Najib Razak’s Muddled Mid-East Policy–Sheer Hypocrisy


December 16, 2017

Najib Razak’s Muddled Mid-East Policy–Sheer Hypocrisy

by Mat Sabu@www.malaysiakini.com

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COMMENT | On December 13, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in his own words, dropped everything on his lap, including a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, to attend the extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey.

The goal was to register the Muslim world’s urgency and protest against the recognition of Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of Israel.” The OIC meeting was hopeless for several reasons.

First, Najib had already affirmed to the rest of the world, that US President Donald Trump is his golfing buddy and his friend.

In his trip to Washington in September 2017, Najib even boasted that Trump personally sent him to his official car, of all places in the basement of the White House.

The above is not hearsay. It came right from the horse’s mouth: Najib. It was Najib who showcased his tight bond with Trump.

 

 

Secondly, directly or indirectly, this has strengthened Trump’s resolve to gift Jerusalem to Israel. The false step by Najib is no less damning than the mistakes of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia.

Both the father and son praised Trump as a world-class leader when Trump made a trip to Saudi Arabia. Emboldened by his relationship with King Salman and MBS, Trump went one step ahead of the duo.

He immediately flew to Israel, and promised a radical change in the US policy on the Middle East. Such a radical change was, of course, the gift of Jerusalem to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo), whose popularity was not only sagging in Israel, but is also widely considered a dishonest and ineffective Israeli leader.

 

Second, Najib flew to Istanbul to join a chorus of leaders to admonish and reprimand Trump. But was that really the case?

The US Ambassador to Malaysia was not summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office nor Wisma Putra for a thorough dressing down. Even when the UMNO Assembly was ongoing, little attention was granted to the injustice of Trump.

Third, in a press release by Wisma Putra, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs merely affirmed that Trump should “reconsider his decision.” Wisma Putra did not express its vehemence against Trump.

Fourth, instead, it was the opposition front that raised a huge outcry on Trump’s utter betrayal to the Palestinians.

To the credit of Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, she saw the betrayal as sufficiently serious to call for the possible boycott of US goods and services in Malaysia.

 

Fifth, Pakatan Harapan chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo),  together with Amanah and Bersatu, challenged the whole treasonous act of giving Jerusalem to Israel when there are 86 countries, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, that do not agree with Trump. Even Pope Francis of the Vatican Council was against Trump wholesale.

Thus, what is the point of flying to Istanbul to block the proverbial horses that have been let out of the stable? Trump has betrayed the Muslim world not once, but from the very beginning of his presidency. He has passed the Middle East policy to Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, who is a known Zionist.

Sixth, it shocking that UMNO and PAS still support Trump by not voicing out more openly, and by coming up with a series of measures to put a stop to this madness.

Fortunately, the 14th general election is just months away. Christians and Muslims, indeed all groups and races that are anti-Israel, can set things right: by voting out Najib, PAS and, indeed, UMNO, for coddling the Zionist conspiracy.

Malaysian foreign policy has never seen such a disaster until now. It is time to correct it with a new government that is not beholden to US Zionist policy.


MOHAMAD SABU is president of Amanah. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Book Review: Exile in Colonial Asia


December 16, 2017

Book Review: Exile in Colonial Asia: Kings, Convicts, Commemoration

Ronit Ricci, ed. (University of Hawai’i Press, 2016. vii + 294pp.)

Reviewed by Craig Reynolds@www. newmandala.org

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Exile in Colonial Asia is a compact book, but it’s a large book in its treatment of forced migration, prisoner resettlement, and exile across the globe from East Asia to Africa. The ten essays cover people up and down the social hierarchy: rulers (kings, princes, sultans); pretenders to thrones; convicts; and a few pirates and smugglers.

The life of a slave might be better than that of a prince, and a prince one day might be a rebel the next, and soon after on a ship to another part of the world. Commemoration in the subtitle means memory. To restore lives lost to the historical record, the authors pick their way through grudging source material—letters, notes, trading company documents, and lists. It’s amazing what a detective-author can resurrect from the dry lists of people and objects buried in archival records.

