, from heat alone will eventually rise by 1.5 million. But in this scenario, untold more will also die from starvation, or in the conflicts that arise over tensions that food and water insecurity will bring
  • America’s demographic decline suggests that more immigrants would play a productive role here, but the nation would have to be willing to invest in preparing for that influx of people so that the population growth alone doesn’t overwhelm the places they move to, deepening divisions and exacerbating inequalities.
  • At the same time, the United States and other wealthy countries can help vulnerable people where they live, by funding development that modernizes agriculture and water infrastructure. A U.N. World Food Program effort to help farmers build irrigated greenhouses in El Salvador, for instance, has drastically reduced crop losses and improved farmers’ incomes. It can’t reverse climate change, but it can buy time.
  • Thus far, the United States has done very little at all. Even as the scientific consensus around climate change and climate migration builds, in some circles the topic has become taboo. This spring, after Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the explosive study estimating that, barring migration, one-third of the planet’s population may eventually live outside the traditional ecological niche for civilization, Marten Scheffer, one of the study’s authors, told me that he was asked to tone down some of his conclusions through the peer-review process and that he felt pushed to “understate” the implications in order to get the research published. The result: Migration is only superficially explored in the paper.
  • Our modeling and the consensus of academics point to the same bottom line: If societies respond aggressively to climate change and migration and increase their resilience to it, food production will be shored up, poverty reduced and international migration slowed — factors that could help the world remain more stable and more peaceful. If leaders take fewer actions against climate change, or more punitive ones against migrants, food insecurity will deepen, as will poverty. Populations will surge, and cross-border movement will be restricted, leading to greater suffering. Whatever actions governments take next — and when they do it — makes a difference.
  • The world can now expect that with every degree of temperature increase, roughly a billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years
  • “If we don’t develop a different attitude,” he said, “we’re going to be like people in the lifeboat, beating on those that are trying to climb in.”
Ed Webb

1950s U.S. Foreign Policy Looms Large in Lebanon - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • the legacy of containment looms large over Lebanon. For decades, the U.S. has been the single largest financial supporter of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), in a bid to balance Iran’s influence in the economically and politically stricken country. Despite growing U.S. isolationism, the Biden administration shows no sign of reversing this time-honored interest in Lebanese security, confirming $67 million in aid to the armed forces earlier this year.
  • Washington’s reductive containment mentality only deepened complex internal fissures within Lebanon’s society and achieved little for its people
  • By hitting the panic button, Chamoun unwittingly began a new era of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Operation Blue Bat may have been a stroll along the beach for the Marines who landed at Khalde, but the invasion was both immensely risky in the short run and immeasurably costly in the long run.
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  • At the time, many celebrated Blue Bat for having achieved a hat trick of foreign policy goals: strengthening pro-Western regimes in both Lebanon and Jordan, consolidating America’s special relationship with the United Kingdom, which was growing nervous after the spectacular loss of influence in Iraq and Egypt, and securing the steady flow of oil from the Persian Gulf into Europe. Moreover, the intervention was relatively cheap (costing $200 million), swift and bloodless; only one American service member died from rogue sniper fire, while not a single Lebanese combatant or civilian sustained injury.
  • few Arab leaders rallied to Eisenhower’s anti-communist call for the simple reason that it was politically unpopular to openly side with a Western power
  • the Eisenhower Doctrine was never fit for its purported purpose. The doctrine, Washington claimed, aimed to prevent the spread of communism by isolating Nasser and building a coalition of pro-American, anti-communist, Arab states. However, this logic only held as long as Nasser became a Soviet puppet. In the event, Egypt and Arab nationalism in general proved remarkably resistant to the Cold War dichotomy, undermining the doctrine’s central tenet.
  • One convincing theory, proposed by U.S. diplomatic historian Douglas Little, points to the role of cultural and Orientalist stereotypes in conditioning U.S. policymakers to dismiss Nasser’s ability to remain neutral. This tendency, Little argues, can be traced back to the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson himself, the main architect of self-determination, was reluctant to apply the principle to the Arabs; putting such ideas in the minds of certain “races,” Wilson’s Secretary of State Robert Lansing grumbled in 1918, “is simply loaded with dynamite.”
  • By the late ‘50s, these conflicting regional currents were creating deep rifts in Lebanese society. Many Sunni Muslims sympathized with Nasser and his calls for Arab solidarity, while Christians tended to identify with Western powers, especially the pro-U.S. Chamoun — a deeply unpopular Christian president whom the U.S. had helped cling to power during the turbulent years of 1957 and 1958. Adding to allegations of corruption and election fraud, Chamoun also appeared poised to remain in office for another six-year term, contrary to the Lebanese Constitution. Chamoun brutally quashed the protests caused by the resulting constitutional crisis, killing several Nasserite protesters. A small civil war began in which Christian, pro-Chamoun militias battled Nasser-inspired Sunni and Shiite fighters.
  • Direct confrontation between U.S. Marines and the anti-Chamoun United National Front was‌ narrowly avoided, as vividly depicted in Brookings director Bruce Riedel’s recent book, “Beirut 1958.”
  • In his public statement following Operation Blue Bat, Eisenhower justified the military landing by referring to civil strife “actively fomented by Soviet and Cairo broadcasts,” while making no mention of protecting Israel, protecting Western commercial interests, countering Nasserism, Arab nationalism or even nonaligned nationalism among less developed countries.These omissions were calculated. By focusing on Soviet aggression, Eisenhower was able to shoehorn the intervention into the Eisenhower Doctrine, viewing the situation in Lebanon through the prism of Cold War ideology.
  • Communist subversion was nowhere in sight
  • Washington’s tactics during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) involved indiscriminately shelling the tiny country from warships stationed in the Mediterranean and ended in tragedy when 241 U.S. troops were killed in the 1983 barracks bombings.
  • both crises concluded with an entrenchment of the status quo — a likely outcome even without U.S. interference. In 1958, Chamoun was replaced by Chehab as president, a solution advocated by Nasser himself. In 2008, the Doha Accords reaffirmed Hezbollah’s ability to coexist with the LAF — a model that has been followed ever since and almost certainly not what Washington had in mind in 2003.
  • Eisenhower might have drawn less criticism in the Senate had he admitted from the beginning the real reasons for Operation Blue Bat: the concern that Nasser’s Arab nationalism was undermining the West’s security and economic interests in the Middle East. Beirut, after all, was a logistical and financial hub serving all U.S.-aligned conservative regimes in the region
  • While it is true that Qasim had reached an understanding with the Iraqi Communist Party, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s attempts to court the Iraqis were ultimately frustrated. By early 1959, Nasserism had emerged not as an avenue of, but rather a barrier to Soviet penetration in the Middle East. In this sense, the Iraqi coup — the event that triggered Chamoun’s invocation of the Eisenhower Doctrine — did not greatly alter the regional balance of power between the two great superpowers.
  • By continuing its Cold War mentality against Iran, Washington is in danger of simplifying Lebanon to a proxy battleground and misunderstanding Hezbollah as a mere Iranian foreign policy pawn, not as a domestic political and security player in its own right.
Ed Webb

