The ugly fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force leader, Qassem Soleimani seems to have halted for the moment. But the forces that pushed the United States and Iran to the brink of all-out war this week are still in place. This isn’t an end, just a short break between acts. But the pullback from the brink of war can also present some opportunities.
Iran opened the door to de-escalation and Trump took it, seemingly prioritizing his base’s concern of another U.S. war in the Middle East over the bluster and bad advice of his secretary of state, among other pro-war advisers.
But this relief must be tempered with caution. We may have taken a step or two back from the brink of war, but we’re still perilously close to the edge. The Iran war hawks, neoconservative ideologues, and pro-Likud activists are not going to stop pressing for provocative measures against Iran. Whether they are in the Trump administration or not, the forces that have been pressing for war with Iran must be confronted now, more than ever. We also need to consider the role of local actors and how that might affect both American and Iranian strategy. Read more at Responsible Statecraft
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
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
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
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 →