The two of us, as emergency physicians, will be among the earliest recipients of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. We have both been asked how and why we made the choice to get our shot. We, like many fellow health care providers, were initially concerned about political pressure being put on the US Food and Drug Administration. Ultimately, though, four reasons, based on our years of experience in emergency medicine, public health and clinical trials, informed our decision to trust the vaccine -- and get vaccinated.The terms "Operation Warp Speed" and "Emergency Use Authorization" convey a haste that could be interpreted as in conflict with safety. History provides examples of vaccines and pharmaceuticals that had negative consequences, so this concern is not unreasonable.However, these vaccines development did not cut corners. Moderna s and Pfizer s compressed timeline reflects unique partnerships between industry, government, and academia, high levels of funding, and decades of previous research on mRNA vaccines, as well as countless individuals working day and night given the nature of the crisis. Authorization may be expedited, but both organizations followed the requisite orderly progression from Phase 1 to Phase 3 trials. The careful scientific design and rigor has given us a great deal of confidence in the final product. Despite prior political pressure applied to the process, two federal advisory boards (the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as a separate advisory board in New York have evaluated Pfizer s results, and approved the vaccine through the Emergency Use Authorization process. They will follow the same process for the Moderna vaccine.Pfizer s Phase 3 results have additionally undergone external peer review and been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Each of these independent reviews was incentivized to identify problems, not to gloss them over. It s also tremendously unlikely that all of them missed a problem related to safety and efficacy. They work! It would not be appropriate to expend massive political, financial, and public goodwill to provide an ineffective vaccine across the population. Reassuringly, the ample publicly available data supports that these vaccines are highly effective in preventing Covid-19 disease. We love to see consistency of results in science: The fact that the two mRNA vaccines -- Pfizer s and Moderna s -- have such similar success rates (over 90% protection against symptomatic Covid-19) is very reassuring and allays concerns that one or the other study was spurious or mistaken. Individual scientists or study groups can certainly make mistakes and be subject to bias, especially when under pressure, but each of these studies was done independently, on slightly different populations, and came to the same conclusions. We still don t know the long-term efficacy of the vaccine. Will we need to be vaccinated again in the following year? Perhaps, but right now, we need whatever protection the vaccine can afford us to get on top of the pandemic. And even if the vaccines effectiveness falls short of the current estimates, the new Covid-19 vaccines promise to be far more effective than most years flu vaccines. Side effects are real, but minor, and certainly not as bad as the disease We are the first to admit that there will be temporary, minor side effects, such as low-grade fevers, muscle aches and fatigue, especially after the second dose of the vaccine. In fact, we have purposefully scheduled our own vaccines for days when we do not have to work clinically. These side effects are, however, neither dangerous nor long-lasting. Even the worst possible reaction -- anaphylactic allergic reactions -- are both rare and treatable. Administration sites will be on the watch for such events. As ER docs, we are much less worried about vaccine side effects than from the known harm from getting Covid-19. There is no evidence (or biological plausibility) behind some of the wilder claims that we ve heard and seen online about the vaccine causing long-term, hidden harm. These allegations mirror the talking points of the anti-vaccine movement. More importantly, they simply are not based in scientific reality.The mRNA just serves as a blueprint for a little piece of protein that stimulates the immune system, is quickly broken down by the body, and it is physically impossible for it to be incorporated into our underlying genetic material. People with autoimmune disorders were included in the trials, and no increased flares were observed; there is also no potential for their increasing autoimmune disorders, long-term. (If anything, the risk of catching SARS-CoV-2, which causes massive interferon release, should be more concerning to those at risk of autoimmune disease.) We are disheartened by these allegations, but also committed to overturning them with scientific truth. Most side effects of vaccines show up within days, or at most a few weeks. Trial participants have been monitored for two months or longer. These products are safe, both for us and for our families and patients. From our perspective, the likelihood of harm from Covid-19, in both the short and long term, far outweighs the small potential risks from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It is not a magic bullet -- but it s better than getting Covid It is critical that no one overpromises on the vaccine. It does not cure -- it prevents, and even then, it only reliably prevents infection after the second dose has been received. We don t currently know how effective it is in preventing asymptomatic transmission. Infection transmission prevention measures (such as masks) must continue for months to come. It is also not fully clear how the logistics of vaccine deployment will play out from state to state. But at the end of the day, in a year in which we have lost on many fronts, the consistent reported efficacy of these first Covid-19 vaccines is an incredible good fortune. Vaccines are, perhaps, the greatest miracle of modern medicine. Over the past century, they have had a major role in transforming the life expectancy of the global population, thanks to the acceptance, rather than skepticism, of the general public. And they will continue to help us if we let them.As ER doctors, we have been firsthand witnesses to the horrible effects of this virus. Getting to herd immunity via a devastating down payment of mass illness and deaths is not an option our society can or should bear. Vaccines -- and these vaccines, in particular -- provide a much safer route, with more consistent and long-lasting immunity. All of this is why we are eager to take our place in line to get our shots -- to protect ourselves, our patients and our families. It is important to acknowledge the privilege that we have of being able to trust science without the backdrop of sustained experiences of discrimination and systemic harms. The abuses of big pharma and the corporatization of medicine in the United States have driven a wedge between the general population and medical advances, and all the more so for groups who are marginalized or discriminated against.People who have been guinea pigs for science, whose past contacts with health care have been deeply embedded with racism and bigotry, cannot be expected to trust the medical research complex overnight. "Trust us; it s safe" is a thin promise in the context of people s life experiences. Simply because some health care professionals see the vaccine as a beneficial preventive measure doesn t mean that everyone can see it that way. We believe that the vaccines should be distributed with full consciousness at every level of the inequities embedded in health care and in the pandemic itself. We must commit to fighting for equitable access to other Covid resources for vulnerable communities, concurrent with vaccine recommendation, to mitigate pandemic impact on all possible fronts.
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal had the audacity to publish an op-ed arguing that incoming First Lady Jill Biden should not use the title "Dr." in the White House. The piece, written by Joseph Epstein, a man who has not earned an advanced degree (though he was given an honorary one), argues that it would be "fraudulent" and "comic" for Dr. Biden to use the Doctor of Education, or Ed.D., title that she has earned. As a woman who holds a Ph.D., I was seething before I finished his first paragraph. But I wasn t surprised. It s commonplace for women with expertise in this country to be expected to deny it -- which is exactly why it s so important that Dr. Biden use her "Dr." title in the White House, prominently and with pride. Epstein gives away his sexism immediately by opening his op-ed with the advice that "no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child." In other words, part of his problem appears to be that Dr. Biden is not a man. Epstein also argues that it has become easy to get a doctorate degree these days. He makes this inaccurate and offensive claim despite never having managed to earn one himself. Yet he devotes the most paragraphs to making the claim that honorary degrees are given out to undeserving celebrities -- even though Dr. Biden is not using her title because she has received an honorary degree. She earned an actual one. I can only guess, therefore, that his nonsensical argument is intended to generally cast aspersions on the incoming first lady. It is the sort of attack which is depressingly familiar to many female academics -- including me. In 2018, when Dr. Julia Baird earned her Ph.D. and changed her title on Twitter, she ignited a firestorm of complaints -- mostly from men. The discussion that ensued among academics revealed that women are routinely ridiculed for using the titles they earn, while the expertise of men doesn t seem to meet with the same level of skepticism and censure. One man who holds a Ph.D. responded, "I had no idea doctorate-shaming was even a thing!"Further evidence of the phenomenon of minimizing female expertise comes from the medical community for which Epstein seems to reserve his respect. A 2017 study found that when men introduced female medical doctors at a professional event, they used their titles 50 percent of the time -- but when men introduced fellow male doctors, they used their titles over 70 percent of the time. This is all part of a broader phenomenon, of course, that denies women the respect and authority we have earned. As Cornell philosopher Kate Manne writes in her 2020 book "Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women," when women make claims, their credibility is questioned much more than that of men. In fact, Rebecca Solnit wrote an entire book entitled "Men Explain Things to Me" after suffering through a man explaining one of her other books to her at a party. Scores of female academics have taken to Twitter to describe similar experiences of men explaining their own publications to them. I had this experience at an academic conference in 2016, when I sat next to one of the most senior practitioners in my field at a lunch, who proceeded to tell me about a New York Times piece I had written about my work the previous weekend. America needs to stop lecturing and start learning from women who have expertise. By using her "Dr." title in the White House, Dr. Biden would show by example that women shouldn t deny their rightful authority. She would also show other women and girls what s possible for them. Indeed, I don t recall ever meeting a woman with a Ph.D. until I went to college.In 2017, Dr. Biden spoke at the commencement ceremony at Hofstra University, where I teach. The president of our university told her that one of my colleagues, a university administrator, had just earned her graduate degree but was not planning to walk in the ceremony. Dr. Biden insisted that my colleague put on a robe and go up to the stage with her classmates because it was important to recognize all the work that had gotten her there. Given the misogyny we re up against, this is a message that other women clearly need to hear. And Dr. Biden is uniquely positioned to send it from one of the most powerful places on earth, simply by using her rightful title.
