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President Trump’s Call to Erdogan Reaffirmed American Alliances in the Middle East

April 21 2017

Turkey’s national referendum on Sunday—which approved constitutional reforms granting near-dictatorial powers to the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—triggered a call from Donald Trump that some have criticized for effectively condoning the collapse of democracy. But Lee Smith argues that the call was a necessary reaffirmation of the unsteady alliance between Washington and Ankara:

To the Turkish president, the call likely signals that he can once again count on a reliable NATO partner, one eager to reset America’s Middle East policy. That the call seems extraordinary, even repugnant, to much of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment shows that the chaos unleashed by the Obama administration over the last eight years may have left permanent scars. . . .

No, Turkey’s problems are not all Obama’s fault. Erdogan committed many foreign-policy blunders all on his own. Perhaps most importantly, he provoked a break with Israel, and while Ankara and Jerusalem have since patched up minor differences, their once strategic relationship is unlikely to be repaired while he governs.

Still, the Obama administration added to Turkey’s woes. The main venue was Syria, where Russia was supporting forces in the conflict that Turkey opposed. When Moscow brought down a Turkish plane in 2012 and Obama officials backed the Russian version of events, Erdogan began to understand there would be no help coming from his NATO partners, because the alliance’s driving force, [the U.S.], had its own ideas about the region and how to reshape its role there. The nuclear deal with Iran was the Obama administration’s key initiative, and the deal as President Obama conceived it required realigning American regional interests with Iran. This meant tilting against traditional Middle East allies, preeminently Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. . . .

The Trump administration’s support of Saudi Arabia’s conflict with the Houthis, strong and public backing of Israel, and the strike on Shayrat airfield in retaliation for Assad’s chemical weapons attack are steadily convincing Middle Eastern powers that the new White House has returned to the traditional American view of the region.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas Sets Its Sights on Taking over the PLO

Oct. 20 2017

Examining the recent reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian organizations Fatah and Hamas, Eyal Zisser argues that the latter sees the deal as a way to install its former leader, Khaled Meshal, as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and thereby the Palestinian Authority. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened:

Even the former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat . . . took the PLO leadership by force. His first steps, incidentally, were with the Fatah organization, which he cofounded in January 1965 in Damascus, under Syrian patronage. Fatah was meant to serve as a counterweight to the rival PLO, which had come into existence [earlier] under Egyptian patronage. Arafat, however, was relegated to the sidelines in the Palestinian arena. It was only after the 1967 Six-Day War that he exploited the resounding defeat of the Arab armies to join the PLO as the leader of Fatah, which led to his gaining control over [the PLO itself].

Meshal [most likely] wants to follow in Arafat’s footsteps—a necessary maneuver for a man who aspires to lead the Palestinian national movement, particularly after realizing that military might and even a hostile takeover of [either Gaza or the West Bank] will not grant him the legitimacy he craves.

It is hard to believe that Fatah will willingly hand over the keys to leadership, and it is also safe to assume that Egypt does not want to see Hamas grow stronger. But quasi-democratic developments such as these have their own dynamics. In 2006, Israel was persuaded by Washington to allow Hamas to run in the general Palestinian elections, thinking the Islamist group had no chance of winning. But Hamas won those elections. We can assume Meshal will now look to repeat that political ploy by joining the PLO and vying for its leadership.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Khaled Meshal, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat