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Middle East Press (31 Dec 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Saddam's Death Gave Birth to Saddams in Other Guises: New Age Islam's Selection, 31 December 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

31 December 2016

Saddam's Death Gave Birth to Saddams In Other Guises

By Ibrahim Al-Marashi

Israel Will Have To Honour The UN Resolution

By Abraham Joseph

Stepping into the Middle East’s Next Security Equation

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

If Daesh Is To Be Defeated, The Carnage In Syria Must End

By Fahad Nazer

Why Is The EU Defending Iran?

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The American Public against Trump

By Alan S. Blinder

John Kerry Tells It Like It Is

By Fawaz Turki

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Saddam's Death Gave Birth to Saddams in Other Guises

By Ibrahim Al-Marashi


On Saturday, December 30, 2006, the world awoke to the news of Saddam Hussein's execution.

I learned of the news at 6:30am that morning, when I received a call from CNN's Turkish affiliate in Istanbul to come on the air to discuss his death. 90 minutes later, the TV host concluded the interview by asking, "As an Iraqi, how do you feel after Saddam's execution?"

I paused. Sweat trickled down my face, caked in make-up for the studio interview. I knew that some Iraqis would dance with joy, while others would weep. How did I feel?

"Empty", I responded.

All I wanted was stability and a bright future for my ancestral Iraq. I knew Saddam's execution would not bring that to Iraq, and a decade later, my desires still prove to be elusive.

The Audiences Of Saddam's Execution

A decade ago Saddam's execution elicited mixed reactions among those living in Iraq and the region. Saddam managed to capture the imagination of the Arab public as the only leader who stood up to the West in two separate wars.

For those Iraqis who lost family to Saddam's government, his execution served as closure with a bloody past. Yet, even those who despised Saddam admitted that he brought stability to the country, something that Iraq lacks today.

For those Iraqis who loved Saddam, they joined insurgent groups after 2003, hoping to return him to power. His execution did little to end their violence. Some of them, including former Saddam-era officers, eventually found their way to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an organisation who had no love for the former Iraqi president, but emerged as the most effective insurgent group a decade after his death.

Saddam's Death And 'The Republic Of Fear'

In 1989, Iraqi-British academic Kanan Makiya published, The Republic of Fear, analysing how Saddam sat at the top of a system that inculcated an all-encompassing sense of fear in Iraq.

That fear knew no temporal or geographic borders. Even after Saddam went into hiding after the 2003 Iraq war, Iraqis were reluctant to cooperate with the United States occupation authorities, certain that he would somehow manage to return.

That fear permeated beyond Iraq. Growing up in California, my parents hesitated to discuss their lives in Iraq, giving me the impression that it was some place they did not want me know about. They only discussed Iraq in whispered conversations that I overheard.

So, Iraq became something I only thought about, imagining how traumatic their past must have been that they could not even tell me. The mystery they created surrounding Iraq and Saddam Hussein only did more to enhance my curiosity. Saddam had been part of my life since childhood, then I studied his rule from my first days in college until I finished my PhD.

The more I studied his rule, I realised that Saddam sat at the apex of a system, in which thousands were complicit.

The lesson of a paper I wrote on this system - one that was plagiarised by the British government on the eve of the 2003 Iraq War - was that there were thousands of Iraqis serving in the organs of the "republic of fear" who made it work. Killing Saddam would do nothing about these officials who would still live in Iraq.

With his execution Saddam's republic of fear did come to an end. While Iraqis may have feared Saddam, a decade after his death they know new fears: a fear of getting killed by a car bomb on the way to the market; a fear of getting kidnapped and executed for being a Shia or Sunni; a fear that they will not find a job to feed themselves; a fear that they are stuck in a country with no future.

Saddam's Death And The 'New Iraq'

After 2003, Iraq was often touted by the US news channels as the "new Iraq", communicating that it had a bright and optimistic future. When 2006 came to a close, the new Iraq was free of Saddam. Yet, a decade after his death it is difficult to see what is optimistic about the "new Iraq".

