Séparatistes et unionistes se déchirent la Catalogne

Par Héloïse Trouvé 

 

« Viva Cataluña !» reprennent en cœur les indépendantistes catalans depuis leur victoire du 1er octobre dernier. Après des décennies de protestations et de réclamations, les Catalans en sont certains, Carles Puigdemont, le Président de la Région et séparatiste de la première heure, obtiendra l’indépendance tant convoitée. Ignorant la non constitutionnalité du référendum sur l’autodétermination organisé par leur exécutif régional et bravant les interdits de Madrid, l’opposition séparatiste manifeste bruyamment son désir de liberté. La capitale répond alors. C’est à celui qui criera le plus fort. Un jeu de chassé-croisé s’établit, presque risible si les enjeux n’étaient pas aussi sérieux.

Quels crédit et légitimité démocratiques donner toutefois à ce référendum, interdit par le gouvernement espagnol mais maintenu de force par l’exécutif régional catalan? Ce dernier s’est déroulé dans des conditions pour le moins douteuses, marquées par des votes non secrets, permettant aux plus déterminés de glisser dans l’urne plusieurs bulletins, et l’absence criante de contrôle des identités. Emballé par la perspective d’émancipation, le parti indépendantiste en arrive à ignorer les premiers principes démocratiques. En effet, bien que l’Espagne soit un état régionalisé, divisé en communautés autonomes ayant chacune un parlement et un gouvernement, celles-ci restent néanmoins soumises à la constitution nationale. L’article 2 de la loi fondamentale espagnole stipule clairement qu’elle tire son fondement de l’unité indissoluble de la nation, patrie commune et indivisible de tous les Espagnols, même si elle reconnaît et garantit le droit à l’autonomie des nationalités et des régions qui la composent et la solidarité entre elles.

La confrontation n’en est donc que plus exacerbée : elle s’intensifie et s’étend désormais à l’ensemble de la société espagnole. Barcelone s’isole face au reste du pays, où prolifèrent manifestations patriotiques en soutien à l’unité nationale. Cette division du peuple, simple d’apparence, est en réalité loin d’être manichéenne. Elle ne fait pas l’unanimité au sein même des Catalans qui, malgré leur discrétion, sont nombreux à refuser une possible sortie de l’Espagne. Moins médiatisés, les unionistes catalans étaient jusque-là effacés, évincés de ce débat d’idées et de rue, face à l’omniprésence de leurs concitoyens. Bien souvent résignés, peu sont ceux qui se sont mobilisés le 1er octobre dernier. C’est dans ce contexte qu’il importe de reconsidérer le résultat du référendum sur l’autodétermination conclue par 90,18% d’avis favorables à la sortie de l’Espagne, en rappelant son très faible taux de participation de 43%. Cependant, les plus silencieux ont aujourd’hui décidé de s’exprimer. Ils appellent au dialogue et au respect, prônent la modération face à l’ivresse collective. Ennuyeux message, il est vrai, au cœur de tant d’ébullition, de démesure, qui a amené certains indépendantistes à crier parfois même au fascisme, accentuant la fracture au sein des leurs.

L’indépendance à tout prix. Tel est leur objectif. Mais le prix à payer reste obscur, sous l’angle économique d’abord, sachant que certaines multinationales inquiètes envisagent déjà leur retrait de leur siège catalan, et d’évidence sous l’aspect social. Une Catalogne affaiblie se dessine et ce quelle que soit l’issue de la crise. Dans ce climat fiévreux, le gouvernement semble lui aussi un peu perdu. Rajoy, désorienté, assume tant bien que mal son rôle de premier ministre, forcé finalement à la fermeté, puis à la violence devant le jusqu’au-boutisme des indépendantistes qui le poussent maintenant à brandir la menace d’un recours à l’article 155 de la Constitution permettant la suspension de l’autonomie de la Région catalane.

Il est à présent certain que la Catalogne n’est pas prête à se remettre dans les rangs, mais dans quelle mesure? D’un autre côté, quels seraient les effets même immédiats de la suspension de son autonomie ? Quitte ou double ? Reste à espérer que les appels au dialogue qui ont été lancés ces derniers jours par les intellectuels de tous bords, au nom du bon sens, seront plus forts que les ambitions individuelles et l’entêtement collectif.

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Photo: Journal “Le Monde” 

Bad Playmate: How Trump Is Spoiling China’s Regional Ambitions

By Anton Holten Nielsen

In the short time since taking office, US President Donald Trump has interfered more dramatically with China’s regional ambitions than any of his predecessors. He has undermined the One-China policy, expanded the scope of U.S. East Asia Pacific alliances and sought to direct China’s relationship with North Korea. Indeed, much to the inconvenience of the world’s new superpower, its expanding territorial influence on its neighbors has been challenged by rising military tensions. The question remains how China will balance future confrontations with a plan for regional stability.

It all goes back to an unfortunate start. By accepting a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December 2016, Trump effectively undermined almost 40 years of diplomatic protocol following Nixon’s first visit to China in 1972. The Taiwan issue is a particularly contentious one, as it dates back to the civil war that gave rise to the communist People’s Republic of China in 1949. As Mao Zedong emerged victorious, Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist Kuomintang party was forced to withdraw to Taiwan — ambiguously autonomous ever since. China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan under a One-China policy that extends to Hong Kong as well — locals say “she wants her children back”. Very few countries therefore recognize Taiwan internationally and any diplomatic relations are considered a grave insult to the PRC. Yet this seems to bother Trump very little, especially in light of a recent $1.42 billion weapons deal with Taiwan and the first visit by the US navy since the adoption of the One-China policy in 1979. The Chinese outrage is more than tangible and neatly encapsulated in a comparison noted by Simon Tisdall in The Guardian.

“The decision, if implemented, could in effect provide a naval base and facilities for US aircraft carriers and destroyers just off the coast of the Chinese mainland. That’s a bit like the People’s Liberation Army building gun emplacements on Long Island.”

Although the move is welcomed by Taiwan, having long feared a Chinese invasion, the US administration is playing a risky game. Since the Chinese publication of the “White Paper” that outlined a restricted electoral process and sparked the Umbrella Revolution in the summer of 2014, the Chinese grasp of Hong Kong has only tightened. Booksellers have disappeared and British human rights activists have been denied entry. The message from China is clear: Stay out of our business.