In the period covered by the book the world was mapped not by countries but by empires: Portuguese, Dutch, British, French, Belgian, and Italian. Colonial authorities and trading companies like the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a quasi-state, removed people from their homelands and exiled them to foreign lands. The globe is criss-crossed with the movements of these people shown on maps drawn by Robert Cribb. Exile was not a peculiarly Western imperialist measure. Indigenous political systems—the Chinese and the Vietnamese, among others—also used exile and prison colonies to expand their territories. Not all the people sent into exile became alienated in their new surroundings. Some adapted by converting to a new religion, or by seizing opportunities in commerce or agriculture.

From ports in the Indonesian archipelago the VOC transported prisoners to the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. From the French colonies in Indochina 600 prisoners were sent to Gabon on the west coast of Africa and the Congo. The French also sent prisoners from Indochina to French Guiana, New Caledonia, Madagascar, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. High-level political prisoners in the French colonies went to Algeria, Tahiti, and the Marquesas. The British sent Indian convicts to the Andaman Islands which became a penal colony after the Great Indian Revolt of 1857–58. Rebels against British rule in Ceylon were sent to Mauritius.

Prisoners built and fed European empires. Convicts laboured as brick and tile makers, blacksmiths, boatmen, cart drivers and grass cutters, or were engaged in experimental industry and agriculture. Convicts worked in tin mines in Burma, and in Mauritius in silk and cotton production and the cultivation of sugar and coffee.

This historical study on Asia is one of the few that sees fit to include Australia, in this case to illustrate a place that was both colony and penal settlement. In Asia proper we find ourselves in India, Lanka, Java, Singapore, the Malay world, Vietnam, and Burma. Siam is not among the case studies, because it was not colonised, but when the king of Siam visited Java in the early 1870s he saw what might become of him if the British and French decided to take away his crown and carve up his realm. He observed the sultan of Jogjakarta being marched around and guarded by troops. The Javanese sultan displayed the paraphernalia of royalty, but he was a prisoner in a gilded cage, dethroned and demoted within his own country. Native rulers could be packed off to other outposts of empire. Amangkurat III was exiled from Java to Ceylon. The last king of Kandy in Ceylon was sent to Madras. Maharaj Singh was banished from the Punjab, where he was considered a threat to colonial consolidation, and then sent to Singapore. Sultan Hamengkubuwana II of Yogyakarta was exiled to Penang after he opposed the British takeover of Java in 1811. Some exiles became submissive, some were moderate. Some became militant, some were already militant.

The book is not sentimental, but exile, banishment, and forced migration are melancholy topics. I came away empathetic not only with the individuals affected by dire circumstance but also with the authors’ struggles to salvage memories of those uprooted and sent away. Exiles pined for home, and if they were rulers they dreamed of regaining their thrones. Several authors discuss the emotional pain in the exiled life of their subjects. Anand Yang refers to his chapter as a meditation, and Ronit Ricci’s story of the return to Batavia of Amangkurat III’s remains after his death in Ceylon is told with sorrow.

The final essay by Penny Edwards is a fitting end, if not a conclusion, to the volume. Prince Myngoon, the son of a modernising Burmese king in the mid-nineteenth century, was an embodiment of the Burmese monarchy the British had just eradicated. Edwards calls him a trickster who outwitted the British as he darted from Rangoon to Pondicherry to Benares to Saigon. The prince was a subversive figure able to elude colonial administrators trying to keep track of him. His story is shaped by subterfuge that challenged colonial surveillance. Colonial power had its limits.

The book is not divided into sections, a bold decision by the editor assisted by Maria Myutel. Cross references cite other essays within the volume to make comparisons and contrasts, but not in a false or jarring way. The book began life as a workshop, that familiar factory of academic production, and the authors apparently arrived soon enough at a consensus about what to discuss. Clare Anderson’s introduction is a masterful account of exile as a global phenomenon that ties the essays together, and the book’s striking cover depicts wayang figures on a Dutch ship that conveys movement, one of the volume’s themes. No surprise that the International Convention of Asian Scholars this year awarded Exile in Colonial Asia an accolade for the best edited volume.

