Kyle Inan Istanbul Turkey
Eurasia Senior Analyst - Kyle Inan
The Outlook for the Middle East after November 3rd, 2020
1- How do you evaluate Arab-American relations during President Trump's term?
- Since the beginning of Donald J. Trump’s tenure as president on January 20, 2017, the Arab-American relations have witnessed several peaks and valleys. To refresh our recent history memories, the most striking type of these were the unprecedented $350 billion defensive capabilities deal with the House of Saud to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; from the massive influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey owing to the intractable Syrian war, to the worst pandemic of our century, the COVID-19. All these precedents could be deemed as game-changers that have impacted thehistorical ties between Uncle Sam and the Middle East.
- It is also possible to argue that one of the most critical breaking points of the bilateral relations with Arabs and Americans came about with the ruthless murdering of thejournalist Khashoggi on October 2nd, 2018 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey wherea collective legislative and executive task force were assigned to investigate the covert means behind the manslaughter.
o The globally authorized bodies in pursuit of unearthing all evidence soon found out that this horrible atrocity was, in fact, committed by the very hands of the top guy in the Royal Saud family hierarchy, directly ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A despicable act still etched in the hearts and memories of millions that would show the lengths that rulers would go to gain control and influence, while the real geopolitical players of the diplomatic system would ensure that condemnation in exchange for this heinous undertaking alone would not suffice. There is also a widespread belief among informed decision makers that the perpetrators of the Khashoggi case had exhibited the same deranged mentality as those who have caused the 9/11 tragedy.
o As perplexing as such turmoil may come to pass to test the strength of the bilateral ties, President Trump knew exactly how to fully handle the situation with a profound grasp of the situation; using all his strategic acumen and top-buttons to control the geopolitical sphere.
2- How do you view the course of affairs regarding US domestic policy on Middle East issues?
- The most recurring issue with regards to the U.S. domestic policy stance towards the Middle East is the idea of greater cooperation with Israel and less contact with its neighbors surrounding the region.
- The Signing of the proclamation to assign Golan Heights as part of Israel, on March 25,2019 was a partial completion of the expansion of the Israeli state. The finishing blow is the Netanyahu’s vow to “annex” the Jordan Valley as part of the Israeli-Palestinian “Peace Plan” which the Jordan government retaliated and warned to cut diplomatic ties if such a takeover plan was to occur.
3- How do you explain the American interference in many events such as the Yemen war and support for Israel in the deal of the century in the last killing of Qassem Soleimani, will this change the nature of US policy towards the Middle East?
- Perhaps the most tragic story of our century is the on-going humanitarian crisis in Yemen that escalated to a civil-war in March 2015, when the rebel Houthi groups seized control and proclaimed victory in the western part of the country and forced President AbdrabbuhMansour Hadi to flee abroad.
- In retaliation, the Sunni Arab states began an air-offensive after being alarmed by the sudden rise of the insurgent group which they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly aimed at restoring Mr. Hadi'sgovernment.
- The decision to assasinate Qassem Soleimanicame about as one of the alternatives that the senior military officials have presented to President Trump some time ago for responding to an attack by the Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members werewounded. Major General Qassem Soleimaniwas the leader of Iran’s Special Forces – IRGC Quds Force, whom was killed by an American drone strike outside of the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on January 3rd, 2020.
4- How do American politicians view the war in Yemen, the administration’s support for it and the arming of its Saudi ally?
- On April 16th, 2016, President Trump had chosen to veto a bipartisan resolution that was primarily aimed at putting an end to theAmerican military involvement in the civil war in Yemen.
- The repeal of this resolution by President Trump came about in the aftermath of the butchering of the journalist Khashoggi and can clearly be construed as a rebuke for Saudi Arabia. Although the rebuke may have created a short-lived tension between the two allies, Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its commitment to working side-by-side with the U.S. in Yemen.
- Interesting as it is, President Trump has been an outspoken critique of the endless wars as well as military entanglements, especially in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. However, the decision with the Yemeni civil-war and American military presence in the war-torn country is one of a more profound multi-faceted strategic objective for national interests.
5 - Do they not see that a war in the event that it continues longer may threaten their interests in the region, especially as Yemen overlooks the most important maritime strait in the world?
- Yemen is situated on a very strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea, central to some of the world’s most crucial shipping lanes, where any disturbance could jeopardize the smooth flow of trade. Oil tankers headed for Europe use the route viaYemen’s shores, through the narrow Strait of Mandeb and then onward to the Suez Canal. Houthi rebels have attempted to halt traffic multiple times if the Saudi-led coalition had challenged their hold on the port of Hodeidah. The same rebel groups also are known to have made a missile attack on a Turkish ship delivering wheat in March.
6- To what extent does the American street support its foreign policies with the Middle East, especially aggressive policies?
- Many Iraqi war veterans of the U.S. electoral base who have served in the Gulf War find it appalling that the U.S. foreign policy has shifted from nuclear non-proliferation to arming Kurdish rebels in Syria, the extent to which YPG is supported. In so doing, U.S. was close to losing its closest NATO ally, Turkey, the strongest military power, in the Middle Eastern region.
