Attempts by the outgoing U.S. administration to sour relations with several countries resulted in Trump’s team being accused of hypocrisy as a result
Donald Trump is just days away from leaving the White House, but his administration has no thought of slowing down. For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided to make one last serious impact on the fate of various countries around the world: he declared the Hussein rebels in Yemen a terrorist group, called Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism and risked pissing off China by lifting restrictions on interaction between American and Taiwanese officials. What the current U.S. authorities are trying to achieve and where this might lead
Sources of Terrorism
“The United States is the source of terrorism. The policies pursued by the Trump administration are terrorist in nature. The step taken by the Trump administration shows a crisis of thinking,” Mohammed Ali al-Husi, a member of the political council of Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthis) movement, made this statement, commenting on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement. He added that Washington’s actions deserved condemnation and that the Houthis, in turn, “reserved the right to retaliate.”
The fact is that on January 10 the head of the State Department announced his intention to include Ansar Allah in the list of terrorist organizations, which is compiled by the US Department of Foreign Affairs. According to him, such a decision “would provide additional tools for countering the terrorist activities” of Ansar Allah, which, according to Washington, is supported by Tehran. This, the White House believes, “will contribute to progress in overcoming instability in Yemen.” Inclusion on the list of terrorist organizations means, among other things, freezing assets in the U.S. and prohibiting American citizens or companies from doing business with its members.
According to David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, the U.S. administration’s decision makes it “virtually impossible” for the organization’s staff to work in Yemen. This, in turn, could also lead to civilian deaths.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 after Hussite forces, an armed group of Shiite Zaydis fighting for autonomy in a Sunni-majority state, took the city of Amran in the northwest of the country. Since then, the struggle between the Shiite forces, supported by Iran, and the Yemeni government, which is actively assisted by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, has not stopped. Since the beginning of the conflict, the Hussein rebels have taken control of most major cities. Meanwhile, the government recognized by the UN controls only a few large settlements. In addition to serious economic problems, the country is now experiencing a humanitarian crisis.
The U.S. has previously imposed restrictive measures against individual Husi leaders, but this decision by the State Department effectively makes any interaction with the movement illegal, which in turn prevents the delivery of international humanitarian aid to Yemen. Joe Biden, who won the U.S. presidential election, said during the campaign that Washington would stop supporting the campaign in Yemen if he was elected. The U.S. Congress is also calling for a reversal of the Trump administration’s recent actions.
Cuba – far away.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also returned Cuba to the list of states sponsoring terrorism along with Iran, North Korea, and Syria. This action completely contradicts the steps taken by the 44th U.S. President Barack Obama. He sought to establish diplomatic relations with Havana, under him the country was removed from the list of sponsors of terrorism in 2015. Biden probably intends to continue the détente policy begun by Obama, said Victoria Zhuravleva, head of the Center for North American Studies at IMEMO RAS. “Democrats were just afraid of the actions that Trump is now taking because they will interfere with their activities. Putting Cuba on the list of terrorist states could definitely have consequences for the Biden administration. The move is aimed at making it harder for Democrats to rebuild relations with Havana,” the Americanist told Izvestia
No man’s land in Africa.
In its final month in office, the Trump administration also decided to open a diplomatic mission in Western Sahara. Pompeo revealed this on Twitter. “Happy to report that we have begun the process of establishing a consulate in the region, right now we are opening a virtual presence post for Western Sahara that will focus on promoting economic and social development,” the State Department chief wrote, adding that Washington will soon open a fully functioning diplomatic mission there.
In December, Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over this disputed territory bordering Algeria and Mauritania. Washington is effectively bypassing the UN, which considers Western Sahara a territory that belongs to no one and has not exercised the right of self-determination.
The region has been trying to achieve independence since the mid-1970s. However, Morocco considers the territory as an integral part of it and does not allow its independence, advocating only broad autonomy within the kingdom.
“Opening of a new anti-Chinese season”.
China was not ignored either, which the Trump team apparently decided to piss off in its final days in office. Thus, the U.S. lifted all the “voluntary restrictions” on cooperation with Taiwan that had been in place for the past 40 years. “It is a vibrant democracy and a reliable U.S. partner, and yet for decades, the State Department has imposed domestic restrictions on regulating the interactions of our diplomats, military personnel, and other officials with their Taiwanese counterparts. The U.S. government took these actions unilaterally in an attempt to placate the communist regime in Beijing. This will not happen again,” Pompeo said in a statement. Beijing criticized these words and also called on the U.S. to “refrain from taking further steps on the wrong and dangerous path.”
The issue of Taiwan seriously strains relations between Beijing and Washington. This topic is particularly sensitive for China, which considers it its inalienable territory. The fact is that all countries that have diplomatic relations with Beijing have signed up to the principle of “one China”: it implies a refusal to consider Taiwan an independent state and termination of all official ties with the island. The United States, which officially recognized China in 1979, was no exception. Despite the fact that Washington tried not to tease Beijing unnecessarily, the U.S. nevertheless continued to actively communicate with Taiwan: the American Institute in Taiwan actually serves as an embassy. In addition, the U.S. regularly supplies billions of dollars worth of weapons to Taiwan.
Pompeo’s policy on Taiwan and China is a continuation of Trump’s rhetoric, Zhuravleva said. “This is one of the few issues on which the positions of both parties converge. Democrats are likely to continue in the same vein as Republicans, maybe even more. The ideological theme will expand: there will be more attempts to meddle in internal affairs and criticize the Communist Party of China under the Democrats. This is the opening of a new anti-Chinese season,” said the US analyst in an interview with Izvestia.
According to the political scientist, a similar situation will occur in relations with Russia. “Take the latest accusations of hacker attacks. The tone has been set, from now on it will be maintained by the Democratic administration,” the specialist is sure.
Sealed by Trump’s “seal of approval.”
Donald Trump’s team and, in particular, Mike Pompeo do not hide the fact that through their actions they are trying to “tie the hands of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden,” especially when it comes to the tough policies of the current president on Iran and China, reports The Axios. The newspaper notes that such sudden foreign-policy cartwheels are bothering congressional representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties, especially since the current administration has so little time left before Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, which means it can’t plan its actions very carefully.
“The lack of inter-party consensus, the different visions of global threats, and the different understandings of how to deal with them are a particular example of the continuing inter-party strife between Republicans and Democrats. Thus, while they are still in power, the Republicans are trying to push through the key points of their foreign policy agenda,” says researcher Alexei Davydov of the IMEMO RAN Center for Middle Eastern Studies. According to the specialist, the fact that the Democrats took some steps and the Republicans curtailed these initiatives, and now the Democrats will come again and abandon the decisions of the representatives of the Republican Party, can lead to serious image losses for the United States. “The reputation of the U.S. as a treaty-minded actor in international relations will be dealt a serious blow. The result of the inconsistency of the U.S. and its failure to agree has already become the fact that the Europeans began to actively develop the themes of European security without the participation of the U.S. – PESCO, as well as the system of circumvention of U.S. sanctions. There are tools in the system of international relations which bypass the American-centric structure of international relations,” said the political analyst in his conversation with “Izvestia”.
The decisions that Pompeo announced last month are a coordinated position of the administration and Trump, said Victoria Zhuravleva, head of the Center for North American Studies at IMEMO RAS. “The secretary of state in the United States is in most cases an extension of the president. Perhaps there are also personal political ambitions of Pompeo. He is still quite a young politician and could work with the next Republican administration. But everyone who has been with the current U.S. leader all these four years bears the “Trump stamp.” Pompeo remains loyal to the Republican president, stays with him, and all the steps he is implementing now are in the vein of the Trump administration,” the expert added.