The Diplomat Who Quit the Trump Administration | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • Many diplomats have been dismayed by the Trump Administration; since the Inauguration, sixty per cent of the State Department’s highest-ranking diplomats have left. But Feeley broke with his peers by publicly declaring his reasons
  • Mariela Sagel, a prominent columnist with La Estrella, wrote to me, “Feeley’s lightning passage through Panama was as devastating to the self-esteem of Panamanians as it was for the Waked businesses. After less than two years on the job he quit, claiming that he was not in agreement with Trump’s policies. If those were his reasons, why didn’t he resign when that demented man won the Presidency?”
  • When Tillerson was fired, this March, eight of the ten most senior positions at State were unfilled, leaving no one in charge of arms control, human rights, trade policy, or the environment. For diplomats in the field, the consequences were clearly evident. In 2017, Dave Harden, a longtime Foreign Service officer, was assigned to provide relief to victims of the war in Yemen, one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The entire diplomatic staff for the country was barely a dozen people. “We worked out of a three-bedroom house,” he said. “It felt like a startup.” There was no support from State, and no policy direction, he said: “The whole system was completely broken.” Harden resigned last month.
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  • “We don’t get instructions from the U.S. government.” He recalled Trump’s announcement, in December, 2017, that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. As the United Nations considered a resolution condemning the move, Nikki Haley, Trump’s envoy to the U.N., circulated a threatening letter, saying that Trump “has requested I report back on those who voted against us.” Feeley heard nothing in advance about the letter. “Do you think we got a heads-up, to prepare?” he said. “Nothing.” Soon afterward, he received outraged telephone calls from Panama’s President and Vice-President, Isabel de Saint Malo. Feeley recalled that when Saint Malo called “she said, ‘John, friends don’t treat friends like this.’ All I could say was ‘I know. I’m sorry.’ We both knew it was going to hurt our personal and institutional relationship. And there was nothing we could do about it.”
  • Since Trump’s election, “we’ve taken a step back in tone,” Feeley said. “We tried to get Kerry to bury the Monroe Doctrine. But now, all of a sudden, it’s back.”
  • Early this year, during an appearance in Texas, Tillerson called the Monroe Doctrine “clearly . . . a success.” The rhetoric has had a chilling effect, Feeley said, “Latins believe that Trump and his senior officials have no real interest in the region, beyond baiting Mexico and tightening the screws on Cuba and Venezuela.”
  • a building in the style of a pagoda: a monument to China’s presence in Panama. “Look how prominent they’ve become,” one of the staffers said. In June, 2016, a major expansion of the canal was completed, and the first ship through was an enormous Chinese freighter, designed to fit the new dimensions. “I got a big American naval ship to park right outside the locks, where the Chinese ship would see it,” Feeley said. “And I threw our annual Embassy July 4th party on it.” He laughed at the memory, but he knew that the gesture was ultimately futile.
  • As the United States has retreated from Latin America, China’s influence has grown. Since 2005, banks linked to Beijing have provided more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars in loan commitments to the region—some years, more than the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank combined. In less than two decades, trade between China and Latin America has increased twenty-seven-fold.
  • The Taiwanese government furiously denounced Panama for succumbing to “checkbook diplomacy,” but Panamanian officials denied that the decision was motivated by economics. Then, last November, Varela travelled to Beijing and joined President Xi Jinping in a ceremony to celebrate their new friendship, at which he signed nineteen separate trade deals. At around the same time, the China Harbour Engineering Company began work in Panama on a hundred-and-sixty-five-million-dollar port.
  • Panama could well become China’s Latin-American hub; the One Belt, One Road initiative, working with Varela’s government, is planning to build a railway from Panama City to near the Costa Rican border. But, Feeley added, “the Panamanians are naïve about the Chinese.” He told me that he had worked to persuade Panama’s security ministry not to sign a communications-technology deal with the Chinese, partly out of concern that they would use the infrastructure for espionage, as they have elsewhere. The Chinese company Huawei, which has headquarters in Panama, lobbied hard “to delay, divert, and get the contract.” In the end, the work was contracted to an American firm, General Dynamics, but the negotiations were difficult.
  • Varela’s government has quietly leased the Chinese a huge building plot, on the strip of land that juts into the ocean at the mouth of the canal, to use as the site of a new Embassy. Sailors on every ship in the canal will see the proof of China’s rising power, as they enter a waterway that once symbolized the global influence of the United States.
  • As morale sank in the State Department, veteran diplomats had been leaving, in what some called “the exodus.” David Rank, the senior American diplomat in China, stepped down last June, after Trump withdrew from the Paris accord. “You have decisions that the rest of the world fundamentally disagrees with,” Rank said recently. He recalled that, on September 11, 2001, “I got a call from the Embassy of an allied country seconds after the attack. The person said, ‘Whatever you need, you can count on us.’ Now that we pulled out of Paris and Iran, swept tariffs across the world, I wonder if we’re going to get that call again.”
  • Feeley pointed out that leftist leaders were in retreat throughout Latin America, and that popular movements were rejecting old habits of corrupt governance. It was, he said, “the greatest opportunity to recoup the moral high ground that we have had in decades.” Instead, we were abandoning the region. “I keep waiting for a Latin leader to paraphrase Angela Merkel and say, ‘We can no longer count on the Americans to provide leadership.’ ”
  • Some people liken it to an own goal. I’d say it’s more like a self-inflicted Pearl Harbor
  • “There’s this idea that the States is just like the rest of us. That’s the saddest thing to me.”
  • Foreign Service officers were willing to work with the Trump Administration. “I don’t know of a single Trump supporter who is an F.S.O.,” he said. “But I also don’t know of a single F.S.O. who hopes for failure, myself included. Far from the Alex Jones caricature of a bunch of pearl-clutching, cookie-pushing effetes, we have an entire corps of people who will do everything they can to successfully implement American foreign policy, as it is determined by the national leaders—to include Mike Pompeo.” But, Feeley suggested, Pompeo would need to moderate his boss’s instincts. “I just do not believe that, with Trump’s rhetoric and a lot of his policy actions, we are going to recoup our leadership position in the world,” he said. “Because the evidence is already in, and we’re not. We’re not just walking off the field. We’re taking the ball and throwing a finger at the rest of the world.”
Michael Fisher

The Sanctions on Iran Are Working | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • To have any meaningful impact on the activities of the Revolutionary Guards, targeted sanctions must focus on the Guards' leaders and other front companies active in Iran's energy sector, which is the lifeblood of the regime. Oil alone provides about 80 percent of Iran's export earnings and half of government revenue. Given the dominance of the Revolutionary Guards in the country's energy sector, Asian and European companies might find it difficult, as a result of Treasury's actions, to do business in the energy sector without transacting with designated entities.
  • The U.S. Congress also is moving aggressively against Iran's energy sector and the Revolutionary Guards by targeting what some have called Iran's economic "Achilles' heel" -- the regime's need to import, by some estimates, between 30 to 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign companies.
  • The legislation would extend the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act to provide the president with the authority to sanction foreign companies involved in selling refined petroleum to Iran or helping Iran improve its domestic refinery capacity.
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    "Ignore the false debate in Washington over which measures to pressure the Islamic Republic are the "smart" ones. Tehran is already feeling the heat." - FP Magazine
Ed Webb

Zarif's Beefs | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • three hours and 11 minutes of Zarif’s supposedly confidential interview was published by the London-based and Saudi-linked satellite outlet Iran International. Millions were shocked to hear Iran’s top diplomat speak more openly than he ever has and admit to what many had long suspected: that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the powerful and elite military force, controls all major aspects of Iranian foreign policy; that its slain Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, ran his own show when it came to the Iranian intervention in Syria; and that Soleimani went as far as colluding with Russia to disrupt the implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015.
  • very little in the interview was completely unexpected to those who closely follow Iran
  • We not only learn that Zarif is not in charge of Iran’s embassies in the region (not news) but also that the IRGC didn’t even bother to inform him and other cabinet ministers of their major decisions
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  • When the nuclear negotiations that led to the 2015 deal were going on, Zarif’s team faced a propaganda campaign of opposition from the IRGC and its long tentacles in Iranian media. Despite Zarif’s personal loyalty to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the latter’s continued open support for him and for the talks, the IRGC constantly attacked Zarif. It has long been axiomatic that the Guards’ interest lies in closer ties with Russia and China and avoiding Iran’s integration in the global economy.But in the interview, Zarif gives details as to how the IRGC actively worked to sabotage the deal’s implementation after it was reached. According to him, Soleimani’s celebrated trip to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin in July 2015, was done on the initiative of Moscow with the expressed aim of “destroying” the nuclear deal.
  • Zarif’s sharp words against Russia are not news for those who know him. He has long emphasized the need for Iran to have better relations with the West. In the interview, he also says what many on the Iranian street have long believed (although this is sometimes mocked by certain pundits as unsophisticated thinking): If Iran relies too much on Russia and China, to the detriment of its ties with the West, they will take advantage of Iran.
  • Ironically, Zarif is, in a sense, more of a true believer than many in the IRGC. He genuinely appears to be under the illusion that the ideals of the Islamic Republic still have popular support and that Iran should rely on them instead of brute force. Few in the IRGC think so, and many seem to be aware of how widely discredited these ideals are among average Iranians.
  • The manner of the audio file’s leak and its source has been a source of incessant chatter in the Iranian public sphere. Some Zarif supporters (including the Rouhani administration itself) have claimed it was a treacherous act aimed at undermining him as a credible diplomat. On the other side, “Akhbar o Tahlilha,” the public bulletin of the IRGC’s Political Department, attacked Zarif, defended Soleimani, and mockingly asked the foreign minister: “Why should a Foreign Ministry that is incapable of keeping a voice file confidential be trusted with secret military information?”
  • the hard-liners’ favorite moderate for a reason. He has never wavered from supporting the first principles of Khomeinism and has repeatedly defended its support for groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah or the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
  • Speaking for the entire Iranian regime on the world stage has been at the heart of Zarif’s lifelong ambition. His experience and knowledge of America’s culture and political system have kept him at the top of that portfolio for decades, making him, in essence, too valuable to get rid of. Even prior ructions with the IRGC couldn’t sink him. For instance, following the Iran-Iraq War negotiation debacle in 1988, many of the New York Boys were marginalized or even driven to exile. Not Zarif, who got promoted and served for 10 years as Iran’s deputy foreign minister. Following the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election to the presidency in 2005, Zarif also stayed on as Iran’s envoy to the U.N. — at the insistence of Khamenei.
  • Zarif’s own account shows the degree to which he is used by the IRGC and the military establishment, without him ever being allowed to play a role outside their plans. It hardly inspires confidence. In fact, his account seems to confirm that the process of the IRGC’s domination of Iranian politics is much more advanced than previously imagined
  • the next supreme leader is likely to be a pliant figure, controlled by the IRGC. Iran will thus turn into a military dictatorship, akin to Egypt or Algeria
  • Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, has launched his own, long-shot candidacy, with the promise that he will “drive back the IRGC to the barracks” and abolish the position of Supreme Leader. Even if he is somehow allowed to run for the presidency (and that is very unlikely), he will have an uphill task in convincing people that he has what it takes to confront Khamenei and the IRGC.
Ed Webb

The Post-WWI Migrations That Built Yugoslavia and Turkey Have Left a Painful Legacy - N... - 0 views

  • the religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity that characterized their territories in the Middle East and Eastern Europe no longer chimed with the new world order being organized around nation-states
  • Designing measures such as the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923, the League of Nations legitimized demographic engineering policies and made migration an intrinsic part of nation-building. With international encouragement, the states with Muslim minorities in the Balkans devised multipronged policies to push out the citizens they saw as undesirable. Turkey became the only destination for Balkan Muslims, even when they were not Turkish.
  • in 1938 Belgrade and Ankara concluded a little-known agreement to transfer 200,000 Yugoslav citizens to Turkey. The transfer did not materialize because of the start of World War II, but the migrations did eventually take place and continued into the 1950s. For both Yugoslavia and Turkey, new states created in the aftermath of World War I, migration was an important part of nation-building.
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  • took as its model another such deal between Turkey and Romania in 1936 as well as the better-known Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923
  • Forced processes of homogenization are still part of the repertoire of nation-state building, and continue to shape our understanding of world order. Muslim presence in the southeastern periphery of Europe likewise continues to be viewed as problematic and even dangerous: As Piro Rexhepi observed in the book “White Enclosures,” their integration continues to be desirable for security but impossible racially.
  • Focus on religious identity allowed for a formal incorporation of these rather diverse populations into the Turkish national body. The asylum policy and the settlement laws defined migrants as Turks and those “affiliated with Turkish culture” to encompass all the Slav, Albanian and Greek Muslims, making Turkey­­ a safe haven for Muslim minorities fleeing oppressive regimes.
  • Dispossession, expulsions and massacres of diverse Muslim populations were already a grim reality of nation-building in southeastern Europe in the 19th century, when Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were carved out of Ottoman provinces. In fact, the conquests of Ottoman Europe after 1699 normalized expulsion and compulsory conversion of local Muslims in the lost territories
  • During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria invaded the remaining Ottoman territories in Europe. Within several months, an estimated 1 million Muslims vanished, murdered and expelled from the regions taken over by these states. The shocking magnitude of the violence, which continued into World War I, made many Muslims wary of their future in the new nation-states and incited migration to the Ottoman Empire, itself in the midst of conflict.
  • 19th-century definitions of South Slavic brotherhood envisioned Slav Muslims as potentially assimilable, distinguishing between “the Turks” as the non-Slavic Ottomans and “our Turks,” that is, Slav Muslims
  • so-called reform also included the vast properties of the Islamic pious endowments. Schools, mosques and Sufi lodges lost the land and incomes that were used to operate educational, religious and community services. Some land appropriations were symbolic: The 15th-century Burmali Mosque that visually defined Skopje’s main thoroughfare was simply torn down
  • In the 1920s, Catholic missionaries working in neighboring Kosovo, a former Ottoman province inhabited by Albanian Muslim and Christian populations and similarly incorporated into Southern Serbia, sent reports of massacres, assassinations, imprisonment and forced labor in a memorandum to the League of Nations, receiving no response.
  • Ivo Andric, an admired novelist and Yugoslav Nobel laureate, was also one of the highest-ranking Yugoslav diplomats in the interwar period. Eager to finalize the population transfer agreement with Turkey, he advised the government in Belgrade that Turkey was not only interested in the small group of ethnic Turks in Yugoslavia but also populations akin to Turks in their “mentality.” Repeating a constant theme in almost all of Andric’s novels, Muslims were described in his diplomatic correspondence as alien to the Balkans. For Andric, they were “Turks leftover in the territories of our Kingdom.”
  • over 2,000 Bosnians were settled along with Greek Muslims in the town of Izmir.
  • Turkish officials, faced with the constant influx of migrants, pursued agreements with the Balkan states that would offset the costs of migrant settlement. The 1934 Balkan Pact included minority clauses that allowed Turkish citizens to sell their properties in their former homelands. Turkish administrators also considered requesting an estimated payment from the Balkan nation-states to match the value of the properties that Balkan Muslims were forced to leave behind.
  • The Turkish Republic saw population growth as beneficial for economic development and national defense in the long term, as it worked to populate its eastern and western borderlands. Moreover, many of Turkey’s early administrators, as migrants and children of migrants themselves, understood these new waves of migration from a personal perspective.
  • Laws barred those speaking languages other than Turkish from settling in groups and limited the “foreign” presence to no more than 10% of a municipality, though the realities of the period frequently made these laws impossible to execute. The locals took on much of the burden of helping newcomers, begrudgingly sharing public resources. At the same time, the immigrants provided necessary manpower and introduced new methods in agriculture and certain industries. While Balkan languages largely disappeared with the following generation, enduring legacies, such as Balkan cuisine and music evoking the most personal memories of exile, acquired a place in the Turkish national heritage.
  • Today, no official recognition of the violent policies of “unmixing” exists, and barely anyone has heard of Yugoslavia’s attempted population transfer of 1939.
  • the international community’s preferred solutions to “ethnic conflicts” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo remain equally tied to principles of nationalist homogenization and demarcation. A century after the foundation of modern Turkey and the first Yugoslavia, the legacies of that era’s mass migration and state violence persist.
Ed Webb

