Tagged: The United States

Ben Rhodes, the Iran Deal, and News Spinning in the 21st Century

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru by David Samuels.

In this article in The New York Times, Samuels provides an insider’s view on the person of Ben Rhodes. Rhodes is deputy national security adviser for strategic communications to President Obama and, according to the author’s sources, “the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself”.

I find two aspects of this long article especially interesting.

The first aspect concerns the way the US administration has been using new information technologies “to spin” the news.

“The easiest way for the White House to shape the news is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps … But then there are sort of these force multipliers … We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple of people … and I’ll give them some color … and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”

The second aspect regards details on the US-Iranian negotiations leading to the JCPOA.

In particular, on the when, the who, the how, the where, and the why the negotiations took place.

With regard to the WHY, Samuels writes that “by eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.”

I am personally not so sure about the goal of “disengagement” from the ME but I do share the opinion that there was the idea within the Obama administration of “disentangling” the United States from a controversial/constraining/complex system of regional alliances. This does not mean that the administration wanted to abandon their ME allies, rather, that US officials wanted to make the United States less dependent on them and freer to design its own foreign policy in the region.

The full article can be read here


My Book is Finally Out

Check my new book out New Beginning in US-Muslim Relations: President Obama and the Arab Awakening at Palgrave Macmillan official website.

Short description:

This book carries out a comparative study of the US response to popular uprisings in the Middle East as an evaluation of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy commitments. In 2009, Obama publicly pledged “a new beginning in US-Muslim relations,” causing eager expectation of a clear shift in US foreign policy after the election of the 44th president of the United States. However, the achievement of such a shift was made particularly difficult by the existence of multiple, and sometimes conflicting, US interests in the region which influenced the Obama administration’s response to the popular uprisings in five Muslim-majority countries: Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. After providing a detailed analysis of the traditional features of both US foreign policy rhetoric and practice, this book turns its focus to the Obama administration’s response to the 2011 Arab Awakening to determine whether Obama’s foreign policy has indeed brought about a new beginning in US-Muslim relations.

Enjoy your reading!

Bin Laden’s Bookshelf

On 1st May 2011, US Navy SEALs stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing the Al Qaeda’s leader in the process.

As a result of the Abbottabad raid, the United States recovered large quantities of digital and hard material containing information on Al Qaeda’s organization, plots, and operatives. Since then, the US Intelligence Community has been analyzing such material. The first cache of declassified documents was released on 20th May 2015. The second cache, around 113 files, has been released a few days ago. These last documents are mostly dated between 2009 and 2011. Overall, they seem to describe an Al Qaeda leadership still committed to global jihad but increasingly under pressure from multiple fronts.

Here is the link to the declassified files.

Follow me on Facebook at Eugenio Lilli and on Twitter @EugenioLilli

Reflections on Power and Global Finance

In this documentary “Century of Enslavement: The History of the Federal Reserve”(2014), author James Corbett provides an extremely stimulating picture of the history and influence of the US Federal Reserve and of the larger relationship between Power and Global Finance.

Some of the important questions answered by this insightful documentary include:

1) Where does money come from? (you may be surprised to find out that you don’t really know the right answer to this) How is money dispersed? What factors come into play when determining its value?

2) Who decides the US monetary policy? (no, it’s not the US government)

3) Are alternative scenarios possible?

As any documentary of the kind, this one also advances a particular point of view that can or cannot be shared, however some of the facts presented offer an invaluable opportunity to better understanding and thinking about the world we live in.



Follow me on Twitter @EugenioLilli

If the United States were truly serious about terrorism…

Stephen Walt in the columns of Foreign Policy Magazine has written a piece titled The Unbearable Lightness of America’s War against The Islamic State.

Although I have reservations about some of the arguments put forward by Walt, I find his article particularly stimulating and worth reading.

Here is an especially interesting excerpt:

We now have a vast counterterrorism industry, much bigger intelligence budgets, and more energetic government surveillance, but the basic counterterrorist playbook has evolved little over the past 20 years. In particular, our national security establishment is still convinced that the main way to defeat extremist groups is U.S. military intervention, despite the nagging suspicion that it just creates more ungoverned spaces and makes it easier for groups like the Islamic State to recruit new members.

Then, Walt has listed a number of things the United States should do if it were truly serious about terrorism:

it would start by gauging the level of threat properly and communicating that appraisal to the American people.

…we would also have a more honest and open discussion about our own role in generating it.

…we would now be having a frank discussion about the role of the media.

…we’d also see more creative efforts to discredit, marginalize, spoof, and embarrass the groups we oppose.

…you’d see a more hardnosed approach to the various American “allies” who are part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.

Follow me on Twitter @EugenioLilli

The Drone Papers


The Drone Papers is a collection of articles recently released by The Intercept.

The stated goal of the series is to offer “a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America’s assassination program.”

Regardless of one’s view on the effectivenss and/or morality of the use of targeted killing in order to protect the national interest, The Drone Papers provide many insights on the use of such a contentious tactic.

Some of the major revelations made by The Drone Papers include:

-How the US president authorizes targets for killing

-Targeted killings depend on unreliable intelligence and hurt intelligence gathering

-Strikes often kill many more than the intended target (collateral damage)

-The US military labels unknown people it kills as “enemies killed in action”

-The existence of inconsistencies with White House statements about targeted killing

and much more.

The entire series can be accessed at this link

Follow me on Twitter at @EugenioLilli

Arms Races in the Greater Middle East

Some theorists of arms race argue that domestic interests (the often recalled military-industrial complex) play a primary role in pushing countries to buy more and more advanced weapons.

In this article in The New York Times, the authors seemed to confirm the close link existing between arms races and the interests of defense firms:

As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets.

American defense firms are following the money. Boeing opened an office in Doha, Qatar, in 2011, and Lockheed Martin set up an office there this year. Lockheed created a division in 2013 devoted solely to foreign military sales, and the company’s chief executive, Marillyn Hewson, has said that Lockheed needs to increase foreign business — with a goal of global arms sales’ becoming 25 percent to 30 percent of its revenue — in part to offset the shrinking of the Pentagon budget after the post-Sept. 11 boom.

In other words, instability and conflict in the Grater Middle East seem to be beneficial to business, at least as far as defense firms are concerned.

Read the entire article here

Follow me on Twitter @eugeniolilli