Ironically, Obama’s vaguely articulated ‘pivot’ toward Asia legacy has done exactly the opposite regarding the territorial dispute of the South China Sea. The problem relates to contested territories between Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and of course China. Each country claims its territory based on historical precedent and sometimes even has its own names for the islands. Unsurprisingly, these claims overlap. Staggeringly still, the fact that the Chinese Nine-Dash Line claims more than 80% of the territories has not made a resolution any easier.

In more recent years, the dispute has led to military stand-offs and prompted the US to conduct so called “Freedom of Navigation” patrols under article 87 of the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. However, the issue is not simply about abiding by international law. Roughly $3.4 trillion worth of goods passed through these sea lanes in 2016. More than a political statement, the patrols are the most effective policing of the rights of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – an organization that has failed in standing up to China’s territorial expansionism. U.S. destroyers are on the move, a painfully fine balancing act amidst Chinese construction of artificial islands with military capabilities. An increasing US presence is also prominently reaching out to other allies in the region. Last week a large joint military exercise was conducted with Australia, much to the dismay of China, that considers its territorial claims a needed buffer zone against an increasing US presence.

In fact, the tensions between North Korea and the United States has caught China awkwardly in the middle. On the one hand, China has no intention of being subject to U.S. policing. When Trump attempted to engage China as a mediator earlier in the year, the response he got from Xi Jinping spelled out the complexity of the Korean Peninsula. Assuming that Beijing was eager to apply pressure on North Korea and cut bilateral trade, Trump appeared unaware of the historical relationship between his own country and China in the region. China indirectly conveyed that there is no way they will give up a vital geopolitical ally because of US pressure. Evidently, China and the U.S./UN still stand on both sides of the proxy Korean War of 1950, an Asian precursor of the Cold War, which forms the divide between North and South to this day. On the other hand, China does not intend to let a military escalation take place. The agreement to install a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a US-provided missile system in South Korea, by the initially sceptic President Moon Jae-in shows the direness of the situation. In case of a first strike launched by North Korea, China has vowed to stay neutral. Yet, the last thing China wants is a unified Korea aligned with the US on its border. To choose the lesser of two evils, China has engaged Russia in what they term dual-track approach negotiations to accommodate the demands of both parties. Unlikely to have any substantial effect and support from the United States as a credible way to de-escalate, the move is a way not to lose international credibility due to U.S. pressure, while seeking to push North Korea in a less confrontational direction.

For Japan, however, the promise of regional de-escalation and U.S. protection from the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security is no longer enough. Since WWII, Japan’s pacifist U.S.-written constitution of 1947 has limited the country’s self-defense to be without any potential to wage war. Instead, the country has been placed under the US umbrella of nuclear deterrence, served as a gateway for the US military presence in Asia, and has excelled at UN peacekeeping and rescue missions. But where Japan previously worried about being dragged into conflict by the US, the roles are now reversed because of tensions in the South China Sea. In 2013, then secretary of defense Chuck Hagel affirmed that the US-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty would cover the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. In case of an armed attack by China in those waters, the US would hence be forced to intervene. Another equally grave threat, if not more so, is the missile tests conducted by North Korea that have exposed Japan’s vulnerability as the North’s immediate island neighbor with no nuclear weapons. Presumably not questioning the credibility of US treaties, but rather its new commander-in-chief, Shinzo Abe is now seeking an amendment to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that validates the existence of the Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF). This is a highly controversial decision as the article in its current form renounces war as an instrument of national policy. It does so by declaring that Japan will never again maintain land, sea, or air forces or other war potential. Politically, it would be a move requiring additional support in the Upper House of the Diet before landing as a national referendum in 2018. It would also require the United States to persuade China and South Korea of Japan’s need for self-preservation. The ambivalent question concerns the extent to which a reformed SDF will engage in South China Sea operations and preventive actions in general. China and South Korea are definitely not amused, both having historically traumatic relations with Japan. By cooperatively supporting Japan’s expanding military missions as well as equipping South Korea with an anti-missile system, the United States is tilting an existing power balance that will make its presence in the region more crucial. This is bad luck for China, hoping to take advantage of a United States disengaging from the region, that instead faces difficult bilateral negotiations and increasing geopolitical pressure.

 

Yemen and the Dirty Deals of the West

By Elias Arndtzén

Saudi Arabia has suffered two diplomatic setbacks the last couple of weeks. On 29 September, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to set up an independent investigation of war crimes in Yemen. Last year and the year before, the Gulf kingdom was able block this, ensuring that official investigations were conducted by the Yemeni government, or itself. This time, by threatening the supporters of a full-fledged investigation, the Saudis have still obtained a compromise.    

  

What’s more, it was recently reported that the Saudi-led war coalition in Yemen are included in this year’s “the list of shame”, a nickname for the annual UN report on war crimes against children. Last year, Saudi Arabia bullied the UN to remove it from the list, threatening to withdraw funds and maybe even issue and anti-UN fatwa. Again, it’s not a complete setback, given the report’s conciliatory stance in mentioning the coalition.

Hopefully, these events will lead the international community to address the Yemen civil war and push the parties to the negotiation table. At this point, though, it is sufficiently clear that the Saudi-led coalition is committing war crimes and fuelling one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with weapons provided by the West.

Though the conflict in Yemen has not the size or geopolitical importance of the Syrian civil war, it’s still remarkable how little media attention it has received. Maybe this is due to the fact that Yemeni refugees are stuck on the wrong side of the Middle East and would have to paddle up the Suez Channel in order to reach European shores.

During the Arab Spring, Yemen’s decades old President Ali Abdullah Saleh was swept from power by a wave of popular protest. As part of a transition process, he was replaced by Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi, but the new president was unable to contain a situation of increasing economic and political upheaval, so that the regime change effectively created a power vacuum. This allowed the Houthis, a group of armed insurgents from the the far north, who had waged war against the government since 2004, to expand rapidly and overrun the capital Sanaa, in September 2014. After some months of negotiations with the Hadi government, the Houthis made common cause with elements of the military still loyal to Saleh and simply took power.

This done, the new alliance pressed southwards, aiming to conquer Aden, the wealthy port town where Hadi and his cabinet had taken refuge. In March, upon requests by Hadi, Saudi Arabia and nine other countries from the region launched a military campaign to push back the Houthis, who they see as an Iranian proxy force, and eventually reestablish the Hadi government. Air strikes were soon complemented by ground troops and a naval embargo.