Readers of this book cannot fail to reflect on today’s accounts of refugees forced from their homelands by repression and civil war. History is present knowledge, and each author in his or her essay reaffirms human possibility in an inhumane world.

 

Trump’s Jerusalem Rationale and its Consequences


December 14, 2015

Trump’s Jerusalem Rationale and its Consequences

The US administration seems to believe that Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments are so concerned with the perceived Iranian threat that they will put aside their long-standing hostility toward Israel. The problem is that the new Saudi crown prince’s highest priority – to consolidate his power – may lead him to reject a peacemaking role.

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NEW YORK – It is 50 years since the Six-Day War – the June 1967 conflict that, as much as any other event, continues to define the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. After the fighting was over, Israel controlled all of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, in addition to the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.

Back then, the world saw this military outcome as temporary. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, the backdrop to what was to become a diplomatic solution to the problem of the stateless Palestinians, was adopted some five months after the war ended. But, as is often the case, what began as temporary has lasted.

This is the context in which President Donald Trump recently declared that the United States recognized Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Trump stated that the US was not taking a position on the final status of Jerusalem, including “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty” there. He made clear that the US would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides. And he chose not to begin actually moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, even though he could have simply relabeled what is now the US consulate in Jerusalem.

The attempt to change US policy while arguing that little had changed did not persuade many. Most Israelis were pleased with the new US stance, and most in the Arab world and beyond were incensed.

Just why Trump chose this moment to make this gesture is a matter of conjecture. The president suggested it was simply recognition of reality and that his predecessors’ policy failure to do so had failed to yield any diplomatic benefits. This is true, although the reason diplomacy failed over the decades had nothing to do with US policy toward Jerusalem, and everything to do with divisions among Israelis and Palestinians and the gaps between the two sides.

Others have attributed the US announcement to American domestic politics, a conclusion supported by the unilateral US statement’s failure to demand anything of Israel (for example, to restrain settlement construction) or offer anything to the Palestinians (say, supporting their claim to Jerusalem). Although the decision has led to some violence, it looks more like an opportunity lost than a crisis created.

What made this statement not just controversial but potentially counterproductive is that the Trump administration has spent a good part of its first year putting together a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This announcement could well weaken that plan’s already limited prospects.

What the Trump administration seems to have in mind is to give outsiders, and Saudi Arabia in particular, a central role in peacemaking. Informing this approach is the view that Saudi Arabia and other Arab governments are more concerned with the perceived threat from Iran than with anything to do with Israel. As a result, it is assumed that they are prepared to put aside their long-standing hostility toward Israel, a country that largely shares their view of Iran.

Progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue would create a political context in the Arab world that would allow them to do just this. The hope in the Trump administration is that the Saudis will use their financial resources to persuade the Palestinians to agree to make peace with Israel on terms Israel will accept.

Image result for Trump and KushnerPresident Donald J. Trump and his Mid-East Expert-Advsor Jared Kushner

 

The problem is that the only plan to which this Israeli government is likely to agree will offer the Palestinians far less than they have historically demanded. If so, the Palestinian leaders themselves may well determine it is safer to say no than to sign on to a plan sure to disappoint many of their own people and leave them vulnerable to Hamas and other radical groups.

The Saudis, too, may be reluctant to be associated with a plan that many will deem a sellout. The top priority for the new Saudi leadership under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to consolidate power, which the prince is doing by associating himself with an effort to attack corruption in the Kingdom and by pursuing a nationalist, anti-Iranian foreign policy.

