The US has no credibility dealing with chemical weapons

By Stephen Zunes

This is an updated and expanded version of the article “The US and Chemical Weapons: No Leg to Stand On,” originally posted in Foreign Policy in Focus on May 2, 2013.

Had the United States pursued a policy stemming the proliferation of chemical and other nonconventional weapons through region-wide disarmament, when it was proposed in 2003 by Syria, it is likely there would be no apparent use of such ordnance and no present rush to war on that basis, says Zunes.

The Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilian areas on August 21 constitutes a breach of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the world’s most important disarmament treaties, which banned the use of chemical weapons.

In 1993, the international community came together to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a binding international treaty that would also prohibit the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, and transfer or use of chemical weapons. Syria is one of only eight of the world’s 193 countries not party to the convention.

However, US policy regarding chemical weapons has been so inconsistent and politicized that the United States is in no position to take leadership in any military response to any use of such weaponry by Syria. Continue reading at TruthOut

Eight arguments against going to war with Syria

By Stephen Zunes

The decision by President Barack Obama to first seek congressional approval of any US military action against Syria is good and important, not only on constitutional grounds but because it gives the American people an opportunity to stop it. It is critically important to convince members of Congress not to grant the president that authority.

Here are some of the top talking points that should be raised before members of Congress as to why authorizing US airstrikes on Syria would be a bad idea.
Continue at TruthOut

Washington and the Egyptian tragedy

By Stephen Zunes

The vast majority of Egyptians killed since the coup have been unarmed protesters struck down with American-made weapons by soldiers transported in American-made vehicles provided by the American taxpayer.

As in El Salvador, Nicaragua, East Timor, Angola, Lebanon, and Gaza in previous years, the massive killing of civilians in Egypt is being done with U.S.-provided weapons by a U.S.-backed government. As a result, the Obama administration and Congress are morally culpable for the unfolding tragedy. While the apparent decision to suspend some military aid to Egypt is certainly welcome, the role the United States has been playing has, on balance, made matters worse.

As with many of these other cases, elements of the Egyptian opposition have contributed to the bloodshed and bear some responsibility. Continue reading at Foreign Policy In Focus

Restless nation: the real meaning of Iran’s elections

By Stephen Zunes

Will the people of Iran get the reforms they asked for in electing the moderate Hassan Rouhani? The answer depends partly on them, and partly on the United States.

Earlier this month, Iran inaugurated its new president, Hassan Rouhani—clearly the most moderate candidate in the running.

This outcome illustrates the growing desire for change among the people of Iran. The situation resembles Eastern Europe in the 1970s: The people are not yet at a point where they can bring down the regime, but the ideological hegemony that kept the system intact is gone. Continue reading here…

The last colony: Beyond dominant narratives on the Western Sahara roundtable

By Stephen Zunes

This is one of seven pieces in Jadaliyya’s electronic roundtable on the Western Sahara. Moderated by Samia Errazzouki and Allison L. McManus, it features contributions from John P. Entelis, Stephen Zunes, Aboubakr Jamaï, Ali Anouzla, Allison L. McManus, Samia Errazzouki, and Andrew McConnell.

Western Sahara is a sparsely-populated territory about the size of Italy, located on the Atlantic coast in northwestern Africa, just south of Morocco. Traditionally inhabited by nomadic Arab tribes, collectively known as Sahrawis and famous for their long history of resistance to outside domination, the territory was occupied by Spain from the late 1800s through the mid-1970s. With Spain holding onto the territory well over a decade after most African countries had achieved their freedom from European colonialism, the nationalist Polisario Front launched an armed independence struggle against Spain in 1973. This—along with pressure from the United Nations—eventually forced Madrid to promise the people of what was then still known as the Spanish Sahara a referendum on the fate of the territory by the end of 1975.
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US policy weakens Iran’s pro-democracy movement

By Stephen Zunes

While the outcome of the Iranian elections scheduled for June 14 may be hard to predict, it will make little difference as long as power remains firmly in the hands of Ayatollah Khamenei and other hard-line clerics. Indeed, while there are contending factions vying for the country’s relatively weak presidency, the narrow ideological spectrum within which candidates are allowed to run for public office offers little hope for change — at least through the electoral system.

Following the 2009 election, in which the incumbent right-wing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner despite his apparent loss to the popular reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the people of Iran rose up in a popular civil insurrection, which was brutally crushed.

While it is hard to guess how soon democracy will come to Iran, the government’s theft of the election and subsequent crackdown — shattering the illusion many Iranians still held that they could work within a rigged political system — may have brought that day closer. Read More »

Syria: U.S. involvement could make things even worse

By Stephen Zunes

A comprehensive analysis by Zunes of chemical weapons in the Middle East and U.S. policies in this regard can be found here

The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways our governments could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even engage in direct military intervention, especially in light of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

The question on the mind of almost everyone who has followed the horror as it has unfolded over the past two years is, “What we can do?”

The short answer, unfortunately, is not much.

This is hard for many Americans to accept. Read More »

Don’t blame the Iraq debacle on the Israel lobby

By Stephen Zunes

Given the enormous tragedy of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the war’s tenth anniversary has inevitably raised the question of “why?”

As many of us predicted in the lead-up to the war, the official rationales for the U.S. invasion of Iraq—namely, that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction” and had operational ties to al-Qaeda—were false. And the corrupt, inept, and repressive sectarian government the United States helped establish in Baghdad has undermined any pretense that the war was about democracy.

There are a number of plausible explanations, ranging from oil to strategic interests to ideological motivations. One explanation which should not be taken seriously, however, is the assertion that the government of Israel and its American supporters played a major role in leading the United States to invade Iraq.

The right-wing governments that have dominated Israel in recent years and their U.S. supporters deserve blame for many policies that have led to needless human suffering, increased extremism in the Islamic world, and decreased security, as well as rampant violations of international legal principles. The U.S. invasion of Iraq, however, is not one of them.

Arguments Supporting Claims of a Major Israeli Role in the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

There are four major arguments made by those who allege a key role by Israel and its American supporters in leading the United States to war in Iraq:Read More »

Democrats share the blame for tragedy of Iraq War

By Stephen Zunes

The Democrats who voted to support the war and rationalized that vote by making false claims about Iraq’s WMD programs – a minority of Democrats, but much over-represented in Democratic leadership councils – were responsible for allowing the Bush administration to get away with lying about Iraq’s alleged threat.

Here on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is important to remember that it was not just those in the Bush White House who were responsible for the tragedy, but leading members of Congress as well, some of whom are now in senior positions in the Obama administration.

Continue reading at truthout

Remembering those responsible on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War

By Stephen Zunes

This March 19 marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. war and occupation has resulted in the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis, the vast majority of whom are civilians, leaving over 600,000 orphans.

More than 1.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and nearly twice that many have fled into exile.

Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and thousands more have received serious physical and emotional injuries which will plague them for the rest of their lives.Read More »