Aden was saved, but since then the situation has not changed much. The Houthi-Saleh alliance still control the northern and central parts of the country, including Saana, while Hadi, backed by the coalition, control parts of the South and East. Since neither a military nor a diplomatic solution seems very probable, the current spiral of disintegration is likely to continue for a long time yet.

Similar to the Russian campaign in Aleppo, air strikes on civilians and civilian targets have been reported regularly throughout the Saudi-led intervention. Homes, schools, hospitals, factories, markets, water infrastructure and thousands of civilians have been hit. In a report this year, the UN Panel of Experts documented 10 coalition airstrikes, including the infamous bombing of a funeral on 8 October 2016 in which 132 people died. All of these strikes violated the principles of distinction, as prescribed by international law, some amounting to war crimes. Similar investigations and allegations have been made by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Apart from the direct killing of civilians, coalition airstrikes have destroyed hospitals and water systems, contributing to the world’s worst largest epidemic of cholera. The coalition’s harsh naval and air embargo has restricted the inflow of commercial goods and humanitarian aid, creating what is now one of the world’s largest famines.

  

This is not to suggest that the Saudi-led coalition alone is responsible for Yemen’s crisis. On the contrary, all serious investigations accuse both parties of war crimes. However, whereas the Houthi-Saleh alliance is an isolated force, with occasional back-up from Iran, Saudi Arabia has deep ties to many Western countries and its policies in Yemen are directly relevant to Americans and Europeans.  

Since the beginning of the intervention, the US has provided assistance in logistics, intelligence and military training to the coalition. The US also provides refuelling for the very planes that bomb civilians. From Riyadh, US military advisers are actively involved in the Yemen campaign.

Throughout the Obama presidency, arms sales to Saudi Arabia escalated and deals worth more than $20bn were concluded in the course of the conflict alone. In December 2016, with the increasing awareness of civilian casualties, Obama did freeze sales of air-dropped munitions, while ramping up support in other areas. Of course, even these half-hearted objections to Saudi policy were dismissed by Donald Trump, who famously announced a $110bn arms deal with the kingdom on his first diplomatic visit, praising the Saudi war effort.  

  In December 2016, Human Rights Watch had found remnants of American-made weapons in the sites of 23 unlawful coalition attacks. US-manufactured cluster bombs, a weapon banned under international treaty, have also been found in Yemen.   

Britain also plays a leading role in arming Saudi Arabia. In the first year of the conflict, the British government approved £2.8bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia . The mentioned funeral bombings apparently made an impact on this, because in the succeeding six months Britain sold only £283 million worth of arms. Like the US, the UK has military advisers in Riyadh.

Next to the two Anglo-Saxon nations, Canada, France and Germany are the most important suppliers of Saudi defence equipment. In the course of the Yemeni conflict, they have provided the warring kingdom with tanks, artillery systems and munitions worth hundreds of millions of dollars. All in all, the lion’s share of Saudi defence equipment comes from North America and Europe.

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Given what we know about the methods of the Saudi-led coalition, the only proper thing to do would be to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia on a national basis and impose an international arms embargo against the country, just as there is one against the Houthi-Saleh alliance. This has been demanded by several actors, including the European Parliament last year. The principle that arms should not be sold when they may be used for war crimes is not itself controversial, rather, it is part of the arms trade regulations of most countries, as well as the European Common Position and the Arms Trade Treaty. However, these regulations are easily set aside when vital interests are at stake. After the funeral bombings in 2016, the British government went ahead issuing arms licenses to Saudi Arabia, estimating that there was no “clear risk ” of humanitarian law violations. This year, a British court made the same estimation in a case brought by a rights group, largely on the basis of secret evidence.  

Saudi Arabia is an avid consumer on the global arms market and the simple reason for Western governments to encourage arms sales to the kingdom is that it pays off, not only in profits for big bad companies, but also in jobs for their employees. Other arms suppliers, like Russia and China, would jump at the opportunity to replace the Western countries in this regard. Thus the argument, made by some, that a halt of Western arms sales to Saudi Arabia would not stop the atrocious war in Yemen is justified. But it is beside the point. Russia and China would no doubt be glad to support the Saudi effort if it payed off, but if our commitments to peace and humanitarian law are to mean anything, we simply should not put the murder machines in the hands of the murderers.

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Source: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

 

Why the Rohingya Crisis Is a Genocide, and Why You Won’t Hear Anyone Calling It That

By Abigail Edwards

“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,”  — Nikki Haley, American ambassador to the United Nations.

Well Ms. Haley, there is a word for that: genocide.

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority Muslim group largely concentrated in Rakhine State, a strip of land on the western coast of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh, separated from the rest of the country by mountains. Despite the Rohingya having ties to the land that precedes the Burmese invasion in 1784-85, they are considered by the government to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, referred to as “Bengali”, and stripped of all citizenship rights, including the right to vote.

Although the Rohingya have been persecuted in Myanmar for decades, the current crisis began on August 25th when Harakah al-Yaqin (ARSA), a radical Rohingya militant group, attacked Myanmar’s security forces. Since then, the military, which largely controls the government through their guaranteed authority to veto constitutional changes in parliament and yield absolute power over the country’s defense force, has systematically pushed the Rohingya population out of the Rakhine state and into Bangladesh, burning villages, raping, and executing Rohingya along the way.

Defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide includes “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

With the Rohingya crisis it is almost too easy to go down the list:

a) “Killing members of the group” — Myanmar’s military is using what could be called a scorched earth strategy in an attempt to push the Rohingya into Bangladesh. A statement from Bangladesh authorities given on October 6th estimated that at least 3,000 people have been killed since the clearances began on August 25. Many witnesses have reported that the military is burning entire villages and holding random and targeted executions, while many more are being killed through explosions, fire, and stray bullets.

You do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you.

b) “Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” — This clause proves that the persecution of the Rohingya would classify as genocide, even if the death toll itself was zero, due to the following developments: mass deportations of upwards of 500,000 Rohingya forced by the military out of Rakhine state and into Bangladesh. Few make it to the end of this dangerous journey, which is scattered with landmines and the constant threat, and common occurrence, of rape and murder. Although the Convention provides no empirical definition of “bodily and mental harm”, this description surely would qualify.

c) “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” — the scorching of Rohingya villages on its own, if not the deportations described above, serves as fulfillment of this criteria. Furthermore, the UN report on the crisis qualifies the attacks as intended to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma — physical, emotional and psychological.”

d) “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” — Under the government of the Rakhine state, the Rohingya are limited to two children, a policy that does not apply to the Buddhists in the area.

