Though U.S. President Joe Biden is publicly critical of Donald Trump’s foreign policies, he’s continuing almost all of them and is changing only minor ones. The changes are almost entirely in rhetoric, not in policies, as will be documented here.
A good example of this entirely rhetorical ‘difference’ is described in a February 19th article from Reuters, “Drawing contrast with Trump, Biden promises U.S. allies a partnership that’s not transactional”. Biden’s policy, to “promote democracy over autocracies,” condemns Trump’s polices as having been “transactional” instead of based on “values.” But, actually, America’s invasions, and coups, and economic sanctions, during the past few decades, have been ‘justified’ by condemning the U.S. regime’s target-nations (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine before America’s 2014 coup there — and now Ukraine is ‘our ally’) as not being “democratic,” and as not adhering to ‘human rights’, as if the U.S. regime itself were an authentic democracy, or were unquestionably better on human rights than the targets against which its aggressions are directed — none of which is true.
If America were a democracy, then why does it have a higher percentage of its residents in prisons than does any other nation on the planet? And they’re almost all poor people, who couldn’t even afford a good lawyer. That’s ‘equal rights’? America is a country of equal rights? And it provides equal opportunity there, if your father went to prison? (Many ex-cons in America aren’t even allowed to vote. And their job-prospects, with a prison record or empty years shown on a CV, are permanently reduced.) Biden condemned “Trump, who angered allies by breaking off global accords and threatening to end defense assistance unless they toed his line. ‘Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional’ [he said].” Liberal hogwash — purely arrogant lies, by the U.S. regime, so that it can continue to perpetrate aggression against its target-nations, while appearing, to suckers, to be a ‘kinder and gentler nation’.
The hypocrisy of that is understood by all of America’s allies — all leaders of the empire’s vassal-nations. They know that many of those allied leaders are, themselves, even more tyrannical than America’s leaders are. For example, on February 16th, the BBC bannered “Princess Latifa: ‘Hostage’ ordeal of Dubai ruler’s daughter revealed”, and reported: “The daughter of Dubai’s ruler who tried to flee the country in 2018 later sent secret video messages to friends accusing her father of holding her ‘hostage’ as she feared for her life. In footage shared with BBC Panorama, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum says commandos drugged her as she fled by boat and flew her back to detention.” Will Biden therefore dump its UAE vassal-nation, for this “problem,” which goes all the way back to the year 2000 and has never yet caused the U.S. regime to drop any ‘ally’?
Another of ‘democratic’ America’s vassal leaders, the one who controls Saudi Arabia, had perpetrated the 2 October 2018 luring into Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (who feared for his life even as he entered there) where he was immediately dismembered and chopped-up by the team of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, and thus was placed on public display how above-the-law Saudi Arabia’s Government really is. The five execution-team-members, whom the Crown Prince had reason to believe might testify against him if released, were sentenced to death. So, anyone who would be hired for such an operation in the future would be a fool to trust that employer. The only real insiders in such a regime are at the very top. ‘Honor among thieves’ doesn’t exist at that high a level. Finally, on 9 September 2019, Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper bannered “Saudi hit squad’s gruesome conversations during Khashoggi’s murder revealed”, and reported that
The recordings, which took place before the murder between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, 2018, reveal in detail the plans and preparations made between the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the Riyadh administration.
On Sept. 28, when Khashoggi came to the Saudi Consulate for papers to marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz, Ahmed Abdullah al-Muzaini, who worked as Saudi Arabia’s intelligence station chief at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, informed Riyadh with an emergency code that Khashoggi had arrived at the consulate. Khashoggi’s return to the consulate on Oct. 2 was also informed to Riyadh.
On the same day at 7:08 p.m., Saudi Consul Otaibi held a phone call with an official from the office of Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide of Crown Prince Mohammed.
During the conversation, the murder of Khashoggi was called [in order to code so as to hide what was going on, in case Turkish intelligence were listening-in] “a private matter” and “a top-secret mission.” The official told the Saudi consul that “the head of state security called me. They have a mission. They want one of your officials from your delegation to deal with a private matter. They want someone from your protocol… for a private, top-secret mission. He can even get permission if necessary.”
These statements are proof that the murder of Khashoggi was not done without the consent of the Saudi crown prince.
