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Why Erdogan’s Syria summit that excludes the United States is a good thing

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Why Erdogans Syria summit that excludes the United States is a good thing

Turkey has been systematically cutting ties with the United States for several years now. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been exploring improved relations with Europe, Russia, and China, though has found limited success. One of his biggest victories is coming up as Istanbul hosts leaders from Russia, France, and Germany to discuss the future of Syria.

Washington DC has had their feathers ruffled ever since it was announced the United States would not be included in the summit. This is unnecessary. In fact, it’s a positive thing that others are willing to take the lead in a nation that should hold very little interest to the United States.

If they’re willing to take the lead financially in rebuilding Syria as well, then our exclusion is a wonderful thing.

For too long, America has not only been the police force of the world but has also been knee deep in addressing humanitarian concerns such as the turmoil that has engulfed Syria for half-a-decade. The problems in Syria have dramatic effects outside of the nation as refugees continue to flood Europe. Meanwhile, Russia has maintained a military presence there, a move that troubles DC. If it weren’t for that fact, it’s possible we wouldn’t even be offended by our exclusion at the summit.

Even with Russia’s increased Middle Eastern presence, the benefits of not getting involved greatly outweigh the threats of Russia’s military presence there. Our focus on this important region must be on allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt while also keeping an eye on enemies such as Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Syria is only a relevant player as a passageway for weapons to reach the enemies of Israel.

Our presence at the summit is not necessary to assist Israel in that regard.

Interested parties must be allowed to act on their own when our own interests are not in play. Those who argue Syria’s strategic importance to the United States could make similar arguments about nearly every nation in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. It’s easy to find tangential importance to our interests.

When seen through a lens of discernment devoid of ego, our presence at this and future summits is not necessary. Feathers get ruffled when politicians think, “how dare they meet without us,” instead of what they should be thinking, which is “good for them that they’re stepping up to address their problems without us holding their hands.”

The love-hate relationship between the United States and the rest of the world can be most easily mitigated when we are willing to put our efforts and dollars towards things that directly affect us. Instead, we tend to have a foreign policy that embraces the butterfly-effect. By this flawed thinking, any movement anywhere could eventually affect our interests, so we need to be everywhere at all times.

It’s not sustainable. It never has been.

It’s also not healthy and oftentimes proves to be detrimental to us and the outside interests we try to influence.

If Russia wants their military to not be surrounded by chaos, let them take the lead.

If Germany and France want to rebuild Syria so some of the millions of refugees can return home, let them take the lead.

If Turkey wants to be the center of the Islamic world, let them take the lead.

If China wants to get involved financially, let them take the lead.

As strange as it may seem, we do not have to be isolationists to recognize the need for other countries to step up. Our absence in Syria will not hurt the rebuilding process, nor will it reduce our influence in the region. Let them handle it.

Reference

Turkey’s Erdogan Hosts Syria Summit Without US

https://www.voanews.com/a/european-russian-leaders-join-erdogan-at-summit-on-syrian-civil-war/4630443.htmlMoscow has said the Idlib deal is working and Ankara is complying with its side of the agreement. Under the terms of the deal, Ankara agreed to secure the withdrawal of radical groups and rebel heavy weapons from a newly created demilitarized zone between rebel and regime forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to use the summit to work on consolidating the Idlib deal.

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Foreign Affairs

State Department denies claims MBS involved in Khashoggi killing

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State Department denies claims MBS involved in Khashoggi killing

Yesterday, reports were flying across the news wire that the CIA had concluded Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department issued a statement today denying the claim, stating no conclusion has been reached.

My Take

This is a lie. The State Department has seen and heard the mountains of evidence. The various cover stories put forth by the Saudi government have been hollow and debunked. They aren’t investigating further. They’re simply buying time and hoping other stories will help sweep this one under the rug.

Either MBS is so incompetent and disrespected that members of his own team went behind his back to murder someone, or he gave the order. The fact that Saudi Arabia wants us to buy the “rogue killer” is absolutely pitiful.

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Economy

Pacific Rim summit highlights strained China-US relations

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Pacific Rim summit highlights strained China-US relations

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (AP) — A meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea has highlighted divisions between global powers the U.S. and China and a growing competition for influence in the usually neglected South Pacific.

The 21 nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby struggled to bridge differences on issues such as trade protectionism and reforming the World Trade Organization, making it likely their final statement Sunday will be an anodyne document.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and China’s President Xi Jinping traded barbs in speeches on Saturday. Pence professed respect for Xi and China but also harshly criticized the world’s No. 2 economy for intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and unfair trading practices.

In Port Moresby, the impact of China’s aid and loans is highly visible. But the U.S. and allies are countering with efforts to finance infrastructure in Papua New Guinea and other island states. The U.S. has also said it will be involved in ally Australia’s plan to develop a naval base with Papua New Guinea.