It may be easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find justice anywhere on the globe. Flaunted throughout history as a virtue and a pillar for a stable and secure society, it has never been given its due. Moreover, it has receded to the realm of rarities, to be another dream of humanity. Like Democracy, it has become a flimsy concept — inaccessible, unattainable, an impossible dream. Corruption constantly elbows justice and it has always been so. Both are controlled by humans. We watch with dismay the spread of corruption as the US presidential voting process unfolds. Who would have imagined all the deception, the cheating, the lies, manoeuvres and dirty tricks by the mighty, the powerful, the wealthy, the strong over the weak? What say you when a billionaire distributes $1 million in one voting centre among a staff of 50-60 personnel. Why? In order to alter or discard names of legitimate candidates. What it means and how it can be allowed and accepted causes us to lose hope that justice, the bulwark of the remarkable American constitution, has become murky with the passing of the years. Where then do we find justice? If not on this earth, then we have to look up to the heavens. It has been said that justice favours the weak. That is utter nonsense. Prisons are filled with the poor, the minorities, the migrants, the helpless. Up to five per cent of prisoners in the US have been wrongly convicted. The situation is not very different in other countries and a lot worse in many. The wealthy have access to power and influence and the best possible legal representation. Do they experience better treatment and consideration than the poor, powerless and without influence? You can bet on it. Every courthouse has a statue or a plaque of Lady Justice. Since ancient times she has been portrayed as an elegant lady holding a set of scales in one hand and a sword in another. It is an allegorical personification, partly deification, of the impartial and moral force in the judicial system. Its origin goes back to the ancient Egyptian goddess Maat, the Greek goddess Themis, also known as Justitia by the Romans. We are all familiar with that noble image of a proud lady holding a set of scales in one hand and a sword in another. The scales are typically suspended from one hand upon which is measured the evidence of support and opposition. The sword represents authority and conveys the idea that justice can be swift and final. A snake under her foot symbolises evil and lies. The book is the law, from which justice is administered. All great symbols, but the most telling of all is the blindfold. Yes, Lady Justice is blind. Objective and impartial, she is ready to act without fear or bias, regardless of power or wealth, race, gender, religion, politics, etc. It’s a catchall for all things that differentiate people. Lady Justice does not care who comes to her. She cares about the relation to the law, and the law only. Here is the rub. Is justice really blind? Well, not really, not at all. It is dispensed by humans, not gods. Humans are influenced by wealth, social standing, class and ideology. Regardless of all the oaths, promises, strength and dedication, humans possess emotions that should be but are not always controlled. Errors in judgement favour the wealthy, with the best possible legal representation. The poor, the powerless, become invisible to justice. There are generally five legal systems practised worldwide: civil law, common law, customary law, religious law, and mixed law. Civil law originated in the Roman legal system. France and Germany are such examples. Common law relies more on precedent judicial decisions with a judge or jury moderating between two opposing parties. This is the US legal system. Customary law is based on patterns of behaviour that have come to be accepted as rules of conduct, usually unwritten, passed down through generations. Religious law emanates from texts written in holy books such as Sharia in Islam. Mixed legal systems use two or more of the above systems. Unfair treatment before the law is a major contributor to instability and violent extremism. Up to four billion of the world’s population do not benefit from the proper rule of law or equal access to justice. The number could be higher when the Lady’s blindfold is removed, which is at most times. Is there any place in this world, whether rich or poor, where you can be protected by the fair administration of the rule of law? For the past 10 years Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden have headed the list of a fairly equal form of justice, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. The UK ranked 12th, the US 20th. The Lady needs some brushing up in the US. A newly released report finds 2.4 million individuals incarcerated in the US. Australia, Canada, Wales, and Germany, for example, provide a policy of options such as fines, community service, probation or treatment. However, for the second year in a row the 2019 index scores have found more countries declined rather than advanced the rule of law. Lady Justice is neither blind nor objective. Temptation has no mercy. God alone has no partiality or bias. Only God can deliver justice. “This is a court of law young man, not a court of justice.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr (1841-1945)
Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas paid a visit to Cairo 30 November where he had a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. The day before he met Jordan s King Abdullah in Amman. The two summit meetings came after the PA agreed to resume security cooperation with Israel earlier halted by the Palestinians. The main objective of the tour by Abbas was to discuss with the two Arab leaders the way forward in light of the election victory of President-elect Joe Biden and how Egypt and Jordan could help the Palestinians in reengaging with both the new US administration and the present Israeli government with the aim of resuming peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis that ended in April 2014 during the second Obama administration. The main obstacle and reason for the cessation of negotiations was Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank. On the other hand, how the three parties — Egypt, Jordan and the PA — could approach the future Biden administration on reviving the two-state solution and the best means to encourage the next US administration to readopt this solution. The two summits were all the more necessary as well as significant in light of the normalisation of relations between Israel and other Arab countries without corresponding Israeli concessions as far as the Palestinian question is concerned. In both Amman and Cairo, Abbas found listening ears and support for the PA. Moreover, the question of inter-Palestinian reconciliation was brought up. In the last two months Fatah, the main force within the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and Hamas had agreed on a roadmap to achieve such reconciliation with an agreement that Abbas, in his capacity as chairman of the PA, would call for presidential and legislative elections in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in East Jerusalem as soon as conditions in the occupied territories and Gaza would allow. The four years of President Trump in the White House have not advanced the cause of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Although the White House announced last January a peace plan to solve the Palestinian-Israeli question, the Palestinians and most Arabs have not been convinced that this was the best and only alternative to peace and security in the Middle East. The best bet is that the Biden administration would not push hard for the implementation of the Trump peace plan. Given the national security team that President-elect Biden announced 10 days ago, the likelihood is that the United States will push for the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis with the help of the International Quartet that includes the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. Working with the Quartet is a promising proposition inasmuch as all the parties that comprise it believe in the two-state solution, save the US during the Trump years at the White House. Arab countries and leading European powers, which have traditionally played a significant role in promoting peace in the Middle East, whether in the southern tier of Europe or in the north, including Germany, could work together to advance the cause of peace in the region aided by the Biden administration. An example of such coordination took place in Amman on Thursday, 24 September. Jordan hosted a meeting that was attended by France and Germany, on the one hand, and Egypt and Jordan on the other. A representative of the European Union was also present. The meeting stressed the importance of the two-state solution as a means to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Moreover, it called for the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that should be “serious and effective”. Furthermore, the meeting rejected the idea of annexation as referred to in the Trump peace plan. In addition, the four countries and the European Union emphasised that settlements and the expropriation of Palestinian land and possessions are in violation of international law and undermine the two-state solution. The interesting elements above could be a blueprint for a joint Arab-European Declaration or a joint declaration by the Arab League and the European Union to coincide with the official inauguration of the Biden administration next month. It goes without saying that the Israeli government and political parties of the extreme right would do everything possible to undermine any genuine and serious moves by the Biden administration to push the two-state solution through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Accordingly, I was not surprised by the move in Israel to dissolve the Knesset in a first reading. If the Knesset finally adopts a law for its dissolution, then Israel will see its fourth general elections in less than two years. If dissolved, and the Israelis are called to elect a new Knesset, the odds are that the extreme right in Israel would gain more seats than it presently has. If this comes to pass and the present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is chosen for the sixth time to be premier, then we should expect a lot Israeli manoeuvring to forestall any serious American plan to advance the cause of peace in accordance with UN resolutions. Also, we should expect the Israeli government, whether the present one or any future one headed by Netanyahu, to overdramatise the “existential threat” that Iran of the Ayatollahs poses for Israel. With normalisation agreements between Israel and some Gulf countries, this time around the pressure on the new US administration would be greater than when Israel had acted alone in Washington circles during the Obama administration to block the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in July 2015 between the P5+1 and Iran concerning Iranian nuclear activities. As a matter of fact, President-elect Biden said last week that some Arab countries should join any new negotiations with Iran to revise the JCPOA. The overall situation in the Middle East is quite complicated but a determined Biden administration with clear objectives and political determination could move things forward in order to stabilise the region. It will be a question of priorities and the hierarchy of interests that Washington will want to stress. The Palestinian-Israeli question should be on the American list of priorities in the Middle East. Positive American engagement in this regard could have an important impact on other issues related to peace and security in the Middle East.
Egypt has experienced some extremely critical and challenging times since the overthrow of a regime that had set out to monopolise power and render society hostage to theocratically oriented Islamist organisations. The interim government and then the government that came to power following the presidential elections in 2014 had the arduous task of rebuilding the state while contending with the war against terrorism, severe economic hardship and declining resources, and concerted propaganda campaigns orchestrated by foreign powers and political forces determined to turn the clock back to conditions that the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people adamantly opposed, as they still do today. In the tumult that prevailed after the January 2011 Revolution, political party life and the activities of civil society organisations, whether involved in development work or rights advocacy, were thrown into such anarchy that the government had to intervene to regulate the sector, as other countries do. Only then could civil society play an effective role in the development process and broader segments of the public could contribute through civil society organisations. Political forces in the post-January Revolution period wanted to see more transparency in the operations of civil society organisations when it became clear that political money was involved in turning their activities towards the realisation of spurious agendas. Indeed, it was such factors that had enabled reactionary forces to rise to power in 2012. Reorganisation was clearly necessary and the new NGO law was introduced to serve this purpose. Since Law 149 of 2019, more commonly known as the NGO law, was first drafted, the government has responded to many of the observations registered by civil society representatives and incorporated them into the recently ratified bylaws to this law. “The law and its bylaws reflect the faith of the state in the vital role of NGOs in the realisation of development in diverse fields by building a strong and sustainable partnership between the state and civil society that will enable them to achieve their goals in a framework of transparency and respect for the values of human rights,” a government spokesman said. The bylaws have abolished penalties depriving NGO workers of their right to freedom of movement, restricting penalties to fines in the event of violations. They uphold the constitutionally stipulated right to establish an NGO through the submission of a notification to the relevant authority, by which act the applicant establishes the legal identity of the organisation. On the other hand, the law prohibits NGOs from engaging in political, party political or syndicate activities, or making their premises available for such purposes. A week after the new bylaws were ratified, a court ruling lifted the assets freezes and travel bans on the staffs of 20 NGOs involved in the foreign funding case that has been ongoing since July 2011. This, too, is an important step in reaffirming the government’s intent to facilitate the operations of NGOs. Now that the investigations into them have been concluded, the NGOs will be able to resume work as long as they remain in conformity with the new law. The Ministry of Social Solidarity reported that, by October 2017, the number civil society associations and NGOs in Egypt had risen to more than 48,000, of which some 30,000 were active. The majority are based in Greater Cairo and Alexandria although plenty are to be found in all parts of the country, including the more remote peripheries. Also, according to the ministry, 12,000 NGOs spend in the neighbourhood of LE 10 billion a year on social work. There are 96 international NGOs currently operating in Egypt. In the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS), or Egypt 2030, civil society organisations and NGOs have a major part to play in the realisation of sustainable development goals. The SDS sees them as indispensable in the fight to eliminate poverty, to totally eliminate hunger, to upgrade and develop healthcare and educational services, to promote gender equality and other such areas that are crucial to improving the quality of life of the Egyptian people.
President-elect Joe Biden inherits a deeply divided America. But he also inherits a Democratic Party that is divided on how to tackle a wide array of issues, from immigration to health care, criminal justice to defense. Can they come together to confront a possible Republican Senate? Can they deliver on their mandate without further alienating the voters they lost? In this week s "What Comes Next," David Axelrod, former adviser to President Barack Obama, and Jess McIntosh, a Democratic strategist, tackle those questions in our discussion. But first, here s Axelrod s op-ed on what comes next for the Democratic Party. --SE Cupp If you re a Democrat, this is a time of great relief but not necessarily much joy. Sure, you captured the big prize, defeating a president with autocratic tendencies whose continuation in office many feared -- with good reason -- posed an existential threat to the institutions, norms and rule of law that form the foundation of our democracy. Joe Biden won the support of more than 80 million Americans, marking the seventh time in eight elections that Democrats have claimed the national popular vote. He added five states Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, including two -- Arizona and Georgia -- where Democrats had not won at the presidential level since the 1990s. All good news. But beneath that glittering top line, Republicans had an unexpectedly good Election Day. Encouraged by polling that proved too rosy, Democrats had high hopes of seizing a US Senate majority, enlarging their edge in the US House of Representatives and taking control of a half dozen or more legislatures across the country -- critical in a year when the states will be redrawing legislative and congressional maps for the next decade. None of that happened. While Biden won the presidency, it was Donald Trump who had the coattails. Mired in scandal, controversy and an epic pandemic, Trump, nevertheless, won over 74 million votes -- over 10 million more votes then he received in 2016. While it wasn t enough to save the embattled president, Republicans swept along in his wake narrowed the Democratic advantage in the US House by at least 12 seats so far, captured control of two more state legislative chambers in New Hampshire and are favored to maintain the majority in the US Senate, pending two critical runoff elections in Georgia on January 5. Unless Democrats can pull off two upsets in Georgia, many of Biden s appointments and much of his agenda will be at the mercy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans, quickly testing the incoming president s oft-stated hope for a new era of bipartisan cooperation. Trump soon will be gone, but he has turbocharged a realignment, decades in the making, that leaves us a more deeply divided country and raises challenges for both parties. Buoyed by significant gains among suburban voters, and strong showings in cities, Biden won many of the most populous and prosperous metropolitan areas by even larger margins than Hillary Clinton. But Trump commanded more than 80% of the nation s counties, dominating rural areas and small towns across large swaths of the country. Those divisions, and the constitutionally-mandated