- It is now a fact that disregarding the regional geopolitical spheres of influence in the region, have claimed so many countless livesas well as losses in billions of dollars. The end result of conflicting interests and shortage of negotiations have caused an aggressive stir in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, unsettling to a level that none of the major players in the region are able to see foreign policies in the direction that they have so desired.
7 - Close to the elections, are Republicans anxious about their fear of President Trump's behavior during his reign, which may reflect on the election facts and affect them?
- In the eyes of the Red States, meaning specifically the states with predominantly Republican voters, President Trump is undefeatable and is doing everything in his POTUS capacity to protect the national interests. The unshakable belief of the Republican electorate is at a level where they are gathering at town-hall meetings and organizing protests to affirm their support for their President.
-There have been numerous voices in the U.S. Congress to blame the President for his negligence and failing to address the COVID-19 pandemic properly where thousands of lives have been lost. Although some also argue that his efforts have been undermined by individual state governor’s to take necessary action as they have been granted with the authority to deal with the pandemic from the procurement of necessary medical supplies to healthcare workers. If President Trump had intervened timely and there have been minimal casualties, would the Democratic electoral base still applaud the President’s efforts in taking early action? It is also quite clear with the impasse reached at the economic recovery bill in partisan favored politics, that this would certainly not have been the case.
8 - How to read the effects of the Corona crisis on US-Middle East economic relations specifically with Saudi Arabia and the collapse of oil prices Trump?
- Saudi Arabia and Russia overflooded the world with excess oil supplies in the midst of COVID-19, without any possible storage units or additional oil tankers, the price of oil for $20 a barrel, put the U.S. oil companies in risk of bankruptcy.
- In order to save the potential risks of a chain liquidity shorate in U.S. oil companies, President Trump made a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on April 2nd, 2020 to tell him to cut oil production by 10 even 15 million barrels per day to reflate the oil prices back to their pre-Corona levels. The Saudi administration immediately called for an OPEC meeting in which a temporary solution was found to jack-up prices by trimming production.
9 - Doesn't the Americans think that it has become necessary to get rid of the troubles in the Middle East and reconsider its unbalanced positions?
- The American objectives in the Middle East started were made concrete with the inception of the Gulf War in Iraq which ended with the termination of Saddam Hossein’s regime and his execution. The idea of creating a fully cooperating Middle East in economic terms via international trade, cross-border of goods and services, was never the intent. Though America itself cannot restore order for the people of the Middle East, it could certainly help as an effective mediator to level the playing field for highly-vulnerable states, such as Yemen.
The multi-faceted relations of the Gulf region do not allow for a straight line to the finish, specifically meaning the historical divergence between the Clerical sects of Sunnis and the Shi’ites and the most confounding variable in the equation, the Israeli state.
10 - Do you not think that the policies of the American administration in the Middle East have become more floundering than before?
- I believe that the basis for consolidating a Western agenda as well as the means to spread American influence in the Middle East are not as effective as before, if we were to look in the direction of the past half-a-century. Many of those who had long-time aspirations on an active American role in the Middle East, have been troubled by the fact that COVID-19, in effect, revealed the fragile make-up of the social structures in the country. Exposing itself in the farthest reaches of the economic social strata, the goose and the gander foreign-policy approach to the Middle East has been lob-sided with all the financial and military backing granted to Israel while countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain were approached with a carrot and sticks approach.
11 - To what extent can the Corona crisis be overshadowed by the elections and to reconsider policy-making?
- Never before anybody else has imagined that the Corona pandemic would change the way of the voting system in the U.S. and around the world, least it would come to “mail-in” ballots. In trying to cope with the reality of living with the risk of contracting a contagious disease that seems to have a long-lasting impact, individual states in the U.S., most notably and recently Michigan and Nevada, have started sending absentee ballots as well as applications to their constituents to prep them for the upcoming elections without having them to vote in groups. In response to the individual states’ precautionary measures to successfully hold elections without due harm, President Trump has warned that he would withhold federal grants for states that would choose to follow the ballot “mail-in” path, with the belief that the elections would not “completely” fair and square with such method.
o At the moment, the U.S. is facing the highest death toll due to the on-going pandemic and is not likely to slow down in the coming weeks. Fully unprepared to tackle the economic effects of the virus, millions of Americans are still yet to have received their “stimulus checks” to sustain their daily lives. 30 million people are currently unemployed and is set to be the most prominent recurring issue that will face the winner of the presidential elections on November 3rd, 2020.
12 - In your opinion, what are the goals that Washington wants to reach by focusing its attention on the Middle East more than other regions of the world?
o The overwhelming U.S. military, diplomatic as well as geopolitical presence in the Middle East is primarily due to the elimination of radical Islamist groups, the so-called “jihadists” who at every turn scheme to launch a terror attack on the peace and tranquility of the Western societies with the aim of bring down the liberal order. From religious to ethnic sectarian conflicts, almost all Middle Eastern countries need the U.S. to defend them from their equally radical neighbors. Gulf countries, in particular, spend enourmous sums of wealth to acquire state-of-the-art defense systems from the U.S. and the Western defense contractors!