Green Party VP Ajamu Baraka on the Middle East
This interview was recorded in September 2016
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Joining me today in our Baltimore studios is the Green Party Vice Presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka. For four decades he’s fought for our human rights. He’s also a contributor to the Black Agenda Report and Counterpunch.
I thank you for joining us.
BARAKA: It’s my pleasure to be here.
PERIES: So one of the key things that have unfolded this week is that the president Barack Obama’s administration has signed a new MOU with Israel guaranteeing it over 40 billion dollars worth of aid over the next 10 years. Now this is troubling for us because Israel is the greatest ally that the United States has in the Middle East and given the current crisis in Syria and of course Palestine, this kind of endorsement of the government of Israel troubles many in the international community not to mention right here in the United States. What do you make of this policy towards Israel?
BARAKA: IT is quite bizarre. It is unjustifiable. It’s interesting that Mr. Obama would make some perfunctory comment about the two state solution and pretending that they’re concerned about trying to solve this ongoing horror of the Palestinian occupation now going on form more than 67 years. There’s no moral or political justification for the uncritical support given to the Israeli state by the Obama administration. Especially since the government there appears to have no concern for the fundamental rights of Palestinians and no concern for any territorial integrity on the part of the so called two state with the continued rapid expansion of Israeli settlements. So where is the leverage if the US state was really concerned with trying to finally solve this problem? When you decide you’re going to give this state 40 billion dollars. So this is ruse. It’s not serious. It demonstrates the contempt for the intelligence of the people of the US that this charade will continue after all of these years.
PERIES: And as the Green Party, what would your policy towards Israel be?
BARAKA: Our policy would say very clearly that we have to have a resolution of this occupation that results in a settlement that respects and recognizes the rights of Palestinians to self-determination. It says that settlements expansion must halt immediately. It says that the occupation has to be dismantled. It says that there must be a pullback of those settlements if there’s going to be viability in a two state solution. If there’s resistance then it becomes clear to everyone concerned that the only real solution is a one state solution in which every person has equal rights and there’s no special positions based on any ethnic concerns of religious membership. So a secular state in which human rights become the grounding principles for how that state operates.
PERIES: Now one of the arguments that’s been made is that as long as the Syrian conflict is going on, the focus of the super powers like the United States and Russia, not to mention the various parties involved in this proxy war will be what’s happening in Syria that allows Israel to continue to do what it is doing in the Golan Heights and in Palestine. How would you interfere or disrupt that kind of positioning on the part of Israel?
BARAKA: Well again Israel has its own agenda. That agenda sometimes corresponds with the agenda of the US. But we know that they have their own agenda. What we say is that the conflict in Syria has to be resolved. We would use the power of the state to bring about some kind of nation reconciliation of the war in Syria. I don’t consider this to be civil war myself.
But the issue with Israel is that there are powerful forces in this country that still believe that Israel has a role to play in a support power for US dominance in that region. So the justification for continued support is that Israel is facing some kind of existential threat from its neighbors. But if you look at the configuration of forces now in the so called Middle East, one has to ask the question, threat from whom?
The Saudi’s have come on board in our vessels of the US and have reconciled themselves to the existence of Israel and in fact collaborate with them on a number of issues. The Iraqi state doesn’t have the ability to be a threat to Israel. There’s no state in the region except the argument that the Iranians have some type of commitment to doing away with Israel.
But that situation, that conflict between those two powers can also be reconciled. So it is a false narrative that there’s some kind of a threat to Israeli existence and because of that false narrative being embraced by so many people in the US, then Israel is allowed to continue with its criminal behavior in that region. So that has to stop if there’s going to be real stability in that region.
So ending the conflict in Syria, withdrawing support from any state in the region that continues to violate the rights of its citizens including the Saudis and including Israel, imposing a real commitment to resolving these very conflicts has to be at the centerpiece of any administration that’s serious about trying to bring about real stability in that region.
PERIES: So there’s a current ceasefire in Syria and it is temporary in order to open up roads for humanitarian assistance and so on. The stability of Syrian potential continuation of this ceasefire really is dependent on the United States and Russia being able to bring and convince all of its proxies participating in Syria to some order. How does the Green Party plan to deal with this problem if you were in power?
BARAKA: I think it’s clear that every force involved in this conflict has to be part of any solution including the current Syrian government. This notion that the US and Russia will determine the fate of Syrian people to me is a unworkable position. It is a position that denies the voice of the Syrian people and it is a position that has a colonial character that I reject. So if there’s going to be a real resolution then those forces have to be at the table. But at the centerpiece of that has to be the legitimate government of Syria.