system by which we elect presidents and apportion senators and members of Congress, means that Democrats may have the most voters, but Republicans, by activating their base, can maintain legislative power and remain competitive in future Electoral College races for the White House. For Democrats, the sobering reality is that, despite his seven million vote-lead nationally, Biden captured the presidency by a combined 43,692 votes across three battleground states. Without his narrow wins in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin, the race for electoral votes would have been tied. And, looking back, Biden was likely the only Democrat running in 2020 who could have pulled it off. White-haired, White and male; steeped in the working-class culture of his native Scranton, Pennsylvania; moderate in tone and politics and enormously empathetic because of his own horrific life struggles, Biden was a difficult target for the race-baiting, reactionary president. While Trump may have wounded Democratic candidates down ballot with his caricature of the party as a hotbed of "the radical left, "socialists," and mob-coddling advocates of "defunding police," he failed to brand Biden, who exit polls say carried moderate voters by 30 points, nearly three times Clinton s margin over Trump four years ago. That shift was reflected in the suburbs, where burgeoning turnout and shifting allegiances made the difference in the battleground states. Weary of chaos, and comfortable with Biden, White men with a college degree, who heavily favored Trump over Clinton in 2016, were nearly tied this year. White women with a college degree favored Biden by nearly double digits, according to CNN exit polls. These gains more than offset losses among some groups on whom Democrats were counting. African-Americans still supported Biden in overwhelmingly numbers, but Trump made small but measurable gains with Black men. Moreover, Democrats, who counted Latinx voters among their base, learned that Hispanic-American communities can t be treated as a monolithic or an automatic vote. They are rich and varied in their perspectives and experiences, and bucked the Democratic Party in places like Miami-Dade County in Florida and parts of South Texas. The decline among Asian-Americans was also noticeable. But the biggest concern Democrats should have is over the hardening of opposition in large swaths of America that may send us into perpetual gridlock. It s too easy and self-defeating for Democrats in this big, diverse country to write off these Republican-won voters or regions, and too facile to explain their loss solely in terms of the issue of race, despite Trump s relentless and unabashed race-baiting and nativism. Many of the small towns and rural communities between the coasts where Republicans have built their fortress have been battered and depleted by the same economic change that has benefited burgeoning metropolitan areas, where Democrats have prospered electorally. Trump s anti-trade, anti-immigrant, anti-environmental, law-and-order jeremiads have found an audience in these communities, exploiting and inflaming a sense that Democrats are disdainful of their values and alien to their economic interests. If Democrats are seen only as a coalition of economic and cultural elites and minorities -- with little connection to the rest of the country -- the party may still win narrow national victories, as they did in 2020, but will struggle to win and maintain governing majorities. Democrats need an expansive, authentic economic message for these changing times that speaks to the experience of tens of millions of Americans, rural and urban, who feel that the system devised over time by experts from Wall Street to Washington DC is rigged against them. Biden s emphasis on boosting jobs and wages, reducing inequality and undergirding the middle class is a step in the right direction. Yet in pursuing other bedrock commitments, Democrats need to pay some attention to how their words and plans are heard and how their actions are read across the whole country. Take climate change, which is an existential crisis that demands urgent action. But if you work on an oil field, extract natural gas or coal from the ground or lay pipeline for living, the moral argument about the next generation comes hard up against anxiety about the next paycheck. In pursuing climate action, those concerns should be honored and addressed, not dismissed. Systemic racism is a brutal reality that millions of our fellow Americans confront in different ways on a daily basis. Black Americans have faced uniquely unconscionable hardships, brutality and withering economic barriers from the beginning of the republic to this day. It is a legacy we, as a country, must confront and redress. But people in struggling rural communities and aging industrial towns who aren t subject to racial discrimination but have been caught in the switches of a changing economy need to know Democrats are fighting for them, too. And then there is immigration, an issue Trump has relentlessly exploited to divide and inflame. This is a nation of hard-working immigrants whose arrival on our shores, generation after generation, has enriched our country. Now, as they seek to fix a broken and shamefully inhumane system, Democrats should also assure there are rules and accountability to address concerns of blue-collar workers who fear that a surge of immigrants will undercut their jobs and wages. As Trump has proven again, presidents define their parties. For Democrats, that task now falls to Biden, who will take over amid a raging pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our economy in a country whose trust in institutions has been shaken to the core. With divided government, Biden will have to deal not only with implacable Republicans but his own fractious coalition, mediating between a left averse to compromise, minorities demanding their rightful place at the table and suburban moderates who are an increasingly important element of the Democratic base. Gone but not forgotten, Trump will likely launch the resistance from Day One, and will be abetted by a right-wing media ecosystem long on conspiracy theories and short on facts, stoking the red-blue divide. Biden may have been the only Democrat in the race who could have defeated Trump in 2020. But now the oldest president in history faces a Herculean task, not only in leading the country, but growing his party for the future
President Donald Trump went down to Georgia on Saturday to pretend to care about democracy. Only hours earlier he had pressured the state s governor, Brian Kemp, in a phone call, to ignore the democratic outcome of the presidential election and find a way to turn the state s Electoral College vote in his favor, democracy be damned.It s not surprising, then, that his speech started with a lie -- "We won Georgia" -- followed by a relentless assault on the truth, in keeping with his destructive disinformation campaign against America and its democracy.Crowd members holding up "Save America" signs, gathered side by side, most without face masks, even though Covid-19 cases are out of control. Like previous Trump campaign gatherings, this one is likely to result in more infections, more hospitalizations, and very likely, more deaths. But if that was on anyone s mind in the crowd, it was quickly pushed aside. The Saturday night event in South Georgia, officially an effort to drum up support for Republican senators in the January run-off elections, looked and sounded much like the campaign rallies that preceded the November election. The big difference is that the national election is over now, everywhere except in the minds of Trump s most devoted backers, who are listening to the mind-boggling concoctions about a large scale international conspiracy, perhaps including North Korea and a long-dead Venezuelan president, to deprive Trump of a second term. The conspiracy, to be real, would have had to enlist Attorney General Bill Barr, Republican governors and election officials across the country and a plan so complex that it denied victory to Trump while allowing Republicans to gain seats in the House and deprive Democrats of a majority in the Senate.The Senate, as it happens, could still end up being controlled by Democrats, even if a true majority is out of reach. But that would require that Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both win their races next month -- coincidentally scheduled for the day before Congress formally counts the vote of the Electoral College -- which would create a 50-50 tie in the Senate. With Biden as president, Vice President Kamala Harris would become the tie breaker, so Democrats would be in control of the agenda. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would no longer run the show. That s why Republicans desperately wanted Trump to focus his remarks on the Senate run-off. It was not to be. Trump, not surprisingly, used the overwhelming majority of the speech to tout his accomplishments, promote unfounded claims that the election was stolen, and utter outlandish predictions about what Democrats will do once they run the country. "They want to go into a communistic form of government," Trump absurdly remarked. Ahead of his speech, the first since the election he lost by more than seven million votes, Republicans in Georgia and across the country were anxious about what exactly the President might say. The outcome of the runoff election will go a long way in determining how successful the Biden administration is in enacting its agenda at home and abroad. Republicans feared that Trump would all but forget to urge voters to go to the polls, and double down on his campaign of intimidation against Republican officials in Georgia. Their fears, as it turns out, were well founded. Trump did tell the crowd to vote for Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, but he also fulminated against Gov. Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, strongly suggesting that elections in Georgia cannot be trusted. "For whatever reason," he mocked, "your secretary of state and your governor are afraid of Stacey Abrams."The spectacle of Trump disparaging Kemp is barely believable for anyone who has watched Kemp over the past few years desperately trying to ingratiate himself to Trump. The President has called him a "moron," and on Saturday he told the cheering crowds, "Your governor should be ashamed of himself." It was a cringeworthy line for the Republican establishment, because it could be interpreted as supporting the argument of some of Trump s most fervent backers in the state, people like attorney Lin Wood, who have been telling Republicans to boycott the "fraudulent election." Trump has sparked a Republican civil war in Georgia. In the face of death threats, Republican officials are pleading with him to cool the temperature. But Trump is shoveling more coal into the boiler, making demands that range from pointless to illegal. The state has already conducted a full hand recount of the ballots, and the absentee ballots were already matched to the signatures -- twice -- before being tallied. Now Trump wants Kemp to call a special session of the legislature and push them to choose Electors who will ignore the popular vote and support him. That demand is part of the most direct assault on the country s democracy in its history. Even if he got his way, and Georgia s 16 electoral votes, that would still leave him far from victory in an election he lost by more than seven million votes and a margin of 306 to 232 in the Electoral College. Since the November election, Trump and his crack team of lawyers and backers have made ever more bizarre claims about what exactly led to his loss. More than 30 lawsuits have been thrown out of court by a variety of judges, including some named to the bench by Trump -- and just this Saturday a federal appeals court threw out yet another lawsuit in Georgia.Trump suggested the Supreme Court could still pull victory out of the jaws of defeat for him. The event probably boosted Trump s spirits. Whether it helped the Republican cause is questionable. What is certain is that it was one more hammer blow in Trump s ongoing battering of American democracy.
On Monday, 23 November, US President-elect Joe Biden, speaking from Wilmington, Delaware, announced his national security appointments, including the next US secretary of state. Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, was chosen as the successor of Mike Pompeo, the present secretary of state. The post of national security adviser went to Jake Sullivan. Avril Haines was tapped as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold the position. The president-elect chose a Latino — also a first — to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Elevating the position of the permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations in New York to a cabinet-level post in the Biden administration, the president-elect picked up a veteran American diplomat, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to fill this important post. On the other hand, former US secretary of state in the second Obama administration, John Kerry, was appointed as a climate envoy. Biden had called leading European officials on the same Monday and reassured them of American commitment to traditional alliances and multilateral diplomacy — a commitment that is a far cry from the kind of diplomacy that the Trump administration adopted in the period from 2017-2020, if we could call its policies on the international scene, and particularly towards traditional American allies after World War II, “diplomacy”. All the appointees to these important posts in the next US administration had worked in the Obama administration, the first and the second, from 2009 till 20 January 2017. They are known for their commitment to multilateralism, free trade policies and an active US role in the world. Some experts and commentators said, after these announcements, that the Biden administration is a third Obama administration. In introducing his national security team, Biden said that the appointments reflect “the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it”. He added that the United States is “once again [sits] at the head of the table” and is ready to “confront our adversaries and not reject our allies. Ready to stand for our values.” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominated for the post of the US permanent representative to the UN, stressed the above by saying, “America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back.” Dennis Ross, the former chief negotiator of the US in Middle East peace talks, has commented that this is a national security team of “professionalism and competence”. Antony Blinken promised that a Biden administration would place an emphasis on “leadership, cooperation and democracy”. The nominee for the post of secretary of state, was a former speech writer for former US President Bill Clinton and national security adviser to Biden as vice-president and a deputy national security adviser to Obama. From an Arab and a Middle Eastern perspective, Blinken knows well the Arab world and the Middle East, and will hit the ground running in dealing with Middle Eastern and Arab questions, crises and officials. Known for his personal and ideological attachment to American political values and American leadership, he is expected to stress human rights issues and the question of democracy in dealing with the region. A few days ago, he called out a leading Arab country for human rights abuses. In a recent Intelligence Matters podcast, Blinken said the United States had to rebuild alliances to tackle the “democratic recession” enabled by President Trump, something that let “autocracies from Russia to China… exploit our difficulties”. He has been clear about the importance of promoting democracy and human rights in American foreign policy, and a former Obama official has expressed his belief that Blinken would be “visibly tougher on Russia and more receptive to the idea of ideological competition with China, ranking up a few notches the democracy and human rights dimension of foreign policy”. Last January, Blinken talked to the Hudson Institute, a leading American think tank, and dealt with American leadership and the promotion of democracy around the world. He said: “At the very moment… democracies most need leadership and I would argue leadership from the United States… Unfortunately, we have a president (Trump) who, by embracing autocrats and dismissing democrats, seems, to many, to suit it up for the other side.” Blinken added: “It is a long way of saying that if we renew our democracy at home, if we revitalise our alliances with democracies in the first instance around the world, that creates a foundation for us to act, I believe, more effectively with lots of challenges.” I personally believe that the elements of the foreign policy of the future Biden administration are to be found in the quotes above. Needless to say, the world has changed from the Obama years in office. The United States itself has changed in the last four years under the incumbent president, for whom around 74 million Americans voted in the 2020 elections. In elaborating and executing its foreign policy, the Biden administration will take, probably, these changes into account in order to have a strong foreign policy based on a large domestic consensus. There is no need, speaking of the United States and the Middle East, to repeat the foreign policy of Obama s second term vis-à-vis the upheavals that the region witnessed from 2011 onwards. It would be a departure from past policies if the national security team that the president-elect chose would review what went wrong in American foreign policy in the Middle East in the last decade (the Obama and Trump administrations combined) and try new approaches to solve old and persistent challenges. However, the most challenging job would definitely be how to promote democracy and human rights questions without stirring unnecessary confrontations with allies and strategic partners of the United States. The other challenge would be how to deal with the negative legacy of the Trump administration when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the future of the Palestinian question; in other words, sticking to the status quo or working with both the Palestinians and the Israelis to promote security and peace. Related questions, no less important, will be how to deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Iran. What will be the strategic priorities of the Biden administration in the Middle East and the dynamic interrelations among them? I would argue that a more pro-active American policy towards the Palestinian question, a more neutral American position, would be helpful in promoting democracy and human rights issues in the Arab world. The new national security team in Washington has raised hopes and high expectations of a break with the Trump years and “America First” dogma. Hopefully, the world would become safer for democracy, security and peace in the next four years. Something that will require blending realism with ideals in American foreign policy.
