When Donald Trump announced that he was immediately removing all U.S. troops from Eastern Syria, I was surprised by the reaction. There was near glee in anti-war corridors. The initial response is understandable; the United States should not be in Syria, and that is true for many reasons. Moreover, many of those objecting to the decision are doing so because it doesn’t fit with their objectives to heighten tensions with Iran and continue to pursue endless conflict in the name of fighting terrorism. But leaving the way Trump intends is foolish and will not lead to a good outcome. Read more at LobeLog
This past Tuesday saw the latest in a horrifyingly long line of atrocities in Jerusalem. Two armed Palestinians entered a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood, killed five Israeli civilians and wounded six others before police gunned the murderers down. The reactions of Israeli and Palestinian leaders are worth examining.
Hamas, unsurprisingly, praised the murders. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, equally unsurprisingly, condemned them unequivocally. In his official statement, Abbas said that he “…condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.”
But this didn’t stop Israeli leaders from continuing their campaign to demonize Abbas, the Palestinian leader who has tried harder, made more compromises and sacrificed more of his own credibility to achieve a two-state solution than any of his predecessors. Read more at LobeLog
Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and thirty-year veteran of the United States’ foreign service delivered a speech today that
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
Former American diplomat Aaron David Miller is a frequent and worthwhile contributor to US foreign policy discussions in both Washington and the news media. His long career in Middle East diplomacy and strong focus on Israel have enabled him to clarify for the general public the many difficulties that exist under the surface of these issues. Unfortunately, as shown by his recent piece in Foreign Policy magazine, he sometimes obscures them as well.
Miller correctly points out that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not the major source of regional instability and that Secretary of State John Kerry was foolish to imply that the lack of progress on this issue had in some way become a contributing factor to the rise of the group that calls itself the Islamic State. But he also elides the enormous amount of responsibility the United States has and continues to hold not only for the Israel-Palestine conflict itself, but also for the difficulty in making any progress on the issue, let alone resolving it. Read more at LobeLog
In the United States, we seem to be surrounded by irrational hysteria these days. Two, perhaps three cases of ebola within our borders have
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.
Fear truly is the mind-killer. It has a way, when intentionally stoked and directed at some enemy, of killing a lot of people as well. In Israel, the
bombardment and invasion of Gaza over the summer demonstrates what can happen when a populace is fed a consistent diet of fear, no matter how safe the society is and how meager the threat to them is. A similar dynamic could be taking hold in the United States, as the specter of the Islamic State becoming strong enough to threaten the US is being pushed harder and harder all the time, despitehow unrealistic it is.
One of the more powerful lies that feeds public panic about IS is that the global Muslim community is silent about them, whether out of fear, or sympathy. With a billion Muslims worldwide, this combines with widespread Islamophobia to raise the specter of a fierce and huge Muslim army to install a global caliphate, complete with beheadings of enemies and infidels, and the subjugation of all to a reactionary form of Islam. Of course, it’s a phony image, and few subscribe to such an extreme illusion, for now. But the accusation of silence from the Muslim world about IS sticks, despite a tidal wave of Muslim condemnation of the group, and that feeds an ominous fire. Read more at Souciant.
Once upon a time, it seemed that the Obama Administration had held off opponents in Congress as well as pressure from Israel in order to press forward with negotiations with Iran. It seemed that President Barack Obama’s penchant for diplomacy was finally bearing fruit and that the United States and Iran were coming to the table with a sense of determination and an understanding that a compromise needed to be reached over Iran’s nuclear program.
These days, the story is different. Almost halfway through the four-month extension period the parties agreed to in July, the possibility of failure is more prominently on people’s minds, despite the fact that significant progress has been made in the talks. Right now, both sides have dug in their heels over the question of Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities. Iran wants sufficient latitude to build and power more nuclear reactors on their own, while the United States wants a much more restrictive regime. Read more at LobeLog