Posted on August 27, 2014 in Countdown

Going Into 2016, Too Many to Count

While the 2014 primaries wrap up, attention is already turning to 2016 – sure, The Hill’s65 people who might run for president in 2016” may be just a bit excessive, but there are clear signs that some are laying the groundwork for 2016 presidential bids. We aren’t just talking about Hillary Clinton and Rick Perry, who we all know have been making the rounds. This week, former Republican nominee Mitt Romney said there was a “one of a million” chance he’d run again, but that “circumstances might change.” Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman said he’s leaving the door open to a presidential run and Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders makes a stop in battleground North Carolina today ahead of trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. Speaking of Iowa, former Democratic Senator Jim Webb from Virginia visited this week and called for a “strong debate” about the country's future. Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has been spending plenty of time in New Hampshire as he positions himself for 2016 too. It’s pretty obvious to see that the race is already on, even if our attention is elsewhere or on just a few frontrunners. As the DNC wraps up its summer meeting and the GOP lands Cleveland, Ohio for their 2016 convention location, expect a lot more news on 2016 from Countdown.

Can We Get Some Clarity on Libya Strikes?

After airstrikes in Libya conducted by Egypt and the UAE using American weapons, we’re still confused about what exactly the U.S. knows. It would seem almost impossible for us not to know about the strikes, as this Foreign Policy piece points out, yet cryptic language from government officials has raised concerns that we don’t really know what these Arab countries are doing with weapons sent to them. In a joint statement, the United States said “outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya's democratic transition,” and other statements indicated surprise at the strike. If anything, the moves serve as another example of regional apprehension – especially considering the UAE is usually one of the more quiet Gulf actors. Whether demonstrating frustration with Qatar or fear of growing extremism and impatience with the United States, it is obvious that regional actors are in disarray on how to combat growing threats and proxy battles are reemerging in the Middle East. The Arab world has undoubtedly seen enough regional manipulation of politics – it’s time for some clarity and reliability from the United States.

Lack of Clarity Gives Voice to Middle East Conspiracy Theories

Adding some confusion to the above incident are the spreading “conspiracy theories” familiar to the region about U.S. policy. A tweet supposedly from Secretary John Kerry has been spreading on social media saying “The Airstrikes of Egypt & UAE in Libya without any International approval is a Blatant intervention in Libya.” Besides the stylistic inconsistencies and the obvious fact that it is nowhere to be found on Kerry’s Twitter page, the fact that the “tweet” is being circulated shows how impactful U.S. policy remains in the region, and also how ridiculous and pervasive conspiracy theories can be. After all, we Americans don’t even know what happened in Libya (see above). Take the recent example of a fake “excerpt” from Hillary Clinton’s memoir saying the U.S. was behind the creation of ISIS. The book of course makes no mention of this, and yet the “excerpt” was discussed in prominent papers by “scholars” and on local media. Clinton’s “comments” spread like wildfire, even causing the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to put out a statement to deny claims bolstered by local politicians. This is unfortunate. The truth is bad enough sometimes - we certainly don’t need to be inventing things.

Gaza Ceasefire – For How Long?

Almost everyone is letting out a sigh of relief now that the harrowing conflict between Israel and Gaza, which has claimed over 2,000 lives over 50 days, is drawing down. A longer-term ceasefire has been reached, mediated by Egypt, which provides some hopeful news regarding the Gaza border crossings, Egypt’s border at Rafah, reconstruction, a reduced buffer zone, and Palestinian Authority administration in Gaza. The hard work for a durable ceasefire is still needed to make this latest agreement more than an ebb in the conflict between the two sides. A draft U.N. resolution was in progress before the ceasefire took place, and the path forward on U.N. action remains unclear given the ceasefire agreement. The points of the agreement should provide needed relief to Palestinians if they are carried out by Israel and the international community, but a revival of peace negotiations and a firm commitment to rebuilding the lives of Palestinians is the path needed to provide security and stability for both Palestinians and Israelis. And did we mention, the occupation has to end.

Ceasefire Stops Gaza Violence, but the Propaganda Continues

Sure, we’re seeing an apparent end to the war in Gaza. Yet this hasn’t stopped some from waging a war of words in support of Israel’s excessive and disproportionate use of force. The Anti-Defamation League placed a shameful full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and the Jewish Journal, quoting Golda Meir in her defense of killing Arab children. The ad was signed by numerous Hollywood executives. The good news is that some in Hollywood weren’t having it.  We applaud actor and playwright Wallace Shawn, who responded brilliantly in an open letter placed in The Hollywood Reporter by Jewish Voice for Peace. We’ve seen the propaganda wars play out over the past few weeks of the Gaza conflict, and in the past, an ad like this likely would have gone unopposed. As recent support for Palestinians from international icons shows, the tide is changing and the signs are clear: violence, aggression and twisted rhetoric will not go unnoticed.

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