Why Trump May Get a Break, Not a Breakthrough

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 17, 2017

Trump May Get a Break, But Not a Breakthrough: Wright

Like Richard Nixon, who became the first U.S. president to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel, President Trump undoubtedly hopes his trip to the Middle East this weekend will offer some respite from growing turmoil at home, suggests Robin Wright in the New Yorker.
“Trump has outsized ambitions — both naïve and godlike — laden with religious symbolism from all three Abrahamic faiths. He’ll visit the birthplace of Islam; the Jewish homeland; the birthplace of Jesus, in Bethlehem; and, then, the Vatican,” Wright says.
But “President Trump has never brokered peace. And, unlike Richard Nixon, he has never negotiated a transformative diplomatic deal. The Middle East may offer warmer optics. But the trip is unlikely to produce big breakthroughs — or alter the tumultuous challenges Trump will face when he returns home.”

Israelis Giving Up on Trump: Schulman

Reports suggesting that intelligence information shared by President Trump may have come, in part, from Israel have shattered lingering hopes of both the left and right in Israel that the Trump administration could be the country’s savior, writes Marc Schulman in Newsweek.

“Everyone knows that a successful peace process can only lead to one thing, i.e., a two-state solution, the very thing the Israeli right (especially the religious right) fear the most. It is finally sinking in to the Israeli right that all their hopes Trump would embrace their dreams have been dashed,” Schulman writes.

“On the left, the realization has begun to sink in that even with the best of intentions, Trump is incapable of addressing the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No one believes that peace can be achieved by the waving of a magic wand, even if that wand is held by the President of the United States. And certainly not by a President who has been accused of wrongdoing to the level that impeachment is openly being spoken about.”

Is Iran on the Path to Doom?

Iran could be on “an irreversible path to environmental doom and disruption that owes nothing to sanctions or years of war with its neighbors,” argues Seth M. Siegel in the Washington Post. The reason? A water crisis stoked by bad governance and corruption.

“With farmland ruined, topsoil blown away and insufficient water to grow crops, millions of farmers and herders have left the countryside to live in dismal conditions in Iran’s growing cities. Meanwhile, deserts have also expanded, and the environmental damage to the country continues,” Siegel writes.

“All of this led former Iranian agriculture minister Issa Kalantari to issue a report in 2015 stating that in less than 25 years as many as 50 million Iranians — Iran’s current population is approximately 83 million — will need to be relocated.”

Why Saudi Arabia’s Morality Police Have Been Marginalized

Saudi Arabia’s morality police – “who terrorized women for wearing makeup and arrested unmarried couples for walking next to each other on the street” – are an increasingly rare sight, reports Susanne Koelbl for Spiegel Online.

“The primary reason is the disappearance of Saudi Arabia’s fairytale riches. The kingdom is in the midst of the deepest crisis it has seen since oil first began gushing out of the wells in the eastern part of the country in 1938,” Koelbl writes. “Low oil prices have led to a 50-percent drop in the country’s revenues. In 2015, the government racked up a budget deficit of 90 billion euros, and the country began borrowing.

“…This means that there are more important issues at stake for religious fundamentalists than whether toenail polish is haram, forbidden, or not.”

China: Stoking the Flames on Fiery Cross Reef?

“China has installed rocket launchers on a disputed reef in the South China Sea,” offering further evidence of its military build-up, Reuters reports, citing the state-run Defense Times.

“The United States has criticized what it has called China’s militarization of its maritime outposts.”

  • Advantage Xi. June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami who specializes in China’s military, emails Global Briefing to say that even without establishing missile capabilities on the reef, China has already “effectively asserted its control over the area, with the possible exception of Vietnam.”

“Association of Southeast Asian countries have chosen to subordinate any concerns they may have about China establishing its sovereignty in the area to avoid incurring Beijing’s wrath. This is partly due to Beijing’s clever divide-and-rule strategy, and partly due to Washington’s reluctance to get involved in disputes over murky claims of sovereignty from all parties involved. 

“Also, President Trump, apparently disbelieving Chinese pronouncements that they’ve done all they could to keep North Korea from developing WMD, continues to hope that placating China will somehow change this. We don’t even carry out the half-hearted Freedom of Navigation Operations that occurred under the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the national security apparatus is immobilized through having to fight off the scandal of the day.

“In short, advantage Xi Jinping.”

Latin America’s Coming Renewable Energy Boom

Hit by tumbling oil prices, “big drilling” Latin American nations are looking for alternative export revenues. And that could leave the region poised for a renewable energy boom, suggests Mac Margolis on Bloomberg View.

“No other region ranked the risk of ruinous climate change higher than Latin America, and especially Brazil, [a] Pew Survey found last year,” Margolis writes.

Meanwhile, improved technology “has converted iffy plays on harnessing the wind, waves and sun from exorbitant do-gooder dreams into competitive viable energy options. With the price of producing electricity from photovoltaic panels plunging, four Latin American countries rated among the top eight on Bloomberg’s 58-country Climate Scope index of low carbon energy.”

Big Brother Gets Bigger in China: Report

Police in China are “collecting DNA from individuals for a nationally searchable database without oversight, transparency, or privacy protections,” Human Rights Watch warns.

“In many parts of the country, police officers are compelling ordinary individuals — neither convicted nor even suspected of a crime – to have their blood drawn and DNA taken. Samples have also been collected from vulnerable groups already targeted for increased government surveillance, including migrant workers, dissidents, and minority Muslim Uyghurs. Because police wield wide powers, and because there are no actionable privacy rights in China, people have little ability to refuse the collection of such personal information.”

How America Is Shooting Itself in the Foot on Science

The Trump administration appears to be steering the United States toward “a new era of isolationism.” That could strangle scientific and other research — and leave America vulnerable to emerging threats, from disease to climate change, the Scientific American editorializes.

“For space exploration, we need Russia’s assistance to ferry our astronauts to the International Space Station. To better map the stars and explore the unknown, we must partner with China because it has the world’s largest radio telescope. To help limit the effects of climate change, we need all the big emitters, including the U.S., China and India, to take steps to address the issue and to work toward solutions that will help communities build resiliency.”



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