Trump’s Mideast policy–a smokescreen?

So President Trump keeps sending his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over here to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s hopeless, but perhaps that’s not the real mission. I discussed this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

Though Trump has called the idea of Israel=Palestinian peace the ultimate deal, his business history is in ties with the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia. There is no reason to believe that just because he’s president, his focus has turned on a dime.

So it’s no accident that Kushner always stops off in Riyadh to talk to Saudi leaders when he’s in the neighborhood. It’s also no accident that the Trump administration is trying to heal (not heel) the rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar–so far with no success, as Qatar moves closer to Iran in response to the Saudi move to isolate the rich little kingdom.

All this makes sense in the context of Trump’s obsession with Iran. In the Trumpified world of black and white, the Iranians are all evil, and anyone who opposes them is all good. Anyone who’s been in the Middle East for more than half an hour knows how simplistic that is, but never mind.

The move that would please the Saudis the most would be the cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump appears intent on making that happen, even if he has to make up evidence of violations to do it. That would be a disaster, as I have written here and here.

Unfortunately, world media continues to fall into its old patterns of concentrating on the hopeless Israel-Palestinian situation. The Palestinians are reveling in the attention after several years on the back burner–justifiably so, since it’s been shown conclusively that despite years of propaganda, the Israel-Palestinian dispute is not the key to regionwide Middle East peace. The Palestinians are even threatening to dissolve their government (again) and are setting deadlines for the Americans to do something or they’ll go to the UN (again).

It would be funny if it weren’t pathetic. The world has passed them by. Maybe one day a Palestinian will publicly regret how his leaders turned down creation of a Palestinian state twice, in 2000 and 2008. That day isn’t here yet.

But though Jared Kushner’s peace missions appear to be a failure–it’s because we’re looking in the wrong place. As usual.

ISIS on the run in Iraq, Syria–then what?

Iraq has launched a military operation to oust ISIS from another city, while Lebanon, Hezbollah, Syria, Russia and Iran are teaming up to defeat ISIS in Syria. I talked about the situation a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

So let’s assume that ISIS is defeated in both Iraq and Syria. That leaves the Iraqi government in charge of its country and the Syrian government in control of what’s left of Syria.

So ISIS is gone, but is it? We got the answer to that question in Barcelona a few days ago, when a terrorist ran over dozens of people and killed at least 14. ISIS claimed responsibility–just an indication that defeating ISIS on the ground in the Mideast is not going to eliminate the threat in the rest of the world. It might even make it worse.

And in Syria–with the US focused on fighting ISIS, the president, Bashar al-Assad, is regaining the offensive and could very well remain in power. This, after six years of civil war, hundreds of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, destruction of main cities across the country–and for what?

That’s why the main question, so far unanswered by policymakers in Washington is, ok, after we’ve defeated ISIS on the ground, then what?

My answer is doubling down to help the refugees and help rebuild the country, to restore good will that’s been destroyed over the past decade or two–but I see no sign of such an intention.


So cancel the Iran deal–then what?

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has begun his second term, claiming that the US is violating the deal designed to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons. I discussed this with host P.J. Maloney a few minutes ago on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

Rouhani ran for re-election on the basis of the deal, declaring that it would be a step toward rehabilitating Iran’s economy, decimated by years of Western sanctions over its nuclear development program. Now the Trump administration is indicating strongly that it wants to cancel the deal, pointing to Iran’s involvement in terrorism and in the fighting in Syria.

OK, so let’s say the US cancels the deal. Then what? I have yet to see any indication that anyone in Washington has thought past the cancellation itself, as if “punishing” Iran will accomplish something. What it will accomplish, if we can call it that, is a boost to Iran’s extremists and a renewal of its nuclear weapons program.

That’s after the Iranian hardliners say “I told you so, you can’t trust the Americans.” And then the Americans can say, “I told you so, you can’t trust the Iranians.”

So both sides get to say “I told you so,” and…then what? Anybody?

All’s quiet on the Temple Mount–till next time

Two weeks of Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem and the West Bank has died down now. It started July 14 with a terror attack–Israeli Arabs smuggled weapons into the holy site and killed two Israeli police, prompting Israel to erect metal detectors at the site. That set off the riots. I talked about the meaning of all this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

The immediate lesson is that in this part of the world, anything can cause a deadly flareup at any time. The larger lessons come from a common Israeli expression–it’s better to be smart than right.

Israel is in charge of security at the Temple Mount. That’s the semi-holy “status quo” that everyone is invoking. So Israel has every right to post metal detectors at the site.

But let’s be smart. First of all, you don’t take s step that you’re not prepared to follow through. Otherwise you set yourself up for a black eye. Further–metal detectors to check each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of worshipers at the site–Muslim worshipers is the wrong step, even though there are already metal detectors at the entrance to the Western Wall, where Jews pray, and the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount, where non-Muslims enter, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that cracking down on everyone is, how shall we say, the American mentality. I just spent two weeks in the US, flying around a bit, taking off my belt and my shoes and enduring X-rays and body searches at airport after airport. Folks, I’m about to turn 70, I look about as threatening as Don Knotts, and I’ve got an American passport, so why? I’ve written about how Israel does this, in contrast.

The smart measure, which Israel in fact employed once, would be to close the Jerusalem site briefly and search for weapons. Then do it again a week later. Then three days later. Then two weeks later. Then one day later. It’s a more efficient measure, less obtrusive, and gets the desired results.

When did Israel get old and stodgy in its security measures? It didn’t. Its leadership, prone to panic and overreaction, did. And there’s the problem. Right but not smart.

And that sets us up for another round of violence the next time the Palestinians see an excuse–assuming as they do that they can get the tough-talking but weak Israeli leadership to back down again.