While (d) by itself would likely not be considered genocide, and there being no real evidence of (e), it is important to remember that only one of these qualifications needs to be fulfilled for a situation to be considered a genocide; there is strong evidence for at least three.

It is also important to note that the largest difficulties in defining a situation as a genocide come out of the somewhat ambiguous wording of the Convention’s definition. An odd facet of the Genocide Convention, and easily a flaw, is the lack of inclusion of political groups. By excluding political groups from the Convention, a country is theoretically free to massacre any size group of people within its borders without fear of international intervention, so long as the victims are targeted for their politics and not their race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. For this reason, cases such as the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge are much more difficult to prove as genocide. Despite the fact that the killings amounted to almost two million, the leaders of the genocidal regime can only be convicted of genocide against the Buddhist, Muslim, and Vietnamese populations within Cambodia, which were only a small margin of the total victims. With the case of the Rohingya, Myanmar’s government has strategically classified the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and “extremist Bengali terrorists,” even though that there is strong evidence that the Rohingya are being targeted both for their identity as an ethnic group and as a religious minority in the majority Buddhist state.

Additionally, the words “as such” hidden towards the end of the definition have in the past created an issue with designating situations as genocide because it requires proof that the group was targeted intentionally because of their national, ethnical, racial, or religious identity, which is not always as straightforward as it was during the Holocaust with Hitler’s Final Solution, or in Rwanda with the interahamwe propaganda. With the Rohingya, the case is rather clear-cut — the UN has even gone so far as to classify the attacks on the Rohingya as “coordinated and systematic,” intended to push the Rohingya out of Myanmar with no hope of return.

Even beyond the legal qualifications of genocide, the Rohingya crisis strongly resembles many of the genocides of the 20th century. The mass forced deportations are reminiscent of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust. Anti-Rohingya propaganda resembles the role of the interahamwe propaganda in Rwanda, while the presence of smaller radicalized Rohingya resistance groups such as Harakah al-Yaqin (ARSA) fills a role similar to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in Rwanda, attempting to generate resistance but mostly creating violence that the genocidal perpetrators are able to use to justify their actions. The situation in general — as well as the justifications provided by the government — mirror the atrocities committed by the Iraqi government against the Iraqi Kurdish population.

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So, if the Rohingya crisis clearly fulfils the requirements of a genocide, why is almost nobody calling it that?

Believe it or not, many officials in the UN and in high positions in national governments have repeatedly proven that they do not understand what genocide is. A term strongly associated with the Holocaust, “genocide” is hardly applied to contemporary cases that are dismissed as smaller in scale and effect.

In most cases, the international community’s reticence to declare the situation in Myanmar a genocide can be traced to the legal implications that come with the term. Under article 8 of the Convention, parties having detected genocide are under the obligation to take measures “as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Rather than spur intervention as was intended in the drafting of the Convention, this article has more often than not delayed it. Additionally, Article 8 fails to clearly outline what type of intervention must take place, and if force is necessary. Thus, the states intervening in response to a genocide have generally been highly conscious of their national interest. In Rwanda, a U.S. officer made a call to Roméo Dallaire, leader of the UNAMIR peacekeeping force, to ask how many Rwandans had died so that he could calculate how many troops to deploy: “We are doing our calculations back here, and one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.” Since the targets of genocide are often small minority populations, it is almost never in a country’s interest to intervene, possibly explaining why officials have stuck to the term “ethnic cleansing” when referring to atrocities.

Interestingly, Bangladesh, which now hosts a Rohingya population of about one million, has accommodated its targeted neighbors in overcrowded refugee camps along the Bangladesh/Myanmar border. Despite the former hosting a population about half the size of the United States,’ within a space the size of Iowa, most Bangladeshis support their government’s decision to shelter the refugees. It is unclear how long the country will be able to support the refugees- both because of the drain on resources but also due to pressure from India, who is both one of Bangladesh’s strongest political allies as well as a backer of the Myanmar military action against the Rohingya.

Another government that is actively opposing the atrocities in Myanmar is Pakistan, home to the largest population of Rohingya since the exodus from Myanmar in the 1970s and 80s. Pakistan was one of the first to publically speak out against the government’s treatment of the minority. Interestingly, the Rohingya have faced persecution in Pakistan for years — often denied national ID cards, or for those who possessed such an ID card: prevented from renewing them. The possession, or lack thereof, of these cards have a dramatic effect on the lives of Rohingya in Pakistan: withheld from getting jobs, applying to high schools, or accessing government hospitals and services.

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Finally, in the absence of much international intervention, many extremist Muslim groups including Hefazat-e-Islam and Al Qaeda have appeared to show support of the Rohingya, and even threatened to wage jihad on Myanmar, which creates a secondary issue for the international community in the consideration of intervention. For example, some extremist groups have taken in Rohingya children orphaned by the crisis, solving one problem and creating another.

Many have questioned why the country’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ineligible to be considered a president because she has foreign-born children, has done little to speak out against the atrocities. A nobel laureate, she has surprised many with her silence and complicity towards the crisis, and believe it to be an attempt to hold together Myanmar’s new and fragile democratic state, knowing she would likely be ousted by the military should she take any action.

So long as the international community avoids calling the genocide what it is, they are able to avoid taking responsibility for the eventual bloody conclusion to the devastating persecution of the Rohingya. Will we allow the devastation to continue following the patterns of genocides in the past, or will we take action to end this now? Ambassador Haley has suggested halting shipments of arms to Myanmar’s military. This is a good beginning, but only the first of many steps that need to be taken in order to stop the advancements of this tragedy.

The Phantom Army: Why Europe Needs a Common Defence Force, and Why It Won’t Get One

By Isabelle Ava-Pointon

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In a recent speech at the Sorbonne, President Macron laid out his vision for a reformed and revitalized Europe. Alongside promises of fiscal reform and migration management, one proposal stands out as one of the most overlooked shift in French policy in recent times. Macron used the occasion to declare that “at the beginning of the next decade, Europe should have a common Intervention Force”. This is no doubt a controversial idea, and thus unlikely to be actualized anytime soon, despite the fact that Europe clearly needs a unified army.

