Those who thought that the elderly American President, formerly Barack Obama’s vice-President, would step into the international limelight as the wise and moderate statesman he had been during the election campaign have had to revise their judgement.
Just a few weeks after taking office, Joe Biden abruptly brought the United States back onto the Middle East stage with a dual political-military move that has aroused considerable perplexity and protest in the United States and abroad.
As Pentagon spokesman John Kirby pointed out, the first surprise move decided directly by the President was to order an aerial bombardment against two bases of militiamen believed to be close to Hezbollah and Iran, located in Syria near the border with Iraq.
Between 22 and 27 people, whether militiamen or civilians, are reported to have died in the attack, which took place during the night of February 25.
The order to strike the pro-Iranian militias was motivated by Biden’s need to react to an attack in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, at the beginning of February against a U.S. army logistics base, which resulted in the death of a Filipino employee of the base.
Commenting on the incident, Pentagon spokesman Kirby said: “The airstrikes have destroyed warehouses and buildings used on the border by pro-Iranian militias Kathaib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhaba and have conveyed the unambiguous message that President Biden will always act to protect American personnel. At the same time, the action is intended to deliberately pursue the goal of de-escalating tension in both eastern Syria and Iraq’.
Apart from the fact that it sounds ambiguous to justify a surprise attack on the territory of a (still) sovereign State like Syria with the need to “reduce tension” in the region, President Biden’s initiative has aroused not a few perplexities also in the United States, in addition to the obvious protests of the government in Damascus.
While many Republican Senators and Congressmen have approved of Biden’s actions because, as Republican Senator Pat Toomey has argued, “Biden has the right to respond with weapons to the recent attacks supported by Iran against American interests”, members of his own party have not hidden their criticism and perplexity because allegedly the President did not respect the exclusive prerogatives of Congress in terms of “war actions”.
Democratic Senator Tim Kane was very harsh and explicit: “an offensive military action without Congressional approval is unconstitutional”.
His colleague from the same party, Chris Murphy, told CNN that “military attacks require Congressional authorization. We must require that this Administration adheres to the same behavioural standards we have required from previous Administrations…
We require that there be always legal justification for every American military initiative, especially in a theatre like Syria, where Congress has not authorised any military initiative”.
With a view to underlining the inconsistency of the White House’s justification that the attacks were to ‘reduce tension’ in the region, Democratic Congressman Ro Khana publicly stepped up criticism by saying, “We need to get out of the Middle East. I spoke out against Trump’s endless war and I will not shut up now that we have a Democratic President”.
As we can see, the criticism levelled at President Biden has been harsh and very explicit, thus marking the premature end of the ‘honeymoon’ between the Presidency and Congress that, in the U.S. tradition, marks the first hundred days of each new Administration.
President Biden’s military show of strength appears to be marked not only by the doubts over constitutionality raised by leading members of his own party, but also by the contradictory nature of the motivations and justifications.
According to the White House, in view of reducing tension in Syria, bombers need to be sent, without prejudice to the need to “convey a threatening signal” to Iran, at the very moment when the President himself is declaring he wants to reopen the “nuclear deal” with Iran, i.e. the dialogue on the nuclear issue abruptly interrupted by his predecessor.
In short, the new President’s opening moves in the Middle East region do not seem to differ too much from those of his predecessors who, like him, thought that military action – even bloody and brutal – could always be considered a useful option as a substitute for diplomacy.
This military action, however, seems scarcely justifiable in its motivations if it is true that President Biden intends to reduce the tension in relations with Iran, which have become increasingly tense due to initiatives such as those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who at the beginning of last year ordered the assassination of the highest-ranking member of the Iranian military hierarchy, Qassem Suleimani, who was shot by a drone near Baghdad.
President Biden’s other move that, in a delicate and sensitive theatre such as the Near East, appears at least untimely, was to authorise CIA to declassify the report on the assassination of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, killed in 2018 on the premises of the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.
The CIA report bluntly accuses Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of ordering the murder of the dissident journalist. Its publication, authorised by President Biden, has sparked a storm of controversy inside and outside the United States, thus seriously calling into question the strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which over the years has been painstakingly built with the dual aim of counterbalancing Iran’s presence and influence in the Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as controlling the extremist impulses of rich and dangerous regional partners such as Qatar.
