Daniel Larison

Qatar Rejects the Saudi-led Bloc’s Absurd Demands

Qatar has rejected the Saudi-led bloc’s excessive and unrealistic list of demands:

Qatar’s foreign minister has rejected a list of 13 conditions set by four Arab states for lifting sanctions, saying it is neither reasonable nor actionable.

Qatar’s rejection of the bloc’s absurd demands they were given isn’t surprising. Indeed, this is probably the reaction the Saudis and their allies wanted because they could then use it as a pretext for escalating the crisis. Kristian Ulrichsen notes that the demands were so extensive and outrageous that they were probably designed to be rejected:

Yet, the extent and scale of the demands appear designed to induce a rejection by Qatar, and a possible justification for a continuation, if not escalation, of the crisis. The list, if accurate, represents an intrusion into the internal affairs of Qatar that would threaten its very sovereignty.

Now that the rejection has happened, we are going to find out how far the Saudis and their allies are prepared to take their rivalry with their neighbor and how much reckless behavior from bad clients the Trump administration is willing to indulge. Based on what the president has said so far, we should expect that the U.S. is going to back the Saudis and their allies to the hilt no matter how dangerous and foolish doing that proves to be.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , . 5 comments

The Folly of Pursuing Regime Change in Iran

Michael Crowley reports on renewed agitation for regime change in Iran, including from some officials inside the Trump administration:

As the White House formulates its official policy on Iran, senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government.

The Trump administration should ignore calls for pursuing regime change in Iran, and the reasons for this should be obvious. First and foremost, the U.S. has no business trying to change the government of another country. Interference of this kind in the affairs of another country would be deeply wrong. Just by making the attempt the U.S. would once again earn the hostility of tens of millions of Iranians. Iran is one of the few relatively stable states in the region, and seeking to destabilize or topple their government would just add more upheaval to a part of the world that doesn’t need any more. If there is one thing we should all know by now, it is that whatever takes the place of a toppled regime is frequently no better and often even worse than the government that has been overthrown, but that is almost beside the point. It is very unlikely that a U.S.-backed uprising would be successful, not least since it would be perceived to be an illegitimate effort on the part of a foreign government to meddle in Iranian affairs.

Even if a policy of regime change briefly “worked” (and I don’t think it would), any new government that came to power under those circumstances would face sustained resistance from elements of the old regime and from millions of Iranians that would perceive their new leaders as little more than Western puppets. The civilian population would suffer greatly from the resulting instability and violence. Pursuing regime change in Iran would be an immoral, dangerous policy that the U.S. would almost certainly come to regret, and it would be a disaster for the surrounding region.

Posted in , . Tagged , , . 9 comments

The Week’s Most Interesting Reads

U.S. questions detainees in Yemen prisons rife with torture. The AP reports on possible U.S. complicity in torture carried out by UAE forces in Yemen.

Trump panders on Cuba. Doug Bandow criticizes Trump’s partial reversal of the opening to Cuba.

The new Saudi heir is a dangerous man. Leonid Bershidsky sounds the alarm about Mohammed bin Salman.

Instability and Salman’s power play. Paul Pillar warns that elevating Mohammed bin Salman threatens to destabilize both the region and the Saudi government.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Post a comment

The WSJ’s Embarrassing Adoration for MBS

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial on Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is remarkably sycophantic even for them:

The Yemen operation has been long and hard, but it has largely succeeded [bold mine-DL] in cutting off Iranian supplies to the Houthis and boosted the confidence of Arab states. Mohammed bin Salman has also spearheaded efforts to diplomatically isolate Qatar over its two-faced policy of cooperating with the West while funding Islamist groups like Hamas.