The new Iraq was touted as a democracy. Today it has the facade of democratic institutions with authoritarian practices in the shadows. The new Iraq was free of the Baathists. Yet, some Baathists also found a new home in ISIL.

What is new to Iraq is insecurity, civil wars, car bombs, kidnappings, criminal gangs, ISIL and government mired by infighting among ethno-sectarian political factions.

The expulsion of Iraq's Christians from their ancestral homes, and genocide against the Yazidis; power cuts, lack of basic infrastructure; and a Mosul dam that could collapse at any minute; Saddam's execution did nothing to prevent these developments.

For some Iraqis, Saddam's execution was a matter of justice for the mass crimes he presided over, such as the Anfal campaign, the chemical attack against Halabja, and the mass slaughter that followed the 1991 uprisings, which indiscriminately killed Iraqis of all ethnic and sectarian backgrounds.

A decade after Saddam's execution, however, another Iraqi, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, otherwise known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of ISIL, is also presiding over an apparatus that targets Iraqis of all ethnic and sectarian backgrounds.

The justice some Iraqis sought proved ephemeral. In the vacuum that resulted from the overthrow of Saddam, another one emerged to replace him.

Ibrahim al-Marashi is an assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of Iraq's Armed Forces: An Analytical History.

Source: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/12/saddam-death-gave-birth-saddams-guises-161230124049571.html


Israel Will Have To Honour The UN Resolution

By Abraham Joseph

December 30, 2016

Despite the contradictory emotions associated with the resolution, there is general consensus that since it was adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, the resolution is non-binding and only recommendatory.

On December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2334 terming Israel's establishment of settlements in the Palestinian territory, occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, a flagrant violation of international law. Despite the contradictory emotions associated with the resolution, there is general consensus that since it was adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, the resolution is non-binding and only recommendatory. However, this logic is incorrect and Resolution 2334, though adopted under Chapter VI, binds the international community in light of Article 25 of the UN Charter and the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) judgments interpreting the article.

The UNSC is a principle organ of the UN whose primary function is to maintain international peace and security. This is a power conferred on the UNSC by the member states,  and member nations are obligated to comply with its decisions. Since the term 'resolution' does not find a mention in the charter, UN practice has been to employ 'decisions' or 'recommendations', the former being binding in nature and the latter non-binding. All UNSC resolutions have a preamble and an operative part. The preamble of Resolution 2334 reaffirms Israel's obligation to abide by international laws, specifically, the Fourth Geneva Convention, 1949. The resolution also condemns Israeli measures that have been aimed at altering the demographic composition of the Palestinian Authority.

The operative part of the resolution is divided into 13 paragraphs and is addressed primarily to Israel. Palestine is addressed too, but to a lesser extent and implicitly. Additionally, paragraph 5 of the Operative Resolution instructs all states to distinguish between Israeli territory acquired prior to and post 1967 in all their relevant dealings with Israel.

Article 25 of the UN Charter, which obliges member states to comply with decisions of the UNSC, is fundamental for understanding the binding nature of UNSC resolutions. The Article states: "The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter".

While Article 25 comes under Chapter V - which addresses the Security Council's composition, functions and powers - the international law community has generally believed that UN member states are only obligated to obey resolutions that invoke Article 25, if the resolution in question operates under Chapter VII of the charter. Notably, Chapter VII resolutions are coercive enforcement measures, which are employed if there is a breach of peace or acts of aggression by a state. Since Resolution 2334 is a Chapter VI resolution, by this logic member states are not obligated to put it into effect. From this perspective, Chapter VI resolutions are viewed only as the UNSC's efforts to direct concerned parties towards a peaceful settlement without wider intervention.

