Standing with the North Korean People Will Advance America’s Interests

June 20 2018

Recalling his own experiences as a dissident and “prisoner of Zion” in the USSR, Natan Sharansky urges President Trump to speak publicly about human-rights abuses in North Korea.

In the case of the Soviet Union, it was a combination of external pressure from world powers and internal pressure from dissidents that ultimately brought down the Iron Curtain. By linking their negotiations with Moscow to the latter’s respect for human rights, Western leaders put the regime on notice that they took the wellbeing of ordinary Soviet citizens seriously, and they gave us dissidents the confidence to challenge the regime knowing that they were on our side.

Sadly, the long-suffering people of North Korea are not yet in such a position. Although President Trump’s meeting with Kim was a historic event with potentially dramatic consequences for nuclear disarmament, it is less clear—though no less important—what effect the meeting will have on the dismal human-rights situation inside the hermit kingdom. . . . [C]urrent and would-be dissidents need reassurance that America and other world powers understand their struggle and will defend their basic rights.

It is unfortunate that some of Trump’s subsequent remarks have conveyed the opposite message. In the meeting’s aftermath, Trump said that Kim had proved himself “very talented” in taking over totalitarian rule from his father and averred that the young dictator “loves his country very much.” Even more troubling, he declared that North Koreans love Kim in return, supporting him with “great fervor.” The president may have been attempting to solidify his newfound goodwill with Kim. Yet his comments are likely to have a deeply dispiriting effect on North Koreans. . . .

There are many situations in which world powers must cooperate with dictators on security issues despite their human-rights abuses. Even in the context of such tactical alliances, however, it is a mistake to praise relations between an unjust regime and those who suffer under it. Soviet dissidents were acutely sensitive to every statement coming from foreign leaders, relying heavily on the knowledge that they kept tabs on our fate and had not abandoned us to our tormentors. Just as standing firmly with dissidents back then furthered the long-term goals of the United States, so too standing with the North Korean people now will advance rather than hinder America’s objectives.

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Read more at Washington Post

More about: Human Rights, Natan Sharansky, North Korea, Politics & Current Affairs, Refuseniks, Soviet Union, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war