I know that the WSJ editors have never seen a failed, unnecessary war that they didn’t think was succeeding, but spinning the war on Yemen as anything other than a costly, embarrassing failure is just ridiculous. None of the stated coalition goals for the war (reimposing Hadi as president, expelling Houthis from the capital, etc.) has been achieved. None is likely to be achieved in the future, and none can be achieved except at an appalling cost in civilian lives. In the meantime, Yemen’s population has been made a victim of man-made famine and continues to suffer from a cholera epidemic made worse by the coalition’s blockade and the widespread malnutrition caused by that blockade. Of course, the editors never mention to the steep and horrifying cost of the Saudi-led war, because that would undermine their laughable attempt to portray MBS as a smart “reformist.” It’s true that the crown prince is leading the charge against Qatar, but why we should be impressed that he is responsible for stoking a major international crisis that hurts U.S. interests is anyone’s guess.

MBS’ short, lousy foreign policy record tells us we should expect more bad judgment and reckless behavior from the Saudis, and it is certainly nothing to brag about. The fact that hard-liners here in the U.S. think he is on the right track is further confirmation that he truly is a menace.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , . 19 comments

The Qatar Crisis and the Absurd Saudi Ultimatum

The Saudis and their allies have presented Qatar with a maximalist set of demands that seem designed to be rejected:

Saudi Arabia and its allies presented Qatar with a list of demands to end a three-week diplomatic crisis that has roiled the Gulf, the Associated Press reported.

The 13-point list includes shutting the Al-Jazeera TV network, cutting back diplomatic ties with Iran, severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and ending Turkey’s military presence in Qatar, AP said, citing a document from one of the boycotting countries. Those nations — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — gave Qatar 10 days to respond, AP said.

This ultimatum amounts to calling for near-total capitulation. No government with any self-respect would submit to these demands, and no one interested in trying to resolve the crisis peacefully would issue such a far-reaching and unrealistic ultimatum. Of course, the purpose in giving Qatar a list like this is to create a pretext for escalation when they reject it, as they seem almost certain to do. The Saudi government is proving once again that it is a destabilizing force and regional menace, and the divergence of its interests and ours is becoming more obvious all the time.

If there was any doubt that the goal of the campaign against Qatar is primarily to settle old scores and force them to toe the Saudi-Emirati line, these demands remove it. Calling on them to close down Al Jazeera, reduce ties with Iran, and close Turkey’s military base in the country shows that the campaign has always been aimed at weakening a rival government and putting an end to its somewhat independent foreign policy. Under different circumstances, the U.S. would denounce this ultimatum as a flagrant attempt to coerce a small state into changing its foreign policy, but the incoherent response from Washington (criticism from State and full-throated support from the White House) has meant that the states targeting Qatar will ignore any warnings from Washington. They heard Trump tell them very plainly in Riyadh last month that they can do whatever they want in the region, and as long as they dress it up as “anti-terrorism” he will credulously play along.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , . 12 comments

Another Debacle for May

Theresa May’s weak position just became even weaker:

Theresa May will be forced to unveil a slimmed down and “humble” Queen’s Speech on Wednesday after failing to secure the support of the Democratic Unionist Party for her government.

Speaking ahead of the speech, May acknowledged that the election result was “not the one I hoped for,” but she promised to “respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent.”

However, in a sign of growing disarray at the top of government, May will push ahead with her Queen’s Speech, despite having failed to secure the support of the DUP to vote for it.

It was hard to see how May would be able to do much of anything even with a partnership with the DUP, and if she can’t get their support her predicament is even worse. SkyNews’ Ireland correspondent David Blevins has described this failure as a “a quite extraordinary debacle,” but at this point debacles of this kind are becoming more and more ordinary under May’s leadership.

Katy Balls comments on the content of the Queen’s Speech:

Today’s Queen’s Speech is notable not for what’s in it, but for what’s been left out. With no Tory majority and no agreement with the DUP, Theresa May has had to gut her 2017 Conservative Manifesto.