However, this idea of demarcating Chapters VI and VII was unequivocally rejected in 1971 by the ICJ in the Namibia case, which clarified that the charter does not have a provision stating that Article 25 only applies to enforcement measures taken under Chapter VII. It also makes clear that the obligation to concur with the UNSC's resolutions ought to apply to all the decisions made by the body in accordance with the charter. Furthermore, since Article 25, along with Articles 24 and 26, deals with the functions and powers of the UNSC under Chapter V not VII, there is no logic in tying Article 25-related obligations to Chapter VII actions. Thus, the only limit on the applicability of Article 25 obligations is the adoption of the UNSC Resolution in accordance with the UN Charter - which is not contested by either of the parties in the case of Resolution 2334.

The Namibia case and its logic was reiterated by the ICJ in the Palestinian wall case of 2004 wherein Israel was found to be in contravention of numerous UNSC resolutions none of which emanated through the channel of Chapter VII. Thus one can come to a conclusion that there exists no principle in international law that excludes the operation of Article 25 obligations on the part of UN member states on the sole ground that a UNSC resolution arose from Chapter VI and not Chapter VII.

Unlike the interpretation of treaties which are governed by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, the interpretation of UNSC resolutions has always been subjected to policy oriented interpretations. This is chiefly due to the political nature of resolutions in contrast to the more legalistic treaties. In the Namibia case, the ICJ clarified that interpreting a UNSC resolution requires understanding the intent of the body, which can be gathered from three factors: language used in the resolution; discussions leading to the adoption of the resolution; and charter provisions invoked. Additionally, a fourth factor involves a call for all state parties to distinguish between the pre- and post-1967 territories in relevant dealings with Israel.

It is, therefore, clear that Resolution 2334 does not cease to be a binding resolution merely on the grounds that it falls under Chapter VI. Furthermore, the three pronged test laid down in the case, as tested on Resolution 2334, indicates that the resolution was intended to be binding for all member states. The fact that there is an international call to action under paragraph 9 is proof of the fact that it has the flavour of a Chapter VII resolution and is not limited to Israel and Palestine. Thus, the import of the resolution is truly revolutionary and promises broader ramifications.

Abraham Joseph is Assistant Professor at Ansal School of Law, Gurgaon. (www.thewire.in)

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/israel-will-have-to-honour-the-un-resolution


Stepping Into The Middle East’s Next Security Equation

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

30 December 2016

Reflecting on 2016, it is important to understand the transition underway. This year’s legacy is one of swift change undermined by countries’ inability to understand recent developments throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

It is unclear whether Sykes-Picot or ISIS will outlive the other; Turkey has turned East for a rapprochement with Russia; and multi-contextual civil wars and vicious acts of terrorism plague numerous Arab states. Most importantly, Russia took charge in 2016 with not only the Kremlin’s fight in Syria but also by showing Moscow’s prowess and ability to counter Washington as a global power. The region is entering a new phase.

First, governance, and how economies evolve, are in flux. Although the Middle East underwent a series of serious shifts in the ability to control contested territory, the Gulf states stepped forward, led by Saudi Arabia’s entry of Vision 2030, with ambitious plans for economic transformation.

What looked like a potential system-wide malfunction in Saudi Arabia’s ailing economy is being reversed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. During 2016, he made an impressive tour of the US, France, Japan and China, presenting Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. With the release of the Saudi budget at the end of 2016 and optimistic talk of Aramco’s IPO debuting in 2017, there is optimism.

Depressed Oil Prices

In 2016, depressed oil prices forced all Middle East states to make serious adjustments to their economic policies by introducing robust plans, reforms, and vision. The imbalance in the Middle East between prosperity and poverty still exists, between urban and rural and areas, and still in urban neighborhoods themselves.

Given the high probability for additional political and economic effects from 2016, several Middle East states from the Maghreb to the Levant – Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan – will face further domestic pressures.

Second, sectarian tension heightened this past year. Sectarian violence led to unfathomable amounts of human suffering across Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, along with sharpened rhetoric from the leadership in Riyadh and Tehran. Iran’s presidential election in June is obviously only going to embolden Tehran’s positions. Only in the final months of 2016 did “the Egypt card” come up on this sectarian front. Egypt’s weakness means Tehran may seek an inroad to Cairo in the coming year.

Third, in 2016, urban warfare in the Middle East is in a continuing process of destruction. Internationally-backed local armies and militias are fighting on a multi-tiered chessboard, vying for land, power, and prestige. Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), as well as Russian, Syrian airstrikes, and later in the year, Turkish jet fighters attacked urban areas in order to flush out extremists of all stripes.

Yemen’s plight remains with Saudi Arabia’s Operation Restore Hope (ORH) and the UAE’s fighting al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula. OIR Combined Joint Task Force Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend stated that the fight against ISIS will be two more years. Reconstruction projects are still distant and that breeds discontent and disease.

Fourth, terrorism will continue to spread its ugly impact with both al-Qaeda and ISIS and their minions battling over their own visions of achieving an apocalypse that is turning out to be more of a mutation of extremism to meet current religious and ideological requirements. Importantly, extremists are becoming more proficient at off the shelf military technology to boost their UAV capabilities for both tactical and media advantages.

This trend is likely to lead to more aggressive behavior by extremists and their sympathizers. Low-tech high impact attacks may accompany more shootings, bombings, and the use of heavy vehicles to mow over innocent crowds.

This past year witnessed the playing field between the Middle East and Europe levelling out, meaning the ills and violence that bedevil the Middle East for years now are embedded in European society as already evidence by migrant issues and extremist violence.

Trump Reset

By far, 2016 will be remember for Donald Trump. Trump, who I wrote about winning in February 2016, is about to embark on a major reset of relations with the Middle East through transactional foreign policy.

The urban battles across the Middle East will continue with a resetting of the Middle East geo-political order by a Trump administration willing to insert more resources into fighting extremism both with kinetics and with a much-needed reboot of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs.

A Trump presidency that engages Russia, Syria, Turkey, and Iran is going to cause an eruption of support as well as despair from various quarters. To boot, Trump’s policy toward Iran in particular is going to enrage some and bring joy to others. These two variants signal a tectonic shift is about to occur in the regional security environment.

The geopolitical costs and benefits of a new security architecture based on a Trump administration is going to bring a new order to the Middle East that will play out until 2020. Clearly, leaving 2016 behind changes the regional security picture; the New Year brings a more challenging, unprecedented moment.

Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans. He tweets @tkarasik

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/12/30/Stepping-into-the-Middle-East-s-next-security-equation-.html


If Daesh Is To Be Defeated, The Carnage In Syria Must End

By Fahad Nazer

30 December 2016

As 2016 comes to a close and Jan. 20 — inauguration day — draws nearer, analysts in the US and observers in the Middle East are eager to sketch out the contours of the incoming Donald Trump administration’s foreign policy. Generally speaking, foreign policy was not a focal point of the presidential election. Since winning, Trump has not spoken in great detail about his vision for how the US will conduct its foreign affairs.

However, recent reports in American media and a speech by Trump last week suggest that “defeating” the terrorist group Daesh appears to be top of his priorities. While he will find that many countries in the region share his determination to destroy this reprehensible militant group — with Saudi Arabia top of a long list — it is important to have a full appreciation of the context in which Daesh emerged.

Its cells and affiliates have taken advantage of political vacuums in war-torn countries. To destroy Daesh, the conflicts in which it has flourished must also end. Ending violence in Iraq and Libya is vital, but more than any other conflict, it is the war in Syria that has allowed Daesh to grow into the monstrosity it is now.

One could make a compelling argument that the conflict with the most far-reaching ramifications for the future political trajectory of the Middle East is the civil war in Syria. The violence there has led to the deaths of an estimated 400,000 people and displaced some 11 million people — almost half of Syria’s entire population — who have either been internally displaced or forced to become refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond.

With the entry of Russia into the war last year, and of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Iranian forces and officers, and militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the conflict has become global. Adding to this combustible mix is an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, many of whom have chosen to fight with Daesh.

As long as the deaths continue to mount and the beleaguered people of Syria continue to suffer at the hands of Bashar Assad’s regime and its allies on one hand, and Daesh and other militant groups on the other, the region will not enjoy anything resembling peace and prosperity. Daesh might have its roots in the instability and violence that followed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but it was founded, flourished and metastasized in Syria. Its formation and growth correlate closely with the intensification of fighting in that conflict. It is also not a coincidence that the group named Raqqa its so-called capital. Just as importantly, the overwhelming majority of foreign fighters have gone to Syria.

Some of us warned as early as January 2012 — five years ago — that Syria could become the destination of choice for thousands of militants from across the Arab world and beyond. Some of those militants have gone back to their countries of origin, or have traveled to other countries to wreak havoc. For this, we can thank Assad and his henchmen.

His documented brutality against the Sunni-majority population of Syria furnished Daesh with a treasure trove of recruitment material. To the detriment of the international community, Assad’s brutal suppression of what was initially a peaceful protest movement has enabled Daesh to construct a jihadi narrative that proved more compelling than that devised during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, or the US occupation of Iraq. Defeating Daesh has proven difficult. To succeed, the Trump administration will need the assistance of close US allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia. Due to its stature in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia is uniquely positioned to discredit Daesh on religious grounds.

At the same time, the conflict that has breathed life into this Al-Qaeda offshoot after it suffered serious setbacks in 2011 must be resolved if Daesh is to lose its ability to recruit and deceive men and women not just from the Arab world but from across the world.

Syria has even become the battle cry for militants carrying out terrorist attacks in countries that in some cases are not involved in the conflict in any fashion.

At the same time, Iraq — where Daesh’s predecessor came to be — must make a determined effort to build a unified country that embraces its various religious, sectarian and ethnic communities.

The wide perception that the policies of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malki deliberately marginalized the country’s Sunni minority was exploited by Daesh, and enabled it to control major swathes of land across the Iraqi-Syrian border, including the city of Mosul. Much as in Syria, Daesh exploits perceptions of injustice, marginalization and sectarianism. Daesh has likewise taken advantage of the political vacuum and instability.

At a speech in the state of North Carolina recently, Trump vowed to defeat terrorism and “destroy” Daesh, and do so quickly. Intensifying the military campaign against its strongholds in Syria and Iraq is a must.

However, to ensure that Daesh or some other incarnation does not rise from the dead as Al-Qaeda did in 2011, the bloodshed in Syria must come to an end. Daesh is a parasite that feeds on the bloodshed in Syria. The sooner that conflict ends, the quicker it will be defeated.

Fahad Nazer is an international affairs fellow with the National Council on US-Arab Relations. He is also a consultant to the Saudi embassy in Washington, but does not represent it or speak on its behalf. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, CNN, The Hill and Newsweek, among others.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1031326/columns


Why Is The EU Defending Iran?

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

30 December 2016

This week, some of Iran’s Persian-language newspapers carried headlines boasting about European countries defending Iran and robustly aligning with Tehran.

European officials have even warned the US, President-elect Donald Trump and the Republicans, that EU will not welcome or tolerate tearing up the nuclear deal or re-imposing international pressure on Iran. Iranian officials had made similar statements as well.

EU’s warnings highlight the notion that it does not desire to endanger its improving ties with Tehran. The EU desires to preserve its economic interests with Iran and the US simultaneously.

Despite the EU and Iran’s warnings, which are aimed at changing US political calculations toward Iran through political posturing, Washington needs to strongly pursue its own objectives and well-informed long-term orientated policies toward Iran. Then, the EU will find no option than to follow the US footsteps because of the high stakes involved.

What are the other reasons behind the notion that the EU is protecting the Islamic Republic? What are the EU’s objectives? And what are the geopolitical, strategic, and humanitarian repercussions of the EU’s appeasement policy towards Iran?

Economic Interests

The most prominent reason behind the EU’s positions and appeasement policies toward Iran involve preserving its economic interests and increasing trade with Iran.

