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“Four Years of Trump’s Middle East Policy: Waste Deep in the Big Muddy and the Big Fool Said To Push On” Tuesday, October 27, 2020 @ 6-7pm MST, KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues, hosted by Jim Nelson. Transcript, Part One (edited)

November 4, 2020

Two versions of the same U.S. Middle Eastern foreign policy

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Our assessment in 2016 and our prediction was correct. We didn’t expect much at that time (in terms of changes in U.S. Middle East policies) – or we didn’t anticipate much – and we didn’t get much.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

I want to add a few observations about this recent announcement – orchestrated by the Trump Administration – that Sudan and Israel will enter into full diplomatic relations. Announcing this deal to the world, Trump added some gratuitous comments about the breakdown of Egyptian-Ethiopian negotiations over the opening of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Trump’s contribution to international diplomacy is a public call on Egypt to bomb Ethiopia! – Not only that, he went to say that Egypt should have bombed Ethiopia earlier!

Rob Prince

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“Four Years of Trump’s Middle East Policy: Waste Deep in the Big Muddy and the Big Fool Said To Push On” ” Tuesday, October 27, 2020 @ 6-7pm MST, KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues, hosted by Jim Nelson. Transcript, Part One.

KGNU – Middle East Dialogues – October 27, 2020

Jim Nelson: Good evening and thanks for tuning into Hemispheres. I’m your host Jim Nelson; Thanks for tuning into listener sponsored community sponsored radio – KGNU – Boulder, Denver and Ft. Collins, and at www.kgnu.org.

This evening we’re going to continue our Middle East dialogues. As always the two gentlemen who join us in those dialogues are Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. (Kazerooni and Prince are introduced).

Let’s begin with a quick synapsis of what will be discussed this evening. We’re going to discuss U.S. policy in the Middle East – or lack thereof – over the past 3 ½ – 4 years during the Trump presidency.

As part of his “legacy”
– Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
– He ordered the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Genearl Qassim Suleimani
– He helped engineer the opening of formal relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and just last week Sudan.

That said, Trump did not over a specific policy vision for U.S. Middle East relations.

He did claim he would withdraw troops from the region. I’ll turn it over to you two

Rob Prince: Concerning the troop withdrawals, he reassigned them Jim; they never really left.

OK, I’ll start off.

Here were are a week before this big election and just before this particular program I happen to have noticed a cartoon/photo on social media.

It is divided in two sections, in both of which there is what appears to be a B-52 bombers, both dropping a slew of bombs.
– In the upper section bomber is dropping its bombs. The caption underneat under it says “Republicans.”
– Lower down is another B-52 – on the front near the cockput it says “Black Lives Matters”, behind the wings it says “Yes, She Can” and on the tail it has the rainbow emblem of the gay rights movement… it too is dropping bombs. The caption underneath this one says “Democrats.”

Here we have in one photo a metaphor of U.S. foreign policy, U.S. Middle East policy: despite their differences on domestic policy, both Dems and Republican strategic approach to foreign policy remains pretty much the same. It is a bipartisan foreign policy – and has been since the end of World War II. That needs to be kept in mind when thinking about the differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Ibrahim, concerning U.S. Middle East policy – where were we four years ago, where are we now.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Well, there are a couple of points I really need to clarify before we get to the question that you pose.

1. You are quite – the way you pose the question that you want to find out what U.S. Middle East policy has been over the past three years.

Where it concerns incumbent presidents , presidents running for re-election, should be judged by their accomplishments, not by their promises. If three and half, four years ago, they made certain promises and some people fell for them, what does that suggest?

To be able to vote for an incumbent once again, we really need find out exactly what they have done.

2. Unfortunately the distinction that you made between the public’s awareness of domestic and foreign policy tends to be the lens that is being used by most of the American population.

They look at the differences that exist between the two candidates. They might be rotten as far as foreign policy but when it comes to the minor differences in domestic policy – these are considered to be the criteria by which they elect somebody. They think that it’s going to make a huge difference in the foreign policy as well.

As you indicated, Rob, since the late 1960s and early 1970s – and then particularly with the Reagan presidency of the 1980s the political equilibrium in the United States has shifted to the right – in a more conservative direction – so much that there is hardly any difference when it comes to foreign policy between the two major political parties. In a recent lecture that I gave to the (Arab-Islamic) Community in the Detroit area I said, “Look, you need to be mindful of this (the shift to the right, the bipartisan foreign policy ) if you think that switching from one of these candidates to the other is going to guarantee you some huge shift in the Middle East policy that concerns you – It’s not going to happen.”

With this in mind, let’s go back to a program we had at the end of November in 2016, just after Donald Trump had won the election. We posed the same question then. It was formulated in terms of “what do we anticipate, what do we expect from this (Trump) administration?” After discussing this between yourself, Jim and myself, we came to the conclusion that we really should not expect much, or hardly any improvement in the overall situation in the Middle East.

