Pompeo Lied to Congress About Yemen To Protect Arms Sales

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Mike Pompeo’s certification earlier this month that the Saudi coalition was working to reduce harm to civilians in Yemen was an obvious sham. According to a new report in The Wall Street Journal, Pompeo made the decision to lie for the Saudis and Emiratis because he feared it would hurt arms sales:

Mr. Pompeo overruled concerns from most of the State Department specialists involved in the debate who were worried about the rising civilian death toll in Yemen. Those who objected included specialists in the region and in military affairs. He sided with his legislative affairs team after they argued that suspending support could undercut plans to sell more than 120,000 precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to a classified State Department memo and people familiar with the debate.

Cutting off refueling to the coalition likely would make it extremely difficult to sell more weapons to the Saudis and Emiratis, but that is not a good reason to ignore evidence and expert advice and then lie to Congress. Opponents of the war have been trying to block arms sales to both countries for years, and this just gives them one more reason to keep trying. The U.S. should not be in the business of arming governments that we know will use them to commit war crimes, and that certainly applies to the Saudis and the UAE as long as the war on Yemen continues. The longer that the war drags on, and the more civilians that the coalition kills using U.S.-made weapons, the more politically toxic arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE will become. In the end, Pompeo’s decision to flout the law and lie to Congress will just make opposition to future arms sales that much more intense.

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There Is No Need for a US Military Base in Poland

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Trump is floating the possibility of establishing a permanent U.S. military base in Poland:

President Donald Trump said the U.S. is looking “very seriously” at establishing a permanent military base in Poland.

Trump said at an Oval Office meeting Tuesday with Polish President Andrzej Duda that the two would discuss the possibility and “we’re looking at it very seriously.”

“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland,” Trump added. “If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about.”

Putting a U.S. base in Poland isn’t necessary for European security, and it would very likely create a rift within NATO. It would further antagonize Russia, and it would create one more overseas military installation that the U.S. doesn’t need to have. Trump is often accused of wanting to “retreat” from the world, but his willingness to entertain this proposal shows that he doesn’t care about stationing U.S. forces abroad so long as someone else is footing most of the bill.

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The Starvation of Yemen and the Attack on Hodeidah

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Associated Press reports on the appalling starvation that is slowly killing millions of people in Yemen:

In a remote pocket of northern Yemen, many families with starving children have nothing to eat but the leaves of a local vine, boiled into a sour, acidic green paste. International aid agencies have been caught off guard by the extent of the suffering there as parents and children waste away.

The main health center in Aslam district was flooded with dozens of emaciated children during a recent visit by the Associated Press. Excruciatingly thin toddlers, eyes bulging, sat in a plastic washtub used in a make-shift scale as nurses weighed each one. Their papery skin was stretched tight over pencil-like limbs and knobby knees. Nurses measured their forearms, just a few centimeters in diameter, marking the worst stages of malnutrition.

At least 20 children are known to have died of starvation already this year in the province that includes the district, more than three years into the country’s ruinous civil war. The real number is likely far higher, since few families report it when their children die at home, officials say [bold mine-DL].

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A Third Attack on Syria Would Be Just as Illegal as the Last Two

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Trump administration is once again threatening to launch an illegal attack against the Syrian government:

The United States is threatening to attack Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for a third time should it use chemical weapons in an assault on the northwestern province of Idlib, marking a significant shift in strategy after months of indications that the United States would soon pull out of the conflict.

In the most explicit warning to date, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, said Monday that the United States and its British and French allies had agreed that another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would trigger a significant escalation, compared to previous airstrikes.

“We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” Bolton said after a policy speech in Washington.

The US has attacked the Syrian government twice in the last two years in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons, and both attacks were clearly illegal under the Constitution and the U.N. Charter. A third attack would be just as illegal. The fact that the US has to keep striking and threatening the Syrian government tells us that previous strikes have been ineffective, and that means that additional strikes would likely be no better.

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No, the Saudis Aren’t ‘Defending Themselves’

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Paul Pillar capably sums up why supporting the war on Yemen is not in America’s interest:

Neither does the administration’s policy toward the Yemeni war accord with a realist perspective of where U.S. interests in the area do and do not lie. The United States does not have a stake in the outcome of civil warfare in Yemen. The Houthi rebellion is rooted in very local issues involving what the Houthis contend has been insufficient central government attention to the interests of tribal elements in the north of the country. Nor do the Houthis pose more than a trivial threat to anyone else in the region [bold mine-DL]. Although the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have made a big deal about missiles that the Houthis have fired at Saudi Arabia, those firings are pinpricks compared to the aerial assault in the other direction for which the missiles have been an attempt at retaliation. Missiles would not be launched if the Saudis and Emiratis had never launched their destructive expedition.

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The Trump Administration’s Cruel Collective Punishment of the Iranian People

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

USA Today published a very extensive report on conditions inside Iran this week. Here is a description of the response to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions:

Still, despite rhetoric from the Trump administration and some exiled Iranians – as well as praise for Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the overwhelming sentiment on Iran’s streets is not revolutionary fervor but fatigue over decades of failed Iranian-U.S. diplomacy and the resulting economic struggles for ordinary Iranians [bold mine-DL].

“We waited for so long for good news between our two nations,” a woman, 37, in a coffee shop told USA TODAY as she despaired over the renewed sanctions and breakdown in relations.

The Trump administration doesn’t appreciate and certainly doesn’t care that reneging on the nuclear deal and moving to strangle Iran’s economy have dashed the hopes of most Iranians for a better future. Iran hawks hope to rile up the Iranian people through increased hardship and deprivation, but no nation ever responds to collective punishment this way. US policy towards Iran is sowing enmity between our two countries for years and decades to come, and both of our countries will be worse off because of it. For all of the administration’s complaints about Iran’s “malign behavior” in the region, they have made a point of penalizing Iran even though it is abiding by the nuclear deal. Iran has responded constructively on the nuclear issue, and it is being strangled with sanctions anyway.

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