Legislative Round-up: October 21, 2019

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record


Note: From Day 1, I warned that Taylor Force Act was NOT about reducing US $ to PA, but was about redefining PA/PLO as terrorist entities, as step to US treating them as radioactive/enemies. On 10/9, JINSA published an op-ed in the Hill stating exactly that.

EVENT ALERT: On 10/25, there will be a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled, “Israel’s Fateful Choice: Annexation or Peace.” The event will feature the Israeli Peace Now’s (Shalom Achshav) Executive Director, Shaqued Morag, and Director of Development and External Relations, Brian Reeves. The moderator will be Debra Shushan, Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now. The event will be in 2200 RHOB from 1:30-3pm. For more info contact dshushan@peacenow.org

 

 

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(TWEAKING ATCA) S. 2132: Introduced 7/16 by Lankford (R-OK), Grassley (R-IA) and Duckworth (D-IL), “A bill to promote security and provide justice for United States victims of international terrorism.” For details of the original version of the bill, see the 7/19 edition and the 9/20 edition of the Round-Up. On 10/17, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment to S. 2132 offered by Coons (D-DE) and Grassley (R-IA) – (I detailed the amendment in a Twitter thread on 9/26. Video of the hearing is here. Lankford’s press release crowing over the Committee’s passage of the bill is here.

In short, the amended version of S. 2132, as adopted by the Committee:

  • “Fixes” the aid problem: The bill removes any linkage between ATCA and aid to the Palestinians (meaning that the Palestinians would be able to accept U.S. security funding, as well as whatever other funding might be possible despite the Taylor Force Act, without being automatically subjected to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts) — or, for that matter, between ATCA and aid to any party.
  • Adds a new trigger (in effect barring the PA/PLO from the US): The bill legislates (as part of the original version of S. 2132) that the PA/PLO are consenting to the jurisdiction of US courts if any Palestinian official setting foot in the United States in any official capacity (in effect creating a new permanent, un-waivable obstacle to direct US engagement with the Palestinians and to any possibility of the US permitting the re-opening of a Palestinian diplomatic mission in the US).
  • Adds a new trigger (extending extraterritorial US sovereignty): The bill legislates additional new triggers (part of the original version of S. 2132) according to which the PLO/PA would be viewed under US law as consenting to the jurisdiction of US courts if (a) they fail to announce their withdrawal (within 120 days of this becoming law) from any UN agencies in which Palestine has been granted membership; (b) they remain a member in any UN agency 2 years after the bill becoming law), and (c) at any time after this bill becomes law, they take any steps to seek or accept standing in any UN agency. NOTE: All three of these hooks represent a novel path to asserting jurisdiction of US courts over a foreign entity – i.e., legislating conditions that are 100% non-U.S. related condition & defining non-compliance with that condition as voluntary consent to US jurisdiction. This approach is likely unconstitutional and erases the very notion of respect for the sovereignty of other states. If permitted to go into effect, the implications are massive, including with respect to reciprocity (as in, what the US uses against others will be used against us).
  • Adds a new trigger (using deaths of Americans abroad as hook for wider US extraterritorial jurisdiction): The amendment adopted in the Judiciary Committee adds an additional new trigger: if the PA/PLO give any funds to any person or family of a person convicted of killing a U.S. citizen, they are automatically viewed as consenting to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. This, in effect, is about trying to take the Taylor Force Act a step further – from just cutting off all funding for the PA, to treating non-U.S.-funded payment by the PA into consent to jurisdiction of US courts. This is an unprecedented effort to extend the jurisdiction of US courts via the logic of collective punishment. To be clear: the U.S. has laws designed to ensure that people who murder US citizens abroad are brought to justice, but there is no precedent asserting US courts’ jurisdiction over a foreign government for its policy vis-a-vis families of murderers.

