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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 Two (edited)

November 9, 2020

Bye Bye Donald

“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).

Part One

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There is something beyond these events that we need to keep in mind and that is the most pronounced difference between 2016 and today is that the United States is hardly a player diplomatically in resolving any of the regional conflicts. Peace making and influence has shifted dramatically these last four years to the Russians and Chinese … whether it’s Syria, Iraq, Iran – now the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabah – the Trump Administration is nowhere.

In the past, global power that could bring forces together – now finished. That influence has all but evaporated.

– Rob Prince –

During the Trump years, we have seen nothing in the Middle East over the past four years other than war, violence and one attempt after another – actually one failed attempt after another – of regime change.

Where it concerns the Middle East, first we have to accept that the United States is in decline, going downhill. One day we hope to have an opportunity – if we have a chance perhaps tonight – we will discuss the ideas of Ibn Khaldun, especially his notion of the cyclical theory of empire – the rise and fall of great civilizations, an apt theory applied to the United States today. The United States is nowhere to be seen in the Middle East; they have to accept the consequences of their failure and try to do something about it.

– Ibrahim Kazerooni –

_________________________________________________________

Rob Prince: A couple of more comments about the last four years.

As Ibrahim noted, referring specifically to the Middle East, we didn’t expect much and we didn’t get much.

Frankly there was no progress – none – towards peace in the region. The last four years are characterized by instability and war in the Middle East. Where you started — story of nov 2016 – before we say any thing – this was our prediction – turned out close to accurate.. these four years – nothing but war, violence, racism xenophobia

Most of the deals that Trump has cut are mostly concerned with weapons’ sales, weapons sales to whomever. Just short term profit considerations; no thought whatsoever to long term consequences. Looking more closely at where we were in 2016 and where we are now in the Middle East . US had limited options or choices in the Middle East.. Its options are limited to – military activity for regime change and sanctions/embargo.

– Every attempt for regime change has failed
– There are uprisings against US through out the region, regular missile attacks on U.S. bases as a result of the assassination of Qassim Suleimani, so much so that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo threatened the Iraqis with sanctions
– Afghanistan – nothing US can do – they have to leave…
– U.S. has lost the war in Syria but refuses to leave. Washington is reduced to stealing Syria oil from the NE, burning wheat fields – on top of sanctions
– War in Yemen continues – U.S support of Saudi-U.A.E genocide there

No progress – to the contrary – the opposite towards ending the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian territories. Trump has given Israel more political gifts than any other president.

There is something beyond these events that we need to keep in mind and that is the most pronounced difference between 2016 and today is that the United States is hardly a player diplomatically in resolving any of the regional conflicts. Peace making and influence has shifted dramatically these last four years to the Russians and Chinese … whether it’s Syria, Iraq, Iran – now the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabah – the Trump Administration is nowhere.

In the past, global power that could bring forces together – now finished. That influence has all but evaporated.

Jim Nelson: When we were talking about Egyptian threats to bomb the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, you mentioned how previously the United States would have played a role in coming to some kind of compromise resolution between these two countries whose lifeline in the Nile River. Instead, now Trump openly encourages Egypt to bomb Ethiopia. That’s his contribution to “resolving conflict?”

Rob Prince: Think about it, two U.S. allies involved in a serious dispute which could lead to war. In the past, given Washington’s prestige, influence and also the knowledge of the region essentially to bring the two together and to pressure them to come to some agreement.

This time, what does Trump do? He literally takes one side, the side of Egypt against Ethiopia. He encouraged if not calls on Egypt to bomb Ethiopia.

You don’t think this will have repercussions in terms of reducing U.S. influence that much more?

One more point before returning the mic to Ibrahim… In its essence, what is US foreign policy ni the Middle East today?

War or sanctions. That’s it.

It relies basically on three allies.
Needs money – for the Syrian mercenaries, whomever? Saudi Arabia.
Needs to hit a country or movement militarily? Pick up the phone and call Netanyahu.
Needs some kind of destabilization in Central Asia? Call on Turkey.

Ibrahim, tonight we haven’t gone through any of this in detail as we have in the past but I think I see a pattern emerging here, no? It’s not one to “make America great again” but that of an empire in decline losing its bearings, in the Middle East or elsewhere. He’s helping precipitate a decline of U.S. influence in the Middle East more quickly than it might have otherwise happened

Tell me, is this the case?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: You are completely right Rob.

One could argue globally that not everything that the United States does is resulting in decline but nothing shows the degree of American failure as a hegemonic power than in the Middle East.

In a nutshell, in the Middle East the Trump Administration has done everything to make the region more unstable than it was in 2016.

During the Trump years, we have seen nothing in the Middle East over the past four years other than war, violence and one attempt after another – actually one failed attempt after another – of regime change. After the signing of the [Iran Nuclear Deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] with Iran in 2015, there was hope for some kind of rapproachment, some kind of deal and diplomacy to bring balance and stability to the region. It was expected after the 2015 agreement that Iran would use its influence to shift Syria towards a more negotiated settlement.

Rob, I’m sure you remember the Vietnam War. There was a Paris Agreement [in 1954] to bring the north and south Vietnamese together. Who came in and destroyed that possibility? The United States didn’t want these two adversaries to make peace, ultimately they went to war, an expensive, drastic and violent war that cost everybody a huge amount of money and suffering.

Now we are beginning to see – at least – the beginning of “the slippery slope” [Washington is on], the fall of the United States from that glorious time that it could pull all the strings, bring people, governments together.

