Hundreds of fighters from the self-declared Islamic State (ISIS) — which the Kurds did more than anyone to defeat — have been freed from prison.
Trump doesn’t care, saying, “They’re going to be escaping to Europe.” No matter that’s where America’s best friends are, or used to be.
Turkey has attacked an American commando outpost in Syria.
Abandoned by the West, the Kurds are appealing to Bashar Assad and his patron, Vladimir Putin, for help. Read more
Turkey’s Purchase of a Russian Missile System, Explained
Russia sent Turkey a seventh batch of components for the S-400 missile defense system over the weekend. According to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, all S-400 missiles will be deployed by April 2020.
Erdoğan has also said he is planning to send specialists to Russia for training on how to operate the S-400s.
The deal has met stiff resistance from NATO allies, who are threatening to kick Turkey out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. So why is it going ahead with the purchase? Read more
Middle East Allies Are Wrong to Bet on Trump
Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have all made their bed with Donald Trump. That’s paying dividends for them, but only so long as this president remains in power. What happens in two or six years? Read more
When Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called early elections in December, he was probably expecting to shore up his mandate and escape allegations of corruption.
But the decision galvanized his opponents. Three former generals set aside their differences and teamed up with the opposition in a bid to oust Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009.
It is starting to look like Netanyahu miscalculated. Read more
Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation
Stephen Walt argues in Foreign Policy that the diplomatic crisis around the Iran nuclear deal shows European leaders don’t know how to handle an American bully:
[I]nstead of getting tough with Trump and warning him that Europe would both stick to the deal and defy any subsequent US effort to impose secondary sanctions on them, [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] chose to mollify and flatter Trump instead.
It seems to no avail.
It pains me to admit it, but Walt has a point:
[T]he European response to Trump shows how successfully the United States has tamed and subordinated the former great powers that once dominated world politics. After seventy-plus years of letting Uncle Sam run the show, European leaders can barely think in strategic terms, let alone act in a tough-minded fashion when they are dealing with the United States.
I do think this is slowly changing. Trump is a wakeup call. The EU is rushing new trade agreements with Japan and Mexico. France is leading efforts to deepen European defense cooperation outside NATO. The Balts and Scandinavians are remilitarizing.
But deferring to America is a hard habit to kick. Read more
Saudi Prince Mohammad Misreads the Tea Leaves in Washington
Emboldened by perceived White House support, Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman appears to have stepped up his risky, so far faltering effort to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East.
The kingdom, despite Prime Minister Saad Hariri complicating Saudi efforts to curb the political and military power of Hezbollah, the country’s Shiite militia, by putting on hold his decision to resign, is signaling that it is looking beyond Lebanon to fulfil Prince Mohammad’s vow in May that the fight between the two rivals would be fought inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking earlier this month, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir warned that “any way you look at it, they (the Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not going to let you do this anymore.'” Read more
Crown Prince Breaks Saudi Monarchy’s Two Pacts
Middle East expert Adam Garfinkle writes in The American Interest that by putting members of the royal family under house arrest, giving women the right to drive and removing the arrest power from the Islamic religious police, Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud has broken the two pacts that have held the monarchy together for more than half a century:
The consensus of family elders that has kept factions in rough balance with each other and kept most contentions from public view.
The duumvirate between the Al Saud and the Al Wahhab, the temporal and religious halves of the whole Saudi enterprise going back to the eighteenth century. Read more