And Israel’s Netanyahu isn’t leading a racist apartheid theocratic nation? And Saudi Arabia’s monarch and his son Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud aren’t also leading a pro-jihadist regime, and America’s Government don’t know this?
Not “transactional”? It’s actually just replacing Trump’s transactionalism by Biden’s more hypocritical type.
And the hypocrisy here goes beyond the “not transactional” lie. On February 18th, Reuters headlined “U.S. says ready for talks with Iran over nuclear deal” and this propaganda reported that:
Washington would respond positively to any European Union invitation to talks among Iran and the six major powers who negotiated the original agreement: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
“We are ready to show up if such a meeting were to take place,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, after a senior EU official said he was prepared to convene such a meeting among the parties to the deal.
But it’s just a nothingburger.
Though Russia supported an unconditional restoration of the Iran deal, because only the U.S. had broken it and quit it, the U.S. ‘allies’ backed the aggressor-nation (the U.S. regime), “during a video meeting with his British, French and German counterparts gathered in Paris,” as Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken (who has supported every U.S. invasion including the 2003 invasion of Iraq) led them:
“Secretary Blinken reiterated that … if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end,” a joint statement from the four nations said.
America broke it first, but Iran must return to it first — according to America (which broke it first). Only idiots would accept such wacky ‘reasoning’. But Joe Biden’s Administration appeals only to such idiots. And yet America’s liberals deride Trump for Trump’s stupidity, and for the stupidity of his followers. Truth, and progressivism (which opposes all lies, conservative or liberal), have virtually no representation in today’s American politics. Progressives are marginalized here.
Also on February 18th, the Moon of Alabama blogger bannered “Why Is Biden Creating Himself An Iran Quagmire?” and he wrote that the U.S. side were not only demanding that Iran cancel its own departure from the Iran deal (which cancellation had followed after the U.S. had already abandoned the deal) before the U.S. and its gang would return to the negotiating table to restore the Iran deal, but that in addition the U.S. and its ‘allies’ would demand that Iran restrict its missile program — which hadn’t even been included in the Iran deal — before the U.S. and its allies would negotiate a return to the Iran deal. In other words: Iran would have to make concessions first — though only the U.S. had actually broken the deal — and the U.S. and its ‘allies’ still wouldn’t negotiate unless and until Iran would first agree to reduce its missile-forces (which weren’t part of the Iran deal). Furthermore, already, a law recently passed in Iran’s Parliament requires Iran’s Government to bring an end to the IAEA inspections, starting on February 23rd; so, Iran’s Government wouldn’t be allowed to back down to the U.S. regime’s demands, even if Iran’s President were stupid enough to want to do so.
Instead of the gangster — the U.S. regime — apologizing for what it had done, it tries to fool its own and allied publics into believing that Iran — and not the U.S. gang — were the criminals here. The blatancy of America’s being a regime instead of a democracy is obvious (after all, America stole Iran in 1953 and has been trying to grab it back ever since Iran finally broke away in 1979), and Biden’s pretense to being in a better category than Trump is based on lies that only fools could believe.
And then there’s Syria.
On January 23rd, Zero Hedge — linking to reliable online sources — headlined “A Large US Military Convoy Rolled Into Syria On 1st Day Of Biden Presidency”. Not only is the new U.S. President Joe Biden intensifying America’s invasion of Syria, but he is preparing to increase the theft of oil that his predecessor Trump began in Syria after Trump’s predecessor Obama had begun America’s attempted conquest of Syria in 2012.
Among the sources which were linked to, in that news-report, is Syrian National News Agency (SANA), which — in the past — has proven to have been truthful, about the war, far more often than standard U.S. and other anti-Syrian ‘journalism’ has been shown to have been. SANA reported, on January 21st (Biden’s first day as U.S. President) that:
The so-called US-led international coalition has sent weapons and logistical materials to its illegitimate bases in Hasaka countryside.
Local sources told SANA that a convoy consisted of 40 trucks loaded with weapons and logistical materials, affiliated to the so-called international coalition have entered in Hasaka countryside via al-Walid illegitimate border crossing with north of Iraq, to reinforce illegitimate bases in the area.
Over the past few days, helicopters affiliated to the so-called international coalition have transported logistical equipment and heavy military vehicles to Koniko [Conoco] oil field in northeastern Deir Ezzor countryside, after turning it into military base to reinforce its presence and loot the Syrian resources.
