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Ed Webb

Reimagining US Engagement with a Turbulent Middle East - MERIP - 1 views

  • the debate about US foreign policy needs to be not only about redefining US interests and strategy but also focused on how to transform America’s self-identity and the domestic political and economic structures that shape US interactions abroad
  • US foreign policy toward the Middle East has always been driven as much by domestic politics and American self-identity as by different conceptions of strategic interest
  • a diverse set of policy makers, scholars and large segments of the US public, have grown deeply concerned about the high economic and human cost of US interventions in the Middle East. Trump even sought office vowing to end endless wars. America’s overly militarized approach, they argue, has not brought stability or peace to the region. Many also suggest that the longstanding US national interests at stake, such as the flow of oil and Israeli security, no longer seem to be at risk while many US goals—such as a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, the rollback of Iranian influence and the elimination of terrorism—no longer look achievable.
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  • Calls for the United States to pull back reject US intervention and hegemony in the Middle East, but they also seek to insulate the United States from the damage past policies have inflicted on the region and distance Americans from the peoples impacted.
  • The decline of US hegemony and its dominance of global economic and political systems, Schweller explains, has led Americans to “demand a more narrowly self-interested foreign policy” that seeks to insulate Americans from “the vagaries of markets and globalization.” The animating logic of America First, however, does not focus on the country’s global role as much as on the view embraced by Trump’s populist support base that US policy should counter the (perceived) threats posed by transnational flows and interdependence.
  • Much of the mainstream foreign policy debate in opposition to Trump has revolved around voices advocating for the US to return to a more modest, more multilateral version of its role as a global hegemon that seeks to rebuild the liberal international order.[4] Others are calling for an all-out mobilization against the rise of China and Russia.[5]
  • Support for restraint has accelerated with recognition of the declining strategic importance of the Middle East and the absence of major threats from the region to core US interests. With the massive expansion of US domestic energy production, Americans increasingly question the US military presence in the Persian Gulf and security commitment to allies in the region. Meanwhile, with unchallenged Israeli control over Palestinian territories, its military capacity that includes nuclear weapons and growing ties between Israel and Arab Gulf states, Israel is in a more secure strategic position than it has ever been. Advocates of restraint also understand that Iran has a limited ability to project conventional military power and even if it wielded a nuclear weapon, its use could be deterred. Lastly, restraint recognizes that the hyper-militarized approach of the global war on terror engages US forces in continuous military operations that are politically unaccountable and often exacerbate the political and socioeconomic conditions that foster armed non-state actors and political violence in the first place.
  • restraint fails to address the legacies of past US involvement in the region. The hope of insulating the United States from regional instability and future conflicts is also unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.
  • the Israeli right and their US supporters—including the evangelical right and Islamophobic populists—have been unconstrained in their efforts to shape US goals and policies based on a close identification with the Israeli right and Israeli militarism at the expense of the Palestinians
  • While advocates of restraint have long opposed excessive US backing of Israel, without the mobilization of domestic political forces that seek to dissociate the United States from Israeli militarism and support Palestinian human rights, a future US president dedicated to restraint will likely find little strategic value or political support for reversing current policies beyond trimming the price tag.
  • maintain close ties to the Saudi regime and other Arab Gulf states through flows of petrodollar recycling in the form of massive arms sales that sustain American jobs, corporate profits and campaign donations
  • Americans inside and outside of government will not quickly abandon the benefits they receive from economic, military and political ties to Gulf rulers
  • today US ties to the Gulf are being shaped by invented security rationales and material interests. Networks of arms sales, private military contractors, logistics firms and Gulf-funded think tanks—often with cooperation from Israel and its backers—have defined US policies by portraying Iran as a strategic threat, supporting arms sales in the name of so-called economic security and defending the strategic importance of protecting the rule of autocratic elites. At the same time, many segments of the US military and national security state have deeply rooted interests in maintaining bases and military-to-military ties in the region
  • In the foreseeable future, the Middle East will likely experience more instability and conflict due to, in large part, the legacy of US policies over the past two decades, which include the invasion of Iraq, interventions in Libya and Syria, the fostering of proxy wars, the promotion of neoliberal economic reforms, massive arms sales and support for aggressive actions by regional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia
  • the increased capacities for self-organization by armed non-state actors has helped sustain the regional environment of turbulence
  • It is unlikely that the United States could reclaim the diplomatic credibility needed to rebuild norms of restraint and balancing after having embraced militarism and unilateralism for so long
  • developments in the region will likely impact other US interests relating to the global economy, rivalry with China, climate change, nuclear proliferation and refugee flows
  • while the ideological and media infrastructure that mobilized fears to build the spurious case for the Iraq war have been temporarily disrupted, similar processes could be activated in the future to convert fears, such as of an Iranian cyberwar capability, a Chinese naval base in the region, or a resurgence of ISIS, into a strategic threat requiring a US response
  • the work of forging an alternative path for the United States in the Middle East, one that embraces sustainable anti-imperialism and demilitarization, must go beyond redefining US strategic interests to transforming domestic political, economic and ideological forces that shape US ties to the Middle East
  • In Notes on a Foreign Country, Suzy Hansen tries to diagnose the current era of anxiety and confusion felt by Americans living in an era when aspects of US exceptionalism and global hegemony are waning. She writes, “It is also perhaps the first time Americans are confronting a powerlessness that the rest of the world has always felt, not only within their own borders but as pawns in a larger international game. Globalization, it turns out, has not meant the Americanization of the world; it has made Americans, in some ways, more like everyone else.”
  • The effort to envision an alternative, post-exceptionalist US role in the world requires refashioning the debate so that Americans come to view the insecurities experienced by societies abroad as counterparts to the challenges Americans face at home.
  • Within the turbulent Middle East regional system, efforts to promote security would require not only an end to US military primacy and dominance but also a limit on regional and external interventions, the demobilization of the numerous armed non-state militias and proxy forces and a reversal of processes of state erosion and territorial fragmentation.
  • Americans need to envision a new internationalism that no longer seeks to remake the world in the American image but defines a new way for living within it
Ed Webb

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

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Ed Webb

A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This C... - 0 views

  • “There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”
  • The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE
  • The UAE, with vast wealth but only about 1 million citizens, relies on migrant workers from all over the world to do everything from cleaning its toilets to teaching its university students. Its military is no different, paying lavish sums to eager US defense companies and former generals. The US Department of Defense has approved at least $27 billion in arms sales and defense services to the UAE since 2009.
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  • Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.
  • militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters
  • “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”
  • US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country
  • with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.
  • The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office
  • Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable
  • Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?
  • Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”
  • the country embeds foreigners in its military and gave the rank of major general to an American lieutenant colonel, Stephen Toumajan, placing him in command of a branch of its armed forces.
  • The US draws the line at combat; it does not hire mercenaries to carry out attacks or engage directly in warfare. But that line can get blurry. Private firms provide heavily armed security details to protect diplomats in war zones or intelligence officers in the field. Such contractors can engage in firefights, as they did in Benghazi, Libya, when two contractors died in 2012 defending a CIA post. But, officially, the mission was protection, not warfare
  • The people Spear did target, he and Gilmore said, were legitimate because they were selected by the government of the UAE, an ally of the United States that was engaged in a military action supported by the US. Gilmore said that he and Golan told the UAE they would never act against US interests. And Golan claimed that, based on his military experience, he could tell if a target was a terrorist after just a week or two of surveillance.
  • A little-known consequence of the war on terror, and in particular the 17 combined years of US warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that the number of special operations forces has more than doubled since 9/11, from 33,000 to 70,000. That’s a vast pool of crack soldiers selected, trained, and combat-tested by the most elite units of the US military, such as the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. Some special operations reservists are known to engage in for-profit soldiering, said a high-level SEAL officer who asked not to be named. “I know a number of them who do this sort of thing,” he said. If the soldiers are not on active duty, he added, they are not obligated to report what they’re doing.
  • Gilmore said some were members of Al-Islah, some were clerics, and some were out-and-out terrorists — but he conceded he couldn’t be sure.BuzzFeed News has obtained one of the target cards. On it is a man’s name, photograph, telephone number, and other information. At the top right is the insignia of the UAE Presidential Guard.
  • During the Cold War, the CIA played a role in plots to assassinate foreign leaders, such as Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. Later in the Vietnam War, the US launched the Phoenix program, in which the CIA often teamed up with US military units to “neutralize” — or, critics say, assassinate — Viet Cong leaders. Even so, targeted killings were not a central pillar of US military strategy in Vietnam. And after Congress exposed CIA activities in the 1970s, the US banned assassinations of foreign leaders.
  • Under President George W. Bush, the CIA and the military used drones to kill terrorists, and the CIA developed covert assassination capabilities. President Barack Obama halted the agency’s secret assassination program but drastically ramped up the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Soon the CIA and the military were using the aircraft — piloted remotely using video monitors — to kill people whose names the US didn’t even know, through “signature strikes” based solely on a target’s associations and activities. President Donald Trump has further loosened the rules for drone strikes.
  • Only a uniformed officer can push the button that fires the drone’s missile and kills the target
  • Elisabeth Kendall, an expert on Yemen at the University of Oxford, points out that unlike al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, which try to seize power through violence, Al-Islah participates in the political process. But, she said, the US rationale for drone strikes has legitimized other countries’ pursuit of their own assassinations: “The whole very watery, vague notion of a war on terror has left the door wide open to any regime saying, ‘This is all a war on terror.’ ”
  • Golan said he models his assassination business on Israel’s targeted killing program, which has been underway since the country was founded, and which, despite some high-profile errors and embarrassments, he claims is done properly. He argues there are some terrorist enemies so dangerous and implacable — and so difficult to arrest — that assassination is the best solution.
  • Golan and Gilmore had another condition: They wanted to be incorporated into the UAE Armed Forces. And they wanted their weapons — and their target list — to come from uniformed military officers. That was “for juridical reasons,” Golan said. “Because if the shit hits the fan,” he explained, the UAE uniform and dog tags would mark “the difference between a mercenary and a military man.”
  • Gilmore acknowledged that some of the targets may have been people who merely fell out of favor with the ruling family. Referring to the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Gilmore said, “There is the possibility that the target would be someone who MBZ doesn’t like. We’d try to make sure that didn’t happen.”
  • Even though it failed to kill Mayo, the mercenaries’ bomb attack seems to have ushered in a new phase in the UAE’s war against Al-Islah. “It was the exclamation point that set the tone that Al-Islah was now going to be targeted,”
  • As 2016 progressed, those watching the deteriorating situation in Yemen began to notice that members of Al-Islah, and other clerics in Aden, were dropping dead at an alarming pace. “It does appear to be a targeted campaign,” said Gregory Johnsen of the Arabia Foundation, who in 2016 served on a UN panel investigating the Yemen war. “There have been 25 to 30 assassinations,” he said, though a few appear to be the work of ISIS.
  • One new member of the team, hired in early 2016, was the veteran of SEAL Team 6, Daniel Corbett, according to three sources and confirmed by photos. Corbett was a superb soldier, say those who know him, and had served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was still in the reserves, so the US military could deploy him at any moment; he collected a government salary; and he was supposed to report for monthly drills. And yet he was in Yemen on a private contract to work for a foreign military. It is unclear if he himself was involved in missions to assassinate anyone.
  • In a mysterious development, Corbett is currently in jail in Serbia, where he is being investigated for illegal handgun possession. The American veteran has been held there since February 2018.
  • “some variety of the future of warfare.”
Ed Webb