As Balls notes later on, the speech shows “May’s growing impotence.” The prime minister may still be in office for a little while, but she won’t be able to govern effectively.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 8 comments

The Qatar Crisis and the Incoherent U.S. Response

The State Department criticized the Saudi-Emirati campaign against Qatar in another very public disagreement with the White House:

The State Department on Tuesday issued a blistering critique of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries for enforcing a two-week embargo against Qatar without giving the tiny country any specific ways to resolve a crisis over accusations of Qatar’s funding of terrorism.

The statement seemed to put President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson further at odds about who is to blame for the dispute, which threatens a host of American diplomatic and security priorities in the gulf.

The State Department statement faulted the Saudis and their allies for failing to provide evidence to back up their charges against Qatar:

“Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo has started, we are mystified that the gulf states have not released to the public nor to the Qataris the details about the claims they are making toward Qatar,” Heather Nauert, the department’s spokeswoman, said in a news briefing.

This would be a fair criticism if we seriously thought those claims were the reason for the standoff. Since they weren’t the real reason, it is strange to think that these governments would bother with providing “details” when it was obvious that the attempt to coerce Qatar had little or nothing to do with matters of terrorism and everything to do with Qatar’s rivalries and disputes with its neighbors on other issues. The Saudis and their allies understood that they had a green light from the president to do what they wanted to Qatar, and he confirmed that again earlier this month when he publicly contradicted Tillerson on this question. While Trump may have been gullible enough to accept the Saudi-Emirati cover story for their actions at face value, few others were fooled. The State Department official acknowledged that at least one part of our government has finally caught on:

“The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.,” she said, referring to the United Arab Emirates, which joined the Saudi embargo along with Egypt and Bahrain.

“At this point,” she added, “we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long simmering grievances” among countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, who share both common interests and rivalries.

Recognizing that the U.S. is being conned about the real motivations for the Saudi-Emirati campaign is a welcome change from State, but it probably comes too late to do much good. That is particularly true when we remember that the punitive measures against Qatar continue to have the full backing of the White House. That allows our reckless clients to dismiss criticisms from the State Department as meaningless, and that is exactly what is happening:

“When was there a crisis when the State Department did not say we need to de-escalate?” he said. In his own communications with the White House, [UAE Ambassador to the U.S.] Otaiba said, he had gotten no pushback.

The State Department deserves a little credit for finally taking the Saudis and their allies to task for something, but other governments know by now that they don’t really speak for the Trump administration. Whatever value their criticism might have had was already negated by the president’s willingness to indulge our despotic clients in whatever they want to do.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , . 13 comments

Failing Upwards: The Rise of Mohammed bin Salman

King Salman has ordered major changes in the Saudi government, most notably promoting his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to be the new crown prince:

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Wednesday designated his son as his successor, paving the way for the young, assertive prince to assume the throne at a time when it is facing tumultuous change at home and intensifying rivalries in the Middle East.

Salman has replaced his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN), who had previously held the role of crown prince and interior minister. MBN was well-regarded in Washington for his competence on security issues, and he was much more cautious than his uncle and cousin regarding Saudi policies in the region. Removing MBN from his posts and promoting the reckless, inexperienced, and incompetent MBS bodes very ill for the future of Saudi policy in the region. MBN was known to be an opponent of the disastrous war on Yemen, of which MBS was a leading architect. There is also speculation that he may have been similarly wary of the attempt to bully Qatar into submission, and that may have provided the pretext for removing him. In contrast to MBN’s caution, the king’s son is closely identified with the turn towards a more aggressive and destructive foreign policy, and he continues to be deluded about the kingdom’s ability to win the war on Yemen. As defense minister, he is one of the people in the Saudi government most responsible for the failed campaign in Yemen, and despite the obvious failure there he is being rewarded by being put in line to be the next king.

