* Saudi Foreign Minister: “When we look at the Trump administration’s view as articulated – wanting to restore America’s role in the world – we welcome this.”
* Venezuelan President: “We are surprised by the hate campaign by big international media against Donald Trump – brutal – in the whole world, in the western world, in the United States… I want to be cautious. He won’t be worse than Obama, that’s the only thing I would venture to say.”
* Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid on French TV: “Donald Trump is a great friend of Israel”
* Wall Street Journal: “From Egypt to Turkey to Saudi Arabia to, unsurprisingly, Israel, Middle Eastern leaders delight in discussing what an improvement the Trump presidency is likely to be over President Barack Obama’s record in the region… The danger of this situation, of course, is that the Middle East’s politics is largely a zero-sum game – and that some of these countries will be inevitably disappointed, and will react accordingly, sometimes in ways that hurt their neighbors and the U.S.”
* Reuters: Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the UN, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, will blast the world body over its treatment of Israel at her Senate confirmation hearing, according to advance prepared testimony seen by Reuters. “Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” Haley will say in her opening remarks for her appearance later today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers,” she will add.
1. Leaders in Middle East and beyond say they are ‘optimistic’ about Trump’s presidency
2. Obama makes the right move on Manning
3. Some olive trees are deemed more important than others
4. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid: “Trump is a great friend of Israel” (France 24)
5. “Saudi Arabia ‘optimistic’ about Trump’s Rule” (AFP, Jan. 17, 2017)
6. “In Middle East, leaders want Trump to be their friend” (Wall St Journal, Jan. 16, 2017)
7. “Trump’s U.N. nominee to blast world body over Israel” (Reuters, Jan. 17, 2017)
8. “Maduro denounces ‘hate campaign’ aimed at Donald Trump” (AFP, Jan. 17, 2017)
LEADERS IN MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND SAY THEY ARE ‘OPTIMISTIC’ ABOUT TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY
[Notes by Tom Gross]
I include a number of articles below (featuring generally supportive views of Donald Trump from leaders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and Venezuela). These are not meant as an endorsement for Trump, who will assume office in two days time, but are attached to highlight international viewpoints that many other American media are reluctant to report on.
The British and Australian governments have also articulated fairly strong pro-Trump views in recent days, and Britain refused to sign President Obama’s latest anti-Israel imitative (at the Paris conference on Sunday), reportedly on the basis of conversations between the UK government and the incoming Trump administration, who urged Britain not to sign a document that will make peace efforts harder to accomplish.
This is the first time in decades that Britain and Australia adopted more sympathetic positions towards Israel than a U.S. Secretary of State (John Kerry).
OBAMA MAKES THE RIGHT MOVE ON MANNING
On a different matter, it seems to me that President Obama did the right thing yesterday in commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, which was unduly harsh.
Manning had been sentenced to 35 years – by far the longest prison sentence ever for a whistle-blower in the U.S. – for revealing American military and diplomatic cables.
(The average prison sentence in other leak cases has been one to three years. None of the documents Manning disclosed were classified as “top secret”. She has now served almost 7 years. She (then he) was badly mistreated while under interrogation by the U.S.)
While working as a low-level intelligence analyst Manning copied thousands of military incident logs from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which, among other things, exposed abuses of detainees by Iraqi military officers working with American forces and showed that civilian deaths in the Iraq war were much higher than official estimates.
Obama’s commutation yesterday has been widely criticized by many Republicans and Democrats.
SOME OLIVE TREES ARE DEEMED MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHERS
The double standard of media covering the Middle East continues to be at times extraordinary.
To cite one small example: When, on rare occasions, the Israeli army has cut down a few olive trees for security reasons, it has made major (if not front page) news in the New York Times.
But when NATO member Turkey, cuts down olives trees on a massive scale, as it did this week (in order to build security wall in Kurdistan), this is all but ignored by major international media.
ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER YAIR LAPID: “TRUMP IS A GREAT FRIEND OF ISRAEL”
This interview yesterday on the French-government international TV network France 24, with Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, is worth watching in full if you have time.
Lapid, leader of Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party, is currently ahead in the polls in Israel and is the most likely replacement for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were elections be held today and were Netanyahu to lose.
Lapid makes some robust, but politely put, remarks in near fluent English, which you can watch here.
I attach four articles below.
Among previous dispatches relating to Donald Trump:
SAUDI ARABIA ‘OPTIMISTIC’ ABOUT TRUMP’S RULE
Saudi Arabia ‘Optimistic’ about Trump’s Rule
January 17, 2017
Paris (AFP) - US ally Saudi Arabia is “optimistic” about Donald Trump’s impending presidency, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday, hailing Trump’s stern line on arch-Saudi rival Iran and promise to defeat the Islamic State group.
“When we look at the Trump administration’s view as articulated -- wanting to restore America’s role in the world -- we welcome this,” Jubeir told a group of reporters during a visit to Paris.
“Wanting to defeat ISIS: absolutely. Wanting to contain Iran and prevent it from causing mischief through its negative policies in the region: absolutely, we have been calling for this for years,” he said.
“Our interests align,” he said, declaring that Washington and Riyadh also shared the same objectives on Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, terrorism and “energy issues”.
“We look forward to working with them (Trump’s team) in all the areas that are of interest or concern to both of us,” he said.
IN MIDDLE EAST, LEADERS WANT DONALD TRUMP TO BE THEIR FRIEND
In Middle East, Leaders Want Donald Trump to Be Their Friend
A key reason for his honeymoon is the extraordinary vagueness of his comments about the Middle East
By Yaroslav Trofimov
Wall Street Journal
Jan. 16, 2017
It is hard to find a Middle Eastern official betraying signs of anxiety over what President-elect Donald Trump will do once in office. From Egypt to Turkey to Saudi Arabia to, unsurprisingly, Israel, government leaders delight in discussing what an improvement the Trump presidency is likely to be over President Barack Obama’s record in the region.
