A Malevolent Decision That Will Kill Countless Yemenis

From The American Conservative:

The Trump administration is moving ahead with the disastrous decision to label the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization:

The Trump administration is preparing to designate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents a terrorist organization before leaving office in January, fueling fears the move will disrupt international aid efforts and upend United Nations-brokered peace efforts between the Shiite movement and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, according to several diplomatic sources.

The U.N. and international relief agencies have tried to dissuade the Trump administration from designating the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, but the apparently imminent decision would give U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another victory in his anti-Iran strategy as he visits Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates this week. Riyadh, which has been at war with the Houthis for over five years, has already designated the Houthis a terrorist organization and has been urging Washington to do the same.

Parts of Yemen are already suffering from famine, and millions more could experience the same if this designation goes ahead. The effect that this decision will have on the civilian population is horrifying to contemplate. That is why international aid organizations, the UN, and virtually everyone that has been following the conflict in Yemen have been pleading with the Trump administration not to do this. It would be an exceptionally cruel and destructive act, and it also makes no sense on the merits.

Scott Paul of Oxfam reacted to the news earlier tonight:

We cannot forget about the ongoing disaster that our government’s support for the war on Yemen has created, and with this terrorist designation the US is set to make an already appalling humanitarian crisis so much worse. Because most of Yemen’s population lives in Houthi-controlled territory, and the Houthis function as the de facto government, a terrorist designation amounts to full-on economic warfare against the people of Yemen. The FTO designation is the harshest measure that Pompeo could choose, and it shows that he is aiming for causing maximum harm for its own sake.

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An Aggressive China Policy Is a Recipe for More Endless Wars

From The American Conservative:

Robert Farley explains why the U.S. can’t end endless wars if it pursues an aggressive China policy:

The problem is straightforward: Any effort to characterize China as an existential threat to the United States necessarily implies a level of conflict that will (as it did during the Cold War) provide justification for US intervention anywhere in the world. The solution for a less interventionist foreign policy is not to play up the threat of Beijing in the hopes the US will stop intervening elsewhere, but rather to carefully rethink what constitutes a threat to US core values, and what the United States must sacrifice to meet that threat.

The open-ended wars that the US has been fighting for the last two decades were the result of exaggerating a relatively small, manageable threat (i.e., terrorist attacks) into a major global menace that required massive resources and frequent military interventions in many different countries. One can only imagine how much worse things will be if the US replaces its militarized overreaction to terrorism with a militarized overreaction to the Chinese government. A hard-line China policy not only increases the likelihood of conflict between the US and China in East Asia, but it is also likely to encourage more interference in the affairs of other countries that have close relations with China.

If a U.S.-China rivalry follows the pattern of other great power rivalries, that would involve trying to subvert client governments through proxy wars and coups and sometimes intervening directly to overthrow those clients. Policymakers would predictably claim that peripheral countries are actually vitally important and must be “defended” or pulled into our orbit. Hawkish pundits would write articles about “who lost Malawi” and explain why it was absolutely “crucial” to American security that we prop up a dictator in Uzbekistan. The US would wage wars for “credibility” and refuse to end them for the same reason.

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Cuba and Washington’s Absurd Overuse of Sanctions

From The American Conservative:

Mike Pompeo is reportedly considering adding Cuba to the list of state sponsors of terrorism in another last-minute move to box in the incoming administration:

State Department officials have drawn up a proposal to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, a final-hour foreign policy move that would complicate plans by the incoming Biden administration to relax increased American pressure on Havana.

Like the other designations that Pompeo’s State Department has made or considered in recent years, naming Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism is without merit and it is being done mainly to spite the next administration. If it happens, it will be a stupid, petty, and harmful decision. That is what we have come to expect from Pompeo and the rest of this administration, but that is no excuse for what they’re doing.

