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Daniel Pipes on Trump's Foreign Policy and Turkey's Erdoğan


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Interviewed by Madalina Sisu Vicari


I. Trump's Foreign Policy


Vocal Europe: How do the Obama and Trump administrations differ in their policies toward the Middle East?

Daniel Pipes: The Obama Middle East policy is easy to describe, as it was quite consistent over eight long years: Apologize for past American transgressions, "lead from behind," reach out to enemies, and denigrate allies.

In contrast, seven months of Trump leave a picture of near-complete confusion. Perhaps the best example is Trump in April praising Egyptian president Sisi for doing "a fantastic job," followed in August by a substantial cut in U.S. aid – and which the Egyptians only learned about by reading a Reuters dispatch! While the contradiction can be explained, it confirms the chaos.

Other examples of ambiguity: whether to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, whether to rip up the Iran deal, whether to stand with the Saudis et al. against Qatar, and whether to fight Hizbullah or provide it with free weapons. Obviously, this record does not encourage confident predictions.





II. Erdoğan's Foreign Policy


VE: Israel and Turkey exchanged ambassadors in late 2016 after a six-year rupture. What are the challenges to the full normalization of Turkey-Israel relations?

DP: Full normalization is impossible so long as Turkey's government uses Israel as an instrument to whip up Islamist antisemitism.

VE: The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will hold a referendum on independence on Sep. 25, 2017. Why does the Trump administration ask the KRG to postpone the vote until at least after the Iraqi national elections in April 2018?

DP: The State Department stated in June its concern that the referendum will distract from "more urgent priorities" such as the defeat of ISIS. To me, that's not a reason (I don't even want ISIS to disappear because, horrid as it is, it holds off Iranian expansion, which is yet more threatening).

Although I support Kurdish independence and a single, grand Kurdish state, I see the referendum as a danger to all concerned by further unsettling a highly unstable region, perhaps provoking any of Turkish, Iranian, or Iraqi central government invasions of the KRG, perhaps leading to a confrontation between U.S. and Russian forces.



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