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What Sanctions Mean for My Iranian-American Family

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 3:15pm

Economic sanctions are a form of warfare on people who are just trying to make ends meet. (Shutterstock)

“What’s wrong?” I asked my mother, as I saw her broken expression. She was on the phone, speaking with my grandparents in Iran. “A terrible thing has happened,” she replied.

My grandparent’s home in Tehran had been broken into. The thieves took everything they could carry — my grandmother’s jewelry, my uncle’s prized watch collection, his wedding band, and some cash. Perhaps the only thing left untouched was the grand, ornate Persian rug in their living room.

My grandfather had left the house for 10 minutes for afternoon prayers at the mosque. Now, he swears to never leave his home unattended again. He takes turns leaving the house with my grandmother, both in constant dread of another break-in.

Across Iran, such burglaries seem to be increasing as ordinary Iranian people face increased hardship from U.S.-imposed sanctions.

As a dual citizen, I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, but I’ve been traveling to Iran regularly ever since I was four months old.

I grew up in a household that taught me to love who I am, to see the wisdom in maintaining cultural intricacies, and to relish in the socio-religious traditions that keep life going. Words cannot do justice to the feeling of affinity that envelops me every time I step into my second home in Tehran.

My mother, in efforts to ease her old parents’ anxious hearts, could only repeat tavakol be khoda, or as we like to translate it: “Your faith must be stronger than your fear.”

President Trump has sought confrontation with Iran at every opportunity. Since America’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, the U.S. has re-imposed sanctions targeting critical sectors of Iran’s economy.

Since then, oil exports have more than halved, choking the main source of funding for the country. Iranian currency has lost almost 60 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar, reaching a record low.

Meanwhile, sanctions and problems in banking transfers have made it extremely hard to buy everything from food to medicine. In the past 12 months, the cost of red meat and poultry has increased by 57 percent. Physicians are forced to prescribe less effective drugs, while patients must wait longer for operations.

During my visit last December, I witnessed the desperation with my own eyes.

Children stood, begging on the streets, tapping on my car window, trying to sell flowers and CDs. Highly educated youth sat in their homes, unable to find employment. Families withstood long lines at government-subsidized grocery stores to receive rationed meat. Patients had to self-treat their illnesses because they couldn’t purchase proper medicine.

Day after day, I sit and watch my president come up with new ways to escalate tensions, like tweeting that we’re “cocked and loaded to retaliate,” and only barely calling off a strike that would have killed 150 people — potentially starting a war without congressional approval. Or imposing new sanctions on top Iranian officials, which could close off the road to diplomacy.

Yet the absence of armed conflict doesn’t mean that over 80 million innocent people aren’t tremendously hurting already — and for no good reason. Economic sanctions are a form of warfare on people who are just trying to make ends meet.

Trump has even configured a way to suppress the normal aspirational response to escape destitute living conditions — banning Iranians entry to the most promising nation on Earth with his Muslim travel ban.

Whether it’s Cuba or Venezuela or Iran, history shows that sanctions alone have never forced a change in policy by an adversary. Iranians and Americans alike deserve diplomacy, not war — and that includes war by economic means.

Can our faith be stronger than our fear?

The post What Sanctions Mean for My Iranian-American Family appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Mina Shahinfar is a Next Leader on the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 10:29am

Today, in the United States, a vast population of the undocumented live in constant fear of arrest and exile. (Shutterstock)

During the height of Stalin’s purges, the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich kept a packed suitcase near the door of his apartment. 

The Black Marias, the vehicle of choice for the secret police, would traditionally arrive in the middle of the night to ferry “undesirables” to interrogation cells. Shostakovich wanted to be ready at any moment for possible exile to Siberia. He was a much-celebrated figure in the Soviet Union, but Stalin had taken a dislike to his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. The Soviet dictator was like that: unpredictable.

The Soviets executed more than a half a million people in 1937-1938, while about 18 million people were imprisoned in the gulags from 1929 to 1953. Shostakovich had good reason to be fearful. In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, a significant portion of the population lived in fear of arrest, then execution or internal exile. 

Today, in the United States, a vast population of the undocumented live in constant fear of arrest and exile, not to some far-flung area of the United States but back to their countries of birth. 

Some of them, like Shostakovich, have packed their bags in advance. In East Tennessee, Alberto Librado’s 11-year-old daughter has two suitcases always ready so that she can accompany her father back to Mexico, even though she, born in the United States, could legally stay behind. The Librados and so many other families await the Black Marias of ICE.