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Lloyd Austin and the War on Yemen

From The American Conservative:

Mark Perry has written an excellent report on Lloyd Austin’s policy views. Among other things, Perry finds that Austin was strongly opposed to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen when he was in charge of Centcom:

What’s crucial is what Austin did in the aftermath of these failures, particularly after the Saudi intervention in Yemen. “Lloyd was enraged by the Saudi intervention,” a senior officer who worked with Austin at Centcom said, “because we [the Americans] were quietly supporting the Houthi fight against AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] at the time.” Austin was so angered by the Saudi move, this now-retired officer said, that he considered formally requesting that the Obama administration denounce the intervention. “We waved him off of that,” the officer with whom I spoke at the time said. But Austin also predicted the troubles the Saudis would face and made his views known to senior civilians at the Pentagon. “He thought the Saudis would lose in Yemen and that, before it was all over, we would have to bail them out,” this same officer noted. Austin was right on both counts: The Saudis found themselves mired in Yemen and dependent on U.S. intelligence assets in their fight.

The Obama administration’s support for the war on Yemen was one of its greatest and most destructive errors. If the president and the Secretary of Defense had listened to Austin’s advice and refused to support the war, that could have been avoided. It reflects very well on Austin’s judgment that he understood that the Saudi intervention wasn’t going to succeed. One of my concerns about Austin is that he would be too indulgent of the Saudis and the UAE because of his Centcom experience, just as Mattis had been when he was Defense Secretary, but this record suggests just the opposite. At the very least, that bodes well for how the Biden administration will act in Yemen. Austin’s view of the war on Yemen helps make sense of why Biden selected him.

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The Latest Phony ‘Peace’ Deal Is Stoking Conflict

From The American Conservative:

Mitchell Plitnick examines the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara:

The agreement with Morocco combines the worst of both the Abraham Accords with the UAE and Bahrain and the agreement with Sudan. It also tramples on international law, and provides yet another example of the Trump administration paying far more than necessary for a meager gain.

The Morocco deal may be the tawdriest and ugliest of the various agreements that the Trump administration has announced over the last few months. In exchange for some modest concessions (liaison offices, direct flights, etc.) to Israel, the U.S. has made a major change in policy and abandoned a position it has held for decades at the expense of an oppressed people. The Trump administration has endorsed another illegal occupation, further making a mockery of our government’s claims to respect international law and the principle of self-determination. The U.S. has paid a high price for very little, and the U.S. itself will receive nothing except well-deserved opprobrium. It is hardly a triumph of diplomacy to give one state everything it could possibly want while obtaining nothing for one’s own country.

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Stop Pushing Yemen Deeper Into Famine

From The American Conservative:

The U.N. made another appeal to the Trump administration not to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization. The head of the World Food Program met with Pompeo to warn of the devastating effect that the designation would have on the population:

In recent weeks, officials from the United Nations and aid groups have issued increasingly urgent warnings about the potential designation, saying it could dramatically worsen already dire conditions in Yemen by reducing the amount of lifesaving aid and commercial imports moving into the country.

The people of Yemen are already facing famine. Some parts of Yemen are experiencing famine-like conditions right now. Tens of thousands will soon be in this condition, and that is before we take the effects of this possible designation into account:

The International Rescue Committee is extremely concerned by the findings of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) that classified parts of Yemen as experiencing ‘famine like conditions’, with over 47,000 people projected to fall into this category in the next 6 months. Food insecurity and hunger had increased by 60% since April of this year, and in October of this year, child malnutrition was recorded as the highest it has ever been in some areas.

Taking any action that would disrupt humanitarian aid or block economic activity in Houthi-controlled territory amounts to a death sentence for tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people. Designating the Houthis is exactly the wrong thing to be doing in Yemen right now, and it will cause enormous harm for no good reason. To do this now is to knowingly hasten and worsen the man-made famine that our government’s support for the war has helped to create.

Stephen Snyder also reports on the humanitarian disaster that would follow from a designation:

If the United States labels the Houthis as an FTO, many aid activities in Yemen will stop.

“Designation would make it generally illegal for anyone to transact with Ansar Allah armed group [the Houthis] or the government they control in Sana’a,” said Scott Paul, humanitarian policy lead for Oxfam America. “And depending on how it’s designated, it might also prohibit the provision of any form of support, anything as small as a slice of pizza at a training.”

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