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Ed Webb

Obama: Global arms dealer-in-chief | Middle East Eye - 2 views

  • A newly released report reveals Obama is the greatest arms exporter since the Second World War. The dollar value of all major arms deals overseen by the first five years of the Obama White House now exceeds the amount overseen by the Bush White House in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion
  • I knew there were record deals with the Saudis, but to outsell the eight years of Bush, to sell more than any president since World War II, was surprising even to me, who follows these things quite closely. The majority, 60 percent, have gone to the Persian Gulf and Middle East, and within that, the Saudis have been the largest recipient of things like US fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters, bombs, guns, almost an entire arsenal
  • The Congressional Research Service found that since October 2010 alone, President Obama has agreed to sell $90.4 billion in arms to the Gulf kingdom.“That President Obama would so enthusiastically endorse arming such a brutal authoritarian government is unsurprising, since the United States is by far the leading arms dealer (with 47 percent of the world total) to what an annual State Department report classifies as the world’s “least democratically governed states,” notes Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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  • In 2008, the United Nations banned the use of cluster munitions - an agreement the US is yet to ratify. Why? Cluster bombs are the number one seller for Textron Systems Corporation – a Wall Street-listed company located in Providence, Rhode Island
  • In February of this year, the Obama administration announced it would allow the sale of US manufactured armed drones to its allies in the Middle East
Ed Webb

Tough Guy Leaking - Salon.com - 0 views

  • The primary fear-mongering agenda item for the National Security and Surveillance State industry is now cyberwarfare
  • as is usually true when it comes to Washington warnings about the evils of Others — this is pure projection
  • Administration defenders will undoubtedly insist that unleashing cyber warfare was all necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and impeding an Israeli attack — even though the U.S. Government acknowledges there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; Iran has the absolute right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, and it is far from clear that this virus meaningfully impeded Iran’s nuclear program. But no matter: once a Manichean storyline is implanted (Evil Iran v. Virtuous America), all acts of aggression by the super-hero against the villain are inherently justified.
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  • This morning’s story by Sanger is but the latest in a long line of leaks about classified programs that have two attributes in common: (1) they come from senior Obama administration officials; and (2) they are designed to depict President Obama, in an Election Year, as a super-tough, hands-on, no-nonsense Warrior. Put another way, the administration that is pathologically fixated on secrecy and harshly punishing whistleblowers routinely leaks national security secrets when doing so can politically benefit the President.
  •  Dear Vital Jewish Voters in Crucial Swing States: behold what this great leader did in secret to pummel Iran.
  • consider the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to prosecute former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling under espionage statutes for allegedly telling The New York Times‘ James Risen — almost ten years ago — about dangerous mistakes the CIA made in trying to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program (mistakes which actually resulted in helping the Iranian program)
  • aside from the tried-and-true strategy of Democratic politicians benefiting politically from provoking criticism from the “Left,” Obama officials (and their apparatchiks) are eager to depict him as a violence-wielding aggressor. As Digby put it this week, “the [Obama] campaign is happy about all this condemnation” aimed at the drone program as it “proves [his] macho bona fides.” Obama officials will undoubtedly be just as pleased with any objections to waging undeclared, unauthorized cyber-warfare on Iran’s perfectly legal nuclear program, thus bringing the world yet another new means of destructive warfare
Ed Webb

