Rachel Brandenburg

  • 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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  • 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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  • US Preparing to Withdraw Troops From Syria: What Does It Mean?

    Media reports suggest that the Trump administration has begun planning the removal US armed forces from northeastern Syria, as US President Donald Trump believes “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.”

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on December 19, "five years ago today, ISIS was very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate...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." According to Department of


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  • United States Sanctions Seventeen Saudi Officials Over Khashoggi Murder

    The US Treasury Department on November 15 slapped sanctions on seventeen Saudi officials in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

    The sanctioned Saudis include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trusted adviser, Saud al-Qahtani; senior aide Maher Mutreb; and Saudi counsel general in Istanbul, Mohammed al-Ootaibi.

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  • Violence Erupts Between Gaza and Israel

    A new round of violence has erupted in the Gaza Strip following an Israeli military raid on November 11 that killed a local Hamas commander. The undercover military operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) took place in the Gaza Strip, a 141-square-mile territory on Israel’s southern border currently controlled by Hamas, which the United States, Israel, and the European Union categorize as a terrorist organization.

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  • Brandenburg Quoted in The Arab Weekly on Sadr's Win in Iraq

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  • Has The United States Jeopardized Its Prospects For ‘The Ultimate Deal’ In The Middle East?

    Early in his presidency, Donald J. Trump set out to achieve “the ultimate deal”: Israeli-Palestinian peace. The US president deputized his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with the task, claiming the feat could be achieved within the first year of his administration.

    A little over a year later that “ultimate deal” is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Trump administration appears to have further jeopardized its own prospects of brokering such a deal by relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and again failing to acknowledge the potential for Jerusalem to also be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

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  • Concern and Uncertainty After Iran Deal Exit

    On May 8, 2018, President Donald J. Trump announced the United States would re-impose sanctions on Iran and withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – better known as the Iran nuclear deal.

    On May 9, the Middle East Security Initiative (MSI) in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security convened a panel of experts for a conference call conversation assessing the implications of President Trump’s decision. Rachel Brandenburg, MSI Director, moderated the discussion, which featured senior fellows Amir Handjani and David Mortlock, board director Dov Zakheim, Future of Iran Initiative Director Barbara Slavin, and Suzanne Maloney, Deputy Director for Foreign Policy and Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

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  • Bridging the Gulf in the GCC

    Relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been fractured for much of the past year. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 citing reports that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had made remarks of the United States while offering support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran, and claiming Doha’s policies fueled regional terrorism and extremism.

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  • Trump Quits Iran Nuclear Deal

    US President Donald J. Trump on May 8 pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal saying the agreement did not satisfactorily address the Islamic Republic’s ability to build a nuclear bomb or limit its “malign activity.” He also signed a memorandum to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

    Trump’s decision will likely strain Washington’s ties with its European allies who had urged him to remain in the deal.

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