Be Outraged by America’s Role in Yemen’s Misery

The United States is not directly bombing civilians in Yemen, but it is providing arms, intelligence and aerial refueling to assist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as they hammer Yemen with airstrikes, destroy its economy and starve its people. The Saudi aim is to crush Houthi rebels who have seized Yemen’s capital and are allied with Iran.

That’s sophisticated realpolitik for you: Because we dislike Iran’s ayatollahs, we are willing to starve Yemeni schoolchildren.

.. To their credit, some members of Congress are trying to stop these atrocities. A bipartisan effort this year, led by Senators Mike Lee, Chris Murphy and Bernie Sanders, tried to limit U.S. support for the Yemen war, and it did surprisingly well, winning 44 votes. New efforts are underway as well.

.. World leaders are gathered for the United Nations General Assembly, making pious statements about global goals for a better world, but the Assembly is infused with hypocrisy. Russia is up to its elbows in crimes against humanity in Syria, China is detaining perhaps one million Uighurs while also shielding Myanmar from accountability for probable genocide, and the United States and Britain are helping Saudi Arabia commit war crimes in Yemen.

That’s pathetic: Four of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are complicit in crimes against humanity.

The West Must Face Reality in Turkey

Turkey’s currency crisis and standoff with the United States over the imprisonment of an American pastor have exposed the crumbling edifice of the two countries’ Cold War-era partnership. Rather than hold out hope that Turkey will return to the Western fold, US and European policymakers must consider a new policy toward the country.

..  Moreover, tariffs allow Erdoğan to blame his country’s economic woes on America, rather than on his own government’s incompetence.
.. It is still possible that the Turkish government will find a way to release Brunson, and that US President Donald Trump, anxious to demonstrate fealty to the evangelicals who form a core part of his base, will rescind the tariffs.
.. But even if the immediate crisis is resolved, the structural crisis in US-Turkish relations – and Western-Turkish relations generally – will remain.
We are witnessing the gradual but steady demise of a relationship that is already an alliance in name only. Though the Trump administration is right to have confronted Turkey, it chose not only the wrong response, but also the wrong issue.
The relationship between Turkey and the West has long been predicated on two principles, neither of which obtains any longer.
  1. The first is that Turkey is a part of the West, which implies that it is a liberal democracy.
    • Yet Turkey is neither liberal nor a democracy. It has effectively been subjected to one-party rule under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and power has become concentrated in the hands of Erdoğan, who is also the AKP’s leader.
    • Under Erdoğan, checks and balances have largely been eliminated from the Turkish political system, and the president controls the media, the bureaucracy, and the courts.
  2.  The second principle underlying Turkey’s “Western” status is alignment on foreign policy. Turkey recently bought more than 100 advanced F-35 fighter jets from the US. Yet, in recent years, Turkey has also supported jihadist groups in Syria, moved closer to Iran, and contracted to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia.

.. The Turks were not happy with the US decision to withdraw medium-range missiles from Turkey as part of the deal that ended the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

.. Turkey refused to give US military forces access to Incirlik Air Base during the Iraq war in 2003.

.. the Turkish government has been infuriated by America’s refusal to extradite the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdoğan believes masterminded the 2016 coup attempt.

..  The anti-Soviet glue that kept the two countries close during the Cold War is long gone.

.. The problem is that the NATO treaty provides no mechanism for divorce.

.. Turkey can withdraw from the alliance, but it cannot be forced out.

  1. .. First, policymakers should criticize Turkish policy when warranted.
    •  they must also reduce their reliance on access to Turkish bases such as Incirlik,
    • deny Turkey access to advanced military hardware like F-35s, and
    • reconsider the policy of basing nuclear weapons in Turkey.
    • Moreover, the US should not extradite Gülen unless Turkey can prove his involvement in the coup with evidence that would stand up in a US court and satisfy the provisions of the 1981 mutual extradition treaty.
    • Nor should the US abandon the Kurds, given their invaluable role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
  2.  Second, the US and Europe should wait until the Erdoğan era is over, and then approach Turkey’s new leadership with a grand bargain.
    • The offer should be Western support in exchange for a Turkish commitment to liberal democracy and to a foreign policy focused on fighting terrorism and pushing back against Russia.

 

Another Gift for a Putin Buddy

This week, the Trump administration further eased its pressure on Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminum company, less than four months after sanctions on it and its notorious leader were imposed. Even as the White House seems willing to inflict pain on American farmers and consumers with its trade wars, Russian aluminum workers are apparently worthy of special protection.

.. Rusal is controlled by Oleg Deripaska, a member of Mr. Putin’s inner circle. As the Treasury Department acknowledges, he has been investigated for

  • money laundering and accused of
  • threatening the lives of business rivals,
  • illegally wiretapping a government official and
  • taking part in extortion and racketeering.

.. There are also allegations, made public by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, that Mr. Deripaska

  • bribed a government official,
  • ordered the murder of a businessman and
  • had links to a Russian organized crime group. During the 2016 presidential campaign,
  • Paul Manafort, then Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, tried to offer Mr. Deripaska private briefings about the campaign.

.. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is considering lifting the sanctions altogether because they are punishing the “hardworking people of Rusal.” But Mr. Mnuchin has it backward. If he was truly concerned about Rusal’s 61,000 employees, he would not relent until the company fully washed its hands of Mr. Deripaska and the corrupt regime the aluminum giant serves.

.. Behind Mr. Deripaska’s estimated fortune of as much as $5.3 billion, there stands a great crime. During the “aluminum wars” of the 1990s, when that economic sector was consolidating in the chaotic privatization that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the young metals trader was suspected of ties to gangsters as he seized control of huge Siberian smelters. According to testimony by a gang member in Stuttgart, Germany, part of Mr. Deripaska’s value to the group were his links to Russia’s security services. While his rivals were killed off or fled Russia, Mr. Deripaska somehow emerged as the director general of Rusal, a company that reported revenues last year of nearly $10 billion. But suspicions that the oligarch has had links to organized crime have denied him a visa to enter the United States.

.. they must do its bidding, which in Mr. Deripaska’s case meant spending more than $1 billion, through his holding company, on new infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia

Mr. Deripaska has embraced his role, stating that he does not separate himself from the Russian state.

.. Manafort tried to pitch him a plan for an influence campaign to “greatly benefit the Putin government.”

.. “Rusal’s own website says that it supplied military material to the Russian military that was potentially used in Syria.”

.. Mr. Deripaska’s holding company, hired a $108,500-a-month lobbyist to continue to negotiate with the Treasury Department. The firm he chose, Mercury Public Affairs, is the firm Mr. Manafort paid $1.1 million to lobby members of Congress on behalf of Ukraine and its then-president, Viktor Yanukovych

.. Led by David Vitter, a former Republican senator from Louisiana, Mercury has sought to enlist support from ambassadors of France, Germany and Australia, among others.

.. emanding more time to reduce the oligarch’s ownership stake in En+ from 70 percent to below 50 percent. In a July 24 filing with the Justice Department, Mercury outlined a host of calamities that might be unleashed if sanctions aren’t eased

  • The global aluminum market might suffer significant disruptions with “severe collateral damage to United States interests, allies”;
  • En+ might have to entertain a potential acquisition by “Chinese and/or other potentially hostile interests”; or
  • Mr. Deripaska might just hang on to his majority stake.

.. The specter of a fellow traveler with gangsters dictating terms to the United States government is yet another sign of the Trump administration’s inexplicable capitulation to Russia.

.. July 16 summit in Helsinki, at which President Trump and President Putin met privately for more than two hours.

We don’t know what they discussed, but given the stakes on both sides, there’s a good chance that the discussion touched on the subject of the sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia’s biggest aluminum company.

 

 

Why Some U.S. Ex-Spies Don’t Buy the Russia Story

the whole mess with Iraq and Afghan wars, and especially everything that Wikileaks exposed about them, is one of the biggest providers of source material for Russian “whataboutism” (see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_you_are_lynching_negroes). In early 00s, it was mainly useful to justify the way Russia handled Chechnya. But from 2008 on, it became more and more important – South Ossetia, Crimea, Donbass, Syria.

.. With that in mind, leaks about any American administration serve those goals. Bush was certainly fair game. As do any leaks that concern any Western countries, their allies, and affiliated countries. Which happens to be exactly what Wikileaks has been focusing on.

.. I don’t get why people are so trustful of Assagne’s assurances the source wasn’t Russian. Unless he hacked it himself or was looking over the shoulder of the guy who hacked it, he simply cannot know who the ultimate source of the material is. The person he got it from may very well not have been Russian. But who did that person get it from? It’s no different than a Tor exit node delivering information it receives: it simply isn’t in a position to know the true origin.

The fact that Assange has come out very hard trying to imply it was Seth Rich and not Russians is itself the most suspicious thing.1. He can’t possibly know if Russia is the true source.

2. Seth Rich is a classic KGB style conspiracy theory with literally not one shred of evidence, at all.

So he’s doing two very odd things here that he’s never done. He’s saying Russia is NOT the source AND Seth Rich IS the source.

It’s typical for someone with good intentions to find themselves owned by a spy agency. Assange is most likely in so deep he can’t fix it.

It’s a fact he’s taken money from Russia and the theory of him being compromised by them goes back years before the election. He’s the one that arranged for Snowden to go to Russia.

So he’s compromised and a tool now. It doesn’t matter if he was once free or not at this point.

. I don’t think Assange is a Russian agent (even though he receives money from RT etc). I think he has his own motives. At the time this was more anti-Clinton that pro-Trump specifically.

More recently his Tweets have become more supportive of Trump personally (although interestingly not really his agendas necessarily). My uncharitable suspicion is that he’s hoping for a presidential pardon.

.. Why do you believe that the Russian reaction to pulling back would be to pull back as well? If anything, all experience shows that they’ll use that to do a power grab in the neighbouring countries instead. Treating “sphere of influence” as a valid concept is immoral, it essentially means allowing Russia to do whatever they want to others against their will; there’s a good reason why their neighbours are allying with the west – it’s because they want protection from being “sphereofinfluenced”.