It’s unable to resolve the Yemeni crisis as you indicated between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
It’s unable to resolve the Egyptian-Ethiopian crisis [over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] as well as other crises as we have seen in his [Trump’s] latest remarks.
It’s unable to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
It’s unable to resolve the Iraqi issue.
It’s unable to resolve the Syrian issue.
It’s unable to resolve the Afghani issue.
It’s unable to force the Iranians to come to some kind of negotiating table.

You see we started the program talking about Trump as a deal maker, a kind of mafia-style foreign policy.

Trump’s relationship with Iran is yet another example.Trump’s approach – ‘I’m waiting for their call! They [the Iranians] are going to call me once I’m elected because I can provide them with economic benefits.”

Getting back to the present, Russia was trying to broker a deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but my personal opinion is that Turkey was pushed into the situation. My personal hunch is that the way that Turkey was pushed into this situation to through a monkey wrench into this brokered deal by sending its F-16s [U.S manufactured sophisticated jet fighter planes] to Azerbaijan which sabotaged the deal that Russia was trying to craft. Then the United States came in to establish their own deal at Russia’s expense. (It didn’t work either).

So the United States under Trump has really accomplished nothing in the Middle East., in fact the Middle East stands as a fine example of the failure of U.S. policy as it moves from glory gradually moving toward oblivion. Of course we have discussed the theory of the rise and fall of civilizations, the cyclic theory great nations that Ibn Khaldun wrote about so long ago (in the 14th century). We have discussed some of this in previous programs. Once an ascending power rises to its maximum strength and estimates that it can no longer be threatened by other existing forces, it begins to lose its internal dynamism, begins to implode from within because of its fundamental ideological framework and its decline begins.

Now we are beginning to see – at least – the beginning of “the slippery slope” [Washington is on], the fall of the United States from that glorious time that it could pull all the strings, bring people, governments together.

It’s unable to resolve the Yemeni crisis as you indicated between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
It’s unable to resolve the Egyptian-Ethiopian crisis [over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] as well as other crises as we have seen in his [Trump’s] latest remarks.
It’s unable to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
It’s unable to resolve the Iraqi issue.
It’s unable to resolve the Syrian issue.
It’s unable to resolve the Afghani issue.
It’s unable to force the Iranians to come to some kind of negotiating table.

You see we started the program talking about Trump as a deal maker, a kind of mafia-style foreign policy.

Trump’s relationship with Iran is yet another example.Trump’s approach – ‘I’m waiting for their call! They [the Iranians] are going to call me once I’m elected because I can provide them with economic benefits.”

Trump’s relationship with Iran is yet another example. Trump’s approach – ‘I’m waiting for their call! They [the Iranians] are going to call me once I’m elected because I can provide them with economic benefits.” What is missing in this kind of economic understanding is a negation of forty years, fifty years – no – seventy years of discontent with U.S. interference in Iran. They [the Americans] don’t see it.

Jim Nelson: There was something else here Ibrahim, in that statement “once I’m elected, they’ll [the Iranians] will come running;” it was the implicit threat of war. It really has that mafia tone to it.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: You mention something significant here.

Once the Iranians shot down that huge drone that intruded over their air space showing that the Iranians have the technical capability to defend themselves and the will to do so – they are not afraid, they were sophisticated enough to make a distinction between a drone and a spy plane that carried 35 Americans – Trump was sober enough to thank the Iranians for not shooting down that plane.

Then there was the Iranian missile strike against the U.S. base (Al Asad Air base in Iraq). Trump was very dismissive of that attack, as if it were of little consequence, that Iran had the audacity to bomb this army base which was the biggest in Iraq. And now more than six months after this bombing there still has not been a full report detailing the damage and the losses involved. So this is the mindset of an administration which is detached from reality. Trump has grown up in a gated community with a silver spoon in his mouth and he really doesn’t understand the world in which he is operating. The wheeler-dealing in which he has been involved – constructing golf courses – hardly is a background enabling him to understand international issues.

Where it concerns the Middle East, first we have to accept that the United States is in decline, going downhill. One day we hope to have an opportunity – if we have a chance perhaps tonight – we will discuss the ideas of Ibn Khaldun, especially his notion of the cyclical theory of empire – the rise and fall of great civilizations, an apt theory applied to the United States today. The United States is nowhere to be seen in the Middle East; they have to accept the consequences of their failure and try to do something about it.

Rob, you want to add something?

Rob Prince: Yes, a couple of points.

First, in terms of general U.S. policy in the Middle East…

It has no vision. It’s completely defensive. It’s trying to stop developments rather than initiating programs for progress. Stop the Iranians from emerging as a regional power; stop the Syrians from unifying their country and defeating the attempts to partition it. It’s lost its way.

For the listeners who might not have caught what Ibrahim was saying, he was referring to a 14th century scholar who lived from 1332 to 1406 named Ibn Khaldun, quite an organizer and mover among other things, but also a visionary thinker who produced a visionary work called the Muqaddimah, an early sociological study of the history of civilizations, how they rise and why they fall. Ibn Khaldun’s work is referred to by modern scholars. I used to lecture on it to show the differences between what was happening in the Islamic world in the 1300s – so advanced in every way including intellectually – on the one hand and the Dark Ages in Europe during that same period.

Looking at the writings of Ibn Khaldun, one can glean the basis of modern day World Systems’ theory, thinkers like Immanuel Wallerstein and Samir Amin. Basically they are building on the same framework as Ibn Khaldun.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: In a nutshell Rob it assumes that sovereign powers are like living organisms. They are born, grow up, mature and die. These the four stages of the rise and fall of empires.

End Part Two.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    November 9, 2020 9:08 pm

    The demise of American Hegemony in the Middle East is a positive outcome. The Israelis might have less money to purchase padlocks for Gaza.

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