Commentary

Can Congress End the Cuba Embargo? Many Republicans Want the Embargo to Fall

 A left-right coalition, supported by the president and public opinion, could successfully push Congress to end the Cuba embargo.

Can Republicans nostalgic for the Cold War block President Obama from taking executive actions to improve US diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba? Could a Republican-led Congress vote to end the US embargo? Some Republican leaders were quick to denounce President Obama's announcement that the United States was restoring ties with Cuba. But how many divisions do these Cold War dead-enders control?

On whether Republicans can follow through on threats to block the president, Associated Press is skeptical:

This Week, Senate Democrats Can Limit the ISIS War

At long last, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote this week on an authorization for the use of force for the war against ISIS that started in early August. There is little doubt that a majority of the committee supports the use of force against ISIS. What will be revealed this week is what limits the committee will support in authorizing the use of force.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed to prohibit the use of U.S. ground troops in combat except for rescue missions and "limited operations against high-value targets" -- that is, against terrorist leaders who directly threaten the United States. Kaine's proposed authorization would expire in one year unless renewed by Congress and would require the White House to give legislators a list of groups that might be covered by the authorization because they are associated with the Islamic State.

Warren and Sanders: Missing Voices for Iran Diplomacy?

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are increasingly seen as leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, largely as a result of being the most talked-about alternatives among progressives to Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

Progressives who are most enthusiastic about Warren and Sanders tend to be those most engaged on the issues of challenging Wall Street and corporate power and making the economy work for the majority of working families. It's obvious why those issues are at the top of the marquee as people fight about 2016.

But if you're going to be an alternative to Hillary, you have to be an alternative to Hillary all the way around, not just on corporate power and the economy. That doesn't mean, of course, that you have to have the most progressive position on any issue that anyone can imagine -- that's obviously not how it goes. But if most Democrats have a progressive position on an issue, you should not be far away from majority Democratic opinion.

Torture Report: Mark Udall's World-Historical Moment to Rescue CIA Oversight

 "Time Is Running Out on the CIA Torture Report," the National Journal reports:

Concerned About ISIS, But Also About Endless War? Back Limits on the Use of Force

In response to the U.S. bombing of Islamic State ["ISIS"] fighters in Iraq and Syria, which Congress has never explicitly approved, Members of Congress long concerned about presidents and Congresses skirting the Constitutional role of Congress in deciding when the U.S. will use military force have introduced H. Con. Res. 114, "Urging Congress to debate and vote on a statutory authorization for any sustained United States combat role in Iraq or Syria."

On Israeli land grab, State Dept calls for reversal but lays out no consequences

In response to Israel's recent announcement declaring nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank "state land" with the intention of expanding settlements in the Etzion bloc, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki issued the following statement:

We are deeply concerned about the declaration of a large area as 'state land' to be used for expanded settlement building. We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity. We call on the Government of Israel to reverse this decision.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Psaki was asked whether the US was planning any consequences if Israel fails to heed the US's call to reverse its decision. Here's the exchange:

QUESTION: [Y]ou said that if the appropriation in the West Bank and if these rumored or reported new announcements go ahead, it would send a very troubling message – it would send a very troubling message if they proceed.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any consequence to that --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- if they proceed?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any consequences to lay out for you, Matt. I think it’s important for us – not just the United States but there are a range of countries in the international community that have been clear about not only their opposition but their own intentions. I’m not going to speak to those. I speak for the United States.

The issue came up again during Wednesday's press briefing:

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s no secret about our position and our view on the legitimacy of settlements.

QUESTION: No, no. But I mean specific – but specifically, do you know --

Sunset an Authorization for the Use of Force in Iraq

Judging from press reports, when Congress returns from its August recess in early September, the United States military will have been bombing "Islamic State" fighters in Iraq for a month, with a broader set of missions than originally advertised, and with plans to continue bombing for months.


The United States Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution require that such a war be authorized by Congress in order to continue. We cannot accept that such major decisions about the use of our power and resources, putting U.S. soldiers at risk and shaping the perceptions of the world about us by shedding the blood of foreigners that we don't know, be made indefinitely behind closed doors by executive fiat.

Gaza Blockade Hangs Fire in Cairo: Where Is the Anti-War Left?

The greatest struggle facing the anti-war movement in the United States is the struggle to get people who come to anti-war demonstrations after a war starts to engage politically to prevent the same wars in the future. In the case of U.S. policy towards Iran, we created a political movement to support diplomacy with Iran to prevent war in the future. But in the case of Gaza, there is no political movement in the United States to support diplomacy to prevent war in the future.

Consider:

1. While Israel was bombing and invading Gaza, there were demonstrations across the United States against the war and against U.S. support for the war.

Tens of Thousands Descend on Washington to March for Gaza


Organizers estimated 50,000 protesters marched on Washington to demand an end to US support of Israel's operation in Gaza on August 2, 2014.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators from across the country descended on Washington, DC, to call for an end to US support for Israel's latest military operation in Gaza. The demonstration included a march to the Washington Post and Caterpillar headquarters, where protesters delivered mock coffins to symbolize the over 1,600 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed in Israel's onslaught. The march began and ended at the White House, where speakers such as Cornel West addressed the massive crowd.

At one point in the march, organizers had to reroute the procession because the front of the march was about to collide with the rear. In one section of the route, motorists were at a standstill as a dense stream of protesters passed. Organizers said that the march spanned twelve blocks—road and sidewalks included—leading to an estimate of 50,000 attendees.

The large turnout and presence of a diverse group of solidarity activists made a particular impact on some Palestinian-American demonstrators. "It gives me hope," a Palestinian-American woman from Connecticut said.

Thousands have been demonstrating in cities around the world since Israel's operation began on July 8. Palestinian solidarity protests throughout the United States have drawn record crowds demanding that the US stop its support of Israel's killing of Palestinians in Gaza. The US gives over $3 billion in taxpayer money to the Israeli government each year, and Congress recently approved $255 million in additional funding for Israel's Iron Dome.

Americans for Peace Now Backs Kerry on Gaza Ceasefire

 Americans for Peace Now Backs Kerry on Gaza Ceasefire

Robert Naiman, Daily Kos, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/30/1317767/-Americans-for-Peace-Now-Backs-Kerry-on-Gaza-Ceasefire