Macron’s request for a united defence include a common defence budget and doctrine. While Europe already has a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), strengthening its vague guidelines into a “common doctrine for action” will be difficult, as Europe, according to the French president himself, “does not have the same cultures, parliaments, histories, politics or sensibilities”, and the experiences and training of it highest military authorities differ.  It is unlikely that the 28 states will reach a consensus on a single united defence doctrine. However, strategically speaking, this unity would be wise, as cohesion of strategy, procedure, and command is key in any successful military organization. An increasingly connected EU will want a unified defence force so that every nation is aware of and involved in solving any security issue within or outside of the union. This unity of command is essential when dealing with both regional issues and threats to the whole of Europe. In addition, a common defence budget is essential to the functioning of any common force or development of strategy.

Macron’s other proposals included a united European intelligence service to “assure the cohesion of our intelligence capabilities”, and a common European military training academy. The former would increase cooperation in both strategy development and operational success on the ground, as high-quality intelligence is essential in any successful military operation. Many military operations have run into serious trouble due to lack of coordinated intelligence. This is most clearly seen in the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan where lack of intelligence led (pp. 61-62) to attacks and prolongment of the operation. The latter would at least complement the idea of a common defence policy, and provide the cooperative training needed for future leaders of the defence force.

Much of the nuances of this debate depend upon whether the proposed force is meant to replace or — as Macron suggests — complement NATO. Leaving NATO and having its own force would bring control of European defence policy and issues back into the hands of European states, as opposed to being controlled by the US. However, the core question is whether Europe still trusts the US to protect it within the framework of NATO, and if it is justified in this belief. Trump’s comments criticizing NATO and calling into question its core values should not be taken lightly, despite his recent change of tone and policy affirming his commitment to an effective and efficient NATO. Even if spoken by a volatile politician, his anti-NATO comments have stirred up the belief that there is “a progressive and inevitable disengagement of the US”. Even if NATO stays a coherent and reliable alliance for the next few years, the European policy of basing its safety on an alliance held together by a determinedly self-interested and arguably waning state across the ocean is not a viable strategy. Eventually, European states on their own, or European states together, must begin taking matters of their own defence and security into their own hands.

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Macron describes his vision of the EU at the Paris-Sorbonne University

Having determined that a common European defence capability is a good idea, it is important to ask what kind of force Europe requires. Many of Macron’s initial suggestions are a good starting point. He proposed a “force d’intervention” to be ready for service in a relatively short period of time, with a united defence policy, funded by a common defence budget and led by officers trained at the same European Military Academy.

Currently, Europe has a degree of defence cooperation. In 2000 it created a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which is made up of permanent military and civilian structures, and many committees and agencies. The main organs include the European Defence Agency (EDA), which helps EU member states develop their military capacities and encourages collaboration and joint defence forces. It also oversees Research & Development, helps facilitate training, and encourages the development of the European defence industry.

The two powerhouses of the EU, France and Germany, have parallel views on the idea of a defence force. While the French President calls for an official common intervention force by 2020, he also proposes an interim plan of “welcoming into our national armies ….military personnel from all European countries willing to participate as much as possible, in our work in anticipation, intelligence, planning and support operations”. Along these lines, Germany has recently begun quietly building its own version of a European army by slowly integrating Dutch, Romanian and Czech units into their Bundeswehr, under the “Framework Nations Concept”. This transitional policy shows that the German and French states believe that a unified EU army is an important undertaking and are willing to take the initiative to start building it.

It is important to note that this is not the first time that a European defence force has been suggested. Recently, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made several calls for a unified European defence force. These calls have been met with continuous criticism from the UK, including from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who was worried that an EU defence force could undermine NATO’s role in Europe. However, because the UK is about to leave the EU, their opinion no longer has much weight in this matter.

Historically, there was an attempt to create a “European Defence Community” during the Cold War. This scheme began with the Pleven Plan, ratified by France, Italy, West Germany and Benelux in May 1952, creating a supranational European Defense Community consisting of a Council of Ministers, a Common Assembly, a Commissariat of the European Defense Community, a court of Justice, and of course and an “Army Corps… composed of basic units of different national origins”(Article 68). This plan, however, promised to be operationally ineffective, and was dubbed by Churchill as a “miasmic cloud”, and by Marshall as a “sludgy amalgam”. Eventually, domestic political issues arose and first the French National Assembly, then the Italian Parliament refused to ratify the Pleven Plan. In the end, only the US and West Germany supported the plan. Thus it was signed but never ratified, a failed alternative to the integration of West Germany into NATO. This historical precedent is thus not a shining example of European unity and cooperation, and does not bode well for this contemporary attempt.

Thus, despite the evidence that the EU should develop its own military force, it certainly does not seem like it will in the near future. Despite Macron’s call for a defence force, it is unlikely to be a priority for either him, his newly re-elected German counterpart, or the EU Parliament. With mass migration, high unemployment and of course Brexit, the EU will have its hands full for the next few years at least. Passing legislation to create a new army in a world where Europeans have more pressing concerns, as evinced by decreasing defence budgets, would be extremely challenging.

In addition, the question of budgeting is especially pertinent, as many EU countries currently fail to reach NATO’s required defence budget of 2% of GDP, and would thus be unwilling to spend potentially even more money to create their own defence force from scratch without US support. Another political obstacle Macron’s plan will have to overcome is the rise of Euroscepticism and Eurosceptic political parties, especially the FN in France and the AfD in Germany. Both these movements, and their fellows in other countries, oppose any kind of deepening of the Union, of which military union is one of the most serious kinds. Moreover, general public opinion is against it with only 43% of Europeans respondents surveyed declaring that they “consider that the decisions concerning European defence policy should be taken by the European Union”.

One fundamental question that remains unanswered is what threats Macron, and other EU leaders, expect Europe to be facing in the coming years, and thus what threats the defence force would be built to deal with. Terrorism continues to be a problem, with attacks increasing in frequency and intensity in recent years, and Macron specifically addresses this in his speech. But what does Macron imagine the main role of the “Common intervention force” to be? While Russia’s expansionist policies certainly pose a threat to Eastern Europe, as evinced by the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, does Macron imagine that Putin would go so far as to militarily threaten EU countries? Or does he imagine the force’s role as more of  a deterrent to any potential aggressor planning on threatening Europe’s territory or interests? Indeed if this were its main role, it would replace NATO in its main purpose. Nevertheless, Macron, and other pro-united defence force EU leaders will need to clearly state the purpose of the force, and what threats they expect it to oppose.