Two final notes:

  • This version adopted in Committee of the ATCA fix is, to put it bluntly, nutty — almost certainly unconstitutional, failing to avoid legal issues raised already by a US court, and creating huge issues for the US in terms of extension of extra-territorial jurisdiction. Indeed, during the mark-up all Committee Democrats made clear their support for victims of terrorism getting justice via U.S. courts — while many also expressed concern about the UN hooks (which in effect are an extension of extraterritorial sovereignty), and some expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the current version.
  • Could the Committee have done better? Perhaps — given that a non-insane ATCA fix was offered by Feinstein (D-CA) – text is here. That amendment would (a) delete the part of ATCA that links acceptance of US aid (by any party) with consent to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, while (b) creating a new hook that states simply that consent is established by any act of terrorism aimed at a U.S. citizen for the purpose of influencing the policy of the United States (applying globally, not just to the Palestinians). Feinstein’s amendment was not considered during the Judiciary Committee meeting (Feinstein stated that she wanted to build more support first); it seems likely she will seek consideration of it on the Senate floor.

(WE <HEART> 2SS [JUST DON’T ASK US TO DO ANYTHING CONCRETE TO BACK THAT UP, & DON’T ASK US TO RECOGNIZE OCCUPATION]) H. Res. 326: As noted in the 7/26/19 edition of the Round-Up, on 7/17, H. Res. 326 was one of 4 Israel-related measures marked up and passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The following week, it was the only one of those measures NOT brought to the floor for a vote under suspension of the rules. Why? Because apparently even after amending the resolution in committee to further water down what was already an extremely meek statement of support for peace and the two-state solution (by stripping out a historically factual reference in the original text to U.S. efforts to end the “occupation,” softening references to settlements, and added in language bashing the Palestinians) Democratic leadership did not believe it could get the 2/3 majority support that is required to pass measures brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. Fast forward to last week — on October 17, the House Foreign Affairs Committee finally reported H. Res. 326 out of Committee (amended), meaning that in theory it can now be brought to the floor for a vote via regular order (as in, no longer needing a 2/3 majority to pass. Will that actually ever happen? Only time will tell.

(OPPOSING BETRAYAL OF KURDS) H. J. Res. 77: Introduced 10/15 by Engel (D-NY) and having 64 cosponsors, “Opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria.” Passed by the House 10/16 under suspension of the rules by a vote of 354-60. Floor statements on the bill resolution are here, here, and here. Majority Leader’s statement is here.

(TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON TURKEY) HR 4695: Introduced 10/16 by Engel (D-NY) and having 36 bipartisan cosponsors, “To impose sanctions with respect to Turkey, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs; Financial Services; Oversight and Reform; Ways and Means; Judiciary; and Armed Services. Press release is here.

(SANCTIONING TURKEY FOR ATTACKING KURDS) S. 2644: Introduced 10/17 by Graham (R-SC) and Van Hollen (D-MD), and 14 cosponsors, “A bill to impose sanctions with respect to Turkey, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Countering Turkish Aggression Act of 2019.”  Read the first time 10/17 and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar. Van Hollen press release is here; Van Hollen bill summary is here. Other press releases: Toomey (R-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Wicker (R-MS),

(SANCTIONING TURKEY FOR ATTACKING KURDS) HR 4692: Introduced 10/16 by Cheney (R-WY) and 111 cosponsors, “To impose sanctions with respect to Turkey, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committees on: Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, Oversight and Reform, the Judiciary, and Ways and Means. Cheney press release is here.

(OPENING US BORDERS TO KURDS) S. 2625: Introduced 10/17 by Warner (D-VA), “A bill to authorize the admission of a limited number of Kurdish Syrians and other Syrian partners as special immigrants, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Syrian Allies Protection Act.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Warner press release is here.

(WE <HEART> OUR ALLIES, THE KURDS) S. Res. 361: Introduced 10/17 by Ernst (R-IA) and Rubio (R-FL), “A resolution acknowledging the Kurds’ vital role in stopping the spread of ISIS militants in the Middle East, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(NO ARMS SALES TO TURKEY) S. 2624: Introduced 10/17 by Paul (R-KY) and Braun (R-IN), “A bill to prohibit arms sales to Turkey.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Statement/press release is here.

