US Opinion and Commentary

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Diplomacy’s Aversion to Power: Consequences of Retreat

Posted October 26th, 2016 at 4:03 pm (UTC-4)
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In practice, aversion to the use of power undercuts the effectiveness of diplomacy. It has been said that power without diplomacy is blind, but it is equally true that diplomacy not backed by power is impotent.

Stop the Saudi Slaughter

Posted October 24th, 2016 at 1:52 pm (UTC-4)
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Until our politicians act, U.S. complicity in the carnage will continue. Allowing Washington to arm Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen spells disaster for the humanitarian crisis there, as well as for the people of Saudi Arabia and the United States.

A Turning Point in Yemen?

Posted October 17th, 2016 at 10:47 am (UTC-4)
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By Barbara Slavin The Saudi bombing that killed 140 people at a funeral in Yemen earlier this month has given the Barack Obama administration new diplomatic ammunition to push for a halt to an increasingly bloody and counter-productive war. Meeting in London Sunday with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, and a UN envoy, Secretary of […]

Saudi Backing of Iranian Exile Group Inflames Mideast Conflicts

Posted July 11th, 2016 at 12:35 pm (UTC-4)
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By Barbara Slavin Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at infuriating each other, with dismal consequences for the region they co-inhabit. Facing off in proxy conflicts from Yemen to Syria, they are also practitioners in a propaganda war that now extends to open Saudi support for an Iranian exile group that seeks the overthrow of […]

Oil Is Still heading to $10 a Barrel

Posted July 1st, 2016 at 11:24 am (UTC-4)
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[T]he world continues to be awash in crude, and American frackers have replaced the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as the world’s swing producers. The once-feared oil cartel is, to my mind, pretty much finished as an effective price enforcer.

Who’s Winning the Middle East’s Cold War?

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 3:29 pm (UTC-4)
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Iran also has an overwhelming manpower advantage, with a population of an estimated 77 million, compared to Saudi Arabia’s 28 million. And while its army is far less well equipped than its rival’s, it is much larger….This has left the Saudis feeling abandoned and vulnerable.

Sykes-Picot +100 Years

Posted May 18th, 2016 at 4:37 pm (UTC-4)
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100 years ago this week, a British colonel and a French diplomat drew a few lines on a map of the Middle East. Those lines were the first draft of borders that are still disputed, and battled over today.
Mark Sykes and François-Georges Picot were empowered by their governments to secretly work out an arrangement to split up the Levant part of the Ottoman Empire even before World War I was over.
Sykes & Picot came up with areas of British (area A and area in red) and French influence (area B and area in blue). The brown shaded area would be internationally administered. The secret plan was signed on May 16, 1916, two-and-a-half years before World War I ended.
Sykes-Picot was seen as a betrayal of the Arabs by the British, who promised their support for an independent state in exchange for Arab support against the Ottomans.
Memories of that supposed betrayal remain strong. When the Islamic State bulldozed the barrier marking Sykes-Picot border between Iraq and Syria in 2014 they tweeted #SykesPicotOver.
So, is a line drawn in the sand 100 years ago the cause of the Middle East’s problems today?
Like most issues involving the Middle East, ask 10 people and you will get 10 different opinions.

The Giant al Qaeda Defeat that No One’s Talking About

Posted May 2nd, 2016 at 4:32 pm (UTC-4)
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The United Arab Emirates, under the banner of a Saudi-led coalition, late last month delivered a major blow to the most lethal Al Qaeda group on the planet—Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the primary Islamic extremist group operating in Yemen.

Washington-Riyadh Chill: The Sequel

Posted April 26th, 2016 at 4:20 pm (UTC-4)
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There is no doubt that the relationship is at one of its lowest points in terms of what the leaders think of each other….In the end the two sides soldiered on together despite their disagreements because neither side would have benefited from a permanent breach.

Is Saudi Arabia the Next Failed State?

Posted April 26th, 2016 at 2:34 pm (UTC-4)
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[I]f oil prices stay low, the Saudis might not have enough time to buy up the world’s stocks before their core asset is totally devalued. And without oil, the Saudi state has little else holding it together. The result could be another chaotic failed state — and this time in the home of Islam’s holiest sites.

U.S.-Saudi Relations: Salman Snubs, Obama Shrugs

Posted April 25th, 2016 at 2:35 pm (UTC-4)
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The truth is that, with or without Obama, the fabric of interests that once tied the two countries together has been fraying for some time now….US needs less Saudi oil…the question of whether Saudi Arabia is more of an asset or a liability in the fight against terrorism is much more finely poised.

Obama’s ‘Complicated’ Saudi Trip

Posted April 21st, 2016 at 12:04 pm (UTC-4)
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“It’s complicated.” That’s the way President Barack Obama is said to have recently described the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. And it appears Saudi Arabia feels the same way. Hanging over this week’s visit by Obama to Riyadh and his attendance at the Gulf Cooperation Summit were comments the president made in a recent Atlantic cover story, describing the Saudis and other Gulf nations “free riders” on U.S. military action in the region, and saying the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with Iran. In a post-summit news conference Thursday, the president described any strain about his comments as “overblown” and he pointed to U.S. “cooperation in interdicting Iranian efforts to arm the Houthi militias inside Yemen” as creating some confidence. In his statement at the end of the summit, Obama said he reaffirmed the policy of the United States to use all elements of our power to secure our core interests in the Gulf region and to deter and confront external aggression against our allies and partners.” Can statements like that from a president who is in office for just another nine months do much to warm what is by all indications a frosty relationship?

An Awkward Silence in Riyadh

Posted April 20th, 2016 at 4:23 pm (UTC-4)
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How did the U.S.-Saudi relationship go so badly astray? It wasn’t that great to begin with. There has always been something incongruous about an alliance between a liberal democracy and a traditional monarchy relying on austere Islam and petrodollars to sustain itself.

Road to Riyadh: Bridging the Gulf

Posted April 18th, 2016 at 11:49 am (UTC-4)
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Regardless of what the administration says is its record of accomplishment in this area, the partners are not getting the memo. If your partner doesn’t think you are living up to your end of the partnership that’s an issue. Hopefully the Riyadh summit will play a role in diminishing those concerns.

Can Obama Mend US-Saudi Ties?

Posted April 12th, 2016 at 4:15 pm (UTC-4)
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By Barbara Slavin As President Barack Obama prepares to fly to Saudi Arabia next week for a summit of Arab Persian Gulf states, the future of the long American alliance with the conservative Muslim kingdom is increasingly hazy. The two countries have faced serious crises in the past, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, […]