Politics, Moderate



Saudi political explosions risk collateral damage

WASHINGTON -- Nearly two weeks after the double political explosion that rocked Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be doing damage control in ways that may help stabilize Saudi Arabia and the region.

The first bombshell was the Nov. 4 arrest on corruption charges of 201 prominent Saudis, including princes and government ...Read more

As Trump returns from Asia, America retreats from the world

WASHINGTON -- As President Trump ends his Asia trip, he might sum up the 12-day journey with a revision of the remark attributed to Julius Caesar: Veni, vidi, blandivi. I came, I saw, I flattered.

Trump's trip was closer to a pilgrimage than a projection of power. The president rarely explained details of U.S. policy. Instead, he mostly ...Read more

Could the ambitious Saudi crown prince unleash a storm across the Middle East?

WASHINGTON -- Saudi Arabia risks committing the original sin of modern Middle East politics -- fighting its regional wars in Lebanon and driving that fragile country once again toward civil strife.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's target in Lebanon is Hezbollah, the nation's dominant political force, which is backed by the Saudi's ...Read more

Saudi crown prince shows his iron fist in risky power play

WASHINGTON -- Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he's cracking down on corruption. But the sweeping arrests of Cabinet ministers and senior princes Saturday night looked to many astonished Arab observers like a bold but risky consolidation of power.

MBS, as the headstrong 32-year-old ruler is known, struck at some of the ...Read more

Trump's hunger for Russia projects lasted decades

MOSCOW -- An ice-blue 14-story office tower called Ducat Place III is the building that President Trump might have constructed here. But like so many other Trump adventures in Russia, this one proved a tantalizing but futile dead end.

Trump is angrily dismissive when questions are raised about his Russian contacts. He calls the investigation by...Read more

Mueller is unraveling Russian manipulation. Let him finish his job.

WASHINGTON -- Has there ever been a covert action that backfired as disastrously as Russia's attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign?

Granted, we know all the reasons Moscow is gloating: Donald Trump is president; America is divided and confused; Russia's propagandization of "fake news" is now repeated by people around the ...Read more

Might Xi Jinping's star be burning too bright?

WASHINGTON -- President Xi Jinping's command at this month's Communist Party gathering was so complete that President Trump likened him to a "king." But some China analysts are wondering whether Xi has overreached.

Xi dominated the stage, literally and figuratively, at the party's 19th Congress, which ended this week in Beijing. He ...Read more

Russia's worrisome push to control cyberspace

WASHINGTON -- Russia's cybermeddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been accompanied by what U.S. and European experts describe as a worrisome Kremlin campaign to rewrite the rules for global cyberspace.

A draft of a Russian proposal for a new "United Nations Convention on Cooperation in Combating Information Crimes" was recently ...Read more

The rubble in Raqqa is a reminder of American military might

WASHINGTON -- Looking at photographs of the ruined, desolate streets of what was once the Islamic State's capital of Raqqa is a reminder of the overwhelming, pitilessly effective military power of the United States.

Perhaps it's a tribute to the inevitable nature of American force, once it's engaged, that the fall of Raqqa this week provoked ...Read more

How might Trump's Asian hosts sketch his personality profile?

WASHINGTON -- As President Trump prepares to head to Asia next month for his most important overseas trip yet, foreign intelligence services are undoubtedly trying to assemble personality profiles to explain this unconventional, risk-taking, domineering president to the leaders he will meet.

How will they describe Trump? Probably not with the ...Read more

A series of unfortunate consequences for Kurdistan in Kirkuk

WASHINGTON -- In this week's crisis over Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurds are experiencing a painful version of Newton's Third Law: In Middle East politics, as in physics, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.

The initial action was Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani's decision to push ahead last month with a controversial independence ...Read more

At the crux of the U.S.-Turkey dispute is a gold dealer facing trial

WASHINGTON -- At the center of the increasingly bitter dispute between the U.S. and Turkey is a demand by an irate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that American prosecutors free a Turkish-Iranian gold dealer who's about to go on trial on money-laundering and fraud charges.

The confrontation sharpened Thursday, as Erdogan protested in Ankara that...Read more

Trump's foreign policy is plagued by a lack of clarity

WASHINGTON -- Critics have complained about President Trump's bombast on foreign policy, but some GOP insiders worry about a less visible problem -- a hollowed-out bureaucracy that has been slow to develop and implement strategy.

Skeptics say that on major issues -- Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Russia -- the Trump administration hasn't ...Read more

Trump's geopolitical straddle in Iran

WASHINGTON -- Various cultures have different phrases for expressing the idea of having it both ways at once. "To take a swim and not get wet" is an Albanian proverb. Poles talk about "having the cookie and eating it." Iranians want "both God and the sugar dates."

The Trump administration has been weighing a contemporary geopolitical version of...Read more

How subordinates can check an impulsive president

WASHINGTON -- Consider what is, for the moment, an entirely hypothetical question: What might Secretary of Defense James Mattis do if he received an order from President Trump to launch a nuclear attack on North Korea in retaliation, say, for a hydrogen-bomb test that had gone awry?

Certainly, Mattis could try to talk the president out of the ...Read more

The politics of travel and the tangled knot of policy

WASHINGTON -- One simple rule for decoding foreign policy is that presidential trips often drive the agenda. So the fact that President Trump is planning to visit Beijing and other Asian capitals in just over a month may tell us more about what's ahead in that region than all the tweets, rumors and palace intrigue.

War with North Korea? It's a ...Read more

On North Korea, Trump needs to stop fulminating and start dealing

WASHINGTON -- Top U.S. officials have said repeatedly that America is seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis with North Korea. But President Trump's insulting comments toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appear to have made such a negotiated settlement more difficult.

In the chaotic government-by-Twitter atmosphere of the Trump ...Read more

U.S. must think outside the box on North Korea

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration often talks about North Korea policy as if it's an on-off switch.

President Trump thundered Tuesday that the U.S. will "totally destroy" North Korea to defend itself and its allies. But Defense Secretary James Mattis blandly insisted the next day that it's "still a diplomatically led effort."

Somewhere in...Read more

Trump's welcome flirtation with the UN

NEW YORK -- When you discount the rhetorical overkill, the most surprising thing about Donald Trump's address to the United Nations Tuesday was how conventional it was. He supported human rights and democracy; he opposed rogue regimes; he espoused a global community of strong, sovereign nations. Pretty shocking stuff.

Because he's Trump, the ...Read more

The Iran nuclear deal may not be perfect. But it shouldn't be scrapped.

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration, already struggling with a big nuclear problem in North Korea, is about to raise another one by questioning the implementation of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

A senior administration official said that President Trump will share his concerns about Iranian compliance with global leaders gathering next ...Read more


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