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Ed Webb

Egypt-Sudan Spat Muddies Prospects for Deal on Big Nile Dam - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • diplomatic spat between Egypt and Sudan is spilling over into the long-running dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, which Cairo sees as an existential threat
  • Sudan officially warned of threats to its eastern border from massing Egyptian and Eritrean troops, while Egypt has also moved into a disputed triangle of territory claimed by both Cairo and Khartoum. Late last week, Sudan abruptly recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the latest chapter in a fight that started last summer with trade boycotts and that has only intensified in recent weeks
  • Sudan’s support for Ethiopia’s construction of a massive $5 billion dam on the Nile River that could choke off vital supplies of water downstream. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called the dam a matter of “life or death.”
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  • dam is more than 60 percent complete, and Ethiopia could start to fill the reservoir as soon as this summer, leaving little time to find workable solutions
  • The dam, a huge power project at the head of the Blue Nile meant to meet fast-growing Ethiopia’s need for more electricity, will hold a year’s worth of river flow behind its concrete walls. Depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam, downstream flows to Egypt could be restricted — a potentially fatal threat for a country dependent on agriculture that is already facing severe water shortages.
  • The three countries seemed to have sorted things out in 2015 with an agreement on how to manage the project, but since then they have been unable to agree on how to even measure the dam’s impacts.
  • Sudan’s role is crucial, because it is smack in the middle of Egypt and Ethiopia geographically and politically. Egypt and Sudan have long divvied up the Nile’s waters between them, according to the terms of a 1959 treaty that does not include Ethiopia. By using less Nile River water than it was allotted, for years Sudan allowed more to flow downstream to Egypt, which has used more water than it is entitled to. But in recent years, Sudan has sought to increase its own water use, aiming to boost its agriculture sector. Because it hopes to use the dam for irrigation, Sudan has moved closer to Ethiopia and become a supporter of the project. That makes antagonizing Khartoum a dangerous gambit for Egypt
  • the United States — still saddled with plenty of unfilled positions at the State Department — hasn’t been able to mediate the dispute
Ed Webb

