Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’


Today, at Westminster College, Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a powerful, progressive view of foreign policy. This is precisely the way Democrats should be talking about international affairs. Yet, somehow, media coverage was largely absent. This demonstrated that the US media has learned nothing from their disastrous performance in the coverage of the 2016 election campaign.

In order to address this, I am posting the full text of Senator Sanders’ speech. Please link to this, share it as far and wide as you can. (more…)

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Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and thirty-year veteran of the United States’ foreign service delivered a speech today that

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman

everyone in the United States should be paying attention to. It is a searing indictment of American policy in the Middle East from a man who was in the middle of it for decades.

The focus of Chas’ talk is the current battle being waged against Da’ish, or the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, whatever the name you want to use may be. If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve seen my view in this, but I’ll re-state it briefly.

I believe the entire approach we’ve taken to IS is completely off-course. It is, in fact, a repeat of previous errors. IS wanted the United States to intervene, just as al-Qaeda wanted the US to react with massive force to 9/11. Any losses IS suffers will be more than made up for by the increasing radicalization of the region caused by US intervention. This reality is doubled because the US will only bomb, which will greatly increase damage to civilian lives and infrastructure. And from that soil will grow many more IS recruits, eager to battle their foes in the region and in the West.

Chas lays all of this out very neatly in his speech. But there is an underlying point which, though Chas did make it explicit in his speech, he doesn’t spend a great deal of time on, as he decided to focus on current events. Let me give you my own take on it, so that you can be even more tempted to read and, more importantly, share widely, Chas’ speech.  (more…)

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In the United States, we seem to be surrounded by irrational hysteria these days. Two, perhaps three cases of ebola within our borders have

Click on the image above to download the full report

Click on the image above to download the full report

generated a great deal of fear despite the fact that there are far more virulent, widespread and equally deadly diseases around us all the time.

The Islamic State has generated similarly cowardly reactions in the US. The media and, especially, members of Congress from both parties are whipping up terror far beyond what IS is capable of on its own, despite its murderous ideology and actions so brutal even al-Qaeda is appalled. The hysteria is, itself, something to be addressed because rational decisions cannot be made under such conditions and no decisions call out for rationality than military ones. But more than that, the panic over IS allows the United States to reframe the entire view of the Middle East’s descent into ever-widening sectarian war.

It is the evil “ISIS” or al-Qaeda, or the “Nusra Front” or this or that Islamic cleric that is at the root of this. No one thinks in terms of the US’ own responsibility for the conditions in the entire region. But in fact the US, while certainly not the root cause of sectarianism in the Arab world, is very much responsible for unleashing the madness engulfing the region, through decades of politically invasive policy decisions based on US self-interest and rooted in an appalling ignorance of the social, economic, religious and political realities of the region and capped off by the invasion of Iraq over a decade ago which served as the spark to light the fire.

The problems in Iraq go far beyond IS, even of IS is the most horrifying symptom of them right now. That’s why this new report on the conditions for minorities in Iraq is so helpful. The perspective it brings goes beyond IS into the larger problems of sectarianism in Iraq and the difficulties that arise not only from the ongoing strife but also from the weakness of security and the Iraqi government. Americans in particular need to see this. The solutions lie in international law and international action, but the responsibility lies with us.

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The Oslo Process is dead. Does that mean that we must only consider single-state options to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict? I say no, and I outline what a practical and fair (two things Oslo never was)  two-state option might look like today at LobeLog.

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The past month has been nostalgic for me. The crisis over Ukraine and Crimea has felt and sounded, in the media and common conversation, very much like the halcyon days of my youth when the Cold War raged with all its mindless enmity. It’s a bit depressing to think someone like Hillary Clinton, who compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler thereby demonstrating she has absolutely no understanding of the situation and an even worse sense of global perspective, would be the person I’d be compelled to vote for if presidential elections were held today. I examine the atmosphere around Putin and the crisis in today’s Souciant. Check it out.

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It seems the overwhelming opinion, from across the political spectrum and around the globe, is that we must stand aside and let Syria

A US protester in support of the late, lamented Egyptian revolt. (photo courtesy of Sasha Kimel, published under a Creative Commons license)

A US protester in support of the late, lamented Egyptian revolt. (photo courtesy of Sasha Kimel, published under a Creative Commons license)

burn, offering a bit of humanitarian aid but doing nothing else substantive. This arises for a variety of reasons, including the sordid history of outside intervention and a binary bit of thinking where the only options are to support Assad or to support the dominant militias like al-Nusra and ISIL (sometimes referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Syria). Personally, I’m not satisfied with any of the options being proposed, but I also recognize why we are so limited and why the international community is stymied.

Rather than simply bemoan the horror, I propose a new idea for how such tragedies might be addressed. If it, or something like it, were even attempted, it would be too late, at this point, for it to help Syria, more than likely. But the world needs some new system, some new entity, that provides a third choice, that addresses both regional and great power interests that are causing the current paralysis. I describe my ideas in Souciant today.

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The Obama Administration has never had the best relationship with Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu has never hidden his disdain for Barack Obama, and worked for his defeat in 2012. But the level of invective between the US and Israel in recent days is quite unprecedented.

No doubt, a lot of this has to do with Netanyahu’s inability to chart a course for Israel that includes resolution of any of its conflicts–either diplomatically as the center-left would prefer or by massive exercise of force, as the right favors. Instead, he has chosen a path of perpetual conflict, which has not sat well in Washington and Brussels, where the past decade has whetted their appetites to turn attention elsewhere and, most of all, to extricate themselves from the spreading conflicts and increasingly hostile politics in the Middle East.

But a good deal also is due to an apparent determination on the parts of Obama and John Kerry to change the way the US pursues its agenda in the Mideast. Despite the hysteria of those, such as Abe Foxman, Malcolm Hoenlein, David Harris and Netanyahu himself, who prefer to see Israel in perpetual conflict, the US is not about to abandon Israel, nor its new BFF, Saudi Arabia. But Obama’s opponent in ’12, Mitt Romney, actually laid out the issue very well. When he describes how he would decide on US foreign policy in the Mideast, he said his first step would be to phone his friend, Netanyahu. That’s actually how it has worked for some time, and Obama is trying to change that, though the odds are against his success. I explore in Souciant.

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