Most Americans are aware of the aggressive Russian actions in recent years in Ukraine (seizing Crimea and participating in efforts to destabilize the rest of the country) and Eastern Europe. What is less well known is Putin’s effort in Syria.
A story by Michael Weiss in The Daily Beast tells us what is actually happening, as its title conveys: “Russia Puts Boots on the Ground in Syria.” Not only is Russia arming the Assad regime, but there is now evidence that Russians are on the ground with Assad’s forces actually operating the equipment. Weiss refers to “compelling evidence that Russians have embedded with the Syrian military.” Assad recently told Hezbollah’s TV station that “We have strong confidence in the Russians, as they have proven throughout this crisis, for four years, that they are sincere and transparent in their relationship with us,” and he appears to be right. Read more »
The continuing crisis in Bahrain is leading to bipartisan Congressional efforts to bring American pressure to bear–and to keep the United States away from involvement in repression there.
Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden, a Republican and a Democrat, have introduced S. 2009, which would bar selling or giving to Bahrain materiel that could be used not for national security but for internal repression: “(1) Tear gas, (2) Small arms, (3) Light weapons, (4) Ammunition for small arms and light weapons, (5) Humvees, (6) Other items that could reasonably be used for crowd control purposes.” Read more »
Gov. Scott Walker gave a major foreign policy speech today at The Citadel, and it contained some points worth noting. I’ll skip over some of the rhetoric and the criticism of Clinton and Obama, which is to be expected in a political contest. (Disclosure: I am not supporting Walker or any other specific candidate for the Republican nomination.) Read more »
I’ve called attention to the writings on Syria of Amb. Fred Hof in several blog posts (here’s one). Hof, after a career in the U.S. Army, became the State Department’s resident expert on Syria and the Obama administration’s “Special Adviser” on Syria policy. He left the administration and joined the Atlantic Council, where he continues to write about Syria. Read more »
There’s a bit of confusion about the recent “resignation” of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. What actually happened?
Abbas wears three hats, as his predecessor and mentor Yasser Arafat did: head of the Fatah Party, president of the Palestinian Authority, and chairman of the PLO. Abbas just organized the resignation of ten members of the PLO Executive Committee, including himself, and he resigned as its chairman. The purpose is not to walk away, go home, and retire, but to force a meeting of the PLO’s “legislative body,” the Palestine National Council, to elect a new Executive Committee. This will allow Abbas to push off the Committee individuals whom he doesn’t like or who are political opponents of his. Read more »
It is conventional wisdom that all Palestinians seek, above all else, a Palestinian state. This is a reasonable conclusion to draw, although polls over the years have suggested that it may well be inaccurate.
There are very few people nowadays ignoring the growing repression in Egypt. Most recently, a new “counter-terrorism” law was imposed this week–but it snuffs out free speech more than terror. Even the State Department denounced the law: “We are concerned that some measures in Egypt’s new anti-terrorism law could have a significant detrimental impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms,” its spokesman said. The new law punishes as a crime the publication of information that differs with the official version of facts about terrorism, which means you agree with Sisi or you go to jail. Read more »
The fight against trafficking in persons has been a human rights policy that works. Laws adopted largely because of pressure from religious groups, especially Evangelicals, were resisted by the usual combination of professional diplomats and realpolitik theorists. But the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000 and has been renewed several times since. It established an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the State Department, and requires annual reports that place countries in several tiers depending on how good or bad the trafficking situation is. Read more »
Pressure Points tracks developments in the Middle East and democratization and human rights issues globally.