Reflecting back and reminiscing about what we said, what we talked about, this (Trump) administration didn’t achieve much, if anything. The only thing that the Trump Administration achieved economically was the smashing of corporate taxes from 35 to 21% at the expense of the middle and working class. It unleashed an economic bonanza for the top 1% echelon.

Apart from this, every other policy, whether domestic or foreign, has had negative results.

The United States left the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The United States withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, the International Criminal Court.
It reduced foreign aid to Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority.
Washington toughened its stand towards Russia and China putting it on a path of greater confrontation.
The United States left UNESCO and the Paris Climate Agreement.
It reversed the Obama Administration’s more lenient opening of trade with Cuba as well as alienating allies (Germany, NATO)
The United States has imposed sanctions, literally on everyone. Every country that has some kind of disagreement with the United States has suffered sanctions.
It has criticized S. Africa, promoted ties with corrupt, conservative leaders whether in Africa, the Far East or Latin America.

If diplomacy is about nurturing alliances – some commentators have indicated that Trump does not understand diplomacy. If diplomacy is about nurturing alliances and building relationships, he has alienated every single one and created a huge amount of disputes for the United States with its international partners.

The latest policy of hate is COVID-19..

Over 220,000 Americans have died, all because of the arrogance of a president who wasn’t prepared to respond seriously to the warning that was given to the United States (and the world) in January of this year – or some people say in December of last year. The warnings were given to expect the pandemic was building and that it would be hugely damaging. Trump kept dismissing its seriousness, opposing mask wearing. More recently the Administration has even gone so far as to encourage “the red necks” to come, to occupy the state capitol – at least I can speak of Michigan where I live – trying to kidnap the governor because they somehow consider these laws detrimental to their personal policy.

Our assessment in 2016 and our prediction was correct. We didn’t expect much at that time (in terms of changes in U.S. Middle East policies_ – or we didn’t anticipate much – and we didn’t get much.

Do you want to add anything Rob?

Jim Nelson: I’d like to jump in here. Trump’s negotiating style resembles mafia deal-making more than diplomacy.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Let me elaborate on this point for a moment.

The deals just made with Sudan and the (United Arab) Emirates (Trump Administration pressure to get certain Arab countries to enter into full diplomatic relations with Israel) is a classic example of that business style foreign policy that you just mentioned.

The United States made a deal with Sudan – a country in the midst of a desperate economic crisis – but there are conditions. Accept our conditions and we will remove Khartoum from the list of “persona non grata” countries. Sudan agrees and immediately the United Arab Emirates provides Sudan with $500 million in economic assistance and Saudi Arabia will contribute $1 billion.

That’s the foreign policy.

Jim Nelson: Yes, it’s always “a deal” – money in exchange for political favors, a corrupt process and somewhere involved – including in the Administration, people are making money.

Rob Prince: I want to add a few observations about this recent announcement – orchestrated by the Trump Administration – that Sudan and Israel will enter into full diplomatic relations. Announcing this deal to the world, Trump added some gratuitous comments about the breakdown of Egyptian-Ethiopian negotiations over the opening of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Trump’s contribution to international diplomacy is a public call on Egypt to bomb Ethiopia! – Not only that, he went to say that Egypt should have bombed Ethiopia earlier!

The result?

Ethiopia – like other countries has its own ethnic tensions and problems. In the United States there are about half a million immigrants of Ethiopian background, including a sizeable community here in Colorado. Trump’s remarks have mobilized the different factions to vote, and to vote against Trump himself.

To add a few comments about the presidential campaign itself rather than repeat what Ibrahim has said about Trump’s record these past four years…

Look how little content there is in this campaign. Other than discussing Coronavirus – they have no choice but to discuss that – but other than Coronavirus, I’m thinking of all the issues that were raised earlier in the campaign, a program that challenges Trump not only on his idiosyncracies and his daily nonsense, but that challenges him politically. Who was “the messenger” of a certain kind of a program – it was Bernie Sanders’ campaign that advocated medical care for all, free college tuition, climate change, moving in the direction of cutting the military budget.

What happened after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party nomination – at least from where I’m sitting – these issues, this program around which millions of Americans could be mobilized – the political issues essentially evaporated and what has followed is just this farce of these debates that pretty much deteriorated to naught… Maybe the vice presidential debate had a bit of content – but that between Biden and Trump was bankrupt, a debate around personalities, personal mudslinging – where the issues that facing the nation, harsh as they are, were hardly addressed.

Not only were domestic issues not addressed – climate change wasn’t addressed nor was the nuclear arms race, issues that are not only domestically important, but that effect the fate of the earth.

All this with just another week to go. …

Part Two

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