The Libyan Civil War Is About to Get Worse - 0 views

  • Yet another clash between the two main Libya camps is now brewing, and events in recent weeks suggest that the fighting will be more devastating than at any time before—and still may not produce a definitive victory for either side.
  • Facing stiff resistance from disparate militias nominally aligned with the government, the LNA has failed to breach downtown Tripoli. On top of this, the marshal’s campaign, while destructive, has been hampered by gross strategic and tactical inefficiency. The resulting war of attrition and slower pace of combat revealed yet another flaw in his coalition: Few eastern Libyan fighters wish to risk their lives for Haftar 600 miles away from home.
  • the UAE carried out more than 900 air strikes in the greater Tripoli area last year using Chinese combat drones and, occasionally, French-made fighter jets. The Emirati military intervention helped contain the GNA’s forces but did not push Haftar’s objectives forward. Instead, it had an adverse effect by provoking other regional powers. Turkey responded to the UAE by deploying Bayraktar TB2 drones and several dozen Turkish officers to carry out roughly 250 strikes in an effort to help the GNA resist Haftar’s onslaught. The stalemate also inspired Russia to increase its own involvement in Libya.
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  • In September 2019, a few hundred Russian mercenaries joined the front-line effort near Tripoli in support of Haftar’s forces
  • forced a desperate GNA to sign a controversial maritime accord that granted Ankara notional gas-drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean in return for Turkey launching a full-blown military intervention in support of the anti-Haftar camp
  • According to open-source data analyzed by aircraft-tracking specialist Gerjon, the Emiratis, since mid-January, have flown more than 100 cargo planes to Libya (or western Egypt, near the Libyan border). These planes likely carried with them thousands of tons of military hardware. Other clues suggest that the number of Emirati personnel on Libyan soil has also increased. All of this indicates that Haftar’s coalition and its allies are going to try, once again, to achieve total victory by force.
  • Few international actors are willing to contradict the UAE, and while the GNA’s isolation grows, no Western government wants to exert any meaningful pressure on Haftar
  • During January and February, at least three cargo ships from Turkey delivered about 3,500 tons’ worth of equipment and ammunition each. The Turkish presence on Libyan soil currently comprises several hundred men. They train Libyan fighters on urban warfare with an emphasis on tactics to fend off armored vehicles. Against attacks from the sky, Ankara relies on electronic-warfare technology and a combination of U.S.– and indigenously developed air defense systems. Similar protection has been set up at the air base of Misrata, a powerful anti-Haftar city to the west of Sirte, which the LNA took on Jan. 6.
  • Notwithstanding its attempt to tap underwater hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, Ankara has no intention of renouncing its commercial interests in Libya or its wider geopolitical aspirations in the rest of Africa.
  • To counter Turkey’s new intervention, the pro-Haftar government in eastern Libya formalized its alignment with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, allowing the LNA to purchase technical advice from Damascus using material and diplomatic rewards. A few hundred Syrian contractors hired from pro-Assad militias are now reportedly in Libya, on Haftar’s side
  • Because Turkey’s presence and its arsenal have made it difficult for the UAE to fly its combat drones anymore, the LNA and its allies have begun a relentless shelling campaign using Grad rockets and other projectiles. Such salvos on Tripoli don’t just hit legitimate military targets—they also hit civilians. Unguided rockets are inherently indiscriminate, and the pro-GNA camp can do almost nothing to prevent this kind of attack
  • a philosophy of collective punishment
  • the pro-Haftar camp has been imposing a $1.5 billion-a-month oil blockade on Libya since mid-January. Fuel shortages may soon become more widespread as a result. Suppression of the nation’s only dollar-generating activity is also a means of cutting off the internationally recognized Central Bank in Tripoli and potentially supplanting it with an LNA-friendly alternative where all oil-export proceeds would be captured going forward
  • Moscow’s intervention in Libya is far more mercurial. In the last three months of 2019, Kremlin-linked paramilitary company Wagner shifted the balance of the conflict by joining the fight alongside Haftar. Then, in early January, several days before President Vladimir Putin took part in a request for a Libyan ceasefire, the Russian contingent on the Tripoli front line suddenly became less active.
  • The dynamic between Ankara and Moscow is as much rooted in their common disdain for Europe as it is in mutual animosity. That means Russia could tolerate Turkey a while longer if it feels its interests would be better served by doing so. Such an ebb-and-flow approach amplifies Moscow’s influence and could eventually push the Europeans out of the Libyan theater altogether. Russia may just as easily change its mind and invest into helping the LNA deliver a resounding defeat to Erdogan
  • since late December, more than 4,000 Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries have arrived in Tripoli and its surrounding area. Most of them are battle-hardened Islamist fighters who belong to three large anti-government militias. Turkey is also busy upgrading its fleet of combat drones scattered across northwest Libya
  • the UAE has sought to bring about the emergence in Tripoli of a government that is void of any influence from political Islam writ large. Because of this, Abu Dhabi will not accept a negotiated settlement with Erdogan’s Islamist government. Making matters worse, neither the United States nor any EU country is willing to use its own regional clout to stand in the Emiratis’ way. Therefore, regardless of whether that endangers a great number of civilian lives, the Libyan war is likely to continue escalating before any political resolution is seriously explored.
Ed Webb

