This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Why Turkey Turned Its Back on the United States and Embraced Russia

(Image: Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Aaron Stein

Foreign Affairs

Turkey’s fraught relationship with the United States has been in a downward spiral for years. Divided over an ever-lengthening list of issues, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian turn to the United States’ refusal to extradite a Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish government, the putative allies are increasingly at odds. Yet there is still a widespread belief among U.S. policymakers and national security professionals that despite the superficial hostility, the Turkish national security elite continues to view the United States as an indispensable ally. Ankara cannot secure its national interests without working with the U.S. government, or so the thinking goes.

But since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which paved the way for a more assertive Kurdish regional government, Turkey has viewed the United States as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. U.S. support for Kurdish militias in Syria has cemented that view in Ankara, driving Turkey into Russia’s arms and raising questions about the country’s commitment to NATO. For proof of how little faith Turkey places in Washington these days, look no further than its plan to acquire Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system. (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Indian Rebellion of 1857: Sepoys rebelling in Delhi

(Image: Culture Club/Getty Imaged)

Britain’s story of empire is based on myth. We need to know the truth

Priyamvada Gopal

The Guardian

These days we’ve become wearily accustomed to depictions of Brexit Britain as oppressed by a villainously imperial Europe. Annexed “without permission”, Nigel Farage claimed melodramatically, defending Brexit party MEPs against charges of “disrespecting” the European Parliament. In a particularly far-fetched comparison, Ann Widdecombe MEP has compared Brexit with the resistance of “slaves against their owners” and “colonies against empires”. Prime ministerial frontrunner Boris Johnson too has spoken of Britain’s supposed “colony status” in the EU though, with a familiar double standard, he also believes that it would be good if Britain was still “in charge” of Africa.

These bizarre comparisons can be made and go unchallenged because the stark fact remains that most Britons know very little about the history of the empire itself, still less the way in which its long afterlife profoundly shapes both Britain and the wider world today. (Read more)

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This weeks’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Donald Trump are more and more at odds on international affairs.

What the Iran Crisis Reveals About European Power

Tom McTague

The Atlantic

Donald Trump is forcing Europe to confront its own weakness.

The U.S. president’s bellicose policy toward Iran has, until now, been met with an unusual unity of opposition from Europe’s big three powers, the U.K., France, and Germany, as well as from the European Union itself. And yet, despite their combined economic weight and presence on the world stage, Europe’s principal players have proved largely powerless to do anything in the face of raw American hegemony.

The brute reality, as things stand, is that Europe does not yet have the tools—or the will—to project its power. The euro cannot be a credible alternative to the dollar as a reserve currency until it is radically reformed, and without a credible reserve currency, Europe’s financial might cannot match that of the United States. Even more fundamentally, there remain deep divisions within Europe over whether it should even seek to be a power, with or without Britain. (Read more) 

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

(Image: FT montage)

EU faces big Brexit question: should UK stay or go? (£)

Alex Barker

Financial Times 

The Westminster deadlock over Brexit is now confronting EU leaders with the choice British voters faced almost three years ago: is it better for the UK to leave or remain in the EU?

Such a momentous political decision will ultimately be for Britain. But, with the House of Commons seemingly paralysed, EU leaders are aware that their approach — notably on the question of delaying the UK’s exit — might help determine whether Brexit happens at all.

The judgment turns on not just an assessment of Britain’s place in the European project, but on the chances of reversing the Brexit vote, and whether it is worth the risk to wait and see how the UK ructions end.

“I tell you my personal view,” said one of the principal players in the Brexit saga. “They will not leave. They cannot find the exit. They do not want to leave. They have not developed a concept of what Brexit means.” (Read more)

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William Barr, executive assistant to Donald Trump (£)

The Economist

Many Democrats are dismayed by Robert Mueller’s failure to take down the president. Yet they have a consolatory new hate figure in the form of William Barr, who began his second spell as attorney-general last month. A grandfatherly 68-year-old, who first presided over the Justice Department for George H.W. Bush, Mr Barr has been castigated for his handling of Mr Mueller’s report, which remains under wraps at his discretion. Jerrold Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called his summary of the report “a hasty, partisan interpretation of the facts.” Several Democrats running for president, including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, derided Mr Barr as Donald Trump’s “hand-picked attorney-general” (as if there were any other kind).

This is partly a case of shooting the messenger. Many on the left were convinced Mr Trump was up to his neck in the Russian plot that helped get him elected. They also had an almost cultlike faith in Mr Mueller (the ash-dry prosecutor would be amazed to see how many T-shirts bear his name on campus—as in “Mueller Time—Justice Served Cold!”). The instant Mr Barr relayed the crushing news that the special counsel had found no collusion with Russia by Mr Trump, he was suspected of skulduggery, which seems hysterical. A close friend of the special counsel, Mr Barr is possibly too principled and certainly too canny to have misrepresented his conclusions. If he had done so, they would leak. Yet the attorney-general’s treatment of the second prong of Mr Mueller’s investigation, concerning Mr Trump’s alleged effort to obstruct the various Russia investigations, is more troubling. (Read more)

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How British Teens Blended Pop and Politics

Livia Gershon

JSTOR Daily

In contemporary society, pop music and politics mix freely—from voter registration drives at music festivals, to celebrities like Taylor Swift weighing in on elections. Back in 1970s Britain, however, that combination created controversy within political organizations.