Qatar Crisis: A Cautionary Tale - 0 views

  • As ties with the Obama White House deteriorated, ruling circles in Gulf capitals became increasingly muscular in pursuing their own regional interests. This was, in part, a reaction by Saudi and Emirati officials to Qatar’s assertive approach to the uprisings in North Africa and Syria between 2011 and 2013
  • The second phase of the Gulf states’ regional assertiveness (after Qatar’s activist approach in 2011 and 2012) played out in Libya, Yemen, the Gulf and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and the UAE funneled tens of billions of dollars in financial aid and investment in infrastructure designed to kickstart the ailing Egyptian economy. The UAE coordinated closely with Egypt and Russia to triangulate support for the Libyan strongman, Khalifa Haftar, as he battled Islamist militias in eastern Libya, carving out a largely autonomous sphere of influence separate from the internationally backed political process in Tripoli. The Saudis and Emiratis, together with the Bahrainis, withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March 2014 and accused Doha of interfering in the domestic affairs of its regional neighbors.
  • On the international stage, King Salman of Saudi Arabia made clear his displeasure with the Obama administration by canceling his planned attendance of the US-GCC summit at Camp David in May 2015. Six weeks earlier, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had launched Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. The Yemen war was designed to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, ousted in 2014 by the tactical alliance of Iran-allied Houthi rebels and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s armed loyalists. Launched just five days before the initial deadline (later extended to July 2015) in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, the decision to take military action to counter and roll back perceived Iranian influence in Yemen represented a Saudi-led rebuke to the Obama administration’s belief that it was possible to separate the nuclear issue from Iran’s meddling in regional affairs.
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  • Another UAE-based visitor during the transition was Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos (President-elect Trump’s nominee as secretary of education). Prince had been hired by Abu Dhabi to develop a private security force after the demise of Blackwater in 2009. He “presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis” and met with a Russian official in a UAE-brokered meeting in the Seychelles shortly before the inauguration, reportedly as part of an effort to establish a backchannel of communication over Syria and Iran.
  • In the early weeks of the administration, Kushner also reached out to Saudi policymakers, including Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud — like Kushner an ambitious millennial who had entered policymaking from a business background. They shared uncannily similar nicknames: “Mr. Everything” (MBS) and the “Secretary of Everything” (Kushner). The two men grew close and reportedly stayed up until nearly 4am “swapping stories and planning strategy” during an unannounced visit Kushner made to Saudi Arabia in October 2017.
  • A president and his senior staff determined to do things their way and bypass the traditional playbook of US foreign policy and international diplomacy offered a potentially rich opening for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as did the political inexperience of many of the new appointees in the White House
  • The expectation in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi that the Trump presidency would adopt hawkish positions on regional issues such as Iran and Islamism that aligned closely with their own was reaffirmed by the appointments of James Mattis as secretary of defense and Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA
  • President Trump discussed Qatar’s “purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs, and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.” The president’s comments made his subsequent swing against Qatar, after the Saudi and Emirati-led diplomatic and economic blockade began on June 5, 2017, even more surprising to observers of the presidency’s transactional approach to diplomacy.
  • the McClatchy news agency reported that SCL Social Limited, a part of the same SCL Group as Cambridge Analytica (the data mining firm where Bannon served as vice president before joining the White House) had disclosed a $330,000 contract with the UAE National Media Council. The contract included “a wide range of services specific to a global media campaign,” including $75,000 for a social media campaign targeting Qatar during the UN General Assembly. McClatchy observed, too, that Bannon had visited Abu Dhabi to meet with MBZ in September 2017, and that Breitbart (the media platform associated with Bannon both before and after his brief White House stint) had published more than 80 mostly negative stories about Qatar since the GCC crisis erupted
  • a striking element about the Saudi-Emirati outreach is the limited success it achieved. Officials may have seized the opportunity to shape the administration’s thinking and succeeded temporarily, in June 2017, in getting the president to support the initial action against Qatar, but that proved a high watermark in cooperation that did not lead to any substantive follow-through
  • The transactional approach to policymaking taken by the Trump presidency is not necessarily underpinned by any deeper or underlying commitment to a relationship of values or even interests. An example of this came in July 2017 when President Trump told Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network that he had made his presence at the Riyadh summit conditional on $110 billion in arms sales and other agreements signed with Saudi Arabia. “I said, you have to do that, otherwise I’m not going,” bragged the president.
  • Although the crisis in the Gulf may have passed its most dangerous moment — when for a few days in June 2017 the possibility of Saudi and Emirati military action against Qatar was deemed so serious by US officials that Secretary of State Tillerson reportedly had to warn MBS and MBZ against any precipitous action — it has had significant negative consequences for both the region and Washington. In the Gulf, four decades of diplomatic and technocratic cooperation among the six GCC states has been put at risk, threatening the survival of one of the hitherto most durable regional organizations in the Arab world.
  • It is hard to see how the GCC can recover after the sub-regional institution has failed to prevent three of its members from turning on a fourth twice in three years, and when it has been absent at every stage of the crisis, from the initial list of grievances to the subsequent attempts at mediation.
  • Washington’s policy approaches toward Qatar appear now to have settled on the view that the standoff is detrimental to American strategic interests both in the Gulf and across the broader Middle East and should be resolved by Kuwaiti-led mediation. However, the confused signals that came out of the Trump administration during its first six months in office do constitute a cautionary tale. They illustrate the vulnerability of a new and inexperienced political class to influence, which came close to jeopardizing a key US partnership in the Middle East. Unlike, say, the US and Iran, there are no clearly defined good and bad sides the US should support or oppose in its dealings with the GCC members, all of whom have been pivotal, in different ways, to the projection of US power and influence in the region.
Ed Webb