From Iraq to Lebanon, Iran Is Facing a Backlash - 0 views

  • Since the outbreak of the protests in early October, various security forces, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, have killed more than 400 Iraqis and wounded some 20,000 others. Not only is there good reason to believe that much of the brutality has taken place at the behest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, but the available evidence seems to confirm it. Aware of the anti-Iranian mood on the Iraqi streets—exemplified by protesters beating their shoes against portraits of Khamenei, just as they had done with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003—an unnerved Khamenei did not hesitate to intervene.
  • Suleimani called for a heavy-handed approach to deal with people on the streets, reportedly saying, “we in Iran know how to deal with protests,” an implicit reference to prior violent suppressions of peaceful demonstrations in Iran and, more aggressively, in Syria. The death toll in Iraq surpassed 100 the day after his departure, confirming the power of Iran’s word.
  • Tehran has invested heavily in hard and soft power tools to expand its influence in Iraq. This investment has eventually paid dividends. Some of the most prominent individuals in Iraq today—including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Hadi al-Amiri, former government officials and leaders of the most powerful Iranian-backed militias—were initially recruited by the IRGC in the early 1980s to spread the Islamic Revolution into Iraq
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  • Tehran planned to replicate its “Hezbollah model” in Iraq: nurturing militancy to gain control of territory, while encouraging these militants to take advantage of a newly created democracy as a way to penetrate political institutions. These efforts were bolstered by close cross-border clerical and personal relationships.
  • Leaked Iranian intelligence cables shed light on the scale and nature of Iran’s systematic and deep-rooted interference in Iraq, from its network of militant agents to its oversight of political institutions. The cables confirm what protesters already knew: Tehran has been committing enormous resources to imposing a command-and-control structure on Baghdad. Viewed within the broader context of worsening economic conditions and unresponsive, corrupt governance, protesters see Iran as the source of their grievances, fuelling anti-Iranian sentiment on the streets.
  • The protests in Lebanon, which have been uniquely secular despite the fragile sectarian composition of its population, are driven by charges of corruption and a desire to replace a rigid and unresponsive establishment—of which Hezbollah has become an intrinsic part.
  • A recent Asda’a BCW survey suggests that two-thirds of young Arabs consider Iran an enemy of their country.
  • The soaring levels of public discontent in Iran have been consistently overlooked by policymakers and commentators. The most recent protests in Iran, which were brutally repressed by the regime, caught many in the West off guard—but signs of widespread discontent have been in place for many years.
  • In 2009, there was a genuine belief that the Islamic Republic could be reformed, expressed primarily in the demand that Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist presidential candidate, be installed as president. Now, the moderate pro-reform slogans that were heard on Iranian streets in 2009 have been replaced with more hostile chants, such as “Death to Khamenei” and “Mullahs have to get lost”—signaling a broader rejection of the entire Islamic revolutionary system.
  • as protesters in Iraq chant, “Iran out, Baghdad free,” in Iran they cry, “no to Gaza, no to Lebanon, I give my life only for Iran”—reflecting a growing desire in both countries for governments that put domestic interests above regional considerations
  • The IRGC and Iran’s Shiite proxies will not stand down without a fight. While the combination of pressure in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran may help weaken the regime in Tehran, it will probably be a deadly affair.
Ed Webb

Qatar Migrant Workers Battle Coronavirus Outbreak During World Cup Construction - 0 views

  • There are more than 2 million migrant workers in Qatar—a significant number given that the country’s overall population is just 2.6 million. In recent years the foreign laborer population in Qatar has swelled as the country has undergone a construction boom ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is set to be held there.
  • as the coronavirus pandemic edges its way across Qatar, which now has more than 2,000 confirmed cases, the migrant workers’ cramped living quarters and lack of access to health care, proper sanitation, and nutritious food imperils an already highly vulnerable group of people.
  • abuse—which at times has amounted to forced labor and human trafficking—has been exacerbated by South Asian governments’ inability to successfully lobby for strong protections. (Critics contend there has been scant political will given the huge portion of GDP now made up by remittances from overseas workers.
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  • Some 35 million migrants are employed in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in Jordan, and in Lebanon, and incidences of exploitation are well documented
  • “The situation here is serious,” Narendra said, describing the lockdown in part of the Industrial Area. “I have been frequently speaking with workers who are in lockdown areas. Employers aren’t allowing people out to buy food, and companies are not providing food. We don’t have any rights to ask for support.”
  • While Qatar has now shut down all public spaces, construction workers are still working on a variety of projects despite the fact that hundreds of cases of the coronavirus have spread among their communities
  • the true burden of disease among migrant workers is unknown. The government doesn’t give figures on what portion of the infected are migrant workers. And some migrants fear coming forward to report their symptoms.
  • Research published last year in the journal Cardiology explored the relationship between heat exposure and the deaths of more than 1,300 Nepali workers over a nine-year period until 2017. The climatologists and cardiologists found a strong correlation between heat stress and young workers dying of cardiovascular problems in the summer months
  • At the heart of the abuse faced by migrant workers has been Qatar’s kafala system, which legally binds foreign workers to their employers, restricting workers’ ability to change jobs and preventing them from leaving the country without their employers’ permission—a practice that has been described as modern slavery. In October 2019, the government announced reforms that would allow migrant workers to change jobs and leave Qatar without employer consent. Thus far, only the second reform has been implemented. And while campaigners laud the progress, enforcement of laws remains spotty, and there’s little clarity on when further reforms will be rolled out.
  • Most workers sleep in dormitories, sharing rooms with up to 10 people and sharing kitchens and bathrooms with dozens more. When they head to work on the construction sites, it is on overcrowded buses. In response, the government recently announced it would reduce bus capacity by half, that construction workers would work a maximum six hours a day, that workers’ accommodation would be limited to four people, and that all accommodation sites would be sanitized and information on hand-washing and hygiene would be provided. Whether this is just rhetoric remains to be seen.
Ed Webb

