The Danger Of Trump’s Hasty Exit From Syria

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

A Progressive Response To Saudi Crimes Begins, Not Ends, With Yemen

Donald Trump’s statements and actions are so blatantly awful, so thoroughly misguided and immoral, that he gets blasted from a spectrum of political commentators, from the far left all the way to Lindsey Graham (R-SC). But through all the criticism, little is said about what should be done.The backlash against Trump’s shocking apologetics for Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has been powerful. Most Americans, including a significant number of Republicans, do not support a foreign policy based solely on cynical self-interest. They also object when the president makes it clear that if the price is right, the United States will allow an ally to get away with murder. Read more at LobeLog

Preparing for a Post-Abbas Palestine?

On December 31, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas closed out a year of stinging defeats by signing on to 18 374713108_04a72adb2b_zinternational accords. Included among these was the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The reaction in Jerusalem and Washington was apoplectic.

The United States rebuked Abbas, and Israel immediately vowed harsh reprisals. Shortly thereafter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that although Israel would not increase settlement growth—a routine method of punishing the Palestinians—it would withhold the tax and tariff revenues it collects for the Palestinians. The Obama administration also announced that it was reviewing the annual U.S. aid package to the Palestinian Authority. Read the rest of this article at LobeLog.

Congress Ignoring Palestinian Deaths

It may be just a footnote to the current violence in Gaza and Israel, but it’s important for Americans to see what is being said in our names. The AIPAC-crafted bills in Congress reflect the very ugly sense of valuing Israeli lives and not Palestinian ones at all. I can only wonder how that feels to Arab-Americans, especially Palestinians. I explore at LobeLog.

Rapid Reaction to the Iran Nuclear Deal

This article originally appeared at LobeLog, just a few hours after the Iran nuclear interim agreement was announced.

Catherine Ashton and Mohammed Zarif at the UN in September

Catherine Ashton and Mohammed Zarif at the UN in September

These are my initial thoughts on the deal struck between the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) and Iran. They come after a few hours of watching the speeches, reading the briefings from the US State Department and the White House and some heavy-duty work on Twitter, both reading and writing (check my feed at @MJPlitnick if you’d like to see some of it).

1. There are going to be tough political battles in both Washington and Tehran. But the reality is that pretty much everything the P5+1 has granted can be reversed at the figurative snap of a finger. If Iran dilutes or converts all of its 20% enriched stockpile, it will take time to build that back up. From the point of view of a hardliner in Iran, when that point is combined with the complete halt to work at Arak, the total halt to enrichment above 5%, the freeze on new centrifuges and limits on replacement and the earlier agreement Iran struck with the IAEA (which happened outside of the Geneva process, so there was no quid pro quo), this is a very long list of concessions. In exchange, Iran gets only minor sanctions relief, potentially worth as much as only $7 billion and an agreement that the West will leave the limit on Iran’s oil revenue where it is. Continue reading

US Comedy of Errors Continues in Egypt

This piece originally appeared at LobeLog

The comedy of errors that is US involvement in Egypt is reaching new heights. The Obama administration continues to be torn by

Obama seems utterly incapable of choosing a direction in Egypt

Obama seems utterly incapable of choosing a direction in Egypt

conflicting preferences and concerns. This week its blunders reached new heights after it blessed the trip of Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to Egypt. The ensuing farce was inevitable.

The GOP Senators are somewhat less obstructionist than others in their party; they have not always opposed Barack Obama’s policies simply because they were his policies. While many of the current Republican crew are virtually absolute in opposing anything Obama does, McCain, in particular, has only done that most of the time. But they are certainly not Obama’s allies, and, while the administration made it clear that the duo were not their representatives in Egypt, it was almost certain they would only complicate matters. So, they did.

Continue reading

Imaginary Syria

It seems there’s an awful lot of surety around when it comes to action, or non-action, on Syria. But a deeper look at what is happening there does not lead to simple solutions, or even to a whole lot of clarity on the nature of who the “good guys” are. I examine the dynamics in this week’s column at Souciant.