Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

  • Consequences of the US Withdrawal from Syria: The French Perspective

    French authorities were undoubtedly upset, if not very surprised, by US President Donald Trump’s sudden announcement of a withdrawal from the northeast of Syria. On several occasions during his talks with President Trump, especially when he came to Washington for a state visit in April 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron was very insistent that the US and their allies should stay, ultimately he did not change the American president’s decision and campaign commitment to end America’s wars abroad.

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  • Winter Storm in Arsal, Lebanon Devastates Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Communities

    Up one of the steep hillsides that line Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, Soheir al-Kanoun hasn’t left the house in days.

    A Palestinian refugee originally from Syria’s Yarmouk camp, who now lives in a hillside town overlooking the valley below, al-Kanoun’s family have been living off bread and tahini since Storm Norma began—groceries bought hastily last week in preparation for rain, wind and snow.

    And while the elevation has protected al-Kanoun and her elderly mother from flooding, hillside snow and ice has hemmed them inside since the weekend.  

    “I can’t go out in this weather,” she said. “We live up in the hills. People rarely go outside.”

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  • Pompeo: The United States is a ‘Force for Good’ in the Middle East

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 repudiated former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies while seeking to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to the region. Ironically, allies have been rattled of late by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. This decision, Pompeo insisted, is not a change of mission.

    “Let me be clear, America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo, adding that the United States “will labor tirelessly alongside you to defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours.”

    Describing the United States as a “force for good,” the secretary said: “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East. We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian


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  • Wechsler Quoted in VICE News on Trump's Sudden Syria Withdrawel

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  • James Mattis: Leading by Example

    The resignation letter of Secretary of Defense James Mattis should be required reading for current and future senior officials of the US executive branch. Without so much as a hint of insubordination or disrespect for the commander-in-chief, he has made it clear that his 40+ years of service to country have instilled within him values not compatible with those of President Donald J. Trump.  Consistent with his record of service, he has chosen the path of honorable exit.  In this administration he will likely be alone.

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  • Mattis Heads for the Exit

    Defense secretary to leave Trump administration at the end of February

    The differences between Donald J. Trump and Jim Mattis were on display in their statements on December 20. While Trump wrote in a tweet that his defense secretary was “retiring” at the end of February; Mattis made clear he was resigning over policy differences with the president.

    Mattis submitted his resignation after a failed attempt to convince Trump to keep US troops in Syria, The New York Times reported.

    “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” ...
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  • Wechsler quoted in Associated Press on Trump's plans to withdraw troops from Syria

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  • Hof quoted in US News & World Report on Mattis resignation

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  • Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure

    An American president impetuously overrules his national security team with a sudden decision on Syria; one that pleases the Kremlin, undermines US policy, and damages his own credibility. Essentially unmoored to the national security apparatus over which he presides, the president—strongly influenced by the views of a foreign leader—thinks he knows best in any event. Acting without deliberation and with the thinnest of consultation, the president unintentionally but decisively rewards a murderous Syrian regime, gratifies the external supporters of that regime, and broadcasts a message of weakness and inconsistency to enemies—including Islamist extremists—of the US around the world.

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  • Trump's Syria Decision Poses More Questions Than Answers

    If true, reports that US President Donald J. Trump is ordering the prompt withdrawal of US military forces from eastern Syria could upend his administration’s Syria strategy and hand a thoroughly unearned victory to Iran, Russia, and the Assad regime. The White House has just released the following statement:

    “Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”

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