(FIGHTING ISIS) S. 2641: Introduced 10/17 by Risch (R-ID) and 5 bipartisan cosponsors, “A bill to promote United States national security and prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press release is here.

(OPPOSING BETRAYAL OF THE KURDS) S. J. Res. 57: Introduced 10/15 by Menendez (D-NK) and 3 bipartisan cosponsors, “A joint resolution opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(MANDATORY REVIEW OF US-TURKEY RELATIONS) HR 4694: Introduced 10/16 by Kinzinger (R-IL) and 9 cosponsors, “To require a review of United States-Turkey relations, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, and Armed Services. Press release is here.

(TARGETING SAUDIS WHO HAVE FLED US JUSTICE) S. 2635: Introduced 10/17 by Wyden (D-OR), the “Saudi Fugitive Declassification Act of 2019.” Introduced 10/17, Senate, read twice, considered, read the third time, and passed without amendment by Unanimous Consent. Wyden floor statement is here.

Letters

(THREAT TO HOMELAND FROM ESCAPED ISIS FIGHTERS?) Thompson/Rogers letter to Trump Admin: On 10/18, Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rogers (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Committee, sent a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis Under Secretary David Glawe requesting an intelligence assessment on the threat to the homeland posed by ISIS fighters released or escaped in the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. troops and Turkey’s military actions in northeastern Syria. Press release is here.

(DETAILS OF DESTRUCTION OF US MIL ASSETS IN SYRIA) Pocan letter to Esper: On 10/17, Pocan (D-WI) sent a letter to SecDef Esper requesting a full report on the 10/16 air strike conducted by two US Air Force F-15 jets on an American munitions storage bunker—including what equipment was destroyed and the cost to the U.S. military for bombing our own base and equipment. Press release is here.

(TRUMP: RECONSIDER SYRIA SHIFT) Bipartisan Senate letter to Trump: On 10/17, Senators Manchin (D-WV), Ernst (R-IA), McSally (R-AZ), King (I-ME) Sullivan (R-AK), and Jones (D-AL) sent a letter to President Trump stating: “We are aware that one of your goals is to reduce US involvement in long term wars in the Middle East, and many of us are supportive of those efforts. However, leaving so abruptly without protection for those partners who have been with us in the fight against ISIS is not only perilous for them, but also dangerous for us and our national security.” And concluding, “We come to you in the sincerest bipartisan fashion because of our grave concerns about our national security and foreign policy. We hope that you will urge Turkey to end their offensive and find a way to a peaceful resolution while supporting our Kurdish partners to ensure regional stability.” Press release is here.

(WHAT HAPPENED IN TRUMP CALL WITH ERDOGAN?) Menendez letter to Pompeo: On 10/16, SFRC Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo asking for details of President Trump’s Oct 6 call with Turkish President Erdogan — the call that led to Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, paving the way for Turkey’s military action there. Press release is here.

(Opposing Withdrawal from Syria) House Committees’ letter to Pompeo & Esper: On 10/15, five committee and subcommittee chairs sent a letter to SecState Pompeo and SecDef Esper expressing “profound concerns” about President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northeast Syria. Press release is here.

(HELP WITH LEBANON FIRES) Dingell letter to Pompeo: On 10/16, Rep. Dingell (D-MI) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo asking him to take “urgent action” to address the situation of raging forest fires in Lebanon. Press release is here.

2. Hearings

 

10/23: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security will hold a hearing entitled, “The Trump Administration’s Syria Policy: Perspectives from the Field.” Scheduled witnesses (so far) are: Bernice Romero (Save the Children), Ilham Ahmed (Syrian Democratic Council), Martin Palmer (5th Special Forces Group), and Emerita Torres (Soufan Center).