Historian Evan Smith writes that in the late 1960s, a new organization formed, known as the National Front (NF). Appealing to some far-right members of the Conservative Party, it called for the expulsion of non-white immigrants from England. When an economic crisis hit the country in the 1970s, the NF began seeking support from white, working-class Labour voters, arguing that nonwhite immigrants were causing economic problems. Soon, NF members were holding street marches and sometimes violently attacking people in black communities. (Read more)

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Spain hits back at Mexico in row over colonial rights abuses

Stephen Burgen and David Agren

The Guardian

A diplomatic row has broken out between Mexico and Spain after the Mexican president wrote to King Felipe VI demanding he apologise for crimes committed against Mexico’s indigenous people during the conquest 500 years ago.

In a video filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco, in southern Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on Spain and the Vatican to recognise the rights violations committed during the conquest, led by Hernán Cortés. The video was posted on the president’s social media accounts.

“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the [indigenous] temples,” he said. “The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.” (Read more)

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The Iron Wall Revisited

Michael Young

Carnegie Middle East Center

President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights reminded me of an old joke that goes something like this: “I’ve decided to marry supermodel Claudia Schiffer. I want to do it, and my parents are in full agreement. Now all I need to do is to persuade Claudia.”

Israel and the United States have alone decided that the Golan is Israeli. They may soon do so for large parts of the West Bank. Both must now convince the rest of the world. From the early reactions of many countries, that’s not likely to succeed. After Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 497, unanimously characterized the move as “null and void,” demanding that Israel “rescind” its decision. On Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres said that he continued to adhere to all Security Council resolutions on the Golan. (Read more)

 

This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Mike Pompeo addresses students at the American University in Cairo.

(Image: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AP)

In the Middle East, Is Trump the Anti-Obama or Obama 2.0?

Uri Friedman

The Atlantic

During a visit on Thursday to the nerve center of the Arab world, Mike Pompeo declared that reports of America’s departure from the Middle East under Donald Trump had been greatly exaggerated, and that it was Barack Obama who had abandoned the region—to devastating effect.

And yet the irony is that while the conduct of Obama and Trump in the Middle East couldn’t be more different, they’ve in fact ended up engaged in the same struggle: to extract the United States from the Mideast morass.

The U.S. secretary of state accused Obama—who 10 years ago in Cairo famously sought “a new beginning” between the United States and a billion-plus Muslims—of grossly underestimating radical Islamist ideology, willfully ignoring the dangers of the Iranian regime, and mistakenly perceiving the United States as a “force for what ails the Middle East.” This, he argued in a speech at the American University in Cairo, harmed hundreds of millions of people across the region and the world as isis “raped and pillaged and murdered,” Iran “spread its cancerous influence,” and the Syrian government “unleashed terror” by gassing its people, all in the face of American timidity. (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Image result for iraq Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge

Iraq’s Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge

Ben Taub

The New Yorker

A September morning in Baghdad. Traffic halted at checkpoints and roadblocks as bureaucrats filed behind blast walls and the temperature climbed to a hundred and fifteen degrees. At the Central Criminal Court, a guard ran his baton along the bars of a small cell holding dozens of terrorism suspects awaiting trial. They were crammed on a wooden bench and on the floor, a sweaty tangle of limbs and dejected expressions. Many were sick or injured—covered in scabies, their joints twisted and their bones cracked. Iraqi prisons have a uniform code—different colors for pretrial suspects, convicts, and those on death row—but several who had not yet seen a judge or a lawyer were already dressed as if they had been sentenced to death.

Down the hall, the aroma of Nescafé and cigarettes filled a windowless room, where defense lawyers sat on couches, balancing stacks of paper on their laps. Most were staring at their phones; others sat in silence, arms crossed, eyes closed. In terrorism cases, lawyers are usually denied access to their clients until the hearing begins. (Read more)

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This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

(Image: Cliff Owen/AP)

For Jamal Khashoggi, There Is No Robert Mueller

Robin Wright

The New Yorker

For those of us who knew Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s announcement—tweeted in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Riyadh time—is infuriating. It confirmed Khashoggi’s death—a “painful outcome,” it said—and blithely reversed the kingdom’s repeated and insistent lies that he had safely walked out of the consulate in Istanbul shortly after he entered it, on October 2nd. Sixteen days later, the Saudis said that they need another month to investigate his death, which would conveniently time the release of their findings to the aftermath of a pivotal midterm election in the United States. Incredibly, the Saudi Foreign Ministry, which is in charge of the consulate in Turkey, offered no explanation of where Khashoggi’s body might be, even though its employees were among the last to see the dissident Washington Postcolumnist alive.

The most suspect development, though, is that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman—the autocratic, thirty-three-year-old royal most widely implicated, directly or indirectly, in Khashoggi’s disappearance—will play a role in the review. The three branches of government involved in the problem—the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Saudi security services—are all under his control anyway. (Read more)

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