Top 7 Middle East Foreign Policy Challenges in 2016

Published on (first on Informed Comment), by Juan Cole, Jan 1, 2015.

… But in 2016 the Middle East is likely to be the hot button issue in US foreign policy. While I recognize the enormous Iran breakthrough as a major feather in the administration’s cap, I’m a critic of many of the Obama administration’s other policies in the region. We are allied with allies of al-Qaeda in Syria, allied with the Saudis in bombing Yemen, allied with the hard line Shiites in Iraq, allied with the hard line Israeli squatters in the Palestinian West Bank, and in some arenas where a little diplomacy would be helpful, we haven’t done much. These policies are pernicious and self-contradictory, and this administration only has a year to change some of them … //

  • … 4. The US should distance itself from the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has involved indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and put pressure on Riyadh to come to a negotiated settlement with the Houthis and the loyalists of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh. If the Yemen war goes on, millions will be displaced, adding to the world refugee crisis, thousands could starve or thirst to death, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula could end up ruling entire provinces (it is the most determined of the al-Qaeda affiliates to attack the United States and the West, and was implicated in the Charlie Hebdo massacre last January).
  • 5. President Obama has admitted that he and his allies erred in intervening in Libya and then just more or less walking away. No attempt was made to bring the militias into a national army, and little support was given elected parliamentarians. Civil society was not strengthened. Now Daesh has a slender toehold in some coastal towns. What I can’t understand is why this reflection on the president’s part does not produce new Libya policy. As far as I can see, Washington has continued to distance itself from the outcomes in that country, some of which are very dangerous. Amazingly, the diplomatic track in Libya via the UN has been having some tentative success. But the US needs to do more. It is called policy-making … //
  • //
  • … 7. The administration needs to be substantially more pro-active in combating the wave of bigotry and racism washing over American politics. Hatred of Muslim, Latinos and African-Americans is boiling over into hate crimes, with severe potential foreign policy implications. President Obama has, I think, often held back because he does not want to be seen as a racial partisan or feed the flames of the birthers’ fevered conspiracy theorists. But the situation is now too perilous to let such considerations reign. We all saw what happened when Ike Eisenhower was hesitant to take on the McCarthyites directly. President Obama has to ask himself, what would the Rev. Martin Luther King say in these circumstances? And then say it. Despite his reputation as a great orator, I haven’t heard a good speech from Obama in a long time. He has Muslim relatives. He got the Latino vote. He is an African-American. It is time he stood up for them, and for all of us with a major address and a set of policies. Since the conservatives have passed all those laws protecting people’s religious rights, the Department of Justice should establish a task force to see that Muslims’ rights are not being interfered with by local government. And Federal law already prohibits discrimination against people on grounds of race; but after Ferguson we know that there are entire towns functioning as a Casino for the wealthy white population and taking 3% for the House from the African-Americans. Aside from denouncing it in a white paper, what has the DOJ really done about these race scams?

(full text).

(attached to this article a related video: After Ramadi, bigger fights to come in Iraq against ISIS, 7.57 min, on NewsHour … also on YouTube, uploaded by PBS NewsHour).


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Innovation and migration: A gift to the West, on Pambazuka News, by Gussai H. Sheikheldin, Dec 6, 2015: Immigration waves to Western countries are not only ‘manageable’ (in terms of sufficient space and resources to accept immigrants); rather, they continuously bring advances in innovation, knowledge and wealth regeneration, keeping the West leading the most important sectors in modern global economy. Progressive arguments that say the West has a moral responsibility towards immigrants only tell half the story;

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… and this:

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