13 January 2020

The Future of America’s Contest with China

By Evan Osnos

Last fall, to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the People’s Republic of China, the government planned the largest military parade and “mass pageant” in Beijing’s history. On October 1st, more than a hundred thousand performers and soldiers mustered downtown, forming waves of color that stretched from voguish skyscrapers in the east to the squat pavilions of the Forbidden City.

At ten o’clock, artillery blasted a fifty-six-gun salute, as President Xi Jinping watched from a high balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square, known to the outside world as the site of a student-led uprising that was crushed in 1989. (In China’s official history, the movement and the crackdown have been reduced to a footnote.) Xi is sixty-six years old, with a full, reddish face, neatly combed hair, and an expression of patient immovability. Since taking office, in 2012, he has redoubled political repression and suspended term limits on the Presidency, so he will run the country for as long as he chooses. For this occasion, instead of his usual Western attire, he wore a black Mao suit. “On this spot, seventy years ago, Comrade Mao Zedong solemnly declared to the world the establishment of the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “That great event thoroughly transformed China’s tragic fate, ending more than a century of poverty, weakness, and bullying.”

Chinese Growth Really Can Be Faster


BEIJING – In November, I pointed out that, since the global financial crisis a decade ago, China has allowed annual GDP growth to fall gradually from over 10% to nearly 6%. While a decline was appropriate, I wrote, it is time to stem the slowdown with expansionary monetary and fiscal policies. Unexpectedly, my view sparked a heated debate among influential Chinese economists.

Following its targeted killing of Iran's second most powerful leader, the US could well find itself with no alternative but to devote more military resources to the Middle East, a path that could lead to additional Iranian provocations. And that shift would occur at a time of growing challenges to US interests elsewhere in the world.42Add to Bookmarks

Many have rejected my proposal, offering a long list of justifications for their disagreement. For starters, they argue, China has tried to use fiscal and monetary expansion to stimulate growth before, with limited success. And with the Chinese economy having reached a “new normal” of slower growth, owing to long-term structural factors like population aging, there is little reason to believe that this time would be different. Expansionary fiscal and monetary policies might even make matters worse for China, because they could hamper supply-side structural reforms, such as by propping up inefficient “zombie firms.”

Cyber War With China? Here's Five Predictions for 2020

by Klon Kitchen
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Here are five predictions (admittedly aggressive ones) concerning what might happen in foreign policy in 2020.

1. Cyber Conflicts Will Become Real-World Conflicts

The world of cyber is already crowded with national intelligence services, criminal syndicates, hackers, and pirates. In 2019, state and non-state actors alike have been engaging one another with increasing frequency and “gusto,” and there’s no sign of this slowing down.

Specifically, as the U.S. enters a presidential election year, low barriers to mounting digital interference campaigns and their promise of potentially significant impact will prove too tempting for several foreign governments and others seeking to cause havoc in our political process.

The Blackstone Library is dedicated, marking the beginning of the Chicago Public Library system.

The African National Congress is founded.

China, Russia, North Korea, Iran: Confronting the new axis of aggression and evil


The American strike that killed the head of Iran’s terrorist Quds Force last week also may expose the emerging axis of aggression comprising China, North Korea, Russia and Iran.

Channeling Ronald Reagan’s condemnation of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address labeled North Korea, Iraq and Iran an “axis of evil.” 

As with Reagan’s moral proclamation, Bush’s use of the term “evil” to describe recognized states scandalized some in the international community, although it accurately described the nature of those regimes. All three brutally mistreated their populations and were complicit in acts of terrorism and/or aggression.

But any suggestion that Pyongyang, Baghdad and Teheran were linked at that time in a coordinated strategy, similar to the original Berlin-Rome Axis pact in World War II, was a bit of an overstatement.

5G Is Where China and the West Finally Diverge

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The rollout of speedy new cellular networks is a geopolitical turning point, but neither Trump nor the public yet recognizes this.