Is Obama 'Letting Syria Burn'? | Stephen M. Walt - 0 views

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    Answer: yes.
Ed Webb

Mysteries of the Emir - By Marc Lynch | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Vanishingly few modern Arab leaders have ever voluntarily stepped down, even when terminally ill, incapacitated, or deeply unpopular (none of which apply to the outgoing emir)
  • the emir's decision is as shocking in its own way as were the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings
  • Those crafting the official version of the handover have therefore been exceedingly keen to present it as a historic but normal move, one that might even be emulated by other Arab monarchs -- were they as bold and farsighted as the departing Sheikh Hamad.
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  • Arab monarchs are more likely to quietly cheer the departure of a leader they have viewed as an unpredictable irritant and an undependable member of the GCC club. "What happened … in Qatar will most likely stay in Qatar," remarked the Emirati political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abdulla.
  • Great wealth, international backing, well-honed internal divide-and-rule strategies, and effective cross-national cooperation have helped the regimes resist those pressures. But the intense crackdowns across the Gulf over the last few years on human rights activists, political protests, Shiite citizens, the Muslim Brotherhood, and even online "insults" to the leadership show just how insecure and paranoid these regimes have become
  • Sheikh Hamad's decision to transfer power to an untested young successor -- and during such testing times -- may be a sign of how relatively secure that regime is relative to its Arab counterparts
  • What most non-Qataris really want to know is what this change means for Qatari foreign policy. Allow me to summarize in two words the thousand articles already written on the subject: Nobody knows
  • the departure of the director-general of Al Jazeera, who stepped down to join the new cabinet after less than two undistinguished years. Will his replacement take steps to restore the reputation of the flagship Arabic station, which has lost a great deal of credibility over the last two years due to its coverage of Syria and Egypt? Will the new leadership continue Al Jazeera's dizzying global expansion strategy, including the launch of Al Jazeera America, scheduled for this fall?
  • what happened in Doha most certainly will not stay in Doha. Given Qatar's active role in virtually every one of the region's interlocking problems, from Egypt to Syria to Libya to Yemen to Palestine, the new emir's choices will matter in ways far less predictable then many seem to believe
Ed Webb

