- Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum: Negotiation Day – Negotiators’ Behavior in the End Game | Monday, February 27 | 9 – 10:30am | SAIS Johns Hopkins | Register Here | No analytical work has ever addressed the subject of How Negotiations End. We know that negotiators act differently in the endgame–when they see the end is in sight, good or bad, and they work to that end. This project addresses that situation, examining way in which the endgame ends positively or negatively, and the way in which typical behavioral patterns are encountered on the way. A path breaking study of a neglected topic. The book is now in press with Cambridge University Press, the latest study of the Process of International Negotiation (PIN) Program at Clingendael, Netherlands.
- Potential Negotiations in the Upcoming Year | Monday, February 27 | 11 am – 12:30 pm | SAIS Johns Hopkins | Register Here | We are faced today with an international situation filled with challenges for negotiation. These represent opportunities open for pursuit; others represent situations looking for an opportunity. In this situation, what are the prospects for pursuing and developing negotiations as a means of managing conflict and of furthering US policy goals.Speakers:Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, the Russian Federation, India, Israel, and JordanPrinceton Lyman, former US Ambassador to Nigerial and South Africa
Galia Golan, Professor at the School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya
Vali Nasr, Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS
I WIlliam Zartman, Jacob Blaustein Professor Emeritus of International Organizations and Conflict Resolution, SAIS – Moderator
Location Kenney Herter Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW
- Crude Strategy: Rethinking the U.S. Military Commitment to Defend Persian Gulf Oil | Monday, February 27 | 11 – 12:30pm | Cato Institute | Register Here | Should the United States continue to use its military to guarantee the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf? For more than 30 years, U.S. foreign policy has been shaped by a commitment to safeguard the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. Yet profound changes in international oil markets, growth in domestic U.S. energy production, and dramatic shifts in the Middle Eastern balance of power suggest that it may be time to reconsider whether this commitment is still warranted. In Crude Strategy, a multidisciplinary team of political scientists, economists, and historians set out to explore the links between Persian Gulf oil and U.S. national security. Their essays explore key questions such as the potential economic cost of disruption in oil supply, whether disruptions can be blunted with nonmilitary tools, the potential for instability in Saudi Arabia, and the most effective U.S. military posture for the region. By clarifying the assumptions underlying the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, the authors conclude that the case for revising America’s grand strategy towards the region is far stronger than is commonly assumed.
- The Trump Administration and the Future of the Kurds | Monday February 27 | 2 – 3:30pm | Wilson Center | Register Here | The Kurdish issue in the Middle East is at an important juncture. The Iraqi Kurds, faced with an unsettled Iraq, are itching to declare their independence. The Syrian Kurds have managed to affiliate themselves with the United States against ISIS but face a hostile reaction from Turkey, their northern neighbor, intent on rolling back their successes. The Turkish Kurds have to contend with the effects of government attempts at suppressing their legal political representatives and the war between the Turkish state and the PKK, which are challenging the country’s stability. Our panel will discuss these and other issues pertaining to the future Kurdish political landscape.
- U.S. – Turkey Cooperation in Syria and the Role of the U.S. in the Middle East | Monday February 27 | 3 – 4:30pm | Turkish Heritage Organization | Register Here | The Trump administration has inherited numerous, complex challenges in the Middle East. Regional instability caused by the Syrian civil war continues to have a profound impact on one of the U.S.’s most strategic NATO allies – Turkey – and on the bilateral relationship between Washington and Ankara. As the Trump administration prepares to tackle these issues and re-shape America’s role in the region, experts will discuss the choices and challenges facing the U.S. and Turkey.
- The Impact of Shifting Geopolitics on MENA Energy | Tuesday February 28 | 12 – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register Here | Changes in the energy market, new entrants, and conflicting economic and national security interests at the regional and global level have altered the market power of Middle Eastern oil and gas producers. Industry developments and new policies under the Trump administration are likely to lead to the expansion of U.S. shale oil and gas production and increased exports. Russia vies daily with Saudi Arabia to be the world’s largest producer, while prices remain far below levels of a few years ago. How are Middle Eastern states coping politically and economically with the challenges of a global energy market in an historic transition?