The EU is dependent on Russia in the energy sector. Iran’s energy sector has seduced European countries. Iran possesses the world’s second and fourth largest gas and oil reserves, respectively. European leaders are planning to decrease Russia’s political leverage over the EU by investing and upgrading Iran’s gas sector.

But what the EU does not recognize is that, in the long term, by strengthening the Islamic Republic’s establishment through trade, the EU is actually bolstering the Iran-Russia axis in the Middle East and beyond, tipping the balance of power against the EU.

Beside energy imports, the EU is benefiting from exports to Tehran as well as taking advantage of accessing Iranian markets, which is the largest untapped market in the world. Iran also has the 17th largest population in the world, the 2nd largest population in the Middle East after Egypt; the second largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa; and enjoys a highly young and westernized population which prefer Western products.

However, unfortunately, the major beneficiaries of EU trade with Iran are not the ordinary Iranian people. Major industries in Iran such as the oil or gas sectors are not privatized, but owned by the government. The EU’s major purchases from Iran are done on the state level. Moreover, even those large Iranian companies that might seem private, are owned indirectly by the IRGC or the Supreme Leader.

The key beneficiaries are the Office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which have significant control over Iran’s political and economic systems.

As a result, we can make the logical conclusion that a large amount of these additional trade and revenues are channeled to be used to strengthen Iran’s military complex and the hold on power by Khamenei and his Shiite cleric system. Iran is also desperate for these dollars to continue expanding its influence in the region, to support Bashar al-Assad, Shia militias, and shift the regional balance of power in its favor.

Geopolitical And Strategic Factors

While trade is a critical factor for the EU, geopolitical and strategic factors come next. The EU has not had an articulated agenda addressing the nearly six-year war in Syria, or conflicts in other parts of the region. The EU’s policy, similar to that of Obama’s administration, is mainly anchored in the “wait and see” rather than a “proactive” foreign policy.

When a country, or political entity does not have a clear policy, it generally tends to take the backseat and quietly allow another country, or entity, which does have powerful, clear, and articulate strategy, to lead. Iran has very clear, consistent and articulate policy towards Syria, that of preserving the power of Assad and the Alawite-dominated state.

Furthermore, since ISIS has become the EU’s number one threat, causing the Syrian war to become secondary, the EU is relying more and more on Iran to take the lead. This is due to the notion that Tehran has boasted about, and has successfully sold the idea, that Tehran is the only country that has put forces on the ground in Syria or Iraq to fight ISIS.

Finally, and unfortunately, the EU’s decision to view Iran solely from the prism of economic interests and its primary goal of pursuing its trade interests, inflicts harm on ordinary Iranian people and millions of Syrians who suffer from Iran’s military expansion and human rights abuses. The US and regional powers have the power to alter EU’s calculations.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American scholar, author and U.S. foreign policy specialist. Rafizadeh is the president of the International American Council. He serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University and Harvard International Relations Council. He is a member of the Gulf 2000 Project at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs. Previously he served as ambassador to the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC. He can be contacted at: Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu, or on Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/12/30/Why-is-the-EU-defending-Iran-.html


The American Public Against Trump

By Alan S. Blinder

30 December 2016

The US, supposedly the world’s beacon of democracy, is practicing a strange form of it nowadays. One presidential candidate won nearly 3 million more votes than her opponent who, with a big assist from a hostile foreign power, was nonetheless declared the winner. Anywhere else, such an event would be called a coup d’état. Here in the US, we call it the Electoral College.

It gets stranger. A Pew Research opinion poll conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 5, after the election had cast the usual victor’s glow on Donald Trump, indicated that only 37 percent of Americans thought he was well-qualified for the presidency, just 31 percent deemed him moral, a mere 26 percent viewed him as a good role model, 62 percent thought he had poor judgment, and 65 percent considered him reckless. And this man won?