Turkey's New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism
  • Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul, near which Turkey has a small military base. And, alongside news of Turkish jets bombing Kurdish forces in Syria and engaging in mock dogfights with Greek planes over the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s pro-government media have shown a newfound interest in a series of imprecise, even crudely drawn, maps of Turkey with new and improved borders
  • this combination of irredentist cartography and rhetoric nonetheless offers some insight into Turkey’s current foreign and domestic policies and Ankara’s self-image. The maps, in particular, reveal the continued relevance of Turkish nationalism, a long-standing element of the country’s statecraft, now reinvigorated with some revised history and an added dose of religion
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  • they aren’t maps of the Ottoman Empire, which was substantially larger, or the entire Muslim world or the Turkic world. They are maps of Turkey, just a little bigger
  • while countries like Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary brought disaster on themselves by trying to forcibly rewrite their postwar borders, Turkey — under Ataturk and his successor — wisely resisted this urge
  • Erdogan, by contrast, has given voice to an alternative narrative in which Ataturk’s willingness in the Treaty of Lausanne to abandon territories such as Mosul and the now-Greek islands in the Aegean was not an act of eminent pragmatism but rather a betrayal. The suggestion, against all evidence, is that better statesmen, or perhaps a more patriotic one, could have gotten more.
  • Erdogan’s new sectarianism is evident in Mosul, where Turkey has warned of the risks to Sunnis should Shiite militias take control of the city. But the policy’s influence is clearest in Syria, where Turkey has been supporting Sunni rebels aiming to topple the Assad regime (including those now struggling to hold the city of Aleppo). In both Iraq and Syria, however, Turkey’s sectarianism has not been allowed to trump pragmatism. Ankara has been keen to maintain a mutually beneficial economic relationship with Iran despite backing opposite sides in Syria and in the past year has also expressed its willingness to make peace with Assad if circumstances require it.
  • Criticism of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy is now as likely to come from the Arab world as anywhere else
  • The Sultan Murad Brigade, comprising predominantly ethnic Turkmens, has been one of Ankara’s military assets inside Syria against both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the PKK. Meanwhile, the Turkmen population living around Mosul and its surrounding area has been a concern and an asset for Ankara in Iraq. Turkish special forces have worked with the Iraqi Turkmen Front since at least 2003 in order to expand Turkish influence and counter the PKK in northern Iraq.
  • Turkish minorities in northern Greece and Cyprus have played a similar role. That is, their well-being has been a subject of genuine concern for Turkish nationalists but also a potential point of leverage with Athens to be used as needed
  • Erdogan has also emphasized a new element to Turkey’s communitarian foreign-policy agenda: Sunni sectarianism
  • Government rhetoric has been quick to invoke the heroism of Turkey’s war of independence in describing the popular resistance to the country’s July 15 coup attempt. And alongside the Ottomans, Erdogan routinely references the Seljuks, a Turkic group that preceded the Ottomans in the Middle East by several centuries, and even found a place for more obscure pre-Islamic Turkic peoples like the Gokturks, Avars, and Karakhanids that first gained fame in Ataturk’s 1930s propaganda
  • the points at which Turkey has proved susceptible to irredentism in the past have all come at moments of change and uncertainty similar to what the Middle East is experiencing today. In 1939, Ankara annexed the province of Hatay, then under French control, by taking advantage of the crisis in Europe on the eve of World War II
  • Ankara is all too aware of the fact that the power to do so remains the only rationale for foreign intervention that matters
Ed Webb

Debate Gaffes, Platitudes and Absurdities On National Security | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • voters and foreign governments are likely more perplexed than ever before about where America could be headed on crucial national security issues, thanks to a litany of contradictory and confusing statements from Republican nominee Donald Trump — as well as another round of vague platitudes from his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton
  • The wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan: One of the two candidates on the debate stage  ultimately will be charged with overseeing the military campaigns to retake the Islamic State-held cities of Mosul, in Iraq, and Raqqa, in Syria. Within months of taking office, the new president will have to work through a latticework of constantly shifting local alliances to keep some sort of peace in those sprawling cities while keeping Russian and Turkish forces — and political complexities — at bay.    Yet more mental energy was spent Monday  debating police tactics in New York City and 1990s-era beauty pageant contestants than how to close out 15 years of Washington’s wars — in which approximately 13,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clinton stuck to the points she has long advocated: ramping up airstrikes on ISIS fighters, launching an “intelligence surge” to pinpoint targets while hitting extremists before they can attack Americans, and doubling down on eliminating the Islamic State’s leadership.   In short, continuing what President Barack Obama has been doing, just more of it. And Clinton made no mention of imposing a “no-fly-zone” in Syria, a proposal she has advocated during the political campaign, and gave no indication whether she would take a tougher line with the regime in Damascus. Trump, as always, wouldn’t reveal his so-called secret plan to win the war against ISIS, while complaining that “we should have taken the oil” before leaving Iraq, an idea he has never explained. Apart from being illegal and physically impossible, as some senior officers have pointed out, it would require thousands of U.S. troops to stay behind to guard the oil facilities.
Ed Webb