Our Oligarch - 0 views

  • Abramovich is perhaps the most visible of the “oligarchs” surrounding Putin, who are widely perceived as extensions of the Russian president and keepers of a vast fortune that is effectively under the Kremlin’s control. Much of this wealth was extracted from Russia’s enormous energy and mineral resources, and is now stashed in secret bank accounts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, in empty mansions and condos from London to Manhattan to Miami, and in yachts and private jets on the French Riviera.
  • as much as 60% of Russia’s GDP is offshore
  • The reserved, gray-bearded Abramovich is notoriously litigious toward critics who seek to detail his close ties to Putin. Last year, he successfully sued the British journalist Catherine Belton, who claimed in her 2020 book Putin’s People that the Russian president dictated Abramovich’s major purchases, including his decision to buy Chelsea. He also extracted an apology from a British newspaper for calling him a “bag carrier” for the Russian president.
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  • Abramovich—who, like many of the most prominent Russian oligarchs, is Jewish—has for years been a prolific donor to Jewish philanthropies. He has given half a billion dollars to Jewish charities over the past two decades, sending money linked to Putin’s kleptocratic regime circulating through Jewish institutions worldwide
  • Among other things, he has profoundly influenced Jewish life on three continents, developing deep financial ties with major communal institutions. He is partly responsible for the preeminent role played by Chabad in the religious life of post-Soviet Russia, for the growth of major Jewish museums from Russia to Israel, for a raft of anti-antisemitism programming involving leading American and British Jewish organizations, and for the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem
  • the Jewish world is forced to reckon with its long embrace of Abramovich, and with the moral costs of accepting his money
  • Certain Soviet Jews of Abramovich’s generation found themselves at the forefront of an emerging market economy. Concentrated in white collar professions but systematically excluded from desirable posts and from the top ranks of the Communist Party, they were unusually prepared—and, perhaps, motivated—to find legal and semi-legal points of entry into the tightly-regulated commerce between the Soviet Union and the West. This helps explain why, as the historian Yuri Slezkine writes in The Jewish Century, six of the seven top oligarchs of 1990s Russia (Petr Aven, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Alexander Smolensky) were ethnic Jews.
  • Boris Yeltsin soon initiated the firesale privatization of state-controlled industries at the urging of Washington and the IMF—a reckless transition from a command economy to a capitalist one that drove millions of Russians into poverty
  • the Yeltsin administration implemented its infamous loans-for-shares program, selling off key state industries in rigged auctions to Russia’s new business elite for a fraction of their real value in order to stabilize the state’s finances in the short term. Berezovsky and Abramovich gained ownership stakes in Sibneft, one of the world’s largest energy companies, and became instant billionaires.
  • In 1996, the handful of leading oligarchs pooled their financial resources—and directed their media companies’ coverage—to reelect the deeply unpopular Yeltsin over his Communist challenger, Gennady Zyuganov, whose platform of re-nationalizing industries terrified both the Russian and Western business classes
  • Fearing that it was unsustainable for a small group of mostly Jewish billionaires to prop up an ailing, visibly alcoholic president—especially after the ruble collapsed in 1998, dragging down a generation’s living standards and initiating a hunt for scapegoats—Berezovsky spearheaded an effort the following year to replace Yeltsin with a young, healthy, disciplined, and then-obscure former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin. It was a decision he would come to regret.
  • wealth so easily acquired could just as easily be taken away. In 2001, Putin hounded Berezovsky and Gusinsky—whose TV networks had criticized the president’s mishandling of a naval disaster—with criminal indictments for tax fraud, forcing them to sell their media and energy holdings at a fraction of their true cost. As a result, Abramovich, who had never challenged Putin, acquired control of Sibneft, while Berezovsky fled to the United Kingdom and Gusinsky departed for Spain and then Israel. Abramovich again came out ahead in 2003, when the oligarch Khodorkovsky was sent to a Siberian prison on tax charges after criticizing Putin for corruption, leaving his assets in the energy sector to be redistributed among those on good terms with the president.
  • “I don’t think there is a percent of independence in Abramovich,” said Roman Borisovich, a Luxembourg-based Russian banker turned anti-corruption activist who once encountered Abramovich through Berezovsky in the 1990s. “For Abramovich to stay alive, he had to turn against his master [Berezovsky], which is what he did, and he has served Putin handsomely ever since.”
  • Whereas in the Yeltsin era, the term identified a system dominated by truly independent tycoons, “Putin’s top priority when he came to power was to break that system, replacing it with a system of concentrated power in which men who are inaccurately referred to as oligarchs now have only as much access to wealth as Putin allows them to have,”
  • Even as he built up his credibility with Putin, he joined many of his fellow oligarchs in stashing his billions in Western financial institutions, which proved eager to assist. “Elites in the post-Soviet space are constantly looking to move their assets and wealth into rule-of-law jurisdictions, which generally means Western countries like the US or UK,”
  • In 2008, Berezovsky sued his former protege over his confiscated Sibneft shares; then, in 2012, seven months after a judge rejected all of his claims, Berezovsky died in his London home in an apparent suicide. Some former associates believe he might have been murdered
  • In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that US spy agencies suspect Russian involvement in as many as 14 mysterious deaths in Britain over the previous decade, including Berezovsky’s. In the wake of the 2018 poisoning of the defected double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, British intelligence services became increasingly wary of wealthy expats with close ties to the Kremlin. Diplomatic strain stymied Abramovich’s effort to acquire a Tier 1 British visa, which would have enabled him to stay in the country for 40 months.
  • “No one forced the British or American real estate industries to toss their doors open to as much illicit wealth as they could find, or the state of Delaware to craft the world’s greatest anonymous shell company services,” said Michel. “Western policymakers crafted all of the policies that these oligarchs are now taking advantage of.”
  • Abramovich also safeguarded a significant part of his fortune in the US, especially during his third marriage to the Russian American socialite and fashion designer Dasha Zhukova. Even after their 2018 divorce, Abramovich began the process of converting three adjacent townhouses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into what will eventually become the largest home in the city, an “urban castle” valued at $180 million—making him one of the many wealthy Russians sheltering assets in New York’s booming and conveniently opaque real estate sector. (The mansion is intended for Zhukova and their two young children; Abramovich also has five children from his second marriage based primarily in the UK.) He also owns at least two homes in Aspen, Colorado, a gathering place of the global elite.
  • the oligarchs are now credibly threatened with exile from the West. Countries like France and Germany have already begun confiscating yachts owned by select Russian officials. And although the UK is still struggling to come up with a legal basis for following suit, leading politicians like Labour Leader Keir Starmer are urging direct sanctions against Abramovich. “Abramovich’s reputation has finally collapsed, along with the other supposedly apolitical oligarchs,” Michel said four days after Russia invaded Ukraine. “There’s no recovery from this. This is a titanic shift in terms of how these oligarchs can operate.”
  • Israel has been more hesitant to hold him to account.
  • In 2018, Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship through the law of return, immediately becoming the second-wealthiest Israeli, behind Miriam Adelson. As a new Israeli citizen, he joined several dozen Russian Jewish oligarchs who have sought citizenship or residency in the Jewish state—a group that includes Fridman, Gusinsky, and the late Berezovsky. Since 2015, Abramovich has owned and sometimes lived in the 19th-century Varsano hotel in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, and in 2020 he purchased a mansion in Herzliya for $65 million—the most expensive real estate deal in the country’s history