Michael Brenner: Eyeless in Gaza: Obama's Palestine Flop - 0 views

  • Obama's peace initiative on Palestine suffered a stunning, perhaps fatal, blow last week. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu rejected out of hand any freeze on the West Bank settlements which the White House had pressed as a necessary first step toward serious negotiations. The Obama plan is now stillborn, never having drawn a hopeful breath.
  • The current Israeli government is even more resistant to proposals for a viable two state solution than its recalcitrant predecessors. It may bend but not break unless Obama threatens a rupture of Washington's all purpose commitment to the Jewish state. There is nothing in his performance to date that suggests he has either the necessary conviction or courage to do that.
  • Obama rushed to say that the settlement matter is not so important after all, just a piece of a complex problem. Just as the "public option" was redefined as "just a sliver" of the overall package. There is no virtue in this approach. It is classic avoidance behavior.
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  • he will expect to bring the parties into line with only slight resort to coercion. Accordingly, his instinctive avoidance of head-on confrontations will leave him unprepared, psychologically and politically, for the requisite arm twisting with its inescapable political reaction from the Israeli lobby at home.
  • There is no sign that he or his advisors appreciate how constrained Abbas is by the reality of Hamas' popularity eclipsing that of Fatah
  • Unfortunately, Michael Brenner's assessment of the situation seems accurate. My only quibble is with the implication in the article that if Obama was different things might go better. It is also possible, that the US is just in an intractable position on this. US policy is driven by Christian and Jewish fundamentalist Zionist zealots, the military-industrial complex and AIPAC. These disparate forces have controlled US Israel policy for decades now and it hard to see how Obama, regardless of what skills and inclinations he has, could do anything about that. The fact seems to be that the US is constrained to work against its self interest and against a peaceful, equitable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by its own internal politics and there is just nothing in the foreseeable future that is going to change that.
nate grefe

Op-Ed - Bin Laden to U.S.: "Drop Israel, Let's Talk" - Worldpress.org - 0 views

  • In a 12-minute address on audiotape, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden spoke to the American people on the 8th anniversary of 9/11.
  • His address (assuming it is his voice on the tape), directed "to the American people," asserted that the main reason for the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, was U.S. support for Israel as well as "some other injustices."
  • Interestingly, bin Laden claimed the war between the two "nations" (i.e the American nation and the Islamic "Umma") can stop if the White House eliminates what he called the "Israel lobby."
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  • Bin Laden was referring mainly to Bush's War on Terror, but could also have been referring to what the Obama administration has recently called the "war of necessity."
  • Bin Laden went on to say that "our two Umma," meaning America and the Muslim world, "are both victims" of one aggressor: those "who control the White House, particularly the Israel lobby and the multinational corporations."
  • Bin Laden also praised President Obama for having "admitted at last in his speech in Cairo the existence of our people's miseries."
  • However, he believes that President Obama won't be able to meet that challenge. "Obama is a mustad'aaf." In some of the media analysis in English the term was translated automatically as "Obama is weak." But that translation is not accurate. "Mustdaa'f" here means "victimized" or forced to act against his original intentions.
  • But among the many messages bin Laden is sending, there is also an attempt to create a division within the Obama administration by inciting those he believes are anti-Israel to pressure the American president to curtail the influence of the so-called "Israel lobby" inside the White House.
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    supposed bin Laden address. Focuses on Israel Lobby
Ed Webb

Former Obama officials propose talking with Iran on Syria aid | The Back Channel - 0 views

  • Amid deepening US-Russia strains over Ukraine, two former Obama administration officials say it may be time for the US to explore trying to develop a channel with Iran to discuss Syria, beginning with humanitarian relief.
  • “My bottom line sense with the Iranians is there’s hope for a US-Iran conversation [on Syria humanitarian aid] that is a serious and potentially productive one,” Frederic Hof, a former senior US diplomat advising the Obama administration on Syria and the Levant, told Al-Monitor.in an interview last week. In track 2 conversations with Iranians that Hof has been involved in, “the people I talk to are blunt:  they are not interested in talking about a [Syria] political transition,” Hof, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said. “They need Assad and regime support to Hezbollah in Lebanon as Iran’s first line of defense against Israel and the possibility of an Israeli air assault on their nuclear facilities.”
  • Those “in charge of the US role in the P5+1 will absolutely oppose any kind of cross -pollination or discussion about Syria. So it takes a decision almost at the highest level,” to try to pursue a Syria channel with Iran.
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  • Hof said he raised with Iranian interlocutors in track 2 talks the prospect of a scenario in which a “Srebrenica-style moment” occurred in Syria, as the Iran and the P5+1 were advancing a nuclear deal. A scenario in which “your client does something so outrageous, that it inspires POTUS to do what he declined to do in August or September,” Hof said. “To the extent you guys are serious on the nuclear front, what does that do to that progress?” Hof asked his Iranian interlocutors. “And they looked at one another and shrugged, because their attitude is, Assad is not the most reliable guy in the world.”
Sarah Romano