Why is US repeal of Iraq war authorisation still relevant? | Conflict News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • United States President Joe Biden’s administration as well as many bipartisan US legislators and advocates have said they want the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (AUMF) repealed. The authorisation was signed by former President George W Bush in 2002, enabling the US invasion and occupation of Iraq as the US’s two-decade “war on terror” went into full swing. It has increasingly been condemned by critics for giving the US executive branch broad and menacingly vague military powers.
  • The repeal of the 2002 AUMF – along with reformation of the geographically broader and more politically fraught 2001 AUMF, which allows the US executive to pursue military action against individuals or groups deemed connected to the 9/11 attacks – have been at the centre of efforts to restructure the legal architecture that has guided US military action abroad in recent decades.
  • The US Congress, which has the sole constitutional power to declare war, has not done so since 1941 when it approved declarations against Japan in the wake of the Pearl Harbour attacks and, days later, against Nazi-controlled Germany and axis-allied Italy.
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  • presidential administrations have relied on Article 2 of the US Constitution, which grants limited war powers to the executive branch, and legislation passed by Congress – usually the so-called Authorizations of Use of Military Force (AUMFs).
  • the administration of Former President Donald Trump used the 2002 Iraq AUMF, in part, to justify the deadly drone strike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in early 2020.
  • Iraq remains a particularly significant arena when it comes to the potential for wider escalation. That is largely due to the presence of Iran-aligned militias in Iraq, Iran’s outsized involvement in its neighbour and ongoing political and economic crises. The US has 2,000 troops in Iraq, operating in advisory roles. Foreign forces are regularly targeted by armed groups calling for their removal.
  • Repeal of the 2002 AUMF has had uniquely bipartisan support in Congress in recent years, with a standalone bill introduced in 2021 by Representative Barbara Lee passing the Democrat-controlled House with the support of 49 Republicans.
  • Past congressional efforts have made for some interesting bedfellows, with several Trump-aligned legislators in the Republican Party’s farthest-right reaches – including Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert – joining the Democratic majority in pursuit of repeal.
  • a Senate floor vote on the standalone repeal never came to pass, likely due to concerns over how much limited floor-time debate over the legislation would eat up, according to analysts
  • In the Senate, all 11 Republican co-sponsors of the 2022 repeal bill remain in office, while 40 of the 49 Republicans who supported the House bill in 2021 have kept their seats.
  • large portions of the Republican Party remaining opposed
Ed Webb

Is US redesigning southern flank? - 0 views

  • In parallel with Turkey’s growing defense and security rapprochement with Russia, the United States is forging closer military bonds with Greece, heralding shifts in geostrategic balances in the Balkans, the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean
  • Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias inked a protocol expanding the scope of the US-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, which relates to the use of Greek military facilities by US forces
  • The transfer of US military technologies to Greece in the fields of drones, smart munitions and army aviation; A more active use by the US Navy, including submarines, and the US Air Force of the military port and airbase at Souda Bay on the island of Crete, which is considered a gateway to the eastern Mediterranean;
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  • The establishment of military facilities at the port of Alexandroupolis, which allows control over the northern Aegean, dominates Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula and eastern Thrace region and is very close to the Turkish border, and opening them to the use of the US Navy;
  • Augmenting the fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are already operating out of Larissa, located halfway down Greece’s eastern side near the Aegean coast, and stationing KC-135 tankers there;
  • Enabling the Greek military to access intelligence gathered by the Reapers and through other means and establishing a mechanism for further military intelligence sharing;
  • Pilotage, maintenance and operational training at the Stefanovikeio airbase near the Aegean for the seven MH-60R Seahawk helicopters that the United has recently agreed to supply to Greece. 
  • the United States is seeking to turn up pressure on Russia in the Balkans, the Black and Aegean seas and the eastern Mediterranean and create an anti-access area-denial shield, centered in Greece, to limit Russia’s access to warm waters
  • Pompeo’s visits to North Macedonia and Montenegro, in addition to Greece, were significant in this context. Pompeo’s tour was important also in terms of controlling China’s growing infrastructure and technology investments in the Balkans
  • the strategy of containing Russian access to warm waters through the Turkish Straits and the Black Sea has become meaningless, giving way to a new strategy of containing Russia through an anti-access area-denial shield in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean
  • the United States is seeking to counterbalance the geostrategic superiority that Russia has attained in the eastern Mediterranean in the past four years
  • Tensions in the region have grown over hydrocarbon reserves, with Greece, the Greek Cypriots, Israel and Egypt forming a bloc against Turkey
  • the US Air Force’s increasing presence in Larissa, from where Greece controls all its air operations in the Aegean, appears to reflect an American effort for a closer monitoring of the Aegean, where Turkey and Greece are embroiled in long-standing territorial disputes. 
  • Many in the anti-US camp in Ankara, which now has the upper hand, believe that the US military has been taking gradual yet decisive steps to encircle Turkey in the Aegean by strengthening its presence in the region through the bases provided by Greece
  • What needs to be done to break the siege “is to give the United States a diplomatic note and a short time to leave the eastern bank of the Euphrates [in Syria] and launch an operation afterwards,” Dilek wrote in an Oct. 5 article, days before Turkey did launch a military offensive in the said region.
  • For Atlanticists, a breed near extinction in Ankara, however, the visible increase in US military cooperation with Greece stems from Turkey’s misguided strategic choices in recent years and shows that Washington has given up hope on Ankara, leaving Turkey to Russia and trying to build a new axis with Greece to contain Russia in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean and curb China's trade surge in the region.
  • A retired Turkish ambassador, known as an Atlanticist, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “For two centuries, Russia has been seeking to overcome Turkey and the Straits to reach the warm waters and attain a lasting military presence in the Mediterranean basin. Because of Ankara’s mistaken diplomatic choices and ill-conceived policies in Syria, Russia in the past five years has managed to secure access to the warm waters — something it has been trying to do since Ottoman times — and establish a lasting military presence in Syria. We have to adjust to the grim reality of having Russia as a neighbor in Syria. The United States, too, appears to have found the way to attain a lasting presence by enhancing cooperation with Greece. With the big powers moving their rivalry to our region, the existing problems will become more complicated.”
  • the crisis of confidence between Turkey and the United States is becoming increasingly ossified, shaping the strategic choices and geostrategic orientations of the two sides
Ed Webb