Perhaps, despite his appalling personal attributes, Trump’s positions on key issues resonated with the electorate. As an economist, I will leave aside his positively frightening foreign-policy views and concentrate on the economic issues that many pundits claim put him in the White House. In fact, judging by Trump’s own statements and his cabinet picks, he is on the wrong side of almost every one. It is a sobering inventory.

Climate change: Only one economic issue poses an existential threat to life on Earth. Yet Trump branded it a “hoax” during the campaign, and has picked climate-change denier Scott Pruitt to head the US Environmental Protection Agency, which Pruitt — the attorney general of oil- and gas-producing Oklahoma — has frequently sued.

This is not the policy the American public wants. On the contrary, polling data show that Americans’ concern with global warming is now at or near all-time highs. Americans really do not want Miami Beach or lower Manhattan to be underwater.

Labor standards: Trump’s choice for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, is a CEO in the fast-food industry. Never mind that he uses crass sexual imagery to sell hamburgers. What is more germane is that he prefers robots to human workers, does not want to raise the minimum wage, and opposes the Labor Department’s attempt to raise the salary level below which companies must pay extra for overtime.

The public could not disagree with him more. Raising the minimum wage has been winning in polls consistently for decades, and by wide margins — generally even among Republicans. When the Labor Department proposed its overtime rule in May, respondents told pollsters that the overtime threshold should be set even higher.

Healthcare: “Repeal Obamacare” became the Republican Party’s mantra as soon as Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. So naturally that was the position Trump adopted while vying for the Republican nomination.

Now, as president-elect, he has picked Representative Tom Price of Georgia, an avowed enemy of Obamacare — and you might say of Medicaid and Medicare (which provide coverage to the poor and elderly, respectively) — to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Unfortunately for Republicans, they have not figured out how to replace Obamacare, so their current policy is “repeal and delay.” In other words: “Call us back in two or three years.”

Public opinion on the ACA is difficult to discern. Polling the name often gets slightly negative reviews, but that is misleading. For example, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted after the election found that 26 percent Americans favor outright repeal, while only 19 percent favor keeping the law as is. So does the public reject Obamacare?

Well, no. Among the remaining 47 percent who expressed an opinion, far more wanted to see the scope of the law expanded than scaled back. Even the Republicans know that many of the ACA’s key provisions, such as ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions can buy health insurance, are extremely popular. I suspect that many critics of Obamacare are really RINOs: Repealers in name only.

Tax cuts: One of the most consistent findings in American public opinion polling for decades is that people want higher taxes, not lower, on the rich and corporations. The Republican catechism, however, has long enshrined lower taxes on both, and this became one of the few concrete policies that candidate Trump ran on.

In fact, his position is more popular than its polar opposite on only one economic issue: Globalization. On that one issue, Trump’s embrace of trade protection, hostility toward immigration, and prevention of outsourcing to foreign countries is bad news for the entire world.

Nowadays, a narrow majority of Americans seems to side with Trump, rather than with traditional Republican internationalism, on these issues. Forty-nine percent of respondents in an April 2016 Pew poll said US involvement in the global economy is bad, because it lowers wages and costs jobs, while 44 percent said globalization is good, because it opens new markets and creates opportunities for growth. Close, but here Trump is on the “right” side of the electorate.

That is the public opinion scoreboard on the big economic issues. Unless you put almost all the weight on hostility to globalization, Trump seems to be on the wrong side of every one. So how did the candidate who is personally disrespected by most Americans, and who takes the unpopular side on most issues, win the election?

One plausible answer, offered by Hillary Clinton and many others, focuses on the role of Russian cyber operations and FBI Director James Comey’s unconscionable “announcement” (of what amounted to nothing) just days before the vote. Russian President Vladimir Putin got what he wanted. Comey? I do not know.

Alan S. Blinder, a former vice chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board, is professor of economics at Princeton University and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1031321/columns


John Kerry Tells It Like It Is

By Fawaz Turki

30 December 2016

Aaron David Miller, now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, was once a career diplomat. Last June, he wrote a lengthy piece in the Outlook section of the Washington Post where he shared with his readers, recollections he had about his many years of service at the State Department. Let me in turn share a lengthy quote from that piece with mine.