Obama receives Nobel Peace Prize - 0 views

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    "In his Nobel speech, Obama expounded on the concept of 'just war' and the necessity of the use of force. "I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war," Obama said. 'What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.'"
Ed Webb

Leaving - 0 views

  • It will seem counterintuitive to many that someone would trade “senior official” status for a job in a “think tank” to exert more influence. But I had concluded in the late summer of 2012 that President Barack Obama’s words of a year earlier about Assad stepping aside were empty, and that my efforts in government to bring dead words to life were futile.  Instead of implementing what had sounded like the commander-in-chief’s directive, the State Department was saddled in August 2012 by the White House with a make-work, labor-intensive project cataloguing the countless things that would have to be in place for a post-Assad Syria to function. But how to get to post-Assad? The White House had shut down the sole interagency group examining options for achieving that end.
  • My job since April 2009, as a deputy to Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, was to build a foundation for Syrian-Israeli and eventually Israeli-Lebanese peace. Progress on the former seemed to be happening. Yet by using deadly force on his own citizens, Assad ended, perhaps forever, a process that might have recovered for Syria the territory lost by his Minister of Defense father in 1967.  When the full story of Syria’s betrayal by a family and its entourage is written, the decision of Assad to sink a potentially promising peace mediation will merit a chapter.
  • President Obama would caricature external alternatives by creating and debating straw men: invented idiots calling for the invasion and occupation of Syria.  He would deal with internal dissent by taking officials through multi-step, worst-case, hypothetical scenarios of what might happen in the wake of any American attempt, no matter how modest, to complicate regime mass murder. The ‘logical’ result would inevitably involve something between World War III and an open-ended, treasury-draining American commitment.  The result of these exercises in self-disarmament would be Vladimir Putin and his ilk concluding that American power was, as a practical matter, equal to Palau’s; Ukraine could be dismembered, NATO allies threatened, and the United States itself harassed with impunity. He did not mean to do it, but Barack Obama’s performance in Syria produced global destabilization.
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  • It was not until the fall of 2014 when it became clear what was motivating him. The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon reported on a “secret” letter from the president to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in which (among other things) Mr. Obama reportedly assured Khamenei that American military power aimed at ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) in Syria would not target the Assad regime. But why give Khamenei such a reckless assurance, one that would surely be relayed to Assad, enhancing his already massive sense of impunity, with deadly consequences for Syrian civilians?
  • if necessary, apply modest military measures to complicate civilian mass murder, and not only when the murder weapon is sarin nerve agent. 
  • The Trump administration is infinitely more open to considering policy alternatives than was its predecessor. Yet in Washington’s hyper-partisan state, some who fully understood and opposed the catastrophic shortcomings of the Obama approach to Syria reflexively criticize anything the new administration does or considers doing to end the Assad regime’s free ride for civilian slaughter. Letting Syrian civilians pay the price for self-serving political motives may never go out of style in some Western political circles.
  • I remain hopeful that American leaders will, at last, arrive at a Syria policy worthy of the United States.  Such a policy would stabilize a post-ISIS Syria east of the Euphrates River in a way that would encourage the emergence of a Syrian governmental alternative to a crime family and its murderous entourage. 
  • Tehran was indeed dependent on Bashar al-Assad to provide strategic depth for and support to its own jewel in the crown: Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Barack Obama feared that protecting Syrian civilians could anger Iran and cause it to walk away from nuclear talks. From his point of view, the prices paid by Syrians, Syria’s neighbors, and American allies in the region and beyond were worth the grand prize. It seems never to have occurred to him that Iran wanted the nuclear deal for its own reasons, and did not require being appeased in Syria. I was told by senior Iranian ex-officials in track II discussions that they were stunned and gratified by American passivity in Syria.
  • such a policy, while being open to any genuine offer of Russian cooperation in Syria, would recognize that (in the words of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats) “Frankly, the United States is under attack.” He was referring to Russia.
Ed Webb

