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Ed Webb

In many countries, Millennials more inclusive than elders in views of national identity... - 0 views

  • Across a number of countries that are wrestling with the politics of national identity, younger people are far more likely than their elders to take an inclusive view of what it takes for people to be truly considered “one of us” – whether the measure is being born in their country, sharing local customs and traditions or being Christian.
  • The divide between the young and the old over birthright nationality is quite wide in certain European countries: 21 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 16 points each in Greece and Spain
  • Views on the importance of culture to national identity also split along generational lines. A majority (55%) of older Americans but only 28% of younger adults believe it is very important that a person share U.S. national customs and traditions to be truly American. There is a similar 20-point generation gap in Australia, Canada and Japan.
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  • In these predominantly Christian countries, older people are generally much more likely than younger ones to link national identity to being Christian.
  • only in Greece (65% of those ages 50 and older) does a majority of any age group believe it is very important for one to be Christian to be a true national
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    Important data for thinking comparatively about the relationship between certain aspects of identity and perceptions about national belonging.
Ed Webb

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

  • As is often the case with Trump’s comments on policy, they quickly become the focus of media attention, rather than what the administration is actually doing — or what the facts are on the ground.
  • two separate but overlapping conflicts
  • a counterterrorism fight waged by Yemeni government, with U.S. support, against AQAP, al Qaeda’s most virulent franchise
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  • The second, and more damaging conflict, is a civil war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi minority, which was expected to last a matter of weeks, and maybe months, but is now well into its third year. It began when Houthi militia fighters descended on the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and soon evicted the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close partner of the United States.
  • if new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to make an early diplomatic contribution, then there is a confounding but vital mission with his name on it: de-escalating a Yemen civil war that is damaging U.S. interests and should have stopped a long time ago
  • The civil war escalated dramatically in March 2015, with the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which understandably felt threatened by the turmoil on its border and by ties between the Houthis and Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran. The United States, which had long been urging Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility for security challenges in its region, offered a range of support, including with intelligence, weapons sales, aerial refueling for Saudi planes, and various measures to help secure the Saudi border
  • According to the United Nations, 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention, including 10,000 civilians. The humanitarian situation in what was already one of the world’s poorest countries, is now, after Syria, the most dire on the planet, with one in five Yemenis severely food insecure
  • The war has preoccupied key partners with an enemy that does not directly threaten the United States. Indiscriminate air strikes, conducted with American weapons and in the context of American assistance, have killed scores of non-combatants (such incidents eventually compelled the Obama administration to review and adjust our assistance to the coalition). And while Iran and the Houthis have historically maintained an arms-length relationship, the long conflict has brought them closer and led to the introduction of more advanced weapons, such as missiles capable of striking deep into Saudi territory or of threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for maritime traffic.
  • Saudi officials and their Emirati coalition partners have been signaling for months that they are eager to end the conflict, which they did not expect to last nearly this long
  • after years of U.N.-led negotiations that sought to sell a relatively one-sided peace to the Houthis (despite what was, at best, a stalemate on the ground), the Obama administration developed and bequeathed to its successors a more balanced roadmap to which all key parties (the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Yemeni government — as well as the United States, U.N., and U.K.) grudgingly agreed
  • the Houthis are infamously difficult to work with. When Secretary of State John Kerry met for several hours with their representatives in Oman last November, he was forced to endure a lengthy airing of historical grievances before embarking on the topic at hand. They also have a long history of violating dozens of agreements, which every Saudi diplomat can recount, chapter and verse.

    Negotiating peace will also inevitably involve straining relationships with our key partners, who will need to be pushed in the right direction

  • Hadi, who all relevant players acknowledge cannot govern a reconciled Yemeni state, has consistently scuttled deals that would require him leave office. His Saudi patrons have proven either unwilling, or unable, to compel better behavior and are themselves too are quick to revert to unreasonable demands — a tendency that would be reinforced if the Trump administration signals it unconditionally has Riyadh’s back
  • the Emiratis, who maintain a heavy troop presence in southern Yemen but have, wisely, been more focused on AQAP (the first war) than the Houthis (second), have for many months been threatening to attack the Houthi-held port of Hudeidah, a provocative step that would almost certain set back any peacemaking efforts indefinitely
  • an expanded presence of U.S. forces — while Yemeni and Saudi governments are still at war with the Houthis — could bring U.S. troops into close quarters with Iran and its proxies, with all of the escalatory potential that entails
  • While the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship late last year, they have not repeated that mistake since the Obama administration retaliated by destroying radars located along the coast. If President Trump chooses to put U.S. forces into the middle of a civil war, it should explain a purpose and objective more concretely than simply “pushing back” on Iran. Moreover, it must do so with its eyes open to the risks those forces would be assuming and the reality that a limited special forces mission is unlikely to turn the tide on the ground
  • the longer the conflict with the Houthis continues, the more AQAP will continue to benefit from our, and our partners’, divided focus, as it strengthens its hold on ungoverned territory
Ed Webb

'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
  • 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

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  • "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.

