Biden’s trip masks US still at war in Middle East

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, which looks at America’s military footprint in the Middle East and beyond, Italy’s wavering government, Sri Lanka’s protests, Ukraine’s grain hopes and… more news to follow from around the world.

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The commitment in the Middle East

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, which looks at America’s military footprint in the Middle East and beyond, Italy’s wavering government, Sri Lanka’s protests, Ukraine’s grain hopes and… more news to follow from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

The commitment in the Middle East

US President Joe Biden continues his visit to Israel today, as he seeks to bring new luster to the US presence in the Middle East by championing regional cooperation as a remedy for US withdrawal.

The problem with this approach is that US military force is still alive and well in the region – Biden himself told Israeli media on Wednesday that he was ready to use it as “last resortto prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

As Fiona Harrigan written in Raison on Monday, Biden’s claim in a Washington Post editorial to be the “first president to visit the Middle East since 9/11 without US troops engaged in a combat mission there” doesn’t quite hold water.

On Tuesday, a US drone strike killed a senior Islamic State operative in Syria. As the New York Times reports, the raid comes amid an uptick in US special forces operations on the ground in Syria. A US commando raid to seize an Islamic State bombmaker last month echoes similar operations on the ground, such as the one that killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the group’s leader, in February .

Biden himself appears to disagree with his own proclamations. On June 8, Biden sent a letter to Congress on US troop deployments and listed US personnel engaged in combat operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. A significant number of US troops are still stationed in the region: 2,833 US military personnel are deployed in Jordan, while around 2,733 are in Saudi Arabia.

While confusing messages about US military adventures abroad are nothing new for US presidents, they come at a time when US operations are no longer confined to the Middle East.

Recently, clandestine combat has expanded its geographical reach and increasingly involves missions in African countries. It’s part of a concept that Katherine Ebright, an attorney with the Brennan Center’s Freedom and National Security Program, describes as “light footprint warfare,” and it’s not strictly prohibited.

Under a program known as 127e (or 127-echo), US special forces are authorized to train essentially proxy forces to carry out US missions overseas. A survey conducted by the The interception found at least a dozen countries hosted 127th operations from 2017 to 2020. Some environments are well known, such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq, while others in Tunisia, Cameroon and Libya are less well known .

The 127th’s missions are covered by a Congressional War Authorization, approved in 2001, which allows US forces to target al-Qaeda or an “associated force”. This legal leeway – in place for more than two decades – has often been criticized, but attempts to repeal it have failed.

Ebright, the author of a forthcoming report on the legal methods used to prosecute U.S. military operations overseas, said Foreign Police such a broad interpretation risks undermining the democratic accountability of the United States: “We go to the polls, and we don’t know: where are we fighting? Who are we fighting? What is the cost of our fights in US dollars and American lives, as well as civilian lives overseas? »

If the UAE is successful, the United States could make a more transparent force engagement in the near future. Recent reports indicate that the United States could soon conclude a formal defense agreement with the United Arab Emirates, complete with security guarantees, an agreement that Israel has not even benefited from.

Jon Hoffman, writing in Foreign Police on Monday, warned against this approach, arguing that such a move is doomed to failure — investing US resources and credibility in inherently fragile regimes.

“From a strategic perspective, this move risks cementing Washington’s commitment to the main underlying structural problem in the Middle East – the authoritarian status quo – while virtually ceding zero benefit for the United States, especially regarding high oil prices,” Hoffman writes.

What we follow today

The grain of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine progress made on efforts to export grain from Ukraine, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement on Wednesday. The two sides agreed to set up a coordination center to organize the security of maritime routes as well as to establish joint controls on grain leaving Ukrainian ports. The apparent breakthrough came after Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and UN officials met in Istanbul on Wednesday. Akar said a formal agreement will be signed next week.

Protests in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called for a national curfew after another day of protests following the flight of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday.

Protesters stormed Wickremesinghe’s offices on Wednesday, demanding his immediate resignation as he assumes the role of interim president. Wickremesinghe could still keep his caretaker post if the country’s parliament chooses him in a vote scheduled for next week.

Italian politics. The Italian government is in risk of collapse after one of his coalition parties indicated it would not support a vote of confidence tied to a new social spending plan. Giuseppe Conte, leader of the Five Star Movement and former prime minister, said his party would not take part in the vote, a move that could have a domino effect on Italy’s unity government. It’s unclear whether Conte’s move is a bargaining tactic, as his party has been pushing for more generous social spending for weeks.

Keep an eye on

A dark prospect. Kristalina Georgieva, Director of the International Monetary Fund, warned further downward revisions to global economic growth projections in a blog post on Wednesday, citing the impact of war in Ukraine and higher-than-expected inflation.

The prospect of a global recession has also spooked oil markets: benchmark oil prices in the United States have soaked from $121 a barrel to just under $100 over the past 30 days. On Wednesday, Canada took the most aggressive move of any G-7 country to try to rein in inflation, raising interest rates by a full percentage point to 2.5%, its biggest increase ever. occasional since 1998.

Solomon-China relations. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told media on Thursday that his country’s security deal with China do not include a military baseas he sought to assuage Western fears over the country’s warming relationship with China.

“I have said it before and I will say it again, it is in no one’s interest, nor in the interest of the region, that a military base be established in any Pacific island country, let alone Solomon Islands,” Sogavare said.

“I think the reason is simple; the reason is regionalism, as soon as we establish a foreign military base, we immediately become an enemy. And we also place our country and our people as targets for possible military strikes.


An American tourist who fell in the crater of Vesuvius in Italy as he attempted to retrieve his phone survived with only minor injuries. Although the fall did not cost him his life, it may still cost him. Police issued a citation because he and his family hiked an unauthorized trail to the rim of the dormant volcano, allegedly to take a selfie.

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