Obama's Syria Strategy Is the Definition of Insanity | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • The Russian government, much less the Assad regime, has never been a reliable partner for peace in Syria. But even after Russia’s alleged bombing of the aid convoy, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is still plowing its energies into a deal that aims to work with the Russian government.
  • The Obama administration has viewed the Syrian crisis through the lens of counterterrorism. But diplomatic failures such as this one continue to embolden extremist actors like al Qaeda, which has purposely presented itself as a reliable and necessary opposition ally, seemingly dedicated only to the cause of ridding Syria of the Assad regime. By so deeply embedding within Syrian revolutionary dynamics and claiming to fill the vacuum left behind by insufficient foreign support or protection, al Qaeda’s narrative is constantly strengthened by perceptions of American inadequacy. Thus, U.S. failures do not exist in a vacuum — our adversaries quickly translate them into their own victories.
  • the Russian government is not the key to controlling the Assad regime’s heinous behaviors. For a week straight, the Syrian government consistently ignored Moscow’s demands and destroyed a cease-fire deal that had been largely of Russia’s making. The regime also reinforced its troop positions around Aleppo and amassed forces opposite the strategic northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, and its aircraft were blamed for bombings around Aleppo, north of the city of Homs, and in parts of southern Daraa governorate. And after the Assad government declared the cease-fire over, Russia ferociously destroyed an aid convoy intended for 78,000 civilians
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  • Bashar al-Assad does not intend to step down from power, and he will use any means at his disposal to prevent that from happening
  • Five years ago, Syria was a local problem; today it is an international one. U.S. indecision, risk aversion, a total divergence between rhetoric and policy, and a failure to uphold clearly stated “red lines” have all combined into what can best be described as a cold-hearted, hypocritical approach. At worst, Washington has indirectly abetted the wholesale destruction of a nation-state, in direct contradiction to its fundamental national security interests and its most tightly held values.
  • U.S. commitment remained negligible when compared with our often uncoordinated regional allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It seems U.S. officials wanted Assad out but wanted others — whom administration officials would say in private they did not trust — to do it for them
  • The result? Nearly half a million people dead, more than 1 million people living under siege, and 11 million people displaced. Catastrophic refugee flows have led to an anti-immigrant backlash in Europe and the rise of far-right politics while Syria is now home to perhaps the greatest concentration of jihadi militants in any single country ever
  • Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly the Nusra Front — the most capable, politically savvy, and militarily powerful al Qaeda movement in history. Al Qaeda’s central leadership has also revitalized itself inside Syria, with the international terrorist organization’s newly named deputy leader almost certainly residing in the country. The correlation is simple: U.S. shortcomings equal al Qaeda’s success in Syria.
  • most Syrians living in opposition areas now view al Qaeda as a more trustworthy and capable protector of their lives than the United States. If there were ever a sign of policy failure, this would be it.
  • there will be no purely military solution to Syria’s conflict — a negotiated settlement is the only feasible path toward stability. However, Assad will never treat a political process with any level of seriousness until placed under meaningful pressure, which the United States has thus far done everything in its power not to do.
  • Opposition to partition is arguably the single issue that unites communities supportive of and opposed to Assad
  • combating al Qaeda in Syria cannot be done solely with bullets and bombs. Defeating it is instead an issue of providing a more attractive and sustainable alternative to the jihadi group’s narrative. Given its successful efforts to embed within the opposition and build popular acceptance as a military (not a political) ally, al Qaeda does not represent a conventional counterterrorist problem
  • If Assad remains in place indefinitely and the conflict continues or worsens, the Islamic State will undoubtedly live to fight another day
  • Civilian protection should remain the core focus of any broad-based strategy, but it must be backed up by real and discernible consequences for violators
  • Skeptics of a more assertive approach to the Syrian crisis can deride their critics as much as they want — but one would hope that after five years of failures, they would at least admit that they have got something wrong
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

Morsi's Just Not That Into Iran - By Geneive Abdo and Reza H. Akbari | The Middle East ... - 0 views

  • Morsi's performance in Tehran disappointed his Iranian hosts as cruelly as it mocked those who warned that his visit would deliver Egypt into Iran's camp and reveal a radical new Egyptian foreign policy.
  • "Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost legitimacy is an ethical duty as it is a political and strategic necessity," he said, prompting Syrian officials to walk out of the summit in protest. Sitting directly beside Ahmadinejad, Morsi said: "I am here to announce our full and just support for a free, independent Syria that supports a transition into a democratic system and that respects the will of the Syrian people for freedom and equality at the same time, preventing Syria from going into civil war or going into sectarian divisions."
  • Morsi's decision to take the opportunity offered by Iran to embrace the Syrian uprising against Assad therefore put the Iranian regime in something of a bind. Morsi refused even to say clearly if relations with Iran will be upgraded, but he has said he will pursue a more balanced foreign policy with many states, including Iran. A leaked memo issued by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance on August 26, which issued strict instructions to the media banned them from publishing: "Any potential devilish comments about issues pertaining to Egypt, Bahrain and Syria." The memo (published on various Iranian opposition websites) effectively censored the media from publishing anything negative about the NAM summit.
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  • Despite their optimistic rhetoric, Iranian officials realize now that they are likely to gain far less than they had hoped from the Arab uprisings. As their ally Syria crumbles and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) becomes increasingly hostile, Egypt could be its best and only hope for a new Arab friend in the short-term. But Egypt is less interested in playing along. Not only are the two countries seriously divided over the Syria crisis, but the cost of restoring ties with Iran for Egypt would be great. Not only would this alienate the United States and Israel, but also relations with Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, would be severely damaged. And Morsi clearly understands the importance of maintaining good ties in the Gulf -- aid is at stake. In fact, his first diplomatic mission after he became president was to Saudi Arabia on July 10. The purpose of the visit was to secure aid to replenish Egypt's diminishing currency reserves. Iran, faced with crippling international sanctions, would find it hard to compete with the Saudis in the economic aid arena.
Ed Webb