In contrast to those who feared Stalin’s wrath, the undocumented won’t be interrogated and forced to sign incriminating confessions. Nor will they be executed. But many left their countries because of a well-justified fear of persecution or harm. Their deportation may indeed be a death sentence.

The overwhelming majority of those who died during Stalin’s reign served the Communist state faithfully. Likewise, the overwhelming majority of the undocumented have labored hard here in the United States, usually at jobs that the native-born simply don’t want — in the sweltering fields of Florida or the frigid slaughterhouses of the South and Midwest. At a time of low unemployment, their labor is needed more than ever. The state’s push to deport them seems irrational and self-defeating, just like the Soviet Communist Party’s decision to persecute its own loyal members.

The deportations that Trump has threatened did not begin with him. The Clinton administration deported more than 12 million people, the George W. Bush administration more than 10 million, and the Obama administration more than 5 million. But there was a difference. “During Obama, the overwhelming majority of enforcement actions targeted criminal aliens,” John Cohen, former acting under secretary at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, told The New York Times. Trump’s “operation apparently specifically targets families who for the most part present no risk.”

Moreover, the Trump administration has demonized the undocumented like never before. “They aren’t people,” Trump has said, “they are animals.” The administration has revived the practice of workplace raids. It has tried to roll back protection for the “dreamers,” young people who came to America as minors. It has removed “temporary protective status” for over 300,000 people from six countries.

And this week the administration announced that it will end most asylum-seeking at the border by blocking anyone who has passed through a third country — mostly Mexico — to the U.S. border. That means a big cold shoulder to anyone fleeing violence and persecution from Central America. 

The latest round of ICE raids was supposed to begin this weekend but they were scaled back because targeted communities had advanced notice thanks to media reports. But Trump will be keeping this issue in the news until Election Day 2020. The immigration issue is a sure-fire method of firing up his base. 

It also fits into his larger framing of the issue, which is a profound and malignant redefinition of “we the people.”

Forget about Minorities

Before the last G-20 meeting last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the Financial Times. His description of liberalism as “obsolete” received a lot of media coverage. But it was his itemization of liberalism’s defects that deserves greater attention.

For Putin, liberalism’s greatest failing is its emphasis on minority protections, which conflict with “the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Those minority protections include LGBT rights, which Putin sees in conflict with “the culture, traditions, and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

Right-wing populists, because they so often represent minority constituencies like the rich or the outwardly racist, have to reconceive the “people” in order to demonstrate that they reflect the majority. Populists speak on behalf of this imagined majority when they suppress the rights of minorities, as Putin as done. They also do their best to dismantle the democratic institutions of the state that protect the interests of minorities, going after one group after another in a game of divide and rule.

The most disturbing example of this marshalling of an imagined majority against a beleaguered minority is the attack on migrants and refugees. Putin zeroes in on liberalism’s approach to non-citizens, particularly Germany’s embrace of a million desperate souls from the wars convulsing the Middle East.

“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done,” Putin argues. “That migrants can kill, plunder, and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

That’s of course absurd. Migrants, like everyone else, are subject to the rule of law in Germany or the United States. It’s the height of hypocrisy for Putin to make this assertion, given that he kills and plunders with impunity. But that’s what distinguishes liberalism from the Russian president’s self-proclaimed illiberalism, which puts himself above the law.

Here the symmetry between Putin and Trump becomes all too clear. Trump is not Putin’s spy. He is Putin’s student. Together they attribute all social evils to the outsider — so as to preserve an illusion that the “core population” (including, of course, themselves) is blameless. 

Trump has gone even further than Putin in his understanding of who constitutes a migrant. The president’s recent tweets that certain progressive Democrats — obviously Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — should “go back” to the “places from which they came” are an extraordinary elevation of street insult to state-sanctioned racism. All four politicians are American citizens, and three of them were born in this country. 

And the response from Trump’s Republican supporters? “They are American citizens,” Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country. Mr. President, you’re right about their policies. You’re right about where they will take the country. Just aim higher.”

And how does Graham characterize their policies? “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists,” Graham said. “They hate Israel, they hate our own country.” 

Graham, a fervent supporter of gun rights, knows all about “aiming higher.” He’s not talking about elevating the discourse. He’s talking about shooting to kill (politically) by using some tried-and-true bullets (anti-Communism, anti-Semitism).