- Obama’s Legacy, Trump’s Inheritance in the Middle East (Annual Kuwait Chair Lecture) | Tuesday February 28 | 6:30 – 7:45pm | Elliott School of International Affairs | Register Here | Join us as Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm examines the environment in the Middle East that President Trump inherits from his predecessor and explores the parameters for action by the new administration.
- Food for Humanity | Wednesday March 1 | 12:15 – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register Here | The Middle East Institute’s Arts & Culture Program is pleased to host a conversation about the political, emotional and symbolic significance of food for displaced and diaspora communities. The panel will explore the unifying role of food, its ability to generate empathy, and its power to build community among diverse peoples through the ritual sharing of a meal. The panel will also discuss how food can serve as a source of income, a form of cultural resistance, and as a means of preserving identity and heritage for refugee communities in the face of loss.
- How People Become Terrorists | Wednesday March 1 | 12:15 – 1:45pm | New America | Register Here | In the years since 9/11 the scope and nature of the global neo-jihadi threat to the West has changed radically, prompting reassessments from those following the threat. In his latest book Misunderstanding Terrorism, Marc Sageman examines the current threat and articulates a new model of how people become terrorists, which has strong implications for the fight against terrorists that go against the conventional wisdom. New America welcomes Dr. Sageman for a discussion of what is driving the current generation of jihadists to become terrorists and how the U.S. should adapt to the threat. Marc Sageman is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the author of Misunderstanding Terrorism and two other critically acclaimed books: Understanding Terror Networks (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004) and Leaderless Jihad (UPP, 2007).
- Women of the Caliphate: Gender Dynamics in State-Building Jihadi Organizations | Thursday March 2 | 5:30 – 7pm | American University | Register Here | A Talk with Hamoon Khelghat-Doost, from the National University of Singapore. Hamoon Khelghat-Doost looks at gender dynamics within jihadi organizations by examining their standpoint on the state-building process. His talk will explore the reasons for jihadi organizations, such as ISIS, to incorporate a relatively high number of women. Khelghat-Doost has conducted fieldwork in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and along Syrian borders in southern Turkey.
- Prospects for the Next Generation of Palestinian Leadership | Friday March 3 | 12 – 1:30pm | Middle East Institute | Register Here | President Trump’s backpedaling on the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution shines a spotlight on the Palestinians’ looming leadership crisis. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now 81, has yet to cultivate a successor, and his administration faces growing concerns about its credibility twelve years after the last national elections. How should the next generation of Palestinian leaders approach such complex issues as Israeli settlement expansion, a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, economic troubles, and engagement on the international stage?
The appointment of H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser is one more step in trying to hem in President Trump on national security policy. He remains in charge of immigration, health care, trade and many other subjects, but the Washington establishment (aka “the blob”) is trying to reassert control of some important foreign policy issues:
- Vice President Pence has been in Europe reassuring the NATO allies of the Administration’s wholehearted commitment to the Alliance and openness to partnership with the European Union, despite the President’s often expressed skepticism of both.
- Defense Secretary Mattis has done likewise with NATO and also visited Baghdad, in part to reassure the Iraqis that we are not, as the President has suggested we would, going to “keep” their oil (whatever that means).
- H.R. is well-known for his book criticizing the generals for not objecting to escalation of the Vietnam War–he isn’t likely to stand by idly if Trump pursues courses of action that can’t be justified or sustained. Nor is he likely to ignore or denigrate the intelligence community.
- Secretary of State Tillerson has been reassuring Ukraine of America’s support, including on Crimea, and calling out the Russians for failure to implement the Minsk 2 agreement.
- Republican Senator McCain has trashed Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin, with Senator Lindsey Graham and other Republicans cheering him on amidst growing pressure for serious investigations of the White House’s Russian connections.
With those holes plugged, the main thrust of White House thinking about foreign and national security policy still has two major outlets: Iran and North Korea.
The nuclear deal with Iran is safe because the Europeans have made it clear they will not reimpose sanctions if Trump undermines it and the Israelis have told Trump they prefer the current restraints to none at all. But Tehran’s support for Bashar al Assad in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite militias in Iraq gives people in Washington heartburn. Despite the nuclear deal, Tehran has few friends in DC because it has been far so aggressive in pursuing its regional interests.
The May 19 Iranian presidential election is already raising the political temperature in Tehran. The Revolutionary Guard is doing military exercises and shooting off missiles, though it is not clear whether any of them since General Flynn’s “notice” violate UN Security Council resolution 1929:
Iran is prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons and States…
President Rouhani is feeling the heat, both from the Iranian right wing and from the Americans. Reformists have no one else to vote for, so he will likely to tilt towards the hawks in an effort to improve his prospects, which are good but by no means unassailable. He is also trying to improve relations with the Gulf Arabs, which would solidify his claim to restoring Iran’s influence and prestige in the region.
North Korea is the far easier and more worthy target. Let’s not even consider North Korea’s assassinations, human rights abuses against its own population, and oppression. Kim Jong-un is well on his way to getting missiles that can reach US bases in the Pacific and eventually the US West coast. The Chinese appear to be at their wits’ end with him. The problem is this: no one knows what, if anything, will bring the North Koreans to heel. If we were to try and fail, Pyongyang can retaliate with massive artillery barrages against Seoul. He could even use a few of his nuclear weapons.
If the establishment professionals succeed in their effort to hem Trump in with respect to Russia, Ukraine, NATO, and Iraq’s oil, he still has the opportunity to make a giant hash of things. The President is in charge. Getting Iran and North Korea right will not be easy, especially if the President decides he is better off listening to Steve Bannon than H.R. McMaster. Bad judgment is Trump’s consistent vice. He can get the United States into a lot of trouble.
Donald Trump yesterday called his team a “fine-tuned machine” in a press conference that prompted one Republican senator to say “He should do this with a therapist, not on live television.” The President was unable to keep his cool even in response to a question about well-documented recent anti-Semitic incidents, instead berating the journalist for his hostility. My first question to would-be foreign government speakers in Washington is whether they can respond to a provocative question without attacking the questioner. After almost a month in office, Trump is still not ready for prime time.
Instead he is spewing falsehoods, making exaggerated claims for his own prowess and experience, denying well-established facts, and conducting a vituperative campaign against the establishment press. He is also promising to catch leakers who are filling the headlines with news about his campaign’s links to Russia and the related ongoing investigations, which could lead to criminal charges against his now resigned National Security Adviser. The chosen replacement is reported to have turned down the job, unable to get a commitment that he would be able to choose his own staff. Trump’s immigration ban, blocked in court, will be withdrawn and replaced with something the President says will be even better.
There is a fine-tuned machine in Washington, but it is not Trump’s White House staff or even his cabinet appointees, most of whom are making it through Senate’s confirmation. The US government’s permanent civil and foreign services are beginning to gain traction. That is apparent in Defense Secretary Mattis’ meeting with NATO allies, where he sought both to get them to spend more on defense (a well-worn talking point that pre-dates Trump) and to reassure them that the Administration is committed to the Alliance. It is also apparent in UN Ambassador Haley’s tough remarks about Russian aggression in Ukraine and Secretary of State Tillerson’s “listening” participation in a G20 meeting, even if he had trouble explaining the President’s remarks on Israel and Palestine to the French foreign minister.
Trump, who is more radical than conservative, will no doubt want to upend more of America’s traditional positions on international issues, as he did when he ditched the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (delighting China) and suggested that the US was no longer committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East. He is said to be thinking about putting substantial numbers of US troops on the ground in Syria, to accelerate the liberation of Raqqa. But the bureaucracy is trying to hem him in and prevent thoughtless departures from established policy by Twitplomacy. Call it the “blob” or the “deep state,” but the professionals know there are good reasons for why we do what we do (and not what we don’t do). They want to ensure that policy changes are well crafted to avoid the kinds of chaos that the immigration ban generated.
The professionals are of course also protecting their own vested bureaucratic interests, from whence the leaks. Trump has all but declared war on the intelligence community and frozen out the State Department, preferring to rely on a National Security Council staff studded with military and former military officers. The nerds want their revenge. They got some with Flynn’s departure. They may target chief strategist Bannon and his side kicks as well, as they are all too clearly the guardians of Trump’s white nationalist radicalism.
Trump is driving a jalopy of his own making, not the Tesla he is entitled to as President. I dread the day he gets into the right driver’s seat and begins to make effective use of the deep state he is now fighting.
@MaxBoot tweeted last night:
Xi forces affirmation of “One China.” Mexico won’t pay for wall. 9th Circuit stops EO. Flynn/Conway scandals. Is Trump tired of winning yet?
140 characters permitting, he might have added that
- Trump is delaying the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
- The administration is forgetting Secretary of State Tillerson’s pledge to prevent Chinese access to the islands it has fortified in the South China Sea.
- The wall is now projected to cost more than twice candidate Trump’s projection.
- The President has expressed displeasure that Kellyanne Conway has been “counseled” for violating ethnics regulations.
- Congressional Republicans are questioning whether National Security Adviser Flynn can remain in place, and the 9th Circuit decision makes it unlikely that the Administration will win an appeal.
- Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has suggested that criticism of judges, which the President has indulged in repeatedly, is demoralizing and disheartening to the judiciary.
From my Schadenfreude perspective, these are all positive developments. To stimie Trump, or at least try to hold him and his minions accountable, is to make the world better place.
But let’s not kid ourselves. the Trumpistas have already had a devastating impact on American prestige and influence abroad. Trump’s doubts about the NATO Alliance have shaken European confidence. He won’t even be able to visit the UK, where giant crowds would protest his appearance. His immigration ban has demoralized allies in the Arab world, especially Iraq, and boosted extremist recruiting. His bromance with Putin has encouraged the Russians to continue their interventions in Syria and eastern Ukraine. His hostility towards Iran has encouraged its worst impulses, including additional missile tests after being put “on notice.”
While I have good friends who think Barack Obama was a frighteningly weak foreign policy president, his retrenching America is looking coherent and even visionary by comparison. In a few short weeks, Trump has weakened America, not strengthened it.
The ramifications are many. I had a note this morning from the Balkans that read in part:
I have to say that Trumpizm effects the rest of the world in which provinces like Balkans can not understand who is who and what is real American politics and interest towards them!
The same thing might be said in eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific and even in Latin America. At the current rate, it will be true in the Arctic and Antarctica before long. All American presidential transitions are unsettling, but this one is an order of magnitude more chaos-producing than most. It has brought people to power in the White House who simply do not adhere to the well-established lines of American foreign policy, which have served pretty well since 1945. When you need to be reading an obsure Italian Fascist writer to understand the intellectual antecedents of the chief strategist to the President, you know something is wrong.
I’m not immune to radicalism. I indulged in it during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. There are things today that merit hard opposition in my estimation, including Trump’s appointment of cabinet members who oppose the missions of the agencies they are supposed to lead and his appointment of a documented and committed racist as Attorney General. But Trump’s radicalism appears to have little more than his own impulsive and erratic whims as its basis, combined with a few repugnant right-wing shibboleths about race, public education, the environment, and energy production.
The bully is already backing down on some of his worst impulses, but that does nothing to give the world an America that it can understand and rely on. Trump likes unpredictability. Friends and adversaries alike do not.
As the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States nears, the Middle East Policy Council explored the challenges facing President-elect Trump in the region. The panel featured Derek Chollet, Counselor and Senior Advisor at The German Marshal Fund, Jake Sullivan, Visiting Lecturer at Yale Law School and Senior Policy Advisor for the Hillary Clinton campaign, Dimitri Simes, President of the Center for the National Interest and Publisher of The National Interest, and Mary Beth Long, founder and CEO of Metis Solutions and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Chollet said that the Obama administration faced several challenges: doubt over the future US role in the region, diverging interests in dealing with the Iran nuclear program and the conflict in Syria, and the perception that the US cares less about the region than before 2008. Chollet called the US approach to the Middle East under Obama a recalibration rather than a dramatic shift, stressing America’s sustainable commitment to the region. Most notably, this includes decreasing the US role as a problem solver in the region and encouraging collective security. The new administration will have to decide how to proceed on the Iran deal, the ISIS threat, Syria’s President Assad, and Gulf partnerships.
Sullivan identified five hard questions the incoming administration must answer. First, Trump will need to navigate the US relationship with Iran, both in approaching the nuclear deal as well as holding Iran accountable for its actions outside of the nuclear context, such as human rights abuses. Second, the administration must limit Iranian influence in the region while defeating ISIS in Iraq, a move that could very well strength Iran’s position. The third question concerns creating a long-term stability in Syria beyond supporting the strong man, whether Putin or Assad. Similarly, Sullivan’s fourth question asked whether supporting authoritarian regimes in the region is still sustainable post-Arab Spring, and whether regimes could hold up under pressure for reform. Finally, Sullivan questioned the new administration’s understanding of Russia’s role in the Middle East and where US interests converge with Putin’s objectives.
Simes focused on the US-Russia relationship and expanded on Trump’s challenges in working with Putin. The primary challenge in working with Putin, who Simes noted is not Trump’s friend, will be strategic confrontation with Russia. Because Russia and the US diverge greatly on issues such as Syria, it would be prudent to pursue a more effective relationship with Russia and prevent a rivalry from forming. Simes believes that a poor relationship with Russia will be detrimental to the US and could lead to a stronger Russia-China relationship or even Russian use of terrorism as a weapon against America. Trump has an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with Russia, but must first determine US interests and take Russia seriously as a player on the world stage.
Long said the incoming administration will take a more transactional and pragmatic approach to foreign policy based on US interests. This will result in more straightforward relationships. However, she warned this also has the potential to create inconsistency in the Middle East, because policy will be situational and reactionary in nature. Although the challenges in the region are great, including the battle for Mosul, the refugee crisis, and the US relationship with Iran, Long said the US cannot afford to do everything at once and must rely on regional partners to step up.
In response to a question about US strategy in combating terrorism, specifically ISIS, and the strengths and weakness of US engagement, Chollet said a key US strength lies in its ability to militarily target states. The Islamic state is no different. To this point, Sullivan argued that US military action against terrorism targets the symptoms rather than the causes of radicalization, and more needs to be done to win over moderates, create strong state structures, and increase the confidence of US regional Sunni partners. Long stressed the danger in creating vacuums in which terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda can resurge and become powerful.
The panel also addressed the implications of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Chollet said a move to Jerusalem would be disruptive and could undermine the strategic convergence between Israel and Sunni states working together to confront their shared adversaries in the region. Sullivan agreed that the embassy move would jeopardize efforts to balance the terrorist threat in the region and said the US needs to recognize the challenge, be honest, and identify what it can do to support its partners. Long hoped the embassy issue would lose its primacy in the early days of the administration. The panel agreed the embassy move would not serve US strategic interests.
Milana Pejic at Belgrade daily Blic asked about 2016 the “world between Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel? Their publication of some of my response is here. This is my full response:
2016 was a difficult year on many fronts. Resurgent nationalism in several EU countries, Brexit, and the Italian constitutional referendum have cast doubt on the European project. The long American electoral campaign and Donald Trump’s victory in the electoral college (but not in the popular vote) have raised questions about America’s long-standing commitments to NATO, to Ukraine, to the Syrian opposition, to the two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, to nuclear nonproliferation, and to free trade. No one really knows what the next US administration will do, as Trump prides himself on unpredictability, but the cabinet he has appointed and his provocative tweets during the transition suggest that there will be radical departures in American domestic and foreign policy.
Vladimir Putin appears to be riding high, having intervened in Ukraine, Syria, the US electoral process, and in the politics of many European countries by supporting nationalists. But Russia is overstretched internationally even as its domestic economy is a shambles. Moscow is the capital of a declining regional power with little to offer but oil and gas, arms deals, vetoes in the UN Security Council, and surreptitious destabilization. Those in Serbia who look to Russia as a savior are likely to be disappointed in the long run. Europe has much more to offer once it gets past its present rough patch.
Angela Merkel is today Europe’s de facto leader and defender of liberal democratic ideals. But right-wing nationalists in Germany have gained traction, largely due to the big influx of refugees that Merkel welcomed to a country that needs young workers. Will the wave of nationalism inundating Europe end the Chancellor’s political career? Or will she survive to lead a revival of the European project?
These are important questions for 2017. So too is the question of whether Serbia will continue on the difficult path of preparing itself for European Union membership, with all the sacrifices that entails, or instead choose the much easier but less rewarding road of becoming a Russian satellite, with all the limits to independence and prosperity that entails. The choice is yours, not mine, but you know which I would choose.