For decades, successive governments in Ethiopia have dragged Egypt through the mud, saying they wanted “exclusive” rights over the River Nile and not heeding the well-being of other riparian nations, mainly upstream ones. This narrative, regrettably spread by Ethiopia in drifting away from Egypt, a country whose help has been crucial in helping Ethiopia to establish sectors like banking and aviation and modernise others like medicine, has stained the image of Egypt among the peoples of the Nile Basin. This has been so even though Egypt has usually lent a helping hand to the peoples of Africa in general and the Nile Basin in particular. Egypt has successfully implemented major water and irrigation projects, including the digging of wells and the construction of small dams for rainfall harvesting in countries like South Sudan, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda, so that African countries can make the most of their rainfall and develop their irrigation schemes. It has also embarked on another journey that will stand forever as a symbol of the country s unyielding commitment to a better and more prosperous Nile Basin. In 2018, a consortium of giant Egyptian companies including the Arab Contractors and El-Sewedy Electric reached a deal with the Tanzanian government under its reformist President John Magufuli to establish a mega-project in Tanzania. When this project, the Stiegler s Gorge Dam, goes online, it will transform the lives of Tanzanians by providing access to electricity for millions in this East African country, officially categorised by the World Bank as a “middle-income country.” It will regulate the flow of the mighty Rufiji River to help Tanzania advance the agricultural projects needed to maintain higher growth rates in this country of roughly 60 million people. Before the Egyptian companies concerned were selected to finalise this mega-project, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi paid a visit to Tanzania in 2017, the first by an incumbent Egyptian president in 50 years, which set the stage for political harmony between the two countries. The Julius Nyerere Hydropower Plant at Stiegler s Gorge, named after Tanzania s historic leader, will have a 2,115-Megawatt capacity, a bit higher even than Egypt s Aswan High Dam, creating a colossal man-made lake behind it of 34 billion cubic metres of water. The dam stretches over 1,200 square km and is 134 metres high, some five metres lower than the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza. The cost of this rock-fill dam amounts to roughly $3 billion, compared to $4.8 billion, the cost of Ethiopia s controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which has caused the Eastern Nile Basin region to sit on a powder keg. The project is expected to be operational in a couple of years, particularly as the Egyptian companies concerned are plugging away to finish it on schedule in 2022. What matters the most about Tanzania s Stiegler s Gorge Dam is the political will shown by Egypt to finish the project first on time and second by strictly committing itself to the highest-possible construction standards. In November this year, the Egyptian ministers of housing and electricity attended a historic event in Tanzania in the presence of Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa pertaining to the diversion of the Rufiji River in order to construct the main dam and in testimony to the pace at which Egyptian companies are proceeding with the construction work. Located in Morogoro southwest of Dar Es-Salam, the commercial capital of Tanzania and the largest city in the country, the project includes the building of a 600-metre tunnel to divert the Rufiji River s water, three tunnels to provide the necessary water to operate the power plant, four saddle dams for rainfall harvesting and 400-kilovolt transmission lines to be merged with the national power grid in Tanzania and bringing the benefits of the dam to the country s 17 million families. Stationed at the site of this mega-project are some 6,000 workers, almost half of them Tanzanians in order to ensure the transfer of know-how. El-Sewedy Electric boasts long experience in erecting power projects in Africa, and its experience is being passed on to Tanzanian engineers. After the dam has regulated the flow of the Rufiji River, its reservoir will empower Tanzania, originally an agriculture-driven economy, to follow up on its plans for further agricultural production and to maintain its status as a well-performing economy in the East Africa region. The dam will also help the country realise its vision of becoming the largest exporter of cashew nuts in the world, as it aspires to double its production of these over the next four years, particularly as the crop is cultivated near the commercial capital of Dar Es-Salam. The smooth construction of the Stiegler s Gorge Dam is a reminder that Ethiopia could also have constructed its GERD Dam project without causing so much fuss, whether downstream or upstream on the Nile. Initially, Ethiopia was to establish a similar dam to that being built in Tanzania at a somewhat more affordable cost instead of using “humanitarian assistance funding” to speed up the building of the GERD. Under the initial calculations, the project would have generated the electricity necessary for those who are still living in the dark in this landlocked nation without inflicting harm on downstream peoples in Sudan and Egypt, whether on a larger or a smaller scale. But unlike in the case of Tanzania, Ethiopia has rejected repeated calls from Egypt for the co-implementation of the project, citing issues of “sovereignty”. Also unlike in the Tanzanian case, a consensus on the project has not been Ethiopia s top priority. The Horn of Africa nation has been adamantly rejecting calls for a fair compromise, and it has chosen confrontation rather than cooperation on the dam and has falsely tried to present itself as a “victim” of so-called Egyptian monopoly over the Nile. In reality, when the Stiegler s Gorge Dam is finished, the Nile Basin region will be disabused of the notion, unfortunately long held by short-sighted Ethiopian governments, that Egypt only works to keep the upper hand as far as the Nile waters are concerned. The wall of anti-Egyptian sentiments will fall when the Tanzanians see their long-awaited dream of an uninterrupted new power supply coming true, this time through the dedicated and cost-effective work of their brothers in Egypt. The writer is a former press and information officer in Ethiopia and an expert on African affairs.
If you re President Donald Trump, when Attorney General William Barr tells you it s over -- then it s over. Barr s statement to the Associated Press Tuesday that "to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election" should be a death-knell for Trump s effort to conjure a false narrative that the election was stolen from him.The fact that the announcement comes from Barr makes it hit particularly hard for Trump. Over his nearly two years in office, Barr has repeatedly distorted the truth to benefit Trump, and he has used the Justice Department to intervene selectively in politically-charged cases to the benefit of Trump s political allies. Barr even took pains to amplify Trump s pre-election claims of potentially massive voter fraud. In a June 2020 interview with NPR, Barr opined (without evidence) that mail-in ballots present "so many occasions for fraud there that cannot be policed. I think it would be very bad." And in Congressional testimony just weeks later in July 2020, Barr tried and failed again to conjure the demon of massive fraud in mail-in ballots. Yet part of the beauty of the Justice Department is that ultimately, it follows facts, not wild conspiracy theories. And even though Barr changed the rules and instructed prosecutors specifically to investigate potential instances of voter fraud (and potentially announce those findings publicly) immediately after the election, they apparently found nothing of note. Trump s increasingly desperate legal team, headed by Rudy Giuliani, immediately disputed Barr s conclusion: "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn t been any semblance" of an investigation.Let s break that down. In one corner, we have Giuliani and the rest of Trump s legal team, who have continually had their cases thrown out of court for complete lack of evidence. "Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here," wrote a Trump-appointed federal judge last week in a stinging rebuke to the campaign s efforts to undo Pennsylvania s vote count certification. In the other corner, we have Barr and the entire Justice Department looking for fraud and finding nothing. Take your pick. Throughout his tenure, Barr can, and has, bent the truth and diminished the Justice Department by using it for transparently political purposes. But facts are facts. It s one thing to twist them; it s another thing altogether to fabricate them where they simply don t exist. If Barr and the Justice Department couldn t provide support for Trump s conspiracy theory, then nobody can. Now, your questions: Bonnie (Connecticut): I thought the Constitution states a president has pardon power except in cases of impeachment. Shouldn t President Trump therefore lose the power to pardon? No, but the confusion here is understandable. Article II of the Constitution provides that the President "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." On this point, the Constitution -- venerable document that it is -- is ambiguous. Read one way, it could appear to say that after the President is impeached by the House, he loses the power to issue pardons. But read another way, it says that the President can issue pardons for criminal offenses but not for impeachment. The latter reading is correct. There is no provision anywhere in the Constitution, statutes, or case law that strips a President of any power upon impeachment by the House (though of course, if convicted in the Senate, the President loses office and all of its powers). It would be anomalous for the President to lose only one power -- the power to pardon -- upon impeachment alone, and no serious legal authority has argued for this interpretation. Indeed, former President Bill Clinton issued many pardons after he was impeached in 1998. Rather, the clause in Article II means that while a President can pardon an official (or any person) for a crime, he cannot pardon an official out of impeachment. In other words, the President does not have power to un-impeach. For example, if a federal judge committed bribery, the President could pardon the judge from a criminal bribery charge, but the President could not rescue the judge from impeachment. Indeed, no President has ever pardoned or even attempted to pardon an official from an impeachment.Greg (Colorado): Given that the Constitution grants the president the exclusive right to grant pardons for federal crimes, can a president reverse pardons issued by a prior president? Probably not. The Constitutional pardon power is exceptionally broad: the President "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." There is no precedent for a court or Congress to overrule or reverse a Presidential pardon. At most, a President might, in certain narrow circumstances, be able to reverse his own pardon before it becomes official. In 2008, President George W. Bush pardoned convicted felon Isaac Toussie but then, upon learning that Toussie s father had made large donations to Republican political groups, rescinded the pardon the very next day. Administration officials claimed the pardon had not yet been finalized because Toussie had not yet received formal notice of the pardon. There is only limited and distant precedent for a President to revoke a prior President s pardon. Former President Ulysses S. Grant revoked several pardons issued by his predecessor, former President Andrew Johnson, in some instances claiming (like Bush) that the pardons were not final because no formal notice had been made to the recipients. In the 140-plus years since Grant, no President has even attempted to rescind a pardon issued by a prior President. Paul (California): Once Sen. Kamala Harris becomes vice president, how is her vacant Senate seat filled, and what happens in the interim if her absence gives Republicans a majority?Under California law, the governor has the power to select a replacement for an empty Senate seat. California is among the majority of states -- 37, to be precise -- that fills vacancies immediately by gubernatorial appointment. In the other 13 states, the seat remains vacant until the state can hold a special election to fill the vacant seat. The current governor, Gavin Newsom, is a Democrat, and is virtually certain to appoint a fellow Democrat to fill Harris s seat. Given the narrow margin in the Senate (currently 50-48 in favor of Republicans, with two runoffs pending in Georgia), Newsom likely will be prepared to make his appointment immediately upon Harris resignation from her Senate seat to take the vice president position.