Obama officials' spin on Benghazi attack mirrors Bin Laden raid untruths | Glenn Greenw... - 0 views

  • The Obama White House's interest in spreading this falsehood is multi-fold and obvious:For one, the claim that this attack was just about anger over an anti-Muhammad video completely absolves the US government of any responsibility or even role in provoking the anti-American rage driving it. After all, if the violence that erupted in that region is driven only by anger over some independent film about Muhammad, then no rational person would blame the US government for it, and there could be no suggestion that its actions in the region – things like this, and this, and this, and this – had any role to play.
  • it's deeply satisfying to point over there at those Muslims and scorn their primitive religious violence, while ignoring the massive amounts of violence to which one's own country continuously subjects them. It's much more fun and self-affirming to scoff: "can you believe those Muslims are so primitive that they killed our ambassador over a film?" than it is to acknowledge: "our country and its allies have continually bombed, killed, invaded, and occupied their countries and supported their tyrants."
  • the self-loving mindset that enables the New York Times to write an entire editorial today purporting to analyze Muslim rage without once mentioning the numerous acts of American violence aimed at them
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  • Critics of the war in Libya warned that the US was siding with (and arming and empowering) violent extremists, including al-Qaida elements, that would eventually cause the US to claim it had to return to Libya to fight against them – just as its funding and arming of Saddam in Iraq and the mujahideen in Afghanistan subsequently justified new wars against those one-time allies
  • The falsehood told by the White House – this was just a spontaneous attack prompted by this video that we could not have anticipated and had nothing to do with – fixed all of those problems. Critical attention was thus directed to Muslims (what kind of people kill an ambassador over a film?) and away from the White House and its policies.
  • the number one rule of good journalism, even of good citizenship, is to remember that "all governments lie." Yet, no matter how many times we see this axiom proven true, over and over, there is still a tendency, a desire, to believe that the US government's claims are truthful and reliable.
Ed Webb

Netanyahu's cartoon bomb wasn't meant for world leaders, and not even for Obama | The T... - 0 views

  • Netanyahu is electioneering. Whether he is actively working to undermine Obama’s Jewish support and bolster Romney’s candidacy is unclear. But there is little doubt he is using the few weeks left till US election day, when a second-term Obama will likely not be as attentive or interested in what he has to say, to drill his point home at every opportunity.
  • But it was hard on Thursday to listen to Netanyahu’s speech — delivered in English, couched in simple language full of references to the Bible and Jewish history, and accompanied by what may be the most childish prop ever brought into the Assembly debate — and not regard his words as intended for American popular consumption
Julianne Greco

Khamenei Speech Offers No Compromises - WSJ.com - 0 views

  • Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his second address to the nation since the turmoil over the June presidential election, set a tough tone for where the country is heading: No compromises with opponents outside or inside Iran
  • The comments set the stage for the possible arrest of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
  • The document, and a public Russian rebuff of the idea of new sanctions against Iran, left President Barack Obama with few options before a deadline he set this month for diplomatic progress.
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  • In Iran, Mr. Khamenei's speech marked the anniversary of the death of Shiite Islam's founder Imam Ali. Mr. Khamenei drew comparisons between his rule and that of the imam. He recounted how Imam Ali had practiced patience with opponents until it was clear they weren't changing course, and then took out his sword to deliver them a final blow.
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    In just a few weeks (or sooner) Iran will be forced to take action. It will be interesting to see how Obama will later react to this increasinly volatile situation...and will Ahmadinejad heed warning? How Iran proceeds from here will very well set the stage for conduct in U.S.-Iran relations during the Obama presidency.
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    What better way to win over public opinion then to evoke religious bases and compare his rule to that of the Imam? It's ironic that Khamenei describes a level of historical tolerance, then completely goes the other direction and asserts that violence must be the conclusion if they don't get their way.
Ed Webb