All of which is to say that the Republican Party has various ways of demonizing minorities and distinguishing them from a red-blooded American majority. Putin is right: liberalism has become obsolete, at least for much of the ruling elite in the United States. 

They’re Real People

One reason that Trump and the Republican right have gotten away with their anti-immigrant sentiment is that “average Americans” don’t have much contact with the undocumented. Direct contact, that is. So much of the conveniences of modern life depend on the labor provided by the undocumented: tomatoes, chicken wings, manicured lawns, clean office spaces. 

What separates the documented and the undocumented is a wall of language, of economic stratification, of cultural segregation. This is the real wall that Trump is reinforcing every day.

But sometimes that wall is breached.

Consider the following story from a recent This American Life episode, about an ICE raid on a slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee — where Alberto Librado worked before he was detained — and the reaction of Trump supporter Krista Etter. 

Etter had to go to a local vigil for the parents that ICE rounded up in order to take pictures of it for the local paper. And she started to listen to the children talking at the microphone.

There was a young man. He was a teenager, 14, 15 years old, that said, he just wanted his mom to come home. He didn’t have anybody else. He just wanted his mom to come home. It just really, just shook my soul. It was — it was almost overwhelming, because there were so many children speaking. And — and, I actually kind of had to get out of there. Because I was like, it’s getting hot. And I have health issues. And I was like, I need to — I have to remove myself, you know, walk out to my car, get a breath.

You can almost hear how this new information begins to transform Etter’s thinking:

Because when I heard crack down on illegal immigration, I interpreted it as a crackdown on illegal immigrants that were criminals. If there was a drug situation, you know, violent criminals, pedophile, any kind of situation of that nature. That’s what I expected.

And I really believe I’m not the only one who did that. I don’t think anybody ever really stopped to think that they were going to go after the family man working at the meatpacking plant. That’s not what I had in mind.

I’m still a President Trump supporter. I guess, I have to hold out hope that maybe he didn’t understand he was going after the guy in the meatpacking plant. I mean, I guess he probably does.

It wasn’t just Etter whose mind was changing. The mayor of Morristown, where many of the Bean Station workers lived, calls himself a “lifelong Republican of the Reagan variety.” Gary Chesney is not the kind of mayor interested in setting up a sanctuary city. “We’ve been following the rules and guidelines here,” he told The New Yorker. “But the innocent victims were the kids whose parents were picked up. I was also proud that our locals took care of the innocent folks.” 

The mayor’s thinking is still evolving — note his distinction between the “innocent” children and the presumably “guilty” parents who have been working so hard at the nearby slaughterhouse. Still, the mayor admits: “We all get a little bit smarter as the issue gets more personal.”

The issue has never gotten personal for Trump, even though he has employed plenty of undocumented folks at his enterprises going all the way back to the start of his career. Undocumented Polish workers who built Trump Tower later sued Trump. They reported “nightmare memories of backbreaking 12-hour shifts and of being cheated with 200 other undocumented Polish immigrants out of meager wages and fringe benefits.” 

The issue has never gotten personal for Trump, even though his wife’s parents obtained American citizenship by using the same method of “chain migration” that the president has declared “must end now.”

The issue has never gotten person for Trump because he has not gotten even “a little bit smarter” about immigration. He used the undocumented to build his buildings, to construct his brand, to win the White House. It was despicable then on a local level, and it’s despicable now at a global level. 

He will stop only when enough Krista Etters see through the canard.

The post Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Yamamoto Taro: New Prospects for Progressive Politics in Japan

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 12:18pm

Yamamoto Taro (YouTube)

The Shinzo Abe administration in Japan, and its promotion of militarism and racist attacks on Koreans and Chinese, might seem impossible to displace. But a counter current in Japanese politics is gaining momentum. It and has put in motion new political players who speak with a frankness and engage in politics with a passion that has not been seen since the 1970s.

One of the most impressive of this new generation, who is currently touring Tokyo to give speeches in the lead-up to the July 21 elections, is the charismatic and committed Yamamoto Taro.

A long-time critic of the government’s denial of environmental damage resulting from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he has openly advocated on behalf of the citizens of the region who suffer from high rates of cancer. Yamamoto made headlines when he handed the previous emperor, Akihito, a letter in 2013 describing the terrible health conditions of children living around the disabled nuclear plant and the workers involved in the cleanup. Mainstream politicians attacked him for trying to use the emperor for political purposes at a public event, and many demanded that he resign and that be barred from future such events.

