AIPAC: The Essential Profile

This week, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy meeting, and this one was quite different from many that came before it. For years, AIPAC conferences celebrated strong bipartisan support for Israel and for the unqualified U.S. support of Israel. But in 2019, that unity is very clearly fraying.

Where once there had been a significant number of foreign policy realists in the Republican Party who felt that the U.S. approach needed to be more even-handed, the GOP these days is passionately and overwhelmingly supportive of Israel and displays little if any concern about the lives of Palestinians. Democrats, on the other hand, are displeased with the Trump administration’s approach to the regional issues, feeling it has endangered and possibly doomed a two-state solution to the conflict.

But the Republican-Democrat divide is not the only area of division on Israel and Palestine. Within the Democratic party, a schism is widening between those who insist on supporting the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu—which includes the powerful centrist leadership of the party such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Eliot Engel, and Hakeem Jeffries— and the more progressive wing, led proudly by women like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, and others, who want to open a debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East and orient it more toward universal human rights.

But AIPAC is not just the venue to display these growing cracks in the bipartisan consensus that have made it even more difficult for the United States to play a productive role in resolving this devastating conflict. It is also a major player in the policy process, especially in Congress, as well as a source of intense debate and controversy over the question of why the United States behaves as it does in the region.

At this year’s conference, Ilhan Omar was attacked by members of Congress from both parties as well as by members of AIPAC and by the vice president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel. The reason for these attacks was that Omar had the temerity to call out and challenge AIPAC’s destructive influence, its role in directing the campaign funds of pro-Israel political actions committees (something AIPAC itself is not, despite its confusing name), and its efforts to establish the boundaries of discourse in Washington. Read more at LobeLog

Four Questions About John Bolton

Since John Bolton was appointed as Donald Trump’s national security advisor, I have spent a good deal of time talking about it. Those conversations have been with colleagues in the policy world, friends, and the media. In honor of the Passover season, here are four questions that have been broadly discussed, and my responses to them. Read more at LobeLog

John Bolton: The Essential Profile

After weeks of rumors, President Donald Trump today replaced National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Many foreign policy analysts and advocates immediately expressed deep concern and dismay at Bolton’s appointment.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley tweeted about Bolton’s appointment, “I was at dinner in late 2016 with some former European diplomats when Rex Tillerson emerged as the nominee for (Secretary of State). While unknown, they expressed relief that (Donald Trump’s) choice was not John Bolton. EU diplomats will not sleep well tonight given the latest news.”

Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a leading anti-nuclear foundation, tweeted, “This is the moment the administration has officially gone off the rails.” While the Mideast advocacy group J Street tweeted that “Bolton is an unabashed advocate for the premature, unnecessary and reckless use of military force in the Middle East and around the globe. This appointment isn’t just unwise. It’s disastrous.”

The brazen nature of Bolton’s appointment was underscored by the fact that it came the same day that news broke of Bolton having recorded a video for a Russian gun group in 2013, after being introduced to the group by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Given the scandals around Russia and the NRA of late, the indifference to the politics of this news speaks volumes about the White House’s commitment to Bolton.

As outraged as many supporters of diplomacy have been at Trump’s appointments and policies, Bolton’s appointment reaches a new level. Here at LobeLog, we are reprinting, with permission, the profile of John Bolton from Right Web, a site which tracks the activities of a vast array of right wing and militaristic figures and organizations. Read more at LobeLog

Bernie Sanders Foreign Policy Speech: A Renewal of American Purpose

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. Continue reading

Operation ClusterFuck

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.  Continue reading

New Report: From Crisis to Catastrophe, The Situation of Minorities in Iraq

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.

Toward A New Two-State Solution

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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.