US arms sold to Saudi Arabia and UAE end up in wrong hands - 0 views

  • Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the United States, a CNN investigation has found.
  • The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of the country, exposing some of America's sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other conflict zones.
  • The revelations raise fresh questions about whether the US has lost control over a key ally presiding over one of the most horrific wars of the past decade, and whether Saudi Arabia is responsible enough to be allowed to continue buying the sophisticated arms and fighting hardware
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  • Some terror groups have gained from the influx of US arms, with the barrier of entry to advanced weaponry now lowered by the laws of supply and demand. Militia leaders have had ample opportunity to obtain military hardware in exchange for the manpower to fight the Houthi militias. Arms dealers have flourished, with traders offering to buy or sell anything, from a US-manufactured rifle to a tank, to the highest bidder. And Iran's proxies have captured American weapons they can exploit for vulnerabilities or reverse-engineer for native production.
  • these shops don't just take individual orders, they can supply militias -- and it's this not-so-hidden black market that in part is driving the demand for hi-tech American weapons and perpetuating the cycle of violence in Yemen
  • Once the intellectual heart of the country, Taiz is now a tinder box that set off a war within a war last year, when the various militias backed by the Saudi-led coalition turned their guns on each other. Amid the chaos of the broader war, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) made its way to the frontlines in Taiz in 2015, forging advantageous alliances with the pro-Saudi militias they fought alongside. One of those militias linked to AQAP, the Abu Abbas brigade, now possesses US-made Oshkosh armored vehicles, paraded in a 2015 show of force through the city. Abu Abbas, the founder, was declared a terrorist by the US in 2017, but the group still enjoys support from the Saudi coalition and was absorbed into the coalition-supported 35th Brigade of the Yemeni army.
  • In October 2015, military forces loyal to the government boasted on Saudi- and UAE-backed media that the Saudis had airdropped American-made TOW anti-tank missiles on the same frontline where AQAP had been known to operate at the time. Local officials confirmed that the airdrop happened, but CNN's attempts to conduct further interviews were blocked and the team was intimidated by the local government. A local activist joked that the weapons had probably been sold on.
  • Recipients of US weaponry are legally obligated to adhere to end-use requirements which prohibit the transferring of any equipment to third parties without prior authorization from the US government. That authorization was never obtained.
  • "The United States has not authorized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates to re-transfer any equipment to parties inside Yemen," Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told CNN. "The US government cannot comment on any pending investigations of claims of end-use violations of defense articles and services transferred to our allies and partners."
  • MRAPs like these, captured on the battlefield, have been probed by Iranian intelligence, according to a member of a secret Houthi unit backed by Iran known as the Preventative Security Force. The unit oversees the transfer of military technology to and from Tehran.
  • Iranian and Hezbollah advisers have already gotten their hands on the armored vehicles and other US military hardware
  • The flood of US weaponry is fueling a conflict that has killed tens of thousands -- among them children on school buses and families fleeing violence -- and pushed millions more to the brink of famine.
  • too many powerful political figures and key armed actors in the region have been prospering greatly from the conflict and, as a result, they lack the incentives to agree to a peace process that would threaten their financial gain
  • The US is by far the biggest supplier of arms to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and its support is crucial to the Saudi coalition’s continuing war in Yemen.
Ed Webb

Buzan on GWoT 2006 - 1 views

shared by Ed Webb on 15 Nov 16 - No Cached
  • Washington is now embarked on a campaign to persuade itself, the American people and the rest of the world that the ‘global war on terrorism’ (GWoT) will be a ‘long war’. This ‘long war’ is explicitly compared to the Cold War as a similar sort of zero-sum, global-scale, generational struggle against anti-liberal ideolo-gical extremists who want to rule the world.
  • When the Cold War ended, Washington seemed to experience a threat defi cit, and there was a string of attempts to fi nd a replacement for the Soviet Union as the enemy focus for US foreign and military policy: fi rst Japan, then China, ‘clash of civilizations’ and rogue states
  • the GWoT had the feel of a big idea that might provide a long-term cure for Washington’s threat defi ci
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  • the explicit ‘long war’ framing of the GWoT is a securitizing move of potentially great signifi cance. If it succeeds as a widely accepted, world-organizing macro-securitization, it could structure global security for some decades, in the process helping to legitimize US primacy
    • Ed Webb
       
      Securitization is a newer concept in IR, mostly associated with the Copenhagen School, although Buzan is English School. The argument here is that a successful rhetorical or framing move can have systemic effects.
  • This article is about the strength and durability of that belief, and whether as a social fact it can be used to create a new political framing for world politics. In addressing this question I diff erentiate between a traditional materialist analysis of threat (whether something does or does not pose a specifi c sort of threat, and at what level) and a so-called securitizationanalysis (whether something can be successfully constructed as a threat, with this understanding being accepted by a wide and/or specifi cally relevant audience).4These two aspects of threat may run in close parallel, but they can also be quite separate. States, like people, can be paranoid (constructing threats where none exist) or complacent (ignoring actual threats). But since it is the success (or not) of the securitization that determines whether action is taken, that side of threat analysis deserves scrutiny just as close as that given to the material side
    • Ed Webb
       
      Note how this argument applies long-standing IR concepts from several schools of thought: perception and misperception (Jervis); balance of threat (Walt); ideas as frames for world politics/the international system (Wendt).
  • the only thing that changed is the belief that something had changed
    • Ed Webb
       
      There is no consensus on this, but quite a few IR scholars take this view of 9/11
  • reformulate the GWoT
    • Ed Webb
       
      Obama decided to declare it "over" in 2013: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/05/23/obama-global-war-on-terror-is-over But the rhetorical shift has not led to any notable reduction in GWoT-related drone strikes etc.
  • Immediately following 9/11 NATO invoked article 5 for the fi rst time, thereby helping to legitimize the GWoT securitization.
  • In the case of Russia, China, Israel and India, the move has been to link their own local problems with ‘terrorism’ to the wider GWoT framing.
  • tied together several longstanding security concerns arising within the liberal order, most notably crime and the trades in drugs and the technologies for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Within the frame of the liberal international economic order (LIEO), it is well understood that while opening state borders to fl ows of trade, fi nance, information and (skilled) people is generally to be promoted, such opening also has its dark side in which illiberal actors, mainly criminals and terrorists, can take advantage of liberal openness in pursuit of illiberal ends
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is Naim's "Five Wars of Globalization"
  • There are fi ve obvious types of event that could signifi -cantly reinforce or undermine the GWoT securitization:ü the impact of further terrorist plans and/or attacks (or plans or attacks success-fully attributed to terrorists);ü the commitment of the United States to the GWoT securitization;ü the legitimacy of the United States as a securitization leader within interna-tional society;ü the (un)acceptability and (il)legitimacy of both the GWoT securitization as a whole or of particularist securitizations that get linked to it;ü the potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT
  • The escalation option would strengthen the GWoT securitization, and the reduction option would weaken it. More of the same does not look suffi cient to sustain the costs of a long-term macro-securitization unless the fear of escalation can be maintained at a high level.
  • Americans, like most other citizens of democracies, quite willingly surrender some of their civil liberties in times of war. But it is easy to see the grounds within American society for reactions against the GWoT securitization, especially if its legitimacy becomes contested. One source of such reactions would be civil libertarians and others opposed to the reasser-tion of government powers through a state of permanent fear and emergency. Another would be isolationists and ‘off shore balancers’ who oppose the current levels and logics of US global engagement
  • Grounds for opposition include its costs, in terms of both money and liberty, and the ineff ectiveness of a permanent increase in the state’s surveil-lance over everything from trade and fi nance to individual patterns of travel and consumption
  • US military expenditure remains largely aimed at meeting traditional challenges from other states, with only a small part specifi cally allocated for the GWoT. The signifi cance of the GWoT is much more political. Although a real threat from terrorists does exist, and needs to be met, the main signifi cance of the GWoT is as a political framing that might justify and legitimize US primacy, leadership and unilater-alism, both to Americans and to the rest of the world. This is one of the key diff erences between the GWoT and the Cold War. The Cold War pretty much wasUS grand strategy in a deep sense; the GWoT is not, but, as a brief glance at the USNSS of 2006 will show, is being promoted as if it were
    • Ed Webb
       
      Contrast with the Cold War here is important. Notice the disconnection between political framing and budgetary decisions in GWoT. Why is that?
  • The US successfully generated and led the macro-securitization of the Cold War against communism generally and the military power of the Soviet Union in particular. It was aided in this both by the broad acceptability of its own qualities as a leader in the West, and up to a point even in the Third World, and by the fact that other states, especially west European ones, plus Turkey, Japan and South Korea, shared the fear of communism and Soviet military power
  • A weight of punditry agrees that the Atlantic has got wider, to the point where even the idea that there is a western community is now under serious threat.
    • Ed Webb
       