The rollout of fifth-generation cellular networks around the world will likely be a defining geopolitical dilemma of 2020. But American and European consumers could easily mistake 5G for just another marketing ploy for early adopters—to the detriment of democracies worldwide.

When the number in the corner of our smartphone screens changed from 3G to 4G, few of us even noticed. Ditto when LTE, another step in the evolution of cellular networks, appeared as an alternative to 4G. Still, for the better part of the past two years, wireless carriers on both sides of the Atlantic have been hyping 5G—which, they promise, will offer data speeds of up to 100 times faster than current connections. Tech futurists say fifth-generation networks will support a plethora of internet-connected sensors, vehicles, appliances, and other devices that will perform functions yet unimagined.

The Balance of Military Power Between America and China

Daniel Wagner

The defining character of the Sino-U.S. relationship has, for decades now, been based on a gradual transition of power. Beijing recognized this early on, but a lot of powerful people in Washington didn’t realize what was happening until relatively recently-a bit late in the process. They had believed that the bilateral relationship was primarily about commerce. Now that it is apparent what the relationship really is about – the slow devolution of power away from Washington and toward Beijing – it is having a profound impact on how the two nations interact and compete. As China continues to grow stronger, it will become increasingly less inclined to compromise on issues it views as important to Chinese national interests. In response, Washington may find it increasingly challenging not to overreact.

As American foreign policy was adrift over the first two decades of this century, the CCP realized that it had a strategic opportunity to fill in the gaps the U.S. left behind by virtue of its isolationism and proceeded to build its own set of alliances to make up for lost time. China’s leadership seeks to secure the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) objectives without jeopardizing regional stability or the Party’s monopoly grip on power – both of which remain critical to the country’s economic development. China’s leaders have deployed a multitude of tactics – short of armed conflict – to pursue China’s strategic objectives through activities deliberately designed not to provoke armed conflict with the U.S., its allies, or other actors in the Indo-Pacific region.

There Is Nothing Left for Americans to Do in Iraq


Qassem Suleimani is dead. Good riddance. In a region where there are a lot of bad actors, he was certainly among the worst. There has been so much fearmongering over the potential ramifications from killing the head of Iran’s Quds Force that lost in all of the commentary is the fact that the man was drenched in blood. Set aside the American deaths on his hands and consider the hundreds of thousands who have died just in Syria after Iran, under Suleimani’s direction, mobilized to save its ally Bashar al-Assad.

The pitched debate over whether Suleimani was planning an imminent attack—something that is always in the eye of the beholder—on U.S. personnel and interests when he was struck down by a U.S. airstrike last week is important, but the fury with which it is being waged obscures a more fundamental concern about the Iranian general’s demise. It would be one thing to kill Suleimani and bear the burden of the associated risks if there was a plausible case to be made that getting rid of him would have a salutary effect on Iraq and the U.S. ability to influence events there. That seems unlikely. Iraq is in a state of terminal collapse, and the United States is isolated and impotent there. It is thus hard to understand what Washington wants, and what the Americans who were left vulnerable to the likes of Suleimani are actually able to accomplish. The hard truth is that Iraq is lost, and it is time to leave. The foreign-policy community is reluctant to relitigate the invasion of Iraq and its consequences. Perhaps it is too much for analysts and officials—former and current—to bear, but it is worth understanding how and why the trillions of dollars spent, lives lost, and untold number of injured were simply a waste.

Iran Can Find a New Suleimani

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One of the strongest arguments for killing Qassem Suleimani—Iran’s longtime leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who was killed in a U.S. airstrike last week—was that he was unusually, perhaps uniquely, dangerous. Mark Dubowitz, an Iran hawk with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, declared that Suleimani “has been the equivalent of the JSOC commander, the CIA director, and Iran’s real foreign minister” and called his death “devastating” for the IRGC and for the Iranian regime. Andrew Exum, a former Obama administration official, voiced similar sentiments. “Soleimani was Iran’s David Petraeus and Stan McChrystal and Brett McGurk all rolled into one,” he wrote in the Atlantic. Exum added that Iran faces a shortage of human capital and that “I do not know of a single Iranian who was more indispensable to his government’s ambitions in the Middle East.”