Prince Bin Salman, now firmly established as sole heir to the Saudi throne, is a compulsory counterpart of the United States.
In vain (and recklessly), President Biden has publicly declared his preference for a direct dialogue with King Salman.
The 85-year-old King, however, is not only in poor health conditions, but has also clearly told the Americans that he has the utmost confidence in “his sole and legitimate heir” to whom he has already actually delegated the management of the Kingdom’s affairs.
President Biden’s Administration, and its new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, have never made a secret of preferring another Crown Prince as a potential counterpart, namely Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is very close to CIA thanks to the good offices of the former Chief of the Saudi intelligence services, Saad Al Jabry. Nevertheless, in the complicated world of the Saudi Court, things do not always proceed in the simple and straightforward way preferred by the Americans.
Mohammed Bin Najef is currently in prison on corruption charges and is therefore definitely out of the race for the throne, while his CIA liaison, Al Jabry, has self-exiled to Canada to escape the ‘persecution’ he believes has been orchestrated by the Saudi courtiers.
If the United States wants to keep on playing a role in the Middle East and possibly exercising a stabilising function in a region which was greatly destabilised by George W. Bush’s unfortunate Iraqi adventure, which effectively handed Iraq over to the Shi’ites close to their Iranian “brothers” and gave Iran the keys to control the Persian Gulf, the President and his Secretary of State will have to rely on a good dose of political realism, leaving out of the dialogue with Saudi Arabia the ethical considerations which, although justified, do not seem appropriate, also because America has never seemed to have had many scruples when it comes to physically eliminating its ‘adversaries’ with very hasty methods, be they an Iranian general, two dozen unidentified Syrian militiamen or their relatives.
In short, the early stages of Biden’s Presidency do not look very promising. Allies and adversaries alike are waiting for the United States to get back on the field in the most sensitive areas with pragmatism and realism, two factors that seem rather lacking in Joe Biden’s preliminary foreign policy moves.
New American extremist armed movements calling for democracy
The American interior has witnessed in recent years (the growth, spread and revival of a number of new armed extremist ideological movements in the American interior), which have come to challenge the authority and orders of the American government similar to its American communist counterpart in previous periods, and aims for a “new revolution” in the face of the American authorities.
The outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic in the American interior has also caused the strengthening of the strength of these American armed movements, as well as the growth of “new armed extremist movements” that challenge the authority and orders of the American government similar to its former American communist counterpart, and the map of these movements and their goals can be traced, as follows:
The emergence of the most dangerous and most important armed movement called the “Boogaloo Movement” against the American government: due to the restrictions imposed due to the outbreak of the virus, it fueled the “Boogaloo Movement” against the American government. And what is new in the “American Boogaloo movement” is its armed tactic, and its “publicly” carrying of rifles and wearing tactical military clothing, and it was the beginning of their mobilization in the US state of “Hawaii” and in the state capital’s buildings to protest against the closure orders, due to the outbreak of (Covid-19). It is the distinctive of the “military appearance” of the “Boogaloo Movement” against the US government, which attracts the most attention. It threatens to wage “civil war”, as an extremist movement that uses “violent, not peaceful armed protests” against the orders of the American state, and has arisen due to the social problems caused by the pandemic to spread violent messages against Washington. The start of its launch was in April 2020, when armed demonstrators went out in separate organized protests in front of government buildings in (Concord and New Hampshire). The point worth noting and analyzing here is that the extremist “Boogaloo” movement is attracting many American youth daily. One of its affiliates said in a post on Facebook that the term “Boogaloo” began as a funny thing, but it evolved into a deeper symbol of “Boogaloo Movement”, by calling for the freedom against the decisions of the American authorities.
On the other hand, the (Three Percenters Militia Movement) appeared in the month of April 2020: those who organized a march at “Olympia headquarters” in the capital, Washington, and the participants in the gathering were keen to wear “Hawaiian shirts” to support the demands of the “Boogaloo extremist armed movement”.
In May 2020, a third extremist movement appeared in the United States, called the “Blue Igloo movement”: which began with a demonstration in Raleigh, North Carolina, and promoted itself on Facebook, and the movement entered into some “armed confrontations” with the state police.
A fourth movement appeared, consisting of armed members called the extremist “Liberty Militia movement”: they are mainly deployed in the state of “Michigan”.
