The cuts to foreign aid proposed in US President Donald Trump’s new budget, if passed, would drastically diminish US influence in Africa, threaten US security interests, and make way for countries like China to fill the void, according to a former White House official.

“We can’t be ceding this space to China and to other players to have them deepen their economic ties and their political ties and have the US really lose out,” said Grant Harris, who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2015.  

Trump’s new federal budget would put an end to important US engagement on the continent, engagement which, according to Harris, is vital for US national security. This is the premise of his recently published Atlantic Council report: Why Africa Matters to US National Security. “Far too many people think that Africa is of secondary importance to US interests, where, in reality, it’s really important to US national security,” Harris said in a Facebook Live discussion with Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor with the Washington Post, at the Atlantic Council on May 25.

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While US President Donald J. Trump admonished the United States’ NATO allies at a meeting in Brussels on May 25 for not spending enough on collective defense, it is the threat posed by Russia that has been a bigger factor in galvanizing the allies’ defense commitments, according to a former deputy secretary general of NATO.

“Vladimir Putin probably had more of a role in increasing defense spending than Donald Trump,” said Alexander Vershbow, who now serves as a distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

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As US President Donald J. Trump prepares to head off for Memorial Day weekend, he should pause and reflect on the nature of war and reconsider his administration’s plans to gut American soft power. History tells us that support for overseas development initiatives and institutions like the United Nations is critical for promoting peace, security, and prosperity.

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A horrific suicide bombing in Manchester has put a spotlight on Libya—the North African nation where the chaos that has prevailed for the better part of the past six years has become a fertile breeding ground for a mélange of terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

“What Manchester shows is that it is possible for a radicalized kid to go to Libya and potentially receive the kind of training that would allow him to return to his home country and commit an act of terrorism,” said Karim Mezran, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

On May 22, a bomber identified by British authorities as Salman Abedi, the twenty-two-year-old British-born son of Libyan immigrants, detonated explosives at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena, killing himself and twenty-two other people. Fifty-nine people were wounded. Abedi had earlier traveled to Libya to see his parents who have moved back; he also visited Syria. The British government on May 23 put the entire country on the highest level of alert—a sign that another attack “may be imminent.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, formerly One Belt, One Road) is an economic integration project that will allow the often-overlooked Kazakhstan to capitalize on its unique geographic location to leverage geopolitical benefits from the initiative.

The infrastructure project is designed to expand China’s influence beyond its immediate neighborhood with economic soft power, achieving goals on its geopolitical agenda, namely, providing BRI nations a truly competitive alternative to Western, US-led partnerships.

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The election of Emmanuel Macron as France’s president on May 7 is a welcome boost for “third way” politics, a centrist political philosophy that broadly advocates a combination of right-wing economic and left-wing social policies. For the first time since the 1970s, France has elected a president that does not belong to either of the two major parties. In doing so, they chose a pragmatic vision for the future.

With the European Union’s (EU) existence under threat after years of underachievement and a morale-sapping Brexit referendum, the renewed impetus brought about by the election of the profoundly pro-European Macron is an opportunity to define a new practical vision for the rejuvenation of the European project.

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Iranians celebrated in the streets of their cities this past weekend out of relief that the most capable candidate on offer won the presidential election held on May 19.

Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani’s solid victory over a younger and more hardline cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, was a triumph of competence over ideology and of openness over isolationism.

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A creative solution to a quarrel over maritime borders could serve the interests of Lebanon and Israel

Recent oil and gas developments in the eastern Mediterranean have brought back into the spotlight the issue of an ongoing maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon that has created uncertainty among prospective foreign investors over the potential for a new conflagration in an already unstable region. 

The disagreement centers on an 854-square kilometer stretch of sea both countries claim as part of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Years of international mediation efforts, led by the United States, to resolve the dispute have yet to bear fruit. 

These tensions have been revived as Lebanon and Israel move forward with the development of their oil and gas sectors in the eastern Mediterranean.

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US President Donald J. Trump signaled through his meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in Washington on May 15 his administration’s commitment to working closely with the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to counter Iran’s expanding influence in the Arab world and fight al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

On May 19, Trump travels to Saudi Arabia where he will meet King Salman and up to twenty heads of state of Muslim-majority countries. MbZ’s visit to Washington has, in part, helped Trump prepare for his engagements in Saudi Arabia.

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During US President Donald J. Trump’s upcoming trip to Riyadh, Gulf leaders will seek to portray themselves as capable partners for the United States in countering common threats, namely violent extremism and Iranian aggression, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

Throughout the summit, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will “want to make it clear that they have become more capable partners,” said Bilal Y. Saab, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council. He said they will try to communicate to Trump: “Rely on us more. Trust us more. We are happy to devote sufficient resources to common fights including counter-terrorism and countering Iran.”

“I think they will push that message more aggressively now, because this is what Trump wants to hear,” Saab added. Regarded as a “transactional” president and self-proclaimed dealmaker, Trump emphasized throughout his campaign that the fight against terrorism would top his foreign policy agenda. “He said during the campaign that he is looking for partners who are more willing to contribute, share the burden, and spend more money on defense,” said Saab, adding that US partners in the Gulf will seek to meet this need.

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