Analysis

China could retaliate in several ways that would cause serious damage to the United States if President-elect Donald Trump were to overplay his hand with the Asian nation, according to an Asia expert at the Atlantic Council.

Noting that Trump has a “grotesquely inflated sense of American leverage,” Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and its Strategic Foresight Initiative, said: “What would he do if China took its $1.3 trillion in Treasury bonds that fund our deficit and put it into euros? Our economies are very interdependent and there is a mutually assured destruction if we start getting into tit-for-tat trade wars.”

ISIS claims responsibility; official response ‘measured’ 

German authorities have been “careful not to jump to conclusions” following a December 19 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin despite the fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has claimed responsibility, said Jasmine El-Gamal, a senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

“They’re being very measured,” El-Gamal said. “[T]hey’re not quick… to shift the blame to someone else because they’re still in fact-gathering mode.”

El-Gamal joined Fran Burwell, vice president for European Union and Special Initiatives at the Atlantic Council, for a Facebook Live discussion on December 20 to examine the security situation in Europe in light of the attack, as well as the potential political implications. 
Exemplified by his extraordinary phone conversation with the leader of Taiwan and his tweets criticizing China, US President-elect Donald Trump’s undefined stance on Asia has created uncertainty and anxiety throughout the region.

“The United States is a very important strategic and economic partner,” consequently, countries throughout the region are “anxious to find out what the new administration is going to do…and anxious to work with the new administration,” said Meredith Miller, vice president of Albright Stonebridge Group.

On December 2, Trump spoke with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, in what the Washington Post reported was “a breach of protocol that could disrupt US-China ties before the inauguration.” The call was the first by a US president-elect or president since Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan in 1979. Since 1979, US-China relations have been governed by the “one-China” policy under which the United States acknowledges Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China.
France occupies a unique geopolitical position and can positively influence Europe’s trajectory, but first it must undertake significant domestic reforms, Jérémie Gallon, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative, said in a Facebook Live discussion on December 6.

Gallon joined Jeffrey Lightfoot, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security, to discuss their forthcoming publication, Spotlight France: Europe’s Swing State.

In the report, both authors argue that “what happens in France matters across Europe and it matters around the world.” Lightfoot and Gallon agreed that the future France decides to pursue, a pressing concern in light of upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in May and June of 2017, respectively, will set the tone for the rest of Europe with regard to rising populism, economic reform, and the integration of Muslim populations into European society.
An undercurrent of apprehension regarding global affairs and concern in the aftermath of the US presidential elections defined the 6th Berlin Foreign Policy Forum, held on November 29 by the Körber Foundation in Berlin, Germany.

In a wide-ranging and deeply contemplative dialogue, Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s Federal Minister of Finance, made the case for a strong Germany within a united Europe, as the world prepares for the possibility of the United States playing a smaller role on the global stage.
The US-led coalition offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the final major foothold of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq, has progressed slowly but positively over the course of the past month. However, questions still remain whether the offensive, Operation Inherent Resolve, will prove to be a coalition of convenience that dissolves without a clear and common enemy, or if political wills in Baghdad and Erbil, both in Iraq, are able to hash out a post-conflict structure that preempts ethnic opportunists and revenge killing. The battle for Mosul may mark the culmination of a protracted effort to build some semblance of unity amidst Iraq’s factionalist disorder.
If US President-elect Donald Trump were to keep his promise to withdraw the United States from a trans-Pacific free-trade agreement it would severely undermine US credibility and open the door for China to set the rules on global trade, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

Trump issued a video on November 21 in which he outlined his policy plans for his first 100 days in office. Among these plans was his intention to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “from day one.”

Trump called the TPP “a potential disaster for our country”. Instead, he said, he would “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back.”
Lebanon’s militant Shi’ite Hezbollah displayed its new armored capabilities for the first time during a military parade in the Syrian town of Qusayr in Homs province, offering the most compelling example yet of the Iran-backed group’s adoption of conventional military tactics and equipment alongside its traditional low-signature asymmetric doctrine.

The parade was held on November 11, the date of Hezbollah’s annual Martyrs’ Day commemoration, and featured hundreds of fighters alongside dozens of armored and soft-skin vehicles and artillery guns. Sayyed Hisham Safieddine, the head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, gave a speech to the assembled fighters. Images of the parade were subsequently shared on pro-Hezbollah social media sites, although the party’s own media organs did not report the event nor circulate Safieddine’s comments.

Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper reported in September 2015 that the Syrian army had handed to Hezbollah seventy-five T-55 and T-72 tanks allowing the organization to establish an armored unit. Anecdotal evidence and conversations with Hezbollah fighters lent credence to the report, but the parade in Qusayr, which featured the new unit’s emblem emblazoned on the vehicles, provided the first concrete visual evidence.
The era of “fact-free politics” just met its match, in that “facts are stubborn.”

Populist politicians can distort much of the truth with little or no political consequences, but the British high court’s ruling on November 3 proves that for Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Theresa May, ignoring the reality of the United Kingdom’s constitutional order turned out to be a bridge too far.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet keeps making the point that the Brexit referendum was an exercise in grassroots democracy unprecedented in British history. But the reason for this lack of precedents happens to defeat their argument: the United Kingdom is not an Athenian, but a parliamentary democracy.
The national security challenge posed in the Arctic by the growing presence of Russia and China as well as climate change makes it imperative for the United States to develop the strategic infrastructure needed to play a key leadership role, while maintaining safety and security in the region, said a senior White House official.

According to Amy Pope, deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to US President Barack Obama at the National Security Council, “it was clear that with a rapidly changing climate we needed to put in a leadership structure to guide US activity in the region.” The United States must prepare to engage other countries in a coordinated way in the region, she said at the Atlantic Council on October 25.


    

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