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Unresolved: Shifting Power in the Middle East

Unresolved: Shifting Power in the Middle East

Unresolved: Shifting Power in the Middle East
The BriefGet Up To Speed

Saudi Arabia and Iran are vying for regional dominance. Turkey is cozying up to Russia and China. And instability, conflict, and proxy wars have engulfed Syria, Yemen, and beyond. How should the United States respond to shifting power in the Middle East?

Staged in our “Unresolved” format, this debate brings together five foreign policy experts to tackle pressing questions on geopolitics in the Middle East, including: Is Trump right on Saudi Arabia? Is the world safer without the JCPOA? And is Turkey an asset to NATO?

  • Ian Bremmer

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    • Founder and President, Eurasia Group
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  • Elizabeth Economy

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    • Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
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  • Noah Feldman

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    • Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
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  • David Shambaugh

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    • Professor of International Affairs & Director, China Policy Program, George Washington University
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Trump Is Right on Saudi Arabia

"I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Donald J. Trump

"Trump made a decision to put U.S. interests ahead of the passions of a moralistic chattering class that has no idea about how to defend America."

Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Christian Whiton

"About two weeks after the disappearance of our colleague Jamal Khashoggi, and before much was known about his fate, President Trump warned of “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was responsible. Now, eight months later, this comment has been tossed aside by Mr. Trump, just another outburst of bluster that he either forgot or never meant. Instead, Mr. Trump has become a steadfast champion of the royal court that sent a team of killers to murder Khashoggi."

Monday, June 24, 2019
The Editorial Board

"That is why President Trump’s statement on Jamal Khashoggi's murder is correct. What happened to the Saudi national at the Saudi consulate in Turkey is wrong. But our national response to his death cannot be allowed to jeopardize the precarious balance in the Middle East and endanger our regional and global interests, our safety or the security of our allies."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Sebastian Gorka

"President Trump again succeeded in turning back bipartisan congressional efforts to rebuke his lock-step support for Saudi Arabia after the Senate on Monday failed to override his veto on a series of measures that would have blocked billions of dollars of arms sales to the Persian Gulf region."

Monday, July 29, 2019
Catie Edmondson

"The administration wants to sell $8bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia and UAE – and prop up a morally indefensible war."

Saturday, June 8, 2019
Mohamad Bazzi

"President Trump is rightly issuing an emergency declaration in order to authorize $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Those arms will mitigate the risk to civilian lives in Yemen and deter Iran in a moment of escalating crisis."

Friday, May 24, 2019
Tom Rogan

"The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has long rested on a simple equation: The United States buys Saudi oil, and Saudi Arabia buys American weaponry, with the understanding that America would help protect the kingdom in case of a foreign attack."

Sunday, April 28, 2019
Ben Hubbard

"Rather than focus on the personality, Washington should push on the policy. The Trump administration has taken some steps in this direction, prodding the Saudis to find a diplomatic solution to the Yemen war and end the frivolous standoff with Qatar. Now it needs to redouble those efforts, particularly on Yemen, using whatever leverage Khashoggi’s murder has given it to push for a reduction in the political instability that plagues the Middle East and the human suffering that accompanies it."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
F. Gregory Gause III

"The Saudis are good customers, Trump says – which evidently outweighs the fact they murdered and carved up a Washington Post journalist"

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Richard Wolffe
The World Is Safer Without the JCPOA

"The United States’ withdrawal from the arms control agreement has heightened tensions and left the remaining signatories scrambling to keep the deal alive."

Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Zachary Laub

"A special meeting of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors wrapped up Wednesday with no formal action on Iran's two recent violations of the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA. The meeting let both the U.S. and Iran spell out their starkly different views, and came amid continuing tensions: Iran has given Europe — which is attempting to get trade going with Iran — a 60-day time frame to save the nuclear deal, and President Trump threatened more sanctions even as the IAEA meeting was taking place. On the same day, Iranian boats attempted to seize a British tanker in the Persian Gulf."

Thursday, July 11, 2019
Peter Kenyon

"The demise of the Iran nuclear deal does not make Tehran an immediate threat, but it opens the door to nuclear escalation."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Philip H. Gordon

"In 2015, as part of the nuclear deal between Iran, the permanent-five nations on the un Security Council and Germany, Iran promised that it would not enrich any uranium beyond this 4% level, nor hold stocks of more than 300kg of such low-enriched uranium (leu). But in May 2018 President Donald Trump walked away from that deal, reimposing old sanctions and adding a spate of new ones, too. America now imposes over 1,000 sanctions on Iran and parties that might trade with it. These sanctions have hurt Iran a lot: inflation is expected to reach 50% this year, and gdp to shrink by 6%."

Monday, July 29, 2019
The Economist

"Any solution to the current crisis will require a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges posed by the regime."

