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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.

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

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians