The new mideast crisis over Qatar


The Middle East is embroiled in a new crisis, and it has nothing to do with Israel.  Nine Arab nations have cut off all diplomatic and economic ties with the oil-rich emirate of Qatar and are expelling Qatari citizens.

Bahrain has made it a crime, punishable by 5 years in prison and a fine,  for any of its citizens to “express sympathy” for Qatar.  The United Arab Emirates will put you in prison for 15 years for expressing sympathy for Qatar, “whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form.”

Why?  Qatar has been supporting Islamic extremists under the table for years, some of which threaten the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and these other monarchies and emirates.

But the catalyst was a report quoting the Qatari Emir expressing support for Iran and criticizing Donald Trump’s policy towards Iran.  Qatar is supposed to be Sunni Muslim, as are these other Arab countries.  Iran is Shi’ite.   Those two Islamic sects are bitter enemies, sort of like Catholics and Protestants during the 30 Years War.  That a Sunni state would support Iran feels like both heresy and betrayal.

Qatar claims that the Emir said no such thing, that the quote was “fake news” connected to a hack by Russian intelligence. U. S. Intelligence says that this could very well be the case.

At any rate, the uproar over Qatar has turned into a new crisis in the Middle East.

[Read more…]

Donald Trump, diplomat


The liberal Moon Jae-In was elected president of South Korea on a platform of improving relations with North Korea.  This at a time when President Trump wants to get tougher with North Korea.  Moon’s party defeated the conservative, pro-American incumbents.

President Trump reportedly played a role in bringing down our ally’s government and replacing it with one that may be harder to deal with.

Charles Krautthammer tells about how Moon’s opposition party gained big ground over his opponent because of Trump’s trademark off-the-cuff comments about South Korea.  While we were in the midst of talks over co-operation against North Korea, Trump opined that the U.S. should renegotiate its trade deal with South Korea.  He then called for South Korea to pay for the missiles that we want to place there.

This infuriated South Korean voters, who rallied around  Moon, who wants a more arms-length distance from the U.S., as well as a more conciliatory stance towards North Korea.

Read Krautthammer’s account after the jump.

Now Trump wasn’t the only factor in bringing down the government:  the current president had been impeached.  It would be natural for the country to vote out the party that had been so discredited.

But it would certainly help Trump’s presidency if he would learn to govern his tongue.  I know that supporters like it that he says what he thinks.  But now that he is president, his words carry a different weight than they did when he was just a candidate.  Especially in the field of diplomacy, every word must be carefully calculated and nuanced.  And that is not Trump’s style.

He will soon set off on his first set of international visits, meeting with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pope.  The theme will apparently be interacting with representatives of three major world religions, a fraught atmosphere if there ever was one!  Let’s hope the president has learned something about diplomacy from the South Korea fiasco.

Photo:  Moon Jae-in, the liberal beneficiary of President Trump’s spontaneous comments on South Korea, from the Korean Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons

[Read more…]

Trump’s diplomacy

Taiwan_2009_HuaLien_City_Roadside_Cemetery_FRD_8181The diplomatic establishment is all atwitter about Donald Trump’s alleged gaffes, such as taking phone calls from the president of Taiwan and from the president of the Philippines.

Talking to the president of Taiwan is deeply offensive to China.  The phone call is a violation of our “one China” policy and constitutes a tacit recognition of the free democratic nation that China claims for its own.  Never mind that the U.S. gives military aid to the island nation, which is also a major trading partner.  Diplomatically, it doesn’t exist.

But Trump, in refusing to tip-toe around Chinese sensitivities, is simply signaling that he is going to get tough with China, which is what he promised to do in his campaign.

As for Rodrigo Duterte, the foul-mouthed president of the Philippines who is using extra-judicial death squads against drug dealers, he is a pariah. After personally insulting President Barack Obama, Duterte announced that he is cutting back on the long-term military relationship with the U.S. and is going to start favoring China.  Some say that Duterte and Trump are kindred spirits.  We must hope not, at least about the death squads, but Trump may have won over Duterte–who is glowing with the attention from the American president–and thus retained an important military ally.  Which will also torment China.

Read Marc Thiesen’s analysis of Trump’s diplomacy after the jump.

[Read more…]

U.S. & Russia agree on Syria plan

So should Vladimir Putin get the Nobel Peace Prize?  Does this get President Obama out of the mess he was in, turning a fiasco into a victory?

The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on a plan to bring Syrian chemical weapons under international control, a rare diplomatic victory in a brutal civil war that appears to head off a punitive U.S. military strike on Syria in the near future. [Read more…]

Developments on Syria

A reporter asked Secretary of State John Kerry if Syria could do anything to avoid getting attacked.  Off the cuff, Kerry said, sure, get rid of their chemical weapons.  Whereupon the Russian foreign minister seized on the idea, turning it into a proposal.  Whereupon the Syrian foreign minister indicated that the country might be open to that.  Now the rest of the world and much of Congress is rallying around that possibility.  Do you think this proposal is a way out or a delaying tactic?  A diplomatic breakthrough or a Russian ploy to keep Assad in power?

Meanwhile, President Obama will address the nation tonight at 9:00 ET, after a day packed with TV interviews, all in an effort to persuade Americans to persuade their Congressional representatives to let him attack Syria.  I can’t watch the speech, but if you do, live blog it here.  We’ll discuss it tomorrow.

UPDATE:  Syria says it will accept the Russian proposal.  President Obama is revising his speech accordingly.

[Read more…]

“Pontification, Prevarication and Postponement”

Foreign affairs columnist Anne Applebaum (who is not a conservative) on our current international relations debacle:

The central problem of the Obama administration’s Syria policy is not that the president has failed to use military force but that both the president and his top officials have implied that they might use force, then backed away, then once again picked up the rhetoric. To put it bluntly, President Obama has also failed to understand the ways in which an American president’s words will be interpreted around the world. [Read more…]