      That this argument was being advanced halfway through the second GW Bush term, and yet the transatlantic alliance has held firm, should probably give us hope for the relationship surviving the Trump administration.
  • states might support or oppose the GWoT not only on its merits, but also because of how it plays into the global hierarchy of power
  • In terms of the GWoT securitization as a whole, some of the lines of opposition are the same in the rest of the world as they are in US domestic debates, particu-larly over what kinds of emergency action it legitimizes. To the extent that the GWoT becomes associated with actions that seem to contradict the values that the West seeks to represent against the likes of Al-Qaeda, the legitimacy of the securitization is corroded
  • By hardening borders, homeland security measures erode some of the principles of economic liberalism that they are designed to defend; and the same argument could be made about the trade-off between enhanced surveillance under the GWoT and the civil liberties that are part of the core referent object of western civilization
  • Most western leaders (the ever undiplomatic Berlusconi having been a notable excep-tion) have tried hard right from the beginning not to stage the GWoT as a war between the West and Islam. They have trodden the diffi cult line of maintaining that, while most of the terrorists speak in the name of Islam, that does not mean that most adherents of Islam are terrorists or supporters of terrorists. But despite this, the profoundly worrying relinking of religion and politics in the United States, Israel and the Islamic world easily feeds zero-sum confl icts. This linkage could help to embed the securitization of the GWoT, as it seems to have done within the United States and Israel. If religious identities feed the growth of a ‘clash of civilizations’ mentality, as seems to have happened in the episode of the Danish cartoons, this too could reinforce the GWoT securitization. It could, equally, create a reaction against it from those who feel that their particular religion is being mis represented by fundamentalists, and/or from those who object to religious infl uence on politics. The latter is certainly part of what has widened the gap between the US and Europe
  • Al-Qaeda and its like, while clearly posing a threat to the West, do not represent a plausible political alternative to it, Islamist fantasies about a new caliphate notwithstanding. The contrast with the Cold War could not be more striking. Then, the designated opponent and object of securitization was a power that represented what seemed a plausible political alternative: one could easily imagine a communist world. The post-9/11 securitization focused neither on an alternative superpower nor on an alternative ideology, but on the chaos power of embittered and alienated minori-ties, along with a handful of pariah governments, and their ability to exploit the openness, the technology, and in some places the inequality, unfairness and failed states generated by the western system of political economy
  • Iraq. The US and British governments attempted to justify the invasion by linking Saddam Hussein’s regime to both terrorists and WMD. This securitizing move was successful within the United States, but vigorously contested in many other places, resulting in serious and damaging splits in both the EU and NATO. Russia was generally very supportive of the GWoT securitization, seeking to link its own diffi culties in Chechnya to it, but Putin joined Germany and France in strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq. The ill-prepared occupation that followed the successful blitzkrieg against Iraq only deepened the splits, with many opponents of the war agreeing with Dana Allin’s assessment that ‘Iraq was probably the war that bin Laden wanted the United States to fi ght’,29and Wilkinson’s that it was ‘a gratuitous propaganda gift to bin Laden’.30 During the 2004 US election, even John Kerry began to argue the point that invasion of Iraq was distracting eff ort away from the GWoT.31 As the political disaster in Iraq continues to unfold, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it was both a tactical and strategic blunder of epic proportions in relation to the problem of global terrorism represented by Al-Qaeda
  • There are quite a variety of possible candidates for competing securitizations. Rising sea levels or approaching asteroids, or the spread of a new killer plague, could easily put planetary environmental concerns at the top of the securitiza-tion agenda. But in conventional mode the most likely threat to the GWoT as dominant macro-securitization comes from the rise of China
  • It was perhaps only the perceived remoteness in time of China achieving superpower status that prevented this securitization from becoming the dominant rhetoric in Washington during the 1990s. As time marches on, the rise of China becomes more real and less hypothetical
  • Given an ongoing disposition within Washington to construct China as a threat, the likely increase in Chinese power, both relative and absolute, and the existence of tensions between the two governments over, inter alia, Taiwan, trade and human rights, it is not diffi cult to imagine circumstances in which concerns about China would become the dominant securitization within the United States
    • Ed Webb
       
      Is this a new "pivot to Asia" we can imagine happening under the Trump administration?
  • o long as China conducts its so-called ‘peaceful rise’ in such a way as not to threaten its neighbours or the general stability of interna-tional society, many outside the United States might actually welcome it. Europe is likely to be indiff erent, and many countries (e.g. Russia, China, India, Iran, France, Malaysia) support a rhetoric of multipolarity as their preferred power structure over the predominance of the United States as sole superpower.
  • Because a world govern-ment is not available, the problem pits international society against global uncivil society
  • Wilkinson, who has solid credentials as a hard foe of the terrorists, echoes a sentiment widely held across the political spectrum when he says that ‘If we undermine or destroy our hard-won liberties and rights in the name of security against terrorism we will give the terrorists a victory they could never win by the bomb and the gun.’28 In this respect it is of more than passing interest that all of the current strategies being used to pursue the GWoT seem actively to damage the liberal values they purport to defend.
  • War is seldom good for liberal values even when fought in defence of them
  • Equalizing starts from the assumption that the root causes of terrorism lie in the inequalities and injustices that are both a legacy of human history and a feature of market economies. The long-term solution to terrorism in this perspective is to drain the waters in which the terrorists swim by redressing the inequalities and injustices that supposedly generate support for them. It is not my concern here to argue whether this contested cause–eff ect hypothesis is correct or not. My point is that if a policy along these lines is pursued, it cannot avoid undermining the foundations of a competitive market economy
  • f inequality is the source of terrorism, neo-liberal economics does not provide a quick enough solution
  • terrorism poses a double threat to liberal democratic societies: open direct assaults of the type that have become all too familiar, and insidious erosion as a consequence of the countermeasures taken
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is an essential point to understand about terrorism, suggesting why groups continue to adopt the tactic and why, sometimes, it can succeed.
  • f it is impossible to elimi-nate terrorists, as is probably the case, then this drive risks the kind of permanent mobilization that inevitably corrodes liberal practices and values
  • If the priority is to preserve liberal values, one is pushed towards the option of learning to live with terrorism as an everyday risk while pursuing counter-measures that stop short of creating a garrison state.
  • The necessary condition for doing so is that state and society raise their toleration for damage as a price they pay for openness and freedom. Kenneth Waltz long ago made the point that ‘if freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted’,38 though it has to be said that this part of his analysis has made little impact on US thinking about national security
  • if terrorism is a problem of the long term, as it well might be for advanced industrial societies, it would require a level of democratic sophistication and commitment rather higher than anything yet seen
  • Europe is more resilient and better able to defend its values without resorting to excesses of securitization. By comparison, the United States seems a softer target, too easily pricked into intemperate reactions that in themselves work to under-mine what it claims to stand for
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is broadly, historically true. But note France's ongoing state of emergency since the Paris attacks. The move from resilience toward garrison-state approaches is tempting for any government in times of popular uncertainty and fear.
Ed Webb

Confusion reigns over US plan to 'secure the oil' in Syria as commanders await orders -... - 0 views

  • US military commanders overseeing Syria operations are still waiting for precise battlefield orders from the White House and Pentagon on their exact mission to protect oilfields in eastern Syria
  • US commanders lack clarity on the most basic aspects of their mission, including how and when troops can fire their weapons and what, exactly, that mission is
  • Perhaps most crucially, there is no clarity about exactly who they are operating against in the oilfields.
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  • The precision that's lacking is vital for military commanders, who need specific, legal orders that are not subject to interpretation in moments of crisis.
  • There is no approved military task for specifically how US troops will take "control" of the oil and no decision whether the US should also protect other oil fields in northeast Syria beyond Deir Ezzor area, where they're currently present.
  • military officials say there is nothing in place to address the possibility that Syrian or Russian tanks or aircraft might approach the oil fields. The plan for now, officials say, is to declare the US presence and warn other players not to get close
  • "It's the only argument that resonates with the President and thus becomes the excuse that we need to keep forces there to protect other interests," Wechsler said. While the oil justification seems to have worked, "using it as an excuse opens up a whole series of other questions,"
  • what the legal basis for the US presence is, especially since the Assad government hasn't asked for it?
  • "we're keeping the oil. Remember that. I've always said that. Keep the oil. We want to keep the oil."
  • The statement won praise from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who told state TV on Thursday that Trump is the best of the US presidents because he is "the most transparent."
  • "All the US Presidents commit crimes, but get Nobel prizes, and act like defenders of human rights and the noble unique US values -- or Western values -- but they are a group of criminals who act on behalf of lobbies," Assad said. Trump's declaration that "'we want the oil' -- at least that's honest," the Syrian dictator said.
  • It remains unclear what legal basis the US government would have for controlling or taking the oil in Syria.
  • For now, the military sees its mission as "defending against any incursions," to be able to "enable the Syrian Democratic Forces to prevent ISIS from gaining access to the oilfields,"
  • When asked if that means the US will "take" the oil fields, as Trump has said, Esper responded with somewhat unusual wording. "I interpret that as deny ISIS access to the oil fields," he said.
  • Currently, there are still about 900 troops in Syria, just under the 1,000 estimated force level when the withdrawal began last month, because of the additional forces going in
Ed Webb