For many mixed status immigrant families -- like mine -- this post-election period is a time of growing anxiety and fear about what else Donald Trump may do to harm immigrants before he leaves the White House. It s not an unwarranted fear. It s been reported that the administration has recently been in constant communication with groups that advocate for harsher immigration policies.And Trump s track record also gives us good reason to worry about what could come. From his first moments in office, Trump has used executive action to advance his racist anti-immigrant agenda. During his first week as President, he issued a sweeping travel ban, which mostly included Muslim majority countries and refugees. And there was another executive order making undocumented immigrants, which mostly consist of people of color, immediately deportable. He has moved to take away humanitarian protections or Temporary Protective Status from 300,000 immigrants from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador. Living under this administration has put my family s life in limbo. It meant waking up every day fearing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), now emboldened to be indiscriminate, could show up to the home of my parents, who were undocumented, and separate us. Trump s constant efforts to dismantle DACA has held back my brother, Jonathan, one of the hundreds of thousands of young people who benefitted from the program, from planning for the future and pursuing his dream of opening a martial arts academy for children and youth. It also meant that I feared my citizenship application could be backlogged for a long time or denied because of my activism. Under the Trump administration, those of us working with immigrant communities increasingly knew of immigrants who were denied their citizenship, and earlier this year the Justice Department officially created a section in its immigration office to strip away citizenship from naturalized immigrants who the Trump administration claimed "illegally obtained naturalization," but lawyers and critics have rightfully been concerned about it being abused by the administration. I grew up in the United States undocumented, first arriving in 1998 at 13 when my parents fled poverty and violence in Quito, Ecuador. They risked everything. They wanted to make sure I would not only survive here, but also get a chance to pursue dreams unattainable in the place they left behind.But after more than 20 years of living in this country, I became a US citizen. My citizenship application was approved, and I was able to petition for my parents, who after waiting for more than a year, were granted green cards this month. This was a bittersweet moment for our family because though I could petition for my brother, the immigration system only allows a limited number of visas for sibling petitions per year and our application would take 13 years or more to be processed. My story is similar to the stories of millions of immigrants who are here to stay and whose lives were at stake during this election. And while families remain anxious about what the current administration will do on its way out, we are hopeful about what President-elect Joe Biden will do to fix America s unjust immigration system on his way in. But we need to hear more about his agenda to help diminish any fear coming over the immigrant community during Trump s last weeks in office. I voted in my first presidential election this November. My vote for Biden was a vote for my immigrant parents, for my brother and for all of the other immigrant families impacted by Trump s hateful agenda of deportation, detention and family separation. And many young undocumented immigrants who couldn t vote nevertheless played a big role in the months leading up to Election Day, mobilizing their communities to vote for Biden. Voters have given him a mandate to address the needs of working-class people, including immigrants, who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and are struggling for survival after four years of Trump. At United We Dream Action, I was proud to help launch and run the largest electoral program ever led by immigrant youth this year. We drove record turnout among low-propensity Latinx, youth, and first-time voters in numerous battleground states, including Arizona, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina. Several of these states were crucial for defeating Trump and carrying Biden across the finish line to victory.Now, we re calling on him to use the transition period to prepare and announce a series of pro-immigrant executive actions that will happen on day one of his presidency. Ideally, we wouldn t have to rely on Biden s executive power to grant basic human decency for one of the most marginalized groups in this country. The policy changes that would protect immigrant communities permanently and provide a pathway to citizenship can only be done through Congressional action, but Republicans unwavering embrace of Trump and his policies would certainly make legislative action challenging if they hold on to the Senate after the Georgia runoff election. Nonetheless, the immigrant justice movement will keep up the pressure on Congress for action. The hope for legislative action, however, cannot be used as an excuse for a Biden administration to not take executive action to provide immediate relief for immigrants. We simply can t wait. With the stroke of his presidential pen, Biden can do many things to empower and protect immigrants, including several measures he has supported during the campaign trail like reversing all of Trump s anti-immigrant executive orders; halting all deportations (Biden has said that he is in favor of doing this temporarily, but it needs to be a lasting measure); closing for-profit immigrant detention facilities; immediately releasing all immigrants from detention centers -- where unsanitary conditions and overcrowding have created the perfect storm for Covid-19 outbreaks -- so that they can reunite with families, friends or be part of non-profit community programs that help to keep families safe while they follow the legal process for their case.Immigrants, mostly of color -- because of systemic racism and an immigration system built to criminalize them -- are being held indefinitely in these facilities for minor violations like driving without a license. Under Trump, detention centers are filled with immigrants who have been criminalized for seeking refuge in this country, living here without papers, traffic stops, and other minor violations. Biden has promised to reinstate the DACA program, but he should also expand it and implement other measures to protect immigrants from deportation and family separation. Other important measures will require bipartisan support but are just as important for Biden to start talking about now. For one, creating a pathway to citizenship for all, including undocumented workers who are keeping this country running—like farmworkers, meatpacking plant workers and home health aides -- during the pandemic. We need the new administration to act in a way that makes clear that there is no relief for essential workers without immediate relief for undocumented immigrants -- the two are inextricably linked and cannot be separated. That s why Biden should immediately push both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to ensure that future Covid-19 relief bills include help for undocumented immigrants who pay billions of dollars in taxes. The fact that the first relief bill left out millions of immigrants was shameful. We are a crucial part of ensuring that the entire country is on the road to recovery. And if finding funding is an issue, diverting billions from a cruel and unjust immigration enforcement system to fund federal Covid-19 relief efforts is a great start.Just as Trump and his Republican enablers have been unapologetic in moving their anti-immigrant agenda, Biden should immediately pursue every executive and legislative path possible to advance justice for immigrants. But we need Biden to be much more than the anti-Trump President. We need him to be the President who rebuilds and leads an America where all people, including immigrants, can live freely and with dignity -- an America where all immigrants become equal partners in making this multi-racial democracy better for everyone.
Five years after terror attacks in Paris killed 130 innocent civilians, Europe is still suffering at the hands of Islamist extremists. The recent attack in Vienna, claimed by Isis, demonstrated the determination of those who seek to spread their intolerance across the world. The gunman, who shot dead four people and wounded more than a dozen others, had been jailed last year for trying to travel to join the group in Syria. It is clear that the group s poisonous, transnational ideology of hate knows no bounds. The violence will continue until we have an honest conversation about the relationship between violent extremists and their non-violent sympathisers. For too long, the so-called peaceful Islamist groups have provided legitimacy and political cover for those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), for example, has been creating the mood music for terrorist attacks in different parts of the world, including Europe. The MB has laid the ideological foundations for scores of Muslims to turn to violence in defence of Islamist ideology. The argument goes that, because Western societies are hostile to Islam and to Muslim communities, Islam is under attack . Consequently, it is suggested by some, Muslims have the right to defend their religion through violence, even against innocent civilians. In doing so, they facilitate attacks by Isis and the tragic events recently witnessed in Vienna become inevitable. For those of us who have had to live with the MB, this should come as no surprise. In Egypt, we have sadly seen that some are still tempted by the lure of the MB, which aims to distort and sully Egypt s image. In the twelve months following the June 2012 elections, Egypt entered into the dark tunnel of political Islam. Egypt was fast becoming another Taliban state. It s no secret that the MB and their benefactors in the Middle East haven t forgiven Egypt for the upheaval which led to their removal from power in the summer of 2013. For that reason, the MB and its allies have become hysterical in their attempt to undermine Egypt s progress and invent a fictitious narrative to suit their ends. Al-Jazeera and other media outlets have dedicated significant airtime to concocting an alternative reality in Egypt of non-existent upheaval. Yet the threat posed by the MB is as great today as it has ever been. They do not believe in the notion of a civil nation state that the West takes for granted. Their dream of Caliphate rule and pursuit of the strictest application of the most conservative version of Islam is simply anathema to human civilisation. The MB s highest spiritual guru, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has justified suicide attacks against civilians, saying: It s not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God . Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden s successor in the caves of Tora Bora, was a Muslim Brotherhood member. The truth is that the MB is bad news for the entire world, not just for my country. Violence has never been far away from the Brotherhood since attempts in the 1960s to establish an armed military wing. Sayyid Qutb, widely regarded as the godfather of modern Salafi jihadism, was a leading MB figure during that period. According to his twisted teachings, jihad was a personal, individual responsibility, and it was incumbent on all Muslims to establish true Islamic rule in their own countries, including through violence if necessary. It s perhaps no surprise that the violent dogma and ideology of groups like Daesh come directly from this line of thinking. It s also no surprise that when Sir John Jenkins (the then-British ambassador to Saudi Arabia) was tasked with reviewing the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014 on behalf of the UK government, he concluded that the Brotherhood is prepared to countenance violence – including, from time to time, terrorism – where gradualism is ineffective . He also wrote that aspects of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security . The Muslim Brotherhood s attempts to disrupt Egyptian politics have long been known. What is less talked about is how they have sought to inject their brand of conservative, literalist Islam into Britain and the West at large. In Jenkins report, he wrote: Much about the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK remains secretive, including membership, fund raising and educational programmes. But Muslim Brotherhood associates and affiliates here have at times had significant influence on the largest UK Muslim student organisation, national organisations which have claimed to represent Muslim communities (and on that basis have sought and had a dialogue with Government), charities and some mosques . It is time for Britain, and the rest of the Western world, to speak out against the Muslim Brotherhood. Back in 2015, David Cameron said Jenkins findings revealed the Brotherhood s highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism . But in the five years since, not enough has been done in the way of acting on these words.
The Houthi militia in Sanaa issued on 25 November a court ruling stipulating that 91 Yemeni politicians and media figures are to be executed, including myself. The ruling has no value per se, and from an ethical point of view, it is an advantage because it is only natural to stand on the opposite side of any bigoted group and be against the rule of any fascist militia. In reality, the Houthi militia kills Yemenis on a daily basis, and after six years of destruction, there is not a single household that has not experienced lasting grief and great devastation because of this militia. The aim of this court ruling is to seize people s properties, which have been plundered as well. I rather seek to discuss the issue in a more holistic manner given the importance of what is going on. The ruling confirms the reality of the Houthi group as the most bigoted of all extremist groups in Yemen. I also want to raise the question here with regards to a circle of international analysts and media figures who consider their overt or covert support of this group and its practices as wisdom and moderation. How would the latter, and the international mediators, as a minority of supporters, explain to us and to the world the continued madness and extremism of such an unruly militia, while advocating that it can accept a peace dialogue? What is happening is a complete collapse that Yemen is facing due to a subversive group that has taken control of the decision-making spheres, and is practicing a frightening fascist approach together with a systematic repression that reinforces the fragmentation of Yemen on all levels, in such a way that makes it impossible for us to regain the safety of this country for decades to come. This confirms that the loose international attitude towards a terrorist group is a blessing for the continuation of an approach that cannot be dealt with through diplomacy only, should our goal be to make it disappear in order to make room for peace. What if the world had dealt with the rise of Nazism and fascism in Europe with the same logic that the current international analysts adopt towards the situation in Yemen? And what would the situation be like if we insisted on the necessity of dealing with ISIS in Iraq and Syria with the logic of diplomacy and had the Islamic State sign a joint statement for sharing power? There is no intimidation here (nor a personal goal). It is an objective vision that many representatives of the international community ignore, either intentionally or because of a lack of knowledge, but the danger is there and it is increasing. The Houthi group is ignored, and it continues to grow and proliferate, not only militarily but also ideologically, to the extent that it has become a modus operandi that inspires every extremist group. The world s and the sub-region s belittling of what is happening in the Houthi-controlled areas raises both sadness and anxiety and reminds us of the emergence of the Arab-Afghan extremism, or even the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which the international community dealt with in the beginning with disdain and even protectionism, and sometimes sympathy, by providing refuge to many of its leaders by the time the extremist movement would only attack its opponents from among the people of its country. The matter then developed into international terrorism targeting international communities which previously supported it or contributed to supporting it through their blessed silence. And here we are, creating a new hatchery in Yemen that some international analysts overlook, and see its danger as only pertaining to a part of Yemeni geography, and that it will be an obedient and cooperative militia, repeating, hence, the same mistake they made when initially dealing with Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Yemen, today, is another laboratory for a new face of extremism and terrorism that is much more sophisticated, and even more cohesive than the experiences of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. A little logic shows the features of development and danger. Seven years ago, we and the international community were looking after the grievances of a county in the far end of Yemen, called Saada, advocating that it was entitled to obtain development opportunities. Then it became a militia that wanted partnership in all forms of governance, then it overthrew the state and killed its institutions. And now we are also talking about an armed movement that wants to liberate the Arabian Peninsula and announce (the idea of the Quranic march) that goes beyond Yemen s jurisdiction to an extremist caliphate that is fighting infidelity everywhere. Do take note of the daily focus on showing the Houthi militia as being part of the so-called axis of resistance (to Israel and America), and not just as a rebel group against the Yemeni government. This is an issue that is growing every day and is gaining supporters and advocates in the whole region, not just in Yemen. That is why when the Houthi group in Sanaa issued rulings against President Trump and dozens of world and Arab leaders over the past months, some reacted with much contempt and trepidation, and still do. While sarcastically claiming, how could the Houthi group, isolated in the mountains of Yemen, threaten these leaders and their countries? They forget, out of ignorance, how the extremist organisations have created terrorism through fatwas and rulings, and the extent to which the idea has grown among followers who then form their own organisations, prosecute others, and destroy all their opponents. Like extremist movements around the world, organisations proliferate through dedicated individuals who are able to harm without necessarily being positioned under one organisational umbrella. Terrorism succeeds, rather, whenever and wherever it becomes a widespread idea. Al-Qaeda s leadership ended in the caves of Afghanistan, which are more complex than Yemen, but its idea is flourishing everywhere, including in the countries of Europe or America and among the circles that are far from illiterate laymen to students in international universities and schools. These are poisonous winds that do not stop at a limit once they are unleashed from their bottles. They find it helpful to look weak in the beginning, and their prosperity is then consecrated through those who advocate their quintessential purity without fear, as they have specific grievances and seek to undermine their small surroundings, which in this case are parts of Yemen that are resistant to it. Then the world wakes up to a new nightmare of terrorism. In this regard, the matter in Yemen is crystal clear, and not a speculation (even if international analysts hate it), as the Houthi group is moving at an accelerated pace to be the most important laboratory for the graduation of regiments of young fighters who will rule the planet and carry out the Quranic march according to what they claim, and their supporters will not be Yemenis only, nor will their arena be Yemen alone. It will be larger than Arabia and its Gulf. This is what is happening now in Yemen, and if it is left unaddressed, it will worsen every day and its dangers shall increase, the most prominent of which is the promotion of hate speech and bigoted logic, in which all others see a project for corpses to be trampled upon, in order to rule the region, because the world makes through its silence a disaster that goes beyond compromising peace and wisdom in Yemen. Yes, it is a project that can be defeated now, if we change the strategy of confrontation, and if international vigilance takes place, and before that, the region s vigilance against the danger of what is happening in Yemen in terms of collapse and destruction, whose repercussions will affect everyone. The project will be defeated if this international vigilance occurs, while rigorously addressing the danger of the Houthi militia project in Yemen and stopping it, and with the Yemenis continuing to resist, ending their conflict, and rallying around the project of a civil democratic state with courage and bravery.