Barack Obama's great test | open Democracy News Analysis - 0 views

  • the limitations of Obama's style and approach
  • His administration, he promised, would do its best to revive the world's economy, to address climate change, to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and to bring peace to Israel and Palestine. These are all admirable aspirations, and it is perhaps unreasonable to hope that the president might have admitted that the United States has been largely responsible for each of these problems.
  • Barack Obama is increasingly coming to look like Lyndon B Johnson, a brilliantly gifted politician whose ambition to build a "great society" was sacrificed because of the war in Vietnam. The heart of the Obama approach is now clear. He genuinely wants to move away from the frozen folly of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century, but he is not willing to take the political risk of acknowledging America's responsibility for the problems he wants to solve.
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  • Still less does anyone in Washington seem to understand that "Gitmo" itself was always an absurd colonial anomaly of the kind Americans used to denounce. Nor does there seem any will to undo the creation of an even more scandalous, though militarily more useful, colony in the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.
  • Washington's instinct is to treat China as a potential partner in the domination of the world
  • Because Europe is divided into many different states, and no doubt because many American politicians and policy-makers find European attitudes annoying, American policy does not recognise that collectively Europe has a bigger economy than the United States and far bigger than China (even if China's growth has been spectacular).
  • No one questions Barack Obama's personal goodwill, still less his political intelligence. But on the basis of his first nine months in office, his commitment to a serious reassessment of the limitations of American power - let alone to an acknowledgment of the implications of the country's relative decline - is not yet clear.
Ed Webb

Jacob Heilbrunn: Obama's Shrewd Iran Policy - 0 views

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    The good news is that President Obama has a brilliant strategy for dealing with Iran. The bad news is that brilliance may not be enough.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Engagement is Still On," by Joshua Landis - 0 views

  • Washington’s desire to improve relations with Damascus has not come to an end, despite the claims of several Kuwaiti and Lebanese papers, which have been insisting that US engagement with Syria is over. Their false reports have been accompanied by a barrage of articles produced by Bush era diplomats proclaiming the failure of Obama’s engagement with Syria.
  • The real problem for Obama’s Mid East policy is that Netanyahu is refusing to pursue peace. The lynch pin of Obama’s Middle East policy is Arab-Israeli peace. Everything else on his agenda flows from his promise that he can deliver on a two state solution. Syria will end its support for militant groups that fight Israel if it gets back the Golan and a credible effort is made to provide a modicum of justice for Palestinians. Iran would lose much of its influence in the region as a result. Ahmedinejad’s anti-Israel rantings would lose their purchase. As it is now, almost every Arab is hoping that Iran will get the bomb – if only to counterbalance Israel’s overwhelming military superiority. It is this superiority that allows it to scoff at both Syria and the Palestinians – and, indeed, scoff at the US.
  • So long as Israel occupies the Golan Heights, Syria and Washington will remain adversaries, and engagement will be very difficult and limited. The question that hovers over Syria-US relations today is whether the Obama administration will turn to the Syrian peace track in the hopes of salvaging something of its Middle East policy. There seems to be no positive movement on the Palestinian peace track, so Obama may be forced to look north.
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  • Netanyahu knows Obama will be paralyzed by congress. He is enjoying his power. One can only wonder whether the US president will have a better bargaining position with Israel once Iran has acquired a nuclear bomb?
  • The seeming failure of America’s Palestine policy means that Damascus, while hoping for the best, will expect little. US diplomats are constantly reminding Syrian officials that it is not in their power to rescind sanctions. They invoke the strength of the pro-Israel lobby in congress as an excuse for their impotence. What is Syria to make of this? Naturally, Syrian officials are loath to do favors for Americans who claim to be able to do little in return.
Ed Webb

Prominent Saudi royal blasts Obama on Israel - Washington Times - 1 views

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    Obama administration seen as too close to Israel.  See page 2 for comparison of Washington pols to muppets...
Kate Musgrave

Haaretz: Obama has made Netanyahu an offer he can't refuse - 0 views

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    Any headline that references the Godfather is too enticing not to at least glance at - particularly if the characters involved are now Obama and Netanyahu.
Michael Fisher