Obama to World: Bad News. The American Empire Is Dead. | The Cable - 0 views

  • "The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries," he said in his address before the 193-member General Assembly. "The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy or public opinion."
  • The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war -- rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world -- may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill
  • In addressing the conflict in Syria, Obama said U.S. aims were largely humanitarian. "There's no 'great game' to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe haven for terrorists,"
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  • a rather modest account of American "core interests" in the Middle East and North Africa: countering military aggression against U.S. partners in the region, protecting global energy reserves, and confronting the dual threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation
  • The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region," he said. "But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action -- particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and people of the region."
Ed Webb

Could We Have Stopped This Tragedy? | Foreign Policy - 5 views

  • President Barack Obama erred when he jumped the gun in 2011 and insisted “Assad must go,” locking the United States into a maximalist position and foreclosing potential diplomatic solutions that might have saved thousands of lives
  • Obama’s 2012 off-the-cuff remark about chemical weapons and “red lines” was a self-inflicted wound that didn’t help the situation and gave opponents a sound bite to use against him
  • More than 200,000 people are now dead — that’s approaching 100 times as many victims as 9/11 — and numerous towns, cities, and villages have been badly damaged, if not destroyed. There are reportedly some 11 million displaced people either internally or out of the country, about half Syria’s original population. A flood of refugees and migrants has landed in Europe, provoking a new challenge to the European Union’s delicate political cohesion and raising the specter of a sharp increase in right-wing xenophobia. The carnage in Syria has also helped fuel the emergence and consolidation of the so-called Islamic State, intensified the Sunni-Shiite split within Islam, and put additional strain on Syria’s other neighbors
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  • is it possible that those who called for swift U.S. intervention several years ago were right all along? If the United States, NATO, the Arab League, or some combination of the above had established a no-fly zone and stood ready to intervene with ground forces, might the Assad regime have fallen quickly and spared Syria and the world this bleak and open-ended disaster?
  • I still believe intervening in Syria was not in the United States’ interest and was as likely to have made things worse as to have made them better. I take no pleasure in my conclusions; it would be more comforting to think that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved.I take no pleasure in my conclusions; it would be more comforting to think that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved
  • The Limits of Air Power. Proponents of “no-fly zones” typically exaggerate their impact and in so doing overstate the capacity of air power to determine political outcomes.
  • Assad’s “Gamble for Resurrection.” From the very start, a key problem in Syria was the lack of an attractive exit option for the entire Assad regime. As the titular leader of the Alawite minority that has dominated Syria since 1970, Assad and his followers saw relinquishing power as a mortal threat.
  • What About the Jihadis? Intervening to push Assad out faced another obvious objection: It might open the door for al Qaeda or other violent extremists. This concern also complicated proposals to arm anti-Assad forces like the Free Syrian Army. How could Washington ensure U.S. weapons didn’t end up in the wrong hands?
  • only thing worse than a truly awful government is no government at all
  • Face It: The United States Is Toxic. The ineffectiveness of U.S. training efforts and other forms of advice may be partly due to the negative opinion most people in the Middle East have of U.S. policy. America may be admired for its democracy, its achievements in science and technology, and the friendliness of its people, but U.S. Middle East policy is widely reviled.
  • Whose Interests Are Truly Engaged? There is a clear humanitarian interest in ending the Syrian civil war. But neither great nor minor powers typically run big risks or bear large costs for strictly humanitarian reasons.
  • the least bad option at this point would be a re-energized effort to end the fighting. The United States should stop insisting Assad must go, and listen carefully to the other powers with a stake in the outcome, including Russia
  • I don’t know if it will be possible to reconstitute a unified Syrian state; if not, then an organized and internationally supervised partition plan will have to be negotiated and implemented
Ed Webb