PERIES: Who is?
BARAKA: Assad and his state. I mean that is the only–
PERIES: So you support for the time being, maintenance of the current elected government of Assad.
BARAKA: I support international law and the only legitimate, only recognized state in Syria is represented by that individual. So we don’t support regime change in any country. So that has to be the focus in terms of reinstating international law using the good officers of the United Nations to bring about some kind of resolution. But all of the entities that have forces have to be at the table if there’s going to be real resolutions.
PERIES: Now one obvious group that’s not going to be at the table who’s agitating much of the problems for all of the parties involved is ISIS. How do you plan to deal with ISIS?
BARAKA: ISIS has to be isolated politically and its material foundation has to be undermined which means also that those powerful states like the Saudis and individuals in Saudi Arabia that support ISIS and support the Wahhabis movement, they have to be put on notice that continued support will result in international sanctions and prosecutions. There’s US law that can be applied to Saudi citizens who are continuing with their support of international terrorism. But those laws have not been applied to the Saudis. In fact, we know that it’s been the opposite in terms of the relations between the US and the western powers with the Saudis. So one of the major sources of support for international terrorism has in fact been the government and the individuals of Saudi Arabia. So we have to address that issue.
PERIES: Now while that issue is obvious to everyone if you remember, Vice President Bidden slipped in a speech he was giving at American University saying we really have to get our allies under control when it comes to containing terrorism and yet you know 9/11 just passed and we have a resolution that both houses just passed that President Obama plans to veto in terms of whether American citizens can hold Saudi Arabia accountable for 9/11 attacks and whether they can take them to court over it. President Obama plans to veto that bill. What would the Green Party do?
BARAKA: Well it’s obvious that the interest of Obama is to protect their ally in Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t matter to them that there are significant numbers of the American people who are like–for the victims of 9//11 to have that opportunity to have their day in court. So that is another example of the immoral collaboration that we find the US state involved in with a number of unsavory states around the world. Of course the Green Party would be in support of any efforts on the part of people in this country to exercise their right to get at the bottom of what happened with 9/11 and to have an opportunity to bring the Saudi authorities to account.
PERIES: And finally in terms of this segment, we’re looking at a current election cycle where Donald Trump has said he would actually redact and nullify the agreement we have with Iran. Hillary Clinton has said she will honor it as President Obama has been the signatory to this agreement along with P5 plus 1. Now in the case of the Green Party, what is your position when it comes to the nuclear agreement with Iran and how far will you go in terms in protecting that agreement?
BARAKA: I think it’s important for the continuity that those kinds of agreements if they are in conjunction with international law and US law, that they remain intact. There are sufficient safeguards to ensure that the agreements that are supposed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, that those agreements are sufficient to assure that would be the reality. There’s no reason to threaten to undermine that agreement. All that would do would be to further destabilize the region. Of course they’re very powerful forces in the Republican Party and in Israel that would like to see that happen and in Saudi Arabia. But in order to bring about real stability, in order to be able to use the power of the US to bring about peace, it’s important that that agreement stand and that would be our position.
PERIES: Now this is a really important question for world peace. We have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump neck to neck as we speak in terms of the polls and we’re at great risks at having a Trump presidency. So the support that Green Party has across the country has to be weighted in terms of this risk of world peace. And so when it comes to the crunch are you going to ask Green Party members to vote for Hillary Clinton in this election in order to avoid war and conflict in the world?
BARAKA: Absolutely not. That would be a violation of our commitment to democracy. IT would play right into a narrative that we believe is false. This notion that the Democrat Party under Hillary Clinton would be more committed to peace. There’s no evidence to support. I mean we look at what’s happened over the last 8 years under the Obama administration. We’ve had a continuation of the war in Afghanistan. We’ve had the reinvasion of Iraq. We’ve had the attack and destruction of Libya with the consequent destabilization that’s taken place across North Africa. We’ve seen the subversion in Venezuela and across Latin America. We’ve seen some dubious behavior. Question behavior on the part of US intelligence in places like South Africa. We’ve seen the pivot to China.
If that’s not militarism, then what do we call that? So the notion that a Donald Trump presidency would be even wilder than that, to me doesn’t really make sense. Plus, we have the evidence, clear evidence of the direction of the democrats. We have the wild statements on the department of Trump but yet Trump still says things like he’ll be willing to sit down to talk with the Russians. He represents a sector of the ruling element that just wants to do business. So this narrative that we will be safer under a hawkish militaristic democrat named Hillary Clinton, to me is absurd.
PERIES: Alright Mr. Baraka, thank you so much for joining us today.
BARAKA: My pleasure to be with you. Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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