28 December 2018   Leave a comment

The Syrian Kurds have apparently reached an agreement with the Syrian government in order to forestall an attack by Turkey. Syrian government forces have entered the town of Manbij which was under Kurdish control and the Kurds, which once opposed the Assad government, have decided that life under Syrian control will be better than a Turkish assault. The decision most likely had the blessing of Russia which has a scheduled meeting with Turkey tomorrow to discuss the civil war in Syria. The fact that the Kurds, once a staunch ally of the US, now seek protection from Russia is a stunning reversal of the balance of power in the Middle East. The US clearly has moved to the sidelines. That shift has unnerved the Israelis. Daniel Shapiro notes the effect of the US betrayal of the Kurds on Israeli decision-making:

“Israelis see the Kurds—a moderate, pro-Western, Muslim community that eschews anti-Israel sentiment, and with whom Israel has worked quietly—as exactly the kind of element that the Middle East needs more of. They constantly press for more American support for the Kurds. Israel, against American wishes, encouraged the Kurds of northern Iraq in their ill-advised independence referendum of 2017. For Israel, the U.S. abandonment of the Kurds represents both a strategic and an emotional blow.”

It is very difficult to see how Israel can continue to rely as heavily as it has in the past on the US as it tries to contain Iranian influence in the region. I suspect that the Israelis will begin to take stronger measures to counter Iranian power.

The trade war between China and the US continues, but there seems to be some movement. For the first time, China is buying US rice, an odd transaction since the US is hardly a prime location for growing rice. But there are also reports that the Chinese have begun to buy soybeans from the US. These are likely overtures from the Chinese to find a way to break out of the trade impasse. It remains to be seen whether the Trump Administration will reciprocate with concessions. As it is, the trade war as been a very expensive proposition for both countries. Reuters has a good article on how the trade war has affected the US economy so far.

Posted December 28, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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