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

Famous Novelists “Confront the Occupation” in the West Bank—and Celebrate Themselves

June 27 2017

To produce the collection Kingdom of Olives and Ash, the writers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman gathered a group of novelists, arranged for them to be shown around Israel for a few days by anti-Israel activists, and had each of them write an essay about the experience. Matti Friedman surveys the results:

Chabon and Waldman tell us on the very first page of a visit to Israel in 1992, which they remember vividly as a time of optimism, when the “Oslo Accords were fresh and untested.” But their memory must be playing tricks, because the Oslo Accords happened in the fall of 1993. Chabon and Waldman, who live in Berkeley, CA, are accomplished writers, but the reader needs a few words about what they’re up to here. Do they have special expertise to offer? Israel is probably the biggest international news story over the past 50 years, so is there a reason they decided the world needs to know more about it and not, say, Kandahar, Guantanamo, Congo, or Baltimore?

The essays vary in tone and quality, but experienced journalists covering the Israel/Palestine story will recognize the usual impressions of reporters fresh from the airport. Cute Palestinian kids touched my hair! Beautiful tea glasses! I saw a gun! I lost my luggage, and that seems symbolic! Arabs do hip-hop! The soldiers are so young and rude!

The writers interview the same people who are always interviewed in the West Bank, thinking it’s all new, and believe what they’re told. . . . Everything is described with a gravitas suggesting that the writers haven’t spent much time outside the world’s safer corners. [Dave] Eggers devotes two whole pages to an incident on the Gaza border, where one Israeli guard said he couldn’t pass and then a different one came and let him through. Dave, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re okay. . . .

What [this book is] really about is the writers. Most of the essays aren’t journalism but a kind of selfie in which the author poses in front of the symbolic moral issue of the time: here I am at an Israeli checkpoint! Here I am with a shepherd! That’s why the very first page of the book finds Chabon and Waldman talking not about the occupation, but about Chabon and Waldman. After a while I felt trapped in a wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Anti-Zionism, Idiocy, Israel & Zionism, Journalism, West Bank