In a year that has witnessed a lot of political changes, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also had much better years in his long political career. This year’s events have not only brought Erdogan’s megalomaniac ambitions in the Mediterranean and the Middle East to a halt but may also have witnessed the end of his honeymoon with Europe as well. The EU has finally answered French, Greek and Cypriot calls to take a stand against the Turkish president’s provocative actions in the region and the destabilisation that has followed them with its ripple effects on the Old Continent’s stability. After nearly two years of deliberation and debate, the EU has sent an ultimatum to the Turkish president demanding that he stop his provocative actions in the Mediterranean, especially against EU members Greece and Cyprus, and his political feud with France. Sanctions against Turkey have been postponed by the EU several times, with these being seen as a last resort because of the strong economic ties between the EU and Turkey. Erdogan had earlier perceived the European hesitation as a form of weakness or inability to carry out serious sanctions against the Turkish state. But on 19 November during a teleconference among EU foreign ministers, it was decided that the EU would take more severe measures against Turkey during the next EU summit to be held on 10-11 December. The date was set after a series of provocations by Erdogan last week, the latest of which was his visit to occupied Northern Cyprus where he delivered a speech. Erdogan called for peace talks with the parties in the Cyprus conflict and for what he called a “two-state” solution. This has been categorically rejected by all the parties, however, including the United Nations. The aim of a unified Cyprus has been clearly established in diplomatic discussions worldwide. The provocative visit put the nearly five-decade-old conflict in Cyprus back in the news headlines and was met by disdain from European leaders as well as by protests even by some Turkish Cypriots themselves. The protesters fear that Erdogan is wagering their future and involving them in his political, if not soon to be military, conflicts. Many of the protesters believe that their future lies in the reunification of Cyrus. Northern Cyprus is only recognised by Turkey and no other country as a separate state that declared its independence nine years after the Turkish invasion in 1974 that took control of nearly 38 per cent of the island. The conflict and the Turkish involvement in Cyprus have remained issues that have prevented the acceptance of Turkey as a member of the EU. And the recent visit to the island by Erdogan seems to have been a straw that has broken the camel’s back. In response, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borell said that “we consider the recent actions and statements by Turkey related to Cyprus contrary to the United Nations resolutions and further igniting tensions.” Should the EU sanctions against Turkey to be discussed in December be implemented, they will become the latest blow to the already ailing Turkish economy, which had a trade balance with the EU amounting to 138 billion Euros in 2018. Restricting Turkish exports to the EU will send a message to the Turkish regime that its days of getting away with murder are over. Furthermore, Turkish radical groups across Europe are being hunted down at present, with the notorious ultranationalist Turkish group the Grey Wolves being a particular target. The Grey Wolves, established in 1968, have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks, assassinations and high-profile attempted assassinations, including on former Roman Catholic pope John Paul II in 1981 by Mohamed Ali Agca, a member of the group. The group is characterised by its mix of ultranationalist ideology and radical Islamist beliefs. It is believed to be a militant wing of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is a close ally of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Other similar groups targeted by EU countries such as Germany include the German Democratic Idealist Turkish Associations Federation (ADUTDF) and the European Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations Union (ATIB). France and Austria have already banned the Grey Wolves, while the German Bundestag is mulling taking similar action. The group has long been a pro-Erdogan militant Turkish group in Europe, referred to by observers as “Erdogan’s European guard”. Even so, many European countries have looked the other way when it has come to the Grey Wolves’ criminal and terrorist record, even though the group has targeted Turkish dissidents in Europe and particularly the Kurds. The latter have been massacred by the Grey Wolves, for example in the Maras massacre in 1978 when up to 185 Kurds were killed and up to 3,000 more injured. European governments are now paying the price for overlooking the menace posed by such groups. Erdogan now presents one of the most bizarre diplomatic situations for the EU since its inception, as it is now faced with a fellow NATO ally and a potential member taking hostile action against it. The situation is quite different from that presented by Russia. Russia, as the successor state of the former Soviet Union, has been on a collision course with the European powers since the 17th century. It was a reliable ally during World War II, when it was instrumental in winning the war against the Axis powers. However, the expansionist ambitions of Stalin that followed and the establishment of client states and puppet regimes across Eastern Europe led to decades of conflict that remained in effect even after the fall of the former Soviet Union. Erdogan’s tomfoolery is becoming increasingly irritating to many, and thanks to EU complacency he apparently feels he has the upper hand in controlling the pace of EU-Turkish relations and can dictate whatever he wants and EU leaders will eventually comply. Should they not do so, Erdogan has threatened to raise the issues of refugees in the Eastern Mediterranean, or the importance of Turkey in NATO, or to start cosying up to the Russians. His latest comments about Europe show that he is now trying to mend relations with the EU provided that it complies with his demands on Cyprus and his illegal exploration for gas in the Mediterranean. Erdogan said this week that the Turks do not see themselves as anywhere else but in Europe. The statement is bizarre, however, since less than a month ago Erdogan was accusing several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, of being the descendants of “mass-murdering colonialists” who should not tell Turkey what to do. He said in October that Muslims were being treated in Europe like the Jews were 80 years ago and that “Islamophobia” is a cancer that was spreading on the continent. But he has since shifted his rhetoric to appease the Europeans, and now he wishes his country to join this group of “mass-murdering colonialists and Islamophobes,” as he has called them. Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, not to mention countries such as Armenia, have long paid a high price to appease the Turkish tyrant, and the end result has been waves of terrorism, extremism and instability in many countries in the region. If the Europeans do not live up to their promise of sanctioning the Erdogan regime this December, the price may be much higher in the form of a military conflict that will be the natural result of years of political complacency. It is high time that Europe sends a message to Erdogan in the hope that this will avoid wars that could still be triggered by the Turkish tyrant at some time in the future.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) held in power in Ethiopia for nearly 30 years since it led the overthrow of the military dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. After TPLF leader Meles Zenawi assumed the premiership, he and his fellow TPLF leaders ousted all political, military and intelligence leaders and began to establish a new order. Towards this end, they dismantled the former Ethiopian army and turned the TPLF’s military wing into the core of a restructured army with TPLF commanders at the top of the military hierarchy while other TPLF figures assumed key civilian posts. Tigrayan leaders continued to perpetuate their control over government. One of the best-known examples of this situation is Tedros Adhanom, the current director of the World Health Organisation and long-serving minister of health under Zenawi. Before that he was a member of the TPLF leadership, which has fed the current Abiy Ahmed government’s attacks against him for allegedly working to support the recent TPLF insurrection. The Tigray people represent less than 10 per cent of Ethiopia’s population of 110 million. The TPLF’s attempts to sustain their hegemony over the public sphere were numerous and diverse, but perhaps the most important realm of control — apart from the military and intelligence services — is the economy. The leverage this sector offered Tigrayan government leaders and their front came under three main headings: natural resources, agricultural land and foreign aid and loans. The revenues received under these same headings opened the gates to corruption among the Tigrayan elites while access to such revenues was long denied to Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups. For many years, Addis Ababa received an average of $3.5 billion a year in aid and facilitated loans. The amount came to half the entire annual national budget in the Zenawi era and in subsequent years in which the Tigray elites monopolised decisions over how this money was spent and how it was distributed among federal states. China alone was the source of more than 60 per cent of the loan grants obtained by successive governments. While the loans may have infringed on Ethiopian sovereignty, this did not prevent the taint of corruption from spreading among government elites throughout the long period of Tigrayan rule. The same Tigray elites also reaped billions from long term contracts leasing extensive swathes of prime agricultural land in the south (about four million hectares) to foreign investors. Such ubiquitous forms of economic hegemony precipitated mounting anger and uprisings among Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups and regions, some waves of which engulfed the capital as well. With Zenawi’s sudden death in 2012 and the rise of Hailemariam Desalegn to the premiership, this power was partially broken. Desalegn, a member of the Wolayita ethnic group and born in the south, was the first non-Amhara and non-Tigrayan to occupy that post. He was subsequently forced to step down against the backdrop of violent demonstrations initially spurred by ethnic grievances and that broadened to include a range of other economic and political demands. Abiy Ahmed took over after having succeeded Desalegn as chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). As Ahmed stepped into his new post against that backdrop of upheaval, it was only natural that he would initiate some political reforms. These began with some high-profile dismissals and replacements in key government offices that were cautiously welcomed at home while celebrated abroad by world powers that turned a blind eye to what would soon reveal itself as a process of political/ethnic score-settling. It quickly became clear that the Tigray had been singled out by the new government and that the Tigray leadership was not going to put up with the new equations. Indeed, Tigray militants went so far as to attempt to assassinate Abiy Ahmed. The government accused the former TPLF security chief of masterminding the assassination attempt, but he had already fled to the Tigray region before the federal government could serve an arrest warrant for him. The Tigrayan regional government refused to hand him over to federal authorities, of course, but his former deputy was arrested while trying to flee from the police in Addis Ababa. The conflict between Addis Ababa and the Tigrayan regional government quickly spiralled, especially after Ahmed moved to dismantle Tigrayan networks of economic domination. The major step towards this end was to privatise the major public sector companies that had monopolised communications, the sugar trade and foodstuffs industries. Control over all these erstwhile Tigrayan fiefs shifted to the new ruling elites to which the prime minister, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, belonged. However, this economic move was among the developments that shifted the Ethiopian crisis to a new plane, opening the floodgates to long seething economic resentments and political/ethnic rivalries. Before long civil unrest and ethnic strife had spread through most of Ethiopia’s regions, leading to the internal displacement of millions of people in the past two years alone. Some observers have described the crisis as a series of regional ethnic cleansing drives. Such a characterisation may be facile, but there is no denying the levels of widespread violence and killing, and the resultant social animosities and rifts that will be difficult to mend. This unfolding nightmare now raises the spectre of the even more dangerous dimension of sectarian strife. It has already struck Orthodox Christians, hundreds of whom have been killed in various parts of the country. Muslims have also been targeted by similar hate campaigns. So far there appears no way to break the cycle which is on the verge of a fully-fledged civil war.