Deterrence, Mass Atrocity, and Samantha Power's "The Education of an Idealist" - 0 views

  • In Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell, American force is one of many foreign policy tools that can and should be bent toward civilian protection and atrocity prevention globally; for many of her critics from the left, American force is to be dismantled; for many of her critics from the right, American force should serve core national security interests and nothing more.
  • In A Problem from Hell, Power argues that US policymakers did not act to stop genocide because they did not want to; in her memoir, she relates how a room full of civil servants whose thinking had been shaped by her first book found themselves in a years-long limbo over complex human disasters in Syria and Libya. Together, these cases constitute a real-time test of the “toolbox” of interventions Power first proposed at the end of A Problem from Hell; together, they reveal both the problem at the heart of her theory of foreign policy, and the still all-too-slender slate of effective policy alternatives to force across the political spectrum.
  • Libya and Syria serve as parallel cases through which questions about the US’s role in the world are refracted. The standard narrative is as follows: the US intervened in Libya under the guise of preventing mass atrocities, this intervention ended first in regime change and then in a failed state, and Libyans now live in enduring danger; the US did not intervene to protect civilians during the Syrian Civil War, war snarled the full region into conflict, and today Syrian civilians continue to die in unspeakable ways and uncounted numbers. At each stage, the narrative is in fact more complicated, particularly if we begin by asking whether the US did in fact prevent mass atrocity in Libya and end by noting the U.S. did in fact intervene in Syria in multiple ways, but the broad lines are still instructive for understanding public debate. Would Libyans have been better off in the absence of an American-led intervention, or would they have been worse off? Would Syrians have been better off for U.S. intervention, or would they have been worse off for it?
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  • the implicit promise of force underlies each alternative set of policies Power proposes. Actors who are willing to abandon mass atrocity campaigns voluntarily may be easily deterred — but actors committed to a mass atrocity campaign could find themselves diplomatically isolated, operating under economic sanction, or threatened by prosecution, and still continue to wage campaigns of death. “Stop this or else” undergirds threats when a powerful actor makes them. The toolbox’s logic is ultimately escalatory as a result: force is a tool of last resort, but no other tool works without the latent presence of American military force.
  • confronting ongoing or imminent atrocities can require quickly shifting perpetrators’ incentives. In the immediate aftermath of the Libyan protests, for instance, Power argues rapid, joint Security Council and American action “was probably the best example in history of governments hastily using a vast array of “tools in the toolbox” to try to deter atrocities.” But this proved insufficient: “The pressures that the United States and other countries were imposing on Qaddafi’s regime would take months to reach their full effect, and we had run out of further nonmilitary steps to take to try to affect the Libyan leader’s near-term calculus.”
  • “While administration officials could say they had imposed consequences on Assad’s regime for crossing the red line, they could not specific the nature of these consequences in any detail,” she writes. “Since even Assad didn’t know the particulars of the cost he would be bearing, he seemed unlikely to be deterred from carrying out further attacks.”
  • American military force underwrites other dimensions of statecraft, and mobilizes when other deterrent measures have failed. But the problem, then, is not simply, as her critics allege, that Samantha Power is a hawk, or that she doesn’t understand which conflicts constitute core American interests — the problem is that all deterrent models of atrocity prevention rest on the threat of force.
  • UN peacekeepers are the largest deployed force in conflict zones today; UN peacekeeping constitutes an enormous part of the Security Council’s agenda; the UN peacekeeping budget is separate from and larger than the UN’s operational budget; and a heated debate on the use of force by UN peacekeepers has now been running over twenty years. Peacekeeping is an effective tool that works best when it is all carrots and few sticks — but peacekeepers today are usually charged with protecting civilians under threat of imminent violence, as well. They rarely use force, and while they seem to protect civilians from rebels well, they struggle more to protect civilians from government forces.
  • Historically, when deterrence fails, the UN Security Council has outsourced this work — instead of sending in the Marines, for example, the UN instead turns to the French, as they did in the Central African Republic, or British Special forces, as they did in Sierra Leone, or — yes — NATO, as they did in the former Yugoslavia and then Libya.
  • discussions about US restraint are nearly entirely divorced from these extremely active debates about the use of force in UN peacekeeping — and considering the two together is instructive
  • a military with stunningly excess capability demands we continually interrogate its purpose; people who live under imminent threat of violence are not marginal to US foreign policy interests unless we define them that way; and the US outsources most conflict management to the UN system, which then relies on the military might of its member states to wield force in the places most dangerous for civilians
  • If unwilling actors cannot be swayed save by the use of force, and we are reluctant to use force for practical or ethical reasons, then we are left with two options: we can address the root causes of conflict, and we can help those refugees and internally displaced people who manage to escape violence. The first set of options requires reimagining the fundamental structures of foreign policy; the second set of options is currently so politically unpopular that it is remaking domestic politics across refugee-receiving countries
Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

In Jenin, Israel is unveiling the next phase of apartheid - 0 views

  • June 30, 2023
  • aerial assaults reveal a dangerous phase in the evolution of Israel’s occupation. The air strikes are reportedly the first in the West Bank in two decades, awakening the nightmares of many Palestinians who ran for cover or suffered wounds from helicopter attacks during the Second Intifada. In that time, though, aerial warfare became the modus operandi in the Gaza Strip, accelerated by Israel’s withdrawal of its settlements in 2005 and the total blockade of the territory following Hamas’ takeover.
  • reconfiguration of military rule has intentionally produced a physical and psychological separation between the West Bank and Gaza, abetted by the fratricidal rivalry between Fatah and Hamas. As that distance normalized, the two territories became regarded as disconnected and incomparable. Even well-meaning advocates — in their heavy focus on settlements and annexation — often fell into the trap of forgetting Gaza outside the scope of wartime, deeming it an anomaly in the context of the “one-state reality.” But as many activists, scholars, and experts have warned, the structures used to confine and suppress Gaza are not a deviation from Israel’s methodology, but a natural continuation of it. And that was made clear over the skies of Jenin last week.
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  • Like Gaza, Jenin has long been a center of Palestinian social life and political resistance — and as such, a target of vicious repression
  • The bombardment of a populated urban area, together with the city’s collective punishment, is further justified by the demonization of Jenin as a “cesspool of terrorism” requiring constant intervention — in essence, the same doctrine of “mowing the lawn” that is applied in the blockaded strip a few kilometers away.
  • Gaza is hardly an exception to the rule of Israeli apartheid. Rather, it is the ultimate bantustan — the model for controlling and weakening a native population in a besieged space, using modern weapons and technology, with local rulers to handle their basic needs, at minimal cost to the settler society surrounding them
  • If the expulsion of Palestinians won’t be possible, Gazafication will be their future.
  • The army may feign distress over settlers committing “nationalist terrorism,” but it openly commands its soldiers to do the same, so long as it is done in uniform
Ed Webb

US-China Rivalry: Gulf States Struggle to Hedge Their Bets - 0 views

  • the real litmus test of the United States’ ability to counter the People’s Republic’s growing footprint in the Middle East is likely to be in the Gulf.
  • The real Israeli test may come next year when China takes over the management of Haifa port that is often frequented by ships of the US Sixth Fleet. US officials have suggested that Chinese control of the port could impact the US Navy’s willingness to use Haifa’s facilities.
  • the US is likely to find the going tougher in persuading Gulf states to limit their engagement with China, including with Huawei, which already has significant operations in the region
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  • Describing Chinese aid as “predatory,” Mr. Schenker warned that Huawei’s participation in 5G infrastructure in the Gulf would make it difficult for American and Gulf forces to communicate. Huawei has signed agreements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain
  • “We’re not forcing countries to choose between the United States and the PRC,” Mr. Schenker said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “Countries can and should maintain healthy relationships with both, but we want to highlight the costs” that come with certain engagements with China.
  • The seemingly escalating US effort to box in China is hampered by the fact that no US company produces a 5G alternative. “5G is the future. To reconsider Huawei, the US has to offer an alternative. So far, it hasn’t done so,” a Gulf official who wishes to remain anonymous told Inside Arabia.
  • The same dilemma applies to the United States’ desire to reduce its commitments in the Middle East. In its global rivalry with China, the US cannot afford to create the kind of void that China and Russia would not be able or willing to fill in the short-term.
  • “The US can’t compete on 5G and China and Russia can’t compete on security. This is a situation and a set of relationships that requires careful management. The problem is that big power leaders show little inclination to find a middle ground. That leaves Gulf states grappling for ways to hedge their bets.”
Ed Webb

