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Did Joe Biden Inadvertently Greenlight Genocide in Ethiopia?

Image of US President Joe Biden. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On Monday, January 10, President Joe Biden spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed about the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia. The readout of their conversation was boilerplate. “Both leaders underscored the importance of the U.S.-Ethiopia relationship, the potential to strengthen cooperation on a range of issues, and the need for concrete progress to resolve the conflict,” the White House reported.

While Biden raised “concern” about airstrikes, the White House statement did not mention that just two days before Biden’s telephone call, the Ethiopian leader ordered an airstrike on a displaced persons camp that killed at least 57 civilians and injured more than 100 more, including dozens of children.

That, in turn, led international aid organizations to suspend work in the region that was probably the disgraced Nobel laureate’s goal in the first place. On the day of the Biden-Abiy call, an Ethiopian drone strike killed an additional 17 in Tigray.

While the president lauded Abiy for releasing a handful of political prisoners, he ignored Abiy’s blockade on Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where millions of people now face starvation because of Abiy’s desire for collective punishment against an entire ethnic group. This is akin to the diplomatic finesse it would take to praise Attila the Hun for reducing prison overcrowding but ignoring that he did so by building pyramids out of human skulls.

The White House also failed to mention that Abiy’s cosmetic softening comes against the backdrop of increased Eritrean meddling, Eritrea’s turn toward China, and Ethiopia’s use of Emirati, Chinese, Iranian, Israeli and Turkish drones in Tigray at a time when Abiy postures on peace.

Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan may believe that boilerplate diplomatic rhetoric is standard and sophisticated, but when it ignores reality, they can have a high cost. By whitewashing Abiy’s actions and promising strengthened ties, the White House effectively signaled no consequence for Abiy’s continued pursuit of genocide.

Indeed, Abiy’s take away from the conversation was not the need to reform his behavior, but rather that he could continue his current actions and still restore frayed ties with the United States. This in turn signals a tragedy that will mark a preventable humanitarian crisis on par with the Biden administration’s abandonment of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and co-editor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).



  1. nick

    January 11, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    nice article

  2. mustafa.aljb

    January 11, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    One of the best articles I read today..

  3. mesfin

    January 11, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    Mr Rubin how ignorant u r? self damaging ossessed with hate ! When did u join TPLF’S payroll? at leat the rest of ethiopia and nutral white scholars gave you apploude had u wrote a fair article ! such junke rethoric and unblanced statments are trush.
    Who start the war? who is TPLF , what kind of subjugation, killing, looting happened the last 27 yr by TPLF to ethiopian? How many missile fired to Eritrea During the war ? how many missile TPLF fire to his own brothers in Gondar and Gojam?
    The atrocities, masacaring, raping, looting, destroying clinics, hospitals , Schools and infrustructuring while TPLF advansing to Addis Ababa was simply unimaginable but the EU and US never say about the destruction committed by TPLF. do not forget you are pushing a 110 million population once Ethiopia colapse , the entire Europe will face unimaginable influx of refugees with biblical proportion. Ethiopia will be an incubation of terrorist group land. EU and US will pay the unltimate price. So do not be an idiot !! I wonder where did u get all these cridentials!!

  4. Katua

    January 11, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    Nicly written to convice the world without any concrete evidence whether the people died due the strike are actually civillians. I don’t like anyone to die but the past few months’s of experince suggest a lot. 1) It is difficult to diferentiate civilians and fighters (all ages and non-uniform people are in the fight), 2) a lot of mainstrem media, people, governmnets, and the so called aidworkers are in the TPLF’s network and can not trust what they say (I have never heard of them talking about attrocities done by TPLF), c) the writter of this article (also many) never talked about >1000 aid trucks transporting fighters (even never aknowledged these trucks transorted aid), d) when one fight and the other defend (Ethiopian governmet), how on earth someone ask to the defender to stop the war? Does this mean the governmnet should stop fighting and wait them in Addis with flower? e) Who is actually doing the blockade? TPLF does this to get attention from international community. Finally, I really feel sad that my brothers and sisters are killing each other and people (like this writter) enjoy it and wok hard to thier own benefit. Ethiopians should wake up and stop fighting and listen to each other, which is the only way to win those who want Ethiopia to dismantle for thier benefit.

  5. AH

    January 11, 2022 at 11:54 pm

    I can clearly see that this writter was given what to write by TPLF. He only copy pasted from his email sent what was sent to him by TPLF with a good money transfer thanks to 30 billion dolar looted by TPLF during the worst 27 years of their Ethiopian governance full of human right violations.

