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Obama Officials’ Incomplete Reckoning with Failure on Yemen | Just Security
Meanwhile, the Obama administration was providing Saudi Arabia not only with ongoing military support (which the formal officials mention) but also diplomatic cover (which the former officials omit), especially at the UN. When the UN finally named Saudi Arabia on its “Global List of Shame,” of the worst offenders against children, for its attacks on children in Yemen, the US stood silent as Saudi Arabia strong-armed the UN. Then-Secretary General Ban Ki Moon resisted for a while, but finally caved in and removed Saudi Arabian from the list, admitting that Riyadh had threatened to cut its funding to various UN agencies. Twice during the Obama administration, the US had the opportunity to push for a UN inquiry into abuses by all sides in the Yemen conflict, and twice it did not—the Saudi-led coalition didn’t want one. Despite repeated queries about whether the US supported the first proposed UN inquiry, Obama officials responded with silence or words of deflection, which spelled the political demise of such an initiative.
obama_administration  Yemen  civil_war  Iran.NuclearProgram  Saudi-Arabia 
november 2018 by elizrael
Latest Saudi Strike Against Civilians Kills Yemeni Children - The Atlantic, aug 17, 2018
According to Lewis, over time his work made some in the Obama administration uncomfortable. In certain ways, it undermined the pretense guiding Washington’s support for the coalition—that it consisted merely of servicing and recommendations, and targeting “assistance” but not “selection”—and that the United States bore little responsibility when things went south. Later, his work came under scrutiny as the administration distanced itself from the coalition following deadlier attacks. “Up to a certain level people [in Saudi Arabia] were really eager to improve, and they appreciated the technical approach,” a former senior State Department official familiar with Lewis’s work told me. “But then I think we all concluded that there was a political level above them that didn’t care about improving … It was really a contested experiment, and it was much more risky after it was clear that they weren’t going to listen to us. There was the risk that we’d be used essentially.”
Yemen  obama_administration  WarCrimes  Saudi-Arabia 
august 2018 by elizrael
The White House and the Strongman - The New York Times, July 27, 2018
“It was reassuring that Egypt would not fall into a civil war or a complete massacre of the public or an implosion,” Mr. Kerry said, although he added, “I did not sit back and think, ‘Great, our problems are going to be solved.’”

But the message Mr. Hagel delivered “was totally, totally different,” a senior official on the National Security Council who read transcripts of the calls later told me. “The White House wanted the message to be ‘Democracy is important,’ and Hagel wanted it to be ‘We want to have a good relationship.’ We never could get him to deliver stern talking points.”

Israeli leaders had said they were counting on General Sisi because they worried that — despite Mr. Morsi’s repeated pledges — the Muslim Brotherhood might threaten the border or help Hamas. And General Sisi himself had told Mr. Hagel that “there are some very evil, very bad forces afoot — you cannot understand it like we can understand it here.”