  • As an Israeli passport holder, Abramovich is eligible to visit the UK for six months at a time and is exempt from paying taxes in Israel on his overseas income for the first decade of his residency
  • Given his increasingly precarious geopolitical position, Jewishness has become Abramovich’s identity of last resort—and Jewish philanthropic giving has provided him with an air of legitimacy not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world. Abramovich and his fellow oligarchs “need to spend some money to launder their reputations,” said Borisovich, the anti-corruption activist. “They cannot be seen as Putin’s agents of influence; they need to be seen as independent businessmen. So if they can exploit Jewish philanthropy or give money to Oxford or the Tate Gallery, that’s the cost of doing business.”
  • A 2017 article in Politico, which identified Abramovich and Leviev as “Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide,” also referred to Lazar as “Putin’s rabbi.” Lazar has often run interference for the Russian president—for instance, by defending his initial crackdown on oligarchs like Gusinsky as not motivated by antisemitism, or by praising Russia as safe for Jews under his governance. (The researcher noted that Putin has also cultivated prominent loyalists in other Russian religious communities, including the Orthodox Church and Islam.)
  • Abramovich also significantly funded the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012 (and to which Putin pledged to donate a month of his presidential salary). In a 2016 article in The Forward, the scholar Olga Gershenson suggested that the museum’s narrative bordered on propaganda, framing Jews as “a model Russian minority” and “glorifying and mourning . . . without raising more controversial and relevant questions that would require the viewer to come to terms with a nation’s difficult past.”
  • “It concentrates on the Soviet victory over the Nazis, and then it ends by saying that Jews in Putin’s Russia are all good and content.”
  • “Say No to Antisemitism” has brought together Chelsea players and management with many top Jewish groups; the currents heads of the ADL, the WJC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Holocaust Educational Trust, among others, are all listed on its steering committee. The campaign is at least in part intended to address the antisemitism of some Chelsea fans, who have been known to shout “Yid!” and hiss in imitation of gas chambers when taunting fans of the rival club Tottenham, which has a historically Jewish fan base that proudly refers to itself as “the Yid Army.” Last November, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the campaign as “a shining example of how sports can be a force for good and tolerance.”
  • Abramovich is also one of the primary benefactors of a Holocaust museum that opened in Porto last May. As of last year, Abramovich is a newly minted citizen of Portugal (and by extension, the European Union), which offers such recognition to anyone who can prove Sephardic ancestry dating back before the Portuguese expulsion of Jews in 1496.
  • Berel Rosenberg, a representative of the museum, denied that Abramovich had given the Porto Jewish community any money besides a €250 fee for Sephardic certification; regarding reports to the contrary, he alleged that “lies were published by antisemites and corrupt journalists.” However, Porto’s Jewish community does acknowledge that Abramovich has donated money to projects honoring the legacy of Portuguese Sephardic Jews in Hamburg, and he has been identified as an honorary member of Chabad Portugal and B’nai B’rith International Portugal due to his philanthropic activities in the country.
  • Abramovich has made a $30 million donation for a nanotechnology research center at Tel Aviv University; funded a football-focused “leadership training program” for Arab and Jewish children; and supported KKL-JNF’s tree-planting campaign in the southern Negev, which is dedicated to Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust—and which has drawn opposition from local Bedouin communities who view it as a land grab.
  • he has kept his support for Israeli settlements well-hidden
  • Abramovich has used front companies registered in the British Virgin Islands to donate more than $100 million to a right-wing Israeli organization called the Ir David Foundation, commonly known as Elad, which has worked since the 1980s to move Jewish settlers into occupied East Jerusalem. Elad also controls an archeological park and major tourist site called City of David, which it has leveraged in its efforts to “Judaize” the area, including by seizing Palestinian homes in the surrounding neighborhood of Silwan and digging under some to make them uninhabitable.
  • “In order for settlers to take over Palestinian homes, they need a lot of money,” said Hagit Ofran, co-director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli organization Peace Now, “both to take advantage of poor Palestinians for the actual purchases, and then for the long and expensive legal struggle that follows, and that can bankrupt Palestinian families. The money is crucial.” Of Abramovich’s support for Elad, she added, “That’s a lot from one source; I assume that if you give such a big donation, you know what it is for.”
  • Just two days before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, it was reported that Abramovich is donating tens of millions of dollars to Yad Vashem, the global Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem
  • Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan joined the heads of multiple Israeli charitable organizations in urging the US not to sanction Abramovich. The letter was also signed by Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau and representatives of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University, and Elad
  • Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman, were already calling for peace negotiations just three days after the invasion. (Fridman and Deripaska are also major Jewish philanthropists, as are other Russian oligarchs including Petr Aven, Yuri Milner, and Viktor Vekselberg. All of them now face global scrutiny.)
  • Even before he announced he would be setting up a charity to help victims in Ukraine, members of Abramovich’s family were quick to distance themselves from the war: A contemporary art museum in Moscow co-founded by Abramovich and Zhukova has announced that it will halt all new exhibitions in protest of the war. Abramovich’s 27-year-old daughter Sofia, who lives in London, posted a message on her popular Instagram account that read, “The biggest and most successful lie of the Kremlin’s propaganda is that most Russians stand with Putin.”
  • Abramovich and others have spent more than two decades loyally serving and profiting off Putin’s corrupt and violent regime—one that has been accused of murdering and jailing journalists and political dissidents and of committing war crimes from Chechnya to Syria. And for much of that time, Jewish institutions worldwide have been more than happy to take money from Abramovich and his peers
  • longstanding philanthropic ties may affect the Jewish communal world’s willingness to hold Russia accountable for its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty
  • “I think the view of much of Jewish philanthropic leadership, right and left, conservative and liberal, has been the bottom line: If the purposes for which the philanthropy is given are positive, humane, holy, and seen to strengthen both the Jewish community and the whole of society, then to sit and analyze whether the donor was exploitive or not, and whether this was kosher or not, would be hugely diverting, amazingly complicated, and divisive.”
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, acknowledged the difficulty of making ethical calls about donors, but argued that the attempt is still necessary. “In philanthropy, nearly all money is tainted, either because it was acquired by exploiting workers, by harming the environment, by selling harmful products, or by taking advantage of systems that benefit the wealthy to the detriment of others. That said, we can’t throw up our hands and say that we can either take no money or all money; there have to be red lines,” she said.
  • Berman, the scholar of Jewish philanthropy, agrees. “It is tempting to say all money is fungible, so where it came from does not or cannot matter,” she said. “But no matter how much we might want to launder the money, wash it clean of its past and its connections to systems of power, the very act of doing so is an erasure, an act of historical revisionism. Even worse, it can actually participate in bolstering harmful systems of power, often by deterring institutions reliant on that money from holding a person or system to account.”
Ed Webb