The king has been grooming his son for some time to prepare him for this promotion, but it was not expected to come so soon or so suddenly. Trump’s wholehearted embrace of the Saudis presumably did nothing to discourage Salman from ousting the person in Riyadh that many U.S. officials trust most. Elevating a young royal with such a thin and poor record reflects poorly on Salman’s judgment, and it promises to create a lot of problems for Saudi Arabia, the region, and the U.S. We should expect Saudi policies in the region to continue to be as aggressive and ill-conceived as they have been, and they could very well become even worse. The need to disentangle the U.S. from the noxious relationship with Riyadh has just become much more urgent.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , . 6 comments

The Sources of Our Meddlesome Foreign Policy

Ryan Cooper is likewise appalled by America’s “moronic” Syria policy:

In reality, I don’t think any of the actual actions really suffice to explain why America won’t stop meddling in Syria. We’re there because The Blob has a hysterical obsession with the Middle East, because interventions are a lot harder to stop than they are to start, because President Trump is an absolute chump, and above all because of the almost universal article of faith that the American military can do no wrong.

There isn’t a good or compelling reason why the U.S. has been meddling in Syria’s conflict for at least half a decade, but here are what I think seem to be some of the more important factors driving the policy under both the Obama and Trump administrations. The main argument for taking sides in Syria’s civil war has relied heavily on the idea that U.S. “leadership” in the region (and the world) is supposedly at stake, and by opting to stay out of the conflict the U.S. would be “abdicating” a role that devotees of this “leadership” believe is essential for our government to have. The fixation on taking sides in Syria is intensified by bipartisan hostility to Iran, which has been cultivated in Washington for decades. That hostility is driven in large part by the desire of our political leaders to demonstrate their support for our reckless regional clients, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, as a way to show off their hawkishness and prove that they are “tough” on adversaries. The desire to “hurt” Iran by stoking conflict in Syria has long been a top priority of many Syria hawks.

Finally, there is the incessant demand that the U.S. “do something” in response to foreign conflicts. That is related to the preoccupation with “leadership,” but is distinct from it. It is a product of the biases in favor of action and dividing up the world into allies and enemies that plague our foreign policy debates. Our pundits and analysts wrongly assume that there is a “pro-Western” or “moderate” side in every conflict that the U.S. is somehow obligated to support, and they insist that we will be “betraying our values” or some such nonsense if we don’t help members of one faction kill members of another. Our government is now committing acts of war against another state that hasn’t attacked us in part because of this misguided confidence in our supposedly “moderate allies” in Syria.

The “hysterical obsession” with this part of the world that Cooper mentions is at least partly a product of accepting a handful of false assumptions: 1) the U.S. has valuable “allies” in the region; 2) the region is critically important to the U.S.; 3) uncritically backing our “allies” is good for the U.S. and the region. In fact, the “allies” in question aren’t allies at all, and frequently pursue their own goals at our expense and sometimes actively work to undermine our policies. The region isn’t all that important for U.S. security. Support for our reckless clients has mostly produced misery and destruction (see Syria and Yemen as prime examples). Many pundits and analysts are reluctant to acknowledge any of this, and are even more reluctant to say so openly. Then there is of course the significant role of extensive lobbying on behalf of client governments and weapons manufacturers in keeping the U.S. mired in the region’s wars, and that is one reason why there is so little sustained, vocal opposition to the policies that keep taking the U.S. into unnecessary wars.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 12 comments

The Problem with Kurdish Independence

Iraqi Kurdistan will hold an independence referendum on September 25, and there is no international support for that:

On Monday, the European Union joined the United Nations, the United States, Turkey, and Iraq to discourage Iraqi Kurds from holding an independence referendum on Sept. 25.

That was to be expected, and won’t deter regional government authorities in Erbil, said Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government representative in Washington.

The broad international opposition to a Kurdish independence referendum underscores the problem with trying to create an independent Kurdistan: the new state would be immediately isolated, it would lack recognition from most other governments, and would face intense disapproval from all of its new neighbors. Iraqi Kurdistan would forfeit the benefits of its current semi-autonomous status in exchange for a formal independence that would impose numerous costs on it. Iran isn’t mentioned in the article, but their government has likewise expressed opposition to the referendum.

