Middle East

How to respond to Tehran’s pirates, Part Two

Featured image Yesterday, I discussed a column by Bret Stephens about how the U.S. should respond if Iran continues to attack ships in the Persian Gulf. Stephens recalled that in 1988, after a U.S. frigate was badly damaged when it hit an Iranian naval mine, we destroyed half the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. I noted that today Iran is much more capable than in 1988 of inflicting damage on »

Withdrawing from Syria

Featured image In the current Mosaic podcast (introduced here), the Hudson Institute’s Michael Doran supports the withdrawal of American troops from their stations in Syria. In his January essay for Mosaic, Doran defended the White House’s strategy in Syria based on a prudent assessment of geopolitical realities. Weighing the pros and cons, Doran forcefully makes the case that, if the United States is to succeed in advancing its interests and elevating its »

Pompeo’s thankless visit to the Middle East

Featured image Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the Middle East trying to assure friends, allies, and non-adversaries that the U.S. isn’t walking away from the region. He claimed that progress has been made in addressing Turkey’s objections to Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria and that Turkey has provided “commitments” that Kurds who fought with U.S. forces against ISIS will be protected when the U.S. leaves Syria. The only public commitment »

The Mike Lee-Bernie Sanders show

Featured image Sen. Mike Lee used to be something of a conservative hero. More recently, he’s become heavy into working with Democrats. Not just any Democrats, but some of the most liberal, most stridently partisan Senate Dems. He and Sen. Dick Durbin combined to sponsor the jailbreak legislation that may well be on the verge of passing the Senate. A few years ago Lee and Durbin collaborated on a jailbreak bill that »

Middle East disconnect at the Washington Post

Featured image The Washington Post takes time out from urging that the U.S. blow up relations with Saudi Arabia, as retribution for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, to provide a clear-eyed assessment of reality in the Middle East. The Post’s Liz Sly finds that Russia has become the region’s rising power. Russia has made huge inroads, commercial and diplomatic, throughout the Middle East. The nations that now woo Putin run the gamut »

Trump stands with Saudi Arabia

Featured image President Trump today announced that, notwithstanding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, “the United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” The essence of Trump’s explanation for the decision is contained in the first sentence: “The world is a dangerous place!” Elaborating on this obvious but oft-neglected truth, Trump cited our interest in »

Jamal Khashoggi and the Washington Post, Part Three

Featured image On Sunday, the Washington Post (paper edition) published a lengthy tribute to Jamal Khashoggi, its former columnist. The article is worth reading. Joby Warrick, Loveday Morris, and Souad Mekhennet present a more nuanced and informative account of Khashoggi than the Post has been willing to render until now. I think the Post has recognized that its portrait of Khashoggi as a pro-democracy saint needs to be modified slightly now that »

Killing Khashoggi: Fistfight edition

Featured image The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is apparently unschooled in the arts of scandal management. Having now conceded for the first time that Jamal Khashoggi died in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, the kingdom claims that claiming that Khashoggi’s death came after an argument and a “fistfight” with men in the facility. According to Politico’s story, the kingdom has arrested 18 Saudi nationals suspected of involvement in Khashoggi’s »

Tom Friedman doubles down on magical thinking

Featured image To figure how not to think about events in the Middle East, it’s often useful to consult Tom Friedman. Yesterday, Friedman appeared on PBS with Christiane Amanpour to discuss the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Friedman looks like a fool in the wake of the murder because last year he wrote a gushing column praising Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, for implementing a “top-down Arab spring.” Friedman »

Jamal Khashoggi and the Washington Post, Part Two [UPDATED]

Featured image The Washington Post decries what it calls a “whispering campaign” to “smear” Jamal Khashoggi that is “designed to protect President Trump”. The “whisperers” are “hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators.” The latter are writing articles critical of Khashoggi (which means they are not whispering). The former are “privately sharing” the articles (which, I had thought, is how articles typically are shared). The Post’s Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian provide no evidence »

Jamal Khashoggi and the Washington Post

Featured image Many questions surround the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi. By far, the most important ones are who, exactly, is responsible and what will the U.S. do in response. Here’s another question that, although of far less importance, may be of interest: Why did the Washington Post hire Khashoggi as a contributor? David Goldman describes Khashoggi as “a top level spook who played a high-stakes game in Saudi spookdom.” Is Goldman »

The European reaction to Khashoggi

Featured image The mainstream media has criticized President Trump’s reaction to reports that Saudi Arabia is responsible for the disappearance and probable death of Jamal Khashoggi. Trump has said he is waiting for more facts, clearly an appropriate position to take. He has also said that if the Saudis are responsible for killing Khashoggi the U.S. response will be “severe punishment.” From the media’s perspective, this statement seems unobjectionable. At the same »

The Khashoggi slaying, the anti-Trump media, and American foreign policy

Featured image The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has replaced Brett Kavanaugh’s high school days as the mainstream media’s obsession. The media attributes the murder to the Saudi Arabian government. I don’t know whether the evidence conclusively supports this view, but for purposes of this post let’s assume that responsibility lies with the Saudis. The American media calls Khashoggi a journalist, and it’s true that he contributed articles to the Washington Post. However, »

Trump shuts down PLO office in D.C.

Featured image Yesterday, the Trump administration ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, saying that the PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” That’s for sure. The Washington Post’s account of the story is here. You can almost see the tears Karen DeYoung shed writing it. In the paper edition, the story’s subtitle is “another blow to Palentinians.” Perhaps. »

U.S. slashes aid to West Bank and Gaza

Featured image The Trump administration has cut more than $200 million in aid for the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. This decision followed a review by the State Department “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with U.S. national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer.” According to the Washington Post, the cut “effectively means the United States is giving no money to the Palestinians.” I’m not sure that’s the »

Why Does the Islamic World Lag Behind?

Featured image The passing of Bernard Lewis last week at the age of 101 recalls to mind perhaps his most famous book title about the Muslim world, What Went Wrong?  But maybe a successor of sorts has been found in Duke University economist Timur Kuran, who has a long article forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Literature that paints a pretty bleak picture of the economic and social structure of Islamic nations. »

The emerging strategy to undermine the Iranian regime

Featured image Several sources report an Israeli attack on a military airport in central Syria, an area where Hezbollah militias are located. There are conflicting reports about whether the attack was successful. Syria claims that its air defense system thwarted the attack. Syrian rebels say Israeli missiles destroyed that air defense system. The Israeli government has yet to comment. Jonathan Spyer, writing in the Jerusalem Post, provides context for the growing number »