Interview: To the Brink of War with No Upside

WhoWhatWhy.org Podcast, January 17, 2020:
Download the MP3 or Read the Full Transcript
Middle East scholar Stephen Zunes debunks the Trump administration’s changing rationale for assassinating Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s response, and the risk of war. Among his intriguing claims:

  • Too little is said about Democrats’ role  in the hostilities
  • The exact same beefs the US has with Iran apply equally to many American allies
  • Evidence does not support Trump’s key assertions about the Iranian general whose death he ordered.

Biden’s Dangerous Refusal to Reverse Trump’s Western Sahara Policy

In his final weeks in office, President Donald Trump stunned the international community in formally recognizing Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Morocco has occupied much of its southern neighbor since 1975, when it invaded and annexed the former Spanish colony in defiance of the United Nations Security Council and a landmark ruling of the International Court of Justice… [FULL LINK]

Will Biden Admin Reverse Trump’s “Dangerous” Recognition of Morocco’s Occupation of Western Sahara?

Feb. 5, 2021: DemocracyNow! full transcript and video link

President Donald Trump broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy in the waning days of his administration and recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a territory the country has occupied since 1975 in defiance of the United Nations and the international community. U.S. recognition came as Morocco agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, becoming the fourth Arab nation to do so in recent months as part of a regional push by the Trump administration to strengthen Israel without addressing the Palestinian conflict. Now the Biden administration must weigh whether to reverse Trump’s decision on Western Sahara. “It’ll be very dangerous if Biden does not reverse Trump’s unprecedented recognition of Morocco’s takeover of Western Sahara,” says Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco. “The United Nations Charter is very clear that the expansion of territory by military force is illegitimate.”
See reviews of his book, “Western Sahara,”related articles, audio and video.

Trump’s deal on Morocco’s Western Sahara annexation risks more global conflict

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and is co-author, with Jacob Mundy, of “Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution.”

Last week, President Trump formally recognized Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara as part of a deal to get Morocco to normalize relations with Israel. But Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara is rejected by the United Nations, the World Court, the African Union and a broad consensus of international legal scholars that consider the region a non-self-governing territory that must be allowed an act of self-determination. This is why no country had formally recognized Morocco’s takeover — until now. At the time of the Moroccan takeover of the former Spanish colony in 1975, the U.N. Security Council unanimously called on Moroccan forces to immediately withdraw and allow the people of Western Sahara to determine their own destiny. However, both France and the United States prevented the Security Council from enforcing its mandate. [FULL LINK]

Trump Recognized Morocco’s Illegal Occupation to Boost the Israeli Occupation

Truthout – On December 10, the US became the only country to formally recognize Morocco’s illegal annexation of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony forcibly seized by Moroccan forces in 1975. Trump’s proclamation is directly counter to a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark World Court ruling calling for self-determination. Trump’s decision was a quid pro quo: a reward for Morocco’s formal recognition of Israel, a country which is also an occupying power. Trump had previously broken precedent by recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights and greater Jerusalem. US recognition of the annexation of an entire country, which has been recognized as an independent state by 80 countries, is a particularly dangerous precedent. As with his earlier recognition of Israel’s conquests, Trump is effectively renouncing longstanding international legal principles in favor of the right of conquest. [FULL LINK]

A Dangerous Move to Crack Down on Protests Against Israel

[The Progressive, Dec. 4, 2020]
Late last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government finds the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign to be inherently “anti-Semitic.” He pledged to “immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups” and urged all nations to “recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is. Pompeo made no distinction between those who support a boycott of Israel itself and those who support more limited forms of BDS… [FULL LINK]

Pompeo Embraced Israeli Settlements, But Democrats Also Paved the Way for It

[Truthout, November 28, 2020] – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has faced widespread international condemnation for his recent assertions that illegal Israeli settlements constructed in the occupied West Bank are somehow legal and part of Israel, and that products from these colonies on confiscated Palestinian land should be labeled as “Made in Israel.” What fewer are discussing, however, is that while these proclamations are unprecedented in their scope, they are in fact the culmination of decades of bipartisan support for Israeli expansionism. The illegality of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank is clear: Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — to which both Israel and the United States are signatories — prohibits any occupying power from transferring “parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” [FULL LINK]

INTERVIEW: What Explains Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy?

[Fair Observer October 20, 2020] Ever since his inauguration in 2017, US President Donald Trump has placed an emphasis on unilateralism and the rejection of international organizations and treaties as the hallmarks of his foreign policy. Trump has assumed an aggressive modus operandi in dealing with US partners worldwide and alienated many allies. He repealed US participation in the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the Treaty on Open Skies, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Even in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, he pulled the US out of the World Health Organization. The president has pledged to draw an end to the “forever wars” the US has been involved in over the past couple of decades, and he has challenged the view that America should be the world’s “policeman.” At the same time, his Middle East policy has been nothing short of hawkish, and he has dragged the US to the brink of war with Iran. [FULL LINK]