Yamamoto’s willingness to talk about the details of daily life for those confronted with the fallout of the nuclear disaster – in spite of the virtual media blackout on the issue – won him a small but devoted base in Japan.

Yamamoto started his career as an actor and established himself as a “talent,” a popular figure who appears on late-night talk shows to discuss current affairs and culture in a lighthearted manner. He took up the anti-nuclear issue after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. To the detriment of his acting career, Yamamoto threw himself into activism, promoting renewable energy and working with those whose health was effected by the disaster.

He ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 2010 as an independent from the Eighth district of Tokyo. His platform included unconditional opposition to nuclear power and to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. He was successful, however, in 2013 when he ran for the House of Councilors with the support of multiple minor parties. There he established himself as one of the most assertive young politicians.

A New Party

Yamamoto broke his primary affiliation with Jiyuto (Freedom Party) in April 2019 and launched a new political coalition known as Reiwa Sinsengumi. The Reiwa Sinsengumi (Reiwa New Election Team) coalition has fielded multiple candidates for the current elections (including Yamamoto) and has taken forceful positions not found among other established opposition parties. For example, Reiwa Rinsengumi demands an immediate end to the regressive consumption tax (other opposition parties only ask that the rate not be raised), has openly opposed the construction of the Henoko Base in Okinawa, has demanded an immediate and unconditional end to nuclear power in Japan, and has proposed a 1500-yen-an-hour minimum wage.

Reiwa Sinsengumi has also been outspoken in its opposition to the broad security and terrorism laws passed in 2017 that include numerous “preventive” approaches that limit freedom of speech. Other opposition parties have moved on after the fight back in 2017 and for the most part have accepted the reality of limited freedoms in contemporary Japan.

Reiwa Sinsengumi has relied on funding from individual citizens and has a lean organization of volunteers who avoid the thick net of financial obligations that weigh down other political operations. Yamamoto held a series of open lectures around the country that helped him to amass 100 million yen for the party within one month of its founding. Reiwa Sinsengumi has also fielded unusual progressive candidates such as Yasumi Ayumi, a professor of economics at University of Tokyo.

Kawanaka Yo, a volunteer in Yamamoto’s campaign working at this Yotsuya office, spoke about her work calling up his supporters to gather funding. “I was impressed by the incredibly positive response I received from his previous donors when I called to ask for support for the current campaign,” she said. “The enthusiasm was palpable and support for the party was not a matter of old ties but of a new vision for what is possible.”

In addition to its opposition to nuclear power and the TPP, Reiwa Sinsengumi supports a guarantee that Japanese “will not go hungry.” This is a promise to provide all citizens with free education, free medicine, and free social services. This plank declares that citizens should “work to live, not live do work” and that the terrible psychological and physical abuses of overwork must end. The coalition also opposes the revision of the constitution, the use of the term of “collective security” to justify an enlarged military, and the development of nuclear weapons.

An Unusual Candidate

Yamamoto has tirelessly travelled around Tokyo giving speeches and focusing on the disadvantaged and the disabled. His speech on July 8th was particularly powerful. Yamamoto launched into his discussion in this manner:

I started my career in politics with the thought that “I want to live.” But there are so many people in this country who do not want even to live in this country these days. There are twenty thousand people a year who choose suicide. It would be 50,000 if you include all the attempted suicides. This country is clearly completely broken. What about you? Can you say with confidence that you are someone whom this society will allow to live? Do truly believe that you are something of great value in this society simply in that you are alive? If you are in trouble, do you have the confidence to call out for help?

Yamamoto combines a disarming and even humorous rhetoric in his speeches, which is combined with a logical and scientific analysis (addressing his audience as if it were capable of understanding complex issues). He also launches into trenchant critiques that go to the core of a dehumanized market economy.

Rather than rely on the traditional broad strokes of Japanese politicians, Yamamoto talks about the daily lives of ordinary Japanese who are completely ignored in the larger picture presented by the mainstream media. In his speech, Yamamoto describes a Japan made up of numerous ordinary citizens, young workers, single mothers, the disabled, and the elderly, all subject to the increasing pressures of a rapacious economic system. He does not try to pin the problems on Abe or any particular bogeyman but demands that the actual issues be addressed directly.