Suleimani’s key role and the emphasis the Iranian government placed on his achievements make it easy to exaggerate his irreplaceability. Suleimani’s successor, his deputy Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani, will of course bring different skills and talents to the position. But he’ll inherit existing networks and institutions that were not solely reliant on the man who helped build them.

The Breathtaking Unravelling of the Middle East After Qassem Suleimani’s Death

By Robin Wright

The flag-draped coffin of General Qassem Suleimani was thronged by wailing mobs in Tehran on Monday, as the fallout from his death, in a U.S. air strike, accelerated with breathtaking speed. Iran has not seen such an outpouring of emotion on the streets since the death of the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wept openly—as did other political leaders and military officers—as he prayed over the casket. Esmail Gha’ani, Suleimani’s successor as head of the Quds Force, the élite wing of the Revolutionary Guards, vowed to confront the United States. “We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani’s path as firmly as before, with the help of God, and, in return for his martyrdom, we aim to get rid of America from the region,” Gha’ani said at the funeral.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on five Sunday talk shows—curiously, wearing a red tie on two shows and a blue tie on three others—to brag about the U.S. operation. “We took a bad guy off the battlefield,” he said, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “There is less risk today to American forces in the region as a result of that attack.” Yet nothing seems further from the truth. Some form of conflict between the United States and the Islamic Republic, overt or covert, seems more possible now than it has at any time since the 1979 Revolution. The U.S. investment in neighboring Iraq—thousands of American lives, hundreds of billions of dollars in American treasure, decades of American diplomacy—appears to be unravelling, with rippling effects across the Middle East. Diplomatic missions in other Middle Eastern and South Asian countries are on virtual lockdown, with American citizens urged to evacuate Iraq and Iran and lie low elsewhere in the region.

Airstrike Pushes National Security to Forefront of 2020 Race

The American strike in Baghdad that killed the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani thrust foreign policy to the center of the Democratic presidential race, drawing expressions of grave concern from the leading candidates and stoking a new debate in the party about the American military presence in the Middle East.

The party’s presidential field reacted to the attack with a measure of unity, at least on the surface level, condemning General Suleimani’s role directing violence against Americans but criticizing what they called the Trump administration’s penchant for reckless action and the threat of all-out war.

But during a series of campaign events on Friday, the top Democrats began to signal their differences on matters of national security, opening the way for what could become the party’s most serious conversation of the race about war and peace. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose long diplomatic résumé and global stature have been seen as crucial assets to his campaign, seized the occasion to remind voters of his experience, pressing them to elect a president who could “command the world stage with no on-the-job training.”

Attacking Iran’s Cultural Sites Would Violate the Hague Cultural Property Convention

By John Bellinger 

On Sunday, Jan. 5, President Trump—as he is wont to do when criticized—doubled down on his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites if Iran attacks the United States in response to the killing of Qassem Soleimani.

Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, which makes intentional attacks on historic monuments a war crime, the United States is a party to the 1954 Hague Convention on Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which the Senate approved in September 2008, when I was legal adviser. The Bush administration strongly supported Senate approval of the treaty, and I testified in favor of it in April 2008, along with Defense Department Deputy General Counsel Chuck Allen and a senior Joint Chiefs of Staff military representative. The Bush administration supported ratification of the treaty because it reflected long-standing U.S. practice of not targeting cultural sites in wartime. I testified at the time that “we have concluded that U.S. practice is entirely consistent with this Convention and that ratifying it will cause no problems for the United States or for the conduct of U.S. military operations.”

I would like to think that when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, in response to questions about the president’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites, that “[e]very target that we strike will be a lawful target,” it is because he had been briefed by the lawyers in the Legal Adviser’s office on the requirements of the Hague Cultural Property Convention.

The Soleimani Strike and War Powers

by Tess Bridgeman

With the targeted killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Thursday, President Donald Trump has dramatically escalated hostilities with a militarily sophisticated foreign government, engaged in a highly controversial use of force in the territory of Iraq without its consent, and changed the U.S. security posture in the region and beyond, all without first consulting Congress let alone obtaining congressional approval. 

