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Foreign policy after the US Election – speakers Jeremy Corbyn & Tariq Ali

Jeremy Corbyn and Tariq Ali spoke at Stop the War Coalition hosted Zoom meeting on 30 November 2020 to discuss the significance of the US election results on UK foreign policy.

The election of Joe Biden has been met with a sense of relief but with a team of right-wing Democrats behind him, along with a largely republican senate, the prospects for a progressive US foreign policy look bleak.

Here in the UK, Boris Johnson's unveiling of a huge military spending increase is designed to please the new US president and demonstrate that the UK remains a devoted ally.

“In Britain, the government has announced a substantial increase in defence expenditure a couple of weeks ago. That increased expenditure is being paid for by public sector cuts, and in particular public sector wage freezes. But it's also being paid for by cuts” Jeremy Corbyn observed.

“In the overseas aid budget, I can think of nothing more crass and irresponsible to do, then at the time of trying to get out to COVID to cut overseas aid and support for international institutions” his concern.

In putting the defence expenditure in the context of cause and effect, Mr Corbyn said, “We are all fed this diet, that there is no alternative to what's being said by our betters all around the world, and that we have to spend more on defence in order to protect ourselves from insecurity when the reality is we should be confronting the reasons for that insecurity, which are largely poverty, economic inequality, and environmental change, but also recognise around the world that there are huge spirits of rebellion”.

Concerned for the victims of wars, mostly brought about by Western powers, Mr Corbyn said, “I'm thinking particularly of Iraq, and Libya at the present time. But there are other examples. And then there are the 60 odd million people or refugees in the world who are victims of all of that, and environmental and human rights disasters as well”.

“There's an awful lot for us on the left to grasp hold of, but above all, to have that global perspective, the right and the racist have no answer to any of this.

“The warmongers can only bring us another war, and more destruction that goes with it, as sadly we predicted in 2003 at that massive demonstration we held in Hyde Park or held all over the world at that time” he said.

Mr Corbyn thinks we need to be in close contact and collaboration with our friends in the United States, as well as all over the world to ensure that global movement is strong in defence of justice, for peace for human rights, but above all, for one of global equality.

Regarding any US foreign policy shift after Trump, Mr Corbyn pointed out, “Biden has committed himself to a very high level of military expenditure. And through the new secretary of state Blinken, has made it very clear they see their importance of re-establishing American leadership around the world without specifying exactly what that means”.

“But I think they will seek to re-establish the norm of relations with Europe, with NATO, will continue the crazy cold war against Russia where when a more rational person would say, let's have that human rights and peace dialogue with Russia and recognise the real issues facing the world - global inequalities, global poverty and environmental destruction -rather than going to increased military tensions” he continued.

“The issues around the world of military tensions are huge. And the biggest military tension is in the Middle East at the moment. The Saudi Arabian bombing and continue to campaign against Yemen. And the huge tensions that are rising between Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, and the determination of the Trump administration to stoke up those tensions, rather than reduce them” he said.

“And the British government's huge sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, which is something that I believe should have been stopped some time ago, which would have helped to bring about a peace process in Yemen and hopefully, a permanent ceasefire with a political solution” Mr Corbyn said.

While talking about the Middle East situation, Mr Corbyn could not mention Israel, perhaps because of the hostile and fearful Labour party environment under the new 'leadership'!

Tariq Ali felt that nothing much is going to happen to foreign policy under Biden. Some changes could include:

“Having got rid of Trump and his capacity to annoying, antagonise large numbers of his European allies, they will now move to get Europe on the same track again, and on most issues, carry on as before” Tariq Ali said.

“I think Biden will carry on with the China policy, which Trump launched of targeting China economically, attacking it ideologically, something they didn't do prior to Trump, though, tensions were rising because of the Chinese economic situation and the Chinese miracle, as some call it, and that I think they will proceed with which will mean and could mean, bringing Japan more into the US foreign policy adventures abroad.

“They've already done it, partially in Afghanistan, partially elsewhere - whether they will grant to Japanese the right to have nuclear weapons, I don't know, to be perfectly honest. But if China is the main economic target, then all the US assets in that region - Japan, South Korea, Australia - will be badly needed and Europe will have to be brought on site” he said.

Mr Ali appeared more unrestricted to talk about any policy changes in the Middle East, “I don't think too much will change. I think as far as Israel is concerned, there's no question of going back for Biden and Kamala Harris, and the Antony Blinken, the new Secretary of State, on reverting to the status quo ante. I think, effectively, the Western powers have decided to forget about what Israel is going to do and is doing to the Palestinians every single day” said Mr Ali.

Mr Ali felt for having a strong anti-war movement in the United States, “That's what we really need something that's been missing now, for a long time, bearing in mind and remembering that the United States is an imperial state. It's the only Imperial state in the world. And therefore politicians as such have to operate within those parameters” he said.

Reflecting on the appointment of Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, Mr Ali said, “This was a guy who when the democrats had a majority in the Senate, was secretary to the Foreign Relations Committee. He backed the Iraq War. He's backed the policies on Israel, Palestine. And he backed the Libyan war, which even Biden did not, which Obama caved into”. 1/12/2020