Indoor farms are energy hogs, a test for their climate credentials - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • As the effects of climate change intensify, bringing more severe droughts, flooding and pest infestations, some growers are wresting control of their crops away from nature. Huge high-tech greenhouses and smaller vertical farms — windowless warehouses that typically grow plants stacked in trays — hold the promise of letting farmers grow almost anywhere.But all that control comes with an environmental cost. Inside these facilities, farmers are creating the perfect growing conditions with power generated mostly by burning fossil fuels, and lots of it.
  • “There’s extraordinary water efficiency in these facilities, but energy is really the Achilles’ heel.”
  • In colder climes, indoor farm operators heat their greenhouses with natural gas or propane, since these fossil fuels are often the cheapest option. Vertical farms are a smaller slice of the market, but they typically consume much more electricity than greenhouses to replace natural sunlight and to power cooling and dehumidifier systems.
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  • Between 2017 and 2022, land used to grow vegetables and herbs in greenhouses increased by more than 20 million square feet, an 18 percent jump, according to the federal government’s latest agriculture census, released last month
  • In New England today, about 20 percent of the leafy greens for sale come from controlled-environment agriculture outfits
  • A study of 12 indoor farms by the nonprofit Resource Innovation Institute found that five of them used as much energy per square foot as a hospital. One vertical farm, an outlier, was guzzling as much energy per square foot as a data center.
  • These companies advertise their produce as safer, more nutritious and fresher than field-grown produce, since their operations typically skip pesticides and are within a few hours’ drive of major cities. They boast of using one-tenth of the water, a claim backed up by independent research. But they don’t often talk about their energy use; most states don’t require them to report it, and researchers said many are reluctant to share this data.
  • In Westbrook, Maine, Vertical Harvest is building a four-story, 52,000-square-foot vertical farm and is negotiating a deal to supply it with renewable energy. However, company leaders said they can’t apply the same strategy to their next project, in Detroit, where the state’s energy mix is heavy on fossil fuels and the company can’t choose its electricity provider.
  • At a time when consumers are seeking more year-round vegetables and berries, and many still have grim memories of the pandemic’s supply-chain crises, states are courting indoor farms that can be built wherever there’s a market for fresh produce.
  • Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the state has created a “concierge service” to ease the permitting process and help indoor-farm operators with site selection. His agency is focusing on locations in the Lehigh Valley and the south-central region, where there’s proximity to major energy infrastructure and desirable markets in New York, New Jersey and D.C. Some of the state’s top universities are working on technology to speed automation inside vertical farms and greenhouses, he said, while its colleges are training workers for jobs in these facilities.One of Pennsylvania’s selling points is its abundance of energy, most of which is generated by burning natural gas.“These facilities are energy-intensive,” Redding said, “but Pennsylvania is the second-largest net energy supplier to the nation, and we think that’s a differentiator for us.”
  • Gretchen Schimelpfenig, a civil engineer who has worked to track indoor farms’ energy use, said many American greenhouses could cut their energy use in half. Dutch greenhouse technology has proved that this is possible, she said, but in the United States, there’s little pressure on indoor food growers to do things differently.
  • Little Leaf Farms, the dominant controlled-environment producer of packaged greens in New England, uses natural gas to heat its greenhouses. To get around this problem, CEO Paul Sellew said the company buys renewable-energy certificates, each of which corresponds to a set amount of energy generated by cleaner sources such as wind or solar. Little Leaf is also planning to build a large solar array on its 180-acre site in McAdoo, Pa., and Sellew said he’s keen on eventually switching to geothermal energy, which is already being used in the Netherlands to heat greenhouses but hasn’t caught on in the United States.
  • A few vertical-farm companies, like Texas’s Eden Green, have responded to the problem of dirty energy by focusing on efficiency. Eden Green’s hybrid model uses natural light, and the company lessens the burden on its cooling system by using programmed vents to control heat and humidity. Badrina estimated his two farms use about a quarter of the electricity consumed by a typical vertical farm growing leafy greens, which has allowed the company to plant other crops, such as herbs, that are more energy-intensive.
  • as some companies look to build vertical farms in the swampy Southeast, Badrina said they are likely to face even higher power bills from all the energy needed to counter the region’s heat and humidity.
Ed Webb

MERIP Water in the middle East 2020 - 1 views

  • As a result of these climatic conditions, there is little surface water. The lines of rivers threading across the map of the region are few and far between. The arid climate also means that where there are stores of water below the surface, those aquifers are not being replenished very quickly. In some cases, aquifers are not being replenished at all; these fossil aquifers date back hundreds of thousands of years to past epochs when the region’s climate was wetter.
  • When it comes to water, the Middle East is a region of superlatives: the highest proportion of a population exposed to water stress, the least sustainable water resource use, the most water scarce region in the world. This simplistic narrative contains some truth.
  • The Middle East and North Africa also contains mountain chains where vegetation is lush and winters wet. Morocco’s Rif mountains, for example, receive over a meter of rainfall a year (for comparison, that is more than the Adirondacks). Around the Mediterranean Sea, too, climates are milder and rainfall higher. It sometimes snows in Damascus. Furthermore, even some dry parts of the region have significant water resources flowing through them, originating in wetter climes. Egypt’s southern city of Aswan, for instance, only receives 1mm of rainfall a year, but sits on the banks of the Nile, the longest river in the world. Depictions of the Middle East as water scarce, therefore, must be nuanced by an appreciation of the region’s varied geographies.
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  • The particularly high growth rates in some countries—Iraq, Bahrain and Palestine—are not matched in all countries
  • Migration and forced displacement also shape population distributions.
  • The broad characterization of the region as water scarce and people rich, on the other hand, tells a simple and powerful story. It is a story that is reinforced by a commonly used indicator, the Falkenmark Water Stress Index. This easily calculable figure is a ratio of the total renewable freshwater resources available in a country to the number of people. If the index is less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year, it denotes a situation of water scarcity; if it is less than 500 cubic meters per capita per year, it indicates conditions of absolute water scarcity. According to this indicator, the region does not look good. Most of the countries are facing either scarcity or absolute s car ci t y.
  • Water scarcity is not so much about how much water there is and more about what it is being used f or
  • an archetypal Malthusian narrative. Eighteenth century scholar Thomas Malthus proposed that the combination of a limited resource base, only growing at an arithmetic rate, and an expanding population, growing at a geometric rate, would inevitably lead to a point where the system’s capacity to support that population was exceeded and crisis would result. This notion, so simplistic and yet so enduring, undergirds much of the writing about water in the Middle East
  • A larger population means more people drinking, cleaning their homes and bodies, washing clothes and cooking. These daily activities do not, however, require all that much water relative to other water uses
  • n annual allocation of 20 cubic meters per capita is sufficient to cover consumption and basic hygiene needs
  • In cities like Amman and Beirut, many neighborhoods only receive running water for a few hours a day; in war-torn Yemen, millions lack access to clean water. But the lack experienced by some is more due to the inadequacy of the infrastructures for delivering potable water and removing wastewater than the insufficiency of the resource per se
  • producing more food does not always require more water. There are techniques of applying water to the soil that are less water intensive, allowing for what water specialists term “more crop per drop.”
  • Agriculture consumes the greatest amount of water by far, globally. This pattern is particularly pronounced in the Middle East, where low rainfall across much of the region makes irrigation a necessity for cultivation. Agriculture uses 85 percent of the region’s water.
  • food imports can be seen as a source of “virtual water.”
  • more about politics than population. The reason why Saudi Arabia long subsidized wheat production in the desert with water drawn from fossil aquifers, for instance, was not because it needed to produce more food for a growing population. Instead, this policy was about the government’s interest in becoming more self-sufficient so as to decrease its reliance on other countries and the associated vulnerabilities.
  • there is no direct correlation between population size and agricultural water use. Narratives of population-driven water crises should always be approached with caution
  • Many lower income residents, or people living in informal settlements, lack access to sufficient drinking water and sanitation. Populations in motion, too, can generate challenges for water managers. Refugee camps, for instance, which are amalgamations of people in spaces that were not necessarily designed to support those numbers, often struggle to provide enough water for their displaced population’s day-to-day uses.
  • Efforts to integrate climate change adaptation into water management plans are hampered by more pressing political priorities,
  • A number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa rely on transboundary water resources. The high degree of reliance is evident in an indicator known as the dependency ratio, which is the proportion of a nation’s freshwater resources—both surface and groundwater—that comes from outside that country. Syria and Iraq depend on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which rise in the mountainous region of southeastern Turkey. Egypt sources most of its water from the Nile, a river basin that spans 11 countries. Jordan’s two main surface water resources, the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers, are shared with its neighbors. Israel taps into surface and groundwater resources that traverse borders with the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. Kuwait and Bahrain’s groundwater reserves are fed by water flowing laterally underground from Saudi Arabia.
  • available water resources of the Middle East and North Africa are also shifting due to anthropogenic climate change
  • Climate models are consistent in their projections that temperatures across the region are increasing and will continue to do so in coming decades. Higher temperatures mean higher evapotranspiration rates —plants, in other words, will drink more water—and larger losses from open surfaces like reservoirs. Demand from the most water intensive sector, agriculture, will increase.
  • studies suggest that the variability and uncertainty in rainfall timing and intensity is increasing
  • the rise in sea level poses a risk of coastal flooding in deltas, like that of the Shatt al-Arab, on the border of Iraq and Iran, and the Nile Delta as well as other lowlying areas along the Mediterranean coastline
  • In the case of shared aquifers, the added uncertainties surrounding groundwater volumes and flows compound the challenges.
  • despite the dramatic appeal of the idea of a water war, most scholars agree that the concept is misleading. Wars typically have much more complicated origins than a single causal factor, like water. Intrastate disputes over water may be more significant than interstate conflicts. Moreover, a shared resource does not necessarily have to be a source of tension; it can be a source of cooperation
  • Countries in the more arid parts of the Middle East have championed technologies for producing more water. The Gulf states and Israel, for instance, have been leaders in desalination. In these countries, desalinated water now meets the majority of domestic water needs
  • Many of the region’s water bodies are contaminated with sewage, agricultural chemicals and industrial waste,
  • Public awareness campaigns urge residents to conserve water, take shorter showers, turn off the faucet when brushing their teeth, not leave the water running when cleaning dishes and avoid washing their cars
  • Although initiatives are underway to develop solar-powered desalination, these projects are still in their infancy
  • These uses are so small relative to agriculture, though, that their impact is limited.
  • In many countries of the region, farmers reuse agricultural drainage water. If municipal and industrial waste is properly treated, it too can be reused
  • experts have advised authorities to raise the price of water. In most countries of the region, water is priced significantly below its cost of delivery. In some cases, it is free. Egyptian farmers, for instance, do not pay for the water they use on their fields (although they do pay other irrigation-related costs, such as energy for pumps). If they had to pay for water, economists argue, they would not use so much
  • While these measures can be effective at reducing water consumption and easing scarcity, they impose costs and can increase rural poverty without other forms of social protection and support for small farmers. They also risk ignoring the larger contextual factors that shape water use in a home, factory or farm. Policies that seek to mandate a technology, price or behavioral change for the sake of saving water, without recognizing the priorities and perspectives of those who use this water on a daily basis, are unlikely to be successful
  • the challenge of water scarcity and the experience of many within the region who struggle to find sufficient, clean water for their everyday needs and livelihoods is as much about economic priorities, social inequalities and political relations as it is a function of the region’s geography
Ed Webb

