Donald Trump’s first month in the White House has been marked by incompetence, confusion and an unprecedented level of leaks from government agencies. This present predicament is further exacerbated by the sense of paralysis created by the fact that hundreds of important positions within the State Department and the Energy Department, as well as others, remain vacant. With its unwillingness to cooperate with experienced, senior civil servants in government departments, the Trump administration has become overly reliant on a small number of close confidants, resulting in the hasty issuing of ill-advised executive orders, wreaking havoc on the United States’ ability to conduct business, not to mention its image across the globe.
After months of political paralysis brought about by the battle for Mosul against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), political mobilization is once again under way in Iraq, albeit in a bloody and violent way. The security forces confronted a protest by tens of thousands of citizens demanding “the replacement of the Electoral Commission” and “change to the electoral law” with live ammunition, leading to even dead and more than 320 injuries.
Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections delighted both the Israeli government and large sections of Israeli society, in particular that nation’s right and far right. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government sees the Trump victory as heralding a new phase in relations with Washington after years of tension with the Barak Obama administration. The belief is that this phase can provide Israel with a historic opportunity to—as a start—launch a settlement drive in all parts of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
As soon as the Ankara Agreement for a ceasefire between Russia and the Syrian armed opposition had been struck on December 29, 2016, Moscow called for a conference in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. This was in accordance with the terms of the Ankara Agreement itself, which stipulated that a conference should be held within one month of the ceasefire coming into effect and being respected. The Astana Conference was held on January 23-24, 2017, despite the major violations committed by the regime and its Iranian-backed militias around Damascus (Wadi Barada and the Eastern Ghouta), Mahajjah in the northern Rif Daraa, and elsewhere.
The world has been anxiously waiting to learn more about the foreign policy of the new White House incumbent, Donald Trump, who has yet to enunciate a coherent vision for the United States’ international relations. Those opinions which Trump has voiced thus far—including those relevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—stand out for being enigmatic. This paper will offer a survey of current affairs to date, and predict what Trump’s policies towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Following an earlier agreement for the evacuation from East Aleppo of the Syrian armed opposition, along with civilian refugees who had sought the opposition’s protection, Turkish mediation allowed for an agreement between Syrian opposition factions and Russia on a cessation of violence across all of Syria, as part of a deal announced in Ankara on December 29, 2016. The ceasefire, which went into effect on the day it was announced, is intended to provide the groundwork for a political process set to begin towards the end of January in the Kazakh capital of Astana, which could decisively end the Syrian crisis. What specifically distinguishes this latest attempt at a ceasefire from previous efforts and gives it a fighting chance at durability, allowing for the eventual success of the Turkish-Russian initiative?
In the twilight hours of the Obama presidency, the White House dramatically expressed its long-simmering disappointment with the Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu and its unwavering settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In a rare move, on December 23, 2016, the United States abstained from, rather than vetoed, the vote on UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 which condemned as illegal the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The White House’s failure to use its influence to prevent the passage of the resolution raised the ire of Israelis and its stalwart allies in Washington, DC—including, seemingly, President-elect Donald Trump.
The Syrian regime, in concert with foreign sectarian militia and with the aid of intensive Russian aerial support, has managed to push various armed Syrian opposition groups from Eastern Aleppo, which they had previously controlled for four years. The fall of Eastern Aleppo was accompanied by the evacuation of thousands of civilians who had sheltered there. Immediately after the opposition’s withdrawal, Russia convened a meeting bringing together the Foreign and Defense ministers of Iran and Turkey with their Russian counterparts. The outcome of that meeting, later named the “Moscow Declaration” by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov – provides a detailed roadmap to end the Syrian crisis.
Trump’s victory in the presidential election on November 8 came as a complete shock to many within the US and abroad, as if the statistical likelihood of such an outcome had been ignored. One of the reasons for the size of this shock can be attributed to the fact that US opinion formers, including mainstream media pundits, polling organizations and think tanks, simply ruled out the possibility of the Republican candidate coming to power. Indeed, up until the very last hours before voting ended, opinion pollsters were claiming that Trump was trailing his opponent, Democratic Party candidate Hilary Clinton. This assumption was rooted in the way that Trump presented himself throughout the campaign as an unreasonable and unqualified candidate, and supported by evidence from the exit polls of early voters, some 41 million citizens, a majority of whom had backed Clinton.
Libya’s Presidential Guard, a body normally tasked with the protection of sites of presidential power and state guest houses, announced on Tuesday, 18 October that it was splitting off from the State Council answerable to the Fayez Sarraj-led Government of National Accord (GNA). This move, which immediately increased security tensions across the North African country, came only days after an announcement by the prime minister of the now-dissolved National Salvation Government, Khalifa Al Ghawil that his cabinet would be acting in open defiance of the Sarraj government. Ghawil had also declared the capture by forces loyal to him of the “High Council of State” in the center of Tripoli, part of a plan, he said, to “free the country from a hell of corruption and anarchy”. The intensity of these disputes is a reflection of how far and deep the crippling conflict between various political and military forces in Libya has spread, with a wide number of political and military actors scrambling to further their own interests through the use of force. The evolution of these events has now jeopardized the pact signed by Libyan factions in the Moroccan city of Al Sukhairat, on December 17, 2015, threatening to take the country back to a civil war pitting a myriad of tribal and regional factions against each other, all of which are independently seeking their own sources of backing from regional and global players.