To please Trump, Netanyahu washes his hands of coronavirus advice - +972 Magazine - 0 views

  • The Israeli government’s original plan was much less drastic: advisors from the Health Ministry had initially proposed adding the United States to its list of countries from which returning Israelis have to self-quarantine for at least two weeks, in particular those landing from New York, California, or Seattle, which to date are the three centers of the outbreak in the U.S.
  • U.S. Vice President Mike Pence — the science sceptic whom Trump has charged with overseeing the government’s response to coronavirus — personally asked Netanyahu on Sunday not to include the U.S. on its limited list of quarantine countries, but to set down a blanket policy instead. The prime minister complied.
  • In a press conference Sunday night, Netanyahu delivered an unctuous appraisal of the White House’s response to the virus — which has been widely slammed at home and abroad — before announcing that no country would be “singled out” for self-quarantine requirements. The prime minister therefore effectively left two alternative options for Israel’s travel quarantine measures: impose no quarantine from the United States at all, thus ignoring his own Health Ministry’s advice, or enforce quarantine for everyone entering the country, no matter where they were traveling from, and whether they were returning Israelis or international visitors.
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  • Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump, who has brought retrograde antisemitism roaring back into the American mainstream, is among his crowning foreign policy achievements, together with the pro-annexation gifts that the president has bestowed in return. It is therefore no shock that Netanyahu would agree to scratch his back with an eye on the upcoming U.S. election, much as Trump did by releasing his so-called “Deal of the Century” just over a month ahead of Israel’s recent election.
  • Still, it is disturbing to watch the working logic of the Republican Party now informing the Israeli prime minister’s decisions during a public health crisis: keep Trump happy, even when doing so could cost your own citizens’ lives and/or throw your economy into disarray.
  • Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to place Bethlehem on lockdown, in response to an outbreak of the virus in the city, stood in stark contrast to the self-quarantine measures imposed on Israelis inside the Green Line. Such are the perks of a military dictatorship, including in a city which, as part of Area A, is ostensibly under full Palestinian Authority control.
  • Israel’s entire state apparatus is engineered to ensure that what is necessary for Palestinians is not so for Jews, and vice-versa, even when they live in the same area.
Ed Webb

The Death of the Palestinian Cause Has Been Greatly Exaggerated | Newlines Magazine - 1 views

  • For the last 10 years, Western (and even Arab) pundits have repeatedly questioned the place of Palestine in the pan-Arab psyche. They surmised that the Arab Spring had refocused Arab minds on their problems at home. They assumed that battling tyrannical regimes and their security apparatuses, reforming corrupt polities and decrepit health care and education systems, combating terrorism and religious extremism, whittling back the power of the military, and overcoming economic challenges like corruption and unemployment would take precedence over an unsolved and apparently unsolvable cause.
  • reforming the Arab world’s political systems and the security and patronage networks that keep them in power and allow them to dominate their populations appears to be just as arduous a task as resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • The difference now is not that Arab populaces have abandoned Palestine. Western and regional observers say the muted outrage over affronts like American support for the annexation of the Golan Heights or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or even the Abraham Accords and the subsequent sycophantic embrace of Israel in the Gulf is an indicator of Arab public opinion, that it signals a loss of interest in the cause.It is not. Arabs are of course not of a single mind on any particular issue, nor is it possible to gauge public opinion under tyrannical regimes. But it is indicative of the fact that these authoritarians no longer see the pan-Arab Palestinian cause and supporting it as vital to their survival. They have discovered that inward-looking, nationalistic pride is the key to enduring in perpetuity. It is the final step in the dismantling of pan-Arabism as a political force, one that will shape the region’s fortunes and its states’ alliances in the years and decades to come.
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  • Nowhere is this shift in attitude more abjectly transparent than in the Gulf states’ media outlets, which hew closely to the state line and even go beyond it in an attempt to out-hawk official policy, which by comparison appears reasonable and measured.
  • few Arab leaders have ever actually done anything for the Palestinians beyond rhetorical support for the cause, but they were happy to use the prospect of Palestine to keep their populations in check. The late former President Hafez al-Assad imposed a multi-decade state of emergency and mobilization to justify his tyrannical hold over Syria while awaiting the mother of all battles with the enemy, all without firing a single shot across the border since 1973. The leader of the beating heart of Arabism intervened in Lebanon’s civil war and had no qualms massacring pan-Arab nationalists and their Palestinian allies, or to recruit his Amal militia allies to starve Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. His son and successor, President Bashar al-Assad, negotiated with Israel via intermediaries, ready to sell out his allies in Iran and Hezbollah, even as he declared his fealty to the resistance.
  • Jordan violently suppressed demonstrators protesting the attacks on Gaza, who apparently did not receive the memo that 27 years should have been enough time to accept Israel’s position on the conflict. In Egypt, despite its testy relationship with Hamas and its participation in the blockade of Gaza, it is still political and social suicide to publicly embrace normalization as a concept.
  • an obvious and transparent outgrowth of the Gulf states’ normalization deals with Israel, though it is curious to me why they feel the need to amplify Israel’s narrative of the conflict if they did not think public opinion was already on the side of normalization
  • There was great presumption and folly in the grandiose naming of a convenient political deal between unelected monarchs and a premier accused of bribery and corruption, which was brokered by an American president who paid hush money to a porn star, after the patriarch of the prophets of Israel and Islam.
  • The Gulf states have long had backchannels and secret dealings with the Israelis and developed a penchant for Israeli digital surveillance tools. Egypt needed Israel to destroy extremist militants in Sinai. And Morocco, Oman, and Qatar all had different levels of diplomatic ties.
  • We don’t know broadly whether a majority of Arabs care about Palestine or not, though every indicator points to the fact that they still do
  • Riyadh’s media outlets have taken on a prominent role in expressing public sympathy for Israel and its positions
  • In Saudi Arabia, a monumental shift is underway to neuter the power of the clerical establishment in favor of a more nationalistic vision of progress that gives primacy to Saudi identity. According to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, in a recent interview, this identity derives from religious heritage but also from cultural and historic traditions. MBS has defanged the hated Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, introduced social reforms that dismantle some of the restrictions on women, detained numerous clerics who criticized his policies, both foreign and domestic, and has been elevated by his surrogates into an almost messianic figure sent to renew the faith and empower Saudi identity through KPI-infused economic progress initiatives like Vision 2030. He has also, of course, arrested those who sought to pursue activism and reform and those who criticized the pace and manner of his revolution.
  • where nationalist pride is intermingled with the quality of life and performance metrics of a technocratic capitalist state, albeit one where the reins are held by only a handful of families
Ed Webb