Supporters of the referendum say that a vote in favor of independence isn’t a declaration of independence, but for the many regional opponents of a Kurdish state it might be taken as one. It is doubtful that the Turkish and Iraqi governments would limit their opposition to rhetoric, so a new Kurdish state would find itself besieged and under attack very early on, and Iran would presumably aid the Baghdad in trying to prevent the separation of the region. The last thing the region needs is even more instability and violence, and a push for Kurdish independence would produce more of both. Contrary to the hopes of Western partition fans, Kurdish independence would spark new conflicts and complicate existing ones. It would resolve none of them.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 5 comments

Syria and Our Illegal Acts of War

Syria’s famine sparked its civil war (Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock)

I mentioned the illegality of U.S. actions in Syria in an earlier post, but I wanted to say a bit more on that point. There has never been a Congressional vote authorizing U.S. military operations in Syria against anyone, and there has been scant debate over any of the goals that the U.S. claims to be pursuing there. The U.S. launches attacks inside Syria with no legal authority from the U.N. or Congress, and it strains credulity that any of these operations have anything to do with individual or collective self-defense. The U.S. wages war in Syria simply because it can.

Obama expanded the war on ISIS into Syria over two years ago, and the U.S. was arming the opposition for at least more than a year before that. The U.S. has been a party to the war in Syria in one form or another for more than four years, but the underlying assumption that it is in our interest to take part in this war has not been seriously questioned by most members of Congress. The president had no authority to take the U.S. to war in Syria, and the current president still has no such authority. We are so accustomed to illegal warfare that we barely notice that the policy has never really been up for debate and has never been put to a vote. If this illegal warfare eventually leads us into a larger conflict, we will finally notice, but by then it will be too late.

The latest episode with the Syrian jet shows the dangers that come from conducting a foreign policy unmoored from both the national interest and representative government. The Syrian jet was shot down because it was threatening rebels opposed to the Syrian government, and the U.S. is supporting those rebels up to and including destroying regime forces that attack them. The U.S. has no business supporting those rebels, and it has no right to have its military forces operating inside Syria. Shooting down a Syrian plane inside its own country under these circumstances is nothing less than an unprovoked act of war against another state.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 33 comments

Trump’s Misguided Partial Reversal of the Opening to Cuba

Trump announced the partial undoing of the opening to Cuba last week:

Trump’s new policy, outlined broadly in a speech Friday, would stop individual Americans from traveling to Cuba under the so-called people-to-people exemption and ban business that directly benefits the Cuban military.

Even a partial reversal of engagement with Cuba is a mistake. The U.S. has tried punishing the Cuban government for decades, and it has neither changed the way the government behaves nor helped the Cuban people, so going back to any part of that failed policy will yield the same poor results. The bar on business that would benefit Cuba’s military almost certainly pulls the rug out from under many American companies that have already made or were planning to make significant investments in the country, and that will mean losses for American firms that didn’t have to happen. Reimposing restrictions on Americans’ ability to travel to the country is one of the least defensible moves the administration could make. This restriction punishes individual American citizens by blocking them from traveling where they wish to go, and it does Cubans no favors.

American academics, tourists, and others should not be prohibited from traveling to Cuba on their own, and in some cases doing so is the most practical way for them to go there. Interfering with that just to spite Havana creates barriers to Americans’ travel that shouldn’t exist. These measures are a sop to hard-line dead-enders that loathe diplomatic engagement and never wanted an opening to Cuba at all, and by caving once again to foreign policy hard-liners Trump has shown his own weakness and poor judgment.

The pretense that this has anything to do with the Cuban government’s abuses and violations of human rights might almost seem credible if it came from someone else, but coming from the Saudi-embracing, Sisi-praising, Duterte-admiring Trump it is an insulting and blatant exercise in hypocrisy.

Posted in , . Tagged , , . 13 comments

U.S. Planes at Risk After Downing of Syrian Jet

U.S. forces shot down a Syrian jet yesterday, which prompted a threat from Russia:

Russian officials on Monday threatened that their country would treat U.S.-led coalition planes in some parts of Syria as targets after the U.S. military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday.

Russia’s defense ministry said planes flying in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, would be considered targets.

U.S. support for rebels in Syria was always likely to lead to clashes with the Syrian government and its patrons sooner or later. That is why it was an irresponsible and dangerous policy from the beginning. U.S. officials have talked about defending proxies against attack from the regime for years, but in the last few months this foolish position has been put to the test. It is possible that Russia might not use its air defenses against coalition planes in Syria, but there is now reason to fear that they might. Russia is also once again suspending the “de-confliction” process that has reduced the chances of accidents and collisions between Russian and U.S. forces. The risks to U.S. and allied pilots have just increased substantially, and the tacit permission that our planes have been given to operate against ISIS has evidently just been withdrawn. Through a mixture of foolish continuation of meddling in Syria and mindless increases of U.S. support for Syrian rebels, the Trump administration has carelessly created the conditions for escalation into a larger conflict with the Syrian government and its patrons, including Russia.

No one in Washington will care, but it is worth remembering that the U.S. has no authority to be engaged in hostilities anywhere in Syria, and our government certainly has no authority to attack Syrian government forces operating inside their own country in support for anti-regime insurgents. Obama had no right to expand the war on ISIS into Syria, and Trump has no right to involve us in a war with the Syrian government. Our Syria policy is unwise and divorced from U.S. security interests, and it is also illegal.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 22 comments

The Week’s Most Interesting Reads

The global order myth. Andrew Bacevich reminds us why laments for the “global order” are misguided.

Record opposition to Saudi arms sale–but not enough. Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani report on the Senate’s failed resolution of disapproval on the latest Saudi arms sale.

The Tehran attack reveals inconsistencies in anti-ISIS fight. Frida Ghitis comments on both the Iranian and American responses to the attacks in Tehran.

Sanaa’s survivor: how Saleh is still calling the shots. Laura Kasinof explains how the former president of Yemen retains substantial influence.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , , , . Post a comment

The Hollow ‘Rules-Based Order’

Andrew Bacevich offers a useful reminder that laments for a global “rules-based order” require ignoring much of the last seventy years of U.S. foreign policy:

Yet collectively, the actions and episodes enumerated above do not suggest a nation committed to liberalism, openness, or the rule of law. What they reveal instead is a pattern of behavior common to all great powers in just about any era: following the rules when it serves their interest to do so; disregarding the rules whenever they become an impediment. Some regimes are nastier than others, but all are law-abiding when the law works to their benefit and not one day longer.

Just earlier this year, we saw how unimportant the “rules” of the “rules-based order” were to both the U.S. government and the foreign policy establishment. When Trump ordered an attack on Syrian government forces, ostensibly in the name of enforcing an international norm, he did so with no legal authority of any kind. Congress had not authorized the president to commence hostilities against the Syrian government, there was no plausible individual or collective self-defense justification for the action, and the attack clearly breached the U.N. Charter? You could not ask for a more blatant attack on the “rules-based order” than that. The response from most foreign policy analysts and pundits was one of relief, if not jubilation, that the U.S. had “acted” and exercised “leadership.” The “rules-based order” that many of them claim to be so worried about was completely irrelevant when it came to assessing the merits of illegally attacking another sovereign state.

This wasn’t an unusual reaction, but was entirely consistent with attitudes about international “order” and U.S. intervention for well over twenty-five years: when the U.S. wants to bomb or invade another country, it has no implications for “world order” except as proof of the U.S. commitment to maintain said order. If the “rules-based order” really meant anything, the rules would be applied just as vigorously–perhaps more vigorously–to the most powerful state in the world as they are to the weakest, and of course that hasn’t happened and presumably never will.

