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America: ‘Indispensable Nation’ No More

America: ‘Indispensable Nation’ No More

Rather than seeing ‘far into the future,’ American elites have struggled to discern what might happen next week. 

Credit: mark reinstein/Shutterstock

“Only those of us who were born under Queen Victoria,” wrote Ronald Knox, “know what it feels like to assume, without questioning, that England is permanently top nation, that foreigners do not matter, and that if worst comes to the worst, Lord Salisbury will send a gunboat.” Knox offered this trenchant observation, redolent with irony and perhaps tinged with regret, not as a policymaker or strategic thinker, but from the vantage point of a clergyman. From the 1920s through the 1950s, Monsignor Knox was the most famous and influential Catholic priest in all of Great Britain. As such, he entertained a distinct perspective on what actually qualifies as permanent and what merely offers the appearance.

While perhaps using different terms—our preference is for dispatching nuclear aircraft carriers rather than gunboats—Americans born after World War II came into adulthood imbued with precisely the same sentiment about their own country. From the mid-1940s onward, the primacy of the United States was assumed as a given. History had rendered a verdict: we—not the Brits and certainly not the Germans, French, or Russians—were number one, and, more importantly, were meant to be. That history’s verdict might be subject to revision was literally unimaginable, especially to anyone making a living in or near Washington, D.C.

If doubts remained on that score, the end of the Cold War removed them. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, politicians, journalists, and policy intellectuals threw themselves headlong into a competition over who could explain best just how unprecedented, how complete, and how wondrous was the global preeminence of the United States.

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The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has joined with the chorus of Western countries supporting Canada’s protestations against the “arbitrary,” and “politically motivated” death sentence imposed by a Chinese court on Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Pompeo’s “recognition of the principle that we are speaking about.” She argues that the application of the death sentence to a Canadian national in this case is “inhumane”, and represents a, “way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.”

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, echoed Freeland’s cry of victory for having won US support. “I hope they continue to back Canada in this particular dispute,” MacNaughton said.

Yet, isn’t it strange that Canada would call on support from the United States in its appeal for clemency in the Shellenberg case? The United States has executed 48 persons in the past 2 years, and drug offences are a capital crime under federal law, and in the states of Florida and Missouri. In fact, President Trump has recently called for more use of the death penalty to punish drug trafficking:

“My department of Justice will be seeking much tougher penalties for the big pushers, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty.”

No wonder the Chinese government has so easily dismissed Canadian objections as“staging the play of a thief crying “stop the thief!”

Canadian self-righteousness in the current dispute with China is also troublesome given its starting point with a notoriously corrupt extradition process, according to which Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of the U.S.

The CBC reported in May 2018 that legal challenges face the specialized division of the Canadian Department of Justice responsible for extradition – known as the International Assistance Group (IAG).

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The True Nature of US Interventions

The True Nature of US Interventions

‘Make America Great Again’: Trump’s slogan seems both to yearn for a time when the United States had more influence, and to call for its pre-eminence to be restored. In its own way, it asserts that the US is – or should be – different.  In fact it was only Trump’s predecessor, Obama, who was the first president to talk regularly about American exceptionalism, yet to Trump it is something that is long lost and it is his job to recover it. Yet belief in the US’s exceptional nature has been a constant feature of the country’s history, whoever has been president, and continues right up to the present day.

Its starting point in the early nineteenth century was the ‘Monroe doctrine’, the assertion of the US’s pre-eminent power in the western hemisphere, replacing the old colonial powers such as Spain and Portugal. Its domestic counterpart was the US’s God-given ‘manifest destiny’, which justified settlement of the whole North American continent, regardless of the presence of the people to whom much of the land already belonged. Whereas the Monroe doctrine at first reflected a degree of respect for the then newly emerging Latin American nations, by the end of the century it only thinly disguised a new kind of imperialism which justified US intervention anywhere in the hemisphere.

Soon after the end of the second world war, the former ‘great powers’ began to give up those colonies that had not already been returned to their rightful owners. But, fuelled by the cold war, the US began a new phase of imperialism. Dan Kovalik, in his new book The Plot to Control the World, quotes a report, which he says is almost certainly an underestimate, that the US interfered in 81 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And even that number omits more serious interventions such as US-provoked coups, assassinations and invasions.

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Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift?

Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift?

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged.

– From Graham Allison’s article: The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?