“In Egypt, what was the alternative? It wasn’t Jeffersonian democracy,” Mr. Kerry told me. “Over whatever number of years we have put about $80 billion into Egypt. Most of the time, this is the kind of government they had — almost all of the time. And the reality is, no matter how much I wish it was different, it ain’t going to be different tomorrow.”
Israel  Muslim_Brotherhood  obama_administration  JohnKerry  authoritarian_regime  coup  junta  UAE 
july 2018 by elizrael
Turkish Offensive on Islamic State in Syria Caught U.S. Off Guard - WSJ, Aug 30, 2016
After Mr. Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Aug. 9, Turkey sent a high-level military delegation to Russia to discuss its planned operation into Syria. The Russians assured Turkish officials that Moscow wouldn’t target Ankara’s forces if Turkey moved across the border, according to senior Turkish officials.
Turkey  BufferZone  Aleppo  Russia  Mar15  obama_administration 
january 2018 by elizrael
Deir Azzour Tribal Mapping Project | Center for a New American Security, Oct 2, 2017
Toward the middle of 2014, when open conflict between ISIS and the armed moderate opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra occurred, there was a brief period when the inevitability of a complete ISIS takeover of the governorate became clear. In this period, Deir Azzour FSA units lobbied the U.S. government – specifically asking Samantha Power directly – to persuade then-President Barack Obama to provide the needed support to forestall the impending fall of the governorate to ISIS. By late June 2014, ISIS was trucking in heavy weapons, tanks, Humvees, and flak guns looted from the Iraqi army in Mosul and wider areas of Iraq they took control of, to bring to bear against the opposition forces in Deir Azzour. In a last-ditch effort to fend off ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham and any unaffiliated, local tribal militias opposed to ISIS formed the “Mujahidin Shurah Council,” an umbrella military organization to fight ISIS. Ultimately, this coordination was too late; the firepower ISIS brought from Iraq was too great to overcome without outside support, which never materialized.
tribes  Mar15  ISIS  Syria  history  oil  JabhatAl-Nusra  obama_administration  DeirEzZor  Shia  militia  NDF 
december 2017 by elizrael
Revealed: The Pentagon Is Spending Up To $2.2 Billion on Soviet-Style Arms for Syrian Rebels - OCCRP, Sep 12, 2017
Arms factories across the Balkans and Eastern Europe – already working at capacity to supply the Syrian war – are unable to meet the demand. In response, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has turned to new suppliers like Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Ukraine for additional munitions while relaxing standards on the material it’s willing to accept, according to an investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

This US-financed supply line is similar to a Saudi-backed €1.2 billion arms pipeline to Syria uncovered last year by BIRN and OCCRP.
DoD  weapons  PYD  SDF  Mar15  CIA  Saudi-Arabia  obama_administration  USG  foreign_aid 
december 2017 by elizrael
WTF happened in Lebanon and ISIS update - Tommy Vietor's foreign affairs podcast - Crooked Media - Nov 17 2017
With Rob Malley - Crisis Group - was ISIS lead on Obama NSC - he arrived in Beirut, scheduled to meet Hariri, just as Hariri resigned on Saudi TV. The stunt has succeeded in producing the miracle of all parties in Lebanon agreeing on something - that it was effectively a hostage situation and they want their Prime Minister back. The discussion mostly deals with Saudi screwing stuff up and MBS consistently taking counterproductive steps that blow up in his face, the problems when Trump is seen by the region as giving MBS a blank check, and the clean up efforts required, which the Trump Admin isn't (yet?) organized to do consistently. The only winner is Iran, which just has to sit back quietly and get out the popcorn. Interesting discussion of how the Obama administration found it difficult to stay out of supporting Saudis re Yemen - timing with Iran nuclear talks was key consideration in limiting perceived options.
podcast  US_foreign_policy  Obama_administration  Trump_foreign_policy  MENA  Lebanon  Saudia_Arabia  Iran  Syria  ISIS  GWOT  diplomacy 
november 2017 by dunnettreader
The rise and fall of a US-backed rebel commander in Syria - FT, Feb 8 2017
The operation was based in a nondescript villa in southern Turkey, where rebel commanders met intelligence officers around a long, oval table to propose battle plans and lobby for weapons. 

Rebels approved as ideological “moderates” received a monthly salary of about $150 for a fighter and $300 for a commander.

At first the atmosphere was convivial. The Turks let the commanders sleep at the building, which had a kitchen and a cook, so they could finish late-night sessions poring over maps and plans. Soon, however, MOM bureaucracy became a problem for the rebels: battles could turn in hours while it sometimes took weeks for foreign representatives to agree on plans and get approval to deliver supplies such as ammunition, medicine and boots. Rebels turned to the media with tales of MOM’s stinginess. 

Some opposition figures and diplomats, however, argue the problem was just the opposite. “MOM became a vehicle for corrupting the Free Syrian Army, not because they gave them too little but because they gave them too much,” says an opposition figure close to MOM-backed commanders. 

He says commanders regularly inflated their forces’ numbers to pocket extra salaries, and some jacked up weapons requests to hoard or sell on the black market. Inevitably, much of that ended up in Isis hands. Other groups cut in Jabhat al-Nusra on deals to keep it from attacking them. “The CIA knew about this, of course, everyone in MOM did. It was the price of doing business.”