Why the Iraq milestone matters | Marc Lynch - 1 views

  • Given how central Iraq has been to the great foreign policy debates of the last decade, it's somewhat surprising how little attention has been paid to the steady drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.  Skeptics on all sides have dominated what little discourse there's been:  many on the left point to the continuing presence of nearly 50,000 troops and many more civilian contractors to mock the notion that the war is over;  many on the right mutter about Obama's refusal to give Bush credit for the surge;  and many serious analysts on all sides worry about the continuing political gridlock in Baghdad and the seemingly shaky security situation.  But Obama's meeting his self-imposed deadline of drawing down to 50,000 troops by this month --- 90,000 fewer than were in Iraq when he took office --- really does matter.
  • Iran, despite its massive investments in Iraqi politics, has proven no more able to dictate the outcomes of Iraqi politics than has Washington, a key development which gets too little attention
  • There are plenty of things which I would have liked to have seen done differently, including a continuation of former Ambassador Ryan Crocker's quiet dialogues with the Iranians and more of an effort to deal with Iraq within its broader regional context.   But overall, meeting the campaign commitment to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq is a real accomplishment which should be acknowledged. 
Ed Webb

What the British elections mean for Middle East policy - By Rosemary Hollis | The Middl... - 1 views

  • Israeli newspapers have run stories warning about the potentially negative prospects for Israel of a British government that accords a prominent position to the Lib Dems. They regard Nick Clegg and his party as positively pro-Palestinian.
  • For decades Israel and Britain could assume a relatively privileged hearing in Washington. With the advent of the Obama administration, however, both are realizing that the United States has new priorities that do not fit so comfortably with their own.
  • All three parties say there will have to be a comprehensive Strategic Defence Review (SDR) following the election.
  • ...3 more annotations...
  • ronically, given Israel's own history of coalition governments, the prospect of minority rule or a coalition in Britain is greeted in Israel with apprehension on the grounds that both would spell uncertainty and indecisiveness. The biggest fear of some in Israel appears to be the appointment of Clegg as the next British foreign secretary.
  • The decision of the Conservatives to leave the center-right bloc in the European parliament in favor of an alignment with right-wing groups considered populist and even anti-Semitic in more mainstream EU circles portends an uncomfortable relationship with the rest of Europe.
  • if they participate in government and become privy to the secret details of British intelligence links and arms sales to the Gulf, the Lib Dems will no doubt have to sacrifice some of their principles.
Ed Webb

The Varnish of Vietnam | Foreign Policy - 2 views

  • Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, a new generation of policy-makers ignored the lessons of Vietnam and decided it would make fine policy and good politics to carry out regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, to win those hearts and minds, to fight the insurgents, and to build democracy in sandy soil. They sent off a new generation — of professionals, not conscripts — to do the job, to the cheers of the home crowd and with the encouragement of the vast majority of the Congress, eager for vengeance, even if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Once again, policy failed. We are now living with the unanticipated consequence of that war — widespread regional instability and conflict. And we have lost more than 6,700 soldiers with roughly 50,000 wounded Americans, along with another large number of post-combat stress disordered lives.
  • Leadership is not about "doing something." Leadership is not about "striking back." Leadership is about wisdom, knowing what you can change and what you cannot change. And it’s about speaking that truth in a clear, intentional way. American air strikes may save some Kurdish lives; they may defer the day the Iraqi government has to deal with its dysfunction; they may extend Basher al-Assad’s day of reckoning. But all they buy is time — and not a lot of time, at that. The real resolution of the mayhem in the Middle East is not in the hands of the United States. The real resolution of the mayhem in the Middle East is not in the hands of the United States. Striking IS, and failing to "destroy" them (a politically-chosen objective, if ever there was one) may lead, inexorably, to the commitment of more capability, resources, and, yes, American ground troops. It’s kind of a setup — in for a dime, in for a dollar; another broom, please.
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