Days after sending military aid to prop up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done a deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to halt the fighting in Libya.
Russian mercenaries fight on the side of warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls the bulk of the country, including its oil industry.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also support Haftar, who has reportedly received Chinese-made drones and Russian-made air defenses from the UAE.
The Arab states see Haftar as a bulwark against Islamist influences, including the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the Tripoli government. Egypt’s generals overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in their country with the backing of most Arab monarchs in 2013.
American president Donald Trump has called on NATO to get more involved in the Middle East.
Speaking a day after Iran retaliated for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq by attacking American military bases in the country, Trump pointed out that the United States are no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil.
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 wake-up 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.
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 “Saudi Prince Mohammad Misreads the Tea Leaves in Washington”
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.