For the past two years, my geopolitical assumption has been that the Trump administration would more or less continue along with the reckless, shortsighted, and disastrous neocon/neoliberal interventionist foreign policy of the past two decades focused on undeclared regime change and proxy wars across the world, especially the Middle East. Given his strange obsession with Iran, I figured he’d start a conflict there and that this conflict would end up a bigger disaster than Iraq.

I assumed this mistake would coincide with continued massive deficits, a unwieldy debt load and most likely a recession. In turn, I believed this would lead to an embarrassing and chaotic unraveling of the U.S. empire. At that point, other nations like China would opportunistically take advantage of the huge power vacuum left over. Based on a variety of events over the past few months, I’m no longer convinced this is how it’s going to unfold.

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WikiLeaks’ Legacy of Exposing US-UK Complicity

WikiLeaks’ Legacy of Exposing US-UK Complicity

WikiLeaks is vilified by governments (and increasingly by journalists) for its exposures, including of the U.S.-UK “special relationship” in running a joint foreign policy of deception and violence that serves London and Washington’s elite interests, says Mark Curtis.


Twelve years ago this month, WikiLeaks began publishing government secrets that the world public might otherwise never have known. What it has revealed about state duplicity, human rights abuses and corruption goes beyond anything published in the world’s “mainstream” media.

After over six months of being cut off from outside world, on 14 October 14 Ecuador has partly restored Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s communications with the outside world from its London embassy where the founder has been living for over six years. (Assange, however, later rejected Ecuador’s restrictions imposed on him.)

The treatment – real and threatened – meted out to Assange by the U.S. and UK governments contrasts sharply with the service Wikileaks has done their publics in revealing the nature of elite power, as shown in the following snapshot of Wikileaks’ revelations about British foreign policy in the Middle East.

Conniving with the Saudis

Whitehall’s special relationship with Riyadh is exposed in an extraordinary cable from 2013 highlighting how Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council. Britain initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support.

Hague: ‘World needs pro-American regime’ in Britain. (Chatham House)

The Wikileaks releases also shed details on Whitehall’s fawning relationship with Washington. A 2008 cable, for example, shows then shadow foreign secretary William Hague telling the U.S. embassy that the British “want a pro-American regime. We need it. The world needs it.”

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MSNBC and Daily Beast Feature UAE Lobbyist David Rothkopf With No Disclosure: a Scandalous Media-Wide Practice

UAE lobbyist and consultant David Rothkopf speaks about Saudi Arabia on MSNBC on October 16, 2018.

ON THURSDAY, the Daily Beast published an article about the Saudi/US relationship by David Rothkopf, a long-time member in good standing of the U.S. Foreign Policy elite. Until last year, he was the editor-in-chief of the establishment journal Foreign Policy, named to that position in 2012 when it was owned by the Washington Post. He’s also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He was previously deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policy in the Clinton administration and managing director of Kissinger Associates, the advisory firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

But, unbeknownst to Daily Beast readers consuming his commentary about Saudi Arabia, Rothkopf is something else: a paid lobbyist for the Saudi regime’s close ally, the equally despotic regime of the United Arab Emirates. Last month, Rothkopf formally registered as a foreign agent for the Emiratis.

On September 12, Rothkopf personally signed a contract with the UAE regime to be paid $50,000 every month, for a period of three years, to, among other services, “provide day-to-day advice on the development of messages”; to work on “media projects [and] outreach efforts”; and to “prepare memoranda [and] talking points” for the “Embassy of the United Arab Emirates to develop and support specific programs and initiatives within the United States.”



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Soothing Noah Smith’s Fears About a Post-Growth World

SOOTHING NOAH SMITH’S FEARS ABOUT A POST-GROWTH WORLD

Last week Foreign Policy published an article I wrote titled “Why growth can’t be green.”  It stirred a lively online discussion – and of course attracted dissenters.  Among them was one Noah Smith, who penned a critical op-ed in Bloomberg.  You can read it here.

I wrote to Noah and asked whether he would let me respond on the same platform, where he contributes a regular column.  To my delight, he agreed.  So I pitched to his editor, copying Noah.  But I received no response.  Perhaps he’s less interested in the debate than he initially let on.  Poor form, by my lights – but oh well.  Here are some of the points I would have made.

1. It’s about resource use, not energy

The main problem with Noah’s piece is that the whole thing is based on either awkward confusion or intentional sleight of hand.

