Key Points

The Moscow talks show that 2020 will continue the trend of deepened cooperation between Erdogan and Putin. Turkey purchased the S-400 missile defense system from Russia last summer, much to the chagrin of the international community, as well as negotiated a ceasefire following Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria this past October. Their partnership in this new arena demonstrates that despite being on opposite sides of the fighting in Syria and Libya, the Turkish and Russian presidents have an uncanny ability to cut deals. However, it is unclear whether these bargains can hold, and thereby remedy Erdogan’s troubles at home and abroad.

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Washington is certainly capable, if Republican and Democrats can agree on the baleful nature of the Islamic Republic, to make the clerical regime bleed in Syria in the way it made the United States bleed in Iraq.  Simple justice, let alone strategic common sense, ought to incline Washington to train and aid Syrians willing to take the fight to the Revolutionary Guards, allied foreign Shiite militias, and Alawite forces.  It’s not too late to do this.  If there is American will, there’s always a way.  Barring such action, however, U.S. foreign policy in Syria will, at best, devolve into a holding action against an Iranian-Alawite-Russian advance at Dayr az-Zor, the critical juncture of Iraqi and Syrian highways, and a waiting game to see whether American sanctions and rioting Shiites throughout the region can crack the Islamic Republic and its imperialism.

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The alternative to taking meaningful steps to reestablish the credibility of America’s will to use force is to simply sit back, absorb Iran’s provocations, and wait until the regime caves to the steadily mounting pressure of U.S. sanctions. In the face of Iran’s escalation campaign and Trump’s own aversion to risking new military conflicts, that in fact seems to be the default policy that the administration has actually settled on. It’s by no means impossible for it to eventually work—Iran’s economy is being absolutely hammered. But the big question is how long it will take and what amount of damage an increasingly desperate Iranian regime, unconstrained by the fear of U.S. military retaliation, is capable of inflicting in the meantime on the interests of the United States and its friends and allies. If the brazen attack on Abqaiq is any indication, the answer may be a great deal of damage indeed.

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Awful as the prospect of endless war may be, conceiving a worse alternative should not require much stretching of the imagination.

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Deeping relations between Doha and Ankara will not bode well for Washington. The Turkish-Qatari axis will promote Hamas and other extremist groups throughout the region, and push policies that will further wreak havoc in an already volatile part of the world. Both countries pick and choose how they align with U.S. interests, and often undermine Washington’s policies in the Middle East. Thus, neither country deserves to be named a U.S. ally. The sooner Washington sees this, the better it will be for our security and regional interests.

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Events

EVENT: Instruments of American Power: Implementing Foreign Policies and Protecting Against Global Threats

October 10, 2019 | 12:00

Projects