Thus, while Macron’s recent Sorbonne speech brought up issues of Europe’s self-defence capabilities, and specific proposals to address this lack of a unified european defence force, it is unlikely that these plans will ever come to fruition. Despite the fact that Europe should begin the process of acquiring and training an army as soon as possible, it is unlikely to do so in the near future.

Image sources:

  1. ‘US and UK Vigorously Reject the Concept of European Army’
  2. ‘French President Emmanuel Macron sets out vision for EU’

Everything You Need to Know About Trump’s Iran Deal Decertification

By Mark Narusov

Correction: The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Trump’s Iran speech would happen on Thursday, October 12th. In fact, the source article explicitly stated that the event was *tentatively* scheduled for that date, which I should have indicated. The speech is going to happen today, on Friday October 13th. I apologize for the mistake.

According to multiple reports, President Trump has set his mind on decertifying the JCPOA, colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal, this Friday, 2 days before the deadline on October 15th. The very first thing that should be mentioned is that the obligation to decide on certification is not part of the nuclear deal itself. It was imposed on the president as part of a bill officially named the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), more commonly referred to as the Corker-Cardin law after its main sponsors.

Under this legislation, passed 98-1 in the Senate and 400-25 in the House, every 90 days the president is required to certify that 4 statements (d-6-A) hold true. First, that “Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement, including all related technical or additional agreements”. Second, that “Iran has not committed a material breach with respect to the agreement [the nuclear deal] or, if Iran has committed a material breach, Iran has cured the material breach”. Third, that “Iran has not taken any action, including covert action, that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program”. And finally, that “suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the agreement is (I) appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and (II) vital to the national security interests of the United States”. Quite a few reporters and columnists (and apparently even John Kerry) have not read this piece of text before writing on the issue, suggesting that the certification process is solely about Iranian technical compliance to the JCPOA. As can be seen from the legislation, Trump can — and probably will — decertify the JCPOA as inconsistent with the Corker-Cardin bill solely on the assertion that he does not believe it serves American national interests, as required by the 4th condition quoted above. Or he might choose to also emphasize ballistic missile tests that could be interpreted to have been a violation of a “related agreement” like the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that endorsed the JCPOA and “called upon” Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” (p.99). In either case, Iranian non-compliance with the deal itself is not a necessary condition for Trump’s decertification of the JCPOA. According to the law, unless the President is able to certify before the deadline that all of the 4 statements quoted above hold true, within the next 60 days Congress automatically gets the right to re-impose the so-called “qualifying legislation”, the nuclear-related sanctions, through a vote without the possibility of a  filibuster, meaning that a simple majority is required for the bill to pass in the Senate. The original lifting of these sanctions — and the subsequent regular waiving thereof — constitutes the principal part of the US’ side of of the bargain with Iran, as stipulated in Annex 2 (pp. 8-15) of the JCPOA. A decision by Congress to reinstate the sanctions would constitute a de facto withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Decertification on its own, however, leaves the US’ status as its signatory intact. For what purpose, then, is Trump planning to decertify?

The administration has adopted what the Iran hawk Mark Dubowitz and the nuclear proliferation expert David Albright have termed the “decertify, waive, slap and fix” strategy — judge the JCPOA as inconsistent with the INARA conditions for certification, get Congress to waive the nuclear-related sanctions to safeguard the deal for a certain period of time, and slap Iran with non-nuclear sanctions to build enough leverage vis-à-vis the other signatories of the agreement to, in the end, fix the deal.

The administration is motivated by 3 principal problems with the JCPOA to strive for a better agreement with Iran. First, the regulations imposed on the Iranian regime’s nuclear program are not permanent. The so-called “sunset provisions” lift limits on the most important aspects of the Iranian nuclear program after 15, and in some cases 10, years counting from Implementation Day. For example, the restriction (p.15) on the permitted stockpile of uranium, as well as its enrichment, is set to expire in 15 years, while the limit on the nature and number of centrifuges permitted at the Natanz enrichment facility is nullified (p. 9) after just 10. The Institute for Science and International Security estimates that because of these 2 and other (p.3) factors, the “breakout time” — “the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for one nuclear weapon” — will drop from 7-13 months during the first 10 years since Implementation Day to just 3 months after 15 years and further to just “a few days” after 18 to 20 years. Because of this, John Hannah, former Vice President Cheney’s national security advisor, compared this situation to a “ticking time bomb”. The Trump administration essentially agrees. Second, the JCPOA does not place restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, development of a delivery system being an essential component of any aspiration to become a nuclear state. Third, the administration believes that the JCPOA’s provisions about IAEA’s inspections of military sites stipulated in the Additional Protocol — International Atomic Energy Agency is the UN’s nuclear watchdog tasked with monitoring the nuclear agreement — are weak and inadequate. As US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, “the biggest concern is that Iranian leaders – the same ones who in the past were caught operating a covert nuclear program at military sites – have stated publicly that they will refuse to allow IAEA inspections of their military sites”.

There are reasons to suspect that the US will not be alone in demanding an improvement of the nuclear agreement as it is now. French president Emmanuel Macron is willing to address the sunset problem as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program, seemingly contradicting his ambassador to the US. Moreover, according to 2 American diplomatic sources, London is also ready work on the deal’s flaws. All of the signatories of the JCPOA except the US, though, — Russia, China, Iran, Germany, Britain, France and the EU — are unequivocal in their commitment to the core of the deal, at least in public. They all may be breaking through an open door. Nikki Haley admitted that the nuclear agreement is front-loaded and that scrapping it altogether is not an appealing option: “the deal was constructed in a way that makes leaving it less attractive. It gave Iran what it wanted [sanctions relief] up-front, in exchange for temporary promises to deliver what we want”. Besides, there is a significant degree of intra-administrational unity behind the decertify and fix strategy, and everyone who matters except for Trump himself — Mattis, Haley, McMaster, and Tillerson — are on the record as being in favor of sticking with the core of the Iran deal. So far, Trump has not acted in defiance of the counsel of his national security team in the realm of foreign policy and is ultimately willing to give the decertify and fix strategy a chance. In addition, the administration reportedly values a “layer of transparency” that is guaranteed by the JCPOA.