A new fifth movement appeared called “The Rhett E. Boogie Group”: by advocating on Facebook forums, this led to the launch of a movement which invited “Gretchen Whitmer” as a representative of the “Democratic Party”, to address these violent threats.
In March 2020, there were also demonstrations related to the “Neo-Nazis movement” in the US state of “Missouri”: one of those belonging to this extremist movement was killed when the “Federal Bureau Investigations agents” FBI tried to arrest him, for trying to bomb a hospital in the “Kansas City” area. After the outbreak of the Corona virus, the “Neo-Nazis movement” announced that its new goal was to “start a revolution” in the country.
During the month of May 2020, a white supremacist group, known as: the “Associates of Bradley Bunn” appeared in the state of “Colorado”: which prompted the “US Department of Homeland Security” to issue an alert to it. And “Bradley Benn” is a former US Army soldier, who was arrested on May 1, 2020, after the “Federal Bureau Investigations agents” FBI found that there were “four pipe bombs” in his home in Loveland, Colorado, which led some to sympathize with him for his courage, and they formed a movement in his name.
The other armed prominent group in the USA, which has been revived and unified under a given new name of the “White Supremacist Groups”, which has been active since 2019, has been revived, and has declared itself as (an extreme right-wing movement), and includes a group of armed militias.
In general, it is possible to observe and track the goals of these American armed movements and increase their activities, especially after the outbreak of the Corona epidemic and the poor economic conditions in the American interior, and made the beginning through social media, where one of them wrote: “Many individuals are very upset with the way that the USA is managed and the other passed laws that are criminalised to the law-abiding citizens”. Perhaps what is new in the thinking of these American extremist armed movements, according to the study of the “Extremism Program at George Washington University”, is that their discourse goes beyond discussions about combating restrictions, which many protesters describe as “tyranny” to talk and violent radical discourse about “Killing FBI agents” or police officers “to start a war”.
From here, we understand the existence of (a real state of conflict and undeclared polarization within the American interior itself, whose features appeared between the movements of the left and the right and resulted in the carrying of arms and resistance to the American authorities themselves), and this internal American conflict became clear between (the forces of the left and the American right) after the failure of the former President “Trump” in the period of the previous US presidential elections in November 2020, and perhaps this period will be the one (which will establish the next American period and will determine the extent of its democracy globally and even how to deal with rebellious groups and sectors and the opposition of the American people themselves who reject the internal American policies and their undemocratic approach), and it will expose the global American democracy itself to (face difficult tests in front of the minorities who are expected to dominate the American political scene by 2040 according to the expectations of American sociologists, anthropologists and humanists), hence the important question will come, regarding:
(How will the United States of America present itself to the world less than 20 years from now? Especially, in the presence of a real undeclared internal conflict over the American power and governance circles, which threatens the American concept that promotes the idea of democracy and human rights from the narrow American perspective)?!
The Turkey and the U.S. Holiday Season
Guess! Forty-six million turkeys are eaten in the US over the course of a year, a month or a certain day? The surprising answer (or maybe not) is the latter … on the Thanksgiving holiday. It is celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday in November. Another 22 million are devoured over Christmas and 19 million perish at Easter.
We are a carnivorous culture. If 46 million turkeys stand side-by-side, they make a line some 7,000 miles long or about twice the distance between the East and West coasts. Despite all this, turkey is only the fourth source of protein in the U.S. coming in as it does after chicken, beef and pork.
Nevertheless, almost 1.4 billion pounds of turkey were consumed at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter — to the 46 million Thanksgiving turkeys one can add 22 million for Christmas and 19 million for Easter (2011 figures). About a third of the turkeys are eaten during the holidays and two-thirds over the rest of the year. It adds up to about 230,000 birds in total.
That is the front end for turkeys. But not all the turkey is eaten. The carcass and some of the meat ends up in trash cans. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates a third of global food is wasted. That figure coincides with what the US Department of Agriculture projects for turkeys — 35 percent goes into garbage cans and ends up in landfills.
The average weight of a turkey is 15 lbs. giving us approximately 690 million pounds for the 46 million consumed during Thanksgiving. It also means 240 million pounds goes to the waste dumps.
