U.S. Interventionism vs. Peace: An Update from the Front Lines
This article by Samuel Rogers appeared in our summer 2015 MAPA newsletter.
After over a year of diplomatic talks and several deadline extensions, the U.S. (as part of the P5+1) and Iran announced a framework agreement at the beginning of April which, if finalized, would assuage fears for at least the next decade that Iran could build a nuclear weapon, while simultaneously lifting economic sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. While this agreement represents an unprecedented example of U.S. diplomacy with Iran, the deal won’t be finalized until negotiators work out more specific details of the agreement by the new deadline of June 30th. Hawks in Congress continue to maneuver to find a way to undermine or kill the deal, but they have so far not been able to rally a veto-proof majority of 67 senators to do so.
The expansion of ISIS/ Islamic State/ Daesh in Iraq and Syria slowed after Iraqi militias, aided by the national army, Iran, and the US, retook Tikrit in April and after US bombing raids in Iraq and Syria. Back-and-forth fighting and fluctuating occupation of territories has continued on both sides of ISIS’ front line in Iraq and Syria. The Sunni jihadist group has continued to maintain its overwhelming recruitment rate and financing. The UN estimates that 220,000 Syrians have died and 9 million have fled their homes, 4 million of them to other countries; civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire as the US continues to attempt to solve a political problem by military means. The US continues to impede a UN-brokered diplomatic settlement of the Syrian civil war because of its insistence that President Assad must go. ISIS has been increasingly expanding its activity beyond Iraq and Syria, most recently with the massacre of Ethiopian Christians in Libya and allegedly plotted, but thwarted, attacks in Australia.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March with U.S. military support, bombing the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Saleh. The intensive, month-long campaign caused over 1,000 civilian casualties. Though claiming to protect civilians, the Saudis are still bombing with US-made cluster bombs, illegal under international law, and still intend to rout Houthi ground forces, which is sure to cause more casualties and suffering.
Since last year’s Western-supported coup in Kiev, Eastern and Western Ukraine have been split in a violent conflict over loyalty to the EU (Government/ West) or Russia (Rebels/ East). Over 6,000 people have died since the fighting began. A second ceasefire was agreed in February, but violence still continues from both sides. Tentative agreements have been made to pull back both small and large caliber arms from the front lines, but there has yet to be any substantial action on this matter from either side. This past April, the U.S. sent roughly 300 troops to Western Ukraine to train Ukrainian National Guard forces, further inflaming the lingering Cold War political atmosphere in the region. In March, MAPA opposed a resolution to provide military assistance to Ukraine; Reps. McGovern, Tsongas, Clark, and Capuano voted no, but the resolution passed.
In December 2014, both the U.S. and Cuban governments announced plans to begin thawing diplomatic tensions that have kept the two nations at odds for over 50 years. Since that time, each side has made concessions to the other with increasing frequency. What started as a handshake has been transformed into tangible political achievements: prisoners have been freed and trade, travel, and monetary exchange restrictions have been lifted over the past several months. President Obama recently removed Cuba from the U.S. government’s “State Sponsors of Terror” list. Reopening of embassies is expected to follow, but lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba will require Congressional action.
Venezuela (Jenny Horsburgh)
Socialist Venezuela has entered a new phase of confrontation with the U.S. On February 12th, President Nicolas Maduro’s government foiled a coup attempt by the US-supported opposition movement (reminiscent of a similar attempt in 2002), and President Obama in March preposterously branded Venezuela an “extreme threat” to U.S. security. Maduro claims that the US is waging an economic war. Venezuela is now engaged in a fight for survival of its socialist ideals. The alternative is submission to the future the architects in Washington prefer.