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Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

From SEALs to All-Out War: Why Rushing Into Yemen Is a Dangerous Idea | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • As is often the case with Trump’s comments on policy, they quickly become the focus of media attention, rather than what the administration is actually doing — or what the facts are on the ground.
  • two separate but overlapping conflicts
  • a counterterrorism fight waged by Yemeni government, with U.S. support, against AQAP, al Qaeda’s most virulent franchise
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  • The second, and more damaging conflict, is a civil war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi minority, which was expected to last a matter of weeks, and maybe months, but is now well into its third year. It began when Houthi militia fighters descended on the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and soon evicted the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close partner of the United States.
  • if new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to make an early diplomatic contribution, then there is a confounding but vital mission with his name on it: de-escalating a Yemen civil war that is damaging U.S. interests and should have stopped a long time ago
  • The civil war escalated dramatically in March 2015, with the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which understandably felt threatened by the turmoil on its border and by ties between the Houthis and Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran. The United States, which had long been urging Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility for security challenges in its region, offered a range of support, including with intelligence, weapons sales, aerial refueling for Saudi planes, and various measures to help secure the Saudi border
  • According to the United Nations, 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention, including 10,000 civilians. The humanitarian situation in what was already one of the world’s poorest countries, is now, after Syria, the most dire on the planet, with one in five Yemenis severely food insecure
  • The war has preoccupied key partners with an enemy that does not directly threaten the United States. Indiscriminate air strikes, conducted with American weapons and in the context of American assistance, have killed scores of non-combatants (such incidents eventually compelled the Obama administration to review and adjust our assistance to the coalition). And while Iran and the Houthis have historically maintained an arms-length relationship, the long conflict has brought them closer and led to the introduction of more advanced weapons, such as missiles capable of striking deep into Saudi territory or of threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for maritime traffic.
  • Saudi officials and their Emirati coalition partners have been signaling for months that they are eager to end the conflict, which they did not expect to last nearly this long
  • after years of U.N.-led negotiations that sought to sell a relatively one-sided peace to the Houthis (despite what was, at best, a stalemate on the ground), the Obama administration developed and bequeathed to its successors a more balanced roadmap to which all key parties (the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Yemeni government — as well as the United States, U.N., and U.K.) grudgingly agreed
  • the Houthis are infamously difficult to work with. When Secretary of State John Kerry met for several hours with their representatives in Oman last November, he was forced to endure a lengthy airing of historical grievances before embarking on the topic at hand. They also have a long history of violating dozens of agreements, which every Saudi diplomat can recount, chapter and verse. Negotiating peace will also inevitably involve straining relationships with our key partners, who will need to be pushed in the right direction
  • Hadi, who all relevant players acknowledge cannot govern a reconciled Yemeni state, has consistently scuttled deals that would require him leave office. His Saudi patrons have proven either unwilling, or unable, to compel better behavior and are themselves too are quick to revert to unreasonable demands — a tendency that would be reinforced if the Trump administration signals it unconditionally has Riyadh’s back
  • the Emiratis, who maintain a heavy troop presence in southern Yemen but have, wisely, been more focused on AQAP (the first war) than the Houthis (second), have for many months been threatening to attack the Houthi-held port of Hudeidah, a provocative step that would almost certain set back any peacemaking efforts indefinitely
  • an expanded presence of U.S. forces — while Yemeni and Saudi governments are still at war with the Houthis — could bring U.S. troops into close quarters with Iran and its proxies, with all of the escalatory potential that entails
  • While the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship late last year, they have not repeated that mistake since the Obama administration retaliated by destroying radars located along the coast. If President Trump chooses to put U.S. forces into the middle of a civil war, it should explain a purpose and objective more concretely than simply “pushing back” on Iran. Moreover, it must do so with its eyes open to the risks those forces would be assuming and the reality that a limited special forces mission is unlikely to turn the tide on the ground
  • the longer the conflict with the Houthis continues, the more AQAP will continue to benefit from our, and our partners’, divided focus, as it strengthens its hold on ungoverned territory
Ed Webb

The world's most mobile accused war criminal | FP Passport - 0 views

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    IR question: how can this be so?
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
Michael Fisher

Limbo World: Dispatches from Countries That Do Not Exist - By Graeme Wood | Foreign Policy - 2 views

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    Limbo World: They start by acting like real countries, then hope to become them.
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    interesting. not sure id want that health minister to operate on me haha...
Ed Webb