That oil field had been heavily contested during 2016 between Syria’s Government (which owns it) and ISIS, until U.S. President Barack Obama bombed Syria’s troops who were protecting it, and immediately ISIS forces moved in, and took it over (as was Obama’s intention). That oil facility promptly became the chief source of income for ISIS’s Syrian operation, to overthrow Syria’s Government.
On 30 April 2017, I had bannered “How Obama & Erdogan Moved ISIS from Iraq to Syria, to Weaken Assad”, and explained:
Chris Tomson of Al Masdar News headlined on Monday May 1st, “Syrian Army tank takes direct hit from ISIS guided missile in Deir Ezzor”[on Sunday, April 30th] and reported that, “Currently, government forces are less than 1500 meters from linking up Deir Ezzor city to its airbase,” which would be an essential link-up in order for the Syrian government to begin to restore control over the largest city in eastern Syria. Here will be the account of how U.S. President Barack Obama handed that city over to ISIS by means of two key actions, so as to weaken Assad’s government.
Today, Der Zor, or Deir Ezzor, Syria’s major oil center, is controlled by ISIS or Daesh, but Obama’s warplanes bombed the Syrian government troops there on 17 September 2016 and thereby ended the then 5-day-old ceasefire that John Kerry had spent months putting together with Sergei Lavrov [Russia’s Foreign Minister], and thus Obama effectively ended all peace negotiations with Russia regarding Syria. Then, when U.S. and Turkish forces attacked ISIS in Mosul Iraq, an escape-path was intentionally left by them for those ISIS jihadists to travel west to Der Zor, so that they could not only take over the oil wells there, but do major damage to the Syrian government’s army forces in that key city, after Obama had bombed there on September 17th. Consequently, Erdogan and Obama were now using ISIS in Mosul as a means for reinforcing ISIS in Syria, in such a way as to provide oil-income to ISIS and also to directly weaken Assad’s government.
Obama never told anyone that he favored ISIS and all jihadists over Assad’s government, but he showed it clearly and consistently by his actions.
A 12 August 2012 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warning[whose original can be seen here] that the Obama Administration’s strategy might drive ISIS from Mosul in Iraq to Der Zor in Syria, has actually been carried out as a plan instead of a warning — a plan to weaken and ultimately oust Syria’s non-sectarian President Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a Sunni Sharia-law regime (one led by jihadists). The 2012 DIA warning had called this scenario an “unraveling,” but Obama and the U.S. Congress actually chose it, so as to set the incoming President Trump up with an opportunity to replace Assad’s government by one that the Sauds and their U.S.-made weapons will control.
Previously, Al Qaeda had been stealing Syria’s oil, and the EU was cooperating with the Obama regime in order to help sell into the EU nations. Syrian troops briefly grabbed it back, but Obama now forced Syria’s Army out and handed that oil-facility to ISIS, so that they could make money from it and continue the job of weakening Syria’s Government.
On 9 March 2019, three years into Trump’s Presidency, I headlined “Syria Accuses U.S. of Stealing 40+ Tons of Its Gold” that ISIS had accumulated from their foreign sales of Syria’s oil. However, now that U.S. President Trump knew that ISIS had been ‘earning’ that much money from selling that oil, he wanted to become the person who would be choosing whom would be funded by Syria’s oil. So, on 30 October 2019, I bannered “How the U.S. Regime ‘Justifies’ the Theft of Syria’s Oil” and reported that
On 26 Oct, the New York Times headlined “Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission” and opened by saying that “in recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country.” They closed with a statement from Bruce Riedel, retired from the CIA: “‘Let’s say he does do it,’ Mr. Riedel said. ‘Let’s say we establish the precedent that we are in the Middle East to take the oil. The symbolism is really bad.’” The propaganda-value of a ‘news’-report is concentrated in its opening, and especially in what the ‘reporter’ (fulfilling the intentions of his editors) selected to be at the very end (such as Riedel’s statement). However, is what’s wrong with taking Syria’s oil actually the “symbolism,” as Riedel said, or is it instead the theft — the reality (and why did the NYT pretend that it’s the symbolism)? Nowhere did that NYT article use the word “theft,” or anything like it, but that is the actual issue here — not mere ‘symbolism’.