President-elect Joe Biden has allowed the world, or at least the rational, democratic (with a small d) part of it, to breathe a sigh of relief. With the designation of Antony Blinken as Secretary of State and Jake Sullivan as National Security Adviser, suddenly it seems that order and rationality are on the cusp of being restored to American diplomacy.Biden s other brilliant moves? Adding John Kerry as special envoy for the environment and Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence. As it happens, Haines was also an advocate for Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA under President Donald Trump. If Biden keeps Haspel -- the first woman and one of the rare occupants of that job to came up through the ranks -- it would be a clear demonstration of his determination to return the agency to its non-partisan, apolitical essenceMost of these appointments are long anticipated choices that could go a long way toward assuaging fears that have only deepened in the last four fraught years of diplomacy-by-tweet -- and which Trump has further intensified since his election defeat in a misguided effort to assure that his ill-considered toxicity will linger long after he leaves office. Though reversing many of these moves -- from denigrating much of the NATO alliance to advising the President on pulling troops out of hotspots like Afghanistan and Iraq -- will be among Blinken s earliest and most critical challenges, none is more essential than restoring a feeling that America can, once again, be a pillar of constancy in the world. Blinken already has a long and distinguished resume, which proves he is up to the task. From Democratic staff director to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the early 2000s to Deputy Secretary of State under the Obama administration, he assimilated a view best described by Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux, one of his colleagues during the Biden-Harris campaign, as "power by example vs. example by power." This, she explained in an email to me, is a deeply held feeling that America does not need to flex its muscles to demonstrate leadership.Blinken has also been known to cite the fabled 8,000-word "long telegram" that the great American diplomatic thinker George Kennan, then chargé d affairs in Moscow, sent back to the State Department in 1946. The central observation: "At [the] bottom of Kremlin s neurotic view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity." Clearly in the declining days of the Trump administration that could describe America s allies as well as many of its enemies -- unsettled and unnerved by four years of lurches that marked Trump s foreign policy as it ping-ponged from one self-imposed crisis to another. As tone deaf as his two predecessors, Rex Tillerson and especially Mike Pompeo, were to the nuances of global affairs, Blinken will bring perfect pitch. It will be left to him to carry out the bulk of Biden s principal early priorities -- restoring American membership in the World Health Organization, the COP-21 Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) and the Open Skies Agreement, but above all restoring America s leadership role in the NATO alliance where the value of its members can be demonstrated by unity of purpose rather than simply commitment of dollars or euros. There are many other priorities as well, which will include reversing the most ham-fisted of Trump-era blunders, especially a host of ill-conceived and poorly administered red lines around the globe. North Korea continues to build its nuclear arsenal and capacity to deliver a weapon to American targets. The Taliban are on the cusp of resuming control in Afghanistan as Trump announces plans for a precipitate US troop withdrawal -- and just as Iranian militias are building up their reach in Iraq and Syria. Many terrorist groups that were expelled from the Middle East have pitched up to find new homes across Africa, just as Trump vowed to withdraw American forces from a continent where he had little interest and whose strategic value he barely understood.Finally, China has built an all but unassailable position in the South China Sea. But that is only a corner of the ambitions of its leader Xi Jinping, whom Trump has shown little ability to check. China s principal goal is to become a true global superpower, a nation that the world will need to respect and court. So, an early Biden-Blinken priority must be to move America back into the leadership position in Asia -- one that China assumed with the recent signing of a 14-nation trade pact from which it had been frozen out under President Barack Obama. With Trump withdrawing America from the TPP, a slightly different pan-Asian trade partnership, the door was open to China to fill the vacuum. But reentering some international agreements will hardly be enough to restore American influence abroad to an even keel and reassure America s allies that Trump was simply a short toxic detour. Certainly, the close personal ties the president-elect and his secretary-of state-designate have built over a lifetime of travel and diplomacy will go a long way toward that end. Indeed, Pompeo s last swing through Europe and Middle East should have served as a warning to any who might have any reservations about embracing Blinken as a breath of fresh air. Trump s top diplomat managed in 10 days to infuriate Turkey s leadership, enrage Palestinians with a visit to the West Bank, and confuse the French from President Emmanuel Macron on down. Blinken will face a colossal task of restoring morale and rational discourse to American diplomacy, while rebuilding a decimated and demoralized diplomatic corps. He can begin to do so by using competence and experience as qualifications for important positions -- rather than unquestioned loyalty to a president and a determinedly self-centered agenda.Biden s naming of a veteran foreign service officer like Linda Thomas-Greenfield rather than a political lackey to the newly elevated cabinet-level post of UN ambassador is also an important symbolic move in the direction of restoring professionalism to the nation s diplomatic ranks. The Biden-Blinken universe represents a return to a world where America may not be the center of the universe in every instance, nor needs to be. At the same time, the president-elect s new national security and diplomatic team represents a determination to make the nation a shining example of democracy, standing on the foundations of a long and deeply rooted historical tradition.
Donald Trump seems to have spent most of the year working on his reelection rather than the duties of the presidency. Now that he has lost, it appears he has really checked out. On Saturday morning, Trump joined an online meeting of G20 leaders at 8 a.m. ET to discuss Covid-19 and other issues of concern. How did Trump approach this vitally important conference? He began tweeting about 13 minutes into the opening session, spewing more baseless claims about voter fraud in an effort to overturn the 2020 election. And by 10 a.m. Trump departed to go play golf, skipping a special side conference that was focused on the coronavirus crisis that s exploding in many countries -- including our own. Beyond Trump s non-stop efforts to erode US democracy with lies about voter fraud, the dangerous blocking of the start of President-elect Joe Biden s transition until the General Services Administration makes a determination that he won the election means the incoming administration can t start the process of working with all of the federal agencies, including the Covid-19 vaccine team, to prepare for battling this deadly virus and putting in place a vaccine distribution plan. As Biden recently warned about Trump s actions, "More people may die if we don t coordinate." Appealing to Trump to do the right thing for the good of Americans is a fool s errand. Trump only cares about Trump. We need to make his incentive something that benefits Trump personally. So here s an offer to Trump: Resign today and American taxpayers will cover the cost of unlimited golf between now and January 20, the day Biden is sworn in -- or "Freedom from Trump day," as I refer to it. Yes, I know, many of you are saying, "Don t we already pay for Trump s golf?!" Fair point. Exact numbers are hard to confirm, but given that it can cost millions every time the President takes a trip -- and that Trump had already spent 266 days during his Presidency at a Trump golf course by May of 2020 -- it s clear that Trump s love of golf has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars for the federally-funded security and transport needed to get him to his favorite courses. After all, Trump doesn t just golf in the United States -- he likes to play in places like his resorts in Scotland and Ireland too. I hope Trump takes a moment from tweeting unfounded conspiracy theories to check out Golf Digest s top 100 golf courses outside the US. (In reality, I m betting Trump has read Golf Digest more than his daily intelligence briefings.) There, Trump will be treated to an eye-popping buffet of magnificent golf courses that he can visit at our expense while we wait for Biden s inauguration. Trump could begin at the top-rated golf course in the world, Royal County Down Golf club located in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. This course, founded in 1889, is located between Dundrum Bay to the east and Mountains of Mourne to the south and is famous for its "gorse-covered dunes in golden bloom." As Golf Digest notes, "There is no lovelier place in golf." From there, Trump could jet over to New Zealand to play the world s second-highest-rated golf course, Tara Iti golf club. For golfers, this must be the eighth wonder of the world, with a course that took two years of "gently re-sculpting the sandy soil into hummocks, punchbowls and sand dunes that look like they were formed by wind and vegetated by nature." It s breathtaking -- and it could be Trump s at no cost to him if he simply signs that resignation paper. (Of course, he might have to wait until New Zealand lifts its coronavirus travel ban -- but perhaps if he books now he can get a credit for later.) But wait, there s more. Trump could then skip over to South Korea to play the ninth-ranked golf course in the world, South Cape Owners club, located on the picturesque Namhae Island. This course not only features a view of the ocean from every tee, but it could also feature a very special golfing partner. That s right: the man Trump exchanged "love letters" with, the one and only dictator of North Korea: Kim Jong Un. Trump already asked Kim to play golf in their February 2019 summit, as noted in Bob Woodward s recent book, "Rage." In fact, Trump said to Kim, "Let s go play a round of golf" and "Let s go to a movie together." Well, now they can do both, and we US taxpayers will foot the bill if Trump accepts our offer. Trump is the "Art of the Deal" guy, so he might say I want more than free golf, how about a pardon?! I can understand Trump s desire for one considering the potential criminal investigations he is facing upon leaving office. But all we are offering is golf -- take it or leave it. I think most Americans -- or at least the 51% of voters who cast a ballot for Biden -- would agree Trump can gleefully enjoy all the taxpayer-financed golf, diet Cokes and burgers he can handle between now and January 20. In exchange, all he has to do is resign right away. It s a win for all involved. This could save American lives from Covid-19, save our democracy from Trump s assault and provide Trump the freedom to focus on what he does best: Golf and tweeting. What do you say, Mr. President? PAID CONTENT
President Donald Trump is conducting an all-out assault on our democracy. There is no other way to look at this. The President lost the election and his legal team has failed to produce evidence of voter fraud. So now President Trump is attempting to convince state legislatures to overthrow the results. Voters made their decision, and yet he wants to force a different outcome. His attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is spewing the kinds of conspiracy theories that even conspiracy theorists shy away from. This is dangerous stuff. When some writers, such as Barton Gellman, writing in the Atlantic, predicted this would happen, too many people shrugged off the warning.None of this should come as a surprise. In February, Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned the Senate at the end of the President s impeachment trial: "We must say enough—enough! He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What s right matters even less, and decency matters not at all." Confronted with all of the testimony and evidence as to how Trump abused presidential power, Senate Republicans didn t take Rep. Schiff up on his warning. With the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump, the rest of the party stood by the President. Sen. Susan Collins assured voters that "I believe that the President has learned from this case. The President has been impeached. That s a pretty big lesson."By now it should be clear that the only lesson President Trump learned from the impeachment process was that almost every elected Republican would support him regardless of what he did. He could use public policy for his self-interest, he could intimidate opponents and spread disinformation, and, yes, he could threaten our democratic institutions. When President Trump took steps that were a dangerous use of presidential power—spreading false information about Covid-19 and other issues, dangling foreign aid as leverage for his personal interest. (He denies that was his intent.) failing to clearly separate his business concerns and his role as President and making supportive messages to White extremist groups, the GOP did not do a thing. Indeed, even now some elected officials, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have openly stood by Trump s efforts to attack the election results. Republicans have offered a number of excuses for their silence. According to Sen. McConnell, "We re going to have an orderly transfer from this administration to the next one, what we all say about it is, frankly, irrelevant." The GOP will own this moment for decades to come. When historians look back to understand what happened when the incumbent president recklessly attempted to overturn an election in the middle of a devastating pandemic, where every day of the transition counts in terms of saving lives and moving us back to normal, they will see that most of the party didn t do anything. It s the story of the Trump presidency.As I argued in "Burning Down the House," the Republican pursuit of partisan power has come to overwhelm the basic concerns for governance and the health of institutions. President Trump has exposed a party that is willing to abandon all guardrails in its effort to preserve the ability to push through court picks, deregulation and tax cuts. There is no effort from Republicans to hold the President accountable. Right now, presidential power runs amok -- in ways that are fundamentally different than what we have seen from Democratic and Republican predecessors -- and the GOP cooperates. The party that allegedly hates big government sits by as the President wields virtually unlimited power against the nation s citizens. The party won t be able to shake this legacy easily. There is no going back to normal after what we have seen and there can t be Republicans who say that the party itself is fundamentally different from what President Trump offered the nation. He is the Republican Party, and they stand with him. The only saving grace is that so far state officials are not playing along. After its recount, Georgia certified the election results. "Numbers don t lie," said state Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. On Friday, the state s Republican governor, Brian Kemp signed the paperwork that officially grants the state s 16 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden. And following their meeting with the President Friday, a group of seven Michigan Republicans announced that they learned nothing that would alter the election outcome, meaning Biden beat Trump. The math also is preventing small challenges from impacting the overall victory for Biden.There is no going back. Even when this anti-democratic campaign fails, the fact that it happened and the fact that one of our major parties allowed it to happen, is what matters the most. The only way to begin a reformation of the party would be for Republicans to take a stand now. They are the party that can put the brakes on this runaway President. While Senators Romney, Ben Sasse, and Lamar Alexander have called for a transition to the Biden presidency to begin, this is not enough. The party needs to acknowledge the Biden presidency, they need to denounce President Trump s actions and, yes, they need to threaten action if he doesn t stop this right away. Given the record, don t bet on it. Stopping Trump will require action from Democrats, the courts and state legislatures who still believe that our democratic institutions are worth preserving.