The Trump administration sent Congress a classified letter Saturday under the War Powers Resolution, which requires that Congress be notified within 48 hours of presidential action introducing U.S. forces into hostilities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has characterized the notification as prompting “serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran.” While these reports are often brief, the law requires the president to explain the legal justification for the action along with other key information. For an action this momentous, the Trump Administration owes the American public and the Congress an unclassified explanation. 

Did President Trump have the authority to take such a significant military action without going to Congress first? And what is the role of the War Powers Resolution, which some have erroneously cited as authorization for the strike, after the fact? 

Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions

By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
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When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.

But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.

Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.

Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.

The U.S. Public Still Doesn’t Want War With Iran

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For a president who professes aversion to wars in the Middle East, in ordering the killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, U.S. President Donald Trump may have made an already slippery slope toward military conflict with Iran much more slippery. To be sure, it is easy for Trump to point out to the U.S. public that Suleimani had much American blood on his hands, but that still doesn’t mean that the public believes that it is in the best interest of their country to go to war.

A September 2019 University of Maryland poll of a nationally representative sample of 3,016 respondents shows the trouble Trump faces with U.S. public opinion as the crisis with Iran escalates. There are three main takeaways: Three-quarters of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say that war with Iran would be unwarranted; the public mostly blames the Trump administration for heightened tensions with Iran and disapproves of Trump’s Iran policy; and Americans are deeply divided in assessing Trump’s goals in Iran.

Overwhelmingly, the U.S. public does not believe that U.S. interests warrant war with Iran. Only about one-fifth of respondents say that their country “should be prepared to go to war” to achieve its goals with Iran, while three-quarters say that U.S. goals do not warrant it. Among Republicans, only 34 percent say that war should be on the table to protect U.S. interests.


Iran’s Cyber Attack on Billionaire Adelson Provides Lesson on Strategy

By Alyza SebeniusKartikay Mehrotra, and William Turton

As the U.S. awaits possible retribution over a recent airstrike that killed a top general, there’s at least one American businessman who can attest, in detail, to what happened after he provoked Iran.

In October 2013, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and prominent supporter of conservative politicians and Israel, appeared on a panel in New York in which he suggested that the U.S. could send a message to Iran, regarding its nuclear ambitions, by detonating an American warhead in the middle of the Iranian desert.

“You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position,” said Adelson, who later became a major supporter of President Donald Trump. His comments infuriated Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who two weeks later said America “should slap these prating people in the mouth.”

Months later, in February 2014, hackers inserted malware into the computer networks of Adelson’s Las Vegas casino. The withering cyber-attack laid waste to about three quarters of the company’s Las Vegas servers; the cost of recovering data and building new systems cost $40 million or more.

Was Killing Suleimani Justified?


MELBOURNE – On January 3, the United States assassinated Qassem Suleimani, a top Iranian military commander, while he was leaving Baghdad International Airport in a car with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia. All the occupants of the car were killed.

Following its targeted killing of Iran's second most powerful leader, the US could well find itself with no alternative but to devote more military resources to the Middle East, a path that could lead to additional Iranian provocations. And that shift would occur at a time of growing challenges to US interests elsewhere in the world.42Add to 

The next day, at a special press briefing, an unnamed senior US State Department official said that Suleimani had been, for 20 years, “the major architect” of Iran’s terrorist attacks and had “killed 608 Americans in Iraq alone.” He added that Suleimani and Muhandis had been designated as terrorists by the United Nations, and that “both of these guys are the real deal in terms of bad guys.”

Soleimani is dead, but the enemy still stands

Alireza Nader

The killing of General Qassem Soleimani by U.S. forces has removed a huge threat to U.S. national security. But the source of the problem, the Islamic Republic in Iran, still stands. And while the regime is likely to retaliate against U.S. interests, Soleimani’s death comes at a vulnerable time for the regime as it fights economic collapse and popular rebellion. While Washington should brace itself for a deadly response, it should also not lose sight of the possibilities created by the passing of the region’s greatest terror mastermind.