  6. Al Amir

    January 12, 2022 at 3:49 am

    Well if the objective of the article is to come up with yet another fabricated story to pile pressure on US policy makers, then this would be just one of the millions of coordinated lies or misinformation by writers like you and western mainstream media on the state of affairs in Ethiopia. The least i would expect from such decorated researcher was an attempt for a little more investigation to fully understand the situation on the ground rather than base opinion on biased information from sources that are serving the interests of western powers. #No More for lies or academic prostitution

  7. franco

    January 12, 2022 at 4:45 am

    @mesfin, You are talking nonsense dude, U claim to say Amhara and afar civilians are the only the sole victims while in fact the vast majority who are starving are in Tigray and u insisted that the blockade was done by the tplf while aid agencies are blaming the government. You are just being brainwashed by your government’s propaganda and also it is constantly preaching hate speech and genocidal campaign. All sides are victim of the war there is no sole victim. Government’s repeated denial that nothing is happening in Tigray is just ridiculous and saddening. Finally you said the war was started by the tplf against Ethiopia and Eritrea which makes no sense brother how would a paramilitary group go in war with two well respected and strong military armies in Africa. Whether who started the war lets say, Eritrea should be held accountable.

  8. Obbo Gannoo

    January 12, 2022 at 5:58 am

    Here we ago again: another “white TPLF” joining the likes of Martin Plaut and Alex de Waal. Come on, dude, cut Abiy some slack. Dr. Abiy has come a long way, and he still commands the respect of the majority of Ethiopians. And this article, I guarantee you, will not make a single difference in the grand scheme of things since Abiy will continue to be the Prime Minister of Ethiopia for the foreseeable future.

  9. Mulugheta H

    January 12, 2022 at 6:15 am

    Thank u Rubin for standing on truth

    US authorities though condemned the atrocities on people b of Tigray, equally on pretext of saving Ethiopians unity, they sacrificed Tigray.
    So their soft approach sugure coated Abi Ahmed n made him to negligently take devastating actions.

  10. Negussie

    January 12, 2022 at 6:52 am

    It is a one-sided report that tries to diminish the efforts of Dr. Abiy towards bringing peace in Ethiopia. No word is said about the TPLF Mafiosi group as if they are clean and does not involve in creating chaos in Ethiopia and trying to destabilize and toppling the Ethiopian government by attacking The North defense command. This group is the one that aggravates the humanitarian crisis that occurred in Tigray by creating war in Afar and Amhara Regional states through which aid can only be delivered. Attacking only Dr. Abiy selectively cannot bring any long-lasting solution. TPLF’s deadly mistakes must be raised to the front. Because of this, I found your post to be an irrelevant and one-sided one. So, its worthiness is found to be questionable.

  11. Dawit Abay

    January 12, 2022 at 7:20 am

    Thank you. This is humanity at best. Ethiopia is a country where ignorance, poverty and cruelty meet and produce a national identity based on hatred to ethnic Tigrayans as some of the above badly written comments show. There is always a justification to cover whenever a Tigrayan is a victim. It is either his/her fault or it was necessary that he/she suffer or die. Blessed are those who were not born in these countries like Ethiopia.

  12. Obbo Gannoo

    January 12, 2022 at 5:05 pm

    @Dawit Abay just because you disagree with certain comments, it doesn’t mean they are “badly written” as you mentioned. It’s typical that you guys tend to confuse TPLF and Tigrayan people together so that you cry and moan “genocide” where no genocide exists. The people of Ethiopia have nothing against the people of Tigray; rather it’s the treasonous TPLF that has been hoodwinking the people of Tigray into convincing them TPLF stand for the people. TPLF are a selfish and violent organization that chose to attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government of Abiy Ahmed. When that didn’t work, thank God, the usual rolling on the ground crying “Call it genocide” continues, but even that is losing traction mostly due to the horrendous atrocities committed by TPLF troops in Afar and Amhara regions. The Tigray people need another party that can peacefully represent them, and the unity of Ethiopia is sacrosanct and ethnic federalism is the worst thing that ever happened to Ethiopia. It’s no wonder ethnic federalism is in its final death throes. The TPLF are such troglodytes that they still believe in a violent take-over of governments when other, peaceful means exist.

  13. @fekadud

    January 12, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    The fake but organised article for the purpose of falsely accusing the government of Ethiopia. Absolutely one sided and doesn’t even balance what is happening. I wouldn’t write an article to benefit some organisation because I affiliated or told to do so, this article is a best example of fake articulation and absolutely biased!! How many civilians have been deliberately killed by TPLF, how many public service have been distorted by this terrorist in Amhara and Afar, how this is not a genocide for you? The killing happened that you are blaming is not even 1% of the killing that did buy TPLF. Where were you at that time?

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