The People of Yemen Still Face Famine

From The American Conservative:

Bruce Riedel calls for the U.S. to pressure the Saudi coalition to end their blockade of Yemen:

For the war to end, the Biden administration will need to lay out a political process that entices the Houthis to a ceasefire. A good place to start is the Saudi blockade, which is the cause of the humanitarian catastrophe. Washington should call for the immediate and unconditional end to the blockade and allow civilian traffic to Yemen’s ports and airports. The United Nations says that 16 million Yemenis are malnourished, and the situation is getting worse at an alarming rate.

The blockade is an offensive military operation that kills civilians. Opening the blockade would be an act of goodwill and expose the war to more outside observers. Linking lifting the blockade to a ceasefire is a recipe for prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people. The two issues need to be decoupled.

The need to lift the blockade is greater than ever. The recent international donor conference raised less than half of the money that aid agencies desperately need to continue assisting the millions of Yemenis suffering from malnutrition and disease. The conference’s goal was $3.8 billion, and the conference donors offered up only $1.7 billion. Yemen has suffered from international neglect and inadequate humanitarian relief for the last six years, and things have only become worse over time. Six years of economic warfare, blockade, and international indifference have taken a staggering toll on the civilian population. Tens of thousands of Yemenis already live in famine-like conditions, and many more will fall into the same state in the near future if there is not a major, sustained relief effort. An estimated five million people are on the edge of starvation.

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Don’t Let the Nuclear Deal Unravel

From The American Conservative:

Laura Rozen reports on the Iranian announcement that their government will cease its voluntary implementation with the IAEA’s Additional Protocol next week as part of the legislation adopted following the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh:

In a sign that some Iran experts said reflected the Iranian perception that it is taking the Biden administration too long to make a move towards returning to the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s envoy said Monday he’d informed the UN atomic watchdog agency that Iran would cease voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol on February 23.

“Act of Parliament will be executed on time (23 Feb) and the IAEA has been informed today to ensure the smooth transition to a new course in due time,” Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Kazem Gharibabadi tweeted on Monday (Feb. 15). “After all, goodwill brings about goodwill!”

For the last five years, Iran had been following this more rigorous protocol that permitted the IAEA to inspect its facilities on short notice. If the other parties to the agreement had kept up their end of the bargain, Iran was due to ratify the Additional Protocol and make this arrangement permanent in two years’ time. Next week’s deadline has been known for months, but the Biden administration seems oddly unconcerned that it is about to pass. It should be possible to give Iran incentives to delay or cancel this action, but that requires signaling to Iran that the U.S. is serious about rejoining the agreement and fulfilling its commitments. To date, the administration’s public messaging has been poor and inadequate. The insistence that the US will reenter the JCPOA only after Iran resumes full compliance has been met with disbelief in Tehran. It makes no sense for the government that violated all of its commitments to make demands of one of the governments that is still a party to the agreement, and by refusing to rejoin the agreement first Biden is jeopardizing the agreement’s survival for no good reason.

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The US Needs to Reject Endless Economic War, Too

From The American Conservative:

Peter Beinart makes a good case that broad sanctions regimes are immoral and destructive:

Why are policies that have proved so ineffective and immoral so hard to undo? Because abandoning them would require admitting hard truths: North Korea will not abandon its nuclear weapons. Iran will remain a regional power. Mr. Assad, Mr. Maduro and the Communist government in Havana aren’t going anywhere. America’s leaders would rather punish already brutalized populations than concede the limits of American power.

Like other forms of open-ended, desultory warfare, broad sanctions that affect entire countries need to be brought to an end. Just as we repudiate military attacks on civilian targets, we need to renounce economic warfare whose main and sometimes only victims are innocent civilians. The U.S. has enormous power to damage the economies of other countries, but exercising this power by strangling tens of millions of people with sanctions is inherently abusive and wrong. Pointing to the economic wreckage that sanctions create, as sanctions advocates often do, is akin to boasting about committing indiscriminate bombing of cities. As Beinart says, sanctions typically don’t achieve the goals that their supporters seek, but the more important point is that we cannot justify the means of impoverishing and starving people by pointing to the ends that these cruel policies might serve.

The US does need to recognize the limits of its power, but more than that it needs to recognize that there are some things that it has no right to demand even if it might be able to coerce another government into doing it. The fundamental error of the “maximum pressure” campaigns that have been waged against Iran and Venezuela, among others, is that it is taken for granted that the US has the right to dictate their internal and external policies. Our government does not have that right, and it never did. When a government is presented with such extreme ultimatums that threaten its independence or even its survival, it is always going to dig in and refuse to give any ground. Sanctions cannot possibly achieve such maximalist ends, and by pursuing such ends the US makes a mockery of its past commitments to respecting the independence and sovereignty of other countries.