Turkey is not the only waste — Americans throw away 25 percent more waste during the approximately month-long holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year (think of all the gift wraps, Christmas trees, cardboard boxes, ribbons, sticky tape, etc.). On ribbons also, if people in the U.S. reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon. And if each family wrapped only 3 gifts in re-used Christmas wrapping paper, the saved paper would be enough to cover 4,500 football fields. All of which might seem to be in the spirit of the grinch that stole Christmas, but the general idea is to think about minimizing waste.
Perhaps all of this is irrelevant in a world in the grip of the covid virus. The essence of holidays lies in the gatherings of friends and relatives, something frowned upon in the age of covid. So, a quiet march to the New Year and a muted “Happy New Year” with a ‘beware of the omicron strain’ under one’s breath.
Such is the world of covid with its frustratingly temporary immunity. Is there a possibility it will eventually become like the common cold, a nuisance with which we learn to live? As it is the latest version i.e. the omicron variant shares its genetic code with the cold virus and is more easily transmissible.
The American Initiative for a “Better World” and its difference with the Chinese Belt and Road
During their summit held at the end of July 2021 in the city of “Cornwall” in Britain, the leaders of the countries (the Group of Seven major economic leaders “G7” led by Washington) have been announced the launch of an ambitious global initiative called “Rebuilding a Better World”. It is internationally, known as:
Build Back Better World (B3W)
The “Rebuilding a Better World” initiative aims to (meet the massive financing requirements for infrastructure needs). The most important differences and distinguishes between (the Chinese initiative for the Belt and Road and the American initiative to build a better world), are highlighted, through:
1) The intense Chinese interest in doing (development initiatives that are not politically conditional, unlike the American tool that sets political goals and conditions as a condition for the work of projects or the provision of loans, as well as China’s interest in infrastructure and community projects), and this is the most obvious and famous reason for the “Belt and Road” initiative, whereas the maps showed China’s roads, railways, and pipelines networks extending with partner countries, in addition to cooperation in (the field of digital technologies, educational and social institutions, and security services), which creates a network of relations that will continue in the future, in contrast to the US case or initiative.
2) We find that while (the leaders of the seven major economic countries neglected to develop long-term strategic plans in their initiative for a better world to serve poor and developing peoples), the vision of the “Belt and Road” has been more clearly manifested through the spread of many other developmental initiatives and the other extensions with it, which include the “Silk Road” for its projects, such as: (The Health Silk Road Initiative to combat “Covid-19”, and the launch of the “Digital Silk” initiative, known as (Information Silk Road).
3) At a time when Washington and its allies ignored the interests of developing countries, China has contributed to (leading the global development initiatives, especially the Healthy Silk Road to help countries affected by the spread of the pandemic), an initiative mentioned for the first time in the (White Book of Chinese Policy in 2015), Chinese President “Xi Jinping” announced officially the “Health Silk Road” that was presented in a 2016 speech delivered by the Chinese President in Uzbekistan, as well as the new road and the most recent Chinese initiative, known as the “Polar Silk Road”, which also known as the “Ice Silk Road”, which stretches across the “North Pole”, it was first highlighted in 2018.
4) In the belief of China to lead global development efforts, in contrast to ignoring the “Better World Initiative”, it was represented in China’s leadership in the field of “climate and environmental governance”, so the Chinese government initiated the launch of the “Green Silk Road Fund”, which was established by Chinese investors to promote (Chinese projects that take into account environmental standards), and the latest and most advanced here is the Chinese announcement of the “Space Silk Road”, which is the development of the Chinese “Beidou” system for artificial intelligence technology, and others.
5) Here, we find that at a time when China’s desire to support and modernize all African and poor countries is increasing, the American initiative, which is alleged to be an alternative to the Chinese plan, has come to China’s interest in projects (the Chinese satellite navigation system), and it is scheduled to be used and developed China as an alternative to GPS services.
6) The American President “Joe Biden” adopted the “Building Better for the World” project, stressing that its mainly focus on the (climate, health, digital sector, and combating social inequality), because the “Belt and Road” initiative – as stated by assistants to US President “Biden” – has transformed from a series of unauthorized projects connected to infrastructure, a cornerstone of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy, and the initiative supported China with raw materials, trade links, and geopolitical influence, so the “White House” wants to engage in projects with greater environmental and labor standards than those funded by China, and with complete transparency regarding financial terms. Perhaps that point raised by Washington towards China comes without (the United States of America presenting concrete evidence of the validity of those accusations to China, as well as Washington’s failure to penetrate deep into the African continent compared to the Chinese side).