How Israelis See Obama (Page 2) | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • So in effect, Obama's popularity or lack thereof has little to do with the prospects for peace. The real problem is, simply, Israelis are happy with the situation as it stands and have little motivation to change it. Only by a small majority of 4 percentage points do Israelis believe that they cannot shoulder the economic and security burdens of the status quo, and even fewer think that U.S. support for Israel will decline if there is no peace (by 49 to 47 percent, within the margin of error).
  • Given the daunting challenge of moving a number of the 500,000 Israeli settlers living beyond the green line, the country's original 1949 borders, (or leaving some under a future Palestinian sovereignty), one begins to understand why the current cost-benefit calculation weighs in favor of maintaining the status quo.
  • only 36 percent of Israelis consider their own prime minister "honest and trustworthy
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  • Israelis care most about regular bread-and-butter issues.
  • Israelis see few reasons not to continue the occupation and are perhaps being offered the wrong kinds of incentives for choosing a different path. The behavior of Israel's leadership is consistent with a short-term political calculation that Israelis aren't willing to disrupt the present scenario.
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    How Israelis see Obama reveals more about the Israeli people than it does President Obama (Read...).
Ed Webb

Iraq War - Salon.com - 1 views

  • Seasoned observers find preposterous the prospect that a crash training program could double the size of both the police and the army and turn them into effective, upright and independent security forces in the space of two years or so. (Obama wants to begin drawing back down U.S. forces in only 18 months.) Nor would mere basic training address the problems of illiteracy, drug use, corruption, desertion and ethnic grievances.
  • Obama is in danger of being misled by the inside-the-Beltway think tank consensus on what happened in Iraq, and of applying those "lessons" to Afghanistan. Even if the two actually resembled one another, the Washington story about Iraq is full of holes. But they are very different countries, societies and situations. Bush caught a break with his surge, inasmuch as it coincided with a massive shift in the local power balance. Obama will have to be very lucky indeed to catch a similar break in Afghanistan.
Ed Webb

Just What The Middle East Needs -- $110 Billion More In Weapons | HuffPost - 1 views

  • It appears the Trump administration is counting on the country with the worst human rights record in the region to enforce peace and security in the Middle East.
  • Piled on top of this enormous arms lot are precision-guided munitions that President Obama would not sell the Saudis. That’s not because the Obama folks didn’t like selling weapons to the Saudis — Obama sold more weapons and gear to Saudi Arabia in eight years than all other previous administrations combined. No, Obama withheld precision-guided munitions because the Saudis were using U.S.-provided munitions to repeatedly target civilian and humanitarian sites in their bombing campaign inside Yemen, despite regular protests from the United States.
  • millions of Yemenis are being radicalized against the country they blame for the civilian deaths: the United States. By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more — not fewer — civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them.
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  • The Saudis’ obsession with Iran, and the proxy wars (like Yemen) that flow from this obsession, mean that they have little bandwidth to go after extremist groups. Meanwhile, the Saudis continue to export a version of Islam called Wahhabism that is a crucial building block for the perversion of Islam parroted by groups like al Qaeda
  • we have to ask whether continuing to fuel the growing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the right way to bring peace to the Middle East. To the extent this conflict is going to continue, we are clearly on the Saudis’ side, but the inarguable effect of selling more capable weapons to the Saudis is the acceleration of weapons build-up in Iran
  • feeding the arms race between the two nations probably isn’t the best long-term strategy
  • What do we have to gain by going in so enthusiastically with the Sunnis against the Shia in their fight for power in the Middle East? This isn’t our fight, and history suggests the U.S. military meddling in the Middle East ends up great for U.S. military contractors, but pretty miserable for everyone else.
  • $110 billion could educate every single one of the 30 million African primary school age children who has no access to school today...for five years
Ed Webb

