Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Obama Legacy In The Mideast -- October 15, 2016

The phrases that come to mind when thinking about the Mideast and Obama's eight years as president:
  • withdrawal of US troops from the region
  • creating a vacuum
  • lack of interest in the region
  • self-described "no-drama Obama"
  • a chess game: Putin vs Obama
  • Obama: "red lines"
  • Putin: no "red lines" 
  • ISIS: the JV team
  • Yemen: poster child for democracy
  • Saudi Arabia's security no longer a US responsibility
  • throwing allies under the bus
The resulting legacy:
  • the vacuum resulted in ISIS
  • the vacuum resulted in loss of "western coalition" gains in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • first president to be at war (in fact, two wars) for his entire presidency
  • resurgence of Russian influence in the Mideast
Going forward.
  • Putin will still be in office after Obama leaves office in about three months
  • it's hard to believe Putin will give up gains he has made in the Mideast any time soon
  • Putin looks to be putting the Russian empire back together again; Alexander the Great comes to mind; it looks like Putin is not afraid of a new Cold War
  • ISIS may or may not remain a credible force, but Putin will 
  • US no longer dependent on OPEC oil or constrained by OPEC policies
I thought about all that after seeing this story in today's Wall Street Journal: "Egypt Juggles Its Allegiances As Russian Influence SURGES."

Note the word SURGES. Not "increases," or "grow," but SURGES.

I remember during the early years of the Cold War, "Egypt was a client of the USSR." That changed in the 70's when the US started providing significant economic and military aid to Egypt. Putin took advantage of two "events":
  • President Obama distanced himself from the Middle East
  • Saudi Arabia can no longer support Egypt financially
From the linked WSJ article:
Balancing acts are precarious by definition and, as Egypt is finding out, even a small move can have cascading consequences.
Until recently, Cairo managed to maintain strong relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies that provide it with tens of billions of dollars in aid, while also cultivating warm ties with Russia and staying away from Saudi-led efforts to topple the Syrian regime.
Then last Saturday, Egypt had to vote on a Russian-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution favored by the Syrian regime. Alone among Muslim nations on the Security Council, it decided to support the Russian draft, which received only four out of 15 votes and failed to pass. The same day Russia vetoed a separate resolution drafted by France and backed by 11 Council members.
By the way, no one has yet commented on this: generally the US GDP rises when it is at war. Despite being at war during his entire presidency, President Obama was also the first president in modern history to never preside over a year with 3% growth -- not even during the energy revolution early in his presidency. Wow. Sounds like thesis material for a budding US Nobel Laureate in Economics.

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