So much for a friendly Biden visit to Israel | FP Passport - 1 views

  • "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, "we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."
Ed Webb

Trump tightens the screws on Iran's oil - 0 views

  • the White House is embarking on an economic offensive intended to collapse the Iranian government, which is already contending with a steady tempo of internal unrest driven by economic and political frustrations
  • Those who have lamented Obama’s restraint in the Middle East will now have another taste of its antithesis: the purposeful American disruption of the status quo underpinned by the assumption that things can only get better. Unfortunately, that rarely holds true in the Middle East
  • without the reinforcement of multilateral measures or broad diplomatic support, the Trump administration is deploying U.S. sanctions on Iran as a bludgeon rather than a scalpel in hopes of wreaking maximum havoc on Iran as quickly as possible. The financial measures targeting Iran effectively cast a much wider net than traditional trade sanctions, and the risk of steep fines or worse—loss of access to the U.S. economy—acts as a powerful deterrent for individual and firm decisionmaking even in the absence of government buy-in.
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  • This time around, Washington has chosen to go it alone on Iran, after an intense but ultimately fruitless effort by Britain, France, and Germany to devise a compromise to save the nuclear deal. That awkward episode, in which the president appeared wholly uninformed about the talks, was a feature, not a bug; spurning compromise is the modus operandi for U.S. policy toward Iran, as the latest U.S. statements ruling out sanctions waivers or exemptions make clear.
  • It’s not just oil: U.S. sanctions will be felt across every aspect of the Iranian economy, although in theory, agricultural products, medicines, and medical devices are exempted. In practice, the repercussions are sweeping and unpredictable
  • Iran sends its largest oil volumes to China and India, where diverse and reliable energy supplies are critical components of economic growth and national security. Both governments can draw upon ample access to bespoke financial institutions and other creative workarounds that sustain trade with Iran and are likely to seek to exploit the opportunity to press Iran for discounts and favorable payment arrangements
  • As Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, observed: “You cannot place sanctions on two OPEC founder members and still blame OPEC for oil price volatility. … this is business, Mr. President—we thought you knew it.”
  • Through considerable internal turmoil and external conflicts, Iran has been a mainstay of global energy markets for a century; the only previous sustained rupture in Iranian supply came at the hands of a British embargo in 1951-53. That blockade ended with official American conspirators helping to effect the ouster of a troublesome Iranian leadership. At the time, this seemed like a victory for Washington; over the long term, that U.S. intervention to topple nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq proved to be a disaster for American interests and for Iran.
  • America’s open antagonism provides Tehran with another excuse to intensify repression and divert blame for the country’s woes
Ed Webb

How Dangerous Are U.S.-Iran Tensions? - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most critical chokepoints in the world. Nearly one-third of all seaborne crude oil (more than 18 million barrels a day) passes through the 21-mile-wide opening between Oman and Iran, as well as about 30 percent of all natural gas shipped on tankers. The strait is even narrower than it looks, since the deep-water shipping channel used by oil tankers is only two miles wide. Iran, with military presence on a number of islands near the strait and along the northern coastline, dominates that critical body of water.
  • While Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have some overland pipelines that can ship oil toward the Red Sea, thus bypassing Hormuz and any Iranian threat, those pipelines can only carry a fraction of what currently travels by ship
  • the U.S. Navy is trying to overhaul its minesweeping capability by relying less on dedicated minesweepers and more on underwater drones, helicopters, and more than a dozen mine-capable littoral combat ships.
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  • In the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, both sides targeted each others’ oil exports, leading to the so-called “tanker war,” which over nearly a decade saw more than 200 oil tankers attacked and more than 50 sunk or seriously damaged. By the waning years of the conflict, U.S. forces began escorting oil tankers through the Persian Gulf to ensure the free flow of oil. There, the risk of Iranian mines was made apparent, with a mine severely damaging a U.S. frigate. And as the British Navy learned in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, in restricted waters, mines can hammer capital ships, and mine clearance can take an agonizingly long time.
  • “While Iran’s asymmetric assets do not provide it with the ability to win a major direct conflict with US forces, the coordinated, simultaneous use of Iran’s submarines, anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), fast-attack craft, and swarm tactics in a first strike could inflict costly losses on US naval forces and commercial shipping in the Strait,” concluded Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in an exhaustive study. “These assets and tactics, in combination with Iran’s large arsenal of naval mines, likely render Iran capable of closing the Gulf for a short while.”
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