Trump “Peace Plan” Too Extreme Even for Former Right-Wing Israeli Prime Minister

[Truthout, February 12, 2020] In an extraordinary joint press conference at the United Nations on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert outlined their objections to Donald Trump’s so-called “peace plan” between Israel and Palestine. The plan would allow Israel to annex large swathes of territory conquered in the 1967 war that it has since illegally colonized with Israeli settlers. Trump’s proposal, made without Palestinian participation and unilaterally announced last month, would leave small noncontiguous enclaves of remaining Palestinian territory surrounded by a greatly expanded Israel and allowed only limited autonomy…

INTERVIEW: Trump ‘Peace Plan,’Middle East Update with Stephen Zunes

A “peace plan” for Israel-Palestine? War on Iran? A way out of Afghanistan? East-West Conflict Over Syria?
Of all the responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of a president, it has long been clear that foreign policy is beyond Trump’s abilities. Woefully ignorant before taking office, he has done nothing to learn. And it shows. There are numerous tinderbox situations in the region, all made more dangerous by Trump’s impulsive, ill-informed actions. For this edition of we’ll take an authoritative look at the region’s many hot spots.
March 5, 2020 (58-min. video): Other Voices TV, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, hosted by Paul George, Director Emeritus, with Midpen Media Center, Palo Alto

Trump’s Recognition of Israeli Settlements Is Rooted in Bipartisan Support

[The Progressive, November 21, 2019] Three previous U.S. administrations all ignored the gross power asymmetry between the Palestinians under occupation and the Israeli occupiers—an imbalance compounded by the fact that as the chief mediator in negotiations, the U.S. is also the primary military, economic, and diplomatic supporter of the occupying power. Three previous U.S. administrations all ignored the gross power asymmetry between the Palestinians under occupation and the Israeli occupiers—an imbalance compounded by the fact that as the chief mediator in negotiations, the U.S. is also the primary military, economic, and diplomatic supporter of the occupying power.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement this week that the United States will no longer accept the international consensus on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank should come as no surprise. Indeed, both Republicans and Democrats have been pushing for such a move for decades.
In fact, the illegality of the settlements couldn’t be clearer. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention…

This Isn’t the First Time the US Has Abandoned the Kurds

[Truthout October 10, 2019] President Trump’s decision to give a green light for a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-populated regions of northern Syria has been faced with swift bipartisan opposition. Apparently, no one in the diplomatic, military or intelligence community — much less the leadership of the self-governing Kurdish enclave the U.S. has armed and supported and is now under siege — was consulted beforehand. U.S. troops should indeed be withdrawn from Syria, but the U.S. soldiers removed from the border area where Turkish forces are now attacking are not being sent home, and instead are simply being redeployed elsewhere in northeastern Syria. Trump’s sudden and apparently impulsive move following a conversation with authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (one of a number of autocratic leaders with whom Trump has developed a close relationship) is dangerous and irresponsible….

Trump’s Threats towards Iran Aren’t Working. Here’s Why.

The Progressive, July 17, 2019: The Trump Administration has imposed sanctions against more than 1,000 Iranian entities, including Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, targeting almost every significant sector of that nation’s economy. But recently it reversed course, backing off its threat to sanction a top Iranian diplomat, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in response to concerns that it would foreclose any diplomatic recourse… [Full Article]

Also Dr. Zunes’ interview July 22, 2019 on KBOO
US Conflict with Iran: an anti-imperialist analysis

Bill Resnick interviews Stephen Zunes on the ongoing U.S. conflict with Iran, comparing Iran’s politics to Saudi Arabia, our “great ally”.

U.S. Recognition of Israel’s Golan Annexation a Threat to World Order

March 25, 2019 in The Progrssive, AntiWar.com and Common Dreams: The Trump Administration’s decision to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights—Syrian territory seized in the June 1967 war—marks a serious violation of fundamental principles of international law. The inadmissibility of any country expanding its territory by force is a longstanding principle of the international legal order, enshrined in the United Nations Charter, U.N. Security Council resolutions, and repeatedly confirmed by the International Court of Justice. Following its conquest of the Golan region, Israeli forces drove out most of its residents in what has accurately been called ethnic cleansing…

Politicians Are Not Going to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable

Sojourners January 2019: DESPITE THE manifold horrors inflicted by the Saudi regime over the years, it was not until the grisly murder of a well-connected exiled journalist in early October that public attention has finally been given to the monarchy’s savagery.
U.S.-educated Jamal Khashoggi was perhaps Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalist, having served as editor-in-chief for the Saudi Al-Watan daily newspaper and as general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel. A moderately conservative Islamist who became increasingly liberal in his later years, Khashoggi’s writings emphasized the need for freedom of expression in the Arab world. Such rights, if exercised in his home country, could threaten the hold on power by the corrupt U.S.-backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who had paradoxically been lauded in the U.S. media as a reformer.
In recent decades, the Saudi regime has executed hundreds of their domestic opponents. What made Khashoggi’s murder different is that, as a Washington Post columnist living in the D.C. area, he was well-known and respected among leading journalists, members of Congress, influential pundits, and others. Khashoggi’s prominence, along with the sensitivity regarding the protected status of journalists and the brutal nature of his killing, resulted in his death receiving the widespread attention denied to so many of the regime’s other victims…