Newscoop Footnotes: April 23, 2019

Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes — the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.

While our Footnotes this week may appear at first to be just a rundown of recent Trump shenanigans, each of these U.S. policy changes stands to have a profound impact on future global stability.

  • First, after the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate finally came around to supporting a resolution to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen, Trump has vetoed that resolution. It was a disturbing disregard of the U.S. Congress, and of global allies who are unified in feeling the war must stop. More than 60,000 Yemenis are said to have died from either the Saudi-led bombings (with American weapons), or the resulting famine. But the Trump administration refuses to withdraw its support for the Saudis, or to take any measure to hold the Saudis accountable for their bombing of Yemeni civilians, their funding of global terrorism, their human rights violations, and their murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

    Note:  Trump’s support of the Saudis is due in part to Jared Kushner’s close friendship with the Saudi crown prince, and Kushner’s reliance on the Saudis to prop up his soon-to-be-released Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. It also stems from Trump’s focus on the 2020 election, and his much needed support from U.S. evangelicals — who unconditionally support Israel, which is strongly allied with Saudi geopolitical interests.

    Sources: BBC

  • And on April 16th, Trump’s recent pick for Attorney General, William Barr, announced that he would direct immigration judges to deny bail hearings to immigrants seeking asylum. These are immigrants with a “credible fear of persecution or torture” in their home countries. The effect of Barr’s ruling is that asylum seekers could remain in jail indefinitely while their asylum requests are resolved. The ACLU quickly announced that Barr’s action violated the U.S. Constitution, and promised legal action.

    Note:  Trump’s harsh words and actions against immigrants are a follow-up to campaign promises he made to his largely anti-immigrant base. Irrespective of the chaos these policies create, Trump has his eyes on the support he needs for the 2020 presidential election.

    Sources: NPR, NYTimes

  • And on April 11th, the Trump administration denied a U.S. entry visa to Palestinian Omar Barghouti, who co-founded the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The BDS campaign seeks to raise international support and put pressure on Israel for its settlement policies and policing on Palestinian land. It is viewed by the Israeli government as a strong threat to settlement expansion.

    Earlier in the month, the U.S. administration also revoked the U.S. visa of Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo made clear that it was a response to Bensouda’s willingness to consider investigating potential war crimes by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

    Note: Revoking Omar Barghouti’s visa is Trump’s nod to the wishes of the Netanyahu government in Israel, which had previously restricted Barghouti’s travel documents. After Amnesty International issued a demand to Israel earlier this year that it “end the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defender Omar Barghouti,” Israel complied.

    Sources: NPR, Reuters, NYTimes

  • Next, to Trump policy on Iran. Pompeo has announced that as of May 2nd, the Trump administration will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that buys Iranian oil. This is an attempt to drive Iranian oil export revenue to zero, as part of the administration’s policy of economic strangulation for countries it does not like. The countries who are importing most Iranian oil and are likely to be affected by U.S. sanctions are China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey — which, for their own internal economic reasons, will not respond well to the U.S. ultimatum.

    Note:  After Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear accord last year, his harsh policies  on Iran have escalated. Veteran U.S. diplomat William Burns, now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, refers to Trump’s Iran policy as “untethered to history.”  Trump’s policies are tethered instead to his closeness with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, with a particular focus on the U.S. evangelical vote. (Many evangelicals see Iran as complicating the fulfillment of what they interpret to be biblical prophecies involving Israel.)

    Sources:  Washington Post, Foreign Policy

  • And finally, on April 17th, Trump announced new measures to tighten the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Analysts are saying the new measures are unlikely to weaken the Cuban government, and would instead lead to greater hardship for the Cuban people. Canada and the EU are calling it “regrettable” and “contrary to international law.”

    As Donald Trump and his administration implement the new aggressive measures against Cuba, they claim that President Obama’s 2017 efforts to normalize relations with Cuba were, as Secretary of State Pompeo put it, “a black mark on this great nation’s long record of defending human rights.” Such claims ring hollow, given Trump’s willingness to explain away the egregious human rights violations of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Filipino president Duterte, and others around the globe.

    Note: While the Trump administration is claiming that their policy reversals are intended to fight “socialism, communism and human rights abuses,” there are clearer reasons for the moves. Cuba has been providing support for the government of oil-powerhouse Venezuela, which the Trump administration seeks to topple.

    Trump’s policies also play to the Cuban American vote in Miami — one of America’s most powerful lobbies, often decisive in U.S. presidential elections. In his speech in Florida on Wednesday, Bolton brought that reason front and center:  “Let me be clear,” Bolton said. “The Trump administration will NEVER, EVER abandon you. We will need your help in the days ahead. We must reject the forces of communism and socialism in this hemisphere — and in this country.”

    Sources:  NPR, Washington Post, Atlantic, Miami Herald

This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes – important events getting too little attention.

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