Team Trump’s Pipe Dream

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

August 7, 2018

Team Trump's Iran Pipe Dream

Despite John Bolton's suggestion to the contrary, new US sanctions on Iran are clearly about regime change, Fred Kaplan writes in Slate. They probably won't work—and even if they do, what comes next will be worse.
 
"One could make a case that it would be in the best interest…if the Iranian regime folded and was replaced by more peaceful and democratic leaders. But this…isn't likely to happen. More to the point, Trump's policies—the withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the stiffening of sanctions—are weakening Iran's moderate factions and strengthening its hardliners," Kaplan writes.
 
"[W]ith this one move, Trump has irritated the allies, opened a new avenue for Russian and Chinese influence in the Middle East, strengthened the hard-liners in Iran, and heightened the chances that they'll revive Iran's nuclear program—all for the sake of killing a deal that blocked this program for the next two decades, and in pursuit of the pipe dream, which has been punctured in so many other dark escapades in US foreign policy, that ousting an unfriendly regime will bring to power a much friendlier one." "One is Yemen, where Iran provides military support to the Houthi rebels in their war against Saudi Arabia and the UAE," Rome writes. "A second, often overlooked area for confrontation is in cyberspace, where Iran retains advanced capabilities to attack US or allied computer networks. Under these circumstances, US allies in the region, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, would likely be more emboldened to take aggressive action against Iranian threats—raising the temperature in an already volatile region."
 

Why Saudi Arabia Got Prickly With Canada

Saudi Arabia's state airline will suspend flights to and from Toronto, amid an "intensifying diplomatic row between the two countries following Canada's refusal to back down from comments in defense of human rights inside the Kingdom," CNN reports.
 
The reason for the dramatic Saudi reaction to Canadian criticism? Bessma Momani writes for The Globe and Mail that it's about a young leader wanting to make his mark.
 
"Led by the young and very brash Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS), this latest move is yet another red line that is being used to rile up nationalists and assert Saudi dominance," Momani writes.

"The Saudi Crown Prince wants to signal to the world that interference in Saudi domestic affairs and criticism of the country will come with economic consequences. After all, Saudi Arabia will never pose a military or strategic threat to Canada and much of the West, but it does have billions of dollars in investment projects that Canadian and international companies want a piece of." 

  • Western universities might have a problem. Saudi Arabia's announcement that it is withdrawing government-funded scholarships for thousands of its students studying in Canada is a reminder of the inherent danger built into many Western universities' business models, suggests Thomas Hale for the Financial Times.

"Emerging market economies with the concentrations of wealth required to afford Western university fees…tend to be marshaled by authoritarian states with the political power to halt student flows, effectively overnight," Hale writes. And if Western universities "become financially dependent on certain regions, they become constrained in their criticism of that region."

Monroe 2.0

John Kerry was premature in claiming that the era of the Monroe Doctrine – under which "the US would not permit the establishment of hostile powers in the Western Hemisphere" – was over, writes Walter Russell Mead for the Wall Street Journal.

"When Mr. Kerry proclaimed the death of the Monroe Doctrine in 2013, he did so on the belief that the US not only faced no great-power competition in the region, but that the leading Latin American states had achieved such stability and prosperity as to make 'policing' concerns obsolete," Mead writes.

"The situation looks less rosy now. The main problem isn't Washington's Cold War nightmare of a triumphant Latin left spreading communism in the Western Hemisphere. It's precisely the opposite: The implosion of Venezuela's leftist government is driving a regional crisis. As waves of refugees flee the socialist utopia, bad actors ranging from Vladimir Putin to Hezbollah are nosing around in the ruins of the Bolivarian republic. This weekend's alleged assassination attempt against...Maduro is a harbinger of more violence to come."

Why Maduro Will Keep Living to Fight Another Day

The apparent assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro may have marked a new low point for his government. But those hoping for his fall shouldn't hold their breath, writes Nicholas Casey for The New York Times.

"Mr. Maduro has gone to great lengths to court those who might topple him, like Venezuela's military, which observers have long seen as the most powerful group that could turn on him," Casey writes.

"As the economy collapsed, leaving the country short of food and medicine and the currency worthless, Mr. Maduro has offered the military the lucrative prizes that remain. Military leaders run the food and oil industries and control the region where gold, diamonds and coltan are mined. So far, the arrangement has secured loyalty, analysts say, as generals calculate that it is more profitable to remain aligned with the current government than to return to democracy, where their future is uncertain."

 

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