Thursday, July 18, 2019
Michael Oren

"One of us (Max Boot) was critical of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The other supported it. We both agreed, however, that, with Iran abiding by the JCPOA, it was a mistake for President Trump to exit the agreement in 2018. That move, followed by the imposition of sanctions, has created the current standoff with Iran that nearly led to war last week. But there is no way to unscramble this omelet. We are where we are, and it’s not a good spot to be in. We believe the most prudent way forward is to entice Iran back to the negotiating table while working with our allies to stop its attempts to disrupt international shipping."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Max Boot & Lee Wolosky

"Since the president reimposed sanctions on Tehran one year ago, Iran's economy has suffered and its influence has waned."

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
David Ibsen

"President Trump’s decisions to order and then suddenly abort a military strike against Iran set off a debate across the region on Friday over whether his stop at the brink amounted to his gravest threat yet or a sign of capitulation."

Wednesday, June 19, 2019
David D. Kirkpatrick

"Iran wants to come back to the negotiating table—but first the regime needs a narrative of success."

Saturday, June 22, 2019
Ray Takeyh

"Tehran's new threats are a sign that U.S. policy is working."

Thursday, May 9, 2019
Fred Fleitz

"Most likely, all parties understand these dangers—not least the Iranian government, for which a war with the United States would be particularly catastrophic. And for this reason, both sides will continue to try to avoid an all-out war. But sometimes even wars that nobody wants still happen. The Trump administration and the Islamic Republic should tread much more carefully, lest they send their countries down a dangerous and costly spiral that will quickly spin out of control."

Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Ilan Goldenberg
Turkey Is an Asset to NATO

"Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most baffling politician to emerge in the 96-year history of Turkey. He is polarizing and popular, autocratic and fatherly, calculating and listless. Erdogan’s ideology shifts every few years, and he appears to make up his road map as he goes along. He is short-tempered: he grabs cigarette packs from citizens to try to force them into quitting, scolds reporters who ask tough questions, and once walked off the stage after an angry exchange with the Israeli president at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But he can also be extremely patient. It has taken him 16 years to forge what he calls “the new Turkey,” an economically self-reliant country with a marginalized opposition and a subservient press."

Monday, September 30, 2019
Kaya Genc

“Turkey is an important and highly valued NATO Ally”, Secretary General Stoltenberg said at a press conference alongside Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. “I welcome that Turkey is playing a key role in our training mission in Iraq”, the Secretary General said, citing Turkey’s strong contributions to NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo as further examples of Turkey’s active contributions to collective defence of the Alliance.

"Arms deal with Russia jeopardises Ankara’s role in Nato and its relations with US. Will the risk pay off?"

Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Laura Pitel, Aime Williams & Henry Foy

"Last week, the United States removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Russia began delivering its S-400 missile defense system to Turkey. This move is significant since Turkey produces parts for the jet and was due to receive at least 22 of the U.S. jets by 2022."

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Jennifer Spindel

"A Turkish invasion of Syria appears to be imminent. But a new military offensive could have self-destructive consequences for Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, writes journalist Rainer Hermann."

Saturday, August 10, 2019
Rainer Hermann

"The Trump administration has launched a last-ditch effort to head off a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria that it expects will come within the next two weeks. With tens of thousands of Turkish troops massed near the border, a high-level Defense Department delegation plans to present what U.S. officials describe as a final offer to address Turkey’s concerns at a meeting Monday in Ankara. The meeting marks the climax of a years-long dispute between the two NATO allies over U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who have led the ground war against the Islamic State, but whom Turkey considers a terrorist threat to its own security. Kurdish-led victories against the militant group have effectively left them in control of much of the border area."

Sunday, August 4, 2019
Karen DeYoung, Souad Mekhennet & Louisa Loveluck

"As U.S. policymakers worry about their special relationship with Ankara, Turkey’s president knows it's already dead."

Thursday, August 15, 2019
Steven A. Cook

"Ankara is a difficult friend. That doesn't mean the United States should cut it loose."

Monday, March 19, 2018
Michael Singh & James Jeffery

"A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Judy Dempsey, et. al

"Ankara, helped by China and Russia, is vandalizing Western interests."

Monday, August 13, 2018
Bernard Henri-Levy

"Turkey has been battered by terrorism. Its most urgent need now is to defend itself and its democracy. But the West’s response threatens to complicate how the U.S. and its NATO allies work with a country on the front lines of the global fight against ISIS. To cast Turkey loose now would forfeit our influence in the region and end a decades-long alliance. It could also drive Turkey into the arms of Russia—the wolf scratching at its door, which would like nothing more than to distance Turkey from the West."

Monday, August 22, 2016
Halil I. Danismaz