This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Iran in the Trump Era

Eric Schewe

JSTOR Daily

President Trump’s January 3, 2020, decision to order a drone assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq has backfired in spectacular fashion. Less than two months ago, the streets of nearly every major city in Iran were choked with more than 200,000 anti-regime protestors. They chanted slogans against recent increases in gas prices and income inequality. They set fire to hundreds of banks and other businesses.

Trump’s abrupt withdrawal, two years ago, from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program has had a strong impact on Iran’s economy. Severe U.S. sanctions have suppressed Iranian oil exports and led to spiraling inflation. The sanctions enact a collective punishment of the Iranian people for the actions of their political leaders, meeting the demands of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American right wing. (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

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Qasem Soleimani brutalised the Middle East, but the bloodshed is far from over

Oz Katerji

New Statesman

Nobody saw it coming. Nobody. General Qasem Soleimani, the most feared man in the Middle East, was assassinated in Baghdad by a US drone strike in the early hours of Friday morning, and not a single Middle East analyst, journalist or pundit had seen it coming. When disbelief finally faded and reality set in, the confirmation of the news that the commander of Iran’s Quds Force had been assassinated on orders from Washington sent shockwaves around the world. We were and are witnessing an era-defining moment for the Middle East.

The Soleimani era is over, not a single person predicted it, and not a single person knows what will happen as a result for the region, or for the world. And that is terrifying. “A multitude of mixed feelings, but ‘fear’ is the dominant one,” tweeted Iraqi journalist and editor of Irfaa Sawtak, Rasha Al Aqeedi. “God-like figures aren’t supposed to die. When they do, it gets very confusing.” (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

(Image: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times / Redux)

War Is Not Over: What the Optimists Get Wrong About Conflict

Tanisha M. Fazal and Paul Poast

Foreign Affairs

The political turmoil of recent years has largely disabused us of the notion that the world has reached some sort of utopian “end of history.” And yet it can still seem that ours is an unprecedented era of peace and progress. On the whole, humans today are living safer and more prosperous lives than their ancestors did. They suffer less cruelty and arbitrary violence. Above all, they seem far less likely to go to war. The incidence of war has been decreasing steadily, a growing consensus holds, with war between great powers becoming all but unthinkable and all types of war becoming more and more rare.

This optimistic narrative has influential backers in academia and politics. At the start of this decade, the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker devoted a voluminous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, to the decrease of war and violence in modern times. Statistic after statistic pointed to the same conclusion: looked at from a high enough vantage point, violence is in decline after centuries of carnage, reshaping every aspect of our lives “from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.” (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

 (Evan Vucci)

(Image: Evan Vucci)

Stop calling Trump a ‘Russian dupe.’ The truth is much worse

Greg Sargent

Washington Post

You hear it constantly: President Trump is a “Russian dupe.” Republicans spreading lies about Ukrainian interference in 2016 are Vladimir Putin’s “useful idiots.” By getting Trump to adopt those lies rather than admit to Russian interference, the Russian leader has skillfully played on Trump’s “ego.”

As the impeachment inquiry heads into its next phase, such phrases will be everywhere. In a New York Times editorial that excoriates Trump and Republicans over the Ukraine lie, we get this: “In Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin found the perfect dupe to promote even the most crackpot of theories.”

It’s time for a reconsideration of this concept. We need to be much clearer on why Trump himself is doing these things — that is, on his true purpose in employing these lies to serve his own corrupt interests. (Read more)

 

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

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(Image: Brian Denton/New York Times)

The Jungle Prince of Delhi

Ellen Barry

New York Times

On a spring afternoon in 2016, when I was working in India, I received a telephone message from a recluse who lived in a forest in the middle of Delhi.

The message was passed on by our office manager through Gchat, and it thrilled me so much that I preserved it.

Office manager: Ellen have you been trying to get in touch with the royal family of Oudh?

Ellen: this has to be the best telephone message ever

Office manager: It was quite strange! The secretary left precise instructions for when you should call her — tomorrow between 11 am and 12 noon

Ellen: oh my god

I knew about the royal family of Oudh, of course. They were one of the city’s great mysteries. Their story was passed between tea sellers and rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers in Old Delhi: In a forest, they said, in a palace cut off from the city that surrounds it, lived a prince, a princess and a queen, said to be the last of a storied Shiite Muslim royal line.

There were different versions, depending on whom you spoke to. Some people said the Oudh family had been there since the British had annexed their kingdom, in 1856, and that the forest had grown up around the palace, engulfing it. Some said they were a family of jinns, the supernatural beings of Arabian folklore. (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Why Turkey Turned Its Back on the United States and Embraced Russia

(Image: Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Aaron Stein

Foreign Affairs

Turkey’s fraught relationship with the United States has been in a downward spiral for years. Divided over an ever-lengthening list of issues, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian turn to the United States’ refusal to extradite a Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish government, the putative allies are increasingly at odds. Yet there is still a widespread belief among U.S. policymakers and national security professionals that despite the superficial hostility, the Turkish national security elite continues to view the United States as an indispensable ally. Ankara cannot secure its national interests without working with the U.S. government, or so the thinking goes.

But since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which paved the way for a more assertive Kurdish regional government, Turkey has viewed the United States as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. U.S. support for Kurdish militias in Syria has cemented that view in Ankara, driving Turkey into Russia’s arms and raising questions about the country’s commitment to NATO. For proof of how little faith Turkey places in Washington these days, look no further than its plan to acquire Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system. (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Indian Rebellion of 1857: Sepoys rebelling in Delhi

(Image: Culture Club/Getty Imaged)

Britain’s story of empire is based on myth. We need to know the truth

Priyamvada Gopal

The Guardian

These days we’ve become wearily accustomed to depictions of Brexit Britain as oppressed by a villainously imperial Europe. Annexed “without permission”, Nigel Farage claimed melodramatically, defending Brexit party MEPs against charges of “disrespecting” the European Parliament. In a particularly far-fetched comparison, Ann Widdecombe MEP has compared Brexit with the resistance of “slaves against their owners” and “colonies against empires”. Prime ministerial frontrunner Boris Johnson too has spoken of Britain’s supposed “colony status” in the EU though, with a familiar double standard, he also believes that it would be good if Britain was still “in charge” of Africa.

These bizarre comparisons can be made and go unchallenged because the stark fact remains that most Britons know very little about the history of the empire itself, still less the way in which its long afterlife profoundly shapes both Britain and the wider world today. (Read more)

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