Soleimani was the chief of the Quds Force, the infamous Revolutionary Guards unit responsible for the Islamic Republic’s campaign of expansion and terrorism across the Middle East, especially in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Soleimani was also Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s most trusted, loyal, and capable lieutenant, a true believer in the revolution who expressed his willingness to be “martyred” for the cause.

Alireza Nader is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD), a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) research institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Follow him on Twitter @AlirezaNader

Iran strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ continues after the killing of Qassem Soleimani

The lawful killing of arch terrorist Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, should be welcomed by all who applauded the liquidation of Osama bin Laden by President Barack Obama.

Soleimani, like bin Laden, murdered and maimed thousands of Americans. He also destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Israel, Gaza — and in Iran itself.

A debate about the wisdom of the strike has predictably erupted in Washington along partisan lines. But the chatter obscures a crucial question. Does President Donald Trump have a coherent Iran strategy?

He does. It’s called “maximum pressure.” It wields all instruments of national power to weaken the Islamic Republic of Iran. For three years, this strategy has relied primarily on sanctions. Those sanctions have precipitated a severe recession in Iran, depriving the regime of the money it needs to destabilize the region, as well as a political crisis with mass demonstrations against the mullahs and their proxies in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

Qods Force commander Soleimani’s carelessness put him in the U.S. military’s crosshairs

Bill Roggio

The US military’s ability to kill Qassem Soliemani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force, was the result of his complacency and carelessness while traveling to and from Iraq.

That’s because Soleimani became a public figure inside Iraq and acted as if he did not fear US action, US military officials familiar with his routine told FDD’s Long War Journal.

Soleimani was killed along with Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the leader of the Hezbollah Brigades and deputy leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and five others in a US military airstrike while traveling in a convoy from Baghdad International Airport last night. The Pentagon said that Soleimani “approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad” and was plotting further strikes against American interests in Iraq.

As the head of Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps which directs insurgencies and terror operations outside of Iran, Soleimani had a significant amount of blood on his hands. His actions have put him in the crosshairs of multiple intelligence services.

What a War With Iran Would Look Like

By Ilan Goldenberg 

Tensions between Iran and the United States are at their highest point in years. The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement is teetering. The Trump administration is using sanctions to strangle the Iranian economy and in May deployed an aircraft carrier, a missile defense battery, and four bombers to the Middle East. Washington has evacuated nonessential personnel from its embassy in Baghdad, citing intelligence suggesting that Iran is increasingly willing to hit U.S. targets through its military proxies abroad.

The United States also stated that Iran almost certainly perpetrated the recent damage to oil tankers flagged by Saudi Arabia, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and claimed that Iran had temporarily loaded missiles onto small boats in the Persian Gulf. In early May, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton publicly threatened a response to any Iranian attacks, “whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards [sic] Corps or regular Iranian forces.”

The Blueprint Iran Could Follow After Soleimani’s Death


Here’s what to expect after the U.S. killing of Iran’s most powerful military commander.

The Iranian government’s swift pledge to avenge the Trump administration’s killing of its infamous military commander Qassem Soleimani, and the U.S. government’s deployment of thousands of additional troops to the Middle East and urgent call for Americans to leave Iraq, has left a distinct impression: that some fearsome Iranian retaliation is coming any minute and that it could quickly spiral into an all-out war between the United States and Iran that would surpass the horror of the Iraq War.

But that’s not exactly how Iran operates. The U.S. and Iran have been locked for the past four decades in a shadowy, shape-shifting struggle—what the historian David Crist memorably termed a “twilight war”—and Iran has tended to follow a certain blueprint: compensate for its inferior military capabilities relative to the United States by waging wide-ranging proxy warfare that stops short of direct conflict, allows it to maintain plausible deniability, and is carefully calibrated to advance Iranian interests at a low cost and with minimal risk.