A key reason for this honeymoon is the extraordinary vagueness of the views expressed by Mr. Trump about the Middle East’s many intricate and intertwined conflicts, some of them festering for decades. This intellectual vacuum, in turn, has allowed many regional leaders to imagine that a Trump administration will take their side in the struggles that are tearing the Middle East apart.
“Everybody is projecting,” said Fouad Siniora, the former prime minister of Lebanon and the leader of the Sunni bloc in its parliament. “That’s because they don’t have real clarity of what is the position of the next administration of the United States. They are hopeful and they are expecting.”
The danger of this situation, of course, is that the Middle East’s politics is largely a zero-sum game – and that some of these countries will be inevitably disappointed, and will react accordingly, sometimes in ways that hurt their neighbors and the U.S.
The few positions that Mr. Trump and his aides articulated on the Middle East are often mutually contradictory. In Syria, he has spoken about aligning with Russia and even the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against Islamic State – statements that were greeted with joy by regime officials in Damascus. At the same time, he pledged a more confrontational policy against Mr. Assad’s main supporter Iran – a position that has given hope to the Syrian rebels and to their backers in Saudi Arabia.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi hopes that the U.S. under Mr. Trump would join the country’s global campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It’s difficult to see how these pieces might add up,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Then there is Israel. So far, it appears that Mr. Trump, who named a backer of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as U.S. ambassador, would be a strong supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet a Washington embrace of Israel’s extreme right may actually weaken Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to maneuver at home, and could precipitate renewed violence with the Palestinians. In any case, the last thing any Israeli government wants is a return of Syrian regime forces and their Iranian allies (and Hezbollah) to the vicinity of Golan Heights.
In Egypt, government officials admire Mr. Trump’s aversion to Islamists of all stripes, and hope that he would join their global campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, the main domestic foe of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s regime – while also maintaining the current billions of dollars in annual aid.
Outlawing the Brotherhood, however, would strain U.S. relations with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling party hails from Islamist roots and who shelters fugitive Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Istanbul.
Mr. Trump, before the election, praised both presidents and, unlike the Obama administration, refused to condemn widespread human-rights abuses in either country.
Turkish officials say they hope Mr. Trump, once in office, will extradite Mr. Erdogan’s Pennsylvania-based nemesis, cleric Fethullah Gulen, and end American support for Syrian Kurdish militias affiliated with the PKK Kurdistan Workers Party, a group designated as terrorist by Washington and Ankara alike that is waging war on the Turkish state.
“The government in Ankara has positive expectations about Trump, especially concerning Ankara’s struggle against the PKK – an issue that has created so many problems in the U.S.-Turkish relations,” said Ali Bayramoglu, a Turkish commentator and a professor at Istanbul Kultur University.
It is likely these expectations will be dashed considering the priority that Mr. Trump is likely to place on combating Islamic State. The Syrian Kurdish militias, already extensively aided by the U.S., represent the most viable force able to seize the extremist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa.
“Nobody really knows what President Trump’s policies in the Middle East will be, except for taking the fight to ISIS, which is a major priority,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In this perspective, cutting or reducing American backing for the Syrian Kurds would be the last thing the new administration may do, he added: “If you do that, you’ll lose so much territory to ISIS almost immediately.”
REUTERS: TRUMP’S U.N. NOMINEE TO BLAST WORLD BODY OVER ISRAEL
Trump’s U.N. nominee to blast world body over Israel: testimony
January 17, 2017
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations will blast the world body over its treatment of Israel at her Senate confirmation hearing, according to prepared testimony seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
“Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in the opening remarks for her appearance on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers,” the speech says.
In the remarks, Haley offered some praise for UN activities, such as health and food programs that have saved millions of lives, weapons monitoring and some peacekeeping missions, in something of a departure from Trump, who has disparaged the United Nations.
Other Trump national security nominees, notably his choices for Secretary of State, former Exxon Mobil Corp chairman Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James Mattis, have also broken from the Republican president-elect in testimony before the Senate.
Noting that the United States contributes 22 percent of the UN budget, far more than any other country, Haley asked, “Are we getting what we pay for?” She promised to work with U.S. lawmakers to pursue what she described as “seriously needed change” at the United Nations.
Some Republican lawmakers, led by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, have threatened to cut U.S. funding for the United Nations after the Security Council adopted a Dec. 23 resolution demanding an end to settlement building by Israel.
MADURO DENOUNCES ‘HATE CAMPAIGN’ AIMED AT DONALD TRUMP
Maduro denounces ‘hate campaign’ aimed at Donald Trump
January 17, 2017
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday denounced a “hate campaign” aimed at Donald Trump, saying the US president-elect’s administration would not be “worse” than Barack Obama’s.
“Big international media have speculated a lot,” he told reporters. “We are surprised by the hate campaign against Donald Trump – brutal – in the whole world, in the western world, in the United States.”
The socialist president said he will wait until Trump takes over the White House on Friday before making judgments on the incoming US president’s foreign policy.
“I want to be cautious,” he said. “He won’t be worse than Obama, that’s the only thing I would venture to say.”
Maduro said he foresaw “major changes in global geopolitics” and expressed his desire “to have relations of respect, communication and cooperation.”
Venezuela is plagued with soaring crime, runaway inflation and a sharply contracting economy, worsened by falling oil prices.
The opposition blames Maduro’s economic policies and mismanagement for the crisis. He contends it is the product of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.
During the 2016 US election the Venezuelan government voiced anger over parallels drawn between Trump and the late former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
The US has had a strained relationship with the Latin American country since Chavez – famous for his anti-American rhetoric – took over as its president in 1999.
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