Posted in , . Tagged , . 10 comments

The War on Yemen and the Senate Vote on the Saudi Arms Sale

Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani report on the Senate’s failed resolution of disapproval aimed at blocking a sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia:

On Tuesday, only five Democrats voted against the resolution — Virginia’s Mark Warner, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Florida’s Bill Nelson, and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly.

Some prominent Democrats who had voted against the September bill changed their tunes on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., both came around to supporting the measure of disapproval against the arms sales.

Cardin told The Intercept that many Democrats changed their vote because they didn’t see a commitment from Trump to end the conflict. “The main reason is we don’t see from President Trump,” he said, “a foreign policy that ends this conflict and the humanitarian crisis it’s causing.”

The good news from Tuesday’s vote is that there is now much broader opposition to selling weapons to the Saudis when there is every reason to expect that those weapons will be used in Yemen. Sens. Murphy, Paul, and Franken have done great work in persuading many more of their colleagues to oppose such sales, and if they can continue to bring more senators over to their side the Senate may well block one of these sales before long. A close vote on this issue makes it much more likely that there can be a real debate over U.S. support for the atrocious and unnecessary Saudi-led war.

There were a few honorable Republicans, including co-sponsor Rand Paul, who voted to disapprove the sale. The full roll call can be found here. Unfortunately, all but four Republican senators voted to support the latest sale and even now still have shown their backing for our disgraceful policy of enabling the destruction and starvation of Yemen. If there had been a unified Democratic front against the sale, enough Republicans broke ranks with the White House that the resolution of disapproval would have passed.

The bad news is that the resolution still failed. Resistance to shameful U.S. support for the war on Yemen started very late, and it is not growing as quickly as it needs to in order to provide Yemen with the help that its civilian population needs right now. Blocking arms sales to members of the Saudi-led coalition is an important start to helping Yemen, but when the country is in the grip of both famine and a rapidly spreading cholera epidemic there is much more that must be done quickly to address the severe humanitarian needs there.

There has not been a serious effort from Washington under the Obama and Trump administrations to seek an end to the conflict, and neither administration has done much of anything to pressure the Saudis and their allies to halt their campaign. Obama belatedly made a few half-hearted gestures at the end of his presidency, but they had no effect and they have been quickly undone by his successor. If there is to be any chance of changing that policy, the White House needs to start losing votes on these arms sales on a regular basis.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , , , , . 15 comments

The Tories Are in a Bind with May

Katy Balls comments on Theresa May’s continuing difficulties:

The Queen’s Speech – in which the government sets out its legislative programme – has been delayed indefinitely. Originally due to take place next week, it’s now on hold until the Conservatives manage to come to a satisfactory ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP.

This is an un-precedented move – and not a good sign.

The inability to deliver on something so basic and important is evidence that May shouldn’t have tried to stay in place after the election result. Cobbling together a desperate deal with the DUP never looked good, and taking extra time to put it together looks worse. In the meantime, it opens her up to the same charges of “chaos” that she leveled against a possible Labour-led government, and gives everyone another reason to question her competence and authority.

In a separate post, she also points to a new YouGov survey that finds that May and Corbyn are now tied on the question of who should be prime minister:

The reason May should be able to find some solace in this is that it confirms the Tories’ worst fears: Labour could win power in a second election. The main reason May is currently in No 10 and not at the job centre is that Conservatives are fearful of another election. With momentum with Labour, many in the party think their party would fare even worse if there was to be an election in the Autumn. A Tory leadership challenge would make the prospect of a second poll much more likely.