The Conservative Fault Lines Revealed by Debates Over Israel - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • Several ideological streams on the American right converge around support for Israel, from evangelical Christian Zionists to foreign policy neoconservatives to MAGA Republicans. Anti-Israel voices on the right have largely been consigned to the margins of the movement — but as we have seen in the era of Trump, tendencies that were previously considered fringe have become mainstreamed. And the current Gaza war has brought some of those previously marginal voices to the fore and ignited a fierce debate.
  • Following an “inside-out” strategy, various far-right groups are organizing their own (small) demonstrations and also showing up at (considerably larger) pro-Palestine rallies in an attempt to hijack the cause, or at least inject their views into the messaging mix.
  • not everyone on the far right is on the same page about Israel and Gaza. The prevalence of both antisemitism and Islamophobia in white nationalist circles creates a tension that can lead in different directions.
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  • there has always been an antisemitic (not to mention anti-Black and xenophobic) strain within American conservatism, but the Cold War had managed to keep it at bay — temporarily. It never went away. It just took a back seat while there was a common enemy that united the nativist white nationalists, religious traditionalists, free market capitalists and neoconservative internationalists. But with the end of the Cold War, this temporary alliance dissolved and these deeper fault lines reasserted themselves. Israel brings these fault lines to the surface like few other topics.
  • “Much of this area of the far right seems to be hoping that this conflict can reinvigorate what is known as the ‘counter-jihad’ movement, a far-right collection of groups and individuals who believe Islam is a threat to the West and see Muslims as their primary civilizational enemy,”
  • While an intraconservative debate rages online and on the fringes of right-wing activism, at the policy level the Republican Party’s pro-Israel center of gravity is not only secure, but has been fortified by Oct. 7. And with Donald Trump as the party’s standard bearer for a third straight cycle — despite his flirtation with the conspiratorial, racist fringes of the far right, including antisemites, and despite his fondness for Buchanan’s “America first” isolationism — the Israeli right would be thrilled to see him back in the White House.
Ed Webb

The Great Caspian Arms Race - By Joshua Kucera | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • the real scenario of the exercise: the defense of Kazakhstan's oil fields from several squadrons of F-4, F-5, and Su-25 fighters and bombers. The map didn't name which country the jets came from, but the trajectory and the types of planes gave it away: Iran.
  • something that has never before been seen on the Caspian: an arms race
  • While the Caspian may still be marginal to Iran or Russia, it is of crucial strategic importance to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan
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  • The issue of who controls what, however, is a tricky one. While certain pairs of states have worked out bilateral treaties dividing the sea between themselves, some boundaries -- most notably those involving Iran -- remain vague. In addition, the legality of building a "Trans-Caspian Pipeline" under the sea (as Turkmenistan would like to do, to ship natural gas through Azerbaijan and onward to Europe) is unclear, and both Russia and Iran oppose the project
  • "The military-political situation in the region is extremely unpredictable. This is explained on one side by the unregulated status of the sea, and from the other, the aspirations of several non-Caspian states to infiltrate the region and its oil and gas," the Russian magazine National Defense, in a not-so-oblique reference to the United States and Europe, wrote in a special report this year on the Caspian naval buildup. "In these conditions Russia is compelled to look after the security of its citizens and the defense of the interests of the Caspian countries."
  • Iran has built up its navy on the Caspian from nearly nothing during the Soviet era to a force of close to 100 missile boats, two of which are equipped with Chinese C-802 anti-ship missiles. And Tehran has announced that it's building a "destroyer," which will become the largest ship in its Caspian fleet (though probably closer to a corvette by international standards).
  • the firepower and the geopolitical tension on the sea are still low enough that the Caspian is far from "flashpoint" status. But the trend is moving in a dangerous direction. The five countries on the Caspian are all so opaque about their intentions that there is plenty of room for miscalculation, leading to a disastrous conflict that no state truly wants. It is also particularly ironic because  all the governments officially call for demilitarization of the Caspian. Most of the countries justify their Caspian naval buildups in light of this rhetoric by citing a threat from terrorists or piracy -- though there has been nearly no indication of either the intent or ability of terrorists to attack
  • a classic case of the security dilemma
  • "If someone is too safe, no one is safe."
  • All of the post-Soviet states mistrust Iran, especially Azerbaijan.
  • "Iranians think they are a besieged fortress," said a Baku naval analyst who asked not to be named. "The U.S. cooperation here is nothing special but they build conspiracy theories about it." Meanwhile, Azerbaijan's strong military relationship with Israel only adds to Iran's suspicions
  • Iran recently announced a huge new oil discovery in the Caspian, which Tehran says contains 10 billion barrels of oil. While Iran hasn't yet announced the exact location of the find, the information it has put out suggests that the discovery, according to regional analyst Alex Jackson, is in "what would reasonably be considered Azerbaijan's waters."
Ed Webb

Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for 'dirty ops' on Iran arms deal | UK news | The G... - 0 views

  • Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal
  • People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal
  • “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”
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  • It’s bloody outrageous
  • officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago
  • “The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.”
  • Investigators were also apparently told to contact prominent Iranian Americans as well as pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence. They are believed to have looked at comments made by Rhodes in a 2016 New York Times profile in which he admitted relying on inexperienced reporters to create an “echo chamber” that helped sway public opinion to secure the deal
  • it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed
  • digging up dirt on someone for carrying out their professional responsibilities in their positions as White House officials is a chillingly authoritarian thing to do
Ed Webb

Parting the Seas | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • Lebanon desperately needed hydrocarbon revenue, but the prospect of a confrontation with a militarily superior Israel was dictating caution among global energy firms
  • Hariri designated his foreign policy adviser and the former ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Chatah, as my most senior governmental point of contact. Mohamed was cordial, but tough in insisting that Lebanon would stand up for its rights. A kindly and decent man, Mohamed shared with me his view that the Lebanese political establishment would seek to steal future hydrocarbon revenues, and he therefore favored the “Alaska approach,” whereby such income would be distributed directly to every Lebanese adult. No doubt it was that kind of thinking that got Mohamed assassinated in 2013.
  • During our many meetings at LAF headquarters my colleagues and I never ceased to be impressed by the professional excellence – scientific, legal, and diplomatic – of the Lebanese team.
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  • this is what Lebanon and Israel each produced: a line extending from where the two countries meet on the wave-washed rocks of Ras en Naqoura/Rosh Ha Nikra roughly 70 miles out to sea, meeting a perpendicular claim line already established by the Republic of Cyprus and accepted by both Israel and Lebanon. Lebanon did what it could, within acceptable customary standards, to make that line bend south, nearly touching established Israeli exploratory fields. Israel did what it could, short of violating anything appropriate, to make its line veer toward the north. Neither side did anything improper or illegal. But 882 square kilometers of Mediterranean Sea were left in dispute.
  • In recent weeks, Washington has succeeded in reviving its Lebanon-Israel maritime mediation. The “Hof Line” – something that ought to be called the “Ray Line” – has received some attention in the press. After three sessions there is no breakthrough. But at least the two parties are in the same room in UNIFIL headquarters, something Israel declined to do a decade ago.The U.S. maritime mediation of 2010-2012 is missing from the annals of great diplomatic accomplishments. Indeed, in the end, it failed. But the parties to this ongoing dispute would be ill-advised to ignore what they accomplished, with good-faith American help, nearly a decade ago. They can, perhaps, try marginally to improve on their predecessors, bearing in mind nothing happens without mutual agreement. Ray gave them everything they need now to get to “Yes.” By honoring his memory, a win-win scenario – the rarest of occurrences in the Middle East – can come about.
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