So, Biden will continue that operation, which Obama had started and Trump continued.
The goal is to hand to the Saud family control over Syria’s government. The Sauds are to select whom the rulers of Syrians will be. That has been the plan ever since the CIA’s second coup, which briefly overthrew Syria’s Government, in 1949.
And then there’s Julian Assange, who has never been convicted of anything but is being drugged and held in a British maximum-security prison as the latest stage in his decade-long imprisonment-without-conviction for anything. A British judge dropped all charges against him and was keeping him in prison pending a decision by Joe Biden (via Merrick Garland) on whether or not to re-assert Donald Trump’s re-assertion of Barack Obama’s assertion that Assange had stolen (though he never stole) and made public U.S. Government secrets and should be extradited to the U.S. for what everyone expects to be a kangaroo court trial that would end in his execution for having done what Daniel Ellsberg had done in the Pentagon Papers case about the Vietnam War. The international hero, Assange, is to be ‘tried’ in a U.S. court. On February 12th, the New York Times bannered, “Biden Justice Dept. Asks British Court to Approve Extradition of Julian Assange”. Biden continues Trump’s continuation of Obama’s attempt to murder Julian Assange.
Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policies are putting Democratic Party lipstick onto the Republican Party’s pig. That’s his ‘change’, on U.S. foreign policies.
Just like with Hitler, it’s all fakery, except that (like with Hitler) the evil which motivates it, and which threatens the entire world, is all too real. Whether the U.S. regime will go all the way to yet another World War in order to impose it everywhere (as Hitler aspired to do), is unknown. (Some experts think the signs point that way.) Hitler went that far, but lost his war. And his spirit (minus the anti-Semitism) then took over in Washington, but with ‘kinder’ rhetoric. The results in the nuclear Age would be that everyone would lose. The only way to stop that would be to stop Washington, but that’s a decision which only Washington’s vassal-nations would make — if they will.
And even on his domestic polices, Biden lies in order to serve the priorities of the billionaires who funded his way into the White House. For example, on February 20th, NPR headlined “FACT CHECK: Biden’s Comments On Loan Forgiveness And Elite Colleges” and proved that he was deceiving the public about that issue. He is as corrupt as they come. The stopping of the U.S. aristocracy will either come from abroad, or not at all. It won’t come internally from within the U.S., because the regime doesn’t allow its public to recognize that it’s a regime — an imperialistic aristocracy — instead of a democracy. It’s more cunning than Hitler was. America’s aristocracy recognizes that in modern times, personification of their regime (in a monarch or other ‘divinely ordained’ individual or “Fuehrer”) produces only a fleeting dictatorship and one that is hard to keep in line or continue with a successor. In modern times, a ‘democratic’ dictatorship has more lasting power. So, that’s what we now have. The spirit of Hitler lives on, in America’s aristocracy.
Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture
As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them
Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*
In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.
Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.
New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming
To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.
Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.
We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.
How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?
Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.
As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.
Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.
Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.
Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.
Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.
Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.
Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.
Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.
Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.
Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success
This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the United Arab Emirates highlights the successes and pitfalls of a high-stakes Emirati effort to influence US policy.
The indictment of businessman Thomas J. Barrack, who maintained close ties to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed while serving as an influential advisor in 2016 to then-presidential candidate Trump and chair of Mr. Trump’s inauguration committee once he won the 2016 election, puts at risk the UAE’s relationship with the Biden administration.
It also threatens to reduce the UAE’s return on a massive investment in lobbying and public relations that made it a darling in Washington during the last four years.
A 2019 study concluded that Emirati clients hired 20 US lobbying firms to do their bidding at a cost of US$20 million, including US$600,000 in election campaign contributions — one of the largest, if not the largest expenditure by a single state on Washington lobbying and influence peddling.
The indictment further raises the question of why the Biden administration was willing to allow legal proceedings to put at risk its relationship with one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, one that last year opened the door to recognition of Israel by Arab and Muslim-majority states.
The UAE lobbying effort sought to position the Emirates, and at its behest, Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed’s counterpart, Mohammed bin Salman, at the heart of US policy, ensure that Emirati and Saudi interests were protected, and shield the two autocrats from criticism of various of their policies and abuse of human rights.