But perhaps more damaging than the corruption were the growing rivalries between MOM’s foreign backers. As divides opened, each power moved to bolster its favoured commanders. 

“A toddler could enter the MOM room and be able to tell which guy the US was pushing for, who the Turks wanted, or who the Saudis were pushing,” says Abu Omar, a friend of Abu Ahmad and a fellow US-backed rebel commander (not his real name). “MOM became the legal face to cover all the extra support they were giving these groups behind each other’s backs.”

“America was pressuring us with its control of MOM aid. Turkey was trying to pressure us with its control over border access,” says another rebel leader from Aleppo, who asked not to be named. “They’re not allies, they’re liars. When you have allies like Syrians have, you don’t need enemies.”
Mar15  MOC  Turkey  CIA  obama_administration  DoD  weapons  corruption  smuggling 
september 2017 by elizrael
Lords of Misrule | Matt Stoller - The Baffler - Sept 2017
In 1937, future Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson gave a toast at the New York State Bar Association on the civic responsibilities of the legal profession.…
Evernote  legal_culture  corporate_law  legal_system  US_politics  US_legal_system  US_government  white-collar_crime  criminal_justice  DOJ  fraud  financial_crisis  financial_regulation  SEC  antitrust  Obama_administration  accountability  from instapaper
september 2017 by dunnettreader
U.S. Taxpayers Are Helping Bashar Al-Assad in a Strategic City | Foreign Policy, June 22, 2017
The United States, which has footed the majority of the bill, poured more than $10 million into it its first months of operations, with Britain, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands throwing in several million more. There have been more than 260 airdrops to date, at a total cost of between $36 million and $65 million.

“For a few months, it worked really well,” said one State Department official. “The government provided the approval for the convoys, ensuring that even the government besieged areas received assistance. We were shocked at how well it was working.”

But over time, and as the world’s attention turned elsewhere, Syria resumed its policy of blocking aid deliveries to rebel-controlled towns. Those convoys that did get through were required to unload stocks of medicines. “The initial success had gone down the tubes.”

Inside the State Department last Fall, there were calls for shutting down the air drops, on the grounds that Russia and Syria had not lived up to their part of the bargain, and the West was being played for fools. The WFP drops, officials noted, simply freed up resources to supply their own troops.

“The Americans paid while the rest of the opposition areas starved. Only Deir Ezzor got stuff,” said a former State Department official. “I pushed hard to end it since the Russians reneged. But the State Department’s humanitarian advocates, as well as the National Security Council, argued for maintaining the program because it was saving lives, according to the former official.

In the end, a compromise was reached.

The program would continue, but the U.S. and other donors would stop contributing to a special airdrop fund, leaving it to the World Food Program to determine whether it could meet the costs within its own operating budget. The expectation was that Deir Ezzor would no longer be a major priority.

But the food drops to Deir Ezzor, continued. The food agency’s donors, including the United States agreed to increase its operating budget to accommodate the Deir Ezzor air drops.
DeirEzZor  UN  Russia  USG  obama_administration  Mar15  sanctions  corruption 
september 2017 by elizrael
Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria - The New York Times, Aug 2, 2017
Once C.I.A.-trained fighters crossed into Syria, C.I.A. officers had difficulty controlling them. The fact that some of their C.I.A. weapons ended up with Nusra Front fighters — and that some of the rebels joined the group — confirmed the fears of many in the Obama administration when the program began.

The proposal forced a debate inside the Obama administration, with some of Mr. Obama’s top aides arguing that Syria’s chaotic battlefield would make it nearly impossible to ensure that weapons provided by the C.I.A. could be kept out of the hands of militant groups like the Nusra Front. Mr. Obama rejected the plan.

But he changed his mind the following year, signing a presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to covertly arm and train small groups of rebels at bases in Jordan. The president’s reversal came in part because of intense lobbying by foreign leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who argued that the United States should take a more active role in trying to end the conflict.
Israel  obama_administration  CIA  MOC  FSA  TrumpAdministration  Mar15 
september 2017 by elizrael

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