Biden rebuffed as US relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE hit new low | US foreign polic... - 0 views

  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia continue to rebuff the US president as he attempts to counter soaring oil prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And both countries have been unusually frank about their refusal to step in.
  • The Saudi and Emirati refusal to bail Biden out – or even to take his calls – has pushed relations between the Gulf states and Washington to an unprecedented low. The extraordinary flow of Russian wealth to Dubai, just as the US and Europe try to strangle Putin’s economy, has inflamed things further.
  • Usually opaque and often inscrutable, officials in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have in recent weeks been uncharacteristically blunt to visiting diplomats about the nature of their grievances, and how far they are prepared to take them. One western diplomat told the Guardian that a Saudi counterpart had said: “This is the end of the road for us and Biden, but maybe the US also.”
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  • “While American policy is beset by baffling contradictions, Chinese policy is simple and straightforward. Beijing is offering Riyadh a simple deal: sell us your oil and choose whatever military equipment you want from our catalogue; in return, help us to stabilise global energy markets.“In other words, the Chinese are offering what increasingly appears modelled on the American-Saudi deal that stabilised the Middle East for 70 years.”
  • The former al-Arabiya editor-in-chief, Mohammed al-Yahya chose the previously unlikely forum of the Jerusalem Post to publish his views on the standoff.“The Saudi-US relationship is in the throes of a crisis,” he wrote. “I am increasingly disturbed by the unreality of the American discussion about the subject, which often fails to acknowledge just how deep and serious the rift has grown.
  • “Why should America’s regional allies help Washington contain Russia in Europe when Washington is strengthening Russia and Iran in the Middle East?”
  • The naked transactional diplomacy of Donald Trump was a formula more familiar to both, and had been readily deployed by China, to whom each is looking towards for closer trade, energy and even security ties.
  • “The UAE has invested a lot in its relations with Washington. We allocated the bulk of our investments of huge sovereign wealth funds in the American markets, excluding Asian and European markets, and had wanted to increase trade with Washington.”Abdulla said the UAE felt snubbed by Washington not signing a deal to supply new F-35 fighter jets.It was also angered by Biden’s distance following a deadly Houthi drone and rocket strike on Abu Dhabi.“What made matters worse was the Biden administration’s objection to sovereign Emirati decisions, such as receiving Bashar al-Assad … and putting pressure on Abu Dhabi to increase its oil production outside the context of the Opec agreement.“All this comes at a time when America is no longer the only superpower in the world, which prompted the UAE and other countries to diversify partners.”
Ed Webb

'A night of evil': US attack in Yemen leaves scars, fear and hatred | Middle East Eye - 1 views

  • in the aftermath of the operation, which some US officials admit went disastrously wrong, many others lay dead: Up to 25 civilians, including an eight-year-old girl thought to have been a US citizen, and one US commando.
  • Rimi said afterwards that 14 members of his group had died in the attack - apparently confirming the village's link to AQAP - but villagers deny any association, and say what happened on Sunday was simply a massacre
  • "After the drones, we heard helicopters overhead – that was when the tribesmen decided to take up arms and went out to face the forces."According to the villager, tribesmen grabbed "personal' firearms" which in Yemen, one of the world's most weaponised countries, include machine guns and assault rifles, to confront the US forces.
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  • US sources say intelligence showed the village was defended by prepared emplacements and machinegun nests, and ringed by minefields - one of the many factors in a decision by the former US president, Barack Obama, to leave the operation on the shelf. What is certain is Yakla has been used by fighting men at a time of civil war - many tribesmen are members of the Popular Resistance, a loose coalition of groups fighting against the Houthi rebel movement which took over large areas of the country and kicked out the country's president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi, in 2015
  • Thahab had recently worked with pro-government forces in Marib province - a source said he had been supplied with weapons to liberate his home province from the Houthis. "Thahab was a main ally of the pro-government forces in al-Bayda and it is not in the interest of the government for him to be killed -  as he is one of the bravest fighters in al-Bayda," the source said.For the people of Yakla, talk of who was and wasn't on the American hit list were secondary to what they believe were the true objectives: making Trump look strong.One villager said: "The new US president thinks himself to be the strongest in this world, but I say our prayers to Allah are stronger than him, and Allah will help the weak people like us."
Ed Webb

Lawsuit over Washington violence looms over US-Turkey relations - 0 views

  • Yasa found himself semi-conscious in hospital along with nine other protesters after Erdogan’s bodyguards and thugs for hire set upon them. One yelled “Die Kurd” as they kicked and struck the demonstrators with discernible glee. Lucy Usoyan, a young Yazidi woman who was repeatedly hit on the head, fell unconscious, despite Yasa’s best efforts to shield her. The images captured on video and later subjected to forensic scrutiny leave no doubt as to what had transpired. “I didn’t know if I would ever see my children again,” Yasa said. “I thought I was dying.”
  • In May, Yasa and a dozen and a half fellow victims filed a civil action lawsuit in US federal court against Turkey. They are demanding at least $300 million in compensation on multiple counts ranging from bodily harm to psychological trauma — including, in at least one case, damage to conjugal relations.
  • the tort case against the Republic of Turkey rests on the Foreign Sovereignties Immunity Act, which stipulates seven violations for which foreign governments can be sued in US courts. “I’d love to see Turkey argue that under US law, ‘We are entitled to beat up people on the streets of Washington, DC,'” Perles said. “No dictator gets to come to my country and beat up citizens of my country on my watch. I’ll take that argument all the way to the Supreme Court.”
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  • Turkey has breezily denied any wrongdoing, branding the protesters as “terrorists” and the actions of its security forces as “self-defense.” Its reaction to the legal case so far has been to act as if it doesn’t exist. Turkey’s toothless media, which is almost fully controlled by Erdogan’s business cronies, has followed suit.
  • In November 2017, federal prosecutors dismissed charges against seven members of Erdogan’s security detail who had been indicted by a federal grand jury that July on a slew of charges, including aggravated assault, conspiracy and hate crimes. Although the men had already left the country, the warrants seemed to carry a powerful message that foreign agents could not act with impunity on US soil. Then in February 2018, the cases against four others were quietly dropped, leaving only four guards on the hook.
  • a strong whiff of diplomatic appeasement hung in the air. The Trump administration was trying to secure the release of North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson and to calm Turkish fury over its continued support for the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG)
  • The first hearing of what will be a bench trial could be held as early as June depending on when the US Embassy in Ankara formally relays the summons. A State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity declined to confirm whether that had happened yet, but acknowledged that US law requires it. “The US government makes no judgment on the merits of the litigation in question, or whether Turkey enjoys immunity from suit, which is a question to be decided by the courts,”
  • if the Turkish government does not acknowledge service within 60 days of the delivery of the summons by a US diplomat, “a federal judge will proceed without Turkey at that moment.”
  • Turkey has allegedly resorted to bullying relatives of the plaintiffs who are in Turkey in hopes of getting them to drop the lawsuits. Several have filed as “John Does” precisely to avoid such harassment. One of them told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that police had hauled in family members for interrogation, but declined to provide details for fear their identity may be revealed. Three other victims approached by Al-Monitor declined to speak, even off the record.
  • Clobbering dissidents in foreign countries is not a uniquely Turkish habit. In January 2018, a federal judge ruled that the Democratic Republic of Congo had to fork over more than $500,000 to three protesters who were savagely attacked by the security detail of President Joseph Kabila Kabange outside the luxury Georgetown hotel where he was staying. Much like Erdogan’s security detail, the Congolese security officers flew out of the United States within hours of the incident. One of the protesters, Jacques Miango, who was kicked in the throat, the face and the spine, shared Yasa’s disbelief that such violence could unfold in the heart of Washington. “You imagine that those kinds of things can’t happen in America,” Miango told The Washington Post. “But after it happened to me, I know nothing is impossible.”
  • In the unlikely event that Erdogan were to resume peace talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, Yasa said he would withdraw the case “without a second thought.”
  • “Peace is what we were demonstrating for in Sheridan Circle,” Yasa said. “And if peace were the outcome, our suffering will not have been in vain.”
Ed Webb

