BLOG 327 November 21, 2016
No matter where we look, the world is turning upside down. Hundreds of thousands gathered in downtown Seoul, South Korea to demand the resignation of President Park Geun-hye. The president of the Philippines wants the American military out of the country, suggesting he is looking to China for a new relationship. Germany’s Angela Merkel is the last powerful defender of Europe and the Trans-Atlantic alliance. Britain is pulling out and Obama is gone. With a resurgent Russia at her back, Angela Merkel is tired and struggling. The world is fast becoming a different place. Change is on the way.
Reports say that even President-elect Trump has changed. The brash, rudeness has given way to a more restrained soberness. Last week, we considered changes evolving after the Presidential election. Here’s some more.
Egypt appears to be smiling. El-Sissi said Trump would make a strong leader and Trump believed in a new “good chemistry” with Egypt. Following the military takeover of the government and the jailing of elected president Mohammed Morsi, relations with Egypt went into a tailspin. For a period of time, the Obama administration even suspended aid. A definite chill set in between el-Sissi and Obama. Egypt’s pro-government backed media railed against Obama. Even going so far as to accuse Washington of backing the Muslim Brotherhood. (which was nonsense) Trump appears to be attempting to ease the tension.
Predictions are that Trump will be less concerned over human rights issues. He will probably give el-Sissi political support as the battles with ISIS inspired and led forces continue in Sinai and Libya. A pro-el-Sissi TV host predicted a major shift in Egyptian-American relations under Trump.
As far as ISIS goes, during the political campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to intensify the war both in Iraq and Syria. He set crushing the Muslim extremists as his main priority. Americans generally applauded this stance. However, the jury is still out on how this effect complex alliances in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia always smiles while slipping money under the table to the extremists. One of the yet-to-be resolved twists in this situation is Trump’s statements that the rebel may be worse than President Bashar Assad, indicating defeating ISIS may be more important to him than getting rid of Assad.
Behind these issues is the question of Trump’s new approach to Russia. Giving the impression that he and Putin might become pals, does jar the picture considerably and raises important questions. Should Trump strike a deal with Putin at a cost to the rebels, the Middle East would be plunged into a new situation.
As Americans generally do, the new president-elect is given time to get his cabinet in order. Because Trump has offered little insight into a comprehensive Middle East policy or perspective on what comes next after the Syrian Civil War, one cannot be sure how all the cards will be played out.
At this point, we’re not even sure what’s being dealt at many major points. Don’t panic, but keep your cards close to your chest.