How Biden Kept Screwing Up Iraq, Over and Over and Over Again - 0 views

  • Reviewing Biden’s record on Iraq is like rewinding footage of a car crash to identify the fateful decisions that arrayed people at the bloody intersection. He was not just another Democratic hawk navigating the trauma of 9/11 in a misguided way. He didn’t merely call his vote for a disastrous war part of “a march to peace and security.” Biden got the Iraq war wrong before and throughout invasion, occupation, and withdrawal. Convenient as it is to blame Bush—who, to be clear, bears primary and eternal responsibility for the disaster—Biden embraced the Iraq war for what he portrayed as the result of his foreign policy principles and persisted, most often in error, for the same reasons. 
  • “I think the vast majority of the foreign policy community thinks [my record has] been very good.” That will be important context should Biden become president. He’s the favorite of many in Democratic foreign policy circles who believe in resetting the American geopolitical position to what it was the day before Trump was elected, rather than considering it critical context for why Trump was elected. 
  • National Democrats embraced the war on terrorism with enthusiasm and, with few exceptions, were disinclined to challenge Bush on foreign policy even as that foreign policy became more militant and extreme
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  • Biden’s hearings highlighted the dangers of occupation, such as the basic uncertainty around what would replace Saddam Hussein, as well as the bloody, long, and expensive commitment required to midwife a democratic Iraq. “In many ways, those hearings were remarkably prescient about what was to happen,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime aide on the committee and a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. “He and [GOP Sen. Richard] Lugar talked about not the day after but the decade after. If we did go in, they talked about the lack of a plan to secure any peace that followed the intervention.”
  • But the balance of expert testimony concerned guessing at Saddam’s weapons program, the pragmatic questions of invading, and the diplomatic legwork of an action whose justice—if not necessarily its wisdom—was presumed
  • the regnant foreign policy consensus in America: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had sealed his fate by doing so. It was an enormous factual mistake born out of an inability to see that Saddam believed that transparent disarmament would spell his doom at the hands of Iran. This misapprehension led advocates to accept that the U.S.—preferably with others, but alone if necessary—was justified or even obligated to get rid of Saddam
  • Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, convinced the White House to attempt securing United Nations support for the war. It was a cynical maneuver: the Security Council could accept additional weapons inspections but not war; Bush could claim he tried for an internationalist solution before invading unilaterally. Its primary effect was to legitimize the war in the eyes of uncomfortable congressional Democrats who had made the tactical error of disputing the war for insufficient multilateralism rather than arguing it was wrong
  • For Biden, the critical point, “what this is about,” was America daring to “enforce” U.N. Security Council disarmament resolutions that the U.N. was saying did not justify war. When the world stood against America, in the forum Biden considered critical and Bush considered pretextual, America would simply act in the world’s name. He approvingly quoted the infamous Henry Kissinger: “As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a special, unilateral capacity, and indeed obligation, to lead in implementing its convictions, but it also has a special obligation to justify its actions by principles that transcend the assertions of preponderance of power.” America’s confidence in its nobility was, in the end, all the justification it required. 
  • Biden acknowledged that the “imminence and inevitability” of the threat Iraq posed was “exaggerated,” although that recognition was irrelevant to both his reasoning and his vote. He performed an end-zone dance over Bush advisers who favored what he called the doctrine of preemption—a euphemism for wars of aggression—as if his vote did not authorize exactly the preemptive war those advisers wanted. The trouble Biden saw was that elevating preemption to a foreign policy “doctrine” would grant “every nation an unfettered right of preemption.” Left unsaid was that it would be better for America to keep that unfettered right for itself.
  • Nothing that followed went the way Biden expected. Bush did not share Biden’s distinction between the U.N. weapons-inspection process and the invasion. Iraq did not passively accept its occupation. And Biden did not reap the political benefit of endorsing the war that seemed so obvious to the Democratic consultant class in the autumn of 2002. 
  • Iraq was an abstraction to Biden—as it was, ironically, to the neoconservatives Biden had criticized—a canvas on which to project theories of American power
  • Biden was unprepared to break from prevention, which is always the prerogative of hegemonic powers. Boxed in, he continued to argue that the trouble was Bush elevating preemption to centrality in foreign policy, and fretted that predatory states would cite that “doctrine” to prey on weaker ones. He neglected to see that all those states needed was the example of the Iraq war itself. Eleven years later, when Biden was vice president, Vladimir Putin cited Iraq as a reason the U.S. had no standing to criticize him for invading Ukraine. 
