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Advice for the Next President: Reward Your Friends and Punish Your Enemies – Michael J. Totten (The Tower via Daily Alert)

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Nov. 8, 2016

Advice for the Next President: Reward Your Friends and Punish Your Enemies – Michael J. Totten (The Tower)

Dear President-Elect, the world is beset by a constellation of problems – international terrorism, rogue states, and a renascent expansionist Russia. You will not be able to democratize the Middle East or diplomatically “engage” your way with the Vladimir Putins and Ali Khameneis of the world. These are problems to be managed rather than solved. At least the Israelis, who have become masters of this art, can commiserate with your unenviable role.

The only indigenous forces willing and able to take on ISIS and win are the Kurds. The Kurds are religiously moderate, politically centrist, and allergic to the kinds of paranoid conspiracy theories so tragically common in the Arab world. They’re more pro-American than even Americans, and they’re the best fighters in the region by far after the Israelis. They’ve wanted their own state for more than 100 years now, and they were promised one, too, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Under what theory do the Palestinians deserve their own state while the Kurds don’t? The Kurds are our best friends in the Muslim Middle East. They stand with us on every question that matters. It’s time to back the Kurds to the hilt and give them the green light to declare independence, partly because it’s the right thing to do, partly because we need their help and partly because it’s the smart move strategically. Free Kurdish states in Syria and Iraq will permanently deny territory to the likes of both Assad and ISIS.

You could spend your entire presidency litigating every detail of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or we could skip all that and boil it down to its essence: The majority of Israelis have repeatedly elected prime ministers who are willing to sign on to a two-state solution, but the Palestinians haven’t. When a clear majority of Palestinians catch up to the Israelis, the conflict will end. You can try to force the Israelis to give up more than they already have, but it won’t do an iota of good if the Palestinian side remains rejectionist.

There can be no peace between Israelis and Palestinians while Hamas still rules Gaza anyway, and one of the reasons Hamas still rules Gaza is because it’s still receiving money and guns from Iran, just as the Assad regime and Hizbullah do. Iran is a brutally repressive sectarian theocracy that is the biggest state sponsor of international terrorism in the world. It has been our chief adversary in the Middle East since followers of Ayatollah Khomeini took 52 American diplomats hostage at our embassy in Tehran in 1979.

In essence: Get real about Russia, finish off ISIS in Syria, back the Kurds to the hilt, downgrade relations with Turkey, repair our relations with Israel and crack down hard again on Iran. The first rule of foreign policy is that you reward your friends and punish your enemies. Presidents who behave as though this rule doesn’t apply to them are doomed to fail in foreign policy.

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