April 16, 2018
President Trump said on Sunday that he knew he would be demeaned for using the term “mission accomplished”. On that at least he proved to be right.
But what was the mission?
Firstly, to prove at low cost that when Mr. Trump draws a redline, unlike his predecessor, he enforces it; he is a strong leader.
Secondly, to distract attention from his endless internal political problems. Continue reading
April 12, 2018
During the UN Security Council debate on Syria on April 9, Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “What we are dealing with today is not about a spat between the United States and Russia. This is about the inhumane use of chemical agents on innocent civilians…” But, it was about a spat between the two powers. Nobody disputes the fact that the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and displacement of millions in Syria has been a crime of epic proportions. However, Ambassador Haley’s stressing her concern for innocent civilians, and hundreds and hundreds of similar high-level statements of compassion by other countries during the last eight years have been anything but sincere. Regrettably, ending the suffering has never been the top priority for external powers involved in Syria’s proxy wars. These countries were after securing their interests, achieving their strategic/ideological/sectarian objectives, even trying to make sure that Syria is no more. And at this stage, Russia and Iran with decades-old strong links to Damascus seem to be on the winning side. At least, they are in a much stronger position on the battlefield. Continue reading
April 10, 2018
Forty-seven years ago, today, the U.S. table tennis team arrived in China. Later in the year, in July 1971, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a secret trip to China paving the way for Richard Nixon’s own visit. The U.S. President and his Chinese hosts agreed to the joint “Shanghai Communique” of February 27, 1972, in which both nations pledged to work toward the full normalization of diplomatic relations. As part of the effort toward that end, on May 1, 1973, the U.S. opened a liaison office in Beijing to handle all matters in the U.S.-China relationship “except the strictly formal diplomatic aspects of the relationship.” China created a counterpart office in Washington in the same year. Finally, on January 1, 1979, the U.S. recognized People’s Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with it as the sole legitimate government of China. Continue reading
March 28, 2018
It has been two roller coaster weeks.
On March 15, 2018 the US imposed new sanctions on 24 Russian entities and individuals for interfering in the 2016 election and conducting a series of damaging cyberattacks.
On March 20, President Trump called President Putin to congratulate him on his election victory. “We had a very good call, and I suspect that we’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control, but we will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have. And also to discuss Ukraine and Syria and North Korea and various other things” he told reporters.
On March 26, the White House announced the expulsion of sixty Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to an American submarine base and Boeing.
The same day many EU countries and others also made similar announcements. NATO’s expulsion of seven Russian diplomats followed two days later.
EU’s decision to expel Russian intelligence officers was taken at the European Council meeting of March 22-23 in Brussels. The meeting was already on Council’s calendar and the presence of heads of state and government provided an opportunity to address the Salisbury attack and enabled joint action. Continue reading
March 19, 2018
U.K.’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, Moscow’s retaliation, Trump administration’s imposition of new sanctions on Russia, the Joint statement from the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom on the Salisbury attack and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s recent statements is bad news for the people of Syria. Because, these developments signal rising tensions between Russia and the West. Syria’s political transition, on the contrary, depends on their broad cooperation, at least their ability to compartmentalize their disagreements. Continue reading
March 13, 2018
In remarks before the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, 2017 President Trump said that the scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes. On top of his list were North Korea and Iran. He made no distinction between the two. He accused Pyongyang of a reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and called the Iran nuclear deal one of the worst and most one-sided transactions in U.S. history. He said, “the United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, it will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Continue reading
March 7, 2018
The world is in disarray. The Arab Spring threw the Middle East in chaos. Then came the Ukraine conflict and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As the Syrian conflict moved up on the international agenda the former receded. Despite on and off official statements on the unacceptability of Crimea’s annexation, everybody knows that there will be no going back. With a steadily rising China and a resurgent Russia “global realignment” has become a current topic. Now, moreover, there is talk about “Cold War II” and growing investment in military power. The rise of populism and authoritarianism has led to a pessimistic outlook regarding the future of democracy. The EU, a major global economic power, remains divided and ineffective as a foreign policy actor. Its public discourse on democracy and the rule of law has weakened. For a variety of reasons including migration, values are undergoing change. Continue reading