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Biden’s Grab-Bag Foreign Policy Speech

From The American Conservative:

Yesterday the president delivered his first foreign policy address since taking office, and he chose to give it at the State Department. The location underscored Biden’s message that “diplomacy is back,” and the visit there afforded him to the opportunity to praise the work of Foreign Service Officers in an earlier set of remarks. The speech included the important announcement that the U.S. would halt its support for Saudi coalition “offensive operations” in Yemen, and it mentioned New START, the arms reduction treaty that had been due to expire today, and he noted that the US and Russia had finalized the five-year extension of the treaty earlier this week.

On Yemen, Biden stated that the US would cut off support to offensive operations, and he said that this included “relevant arms sales.” As I said yesterday, this is a good start and an important first step. The president mentioned the new Yemen envoy, Tim Lenderking, and said that the envoy will “work with the U.N. envoy and all parties of the conflict to push for a diplomatic resolution.” Biden emphasized the importance of diplomacy and humanitarian relief, and he said simply, “This war has to end.”

One of the main themes of the speech was the president’s emphasis on the importance of allies. He listed a number of allies, almost all of which were formal treaty allies, and he did not refer positively to any of the clients in the Middle East that are often mistaken for allies. The list was presumably not intended to be exhaustive, but it suggests that Biden puts more stock in genuine treaty allies than he does in other states.

Notably absent from the speech were any references to the nuclear deal or Iran policy as such, and there was likewise no discussion of ongoing US wars except for our involvement in the war on Yemen. It may be that these issues were not addressed because the administration is still getting up to speed and filling out the relevant teams of officials, but it could also be that these omissions reflect a lack of urgency on the administration’s part. North Korea and Venezuela also went unmentioned.

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US Support for the Saudi Coalition War on Yemen Is Finally Ending

From The American Conservative:

Annelle Sheline comments on the encouraging news that President Biden will shortly announce the end of U.S. support for Saudi coalition “offensive operations” in Yemen:

Biden’s team may see the withdrawal of US support for offensive military action as fulfilling his stated commitment. Yet the move is insufficient to address US complicity in Yemen’s misery. Biden must insist that Saudi Arabia and the UAE fully withdraw from Yemen and end their support for warring factions. Foreign support tends to lengthen civil wars, and given the external resources supporting opposing sides in Yemen, the war is not going to end anytime soon. As long as the US remains the preeminent military force in the region and its main supplier of weapons, America is culpable for Yemen’s destruction.

Ending support for offensive operations is an important step in the right direction. It does not go quite as far in cutting off all US military assistance to the Saudi coalition states as I would like, but it is a very good start and Biden deserves credit for doing this so soon after taking office. Sheline is correct that the US will need to do more to pressure the Saudi coalition to end its campaign, lift the blockade, and cease their economic warfare against the people of Yemen. Biden’s announcement today marks a major win for supporters of a more peaceful and restrained foreign policy, and it is the result of many years of activism and advocacy by Yemenis and Yemeni-Americans and the work of many antiwar organizations. We should be proud that US support for Saudi coalition attacks is finally ending, but we need to keep the pressure on the Saudi coalition until Yemen is finally at peace. That will mean continued pressure on Congress and the White House to halt all arms sales to belligerents in Yemen at least until they halt their involvement in the conflict. It also means holding the Biden administration accountable if they should backslide on this policy.

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Iran Hawks’ Latest Smear Campaign Has Already Failed

From The American Conservative:

Bret Stephens writes a rather disingenuous column promoting the idea of a “dissidents first” foreign policy. It is a cynical argument that focuses only on dissidents that speak out against adversaries, and it ignores that the coercive policies of sanctions that hawks like Stephens support are usually disastrous for political opponents of sanctioned regimes. Near the end of the column, he engages in a shameless drive-by smear of the Biden administration’s new Iran envoy, Rob Malley, as part of the ongoing smear campaign against him:

In that connection, it beggars belief that the White House is reportedly considering former diplomat Robert Malley as a special envoy for Iran. Malley is widely seen as one of Tehran’s premier apologists in Washington; in November 2019 he went so far as to suggest that massive public protests in Iran justified Tehran’s paranoia about an Israeli-Saudi-U.S. plot. A Malley appointment would signal that, on the things that matter most, Biden’s foreign policy will be coldly transactional.

As usual, Stephens’ claims about Malley are obnoxious and false, and his evidence relies on a selectively edited interview that misrepresents Malley’s position. Stephens makes an extremely serious accusation, and then backs it up with nothing credible. That is not surprising, but it should put his supposed enthusiasm for truth-telling dissenters in perspective. Stephens can’t be paying very close attention to the Biden administration if he has failed to notice that Biden’s National Security Advisor has already spoken in support of political prisoners and victims of abusive regimes in several countries, including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. Just as he is distorting Malley’s record and words, he is distorting the Biden administration’s views as well.

Several people have explained just how wrong Stephens is about Malley:

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