  • 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

SEAL, American Girl Die in First Trump-Era U.S. Military Raid - NBC News - 1 views

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    Apparently an operation that went badly wrong and gave AQAP lots of material for propaganda.
Ed Webb

Iranian hard-liner alleges FM Zarif is American spy - 0 views

  • After the recent move by the US Congress to renew sanctions on Iran, one prominent Iranian extremist went so far as to call Zarif an American spy
  • “Since the nuclear deal was reached, the ‘worried ones’ [the hard-liners opposed to the JCPOA] have been waiting for a suitable excuse to attack Zarif. … What better excuse than the 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act? Now is the perfect moment to say that the Iranian national hero is an American spy.”
Ed Webb

Saudi-Egypt crisis leaves Israel concerned - 0 views

  • a series of arms deals signed by Egypt that raised quite a few eyebrows in Israel. “They bought four German submarines and two French helicopter carriers for a small fortune,” another Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “This comes in addition to huge deals with the Russians and the Chinese to purchase numerous fighter jets.”
  • “We hope that Sisi knows what he's doing,” the latter source said, “because we don’t really understand it.”
  • The Egyptians are hoping to receive “aerial coverage” from Israel, i.e., lobbying assistance on Egypt’s behalf, which has in the recent past come to Cairo’s aid in Washington on more than one occasion.
Ed Webb

Hitting the Reset Button on the International Order | Foreign Policy - 1 views

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    Good, if gloomy, discussion on prospects for the U.S.-led international order under the Trump administration.
Ed Webb

How Trump can deal with Iran-GCC conflict - 1 views

  • Coupled with Trump’s desire for regional allies to do more to provide for their security is an explicit understanding he has that US military intervention in the Middle East has achieved little and comes at far too great a cost. “We’ve been fighting this war for 15 years,” he told "60 Minutes" Nov. 13. "We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice.”
  • Recently, I attended the Third Annual Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, where hundreds of regional Arab participants claimed that Iran is bent on regional hegemony and interferes in the affairs of Arab countries. Additionally, they blamed the United States for attacking Afghanistan and Iraq and handing the region to Iran. As the only Iranian at the conference, I reminded them that the US war on terror was triggered by the Sept. 11 attacks, which was carried out by 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was for years also a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ally, which supported him throughout the brutal eight-year Iran-Iraq War. Afterward, when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the GCC called on the United States and its allies to come to their rescue and push back Saddam. In the case of two other Arab countries — Libya and Yemen — that have collapsed in recent years, the GCC was directly involved in military strikes that destroyed the state in these countries.

    Trump’s line of thinking on these issues is in the right direction. To foster a more peaceful Persian Gulf, it is imperative for the United States and its allies to play a more assertive role in fostering regional stability and for America to abandon strategies centered on regime change and military intervention.

  • A CSCE-type process for the Persian Gulf — one which includes Iran, Iraq and the six states of the GCC — can be a way toward fostering a stable regional order. While much separates these states today, a gradual process that begins with their simply holding regular meetings where they can communicate their security grievances can result in more cooperative relationships' developing over time.
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    Fascinating proposal from a seasoned Iranian diplomat. I don't see the GCC or Iran's hardliners going for it. But no harm to float the idea.
Ed Webb

US buys ads on Facebook to fight militants - 2 views

  • the US has found this year that online ads on social media websites like Facebook, rather than posts, are a cost-effective way to fight the propaganda of the Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups
  • Facebook's detailed metrics for advertisers helps the government campaign reach its targets - people who might be groomed online by militants.

    "Using Facebook ads, I can go within Facebook, I can grab an audience. I can pick country X, I need age group 13 to 34, I need people who liked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or any other set, and I can shoot and hit them directly with messages," he said.

    "In some places in the world, it's literally pennies a click to do it," he said.  

  • Facebook, he noted, offers the government access to affordable amassed and collated user data for singling out target groups and individuals for anti-militant ads the US government runs.