10/23: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled (rescheduled) entitled, “The Betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish Partners: How Will American Foreign Policy and Leadership Recover?” Scheduled witnesses are: James Jeffrey, Department of State Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS; Joey Hood, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; and Matthew Palmer Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

10/23: The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations will hold a hearing entitled, “Hearing to review U.S. policy and assistance in Syria.” The only scheduled witness is James Jeffrey, Department of State Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

10/22: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing the Impact of Turkey’s Offensive in Northeast Syria.” Scheduled witnesses are: James Jeffrey, Department of State Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS; and Matthew Palmer Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

10/17: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to consider (among other things) yet another version of S.2132 – an attempt to “fix” ATCA by finding a different hook to allow US plaintiffs and an Israeli lawfare organization to sue the PLO/PA out of existence, while still allowing some US aid to flow for things the US wants to fund (especially PA security cooperation with Israel). For details see Section 1, above.

10/17: The Senate Armed Services Committee held CLOSED hearings “to examine the situation in Syria and the wider region.” Witnesses were SecDef Mark Esper and JCS Chairman General Mark Milley. Blumenthal (D-CT) statement following closed hearing is here.

10/16: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “Syria Study Group: Recommendations for U.S. Policy.” Witnesses were Michael Singh, WINEP and Dana Stroul, WINEP, co-chairs of the Syria Study Group (joint statement).

10/16: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “An Examination of US-Iran Policy.” The only witness was Brian Hook, Department of State’s Special Representative for Iran (testimony). Hearing video is here; Chairman Risch’s (R-ID) opening statement is here; Ranking member Menendez’s (D-NJ) opening statement is here. Also see: Menendez press release – “Menendez Questions State Dept. Official about Trump, Giuliani Effort to Free Iran Sanctions Violator”

  1. On the Record

Lee (R-UT) 10/18: Statement defending Trump’s decision to remove US troops from Syria

Graham (R-SC) 10/18: Statement following a phone call with General Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Paul (R-KY) 10/17: Dr. Rand Paul Defends President Removing Troops in Syria, Introduces Legislation to End Arms Sales to Turkey

Ernst (R-IA) 10/17: Ernst Calls for Clear Strategy for the Enduring Defeat of ISIS

Schumer (D-NY) 10/17: Senate Republican Blocks Schumer Attempt To Pass Bipartisan, Bicameral House-Passed Resolution Opposing President Trump’s Disastrous Decision On Syria

Kaine (D-VA) 10/17: Kaine Statement On Trump Administration Announcement Of Ceasefire In Syria

Graham (R-SC) 10/17: Graham Statement on Turkey Cease-Fire Deal

Shaheen (D-NH) 10/17: On Senate Floor, Shaheen Rebukes President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw Troops from Northeast Syria

Risch (R-ID) 10/17: Risch Statement and Floor Remarks on Turkish Aggression in Syria

Reed (D-RI) 10/17: Reed Discusses Kurds, Syria, and Turkey on the Senate Floor

Scott (R-FL) 10/17: Portraying his support for Holocaust Survivors’ Rights as a form of support for Israel [“The Holocaust is more than a history lesson; it is a stark reminder that evil and hate exist in this world…As Governor of Florida, I took a stand against discrimination and prohibited state agencies and local governments from contracting with companies boycotting Israel, because supporting Israel should never be a partisan issue. And as U.S. Senator, I will continue to support Israel and take action against those who wish to do them harm. I’m proud to work with Senator Rubio to introduce the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act as we continue to do everything in our power to support the survivors and their families. Our memory and support of all of those who suffered must never weaken.”]

Rubio (R-FL) 10/17: Floor statement on Syria

Romney (R-UT) 10/17: Floor statement, “Situation in Syria: We once abandoned a red line. Now, we abandoned an ally.”

