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Ed Webb

Can the Saudi-led coalition win the war in Yemen? | openDemocracy - 4 views

  • Unlike his cautious predecessors, Salman promptly overturned the previously agreed order of succession and installed his favourite young son [about 30 years old] as Minister of Defence and Deputy Crown Prince. He even dumped the crown prince selected by his deceased brother in favour of the son of another member of the ‘Sudairy seven’.

    To sustain this new order of succession and, indeed, possibly to enable his own son to become crown prince, new assertive international policies seemed like a good idea, creating popular support at home by demonstrating military capability and independence from the US and other western allies. It would also address increased Saudi concern at what they saw as US dereliction of duty. For decades, the unwritten agreement was that Saudi Arabia would say little or nothing about Israel, provided the US supported its dominance elsewhere in the Arab world. In 2015, not only was the US failing to support the Islamist Syrian opposition factions favoured by the Saudis, but it was about to reach agreement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main rival, not to say enemy, in the region. 

    • Ed Webb
      Foreign/security policy driven by domestic priorities: specifically, dynastic succession politics.
  • A coalition was promptly put together and air strikes were launched on 26 March 2015, with the stated intention of restoring the legitimate authority to power and ousting the rebels. It is likely that those who took that decision gave little thought to Yemeni realities, whether military, logistic, topographic, social or political, let alone the human cost of their actions.
  • The overall military situation has reached stalemate. The official death toll had risen to 6000 by end 2015 with over 28,000 wounded. The humanitarian situation is at UN emergency level, with 21.2 million of the 26 million population in need and only 8.8 million reached in 2015 with the UN humanitarian appeal having been funded at 56% for the year
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  • The negotiations which took place in Geneva in December fulfilled everyone’s expectation of achieving nothing
  • Internationally, it is clear that the efforts to resolve the Syrian situation have relegated the Yemen crisis far down the list of priorities.
  • four Médecins Sans Frontières medical facilities have been bombed in recent months, in addition to over 60 other medical facilities seriously damaged or destroyed
  • The latest report from the UN Sanctions Committee blames the coalition for violating international humanitarian law by ‘targeting civilians and civilian objects… including buses, civilian residential areas, medical facilities, schools, mosques, markets, factories and food storage warehouses and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”[3]

  • The dramatic drop in oil prices has forced the Saudi regime into deficit budgeting for the first time in decades. The USD 200 million a month it spends on the war is a significant contributory factor.
Ed Webb

Why the Islamic State is the minor leagues of terror | Middle East Eye - 0 views

    "The sole advantage the Islamic State has when it comes to this country is that it turns out to be so easy to spook us."
Ed Webb

Here's what will happen if Iran joins the WTO - The Washington Post - 1 views

  • While it remains uncertain whether economic and financial sanctions would be technically permissible under the WTO’s national security exception — which allows a member to take measures that it “considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests”– these actions would clearly violate the spirit of the WTO and have therefore been rarely used.
  • the United States has switched to using other tools for coercive diplomacy to punish other recent WTO entrants.
  • Congress therefore created the China Commission, which was specifically formed to monitor China’s human rights practices and maintain pressure on it. Similarly, Congress passed measures designed to allow it to more effectively use visa restrictions and financial asset freezes to coerce Russia, and foreign aid to extract concessions from Vietnam, after these states joined the WTO.
Ed Webb

Could We Have Stopped This Tragedy? | Foreign Policy - 0 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

What is so great about 'territorial integrity' anyway? - 0 views

  • the rules can leave people trapped in a country that they do not identify with and/or a government that abuses them. This was the justification for fudging the rules with Kosovo. Serbia did not agree to Kosovo independence. Yet, a referendum and a somewhat opaque advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice helped legitimize the secession. 

    Putin now claims that Kosovo set a precedent even though there is no comparable history of abuse in Crimea, and Russia has never recognized Kosovo. At the same time, the European Union and the United Staes are eager to argue that Kosovo did not set a precedent for other oppressed groups and that Kosovo is totally different from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and so on. This is the kind of maddening but unavoidable inconsistency that led Stanford professor and former U.S. State Department director of policy planning Stephen Krasner to dub so-called principles of sovereignty “organized hypocrisy.”

  • Russia has always used buffer states as a way to shield it from the “West.” Putin clearly considers the break-up of the Soviet Union as recent territorial loss that ought to be rectified. And third, Russia is not (anymore) a liberal state, although it does have extensive trade and financial ties that may moderate its behavior.
  • territorial integrity principle is a terrific principle from the U.S. viewpoint (and from that of most states who value stability) but not necessarily from the perspective of Russia (and possibly China, although more on that some other time). Crimea’s annexation can thus be seen as a challenge to the principle itself and with that to the stability of the system as it is currently constructed
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