My argument in FP was that it is impossible to achieve absolute decoupling of resource use from GDP on a global scale, even with rapid efficiency gains and aggressive taxes on resource extraction.  This is the conclusion reached by literally every existing study that has been conducted on the matter (you can follow links to the original research here).  The reason is simple: the rate of decoupling is outstripped by the normal rate of GDP growth, even in high-efficiency scenarios.  To make matters worse, there are physical limits to resource efficiency, and as we approach them the rate of improvement slows down, giving yet more force to the scale effect of GDP growth.

In an era in which we are already dramatically overshooting the planetary boundary on material footprint, this means that aggregate global economic growth cannot continue if we want to avoid chewing through the web of life on which our civilization depends.

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A Wake-Up Call to the Canadian Left

A Wake-Up Call to the Canadian Left

Yves Engler is Canada’s foremost feisty contrarian. Contrarians oppose what most people think about people and events. They don’t like to bask in the sunlight. They would rather look in the shadows or dimly lit back alleys. If they walk on a summer beach, they pay little attention to the sun glinting off the shells. They want to see what lies under the rocks.

Alas! There aren’t many contrarians left. We live in the age of the vanquished reporter and group think. The mass media (BBC, CNN, CBC) toe the prevalent hegemonic political line. They ask no questions. They speak confidently on the latest demonic act of Russia or Syria or Iran. Israel always gets off the hook, no matter how many Gazans are gunned down. The US-Saudi Arabia can massacre hundreds of thousands of Yemenis. Not on the news tonight! And won’t be on next week, either. All “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality” (Robert Parry).

Engler’s new book, Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada’s Foreign Policy (Black Rose Publishers, 2018) follows in the train of previous muckraking and debunking books. Basically, Engler thinks the Canadian intelligentsia sees foreign policy through a glass darkly. They think that Canada is basically a benevolent nation. We (I am a Canadian) think we are not like our neighbour to the south. They are the land of conquest.

They are the democratic sheep in wolves clothing. They are the ones who bring “democracy and freedom” to nations on their gunboats. No, Canadians are a nation of peacekeepers and nice folks. Our myth-making agencies (Engler includes the Department of National Defense and Veteran Affairs as well the mass media) celebrate our heroic engagement in various wars and benevolent corporate and banking actions in the Caribbean and South America.

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The Living Reality of Military-Economic Fascism

The Living Reality of Military-Economic Fascism

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“The business of buying weapons that takes place in the Pentagon is a corrupt business — ethically and morally corrupt from top to bottom. The process is dominated by advocacy, with few, if any, checks and balances. Most people in power like this system of doing business and do not want it changed.” – Colonel James G. Burton (1993, 232)

In countries such as the United States, whose economies are commonly, though inaccurately, described as “capitalist” or “free-market,” war and preparation for war systematically corrupt both parties to the state-private transactions by which the government obtains the bulk of its military goods and services.

On one side, business interests seek to bend the state’s decisions in their favor by corrupting official decision-makers with outright and de facto bribes. The former include cash, gifts in kind, loans, entertainment, transportation, lodging, prostitutes’ services, inside information about personal investment opportunities, overly generous speaking fees, and promises of future employment or “consulting” patronage for officials or their family members, whereas the latter include campaign contributions (sometimes legal, sometimes illegal), sponsorship of political fund-raising events, and donations to charities or other causes favored by the relevant government officials.

Reports of this sort of corruption appear from time to time in the press under the rubric of “military scandal” (see, for example, Biddle 1985, Wines 1989, Hinds 1992, “National Briefing” 2003, Pasztor and Karp 2004, Colarusso 2004, Calbreath and Kammer 2005, Wood 2005, Babcock 2006, Ross 2006, and “Defense Contractor Guilty in Bribe Case” 2006). On the other, much more important side, the state corrupts business people by effectively turning them into co-conspirators in and beneficiaries of its most fundamental activity — plundering the general public.

Participants in the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC) are routinely blamed for “mismanagement,” not infrequently they are accused of “waste, fraud, and abuse,” and from time to time a few of them are indicted for criminal offenses (Higgs 1988, 1990, xx-xxiii, 2004; Fitzgerald 1989; Kovacic 1990a, 1990b).

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US Energy Secretary Visits Moscow: Threats and Accusations Used as Foreign-Policy Tools

US Energy Secretary Visits Moscow: Threats and Accusations Used as Foreign-Policy Tools

US Energy Secretary Visits Moscow: Threats and Accusations Used as Foreign-Policy Tools

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry visited Moscow Sept. 11-13 to hold talks with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov and Energy Minister Alexander Novak. After discussing a wide range of problems, the parties agreed to restart the dormant US-Russia Energy Working Group to address issues of common interest and disagreements. It was emphasized that the two energy superpowers should maintain their points of contact in order to ensure the stability of the world’s energy markets. That’s good, but the visit also confirmed the fact that intimidation and accusations remain the main foreign policy tools all top US officials keep at the ready.

