Editor's Note: Below is a complimentary research note written by National Security analyst LTG Dan Christman. To access our Macro Policy research please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a region tortured for generations by historical grievances, great power proxy rivalries, and feckless leadership, the Middle East last month experienced an uplifting, even emotional surprise; but it would not be the Middle East if it didn’t include at the same time two disappointments that deepened the region’s nightmares.
The uplifting surprise – the “Good” - was the announcement by the UAE of its intent to normalize relations with the state of Israel.
But the “Bad” were the two diplomatic slap-downs of the U.S. in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) over the extension of the conventional arms embargo against Iran; only the Dominican Republic supported our attempt to keep the embargo in force.
And the “Ugly?” The horrific explosion in the port of Beirut. It was accidental, but it exposed the “Mafia-Militia Network” that passes for governance in the failed state of 21st century Lebanon.
First, on the Good: President Trump basked in the announcement he made on UAE-Israel normalization. The basking was justified. The hard work Jared Kushner invested, following an opening provided by the UAE’s U.S. Ambassador and Bibi Netanyahu, paid off.
The UAE now joins only Egypt and Jordan as Arab states willing to recognize Israel. Historians will acknowledge the courage of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Jordan’s King Hussein, and now UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (“MBZ”) as visionary leaders who were exceptions to the decades-long, blinkered leadership in the broader Arab world.
Then, the Bad: As justifiably proud as the president seemed on the UAE-Israel breakthrough, Trump and his chief diplomat, Mike Pompeo, were soundly rebuffed over Iran in what were historic votes against the U.S. in the UNSC.
To be clear, keeping Iran from accessing the global arms market is a worthy goal.
However, by going-it-alone with a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran since 2018, Washington has forfeited the international support that could have secured the embargo’s extension.
Russian and Chinese arms dealers will be eager to step in when the embargo expires next month, to provide Iran enhanced military capabilities to deepen their regional terror networks.
Finally, on the truly Ugly: Lebanese governments will change, ministers fired, and investigations launched; but the sad reality is that what was once an island of stability and moderation in an unsettled neighborhood is accelerating to complete chaos.
The only hope is for a truly international effort that balances all foreign influences – the way, as some analysts have postulated, Bosnia and Northern Island have been turned away from internal bloodshed.
To their credit, France has tried to take a leading role in a restoration effort; but without a partnership with the U.S. and other leading powers, including Iran, Lebanese political and sectarian differences will only deepen.
How might a future Lebanon look? Libya or Syria represent the increasingly likely nightmarish end-states.
Like President Obama, President Trump has declared his intent to distance the U.S. from its extensive security commitments in the Middle East; but also like Obama, Trump found that it’s far easier to declare than to distance.
Notwithstanding the profound changes in U.S. domestic energy production over the last decade, U.S. interests abound in the region.
How President Trump, if re-elected, or a President Biden, commits U.S. national treasure against those interests will be, next to China, the sternest security test of the next Presidential term.
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ABOUT LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAN CHRISTMAN
LTG Dan Christman, USA, Ret. serves as Hedgeye Potomac Research’s Senior National Security Analyst, providing deep insight into international affairs and national security. Most recently, Dan provided strategic leadership on international issues affecting the business community for organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce. Dan’s long history of leadership includes his service as a United States Army lieutenant general and former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. He served in highly visible and strategically important positions and four times was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the nation's highest peacetime service award.
He also served for two years as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during which time he traveled with and advised Secretary of State Warren Christopher. He was centrally involved during this period with negotiations between Israel and Syria as a member of the Secretary's Middle East Peace Team. Further, Christman represented the United States as a member of NATO's Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.
Graduating first in his class from West Point, Christman also received MPA and MSE degrees in public affairs and civil engineering from Princeton University and graduated with honors from The George Washington University Law School. He is a decorated combat veteran of Southeast Asia, where he commanded a company in the 101st Airborne Division in 1969.