But neither tactic is going entirely according to plan. The anti-corruption effort, while so far popular, risks being tarnished by selective prosecution of offenders (which suggests that it is more about power than reform) and reports about the crown prince’s own lifestyle. And the anti-Iran efforts have become inseparable from what has become an unpopular war in Yemen and diplomatic embarrassments in Lebanon and Qatar. Meanwhile, ambitious plans to reform the country are proving easier to design than to implement, and are sure to alienate more conservative elements.

The problem for Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law who leads US policy in this area, is that the Saudis are likely to prove much less of a diplomatic partner than the White House had counted on. If the new crown prince is worried about his domestic political standing, he will be reluctant to stand shoulder to shoulder with an American president seen as too close to an Israel that is unwilling to satisfy even minimal Palestinian requirements for statehood.

Image result for Richard N. Haas on JerusalemRichard N. Haas

All of which brings us back to Jerusalem. Trump argued that recognizing the city as Israel’s capital was “a long overdue step to advance the peace process and the work towards a lasting agreement.” More and more it appears that Trump’s move will have just the opposite effect.

Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America


December 13, 2017

Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

By Nouriel Roubini
http://www.project-syndicate.org

In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. Sooner or later, Trump’s core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.

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NEW YORK – Donald Trump won the US presidency with the backing of working-class and socially conservative white voters on a populist platform of economic nationalism. Trump rejected the Republican Party’s traditional pro-business, pro-trade agenda, and, like Bernie Sanders on the left, appealed to Americans who have been harmed by disruptive technologies and “globalist” policies promoting free trade and migration.

But while Trump ran as a populist, he has governed as a plutocrat, most recently by endorsing the discredited supply-side theory of taxation that most Republicans still cling to. Trump also ran as someone who would “drain the swamp” in Washington, DC, and on Wall Street. Yet he has stacked his administration with billionaires (not just millionaires) and Goldman Sachs alumni, while letting the swamp of business lobbyists rise higher than ever.

Trump and the Republicans’ plan to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would have left 24 million Americans – mostly poor or middle class, many of whom voted for him – without health care. His deregulatory policies are blatantly biased against workers and unions. And the Republican tax-reform plan that he has endorsed would overwhelmingly favor multinational corporations and the top 1% of households, many of which stand to benefit especially from the repeal of the estate tax.

Trump has also abandoned his base in the area of trade, where he has offered rhetoric but not concrete action. Yes, he scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but Hillary Clinton would have done the same. He has mused about abandoning the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), but that may be just a negotiating tactic. He has threatened to impose a 50% tariff on goods from China, Mexico, and other US trade partners, but no such measures have materialized. And proposals for a border adjustment tax have been all but forgotten.

Trump’s bullying tweets against US firms that move production offshore or undertake tax inversions have been no more than cheap talk, and business leaders know it. Manufacturers who fooled Trump into thinking they would keep production in the US have continued to transfer operations quietly to Mexico, China, and elsewhere. Moreover, international provisions in the pending tax legislation will give US multinationals an even greater incentive to invest, hire, and produce abroad, while using transfer pricing and other schemes to salt away profits in low-tax jurisdictions.

Likewise, despite Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on immigration, his policies have been relatively moderate, perhaps because many of the businesspeople who supported his campaign actually favor a milder approach. The “Muslim ban” doesn’t affect the supply of labor in the US. Although deportations have accelerated under Trump, it’s worth remembering that millions of undocumented immigrants were deported under Barack Obama, too. The border wall that Trump was going to force Mexico to pay for remains an unfunded dream. And even the administration’s plan to favor skilled over unskilled workers will not necessarily reduce the number of legal migrants in the country.

 

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https://www.salon.com/2016/12/26/what-populist-revolution-so-far-donald-trump-is-supercharging-the-failed-republican-policies-of-the-past/

All told, Trump has governed like a plutocrat in populist clothes – that is, a pluto-populist. But why has his base let him get away with pursuing policies that mostly hurt them? According to one view, he is betting that social conservatives and white blue-collar supporters in rural areas will vote on the basis of nationalist and religious sentiment and antipathy toward secular coastal elites, rather than for their own financial interests.