  • Biden praised the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shockingly corrupt and incompetent organization. Its chief, Jerry Bremer, was “first-rate,” Biden said mere months after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, the greatest gift America could have given the insurgency
  • Rebuilding Iraq’s police force was left to former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Biden called “a serious guy with a serious team.” Iraq’s police would soon become indistinguishable from sectarian death squads; Kerik would soon plead guilty to tax fraud and other federal corruption charges
  • By the next summer, with Iraq in flames, Biden continued his misdiagnosis. The original sin wasn’t the war itself, it was Bush’s stewardship—the same stewardship Biden praised in 2002. “Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath virtually alone,” he thundered at the 2004 Democratic convention. The intelligence “was hyped to justify going to war,” Biden continued, causing “America’s credibility and security [to] have suffered a terrible blow.” Yet Biden made no call for withdrawal. It was easier to pretend that Bush was waging a different war than the one he empowered Bush to wage. 
  • The U.S., unable to win the war it chose, would be better off reshaping the map of Iraq into something that better suited it. The proposal was a natural outgrowth of viewing Iraq as an abstraction. Now that Iraq had undermined American power, Iraq would be subject to a kind of dismemberment, a theoretically cleaner problem to solve than a civil war or a weak client state. In September 2007, Biden prevailed upon his fellow senators to endorse his proposal on a staggering 75-23 vote. There was no support for the idea among actual Iraqis outside Kurdistan, but they were beside the imperial point.
  • 2007 saw Biden’s most valorous act on Iraq. With the war a morass, Biden secured $23 billion, far more than the Pentagon requested, to buy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, whose hull design proved more survivable against the insurgency’s improvised bombs. Replacing insufficiently armored Humvees with MRAPs was “a passion,” he said. While the number of lives MRAPs saved over the course of the program’s $45 billion lifespan has been disputed, the Pentagon estimated in 2012 that over 2,000 service members are alive today because of the vehicle. Biden counted securing the funding for the MRAP among his greatest congressional achievements.
  • Barack Obama had opposed the Iraq war, but was hardly afflicted with the “distrust of the use of American power” that Biden feared in 2004. Selecting Biden as his vice president laundered Biden’s reputation. No longer was Biden the man whose faith in American exceptionalism had driven the U.S. into a morass. He was the lovable uncle in aviators who washed his metaphorical Trans Am on the White House lawn. Obama gave him responsibility for a three-year project of U.S. withdrawal, one that Biden considers an accomplishment. 
  • Biden and other U.S. officials appeared at times dangerously unconcerned about Maliki’s consolidation of power that once again marginalized Sunni Iraq, which the war had already proven would give jihadis the opportunity they needed
  • Biden reflected America’s schizophrenic attitude toward ending post-9/11 wars, in which leaving a residual force amidst an unsettled conflict does not count as continuing a war.
  • “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” the Times quoted him. Instead, the following year, the Iraqi parliament did no such thing
  • Biden is the last of the pre-Obama generation of Democratic foreign policy grandees who enabled the Iraq war. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both lost their presidential bids, saddled in both cases with the legacy of the war they supported
  • A President Biden is likely to find himself a man out of time. Writing in The Guardian, David Adler and Ben Judah recently described Biden as a “restorationist” in foreign policy, aiming at setting the American geopolitical clock back to what it was before Trump took office. Yet now an emergent China, a resurgent Russia, and the ascent of nationalism and oligarchy across Europe, India, and South America have fragmented the America-centric internationalist order that Biden represents. While Trump has accelerated these dynamics, he is far less responsible for them than is the martial post-9/11 course of U.S. foreign policy that wrecked itself, most prominently in Iraq.
Ed Webb

Fahmy: Relations with US bound to change under Obama or Romney | Caravan - 0 views

  • whether it's Obama or Romney the relationship will change, because for the first time they will have to take into account the public opinion, as well as the government's and they are not used to that.
  • you should not underestimate the complexity of managing a relationship with completely different players today, and a different paradigm in the region than what we have been used to for the past 50 years.
  • a lot of moving parts
  • ...1 more annotation...
  • the US has been traditionally used to dealing with a centralized point of authority, in other words governments, and ignoring the Arab street. Well, Arab governments, now, will not be able to ignore their street, and therefore foreign governments will not be able to ignore the street
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