Even as the 2000’s saw the return of traditional forms of imperial intervention—with the US deployment of military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq in pursuit of a quixotic and unwinnable War on Terror—there are increasingly new forms of intervention that must be understood, assessed and mapped.
Khartoum. The hand-painted sign on Nile Avenue here best captured the attitude of urban Sudanese toward the visit of Vice President George Bush to their country in early March, just four weeks before the popular overthrow of President Ja‘far Numairi. “Vice-President and Mrs. Bush,” read the sign, “are mostly welcome.” The millions of Sudanese starving in the countryside would have been much less hospitable.
The United States’ Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the Challenge to the International Consensus
On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would be moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act (henceforth Embassy Act). In one fell swoop, the US has seriously challenged 70 years of international consensus enshrined in international law as regards the status of the city, and put the potential for a two-state solution into a tail-spin. What are the consequences of this major policy change?
The White House announcement distinguishes between recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establishing an embassy there and recognizing “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.” In other words, the Trump administration, like all those before it, seeks to avoid acknowledging how Israel, in defiance of UN resolutions, has altered the demographic and geographic realities of the city.
Donald J. Trump ran for president on a platform that included a pledge to bring back the torture technique of waterboarding and “a hell of a lot more.” On the campaign trail, Trump told his supporters: “We have to fight so viciously and violently because we’re dealing with violent people…We have to fight fire with fire…or we are not going to have much of a country left.” Clearly, he was operating on the premise that these techniques work, that the kinds of people subjected to waterboarding and other forms of custodial violence in the “war on terror”—namely, Muslims—deserve it, and that the cancellation of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program by Barack Obama in 2009 was a mistake.
Less than a year into Trump’s presidency, the world’s policeman is back, now armed with a Twitter account. Flying largely under the media radar, the US military is flexing its muscles around the world—and in some areas it is going on the offensive. Since Trump took office, the United States has quietly increased the number of troops in the Middle East by 33 percent and there are plans for an “enduring presence” in both Iraq and Syria. More troops and yet another supposedly new strategy are being deployed for the endless war in Afghanistan. US soldiers are fanning out across an archipelago of bases in Africa to conduct what they call “train, advise and assist” missions with nearly 1,000 soldiers in Niger. In Somalia the numbers are also climbing: Troop levels are the highest since the “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993. An aggressive surge of lethal drone strikes and clandestine missions led by the military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and a reinvigorated CIA in far-flung corners of the world outside of America’s declared battlefields marks the widest departure from Trump’s ostensible isolationism. This surge signals, paradoxically perhaps, an embrace of both Obama’s drone warfare presidency and a more naked militarization of US foreign policy.
The eruption of fighting by rival factions in Yemen’s southern city of Aden on January 28 provides distressing additional evidence that Yemen’s war is best understood as a series of mini-wars reflecting the intersection of diverse domestic drivers of conflict and Gulf regional fragmentation.
Jerusalem has been the focus of an increasing number of academic publications in the past several years. Most of these publications focus mainly on the city’s history, identity and changing architectural features since Israel occupied its eastern section after the June 1967 War. Few serious attempts have been made to discuss the human aspect of the city’s united, yet divided, population and even less attention has been paid to US policies toward the city.
As the baleful administration of President Donald Trump bumbles from one scandal to the next, a set of deeply disturbing patterns have emerged in the domestic politics and foreign policy of the United States.
A new anthology from MERIP and Just World Books explores the Arabian Peninsula as “a distinct political unit” whose upheavals reverberate regionally and globally.
Phyllis Bennis, Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2015).
The amalgamation of Iraqi ex-Baathists, Iraqi and Syrian jihadis, disgruntled locals and outside recruits known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, continues to cast a long shadow over the Middle East and the world. The grip of the would-be caliphate upon its “home” territory in Iraq and Syria is slipping, but groups raising the ISIS banner are winning battles in Afghanistan and Libya. Meanwhile, the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015 has kept the specter of ISIS-inspired attacks hovering over political debate in the West.
Ever since the Black Lives Matter movement exploded into the headlines, violence by American police officers has come under fire from activists and ordinary citizens alike. Less discussed, however, is how the US government winks at the police brutality of its client states abroad.
The military government in Egypt, for example, is cracking down hard on its restive citizenry—harder than any time in memory. And the United States, which sends the country over a $1 billion a year in security aid, is looking the other way.
The cops on the beat in Egyptian cities are a menace. They demand bribes from motorists on any pretense and mete out lethal violence on a whim.
Dear Sen. Sanders,
Congratulations on your strong showing in Iowa and your victory in New Hampshire.
It’s exciting to see Democratic primary voters—especially younger ones—choosing your program of social democracy over the unfettered liberal capitalism to which they’ve always been told there’s no alternative. They’re making that choice even though you call yourself a “socialist” and refuse to disavow the label amid the corporate media’s sneers. Imagine that—voters think they should decide who’s electable.
When Saudi Arabia executed the Shiite cleric and political dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, the country’s leaders were aware that doing so would upset their long-time rivals in Iran. In fact, the royal court in Riyadh was probably counting on it. It got what it wanted. The deterioration of relations has been precipitous: Protesters in Tehran sacked Saudi Arabia’s embassy; in retaliation, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties. More severe fallout could follow—possibly even war.
CIA black sites. “Extraordinary rendition.” The PATRIOT Act. Massive NSA surveillance. The 2003 invasion of Iraq. Abu Ghraib. Torture. Religious and racial profiling. FBI entrapment. Drones, “kill lists” and civilian casualties. “Terror Tuesdays.”
Whatever the successes of US public diplomacy since the attacks of September 11, 2001, they pale in comparison to the cavalcade of scandals. And all these foreign policy “missteps” or manifestations of “imperial hubris”—take your pick—predate the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, the latest fixation of State Department attempts at counter-radicalization through messaging.
Twenty million people in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, are at risk of dying from hunger or thirst. That’s 80 percent of the country’s population, which according to UN agencies badly needs emergency supplies of food and water, along with fuel and medicine.
This almost unimaginable crisis sounds like something out of a disaster movie. But the cause isn’t an earthquake or a tsunami.
The main reason for all this suffering is months of merciless bombardment and blockade led by the richest Arab countries—Saudi Arabia and its neighboring petro-princedoms—and backed by the United States. Washington’s providing the attackers with technical assistance, intelligence and top-shelf armaments.