Don’t Buy Don’t Sell in the Trump era

After authorising the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles (each costing around $1.5 million) at a Syrian airbase with no apparent consequential strategic purpose and diminishing none of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability, the maker of the Tomahawk missiles, Raytheon’s stock rose sharply, adding more than $1 billion to its market capitalisation. Other missile and weapons manufacturers, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, also saw their stock rose considerably – collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value. This on its own may not matter much, after all, which president of the USA has not dropped  expensive bombs on some ‘remote’ nations of the world. But this time may be different.

Trump used anti-establishment and anti-corporate language during his election campaign to distinguish himself from all other candidates – he opposed neoconservative foreign policy, financial and corporate interests, notably Goldman Sachs. Now, after his inauguration, you can hardly see much difference between his foreign policy plans and policies proposed by neoconservatives. His cabinet looks like a ‘who’s who’ of Goldman Sachs alumni. He ratcheted up the military tension in the South China Sea, ordered a failed major special force operation in Yemen, and now seems to be pushing the USA to the edge of nuclear war with North Korea. The more he uses militaristic confrontational rhetoric and actions, the more ‘presidential’ he  looks in the eyes of the mainstream media. He seems ‘unstoppable’.

But is he, really?

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“If you ask why we’re backing this … the answer is that we weren’t going to be able to stop it.”

As Rep. Adam Schiff, minority leader of the House Intelligence Committee, said, U.S. support would be perceived “as an indicator of our willingness to push back against Iranian efforts to increase hegemony in the region [and] that may influence how comfortable they are with a nuclear agreement,” adding, “it is very important for the U.S. to have Saudi Arabia’s back when it comes to Yemen.” One anonymous Pentagon official put it coldly: “If you ask why we’re backing this … the answer you’re going to get from most people — if they were being honest — is that we weren’t going to be able to stop it.”

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What Oxfam’s campaign on Yemen can teach us all about change

How to turn that around? Our campaign on Yemen has highlighted the catastrophic humanitarian crisis and the urgent need for a ceasefire. It has sought to give a platform to Yemeni civil society and described how Yemeni women are striving for peace. …

There were three main reasons:

  • Precisely because governments that we had a degree of influence over were so complicit in the crisis, we had an exceptional opportunity to reduce the suffering in Yemen.
  • Oxfam had been in Yemen for 30 years. We have a strong programme on the ground and we were one of the first NGOs to scale up operations in response to the intensifying conflict.
  • Oxfam had campaigned for ten years for an Arms Trade Treaty which was designed to prevent the carnage caused by just these kinds of arms transfers.

So on our side, we had both legitimacy from our on-the-ground presence and moral clarity.  We had a clear call that stirred passions and could be easily understood. People get the connection between arms sales and suffering. Continue reading

China boosts arms exports by 74%, while becoming more self-sufficient

Comparing two five-year periods between 2007-11 and 2012-16, the volume of Chinese exports of major arms increased by 74 per cent. Its share of the global total of exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent, making it the third-largest supplier in the world, following the United States and Russia.
Unlike the US, which accounts for one-third of exports and supplies at least 100 countries, China delivered major arms to 44 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. More than 60 per cent of China’s exports went to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and another 22 per cent went to Africa.

China has also been expanding its market. In 2015, it exported type 90 multi-barrel rocket launchers to Peru, the first time Chinese weapons were used to equip Peru’s armed forces. A report released by the Pentagon last April estimated that China’s arms sales from 2010 to 2014 totalled about US$15 billion. Continue reading

SIPRI: Global Arms Trade Highest since Cold War

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said on Monday that more weapons were delivered between 2012 and 2016 than any other five-year period since 1990. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yementhat has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212%, mainly from the US and the UK.

Asia was the main recipient region in the world as India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13% of the global imports. While India received most of its arms from Russia, the Saudis relied heavily on US arms. US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters. Continue reading

Is a Pakistan-India war just one terrorist attack away?

If a new attack occurs and inflicts major casualties in India, especially among civilians in the heartland, the kudos the Modi government won at home for the response to Uri will compel it to act more forcefully. Pakistani military and civilian leaders, fearful of each other and of militant political forces, cannot let a substantial Indian military operation against targets on Pakistani soil go unanswered.

In this context, the lack of any apparent strategy and political determination (in both India and Pakistan) to change the current dynamic and establish a peacemaking process is dangerous. Can serious people in either country believe this situation is sustainable over a long-term period, that violence can continue to be managed? Continue reading