But how long can anyone be expected to support “God and guns” at the expense of “bread and butter”? The pluto-populists who presided over the Roman Empire knew that keeping the populist mob at bay required substance as well as diversion: panem et circenses – “bread and circuses.” Raging tweets are meaningless to people who can scarcely afford a dignified living, let alone tickets to the modern-day Colosseum to watch football.

The tax legislation that Republicans have rushed through Congress could prove especially dangerous, given that millions of middle-class and low-income households will not only get little out of it, but will actually pay more when income-tax cuts are phased out over time. Moreover, the Republican plan would repeal the Obamacare individual mandate. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this will cause 13 million people to lose health insurance, and insurance premiums to rise by 10%, over the next decade. Not surprisingly, a recent Quinnipiac poll found that a mere 29% of Americans support the Republican plan.

Nevertheless, Trump and the Republicans seem willing to risk it. After all, by pushing the middle-class tax hikes to a later date, they have designed their plan to get them through the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 general election. Between now and the midterms, they can brag about cutting taxes on most households. And they can expect to see the economic-stimulus effects of tax cuts peak in 2019, just before the next presidential election – and long before the bill comes due.

Moreover, the final legislation will likely lower the federal deduction for mortgage interest and eliminate deductibility for state and local taxes. This will hit households in Democratic-leaning states such as New York, New Jersey, and California much harder than households in Republican-leaning states.

Another part of the Republican strategy (known as “starve the beast”) will be to use the higher deficits from tax cuts to argue for cuts in so-called entitlement spending, such as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security. Again, this is a risky proposition, given that elderly, middle-class, and low-income Americans rely heavily on these programs. Yes, the working and non-working poor who receive welfare payments or food stamps include minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. But millions of the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who voted for Trump also rely on these and similar programs.

With the global economy expanding, Trump is probably hoping that tax cuts and deregulation will spur enough growth and create enough jobs that he will have something to brag about. A potential growth rate of 2% won’t necessarily do much to help his blue-collar base, but at least it could push the stock market up to its highest point ever. And, of course, Trump will still claim that the US economy can grow at a rate of 4%, even though all mainstream economists, including Republicans, agree that the potential growth rate will remain around 2%, regardless of his policies.

Whatever happens, Trump will continue to tweet maniacally, promote fake-news stories, and boast about the “biggest and best” economy ever. In doing so, he may even create a circus worthy of a Roman emperor. But if gassy rhetoric alone does not suffice, he may decide to go on the offensive, particularly in the international sphere. That could mean truly withdrawing from NAFTA, taking trade action against China and other trading partners, or doubling down on harsh immigration policies.

And if these measures do not satisfy his base, Trump will still have one last option, long used by Roman emperors and other assorted dictators during times of domestic difficulty. Namely, he can try to “wag the dog,” by fabricating an external threat or embarking on foreign military adventures to distract his supporters from what he and congressional Republicans have been doing.

For example, following the “madman” approach to foreign policy, Trump could start a war with North Korea or Iran. Or he could post further inflammatory tweets about the evils of Islam, thereby driving disturbed and marginalized individuals into the arms of the Islamic State (ISIS) or other extremist groups. That would increase the likelihood of ISIS-inspired attacks – for example, “lone wolves” blowing themselves up or driving trucks through crowded pedestrian areas – within the US. With dozens, if not hundreds, slain, Trump could then wrap himself in the flag and say, “I told you so.” And if things got bad enough, Trump and his generals could declare a state of emergency, suspend civil liberties, and transform America into a true pluto-populist authoritarian state.

You know it’s time to worry when the conservative Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Bob Corker, warns openly that Trump could start World War III. And if you’re not convinced, consider the recent history of Russia or Turkey; or the history of the Roman Empire under Caligula or Nero. Pluto-populists have been turning democracies into autocracies with the same playbook for thousands of years. There’s no reason to think they would stop now. The reign of Emperor Trump could be just around the corner.