Yamamoto declares that the essential question is one of a profound correction of the system itself. He sets out his goal as creating a new political culture that can move beyond denial and address topics like poverty and pollution with honesty. As such, he represents a new potential in the political culture of Japan.

The post Yamamoto Taro: New Prospects for Progressive Politics in Japan appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Emanuel Pastreich is the director of the Asia Institute ( and a senior scholar at FPIF.

Iran’s Not the Aggressor. The U.S. Is.

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 12:21pm


It’s easy to be confused about what’s happening between the U.S. and Iran.

On July 10, President Trump again accused Iran of violating the Obama-era nuclear deal, in a tweet that he concluded by promising to increase U.S. sanctions “substantially.”

Similarly,  headlines — such as a recent New York Times article that originally proclaimed, “With a New Threat, Iran Tests the Resolve of the U.S. and Its Allies” — strongly suggest that Iran is the aggressor, and taking steps that heighten tensions in the Middle East.

That view is driven by Trump administration officials like Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, National Security Advisor and long-time proponent of invading Iran John Bolton, and other right-wing officials like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. Cotton said in an interview on Fox News Sunday that he sees “Iran steadily marching up the escalation chain,” which he said justifies U.S. air strikes against the country.

In June, administration officials made the serious allegation that Iran had attacked two cargo ships in the Gulf of Oman — only to see their account disputed by a captain on one of the very ships that was attacked. Then there was a week of movement toward military action — at the height of which the acting secretary of defense stepped down because stories of horrific domestic violence toward his wife came to light. 

Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, with Iran and the U.S. asserting conflicting stories about whether or not the aircraft was in Iranian airspace. And then, of course, the president ordered an airstrike on Iran — only to cancel it with U.S. planes presumably moments away from killing up to 150 Iranians, which would have dramatically escalated the conflict.

Throughout these twists and turns, Trump, his Secretary of State, and other officials have repeated the phrase “we don’t want war.” If that’s the case — that the U.S. wants to avoid war, even as Iran is supposedly taking a hostile posture and unilaterally escalating tensions — then the Trump administration’s instability and incompetence is surely worrisome. As a result, critics in both the media and Congress, not to mention the Democratic presidential field, are warning the administration could “bumble” into a war.

But whatever officials say, and as erratic as the sequence of events has been, one thing is clear: It’s the U.S. that is belligerently threatening Iran, not the other way around. And if a war breaks out, it won’t be because the administration “bumbled” into one.

It was, after all, the Trump administration that pulled out of the nuclear agreement — an agreement that Iran was fully complying with — which makes the administration’s complaints about Iran’s present enrichment levels totally bankrupt.

It was the U.S. that sent an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, to the Gulf of Oman, right off Iran’s coast. It’s worth imagining how Americans might respond were Iran to send military vessels to the coast of California. And it’s the U.S. that’s sent nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the region, too.

In May, Trump announced that he was deploying 1,500 U.S. troops to the Middle East — in addition to the thousands already stationed in the region. At the same time, the U.S. withdrew diplomatic staff from Iraq, removing them from harm’s way should there be a military confrontation. In June, officials announced the deployment of 1,000 more troops. And as the U.S. has shifted ships, sailors, and marines toward Iran, the Middle East is now home to the largest number of U.S. naval personnel, despite American officials’ preoccupation with an increasingly powerful China many thousands of miles away.

Having set assets in place to carry out military operations, Hook and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a tour of the Middle East and Europe to shore up alliances and isolate Iran.

All this comes on top of the punishing sanctions regime the U.S. has imposed on Iran, breaking a promise made under the Iran nuclear agreement. Targeting Iran’s oil, steel, copper, and other industries, these sanctions have isolated the country’s economy from financial systems around the world. They’ve caused Iran’s currency to plunge in value, which has sharply curtailed access by ordinary Iranians to consumer goods. They’ve made diapers, baby formula, and feminine hygiene products especially difficult to buy, disproportionately impacting Iranian women and children — as sanctions typically do.

The U.S. is brutalizing ordinary Iranians, even as its actions and rhetoric are driving toward a more serious military confrontation. Despite this clear pattern, the U.S. media has more typically expressed concern for what seems to be an inept approach by the Trump administration. As the New York Times editorialized a month ago, “the Trump administration’s lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with Iran has resulted in a series of conflicting messages, all of which contribute to a growing sense of foreboding and unpredictability.”