The secretary reiterated the administration’s opposition to the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas project. He confirmed during the press conference that Washington would impose sanctions against the Russian-German pipeline in order to minimize Europe’s dependence on Moscow.

Rick Perry expressed his “disappointment and concern” about “Russia’s continued attempts to infiltrate the American electric grid.” He did not specify precisely what his accusations were based on. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint report in March, which said, “Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors… targeted government entities and multiple US critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.”

The report did not contain meaningful evidence. The conclusions were for the most part unsubstantiated. It offered the opinions of experts but was not convincing enough to be followed by a statement coming from the White House officially blaming Moscow. The paper used the term “infiltration,” not “attack.” Indeed, the accusations boiled down to allegations of evil intent, but not hostile acts, as nothing was destroyed and no one was killed.

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Shining Light On Scurrilous Stories: Who Is Really Undermining Canadian Democracy?

Shining Light On Scurrilous Stories: Who Is Really Undermining Canadian Democracy?

Shining Light On Scurrilous Stories: Who Is Really Undermining Canadian Democracy?

Canada is a very pleasant country, if you don’t mind being cold for long periods, and in The Economist’s 2017 Democracy Index is described approvingly as ranking sixth of the 167 countries examined. It “scores highly in the electoral process and the functioning of government categories, and also for civil liberties. Freedom of expression and religious and cultural tolerance are championed…”

Regrettably, there has been recent movement towards disapproval of freedom of expression, largely because of a campaign against Russia, which seems strange, because Russia poses no threat whatever to Canada.  Certainly there is a Canadian battle group deployed in Latvia in accordance with the Pentagon-NATO policy of ‘Enhanced Forward Presence’ which involves stationing warships, combat aircraft and troops to confront Russia as close as possible to its borders, but this is just one of the public relations fandangos aimed at justifying NATO’s continuing existence.

On May 2 Reuters reported the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s findings that “while global military spending rose one percent to $1,739 billion last year, Russia’s fell 20 percent in real terms to $66.3 billion.”  Reuters also noted that “President Vladimir Putin has also called for higher living standards and higher spending on social infrastructure, such as healthcare and education,” which is hardly the leitmotif of a someone intent on military expansion and domination.

But Canada’s anti-Russia crusade is perversely individual rather than objectively logical, which brings us to the country’s foreign minister Ms Chrystia Freeland, who appears to have a personal axe to grind in regard to Russia and Eastern Europe.

It is intriguing that Canada’s Prime Minister, Mr Justin Trudeau, has chosen to vilify Russia on the grounds of allegedly supporting the media in revealing that Ms Freeland’s grandfather, a Ukrainian, worked for Nazi occupation forces in Eastern Europe during the Second World War.

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The European Union Wants to Be an Even Bigger Global Bully

The European Union Wants to Be an Even Bigger Global Bully

Europe doesn’t need another empire.

Over time, the European Union has developed into more than just an economic cooperation between nations. The EU is a big and intrusive government that constantly acquires new powers. And like all superstates, its tendency to defend freedom against control is swindling. 

The “United State of Europe”

When Euroscepticism became a part of the political landscape of the European Union, fears of the creation of a “United States of Europe” were widespread among circles opposed to this political project. In those days, this fear was widely regarded as cliché. However, clichés become clichés for a reason.   

Much like those skeptical of the Brussels bureaucracy predicted, the union has concentrated power within its structures. Now that the United Kingdom has become the first country to leave the EU, you might think that there would be a re-evaluation of this large centralization effort. But to the contrary, the European Union is increasingly moving towards the centralization of two key aspects: foreign policy and defense. 

Foreign Policy 

Ever since the EU’s last institutional reform in 2009, the European Commission, which is the executive branch, has appointed a High Commissioner for Foreign Relations. The position, currently held by the Italian politician Federica Mogherini, has been mocked for essentially being useless since the EU doesn’t have a common foreign policy. This would be similar to appointing a secretary to a department that has been granted no powers by the government whatsoever. However, this hasn’t prevented Mogherini from making policy statements in an effort to unite European member states behind a common position.  

A notable example of this was when Mogherini condemned the United States for moving the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the Czech Republic blocked any attempt to have a common position. Czech president Miloš Zeman consecutively promised to follow the American lead and move its embassy as well. 