All available evidence shows that Congress has no political will to go against the Trump administration and blow up the JCPOA by reinstating nuclear-related sanctions in the 60 day period. As Mark Dubowitz explained to FT, “No one gets to the right of [Tom] Cotton on Iran in the US Senate. <…> If he is willing to give time for the administration to work on diplomacy with Europeans and not reinstate sanctions this time around [and he is], it’s hard to imagine anyone else in Senate successfully pushing for reinstatement.”

According to my own estimation, there are roughly 4 principal arguments in circulation against the Iran approach of the Trump administration. First, critics of the current president argue that the deal is working. On August 27th, the IAEA certified in its quarterly report that Iran is complying with the 2015 agreement, as it had done 7 times before since Implementation Day. The stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and the number of centrifuges is under the limit permitted by the JCPOA. Second, they argue that there is no tangible alternative to a deal that was negotiated after years of crippling sanctions. Colin Kahl alleges that the leverage the US now has is simply incomparable to that it had in 2013, when the official negotiations started. As he put it in a Foreign Policy article, “it is literally insane to believe that it is possible to produce 150 percent of the current deal with 50, 70, or even 99 percent of the leverage the United States possessed in 2015. It simply ignores the laws of diplomatic physics.” Third, critics contend that pressuring Iran into reopening negotiations on its nuclear program would have massive costs for American credibility. As Max Boot phrased it, “It would send a terrible signal to other states that in the future might be interested in concluding an arms control treaty with the United States if Washington were to abrogate a treaty simply because of a change of administration”. Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, recently argued that reopening the JCPOA would have severe repercussions for any future crisis where the United States would need cooperation from its European allies. Finally, the naysayers contend that Trump’s approach would inadvertently increase the influence of Iran, China and Russia by driving a wedge in the transatlantic alliance that only needs reaffirmation in light of Trump’s past comments on NATO.

The camp of Iran hawks is divided on the administration’s decertify and fix strategy. Headed by former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, the “hardline” wing argues that it is virtually pointless to try to build on the basis of the existing nuclear agreement. As Bolton writes: “A conceivably acceptable Iran agreement would require truly intrusive international inspections, as far as imaginable from those permitted under Obama’s deal. Iran (like North Korea or any authoritarian society) could simply not accept the kind of international presence required to prove compliance. So doing would undermine the regime itself. Fixing the deal is out of the question”. His proposed plan for withdrawing from the JCPOA was signed by 45 national security experts, many of whom served in senior positions in prior Republican administrations. The actual prevalence of this strategy is, as of now, limited, while the “moderate” faction within the Iran hawk community is carrying the day. The latter articulate 4 arguments in support of Trump’s strategy. First, they argue that Iran has not, in fact, been complying with the letter of the JCPOA. According to the testimony of David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, as of the 5th of April, Iran “ha[d] twice had more than its heavy water limit of 130 metric tonnes inside Iran, as has been noted by the IAEA in its quarterly reports”(p.4). Other violations included interpreting the “roughly 10” operating IR-6 centrifuges allowed by the deal to mean 15 (p.6), and, most surprisingly of all, 32 attempts to illegally buy nuclear technology. As Mark Dubowitz put it, “… we know that the Iranians violate incrementally, not egregiously, even though, over time, the sum total of the incremental violations is always egregious”. Second, they allege that the IAEA has become politicized and too vested in the deal to properly monitor it. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has admitted that he can’t verify Section T of Annex I (p.27) that deals with development of a nuclear explosive device, in part due to the IAEA’s inability to inspect Iranian military sites without prior substantiated suspicion of wrongdoing, something that the IAEA doesn’t want to demand anyway. Why? “If they want to bring down the deal, they will,” an IAEA official told Reuters, referring to the US leadership. “We just don’t want to give them an excuse to.” Third, they judge the inherent shortcomings of the JCPOA, as described above, to be unsustainable in the long term. Finally, they argue that it is indeed possible to “fix” the nuclear agreement by forcing the Iranian regime to the negotiating table through economic sanctions and a solid strategy of geopolitical containment. According to the logic of this argument, while the Obama administration implemented a campaign of severe economic pressure, it allegedly acquiesced to Iranian geopolitical interests as part of a wider détente with the Islamic Republic in the Middle East. Hence, the regime was able to exploit the Obama administration’s unwillingness to use force and pocket concession after concession during the 2 year period of official negotiations. Defenders of the current administration argue that Trump’s bellicose posture has already produced results as Iran has recently communicated via multiple channels its willingness to begin negotiations on its ballistic missile program.

It is possible, of course, that Trump’s unpredictability will be manifested once more and that tomorrow he will deliver a speech announcing a complete withdrawal from the JCPOA, or indeed a recertification of Iranian compliance with the INARA conditions. Judging by publicly available information, however, that remains highly unlikely.

Photo: indianewengland.com

Preventive Action in Light of the Korean Crisis

By Mark Narusov

Last couple of months media outlets in a number of countries have been thoroughly agitated over the possibility of a nuclear war between the regime of Kim Jong-un and the United States. Mark Bowden’s essay in The Atlantic serves as a great illustration of the gravity of the situation American decision-makers have to confront. His main point is as follows: There are 4 main “strategic options” of how to deal with the North Korean threat — prevention, “turning the screws”, decapitation, and acceptance. Having conducted interviews with leading experts and government officials that focused on the problem, Bowden concludes that all of the available options are catastrophic, except acceptance. Prevention would almost certainly fail to destroy the totality of DPRK’s nuclear capability and would trigger an overwhelming response, destroying the nuclear arsenal without targeting the regime would likely be met with the same reaction, decapitation is also extremely risky and may well lead to a nuclear war as well. Only tacit acquiescence to the fact that the most totalitarian state in the world will have nuclear-tipped ICBMs will prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

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Image: The Japan Times  (April 23, 2017)

As horrific as it is already, it should also be said that there exists a possibility that a direct confrontation between the United States and North Korea is inevitable. According to Hwang Jang-yop, the former chair of DPRK’s parliament and Kim Jong-il’s mentor, the regime has always pursued nuclear weapons not merely as a deterrent against Western-initiated regime change, but also as an essential component of DPRK’s strategic goal of reunifying the Korean Peninsula — North Korean troops would march South while the bomb would scare the US away from interfering. Let that sink in, as they say.

Not every possible measure short of a military confrontation has been implemented yet, though. Key state enablers of the regime’s survival are Russia and China, who have repeatedly violated UN sanctions. US Treasury under President Trump has begun to target non-DPRK entities and individuals, but much more can be done — the full impact of American “peaceful pressure” campaign has yet to be seen. That is, unless Trump decides that dealing with the Korean threat is not worthy of sacrificing decent relations with China and Russia.