*Nouriel Roubini, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and CEO of Roubini Macro Associates, was Senior Economist for International Affairs in the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration. He has worked for the International Monetary Fund, the US Federal Reserve, and the World Bank.

 

 

Foreign Policy: Balancing US-China Interest in the Trump–Xi era


December 11, 2017

Foreign Policy: Balancing  US-China Interest  in the Trump–Xi era

by David M Lampton, Johns Hopkins University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Image result for xi jinping

The Asian Statesman,HE President President Xi Jinping–Economic Diplomacy

From 1945 to 2016 the United States used its economic, military and ideological power to build institutions, alliances and regimes that contributed to global economic growth and the avoidance of great power war. In doing so, it fostered the rise of a new constellation of powers, China notable among them, with which it must now deal. If the United States wants to see its interests met, Washington must win Beijing’s cooperation rather than try to compel it.

 

On entering office, US President Donald Trump put several contentious issues with China on the backburner in the hope of achieving his primary goal — North Korea’s denuclearisation. When that failed, the front burner of US–China relations became crowded with previously repressed issues.

Several of these — US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, talk of steel and aluminium tariffs, weapons sales to Taiwan, threats to tighten technology and investment flows as well as secondary sanctions on Chinese entities — threaten to become serious problems if not managed in a more careful manner than the Trump administration is currently demonstrating.

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From Pivot to Asia to Divert from Asia–America First

So what might the United States usefully do? There are three issues on which Washington should focus: fostering an economic balance of power in Asia that promotes regional stability, achieving more reciprocity in US–China relations and addressing the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.

A central part of Xi Jinping’s geo-economic vision is the expansion of regional links and the promotion of urbanisation and growth on China’s periphery to make China the central node in this growing region. For Beijing, this means north–south connectivity — namely supply chains that originate in China and extend to the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Andaman Sea, Bay of Bengal and beyond.

Unless Washington wants Asia to become a unipolar sphere of Chinese influence, it should become more involved in the construction of regional infrastructure to foster linkages that are not just north–south but also east–west from India to Vietnam through Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia and on to Japan and the wider Pacific.

Turning to reciprocity, when China joined the WTO in 2001 its overseas trade and financial involvements grew enormously. So too did its global trade surplus and bilateral trade surplus with the United States. Beijing soon had the technology, capital and capacity to seize the opportunities of openness abroad without providing reciprocal domestic access to the United States and others.

From 2008 onwards, the pace of domestic economic, financial and foreign trade liberalisation slowed. China’s world trade partners came to realise that as China leapt outward to seize opportunities, it did not reciprocally open itself in areas where foreigners enjoyed comparative advantages. Consequently, the issues of ‘reciprocity’ and ‘fairness’ have moved to front and centre in US–China relations. US companies are now asking themselves why Chinese entrepreneurs should be able to freely acquire US service and technology firms when these areas in China are closed to foreigners.

While US feelings of resentment mount, finding ways to enhance reciprocity with Beijing that do not injure US workers or other bystanders is hard. Limiting Chinese investment into US employment-generating firms diminishes US job opportunities. On the other hand, ignoring the problem invites extremist proposals at home as well as contempt in Beijing.

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Finally, the issue of North Korea. Trump thought his predecessors had been right in pressing Beijing to put more pressure on North Korea and in their assessment that Beijing had sufficient means to do so. Where they had gone wrong, Trump believed, was in not making it worth Beijing’s while to apply the necessary pressure.

So President Trump suggested that Washington would give Beijing concessions in other areas — trade and Taiwan among them — in exchange for pressure on North Korea. Of all the reasons that this approach has not worked out (including the viability of some of Trump’s promised consessions) the most dominant is that Pyongyang resists following any external advice that it fears would be lethal to the regime.

Consequently, the Trump administration is left with the same stark choices as its predecessors, except that Trump has staked even more on the issue and North Korea is further down its deliverable nuclear weapons path.

It is time for Washington (in close consultation with its South Korean and Japanese allies) to acknowledge that North Korea has a modest nuclear deterrent, and that as a result the United States should shift its aim from denuclearisation to deterring the use and further proliferation of these capabilities.