But we should pay more attention to the administration’s actions than its words. In fact, rhetoric that decries war — coupled with actions that pursue it — seems to be the order of the day for Trump and his officials, as well as commentators itching for a U.S. attack.

Perhaps the right-wing Times columnist Bret Stephens captures the contradictory approach best. He concluded a bellicose recent column by saying that “nobody wants a war with Iran,” but points out that the U.S. has sunk the Iranian navy before and that “Tehran should be put on notice that we are prepared and able to do it again.”

It is simply a lie that the U.S. — or its hardline government, at least — does not want war. Politicians’ and commentators’ words may be muddled, but we should be clear: The administration is already devastating Iran with sanctions and is setting the stage for worse. We must do everything we can to stop it.


The post Iran’s Not the Aggressor. The U.S. Is. appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Khury Petersen-Smith is the Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Trump Is Betraying U.S. Partners in Syria and Libya

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 8:27am


Over the past several months, President Trump has betrayed U.S.-allied militias in Syria and Libya, proving that he is willing to abandon partners that have fought and died alongside U.S. military forces in the wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

The president’s actions have left Kurdish militias in Syria vulnerable to attack by Turkey. Trump has also left Misratan militias in Libya defending Tripoli against an attack by Libyan General Khalifa Haftar. For years, both militias have worked closely with U.S. military forces in the war against the Islamic State.

The Kurdish forces, who are well-known on the left for leading a social revolution in Rojava, played a central role in defeating the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) in Syria. Many U.S. officials have praised the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as the most effective fighters on the ground in Syria.

“We have full confidence in our partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and we are proud to work with them to rid Syria from the scourge of ISIS,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press statement last year.

When President Trump made his surprise announcement in December that he was withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria, he expressed no concern about the fate of the Kurds. His declaration prompted strong criticism from his closest allies in Washington, a number of whom warned that a rapid U.S. withdrawal would leave the Kurds vulnerable to attack by Turkey.

“If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said.

The foreign policy establishment, which pushed back against Trump’s decision, persuaded him to delay the U.S. withdrawal, but it remains unclear if the president will approve a long-term plan to provide security for the Kurds. The administration has not responded to repeated requests from members of Congress for detailed planning.

To “leave the Kurds in jeopardy, it would just be the wrong thing to do morally, it’d be the wrong thing to do in so many ways,” Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has said.

In the meantime, events unfolding in Libya have closely mirrored events taking place in Syria, as Misratan militias that have partnered with the U.S. military have also been betrayed by Trump.

In 2016, Misratan militias played a central role in a U.S.-led military operation against the Islamic State in the coastal city of Sirte. As a number of former U.S. officials confirmed during a congressional hearing in May, Misratan militias worked closely with U.S. military forces to defeat IS forces in the city.

“The actual people who cooperated with the U.S. government and AFRICOM in 2016 when a six-month operation took place to rid ISIS of Sirte were largely a group from Misrata,” former U.S. official Benjamin Fishman said. Air Force veteran Frederic Wehrey, who had been embedded with the Misratan militias, told the congressional committee that “I saw the sacrifices they made.”

Now, those very same Libyan forces are trying to defend Libya’s Government of National Accord from an attack by forces led by Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, a longtime asset of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In April, Haftar started a brutal military campaign to seize control of Tripoli as part of his bid to control all of Libya. “I don’t know that there is a political solution that he would accept other than complete domination,” former U.S. official Thomas Hill told Congress.

Regardless, the Trump administration has worked to help Haftar. Shortly after the general began his attack, the U.S. military withdrew its forces from Libya, making it clear that they would not stand in Haftar’s way. Then, in a phone call with Haftar, Trump endorsed the general’s campaign, despite the fact that it posed a direct threat to the Misratan militias that had previously worked with the U.S. military to fight IS.

The Misratan militias “are the people that Haftar is now fighting and those are the people that are on the defensive,” Fishman said. They “are currently under attack by Haftar’s forces,” former U.S. official Megan Doherty confirmed.

With the Misratan militias now defending Tripoli from forces supported by President Trump, their earlier contributions in the war against IS apparently mean very little to the president. Various officials in the Trump administration insist that they value U.S. partners in the world, but Trump’s actions show that U.S. partners are expendable.

Indeed, Trump’s actions in both Syria and Libya prove that he is willing to abandon U.S. partners at a moment’s notice, even if it means leaving them vulnerable to attack.

The post Trump Is Betraying U.S. Partners in Syria and Libya appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary.