The Covid-19 pandemic neither fostered cooperation nor eased US-Iran tensions that reached their peak in the wake of the US killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January. Instead, the virus has been weaponized by Washington and Tehran under the assumption that it could provide new opportunities to force the other party to review its policies.
After announcing in December that the US will withdraw its troops from Syria, President Donald Trump and the White House back tracked a number of weeks later, declaring the withdrawal may yet take a number of months.
Over 2018, China’s relations significantly sharpened with both the US and the EU. The most consequential of these is with the US, where the imposition of trade tariffs from later in the year was the first tangible sign that the relationship was entering an era of overt strategic competition.
In President Donald Trump’s February 5 State of the Union Address, he all but strayed from his unwavering stance that there is a national crisis at the southern U.S.-Mexico border, due to the supposed illicit crossing of immigrants who threaten “the safety, security, and financial well-being of all America”. Trump did, however, voice his favor for legal immigration, and the responsibility the U.S. has to protect those who have entered the country legally.
Since the onset of the Islamic Revolution of 1978-9 the Iranian foreign policy motto has been “Neither East, nor West, Islamic Republic”. But one has to consider that Iran has always been more East than West by both necessity and design. Faced with the economic consequences of Western containment, Iran put aside its historic rivalry with Russia, and included it in its Look East policy – referring to China, Russia and India.
For the first time since the beginning of the war, Washington’s administration heavyweights, Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State) and James Mattis (Secretary of Defence), publicly called for the end of the Saudi and Emirati-led military intervention in Yemen, begun in March 2015.
With US President Donald Trump apparently hell bent on upending global rules, can Europe and Asia join forces to shore up a rapidly weakening multilateral order? New initiatives unveiled by the European Commission for revamping the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and setting governance standards for transport, energy and digital connectivity offer opportunities for more joint Europe-Asian action.
There are curious parallels in US and Chinese foreign policy these days. Just as many - wrongly - believe that the US rebalance to Asia is driven by China’s meteoric rise, some analysts speculate that China’s “westward march”, in particular Xi Jinping’s Silk Road Economic Belt and XXI Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives, is a response to the newly invigorated US presence on its eastern littoral. The US is a factor in Chinese thinking, just as China is a factor in US policy. But in neither case is it determinative?
The news of the Ukrainian crisis have ebbed and flowed with other issues high on the agenda of the Western leaders, such as the stagflation nightmare hanging over the Union and the primitive violence of the decapitations operated by the ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Clearly, this is not one of the best moments in history we have been through. All three emergencies point right to the core of the Western liberal system in an unprecedented way, challenging its very fundamentals.