Conflicts of Interest: Generating a Conflict in Ukraine with guest Dave DeCamp

On COI #196, Dave DeCamp – News Editor at Antiwar.com – returns to explain escalating tensions with Russia over Ukraine. In recent weeks the US has engaged in military drills along Russia’s western border while encouraging a Ukrainian military build-up. The result has been Cold War-style threats including deploying more nuclear weapons into eastern Europe. 

Dave breaks down Biden’s Middle East policy. US drone strikes under Biden are far lower than Trump. Kyle and Dave compare Biden and Trump’s Middle East policies. 

Dave discusses a recent effort by the Marshall Islands to get more aid from the US to clean up after American nuclear tests. The Biden administration is stonewalling the request.

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Durbin Introduces Amendment To End ‘Legacy of Cruelty’ by Closing Guantánamo

Recounting some of the “atrocities committed shamefully in the name of our nation” during the ongoing so-called War on Terror, Sen. Dick Durbin on Tuesday said he has introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba “once and for all.”

“Since the first group of detainees was brought to Guantánamo in January of 2002, four different presidents have presided over the facility,” Durbin (D-Ill.) – a longtime proponent of closing the prison – said during a speech on the Senate floor.

“In that time the Iraq War has begun and ended, the war in Afghanistan – our nation’s longest war – has come to a close,” he continued. “A generation of conflict has come and gone yet the Guantánamo detention facility is still open and every day that it remains open is an affront to our system of justice and the rule of law.”

“In the wake of 9/11 the [George W.] Bush administration tossed aside our constitutional principles as well as the Geneva Conventions,” Durbin contended, calling Gitmo a place “where due process goes to die.”

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The Nuclear Deal Can Still Be Saved

Fred Kaplan is puzzled by Biden’s failure to rejoin the nuclear deal quickly:

More puzzling than Trump messing things up, though, is why President Joe Biden – who, during the campaign, said he would bring back the deal – didn’t move to do so right after entering office this past January. He could have, accurately, blamed Trump for the mess, offered to lift the sanctions gradually if the Iranians dismantled their nuclear hardware gradually. Instead, for reasons that no one has clearly explained [bold mine-DL], the two sides got into a dispute over who should take the first step first.

I have no inside information about this, but it has seemed pretty clear that the reason that the Biden administration refused to go first and make concessions was that they were deathly afraid being attacked by Iran hawks for being “weak.” It was also because many Democratic foreign policy professionals had bought into the genuinely stupid idea that Biden should use Trump’s illegitimate sanctions as “leverage.” This is how we ended up with Biden administration officials talking about the fantasy of a “longer and stronger” follow-on agreement instead of focusing intently on reviving the existing one. They were so preoccupied with keeping Menendez and regional clients quiet that they missed the opportunity to undo Trump’s mess early on. Dragging their feet on sanctions relief also seems to be typical of the Biden administration’s foreign policy as a whole. Fearful of being accused of “rewarding” Iran, they presided over almost a year of drift and inaction while they kept saying that “the ball is in Iran’s court.” In other words, it was a combination of political cowardice and lack of flexibility.

For their part, the Iranian government insisted on the U.S. going first because the US was the party to the agreement that first violated. As far as they were concerned, the one that broke the deal should take the initiative to repair it. That was a fairly reasonable position for them to take, since they had been in compliance with the deal before the US launched its latest economic war on them and they had shown remarkable patience in waiting for a change in administrations so that the agreement could be salvaged. Once Raisi took over as president, that created additional delays and problems, because the new Iranian government was determined to be less flexible than its predecessor, so they ended up mirroring US inflexibility with their own. During this period, Israel continued its sabotage campaign, and Iran responded to this with further expansions of the nuclear program, and the Biden administration then used these responses to sabotage as pretexts for refusing to provide sanctions relief.

In the end, the problem boils down to one of pride and the pathetic fear of appearing “weak” in the eyes of domestic opponents. No one wanted to take a first step because that would supposedly reflect an eagerness to make concessions, and so instead we get a nine-month staring contest where everyone loses. There are few things weaker than refusing to salvage a good agreement because of a fear of seeming weak. Sometimes worthwhile diplomatic achievements require taking a little political risk, and the political leaders that can’t or won’t take those risks end up looking both weak and foolish.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

Conflicts of Interest: Does Israeli Aggression Signal Progress in Iran Nuclear Deal Talks?

On COI #195, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman discuss recent developments in the new Cold War with China as well as the resumed JCPOA talks in Vienna.

Kyle details recent reports about how Taiwan, eyeing China, is building its own submarine fleet with assistance from various nations including the United States and the United Kingdom. Kyle then breaks down a propaganda piece from Reason magazine that promotes Sean Roberts, who authored a discredited Newlines Institute report containing debunked lies about China’s Uighur “genocide.” This is a major oversight from Reason and reflects that even mainline, establishment libertarians will traffic in blatant anti-China war propaganda.

Connor then discusses the recently renewed indirect JCPOA talks between the U.S. and Iran in Austria. The other remaining signatories to the nuclear deal are in attendance as well and are speaking directly with Tehran’s delegation. The U.S. has been consistently hawkish leading up to the talks, imposing sanctions and threatening Iran. Israel is nakedly attempting to sabotage the talks and the deal itself by spreading lies in the media and western capitals alleging Iran is preparing to attack the U.S. and increase uranium enrichment to weapons grade levels. Tel Aviv’s seemingly desperate actions may indicate they suspect real diplomatic progress could take place in Vienna.

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47 Groups Urge Congress To Avert ‘Human Rights Failure’ by Blocking Biden’s Saudi Arms Sale

Slamming the Saudi-led coalition’s war crimes in Yemen – which are often perpetrated with U.S.-supplied weaponry – 47 advocacy groups on Monday published a joint letter to congressional lawmakers urging them to block the Biden administration’s “wrongful” planned $650 million arms sale to the repressive Middle Eastern monarchy.

At issue is the proposed sale of 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and 596 LAU-128 missile rail launchers in a package that would also include spare parts, support, and logistical services. The missiles, which would be fitted to Saudi fighter jets, are manufactured by Raytheon, on whose board Lloyd Austin sat before becoming US defense secretary this year.

The letter’s signatories urge members of Congress to pass resolutions by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to block the sale and end “US complicity in the Saudi-led coalition’s gross violations of international law in Yemen, including its blockade.”

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Russian Attack on Ukraine Imminent?

In the past couple of weeks, nearly every one of my peers in the community of analysts – Russia watchers has weighed in on Russia’s possible plans to invade Ukraine. We have been given detailed breakdowns of the forces and equipment which Russia has moved into the border region with Ukraine, and we have heard every imaginable scenario for the use of these forces when the weather turns colder, as in February, for example.

Others of my peers have reckoned in great detail the political and economic price which Russia would be compelled to pay if it were reckless enough to invade and seek to neuter Ukraine in one way or another. For example, one analyst has described Russia’s possibly dividing Ukraine in two at the Dnieper River and forming a Russia-friendly state to the east of that divide, while allowing the rump state of rabid Ukrainian nationalists to go to hell on its own.

For its part, the Kremlin has vehemently denied having any designs on Ukraine and claims that Washington is behind this fake news which is intended to encourage the Zelensky government to do something quite stupid such as stage an all-out attack on the Donbas, using the latest weapons which it has received from Washington and its allies, in the mistaken belief that it will be backed up by Washington if things go awry. In short, this would be a replay of the scenario in Georgia in 2008 when the very same Biden who is now US President was feeding false hopes of support to the then Georgian President Saakashvili.

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