Prior to the start of the campaign, May had a 39-point lead on the same question, and between her poor showing and Corbyn’s success with voters she has managed to reduce it to nothing. Since YouGov’s model is the one that was most accurate during the election, we should take their findings on this seriously. Perversely, her own weakness protects her from immediate removal by her party, which is a remarkable and embarrassing position for the supposedly “strong and stable” leader to be in. For the moment, May’s rivals aren’t openly coming after her yet, but it’s not clear how long that can last. This comment sums things up fairly well:

“Something very Weekend at Bernie’s about this pretence that the PM is still viable,” tweeted prominent British columnist Janan Ganesh on Sunday.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 2 comments

On the Road

Starting tomorrow I’ll be traveling for most of the rest of this month, so posting will be less frequent and comment approval may take a bit longer than usual. Normal blogging will resume at the end of June.

Posted in , . One comment

May’s Time Is Almost Up

Theresa May isn’t gone yet, but as Fraser Nelson explains it is just a matter of time until she is replaced:

So Theresa May will go – make no mistake about that. She will never be forgiven, by the country or her party, for this debacle. But the Tories also know that, given the damage that she has inflicted on their party, they’re in no fit state to fight another general election. And as soon as they’re ready, they’ll get rid of her. It’s a question of when, not if.

It is a testament to how badly May failed that she has left her party in such a bad state that it can’t risk ousting her right away for fear of losing the next election. Nelson writes:

She is not being defenestrated because her party doesn’t want a leadership election now, having demeaned itself enough in the eyes of the electorate. Another Boris v Gove debacle could mean another election and Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10; stopping this is now the number one Tory priority (more so than Brexit).

The desire to delay another leadership contest is understandable, especially in light of what happened during the last one, but I doubt it can be put off for more than a couple months. May doesn’t really have the confidence of her party or the electorate, and everyone knows it, so my guess is that a rebellion will occur before the summer is out. It is possible that her desperate and ill-advised partnership with the DUP will blow up in her face just as her election gamble did. There is a report that she is seeking a formal coalition deal with the DUP, which is potentially even more destabilizing for Northern Ireland than a “confidence-and-supply” arrangement. If the Tories are responsible for wrecking the peace there on account of May’s political shenanigans, they may lose the next election regardless of when they oust May and they will deserve to.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 25 comments

A Despicable Hawkish Response to the Tehran Attacks

I came across this despicable statement from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher earlier this evening:

“We have recently seen an attack on Iran, and the Iranian government – the mullahs, I believe that Sunni forces have attacked them,” noted Rohrabacher before suggesting that the attack could be a “ratcheting up” of U.S. commitments against Iran. He then asked the panel, “Isn’t it a good thing for us to have the United States finally backing up Sunnis who will attack Hezbollah and the Shiite threat to us, isn’t that a good thing? And if so, maybe…this is a Trump strategy of actually supporting one group against another.”

This is just one House member’s awful opinion, but it is another example of the same sort of warped thinking that produced the White House’s insulting response to the Tehran attacks. According to the Congressman’s appalling view, the murder of innocent Iranian civilians is considered a “good thing” because they happen to live under an authoritarian and Islamist regime. He describes the attacks as an attack on “the mullahs,” as if that would make them acceptable. That ignores that an enemy of the U.S. claimed responsibility for the attack and it pays no attention to the fact that the victims of the attacks were civilians going about their business. Based on what the Congressman said here, it seems that he thinks the U.S. should be in the business of sponsoring more attacks like this one. That is sick, and it is outrageous to suggest that the U.S. should sponsor terrorist attacks anywhere regardless of the type of government a particular country has. It is also a dangerously irresponsible thing for a member of Congress to say, since speculation of this kind from someone in his position could possibly be spun as “proof” that the U.S. somehow sanctioned or approves of the attacks on Tehran.

To his credit, the witness that Rohrabacher was questioning condemned the attacks in no uncertain terms and rejected the idea that there was anything desirable about supporting ISIS attacks on anyone. It is lamentable that such obvious truths have to be stated in order to answer such toxic rhetoric from Iran hawks.

Posted in , . Tagged , . 21 comments
← Older posts