On Sunday, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan and Australia said they’d work with Papua New Guinea’s government to bring electricity to 70 percent of its people by 2030. Less than 20 percent have a reliable electricity supply.

“The commitment of the United States of America to this region of the world has never been stronger,” said Pence at a signing ceremony. A separate statement from his office said other countries are welcome to join the electrification initiative provided they support the U.S. vision of a free and open Pacific.

China, meanwhile, has promised $4 billion of finance to build the the first national road network in Papua New Guinea, among the least urbanised countries in the world.

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Foreign Affairs

The Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

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Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

The United States is at a foreign affairs crossroads. One of our most important allies in the most important region in the world is being led by a man that U.S. intelligence (and pretty much everybody else) believes ordered the murder of a journalist living in our nation and writing for one of its biggest news outlets. How can we reconcile between what’s right and what’s smart?

Further evidence was leaked today that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The CIA concluded this based on multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence, including phone calls intercepted between Khashoggi and Mohammed’s brother assuring Khashoggi’s safety if he went to the Saudi consulate where was murdered.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-concludes-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-jamal-khashoggis-assassination/2018/11/16/98c89fe6-e9b2-11e8-a939-9469f1166f9d_story.html?utm_term=.718b2d26599cThe CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

Among the intelligence assembled by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio, and the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, has listened to it.

This is much more complicated than deciding whether or not to punish Mohammed. The stakes are unfathomably high, including balance of power in the Middle East, a potential oil crisis that could cripple the world economy, and the future of a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, what’s right and what’s smart are diametrically opposed in this situation.

What’s right?

Every ounce of evidence points to the near-certainty that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a permanent residence of the United States who lived in Virginia and worked at the Washington Post. While not a citizen, he lawfully earned the right to fall under our nation’s protections.

The right thing to do is to condemn the Crown Prince, even if that will irreversibly damage our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What’s smart?

Based on the current geopolitical status quo, Saudi Arabia is our best proxy to keep Iran in check in the Middle East. They are also the reason the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency despite efforts by Russia, China, and other nations to change that. This status allows the dollar to maintain artificial stability. There are many factors in play that could cripple the dollar if Saudi Arabia and OPEC started dealing in other currencies, bur national debt alone would be enough to catastrophically collapse our entire economy if the world had the means to turn its collective back on us.

Saudi Arabia and the so-called “petrodollar” is the force that maintains the illusion of stability.

The arms we sell Saudi Arabia account for a substantial chunk of revenue and jobs in the United States, but more importantly it gives them the technological edge they need over Iran. If the Saudis turn to Russia or China, our influence over the region would diminish greatly.

The smart thing to do is to sweep this under the rug. Throw symbolic punishment at some sacrificial Saudi lambs and move on.

Time for change

There is no way to do what’s right and still do what’s smart, so it would seem the White House has to pick between the two.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps there’s a third option.

Even if we do the “right” thing by condemning Saudi Arabia Mohammed, ties will not deteriorate immediately. There will be a wind down during which time the Saudis will be looking for other partners and the Americans will be trying to salvage the relationship.

What if we didn’t? What if we acknowledged for the first time that Saudi Arabia is more than just the country that murdered Khashoggi. Their human rights record is atrocious. They have directly or indirectly harmed the United States for years, including a significant role in terrorist attacks. They spread Wahhabism across the world. If you haven’t heard much about Wahhabism, it’s because the radical Islamic sect that drives the House of Saud is protected from media scrutiny. See Network, which only partially satirizes the influence the Saudis have on U.S. media.

Saudi Arabia is a horrible ally. They’re necessary because we’ve made them necessary, but if we drastically cut budgets and spending, the economic ramifications of a break with them would be mitigated. It’s time to make deals with nations that do not smile at us in public and subvert us in private. Nations that do not like us, including Brazil and Venezuela, could be brought under our wing to replace Saudi Arabia on the oil front. It’s unimaginable now, but we live in fast-moving times.

Also, build the Keystone XL pipeline.

As for stability in the Middle East, it’s time we go all-in with Israel. They are the only true democracy and the one nation in the Middle East we can count on to not stab us in the back. They are capable of being the check against Iran. Abandon all talks of a two-state solution, work with Israel as our primary proxy in the Middle East, and make Saudi Arabia turn to others for support.

All of this sounds dangerous because, well, it is. The dominoes that will fall when we take drastic measures against Saudi Arabia will be painful. But there’s one thing to consider before balking at this. We may be heading in this direction already. The difference is it wouldn’t be us initiating (and therefore prepared for) these changes. Saudi Arabia has been quietly seeking a better deal for decades. They haven’t found it yet, but someday they will. When that happens, they’ll pull the rug out from under us.

We should be the ones pulling the rug. If we’re not, the permanent repercussions will be devastating.

Radical change in our foreign affairs stance is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the worst kind of ally to rely upon, not just because of Khashoggi but because of everything else they’ve done. None of this seems feasible now, but it may be the only path forward.

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