Here s what that means: the Republican-controlled state legislature would try to overrule the popular vote and submit a separate set of Trump electors to select the next president in the electoral college.The good news is that there are many practical hurdles to achieving such an outcome. The bad news is that Ellis statement translates to an official endorsement by the Trump campaign of a desperate strategy to stay in power by ignoring the results of the election and the clear will of the people. It is an admission that they care more about partisan power than democracy itself.As Michigan-based Politico reporter Tim Alberta tweeted, "This system of certifying has always been ripe for exploitation by partisan hacks. Now the stars have aligned -- a demagogue president, a party bereft of integrity, and an activist base that believes 244 years of democratic norms are expendable if it means 4 more years of power." The Washington Post s center-right reporter Robert Costa saw confirmation of a strategy he s been hearing from sources close to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani: "they know they can t catch up (in the vote count). What they want -- in MI, PA, NV, other states -- is for the vote to *not* be certified. Their end game: try to force it to the House. Giuliani talking about this privately," Costa tweeted. Achieving this is unlikely for a number of reasons -- one of which is that each of these states has a Democratic governor, who could override a runaway Republican state legislature. In the case of Michigan, the state constitution makes it clear that "all 16 Michigan electoral votes automatically go to the presidential candidate winning the popular vote" -- which was Biden -- and GOP legislative leaders have pledged not to change the law in an attempt to put Trump in power, despite pressure from the president s allies.Against this backdrop -- if you put reason, law and ethics aside for a moment -- the crazy-quilt of failed legal challenges asserting massive but unspecified fraud that has resulted in a 1 for 25 loss in court starts to make a little more sense. Because one clear commonality in each contested state has been a desperate attempt to block certification of the state s votes -- or to throw out votes from the major population centers, which in many cases -- not coincidentally -- are predominately African-American. We saw that dynamic in the Wayne County deadlock, where the chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, Republican Monica Palmer, said she would be fine certifying the county s votes, absent the city of Detroit. More baseless claims about mass voter fraud were thrown out of a Michigan court last week, when a judge blocked Trump s attempt to stop certification of Biden s win by declaring accusations of widespread election fraud "incorrect and not credible." Not deterred by legal reasoning, facts or judicial decisions, Trump simply blurted out fantasies of a Michigan victory, declaring on Wednesday: "The Great State of Michigan, with votes being far greater than the number of people who voted, cannot certify the election. The Democrats cheated big time, and got caught. A Republican WIN!" While Wayne County s canvassers reversed themselves in the face of massive "feedback" from voters, President Trump highlighted his autocratic impulses by firing his director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs, for the sin of doing his job and telling the truth, when he said "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Trump s baseless and failed legal claims of mass voter fraud depend on denying that reality. As a result, telling the truth is a firing offense. None of this is normal or consistent with the character of our democracy. When Trump carried Michigan in 2016 by just over 10,000 votes, there was not this kind of skullduggery by Democrats. There certainly should not be with a Biden vote total 14 times larger. But this is evidence of a deeper rot -- the elevation of hyper-partisan self-interest over the national interest. The fact that it is being pursued -- however fruitlessly -- by members of a party who consider themselves super-patriots shows just how much that term has been perverted. Because you can t be a real patriot in America if you don t support democracy -- which the dictionary defines as "government by the people, especially rule of the majority." Unfortunately, there has been a move to secure minority rule by Republicans -- as I explained in a recent Reality Check -- that sets the stage for this would-be travesty.Republicans who naively believed that Trump would be chastened by his impeachment and that voters would be able to cast the final vote on his fitness for office (as South Dakota Senator John Thune argued, "the American people -- not Washington politicians -- should choose whether the president remains in office") must now confront the fact that Trump and his team, through Washington politicians and a contested electoral college decision, want to bypass the American people on the path to reelection. This is a time for choosing. Republicans have coddled Trump by making excuses for why he is the first president in our history to refuse to concede that he lost an election. Now, Republicans need to decide whether they will condone an outright attempt to overturn the election. This is far more than a question of being a good party member. This is a test of whether you believe in our country more than a cult of personality. It s a question of whether mindless hyper-partisanship will overwhelm any remaining sense of principle. This should not be a tough call: It s Donald Trump vs. Democracy. Which side are you on?
The recent visit by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to Athens is but another episode in the close and amical relationship between the two countries over recent years. The bilateral relations between Egypt and Greece have steadily grown until the two countries have become a power bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean reinforced by diplomatic, military, financial and cultural ties. During his visit to Athens, Al-Sisi met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. He confirmed the ever-strengthening ties between the two countries in statements made during the subsequent press conference, in which he said that “there is a consensus” between Egypt and Greece to stand up against regional threats, including by standing together against the transfer of jihadist fighters and weapons to militias in Libya. Egypt reiterated its position that unilateral violations of security in the Eastern Mediterranean region should be confronted. The two leaders agreed on the global dimensions of the problem of terrorism and on the need to effectively face it. Officials from the two countries then participated in the 24th round of joint discussions covering multiple issues of cooperation and of regional and international interest. The visit confirmed the fact that Greece and Egypt have been working closely together over recent years on all levels. Two characteristic events in this cooperation have been the signing in August of the maritime demarcation agreement establishing Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the creation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF). The EEZ agreement partially demarcated national EEZs in the Mediterranean southeast of Crete and northeast of the Matrouh governorate in Egypt. According to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, the agreement “permits Egypt and Greece to go ahead with maximising the benefits from the riches available in the exclusive economic zones of both countries, particularly promising gas and oil reserves.” The agreement is also the explicit result of the joint will of the two countries to overcome unfounded territorial claims in the Mediterranean by revisionist and aggressive state actors. The EMGF creates a new financial power bloc that can cooperate effectively with the European Union. Much has thus already been done in terms of the rapprochement between the two countries, but specific additional steps could further enhance and deepen the strategic cooperation of these two pivotal countries in the Mediterranean. First, on a diplomatic level Greek-Egyptian cooperation could unfold further in various fields. In Libya, the necessary political solution to the present conflict and the restoration of essential government functions and state institutions throughout the country requires the dissolution and removal of the militias still active there. As Egypt has consistently stressed, any eventual solution to the Libyan crisis must be based on the outcomes of the Berlin Conference and the Cairo Declaration on the conflict in the country. Moreover, the EEZ agreement signed in August between Egypt and Greece is only a partial demarcation agreement, and it needs to be completed with a new and fuller one. This could coincide with an EEZ agreement between Greece and Cyprus, such that the three states would have cooperated on the delimitation of EEZs in the region. Second, on an economic level Greek investment could be increased in Egypt, as could the amount of bilateral commercial relations. More importantly, Greece could promote the idea of a customs union between Egypt and the European Union, a much more logical step than the EU’s customs union with Turkey. This would be a considerable upgrade of the 2004 EU-Egypt Association Agreement as well of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. A potential customs union of this sort would open up a growing market of over 100 million people to European companies and investments, and it would also greatly benefit the economic prospects of Egypt itself. Greece could act as an intermediary state with the EU bureaucracy and decision-making institutions in order to promote such a customs union, in which the evolution of the EMGF and energy cooperation would also be fundamental not only for economic gains, but also for regional stability. Third, on a military level Egypt and Greece could upgrade their cooperation, especially in the naval and airforce fields. Exchange programmes for officers and administrative personnel, joint exercises, the temporary stationing of military forces in each national territory, and joint naval patrols could all help to create further bilateral bonds. Another idea would be to create areas of enhanced NATO cooperation with powerful actors such as Egypt. Greece as a NATO member could also help to promote Egypt as a valuable partner in both Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region. In this context of enhanced bilateral and regional cooperation, Egypt and Greece can now work to reap the fruit of a power nexus that should prove to be hegemonic in the Eastern Mediterranean region and help to safeguard the stability and prosperity of all the actors involved.
While much of the world has been preoccupied with the President s refusal to acknowledge his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, Donald Trump has been moving building blocks in a way that, if successful, could have a significant impact on America s security abroad and safety at home.On Monday, the Pentagon issued a "warning notice" to theater commanders to begin a further, substantial drawdown of US forces from both Afghanistan and Iraq by January 15, five days before Trump will leave office.This follows Trump s preparatory move, a takedown of the upper reaches of the Pentagon at a critical and most sensitive moment in national security -- the interregnum between two administrations. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper last Monday and named Christopher Miller, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, acting secretary in his place. Miller s new chief of staff will be Kash Patel, who tried to discredit investigations into the Trump campaign s contacts with Russia while he was an aide to former House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes. Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, who has made racist and xenophobic comments and called for the use of deadly force at the US-Mexico border, will serve as Miller s senior adviser. The shake-up also involved replacing James Anderson, who resigned from the Pentagon s top policy role on Tuesday, with retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who, according to CNN s KFile, has made a number of Islamophobic tweets, some of which he later deleted, and who once labeled President Obama a "terrorist leader." What do these new appointees all have in common? Each of them is likely willing and prepared to implement Trump s military goal of withdrawing US troops around the world. While Trump, who spent years slamming US involvement in "endless wars," has announced drawdowns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, thousands of US troops are still deployed in the region. Trump wanted all American forces out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, and sources told CNN s Jake Tapper that the White House may have directed the Defense Department purge because Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal there.Still, if the warning notices are carried through, some 2,500 troops would still be left in each theater -- though Trump s goal had been zero troops by the time he left office. It was unclear whether leaving such a small number of American troops in bitterly contested areas could endanger the safety of those still deployed. Miller issued a memo to the Defense Department just after midnight Saturday that read, "Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it s time to come home." Macgregor, on the other hand, made his views apparent when he told Tucker Carlson in 2019 that the US should withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria immediately. Even before the latest Pentagon reshuffle, the US timeline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was wildly inconsistent. US military leaders have stressed that a withdrawal there would be contingent on certain conditions, including the Taliban breaking ties with al Qaeda and making progress in peace talks with the Afghan government. Both of these conditions have not yet been met, and prematurely withdrawing US troops would not only destroy the credibility of our country, but also remove any incentive to achieve these goals. The situation in Afghanistan is fraught. In a quarterly report to Congress on October 30, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported that the "average daily enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan were 50% higher this quarter (July-September) than last quarter" and "above seasonal norms." The Department of Defense believes the Taliban "is calibrating its use of violence to harass and undermine" the Afghan government while keeping these attacks "at a level it perceives is within the bounds of the [US -- Taliban] agreement, probably to encourage a US troop withdrawal and set favorable conditions for a post-withdrawal Afghanistan." A US troop withdrawal could pave the way for the Taliban to return promptly to power. This would only create a bigger headache for the Biden administration. The last time the United States ousted the Taliban from power, after they had been found to be harboring al Qaeda leaders as they were planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it took an invasion force of about 2,500. But over time, that force peaked at 100,000 US troops in 2011.Trump has also expressed a desire to move American forces out of Syria and Iraq, although concrete plans have often conflicted with the President s own messaging. After Trump announced the US would withdraw from Syria in October 2019, a new wave of troops poured in, leaving the total number in Syria largely unchanged. In August, Trump announced all US troops would leave Iraq "shortly," and about three weeks later, a top military commander said the US would be cutting the number of troops there in half, to about 3,000. Now, with the new brass in charge at the Pentagon, Trump could have a clearer path to achieving his goals. In Iraq and Syria, "an abrupt US pullout removes one of the more major forms of direct and indirect pressure on the countless militia groups controlled by Iran," Phillip Smyth, a Soref Fellow at The Washington Institute, and one of America s leading experts on Mideast militias, told me in an e-mail exchange. "Ideologically and in terms of long-term goals, Tehran wants US forces out, and they want to use any pullout as an example of the US as a paper tiger." An American withdrawal, Smyth points out, "would enable Iran to use its militias to fill the vacuum left by departing U.S. forces. Smyth has tracked the emergence of around 20 new front groups, and all have demanded US pullout of Iraq. History shows us that transitions in US governments can be a vulnerable time. The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, took place on December 21, 1988, as George H. W. Bush was preparing to take over from President Ronald Reagan. And in his final weeks in office in December 1992, Bush, preparing to turn over the presidency to Bill Clinton, ordered 25,000 American troops into Somalia -- which led less than a year later to the deaths of 18 American soldiers in the Black Hawk Down incident. Now, the US focus on Trump s refusal to concede the election and Biden being sidelined from national security briefings could encourage anti-US forces inclined to profit from any perception of American weakness or hesitation.The costs of pulling US troops out of volatile regions prematurely could drag the US back into war all over again. This would be a horrific burden on the Biden administration, especially given the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. This is not the time for the US to let its guard down and abandon conflicts that will only pose a new threat to our national security -- even if it is being done largely to fulfill Trump s campaign promises rather than because he wants to leave his successor with a toxic legacy to clean up.
Those who refuse normalizing relations with Israel take it from a narrow ideological standpoint and raise humanitarian slogans as a cover for their narrow racist ideologies. Their slogans of humanity and political pragmatism, but their words assure such normalization agreement was given for free by the Arab countries. They say this because they see normalization from an ideological, Arab nationalist perspective a