The US–China relationship is fraught with problems and will be for the foreseeable future. The United States is no longer positioned to compel cooperation from China. Any policy changes from Beijing must be negotiated, and within this negotiation Washington must seek a balance of power and interests.

David M Lampton is Professor and Director of China Studies in the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. His most recent book is Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping.

This article appeared in the most recent edition of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘China’s Influence’.

 

Trump throws a diplomatic bomb into the Mid-East Peace Process


December 7, 2017

Trump throws a diplomatic bomb into the Mid-East Peace Process

by Robin Wright

http://www.newyorker.com

Image result for Trump and the Middle East

“No one person’s personal ambitions should be allowed to alter the fates of billions of people. Any such move would only embolden terrorist organizations,”–Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 

President Trump threw a diplomatic bomb into the Middle East peace process with his twin decisions to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision broke with seven decades of U.S. policy by both Republican and Democratic Administrations. It defied every ally, save Israel, and disregarded a last-ditch global campaign that included key figures from the world’s three monotheistic religions—Pope Francis, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and American Jewish groups. Trump’s decision fulfilled a campaign promise, but it threatened to unravel one of his top foreign-policy pledges: to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who have already called for “three days of rage” in response.

In a brief statement read off teleprompters at the White House, Trump called his decision a “new approach to the conflict” and a long-overdue and “necessary step” to enhance the peace process. “Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” he said.

For the first time, the President expressed support for a two-state solution—if the two sides ultimately embrace that formula as the solution. This was not a concession, however, given that his Republican and Democratic predecessors endorsed the two-state concept as well. Trump also stipulated that his decision was not intended to influence the final boundaries or borders of either state. Vice-President Mike Pence will travel to the region soon to reinforce the U.S. commitments, Trump said.

“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement,” Trump said. “But we are confident that, ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and coöperation.” He added, “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.”

The curious and almost contradictory aspect of Trump’s announcement was the timing, particularly since the move may not happen until a new Embassy is found or built, which could take as long as three or four years, U.S. officials say. In his statement, Trump said only that the current approach to the peace process had failed to work and a change was needed.

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The status of Jerusalem—sacred to all three Abrahamic faiths—has long been one of the “final status” issues to be determined as part of the peace process. One of the implicit rewards for a peace accord was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to West Jerusalem—and possibly opening a separate U.S. Embassy to a new state of Palestine, in an eastern part of the city. The U.S. Embassy was effectively a valuable diplomatic chit in the most complicated and drawn-out peace negotiations since the Second World War. The President has now played that card in reverse order, and for nothing tangible in return. Indeed, the move cost his Administration credibility even before it was made.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, said that the announcement “destroys the peace process,” a warning echoed by many top Palestinians who embrace peace negotiations and have engaged with Israelis for more than a quarter century, since the 1993 Oslo Accord.

“In one blow, President Trump has destroyed not only the chances of any peace but the stability and security of the region as a whole,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, said on CNN, on Wednesday. “He has undermined his closest allies in the Arab world. He has given all extremists and nuts all over the world who are ready to commit acts of violence a perfect excuse because he has provoked spiritual sentiments and religious feelings to the point where we don’t know how far the ramifications will go.”

Khalil Shikaki was one of the first Palestinians to work with Israeli counterparts in studying the feasibility of peace—by conducting pre-accord public-opinion polls—in the early nineteen-nineties. He launched one of the first independent polling-research groups in the Arab world—the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, in Ramallah—and has also lectured extensively to American Jewish Groups. Since 2005, he has also been a senior fellow at Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

“If it’s done in isolation of whatever efforts he’s trying on peace, then it’s nonsensical,” Shikaki told me. “It would basically kill any chance that his efforts would be seen as credible.” In his poll of Palestinian public opinion, in September, some three quarters of Palestinians already said that the Trump Administration was not serious about achieving peace. The immediate danger, Shikaki warned, is the breakdown of pivotal (and U.S.-supported) coördination between the Palestinian and Israeli security forces, which are instrumental in preventing individual acts of violence from escalating into another intifada, or uprising. “Israeli-Palestinian coöperation has made stability possible,” he told me. “I can’t see it continuing in an environment where it looks like conditions on the peace process or political front are no longer there.”

Regionally, the Jerusalem decision “will unify moderates and extremists,” Shikaki predicted. Any effort to build an Arab coalition to side with the United States on major policy issues across the region is now jeopardized. Other Arab leaders “will see no point of working with President Trump and making themselves vulnerable to criticism,” he told me.

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Not surprisingly, the Islamic world reacted angrily to Trump’s decision. Turkey unveiled plans for a summit of leaders of Muslim countries to coördinate their response. The “whole world is against” Trump’s decision, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said. After a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a crack at Trump’s domestic motivation for the move—and his political ego. “No one person’s personal ambitions should be allowed to alter the fates of billions of people. Any such move would only embolden terrorist organizations,” he said. Turkey has been one of the few predominantly Muslim nations to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, although the relationship has been rocky.

The wider world was alarmed as well. Both Russia and China expressed concern about new tensions in a region already ravaged by four wars, in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. At the United Nations, Secretary General António Guterres said that Jerusalem’s status had to be determined by the Israelis and Palestinians. He warned about taking “unilateral measures” undermining international peace efforts, although he did not mention President Trump by name. “In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution,” Guterres said. “There is no Plan B.” Britain’s Foreign Secretary called on the United States to quickly follow the move by outlining its plan for peace. So far, the negotiations have been conducted behind closed doors by the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump’s decision comes just months after he over confidently assessed his ability to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “It is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” he said, during a visit by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, in May.

The State Department recognized and reacted quickly to the dangers of the President’s decision. On Wednesday, it banned American diplomats and their families “until further notice” from travelling to Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, except for “essential business.” It also warned all U.S. citizens to “avoid areas where crowds have gathered and where there is increased police and/or military presence.” And, in a cable to all diplomatic missions, the State Department ordered diplomats stationed anywhere to defer all nonessential travel to Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank until December 20th, according to Reuters. Risk-management firms issued dispatches warning about the dangers of anti-American activity across the Islamic world, in countries as far away as Indonesia. Several European countries also issued security warnings to their citizens in the Middle East.

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“How does this serve our national interests?” Aaron David Miller who worked on the peace process under six Secretaries of State. Trump antagonizes the Muslim World

Current and former U.S. officials involved in the peace process were also aghast at Trump’s announcement. “How does this serve our national interests?” Aaron David Miller (pic above), who worked on the peace process under six Secretaries of State, and who is now the director of the Middle East program at the Wilson Center, told me.

“One statement is going to undercut everything they want to do. It will take us out of the game,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and to Egypt and now a professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, told me. Speculating on the rationale behind Trump’s decision, he continued, “You want to shoot yourself in the foot—because it’s good for your base—but you’ve got to understand what you’re doing.”

Implementing Trump’s policy could be a long way off. The U.S. does currently have a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which has been the liaison to the Palestinian Authority—and which does not come under the authority of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. One option explored in the past was whether it could be converted into an Embassy and a new facility could be found for a consulate to deal with Palestinians.

“We are just at the beginning of a process of assessing requirements for an Embassy, which as you know are detailed and time consuming anywhere in the world,” a senior State Department official, told me in an e-mail. “We will of course look at the properties we currently own/long-term lease, but have in no way come to any judgment as to suitability from a security/safety/fit for purpose standpoint.”

In Jerusalem, the Israeli government reacted by illuminating the Old City’s historic walls with red, white, and blue lights in tribute to the U.S. decision. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heralded Trump’s announcement as an “important step,” and pledged to “continue to work with the President and his team to make that dream of peace come true.” Given the reaction everywhere else, however, the prospects of peace may be further off than they were ten months ago when Trump entered the White House.