Interestingly, UAE lobbying in the United States, in contrast to France and Austria, failed to persuade the Trump administration to embrace one of the Emirates’ core policy objectives: a US crackdown on political Islam with a focus on the Muslim Brotherhood. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed views political Islam and the Brotherhood that embraces the principle of elections as an existential threat to the survival of his regime.
In one instance cited in the indictment, Mr. Barrack’s two co-defendants, a UAE national resident in the United States, Rashid Al-Malik, and Matthew Grimes, a Barrack employee, discussed days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration the possibility of persuading the new administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a designated foreign terrorist organization. “This will be a huge win. If we can list them. And they deserved to be,” Mr. Al-Malik texted Mr. Grimes on 23 January 2017.
The unsuccessful push for designating the Brotherhood came three months after Mr. Barrack identified the two Prince Mohammeds in an op-ed in Fortune magazine as members of a new generation of “brilliant young leaders.” The billionaire argued that “American foreign policy must persuade these bold visionaries to lean West rather than East… By supporting their anti-terrorism platforms abroad, America enhances its anti-terrorism policies at home.”
Mr. Barrack further sought to persuade America’s new policymakers, in line with Emirati thinking, that the threat posed by political Islam emanated not only from Iran’s clerical regime and its asymmetric defence and security policies but also from the Brotherhood and Tukey’s Islamist government. He echoed Emirati promotion of Saudi Arabia after the rise of Mohammed bin Salman as the most effective bulwark against political Islam.
“It is impossible for the US to move against any hostile Islamic group anywhere in the world without Saudi support…. The confused notion that Saudi Arabia is synonymous with radical Islam is falsely based on the Western notion that ‘one size fits all,’ Mr. Barrack asserted.
The Trump administration’s refusal to exempt the Brotherhood from its embrace of Emirati policy was the likely result of differences within both the US government and the Muslim world. Analysts suggest that some in the administration feared that designating the Brotherhood would empower the more rabidly Islamophobic elements in Mr. Trump’s support base.
Administration officials also recognized that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt constituted a minority, albeit a powerful minority, in the Muslim world that was on the warpath against the Brotherhood.
Elsewhere, Brotherhood affiliates were part of the political structure by either participating in government or constituting part of the legal opposition in countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Indonesia.
The affiliates have at times supported US policies or worked closely with US allies like in the case of Yemen’s Al Islah that is aligned with Saudi-backed forces.
In contrast to UAE efforts to ensure that the Brotherhood is crushed at the risk of fueling Islamophobia, Nahdlatul Ulama, one of, if not the world’s largest Muslim organization which shares the Emirates’ rejection of political Islam and the Brotherhood, has opted to fight the Brotherhood’s local Indonesian affiliate politically within a democratic framework rather than by resorting to coercive tactics.
Nahdlatul Ulama prides itself on having significantly diminished the prospects of Indonesia’s Brotherhood affiliate, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), since the 2009 presidential election. The group at the time successfully drove a wedge between then-President Susilo Yudhoyono, and the PKS, his coalition partner since the 2004 election that brought him to power. In doing so, it persuaded Mr. Yudhoyono to reject a PKS candidate as vice president in the second term of his presidency.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s manoeuvring included the publication of a book asserting that the PKS had not shed its links to militancy. The party has since failed to win even half of its peak 38 seats in parliament garnered in the 2004 election.
“Publication of ‘The Illusion of an Islamic State: The Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements to Indonesia’ had a considerable impact on domestic policy. It primarily contributed to neutralizing one candidate’s bid for vice president in the 2009 national election campaign, who had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said militancy expert Magnus Ranstorp.
Biden Revises US Sanctions Policy
In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his political goals and, at the same time, reducing political and economic costs. The coordination of restrictive measures with allies is also seen as an important task. Biden is cautiously but consistently abandoning the sanctions paradigm that emerged during Donald Trump’s presidency.
The US sanctions policy under Trump was characterised by several elements. First, Washington applied them quite harshly. In all key areas (China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), the United States used economic and financial restrictions without hesitation, and sometimes in unprecedented volumes. Of course, the Trump administration acted rationally and rigidity was not an end in itself. In a number of episodes, the American authorities acted prudently (for example, regarding sanctions on Russian sovereign debt in 2019). The Trump-led executives stifled excess Congressional enthusiasm for “draconian sanctions” against Russia and even some initiatives against China. However, the harshness of other measures sometimes shocked allies and opponents alike. These include the 6 April 2014 sanctions against a group of Russian businessmen and their assets, or bans on some Chinese telecommunications services in the United States, or sanctions blocking the International Criminal Court.