Blumenthal (D-CT) 10/17: Blumenthal Statement Following Classified Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing On the Situation in Syria

Blumenthal (D-CT) 10/17: Blumenthal Statement on Turkish “Ceasefire” [“This supposed ceasefire is a deceptive bait and switch that should redouble determination to pass our strong sanctions bill. Do not be fooled – the announced ceasefire is neither a military victory for our Kurdish partners in Syria, nor a diplomatic victory for the Trump Administration. This illusory solution is a catastrophic, roundabout way for President Trump to give President Erdogan exactly what he wanted: a Kurdish withdrawal, and free reign over northern Syria. The President got rolled, and so did our national integrity. It is yet another betrayal to our Kurdish partners and a boon to our adversaries, Russia and Iran.”]

Engel (D-NY) 10/17: Engel Statement on Pause in Turkey’s Campaign of Violence in Northern Syria

Blackburn (R-TN) 10/17: Blackburn: Bipartisan Sanctions Remain on the Table Despite Temporary Ceasefire

Pelosi (D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY) 10/17: Schumer, Pelosi Joint Statement On President Trump’s Reversal On Sanctioning Turkey [“President Trump is flailing.  The President’s decision to reverse sanctions against Turkey for brutally attacking our Kurdish partners in exchange for a sham ceasefire seriously undermines the credibility of America’s foreign policy and sends a dangerous message to our allies and adversaries alike that our word cannot be trusted…”]

Reed (D-RI) 10/17: So-Called Ceasefire in Turkey Isn’t a Diplomatic Victory, It’s a Feeble Attempt to Close a Self-inflicted Wound

Schumer (D-NY) 10/17: Schumer Statement Urging Leader McConnell To Bring The Bipartisan House-Passed Resolution Demanding President Trump Reverse Course In Syria To The Senate Floor

Moulton (D-MA) 10/17: “Preventing our allies from being slaughtered by our commander in chief’s foreign policy blunders is nothing to celebrate–it should be the bare minimum,” Moulton said. “This White House continues to hand Turkey’s Putin-allied president everything President Trump promised him on the phone last week for nothing in return. Our Kurdish allies who have paid a heavy price to protect us from ISIS get nothing from this deal except a long march out of their homes and cities after being bombarded and attacked for a week. I am still gravely concerned for their safety and about the resurgence of ISIS because of the president’s recklessness.”

Meuser (R-PA) 10/17: Meuser Statement on Ceasefire Agreement in Syria

Feinstein (D-CA) 10/16: Feinstein to Trump: Listen to Advisors, Bring Kurds Back Into Fold

Schumer (D-NY) 10/16: Excerpt from floor statement: “On Syria. We are witnessing, in real-time, the collapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Five years of hard fighting in Syria – first destabilize and then degrade ISIS has been potentially undone in one phone call. The president’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. forces has abandoned the field to our enemies, ISIS, Iran, Putin, and Bashar al-Assad, and it’s put our friends in danger, including two of the closest friends we have in the Middle East: the Syrian Kurds and Israel.

Hoyer (D-MD) 10/16: Hoyer Statement on White House Meeting on Syria

Pelosi (D-CA) 10/16: Pelosi Remarks at Media Stakeout Following White House Meeting

Lankford (R-OK) 10/16: Senator Lankford Discusses Syria, Turkey on Senate Floor

Meuser (R-PA) 10/16: Meuser Statement on Turkish Offensive in Syria

McConnell (R-KY) 10/15: McConnell on Turkish Escalation: ‘This Violence Needs To End’

Murphy (D-CT) 10/15: Murphy Statement On Turkey Sanctions

O’Halleran (D-AZ) 10/15: O’Halleran Responds to Administration’s Withdrawal of U.S. Troops in Syria

Pelosi (D-CA) and Schumer (D-NY) 10/15: Leader Schumer And Speaker Pelosi Statement On Bicameral, Bipartisan Turkey Resolution

Lankford (R-OK) 10/15: Statement on US Sanctions on Turkey

Shaheen (D-NH) 10/15: Shaheen Calls on President Trump to Publicly Revoke His Invitation to President Erdogan to Visit the United States

