Another Bad Idea on Yemen from the Trump Administration

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Trump administration’s Yemen policy is already indefensible, and they may be about to make it even worse:

The Trump administration is considering designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels a terrorist organization, people familiar with the discussions said, as part of a campaign to end that country’s civil war and put pressure on the Houthis’ ally Iran.

The terrorist designation, which would inject an unpredictable new element into fragile diplomatic efforts to initiate peace talks, has been discussed periodically since at least 2016, according to several of the individuals. But the matter has received renewed examination in recent months as the White House seeks to stake out a tough stance on Iranian-linked groups across the Middle East, they said.

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The Midterms and the War on Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

After two years reckless and irresponsible Trump administration foreign policy, the new Democratic House majority is in a position to provide greater oversight and scrutiny of the president’s policies:

A Democrat-led House will likely launch hearings quickly on U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia in Yemen and other secret wars. In late October, Smith and Engel sent Trump a letter warning against an exit from both the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, saying that “[i]t would divide our allies and play directly into President Putin’s hands.” As committee chairmen, they would have the power to hold repeated hearings and force the Trump administration to explain its plans in ways the Republican-led House has not done.

Some of those hearings – which Democratic members have been shouting for since early 2017 – could be acutely embarrassing for the Trump administration. “We will see a lot of demand for information,” said Alexandra Bell, a former senior arms control official.

The change in control of the House may have the greatest impact on U.S. support for the war on Yemen. Dozens of Democratic House members have already co-sponsored H.Con.Res. 138, including members of the party leadership and the ranking members of relevant committees, and those numbers seem certain to grow with the influx of new members in January. Thanks to the efforts of Reps. Ro Khanna and Mark Pocan, H.Con.Res. 138 will come up for a vote later this month, and if for some reason it doesn’t pass in this Congress there is a much better chance that it will pass in the new Congress next year. Reps. Engel and Smith are both co-sponsors of the measure to end U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen, and once they become the chairmen of their respective committees they will be able to challenge the administration on this and other foreign policy issues over the next two years. Together with their colleagues in the Senate, they are well-positioned to cause the Trump administration a lot of headaches, and most important of all they have a real chance to shut down U.S. involvement in the Saudi coalition’s war. The House Democrats aren’t going to be able to stop or reverse all of Trump’s destructive foreign policy decisions, but on Yemen they have an opportunity to force real changes in U.S. policy.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

Yemen Can’t Wait for a Ceasefire

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Michael Horton is similarly skeptical about Mattis and Pompeo’s calls for a ceasefire in Yemen:

Yet these exhortations are meaningless without real pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are poised to launch yet another offensive on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.

The first offensive on the port, dubbed ”Operation Golden Victory,” began five months ago and was meant to be a quick strike that would eject the Houthi rebels and their allied forces. It has been anything but quick. The Houthis have launched successive and largely successful counter-offensives.

Meanwhile, as a tragic result of this horrible war, millions of Yemenis face starvation in what is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. That may be exactly what is desired by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their backers – which so far has included the United States.

Last night in Sanaa, the Saudi coalition launched dozens of airstrikes. Meanwhile, they have been gathering reinforcements to begin a new assault on Hodeidah. The offensive on the port city has already displaced hundreds of thousands and threatened the food supply for millions more in the interior, and a new assault could be all that it takes to kick millions of starving people into the abyss. Four weeks from now, the damage done to Yemen’s civilian population may already be done and no one will be be able to undo it. That is why there must be an immediate ceasefire, and that begins with an immediate end to U.S. support for the war.

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Saudi Coalition Massacre Kills 21 at a Market in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Saudi coalition bombed a vegetable market near Hodeidah earlier today and killed at least 21 people:

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Quitting the INF Treaty Is a Serious Mistake

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Trump administration is preparing to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty thanks to the arms control-hating John Bolton:

The Trump administration has told U.S. allies that it wants to withdraw from the landmark Reagan-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, and plans to inform Russian leaders of its position in the coming days, said foreign diplomats and other people familiar with the deliberations.

The planning is the brainchild of Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, who has told US allies he believes the INF puts Washington in an “excessively weak position” against Russia “and more importantly China,” said a diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

The president confirmed the intention to withdraw from the treaty this weekend:

President Donald Trump said Washington will exit the Cold-War era treaty that eliminated a class of nuclear weapons due to Russian violations, triggering a warning of retaliatory measures from Moscow.

The treaty has served US and European security well for three decades. Casting aside a landmark arms control agreement risks starting a new destabilizing arms race with Russia at a time when relations with Moscow are already extremely poor. Withdrawing from the treaty amounts to letting Russia off the hook for its recent violations, and it gains the US nothing except the ability to waste more resources on nuclear weapons that we don’t need. Killing the treaty isn’t going to remedy any of the things that critics complain about. China isn’t a party to the treaty and hasn’t been bound by its limitations, but it is difficult to see why the US needs to be able to have land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles in East Asia in any case. Giving up on an arms control treaty that has been largely successful for European security because it does not address new developments in another part of the world just creates a new problem without fixing any of the others.

Quitting the INF Treaty is just one example of Bolton’s reflexive hostility to any and all nonproliferation and arms control agreements. In addition to supporting withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Bolton is also resisting an extension of New START:

Former US officials say Bolton is blocking talks on extending the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia limiting deployed strategic nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. The treaty is due to expire in 2021 and Moscow has signaled its interest in an extension, but Bolton is opposing the resumption of a strategic stability dialogue to discuss the future of arms control between the two countries.

Extending New START should be an easy national security win for the Trump administration. There is no good reason to oppose the extension, just as there was no good reason to oppose its ratification. Bolton is ideologically opposed to the treaty, which he has previously declared to be “execrable,” and as long as he is National Security Advisor it seems very unlikely that the treaty will be extended. Quitting the INF Treaty and allowing New START to expire would represent the willful destruction of the most important arms control agreements that the US has, and together they will have a very dangerous destabilizing effect on the security of Europe and the US

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

The Cost of Enabling Reckless Clients

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

When Obama was president, hawkish foreign policy pundits and analysts promoted the fiction that he “abandoned” allies and “rewarded” adversaries. This was one of Romney’s main campaign themes in 2012. Their answer to this imaginary problem was that the U.S. should seek to have “no daylight” with its “allies” (by which they almost always meant just Israel and Saudi Arabia). Romney once went so far as to say that there should not be “an inch of difference” between the US and Israel, and applied this standard to all US relationships with its “friends and allies”:

You don’t allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and allies.

Romney’s dumb position in 2012 had become the more or less default hawkish view in the next presidential campaign. The hawks held that public criticism of these governments was a mistake that harmed US interests, and they argued that the US should be supporting these states far more than Obama had done. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that they thought the appropriate US response to any controversy involving a US“ally” was to offer knee-jerk support.

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