Second, Trump clearly ignored the views of US allies. The unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 forced European businesses to leave Iran, resulting in losses. Even some of the nation’s closest allies were annoyed. Another irritant was the tenacity with which Trump (with Congressional backing) threw a wrench in the wheels of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Despite the complicated relations between Moscow and the European Union, the latter defended the right to independently determine what was in its interests and what was not.
Third, concerns about sanctions have emerged among American business as well. Fears have grown in financial circles that the excessive use of sanctions will provoke the unnecessary politicisation of the global financial system. In the short term, a radical decline in the global role of the dollar is hardly possible. But political risks are forcing many governments to seriously consider it. Both rivals (Moscow and Beijing) and allies (Brussels) have begun to implement corresponding plans. Trade sanctions against China have affected a number of US companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sectors.
Finally, on some issues, the Trump administration has been inconsistent or simply made mistakes. For example, Trump enthusiastically criticised China for human rights violations, supporting relevant legislative initiatives. But at the same time, it almost closed its eyes to the events in Belarus in 2020. Congress was also extremely unhappy with the delay in the reaction on the “Navalny case” in Russia. As for mistakes, the past administration missed the moment for humanitarian exemptions for sanctions regimes in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. Even cosmetic indulgences could have won points for US “soft power”. Instead, the US Treasury has published a list of pre-existing exceptions.
The preconditions for a revision of the sanctions policy arose even before Joe Biden came to power. First of all, a lot of analytical work was done by American think tanks—nongovernmental research centers. They provided a completely sober and unbiased analysis of bothха! achievements and mistakes. In addition, the US Government Accountability Office has done serious work; in 2019 it prepared two reports for Congress on the institutions of the American sanctions policy. However, Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election significantly accelerated the revision of the sanctions instruments. Both the ideological preferences of the Democrats (for example, the emphasis on human rights) and the political experience of Biden himself played a role.
The new guidelines for the US sanctions policy can be summarised as follows. First, the development of targeted sanctions and a more serious analysis of their economic costs for American business, as well as business from allied and partner countries. Second, closer coordination with allies. Here, Biden has already sent a number of encouraging signals by introducing temporary sanctions exemptions on Nord Stream 2. Although a number of Russian organisations and ships were included in the US sanctions lists, Nord Stream 2 itself and its leadership were not affected. Third, we are talking about closer attention to the subject of human rights. Biden has already reacted with sanctions both to the “Navalny case” and to the situation in Belarus. Human rights will be an irritant in relations with China. Fourth, the administration is working towards overturning Trump’s most controversial decisions. The 2020 decrees on Chinese telecoms were cancelled, the decree on sanctions against the International Criminal Court was cancelled, the decree on Chinese military-industrial companies was modified; negotiations are also underway with Iran.
The US Treasury, one of the key US sanctions agencies, will also undergo personnel updates. Elisabeth Rosenberg, a prominent sanctions expert who previously worked at the Center for a New American Security, may take the post of Assistant Treasury Secretary. She will oversee the subject of sanctions. Thus, the principle of “revolving doors”, which is familiar to Americans, is being implemented, when the civil service is replenished with personnel from the expert community and business, and then “returns” them back.
At the same time, the revision of the sanctions policy by the new administration cannot be called a revolution. The institutional arrangement will remain unchanged. It is a combination of the functions of various departments—the Treasury, the Department of Trade, the Department of Justice, the State Department, etc. The experience of their interagency coordination has accumulated over the years. The system worked flawlessly both under Trump and under his predecessors. Rather, it will be about changing the political directives.
For Russia, the revision is unlikely to bring radical changes. A withdrawal from the carpet bombing of Russian business, such as the incident on 6 April 2018 hint that good news can be considered a possibility. However, the legal mechanisms of sanctions against Russia will continue to operate. The emphasis on human rights will lead to an increase in sanctions against government structures. Against this background, regular political crises are possible in relations between the two countries.
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