Washington Failed to Brief Key Anti-ISIS Partners on Iraq Emergency Exit Plan

by Matthew Petti

The assassination of high-level Iranian commander Gen. Qassim Suleimani by a U.S. drone on the road to Baghdad International Airport on January 2 enraged political leaders in Iraq, who demanded an end to the U.S. presence. U.S. counterterrorism partners on the ground were left unprepared for the Iraqi reaction, as the Trump administration had never discussed the possibility that Iraq would oust U.S. troops.

The National Interest has learned from four different people involved with U.S. counterterrorism planning that U.S. officials had not previously discussed with partners participating in its counter-ISIS coalition, which relies on U.S. supply lines running through Iraq, what the next steps would be if those supply routes were dismantled.

This new layer of chaos is surfacing just as the coalition has suspended its counter-ISIS operations inside Iraq in the wake of a decision by Iraq’s outgoing prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, to ask U.S. troops to leave the country. In response, Brig. Gen. William H. Seeley III wrote a letter about “repositioning forces over the coming days” to the Iraqi ministry of defense. The letter leaked to social media on Monday.

After US Strike on Soleimani, China and Russia Coordinate at UN

By Ankit Panda

China and Russia have coordinated their response to the U.S. strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq earlier this month at the United Nations. Both countries, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with veto power over resolutions, have coordinated directly in the aftermath.

According to China‘s Xinhua news agency, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on a phone call over the weekend, shortly after the U.S. strike on Soleimani. The two “discussed bilateral cooperation at the United Nations (UN) Security Council,” Xinhua noted.

“Wang said that China pays high attention to the intensification of U.S.-Iran conflict, opposes the abuse of force in international relations, and holds that military adventures are unacceptable,” the Xinhua report noted. During a visit to China by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the days before the strike on Soleimani, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had criticized what it saw as U.S. “bullying.”

The Middle East Is More Stable When the United States Stays Away

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It has been a mantra of U.S. foreign policy for a decade or more that, without the United States, the Middle East would descend into chaos. Or even worse, Iran would resurrect the Persian Empire and swallow the region whole.

Yet when U.S. President Donald Trump opted not to go to war with Iran after a series of Iranian-attributed attacks on Saudi Arabia last year and declared his intentions to pull troops out of the region, it wasn’t chaos or conquest that ensued. Rather, nascent regional diplomacy—particularly among Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—and de-escalation followed. To be sure, the cards were reshuffled again in January, when Trump ordered the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, one of Iran’s most important military figures. Courtesy of Trump, the region is once more moving toward conflict, and the early signs of diplomatic progress achieved during the preceding months have vanished.

It is thus time for Washington to answer a crucial question that it has long evaded: Has America’s military dominance in the Middle East prevented regional actors from peacefully resolving conflicts on their own? And in that way, has it been an impediment to stability rather than the guarantor of it?

Is the Cold Peace Between Jordan and Israel at Risk?

Curtis R. Ryan

The 25th anniversary of the landmark peace treaty between Jordan and Israel came and went without celebration among Jordanians last fall. They did cheer, however, when the Jordanian government refused to renew annexes to the treaty that allowed Israel to lease and farm fertile lands in the Jordan Valley. While Israelis were disappointed by the move, which followed through on a previous announcement, Jordanians welcomed the return of their country’s flag and sovereignty to the territories of Baqura and al-Ghamr. A cold peace, as King Abdullah II has often put it, is getting colder.

Relations between Jordan and Israel have sunk to their lowest point since the day the peace treaty was signed in 1994. This rift is the result of a series of incidents that have further soured Jordanians on an already unpopular peace treaty. In 2014, a Jordanian judge was killed by Israeli soldiers during a dispute at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. In 2017, an Israeli security officer shot and killed two Jordanians during a confrontation at the Israeli Embassy in Amman. Israel claimed diplomatic immunity over the incident, and the officer was shuttled back to Israel for a hero’s welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. More recently, two Jordanian citizens were released from Israeli detention after lengthy hunger strikes, but only after Jordan’s government intervened on their behalf. ...