7) American reports accuse Beijing of being (the reason for the decline of its influence on the African continent, and the United States faces many obstacles and challenges to regain its influence again in Latin American countries, which considers China as a trading partner and an important and vital investor in the African and Latin region). For example, bilateral trade between Brazil – the largest economy in South America, and China increased from $2 billion in 2000 to $100 billion in 2020. Perhaps this in itself (supports China’s credibility with its development projects to serve African and developing peoples, in contrast to African and Latin rejection, for example, of American influence and penetration in their countries).
8) The most important analytical thing for me is that the relationship of the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” with African countries supports “the call of China and Chinese President “Xi Jinping” towards a multilateral and multipolar world”. Therefore, we find that (China’s agreement with these African countries came in their support for multipolarity in the world, which the United States rejects), while African countries and the developing world mainly welcome the “Belt and Road Initiative”, which meets the needs of economic development in their countries, which the alleged American initiative will be unable to meet.
9) It also represents the Chinese initiative for the Belt and Road (a prelude to the China-Pacific cooperation road to link China and Latin America more closely, through the 21st century Maritime Silk Road from China to Latin America, which the United States strongly opposed, which reduces travel time between them, it works on developing infrastructure and connectivity, and investing in port works and ocean corridors between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Which (made the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean consider cooperation with Beijing a huge investment opportunity and a support for economic and social development plans, as well as an improvement in the region’s competitiveness).
10) It is worth noting that what distinguishes (the Chinese initiative for the Belt and Road from the American Better World Initiative, is its “sweeping popularity globally”), especially if we know that more than 100 countries have joined the Beijing initiative, which made it stronger politically and diplomatically. China signed cooperation documents on Belt and Road construction with 171 countries and regions around the world, and the trade value between China and countries along the Belt and Road amounted to about 1.35 trillion dollars in 2020, accounting for 29.1 percent of the total value of China’s foreign trade which (the United States of America will be unable to provide in light of the current economic crisis, unlike China). The investment cooperation between them amounted to about $17.7 billion, and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce stated that the companies of the “Belt and Road” countries have established 4,294 institutions in China, with an investment value of $8.27 billion.
11) and even came (confessions by well-known American bodies of China’s developmental role in confronting the United States of America), for example, a report by the “American Council on Foreign Relations” confirmed that: “Since the launch of the “Belt and Road” initiative in 2013, Chinese banks and companies have funded and the construction of power stations, railways, highways, and ports, as well as communications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables and smart cities around the world, and if the initiative continues to implement its plans, China will be able to stimulate global economic growth, and meet the needs of developing countries for the long term”. This is an American testimony and a clear acknowledgment of the strength of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and its development projects around the world.
12) It remains to be noted here that (the American attempts to put forward alternative development initiatives for the Chinese Belt and Road is a kind of American political competition with China, so the question here is: Why did the United States not provide real development projects over the past long years), so we understand that the Belt Initiative The road is the largest infrastructure program in the world, and indeed it has become an economic and political challenge for Washington. Experts believe that the preoccupation of the United States with its financial and economic crises has contributed greatly to giving China the opportunity to extend its economic and development influence among the countries of the world. The “Rebuilding a Better World” initiative comes among other US initiatives to try to confront and confront China, such as the Ocos Defense Security Agreement with Britain and Australia, as well as the first meeting of the “Quad Quartet” with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia. The “Biden administration” is also seeking to hold bilateral talks with countries in order to promote the American initiative, and recently talks were held with Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi), especially since India has refused to join the Belt and Road Initiative due to border disputes with China. Therefore, we understand (the targeting of the United States of America to countries with conflict with China to attract them to its alternative initiative, in contrast to the openness of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative to the whole world).
Accordingly, we arrive at an important analysis that says that the term “rebuilding better in the American sense” ignores and neglects development initiatives to serve the people, a better world, which is (an American political initiative rather than a development one such as the projects of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative). Here it becomes clear to us that the American initiative for a better world appears to be (influenced by the slogans and policies of both US President “Joe Biden” and British Prime Minister “Boris Johnson”), Rebuilding Better is the slogan of the American campaign, but without setting specific agreed plans or a timetable for everyone.
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