Graham (R-SC) 10/15: Supporting President Trump’s decision to initiate executive order sanctions against Turkish officials and economy for Turkey’s invasion of northeastern Syria

Pelosi (D-CA) 10/14: Pelosi Statement on President Trump’s Executive Order Authorizing Sanctions Against Turkey

McConnell (R-KY) 10/14: We Must Avoid Strategic Calamity in the Middle East

Ernst (R-IA) 10/14: Ernst Statement on Turkey’s Actions in Northern Syria

Fischer (R-NE) 10/14: “I am increasingly concerned by the situation on the ground in Syria. The Kurds have been some of our strongest partners in the fight against ISIS, and the U.S. departure will leave a vacuum in the region which benefits Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. Turkey’s actions have put the fight against radical extremism at risk, and have given ISIS and Al Qaeda an opportunity to regroup and grow. The national security interests of the United States require continued commitment to the mission in Syria, and now is not the time to disengage in the face of Turkey’s reckless incursion.

Schumer (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Reed (D-RI) 10/14: Sanctions Alone Against Turkey Will Not Be Enough To Stop ISIS Jailbreak Or Undo Damage President Trump’s Reckless Actions Have Already Caused In Syria And Turkey; Senate Dems Call For Republicans To Support Resolution Demanding President Trump Correct Course And Outline Clear Strategy To Defeat ISIS

Menendez (D-NJ) 10/13: Menendez Statement on Pres. Trump’s Reckless Withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Northern Syria

Schumer (D-NY) 10/13: Schumer: President Trump’s Actions In Syria Are Dereliction Of Duty, Says Congress Must Pass Joint Resolution Demanding President Undo His Erratic And Reckless Decision

Feinstein (D-CA) 10/13: Feinstein on U.S. Abandonment of Kurdish Allies in Northern Syria

Reed (D-RI) 10/13: Reed Says Trump’s Betrayal of Kurds Makes America Less Safe & Clears the Way for Slaughter of Innocent People

Van Hollen (D-MD) 10/12: Van Hollen Statement on Administration’s Turkish Sanctions Executive Order

Murphy (D-CT) 10/11: Murphy Statement On Impending Executive Order To Sanction Turkey Over Its Syria Actions [“This is farcical. President Trump’s Executive Order—after he pulled out U.S. troops specifically to allow Turkey to invade northern Syria, and after that invasion is already underway—is nothing more than empty words and an insult to the Kurds we have betrayed…”]

Coons (D-DE) 10/11: Senator Coons’ statement on Turkey’s military offensive in Syria

Markey (D-MA) 10/11: Senator Markey on Trump Deployment of U.S. Troops to Saudi Arabia: Saudis ‘Pay Cash’ While Kurds Pay with Their Lives

____________________

Notable: Murphy (D-CT) 10/17: Floor statement, “Murphy: Trump’s Foreign Policy Is In Meltdown. Why Are Republicans Protecting Him?” Middle East-related excerpt:

“…Thousands of political dissidents are being locked up in places like Turkey and Egypt and Saudi Arabia – these are supposed to be U.S. allies – and have no one to speak for them because America now doesn’t do anything about civil rights or human rights. We’ve vanished from the human rights playing field.

“In Saudi Arabia, in fact, their leadership felt so emboldened by Trump’s embrace of brutal strong men that they kidnapped an American resident who was critical of the Saudi regime. They chopped him to pieces, and then they got rid of the body parts. The dots are piling up in the Middle East. The response from the United States to Jamal Khashoggi‘s murder was a visit to Riyadh by the American Secretary of State for a smiling photo op to make sure that every foreign leader and every corner of the world recognized that human rights abuses would be forgiven pretty immediately by this new American regime.

