Stop Comparing Iran to the USSR

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Frederick Kagan invokes U.S. policy towards the USSR under Reagan as the model for a similar policy towards Iran today:

The attractiveness of applying to Iran the set of policies that caused the relatively peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and early 1990s, often called the “Victory Strategy,” is obvious. The strategy produced the most desirable possible end to the Cold War – victory for the United States and its allies without a major direct conflict with the Soviet Union. Similarities between Iran and the Soviet Union make it reasonable to assess that applying a similar set of policies would yield a similar result [bold mine-DL]. That assessment may indeed be accurate, and some variant of the strategy is almost certainly the correct policy to pursue against Iran today.

The silliness of comparing Iran and the Soviet Union ought to be self-evident, but for various reasons Iran hawks love to use this comparison in their arguments for regime change. The vast differences between the two states make the comparison useless for thinking about what the best policy towards Iran should be, and it is clear that the comparison is being made purely for rhetorical and ideological reasons. Kagan himself spends most of his essay detailing the significant differences between the two states, but still assumes that a variant of the same “strategy” is appropriate now.

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The Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Ahmad Algohbary and Faisal Edroos report from Dahyan in the wake of the Saudi coalition massacre of dozens of children on August 9:

Three days after the attack, victims’ families continued to throng to the scene of the attack, hoping to find the remains of their loved ones

“I didn’t find any of him,” said Abdelhakim Amir as he searched the wreckage for his son, Ahmed.

“Not his finger, not his bone, not his skull, nothing.”

CNN confirmed earlier reporting that the bomb used in the attack was sold by the U.S. and manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The attack killed more than 50 civilians, including 40 children, and injured another 79 people. Orla Guerin report here on the massacre and its aftermath.

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The US Is Aiding and Abetting Saudi Atrocities in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

There have been dozens of Saudi coalition airstrikes on civilian vehicles in Yemen this year, and coalition investigations almost never fault coalition forces:

The bombing of a bus full of schoolchildren last week was just one of more than 50 airstrikes against civilian vehicles by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen so far this year, according to new data.

The data also shows that the monitoring body set up in Riyadh purportedly to investigate incidents of civilian casualties has supported the Saudi military version of events in almost every case.

The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) has not issued comprehensive statistics but has instead issued periodic press statements. And according to an analysis by Human Rights Watch (HRW), out of 75 incidents where civilian casualties were reported, JIAT has admitted Saudi rules of engagement may have been broken in only two.

The frequency of coalition attacks on these vehicles confirms their blatant disregard for civilian lives that we have seen repeated again and again over the last three years. As the Yemen Data Project has shown, at least close to a third of coalition strikes hit civilian targets in the last year. That figure has been consistent for the last several years. The number of civilian vehicles attacked by the coalition this year is higher than the year before, so that should put to rest the idea that the U.S. has done anything to “improve” how coalition conducts itself in this war. There can’t be measurable improvement in protection of civilians when all signs keep pointing to the coalition’s frequent, deliberate targeting of civilian vehicles and structures. Perpetrators can’t be trusted to investigate themselves, and the Saudi coalition has proven to be most untrustworthy. When the US and U.N. allow the Saudi coalition to investigate their own crimes, they are aiding the Saudis and their allies in covering up massacres.

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Trump Ignores Congress’ Yemen Conditions

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Trump signed the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. Among other things, the bill contained provisions that place conditions on U.S. support for the Saudi coalition. The president made clear in his signing statement that he was going to ignore any limitations Congress tried to put on US backing for the coalition’s war effort:

The signing statement singles out several provisions which Trump argues would restrict his control in ways he believes are needed for “military missions,” and inconsistent with his “constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.”

Trump suggested that he’d ignore all the limitations placed on the Yemen War, and objected to providing an assessment on war crimes to Congress, saying it violates executive privilege.

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The US Is Deeply Complicit in Saudi Coalition Crimes in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Micah Zenko catches Secretary Mattis making an obviously false claim about U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen:

I saw Mattis’ comment yesterday and said this:

When we remember that the U.S. has provided the Saudi coalition with arms, refueling, intelligence, and diplomatic cover so that they can wage their war on Yemen for more than three years, it is remarkable that U.S. officials try to keep up the pretense that our government is not involved in the conflict. The Pentagon is quick to remind us that their support is “limited” and “non-combat” in nature whenever the Saudi coalition kills civilians with U.S.-supplied weapons, but at the same time they are adamant that their “limited” support must never be cut off. When they assert that U.S. assistance helps limit civilian casualties (for which they provide no evidence), U.S. officials stress how vitally important that assistance is. When it comes to answering for coalition atrocities, they pretend that they have nothing to do with the fighting. If that excuse doesn’t work, they will shrug and claim not to know the extent of U.S. responsibility:

“We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the US sold to them,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesperson for US Central Command, told me.

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The Pathetic US Response to the Latest Saudi Massacre

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The U.S. response to the massacre of dozens of children and other civilians earlier today was predictably feeble:

The U.S. State Department called on Thursday for the Saudi-led coalition to investigate reported air strikes in Yemen that killed dozens of people, including children.

“We are certainly concerned about the reports that there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians. We call on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a press briefing.

Any investigation conducted by the Saudi coalition into this attack will be neither thorough nor transparent. There is no point in calling for an inquiry by the perpetrators of the crime. We already know that they will determine that they did nothing wrong. We know this because the coalition governments always find that their pilots did nothing wrong, and if that weren’t enough the Saudi king offers blanket pardons for any crimes that his forces might commit in Yemen. Coalition forces know that they won’t be punished by their own governments if they commit crimes against Yemeni civilians, and their governments know that Washington won’t penalize them, either. The Trump administration can’t even muster pro forma condemnation of the senseless slaughter of schoolchildren, so they certainly have no intention of pressuring the coalition to scale back its bombing campaign.

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