Withdrawal of US troops from ME not on horizon: Kamrava

TEHRAN, Mar. 25 (MNA) – Mehran Kamrava, a professor of the Middle East Studies at Georgetown University of Doha, says, “At this time, I cannot see a possibility that the US would withdraw its troops from the Middle East.”

Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar also adds “Domestically in the US this would be very politically costly, especially in an election season.”

Following is the text of the interview:

What are the most important reasons for the resurgence of rightists and psycho-nationalists in Europe and the United States?

The rise of the right in the US and Europe is the result of a confluence of several developments. At the broadest level, we have national and local reactions to globalization. Global exchanges and interdependencies have always existed. But in recent years, with the spread of social media and instant access to raw and unfiltered information from any part of the world, we see local reactions to global developments, or at least perceptions or misperceptions of global developments. This broader context has facilitated the rise of populist politicians who have capitalized on waves of local fears and anxieties, and these fears and anxieties have been magnified by continued declines in economic conditions, purchasing power, real employment, and prospects for the future. All these factors have combined to result in the rise of the right in the US and in Europe.

One of the most important developments in the Middle East was the announcement of the US withdrawal from the region. But in practice this has not happened. Is the US pulling its troops out of the region? What do you think of this?

As with most other countries, there is not a single official opinion in the US when it comes to foreign policy. There are three general views in the US when it comes to UDS military presence in the Middle East.  There are those who prefer a gradual end to America’s costly and difficult military engagements in the Middle East, and even Europe. Currently, this tendency is represented by Donald Trump. There are others, however, who continue to advocate the opposite, namely that a heavy-handed US military presence is needed to help US allies in the region—namely Israel and Saudi Arabia—and to also counter threats to American interests, especially Iran and its non-state actor allies. This trend, represented by Mike Pompeo and many other Republicans in the US Congress, even advocate open military confrontation with Iran. third, there are those who advocate a middle ground, namely a continuation of the status quo, which is the long-term presence of US military bases and troops throughout the region in order to protect US interests and allies when necessary. This is the thinking of almost all Democrats. At this time, I cannot see a possibility that the US would withdraw its troops from the Middle East. Domestically in the US this would be very politically costly, especially in an election season. The only way US troops would be withdrawn is if Trump succeeds in convincing the American people that doing so is in their best interests. Most people in his own party, and an overwhelming majority of Democrats, would not agree. US troops are therefore likely to stay in the region for the foreseeable future.

One of the major problems facing the US now and in the future is China. Various Western security documents, including a statement from the Munich Security Conference, have cited China as a threat. How will America be able to contain China? Will the containment policy work?

This is a difficult question to answer because a lot of it depends on the specific policies each side puts into place. The way the two powers have been “fighting” is through commerce and trade, and for now it seems that although the US is losing the global dominance it once had, it is still in a stronger position as a global economic superpower compared to China. So basically, in a trade war, it boils down to how much pain each side is willing to suffer in order to bring the other one to its knees. This is difficult to ascertain. For the foreseeable future, I see trade tensions between the two sides continuing.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus points out that there are threats that can be more easily resolved through the cooperation of countries. Will the international community learn from the damage caused by the spread of the virus, and will we see increased international cooperation to address global threats?

The lessons of the coronavirus and what, if anything, global actors will learn from it is too early to tell. So far, each country’s response has been to close its borders and to restrict entry from abroad. We see cruise ships being refused port entry, and travelers not being allowed to board planes. Many countries have banned the export of medical supplies and equipment so that they can have more domestically. So in a crisis of global proportions, the impulse almost everywhere has been to protect national interests. And, with populists either in power or being influential in most parts of the world, there is a paucity of principled leadership that would engage in international cooperation in order to combat this pandemic. For the time being at least, I do not see a possibility for enhanced cooperation.

What will be the economic impact of the Coronavirus on the world economy? How will this affect the upcoming US presidential election?

Much of global commerce has come to a grinding halt. Airlines are not flying, passengers are not traveling, the international flow of goods and trade has been seriously disrupted. Also, local economies are not functioning; most stores are closed, people do not leave the house, restaurants, small businesses, and many kinds of trade are shut. Local and global stock markets have seriously declined, How all of this will impact the global economy is hard to tell. But it will be very, very difficult to recover from this for a number of years.

As for the impact on the US presidential elections, that is hard to predict this far out. Trump’s big accomplishment has been a sharp rise in the US stock market. But that has all disappea.red in the last two weeks or so. If the decline continues, and if Joe Biden runs a smart campaign, Trump faces major difficulties in his re-election campaign

From your point of view what was the most important international development in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East over the past year?

The appearance of COVID-19, and the incredible speed and ways in which China and South Korea were able to contain and deal with it; the continuation of Syria’s tragic civil war for another year; the impeachment of Trump and his continued popularity among the American electorate; the continued political ascent of Mohamed Bin Salman; and, the world’s indifference to the continued destruction of Palestine under the guise of “the deal of the century.”

Interview by Javad Heirannia

News Code 157012

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