“Elsewhere in the Middle East, I don’t know that I can just keep on piling up more and more dots. But elsewhere in the Middle East, things are falling apart fast, due mostly to the Trump administration’s  incompetence. It started with this nonsensical fracture of relations between Saudi Arabia and another key U.S. Gulf ally, Qatar. It was the kind of disruption that, frankly would normally papered over and fixed by a competent US administration, probably in days. But three years later, the two countries, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, still aren’t talking, largely because we did nothing to fix it. Making matters worse, Saudi Arabia and their one remaining stable friend in the region, UAE, aren’t getting along now either.

“Under Trump, the war in Yemen began to rage out of control. Tens of thousands of innocent Yemenis, many of them little children, died needlessly as Trump piled more weapons and more bombs into the war, and did really nothing to try to find a peace agreement between the parties, who for a year have been begging the United States to step in and play our traditional role as mediator. The conflict has raged on for so long due to Trump’s unwillingness to use America’s diplomatic muscle that events on the ground became so chaotic that the Saudis and the Emirates have now parted ways. Now with the Qataris, the Saudis, and the Emirates all on different wavelengths, the potential for proxy wars between these wealthy nations could get much worse all over the Middle East.

“Now, in Iran, right next door, the campaign of blind escalation and provocation has been disastrous. Every one of the president’s national security advisors told him to stay in the Iran nuclear agreement and focus his energies on addressing Iran’s other malevolent behavior in the region, like their ballistic missile program or their support for terrorist organizations.

“Trump ignored all his advisors, like he’s ignored all the rest of the counsel that he’s received on major foreign policy matters, and he cancelled the agreement and implemented a series of unilateral sanctions against Iran coordinated with absolutely no one. Iran feeling cornered, but also not feeling particularly vulnerable given the fact that America couldn’t recruit any of our friends to our new anti-Iran campaign, they hit back against oil tankers, American drones, Saudi pipelines. We now seem perpetually on the precipice of war with Iran. And meanwhile, they’ve restarted parts of their shuttered nuclear program. We haven’t convinced a single nation to help us build new sanctions. And there’s absolutely no chance that Trump is going to secure a better deal than the JCPOA before he leaves office in just over a year.

“Iran is a bigger menace than before he took office. They just scored another major victory with Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds and the anti-Iran coalition that the United States methodically built under Barack Obama has vanished, perhaps, never again to be resurrected.

“Now, in this very red region of the world, right now, the only leader who’s been happy with Trump’s dangerous bizarre, non-strategy on Iran has been Benjamin Netanyahu, but he may not be in power much longer. His alliance with Trump has left his successor a frightening legacy. Under Trump’s watch, the two state solution in Israel, a longtime, bipartisan lynchpin of American policy in the Middle East, has effectively fallen apart. Trump has allowed Israel to take steps that make a future Palestinian state almost impossible. And for three years, he’s put his son-in-law, whose only experience was using his father’s money to buy real estate, in charge of brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It was a joke, everybody knew it. But since Trump was president everybody had to play along. Now there’s no peace plan, there was never going to be a peace plan. And the chances for one are almost nonexistent after three years of the Trump administration.

“Now down in Libya, Trump admittedly inherited a pretty miserable situation. But somehow like everything else, he managed to make it worse. The country’s been fractured for years, as rival militias with a host of foreign patrons have been fighting a civil war that’s created a vacuum that’s been filled in by extremists and a migrant crisis that continues to expand.

“Instead of doing the hard work of diplomacy to try to get the warring parties back to the table, instead, Trump threw his support, his personal support, behind General Haftar –  upending years of American diplomacy and endorsing Haftar’s plan to try to take Tripoli by force. As a result, the fighting there continues, peace talks are failing, and the humanitarian crisis grows by the day.

“Now, one of the consequences of this Trump death spiral in Libya and the Middle East is that the economic and political refugees continue to flow into Europe, which simply isn’t politically ready to accept this rate of inflow. And by slashing the number of refugees allowed to the United States from over 100,000 to 18,000 we’ve communicated to the Europeans that we have no interest in helping…”

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