    "The best I can do right now is to have access to big data and to use the analytics tools on the social media platforms, the Facebooks and the others,"

Ed Webb

Trump's Syria Strategy Would Be a Disaster | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • A brief history lesson should suffice to demonstrate the Assad regime’s lack of counterterrorism qualifications. This is the government whose intelligence apparatus methodically built al Qaeda in Iraq, and then the Islamic State in Iraq, into a formidable terrorist force to fight U.S. troops in that country from 2003 to 2010
  • Trump’s suggestion to partner with Russia in “smashing” the Islamic State is little more than a non sequitur, given Russia’s near-consistent focus on everything but the jihadi group
  • contrary to an increasingly popular narrative, fighters in these vetted groups are not, with very few exceptions, handing over U.S. weapons to jihadis, nor are they wandering off to join the extremists themselves. The cornerstone of the CIA effort has been to supply rebel groups with U.S.-manufactured BGM-71 TOW anti-tank guided missiles, which have ensured that the moderate opposition has remained a relevant actor in the conflict. Thus far, according to publicly available information, at least 1,073 TOW missiles have been sent to Syria and used in combat, only 12 of which have changed hands and been used by nonvetted groups — amounting to an impressively low proliferation rate of 1.1 percent
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  • the Kremlin’s focus has unequivocally and consistently been on fighting Syria’s mainstream opposition, not the Islamic State. Much of its targeting has been against U.S.-linked members of Syria’s opposition
  • Trump appears to be indicating a preference for combating the symptoms of a crisis — that is, terrorism — while strengthening their principal cause: Assad’s dictatorship and his refusal to negotiate
  • he risks exacerbating six major threats to U.S. domestic and international security
  • The widespread perception that Washington is indifferent to the suffering of Syrian civilians has led ever more members of the Syrian opposition to consider al Qaeda a more willing and more effective protector of their lives and interests than the United States, the supposed “leader of the free world.” Trump’s proposed abandonment of the Syrian opposition would permanently cement that perception and make Syria a pre-9/11 Afghanistan on steroids. This should be deeply troubling to anyone concerned about international security, given Syria’s proximity to Europe.
  • Removing that U.S. role risks re-creating the chaos and infighting that ruled the early days of the Syrian crisis, but this time in a context where extremists are poised to swiftly take advantage.
  • it would not be altogether surprising to see Qatar or Turkey — for example — switching the bulk of their support to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and similar groups were the United States to cease supporting the opposition
  • Regional states may also feel justified in breaking a long U.S. taboo in sending anti-aircraft weapons like MANPADS to their closest proxies on the ground in Syria. To a certain extent, this illicit flow of anti-aircraft weaponry has already begun in response to perceptions of insufficient U.S. “muscle” in preventing the brutal assault on the besieged eastern districts of Aleppo. According to well-placed opposition sources, at least three small shipments of MANPADS have entered northern Syria since late 2015.
  • Although a U.S.-Russian alliance would likely increase the threat to the Islamic State’s territorial holdings in Syria, at least in the short term, such a partnership would be an invaluable long-term boon to the group’s propaganda. Were Russia to employ the same carpet-bombing tactics it has used in its attempt to crush the Syrian opposition, the consequences of such “victories” would ensure that the Islamic State has a ready-made narrative to attempt a determined resurgence with some level of popular acceptance or even support.
  • a potential U.S.-Russian partnership in Syria could also further energize the Islamic State’s calls for attacks against targets in the West, particularly in the United States
  • Paired with the possibility that Trump may introduce newly oppressive domestic policies on immigration and other issues relating to race and religion, this scenario portends greater threats, not a safer America
  • As a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, it is surprising that Trump appears to be proposing Syria policies that would save Iran from a geopolitically crippling defeat and strengthen its regional influence
  • Were President-elect Trump to drop America’s insistence that Assad has lost his legitimacy and must be removed through transition, not only would Iran gain immeasurably, but the greatest immediate terrorist threat to Israel would be free to point its formidable weapons array toward America’s most valued regional ally
  • Putin seeks to secure a Russian rise at the expense of American power and influence, not in equal partnership with them.
  • A combination of all or some of the above-mentioned scenarios would produce dynamics that would undoubtedly further exacerbate Syria’s refugee crisis, leaving as many as 5 million Syrians permanently outside their country’s borders. With Assad remaining in power and his various backers secure in his defense, a quarter of Syria’s entire prewar population would be highly unlikely to ever return to their homes, meaning that neighboring states would be left to shoulder the unsustainable costs of housing them while many refugees would embrace desperate attempts to get to Europe.
  • Although it remains possible that President-elect Trump will do away with his perilously simplistic reading of the Syrian crisis, the dangers of pursuing a policy based on his limited understanding should be well-understood. As five years of failed policy under President Barack Obama has shown, treating the symptoms of the crisis rather than its root cause — Assad’s dictatorship — will only lead to further displacement and ruin.
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