If there is a silver lining in the graveness of this crisis, however, it is that the colorful array of bad and catastrophic options shows just how dangerous nuclear-armed rogue regimes can be. Good enough reason, I reckon, to reassess the highly controversial legacy of the use of preventive action with respect to proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The example of Iraq is a particularly useful one. The first nation which decided that the buildup of Iraqi non-conventional capabilities merited preventive action was Israel. On 7 June 1981 it did what the nascent Iranian regime couldn’t less than a year before — destroyed what was to become an Iraqi nuclear reactor. The impact of the attack on Iraq’s nuclear program under Saddam Hussein is still debated with assessments ranging from insignificant to having prevented a real possibility of Saddam annexing Kuwait having a nuclear deterrent. Regardless, it did provoke a shift in Iraq’s calculations with regards to pursuing nuclear capability. The strike constituted the first execution of what was to be termed “the Begin Doctrine” named after the Israeli PM at the time — using preventive action to disrupt the adversary’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. International opinion at the time did not reflect the probable importance of the attack. Both the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council condemned the strike, along with Israel’s principal backer US, while the New York Times described it as “an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression”. In 2007, Israel conducted a similar operation in Syria, taking out a plutonium production reactor at al-Kibar, built with North Korea’s assistance.

The George W. Bush administration’s decision to abandon the security justification of the 2003 Iraq War in favor of the after-the-fact democracy promotion argument has left many with the wrong impression about what was actually uncovered in the aftermath of the invasion. The question of chemical and biological weapons is an issue for another discussion, but what the fact-finding mission Iraq Survey Group revealed in terms of Saddam’s nuclear program is highly relevant and deserves to be re-emphasized. While disproving the claim that the CIA conveyed to policymakers — that the nuclear program was active — it confirmed the principal point: Saddam never renounced his aspirations to acquire a nuclear weapon. According to the final report by the group (the “Duelfer Report”), he would have resumed it after the lifting of sanctions, support for which was rapidly deteriorating during the lead-up to the invasion, in no small part due to their humanitarian costs. With no sanctions left to constrain him, Saddam would have resumed his WMD programs, including nuclear.

The essential premise of the Bush doctrine that ultimately justified the 2003 intervention — that a rogue regime may hand over WMD’s to a terrorist group — may have been too radical of a departure from the Realist conception of the self-interested state. The idea that a regime, even irrational as Saddam’s was, could hand over devastating weapons to a destabilizing and indiscriminate terrorist group, seems far-fetched. However, the possibility of a break-out of a civil war in a nuclear state can vindicate the policy based on the flawed premise about a regime deliberately sharing their WMD capacity with a terrorist organization. It does not help that brutal dictatorships are less likely to reform than to implode and create a vacuum of power to be filled by all kinds of less than friendly actors.

Regardless of what the previous American administration chose to believe about the world order, hard power, coercion, and intimidation work pretty well when dealing with rogue states. Surely, Libya’s voluntary dismantlement of its WMD programs in 2004 was not solely caused by American and British threats, now credible and backed by a demonstrated willingness to act, — the international sanctions and the economic costs of running a nuclear program also played a role. But the substantial impact of the invasion is undeniable. A few days before the commencement of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi’s representatives reached out to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair (not Kofi Annan or Jacques Chirac) through envoys and communicated his “willingness to dismantle all WMD programs”, including nuclear. Less than a year after the invasion, Gaddafi acknowledged that his regime had pursued a nuclear weapons program in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As part of Libya’s comprehensive cooperation with the US and Britain, the regime named the suppliers of its designs of centrifuges. Among those implicated was the proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, which had assisted North Korea and Iran. The disclosure led to Khan’s arrest in 2004 under Pakistani jurisdiction. Libya abandoned all pretenses for nuclear capability and was largely verified as compliant with its treaty obligations by the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, in 2005.

It should also be said that the Iraq War apparently had an impact on Iranian nuclear program as well, albeit incomparable to the effect it had on Libya’s. In 2015’s IAEA’s Final Assessment report indicated that Iran paused developing some components of its nuclear program by the end of 2003. Here as with the Libyan case, sanctions also played a role.

Sometimes an act illegal under international law is necessary to uphold the weight of UN resolutions and prevent would-be worse illegal acts committed by the West’s adversaries. As controversial as it is now in the context of American and especially European war-weariness, preventive action remains a valuable option when dealing with grave threats. Some confrontations really are inevitable, and what seems like an unnecessary and risky decision now can play a decisive role in the future. Preventive acts with the purpose of degrading parts of an adversary’s WMD program send strong messages that have the effect of raising the cost of pursuing these programs in the strategic calculations by rogue regimes and buttress future negotiations with a credible threat to resort to the use of force, thereby reinforcing leverage and making bigger-scale confrontation less likely. The weakness of the JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated under the Obama administration between Iran and the P5+1, underscores this point vividly enough: having secured the perception of himself in the eyes of adversaries as the President who would go to any lengths to avoid conflict, Barack Obama essentially provoked Iran into taking advantage of this and packing numerous concessions that only ensure a future conflict between the U.S. and the regime over its nuclear program. And how could they not — Iran’s leadership knew that Obama did not leave himself an alternative way to deal with their government other than by pursuing diplomacy.

The costs of not acting with respect to nuclear proliferation are too high, as the Korean crisis demonstrates. The only option left as of now is to ramp up secondary sanctions, a measure that is very far from likely to have an effect significant enough to eradicate the nuclear threat posed by the North Korean regime. Only in retrospect does one see clearly that a different policy should have been pursued in the past in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating to the point where it is today.

As former under secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith argued in his memoir “War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism”,

“…the largest benefit of success is avoiding the horrific costs of failure. Preventing calamities is one of the most important and least appreciated functions of government. When an evil is averted—perhaps as a result of insight, intensive effort, and administrative skill—the result is that nothing happens. It is easy, after the fact, for critics to ignore or deprecate the accomplishment. Political opponents may scoff at the effort as unnecessary, citing the absence of disaster as proof that the problem could not have been very serious to begin with” (p. 523).

Mark Narusov is a second year student in the Euro-American program at Sciences Po Campus of Reims and Foreign Affairs Editor for The Sundial Press.