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The Hackneyed Imperialist Tool of Demonization

The Hackneyed Imperialist Tool of Demonization

The systematic dehumanization of the leaders of other countries; the routine exaggeration of their military capabilities; the monotonous falsification of the nature and attitudes of other peoples; the reckless application of double standards in comparing the conduct of others with our own, as well as the inability to recognize the common character of many problems of others with our own, and the consequent tendency to see all aspects of the relationship with others in terms of a total and irreconcilable conflict of concerns and purposes. These, I believe, are not signs of the maturity and discernment that can be expected in the diplomacy of a great power…

Although the above description may seem applicable to Washington’s current foreign policy, it is a warning that George Frost Kennan (1904-2005), a long-serving diplomat and American historian, reminds us of the fact that it was Kennan who formulated and advocated a “policy of containment” against alleged Soviet expansionism, but later changed his theory.

Kennan enunciated his “containment policy” in February 1946 in a text that is remembered as the long message (“the Long Telegram”) he sent from Moscow in 1946 against so-called Soviet expansionism at the end of World War II. The text, signed with just one “X”, appeared in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, intended to analyze the structure and psychology of Soviet diplomacy at that time. It was widely disseminated by Washington and brought Kennan a lot of popularity in the academic world.

Shortly after that same year, he was appointed director of policy planning at the State Department and, in 1949, advisor to that department. He returned to Moscow in 1952 as his country’s ambassador and in the following year, he had to return to the United States after being declared persona non grata by the Soviet government.

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This Was Mises’s Main Case for Peace

This Was Mises’s Main Case for Peace

War only destroys. Peace, on the other hand, creates.

War is absolutely devastating. There is no dancing around that fact. Not only is it responsible for the loss of countless human lives, it also leaves an immeasurable amount of physical and emotional destruction in its wake.

The market has taught us that incentives work. 

Opponents of war may decry war until they are blue in the face, begging those in power to consider its human costs. But these cries almost always fall upon deaf ears, as history has tragically demonstrated.

When it comes to politicians and war, the ends always justify the means, even when those means are human lives. And while human life is sacred, this truth alone has never been enough to convince global leaders to seek an agenda of peace rather than one of destruction.

But the market has taught us that incentives work. So instead of relying on a method that has not done much to deter war over the centuries, why not try an argument that plays to the interests of those in power?

As Mises explains in Liberalism, the most impactful argument against war comes in the form of a basic economic principle from which we each benefit: the division of labor.

He writes:

How harmful war is to the development of human civilization becomes clearly apparent once one understands the advantages derived from the division of labor. The division of labor turns the self-sufficient individual into the ζῷον πολιτικόν (social animal) dependent on his fellow men, the social animal of which Aristotle spoke.”

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Mike Pence’s Middle East Tour: Outright Pressure and Threats as Foreign Policy Tools

Mike Pence’s Middle East Tour: Outright Pressure and Threats as Foreign Policy Tools

Mike Pence’s Middle East Tour: Outright Pressure and Threats as Foreign Policy Tools

Jordan’s King Abdullah II wants Washington to “rebuild trust “after US President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The king believes that East Jerusalem must be the capital of Palestine. According to him, from now on the US has a “major challenge to overcome”. “Friends occasionally have disagreements,” Mike Pence said ruefully in his comments on the outcome of the talks. The disagreement came into the open.

The vice president was making his Middle East trip (Jan.19-23) to include three states: Egypt, Jordan and Israel. The Palestinian Autonomy leaders refused to meet him. Egypt was the first country he arrived in to hear that Cairo does not support the US move.

Jordan and Egypt are a special case. They are the only Arab nations to have diplomatic ties and peace accords with Israel. Both are threatened by Islamist militants and would be potential key mediators if peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were ever revived.

Despite the fact that Jordan is a key member of the US-led coalition formally created to fight the Islamic State (IS), the kingdom has strongly opposed the US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel announced by President Trump on Dec. 6. Protests have been held in front of the US embassy in Amman ever since. King Abdullah has led intensive diplomatic efforts to build a stronger Arab front and rally international support behind it.

According to Debka, the vice president warned Egyptian and Jordanian leaders of painful times ahead if they don’t stop opposing the US policy. Washington can revise its plans to continue providing economic and military assistance. Besides, Vice President Pence asked them to convey a message to Palestinians that Washington “would block Palestinian Authority access to funding from Western and international institutions”.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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