How Two Persian Gulf Nations Turned The US Media Into Their Battleground - 0 views

  • Two rival Persian Gulf nations have for the past year been conducting a tit-for-tat battle of leaked emails in US news outlets that appears, at least in part, to have been an effort to influence Trump administration policy toward Iran.
  • On one side is the United Arab Emirates, a wealthy confederation of seven small states allied with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s bitter foe. On the other is Qatar, another oil-rich Arab monarchy, but one that maintains friendly relations with Iran, with which it shares a giant natural gas field.
  • unfolding battle alarms transparency advocates who fear it will usher in an era in which computer hacking and the dissemination of hacked emails will become the norm in international foreign policy disputes
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  • “You could spend years campaigning traditionally against someone or you could hack an email account and leak salacious details to the media. If you have no scruples, and access to hackers, the choice is obvious.”
  • This is the new warfare. This is something the governments use for commercial reasons, use for political reasons, and use to destroy their opponents
  • Tensions have been building for years between the UAE and Qatar. The two have feuded over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that many Persian Gulf monarchies see as a threat to their hereditary kingdoms. They’ve also been at odds over Qatar’s friendly relations with Iran and its backing of the Al Jazeera television channel, whose newscasts are often critical of Arab autocrats.The feud broke into the open on May 24 last year when someone hacked into the website and Twitter account of Qatar’s government news agency, QNA, and posted news stories and tweets that quoted the country’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, making bizarrely pro-Iran statements.Qatar disavowed the remarks within an hour, and its foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, quickly texted the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, that the statements weren’t true. Qatar took its official news website down, and still hasn’t brought it back online.But the damage had been done
  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia, with the backing of the Trump administration, used the hacked news stories as a pretext for severing relations with Qatar, imposing a blockade, and making 13 demands, including that Qatar cut all ties with Iran and shut down Al Jazeera and all other state-funded news sites.
  • “They weaponized fake news to justify the illegal blockade of Qatar,” said Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Washington-based media attaché. “In the year since then, we have seen their repeated use of cyberespionage, fake news, and propaganda to justify unlawful actions and obfuscate underhanded dealings.”
  • he FBI concluded that freelance Russian hackers had carried out the operation on the UAE’s behalf
  • In June of last year, someone began leaking the contents of a Hotmail account belonging to Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s flashy ambassador to the United States. The leaks were distributed to a group of online news sites, including the Huffington Post, the Intercept, and the Daily Beast.“The leakers claimed the documents had been provided to them by a paid whistleblower embedded in a Washington, DC, lobbyist group, though it’s clear from even a cursory examination that they were printed out from Al Otaiba’s Hotmail account,”
  • “It’s not clear whether Otaiba’s inbox was hacked or passed along by someone with access to the account,”
  • The most damaging email leaks came in March when someone went after Elliott Broidy, a 60-year-old American hired to lobby for the UAE, and whose company, Circinus, has received more than $200 billion in defense contracts from the country. In recent years, he’s been one of the loudest American voices against Qatar, employing tactics ranging from anti-Qatar op-eds to personally lobbying Donald Trump to support the blockade against it.Broidy was in a prime position to lobby the president. He was the Republican Party’s vice chair of fundraising until April 13, when he resigned after the Wall Street Journal revealed that he’d used Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay a 34-year-old former Playboy model $1.6 million in hush money after he’d gotten her pregnant. The Journal said leaked emails played no role in that coverage.
  • “There was thought and calculation behind how this material was being distributed,” Wieder, who wrote about the emails in a follow-up story, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s not the old-school, WikiLeaks, ‘everything’s up on a site; make what you will of it.’”
Ed Webb

Dismal failure of Saudi defences may entangle US just where Iran wants it | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant was a surprise – and that was itself surprising in view of all the Western defensive hardware, let alone the major US and British naval presence, very close by. The Saudis were initially reluctant to give many details, save blaming the Iranians rather than the Yemenis. Quite a lot more information has now seeped out, however: it suggests that the political consequences of the Abqaiq attack may last long after the oil plant is repaired.
  • It appears that Saudi air defences failed to intercept any missile or drone: the intruders may not even have been tracked en route to their targets, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.
  • US officials say that all the drones and missiles were launched from south-western Iran on a flight path that would have taken them across the tip of Kuwait. In response the Kuwaiti authorities have launched an inquiry into the possible violation of airspace – which suggests that they did not detect the missiles either.
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  • none of this should have happened, given the extensive and hugely expensive air defences that the Saudis have installed to safeguard Abqaiq and other facilities from Iranian and Houthi missiles
  • US troops left the kingdom in 2004 after the start of the 2003 Iraq war, even if many Americans stayed on in civilian guise. With that withdrawal, one of the biggest US bases, a large part of the Royal Saudi Air Force’s Prince Sultan Air Force Base, was closed down, leaving the Saudis as the sole occupants. That was until July this year when, according to Military.com: Air Force Col. David Jackson, commander of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, told Military.com last week that teams from his wing were sent to Prince Sultan, about 50 miles southeast of the capital of Riyadh, to prepare the airfield for renewed operations.
  • Iranian cruise missiles have a range of about 700 km, armed drones of 1,200 km, and the nearest Iranian territory to Abqaiq is far less than that
  • an apparently minor decision taken three months ago that scarcely registered with Western politicians: the return of uniformed US troops to the kingdom
  • The Iranian success was a disaster for Saudi Arabia and an embarrassment for US, French, German and Swiss arms suppliers. Given that Saudi Arabia has many oil and gas fields and processing plants, not to mention a series of huge desalination plants on which the kingdom depends for half of its drinking water, it is easy to see the extreme concern behind the scenes in Riyadh.
  • Prince Sultan base now looks highly likely to be the main staging post for around 500 uniformed US military to be deployed to the kingdom to boost its own inadequate air defences. Given the state of tension with Iran it is safe to assume that this initial deployment will be the start of something substantially bigger.
  • a perfect gift for extreme Islamist movements who can point once again to the weakness of the House of Saud: in their view the Guardian of the Two Holy Cities is anything but
  • wise to assume that, all along, one of Iran’s aims has been to draw Saudi Arabia and the Pentagon closer and closer together, causing dissent in the kingdom and continuing embarrassment for the royal house
Ed Webb

Israel has no place in the US Visa Waiver Program | Opinions | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • I was finally allowed entry into my indigenous homeland last month, but this was not due to Israel seeing the error of its ways, and deciding to end its discriminatory policies against Palestinian Americans. It was nothing but a temporary stunt to smooth Israel’s path into the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which gives citizens of a select few countries the right to travel to the US, and stay there for 90 days, without a visa.
  • The fundamental requirement for a country to be admitted into the VWP is reciprocity – a country’s citizens can only get visa-free travel to the US, if their country gives that same right to all American citizens. For decades, Israeli authorities have routinely and arbitrarily denied American citizens of Palestinian descent, and especially those of us residing in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, entry into the country. This contradicts with the VWP’s principle of reciprocity and disqualifies Israel from being admitted into this highly coveted programme.
  • In a statement on Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security said Israel has been designated for the VWP and that Israeli nationals will be able to travel to the US without a visa by November 30. It added that Israel “made updates to its entry policies to meet the VWP requirement to extend reciprocal privileges to all US citizens without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity”. There is, of course, no reason to believe Israel would hold its promise and allow Palestinian Americans into the country without any added hurdles and obstacles. As the date for Israel’s entry into the programme nears, there are still countless Palestinian Americans who are being denied entry into their ancestral lands without a meaningful explanation or legal standing.
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  • Even if Israel was to meet all the technical requirements of entering the programme – which it currently does not – it stands in direct contradiction to the stated human rights policies of the United States. Israel’s admission into the VWP would signal to the world that the US is supporting its highly discriminatory border policies and myriad human rights abuses. Furthermore, it would send a clear message to American citizens of Palestinian origin that their lives, safety, and history mean nothing to those ruling their country.
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