“For much of my 24-year career as a State Department Middle East analyst, negotiator and adviser, I held out hope that a conflict-ending peace agreement was possible,” he wrote.

“I had faith in negotiations as a talking cure and thought the United States could arrange a comprehensive solution. I believed in the power of US diplomacy. But by the time I left government in 2003, I was a disillusioned diplomat and peace processor with serious doubts about what the United States could accomplish in the Middle East. I realize now that, like [John] Kerry, I was tilting at windmills. US-brokered peace in the Middle East is a quixotic quest, and the more we try and fail, the less credibility and leverage we have in the region.”

Call it negotiator-fatigue. Or call it old-fashioned frustration. Earnest enough though it may have been in its efforts to mediate a solution – but stymied by Israel’s incorrigible colonization project in Palestine – the United States finally had to admit that it didn’t have the horses to pull that wagon. And make no mistake about it, President Obama’s administration over the last eight years knew who stood in its way and sabotaged its efforts at every turn.

So that administration, in a parting shot at the culprit, finally lashed out, not only by allowing, late last week, a Security Council resolution to pass, that branded Israel’s colonization project in Palestine a “flagrant violation of international law,” but by giving Secretary of State John Kerry a lot of leeway to deliver a blistering attack on that project in a speech delivered at the State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium on Wednesday.

It was as if, to express his exasperation at having labored in vain all these years, Kerry was now ready to say, fine, we’ve had it up to here with you Netanyahu and Co. and now it's time to, well, tell it like it is. And did he tell like it is!

“The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution,” he told the audience, “but his current coalition is the most right-wing in history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements. The result is that policies of this government – which the prime minister himself described as 'more committed to settlements than any other in Israel’s history’ – are leading in the opposite direction, towards one state: Greater Israel.”

A Penitent Apology

Wait, let’s rewind. Did we hear that right? Yes, we did. And the reference clearly was to an apartheid, settler-colonial state. As to why the US, five days earlier, had not vetoed that Security Council resolution critical of Israel’s colonization practices, Kerry offered, instead of a penitent apology, a blunt rebuke.

“My job, above all, is to defend the United States of America, to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world,” he thundered. “If we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict, where we have vital interests, we would derelict in our responsibilities.”

As for the outpost colonies, he had the issue pinned down pat. These colonies, he said: “are often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed to make two states impossible – and there are one hundred of these outposts.”

Then he added: “Just recently the [Israeli] government approved a significant new settlement well east of the barrier, closer to Jordan than Israel. What does that say to Palestinians in particular – but also the US and the world – about Israel’s intentions?”

Of course the Secretary of State, as any diplomat shooting for “balance” in his speech, blasted Palestinian “incitement” and “violence,” but as for the pain these folks endure as an occupied people, he showed great compassion in his remarks.

“I have also visited the [Palestinian] West Bank communities, where I met Palestinians struggling for basic freedoms and dignity amidst occupation, pushed by the military checkpoints that can make the most routine daily trips to work or school an ordeal, and heard from business leaders who could not get the permits needed to get their products to market, and families who have struggled to secure permission to travel for needed medical care.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, predictably, fulminated, railed and ranted. After all, is not the US supposed to be – has it not in fact been all these years – at Israel’s beck and call? But no matter. Donald Trump, not quite three weeks from now, will be in the White House. He will set it back on track.

And for his part, the president-elect tweeted: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a real friend in the US, but not anymore. Stay strong Israel. January 20th is fast approaching.” It seems that whereas the outgoing secretary of state wanted to talk Israel off the ledge, the incoming president wants to urge it to jump. Someone bring a gurney, will you?

Fawaz Turki is a Palestinian-American journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington, DC.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2016/12/30/John-Kerry-tells-it-like-it-is.html




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