×
Foreign policy
June 11, 2019

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, stole some of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden's spotlight on Tuesday with a sweeping foreign policy speech at Indiana University.

Buttigieg's speech was light on hard policy details, and heavy on broad ideas, though that was his intention. He did not, he said, mean to "deliver a full Buttigieg doctrine," but instead sought to lay out why "the world today needs America more than ever, but only if America can be at her best." Buttigieg then criticized the Trump administration's approach to foreign relations, saying that it "hardly had a foreign policy at all." But he also made clear that the Democrats haven't been much better at creating a consistent foreign policy during the 37-year-old's lifetime.

Buttigeg then addressed Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Israel, immigration, and climate change — in general, the mayor focused on re-committing to multilateral diplomacy and placing an emphasis human rights. The speech was received well in the auditorium, prompting several rounds of applause throughout. Others have also already offered their praise online.

There is also a sense that the speech will appeal, specifically, to those hoping for a centrist foreign policy, which is in line with a fair amount of the analysis surrounding Buttigieg's candidacy as a whole. Tim O'Donnell

February 23, 2019

President Trump announced on Friday that the U.S. will leave 400 soldiers in Syria.

Half of the troops will serve as part of a multinational force — which could end up consisting of as many as 1,500 soldiers — in the northeastern part of the country, while the other half will be stationed at an outpost in the southeast.

On Friday, Trump denied that the decision is a reversal from his previous rhetoric, in which he said he would pull all U.S. troops from Syria. "It's a very small, tiny fraction of the people we have, and a lot of people like that idea," he said.

The decision is part of a joint plan by the U.S. and its NATO allies to assemble a "monitoring and observing force" in northeastern Syria, with the hope of providing a buffer between Turkey and U.S.-allied Syrian opposition forces, particularly Kurdish resistance forces. The remaining soldiers will attempt to prevent an Islamic State resurgence in the area.

Per The New York Times, the United States' European allies refused to deploy troops if the U.S. did not. Tim O'Donnell

February 6, 2019

Presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not an enemy of the U.S. because Syria "does not pose a direct threat to the United States."

Gabbard made the comment on MSNBC's Morning Joe, and she was pressed further by host Joe Scarborough and NBC News Correspondent Kasie Hunt over whether American interests are really aligned with Syria's.

After Gabbard said "we need to look at how [Assad's] interests are counter to or aligned with ours," Hunt replied that "Assad seems interested in the slaughter primarily of his own people." Pressed repeatedly on whether she considered Assad an "adversary," Gabbard said "you can describe it however you want to describe it."

Co-host Willie Geist later questioned Gabbard over whether Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, per The Daily Beast. Gabbard, who has previously expressed skepticism over Assad carrying out attacks, said she certainly thinks "it's possible."

Gabbard came under scrutiny in 2017 when she met with Assad during a "fact finding" trip to Syria. The congresswoman claimed the meeting was originally unplanned, and she said she took it out of concern for the Syrian people. Syria is currently in the midst of a civil war that began in 2011. Assad's military has fought U.S.-backed rebels, and the war has led to thousands of civilian deaths. Marianne Dodson

December 22, 2018

Brett McGurk, the United States' special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State, tendered his resignation Friday in response to President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Appointed by former President Barack Obama, McGurk previously planned to leave his post in February, but he will now depart at the end of December. Defense Secretary James Mattis also resigned this week over foreign policy differences with Trump; he will step down at the end of February.

"The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us. It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered," McGurk reportedly said in an email to his staff. "I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout but — as many of you heard in my meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity." Bonnie Kristian

May 7, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani followed his Sunday warning against U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, with a Monday announcement that Tehran will remain committed to the arrangement regardless of President Trump's choices.

"We are not worried about America's cruel decisions ... We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week," Rouhani said on a state media broadcast. "If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories ... In that case, getting rid of America's mischievous presence will be fine for Iran."

In addition to the U.S. and Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany are JCPOA signatories. Rouhani added Monday that if JCPOA participant nations "want to make sure that we are not after a nuclear bomb, we have said repeatedly that we are not and we will not be."

No other nations have suggested they may leave. President Trump, who has called the deal "insane" and "ridiculous," must extend a waiver of U.S. sanctions on Iran by May 12 to keep the U.S. in the agreement. Bonnie Kristian

April 29, 2018

New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled this weekend to Saudi Arabia, where he held a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

"Gulf unity is necessary, and we need to achieve it," he said, pushing Riyadh to end its conflict with neighboring Qatar. "We are hopeful that they will, in their own way, figure out how to remove the dispute between them," Pompeo told the press.

He also took aim at Saudi rival Iran. Tehran "destabilizes this entire region," Pompeo argued. "It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It supports the murderous Assad regime [in Syria] as well." Pompeo is a strident critic of the Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump has said he may exit. Bonnie Kristian

March 26, 2018

James Mattis was "dismissed as a warmonger during the Obama administration," notes a Monday New York Times profile of the defense secretary, but in President Trump's Washington he is hailed as a bastion of stability and keeper of the status quo.

With former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — whom the Times reports Mattis dubbed "St. Rex" for his treatment by Trump — Mattis has been cast as a bulwark to keep the president's more reckless impulses in check. Now, with Tillerson set to be replaced by Mike Pompeo and the appointment of arch-hawk John Bolton as national security adviser, Mattis is likely the sole significant administration voice pushing for any degree of foreign policy restraint, particularly where North Korea is concerned.

Mattis has reportedly indicated he does not expect to work well with Bolton, who has long argued for a preventive strike against North Korea as well as Iran. "This gets to a fundamental question," a "retired senior officer" who is close to Mattis told the Times: "Can Mattis win the president over [on North Korea], the most important debate we've had in decades, maybe centuries? I believe there is a moral hazard with this president, he will take everybody to the cliff," the source added. "If Mattis is able to prevail, that is what God put him on Earth to do. It's that serious."

Read the full New York Times report here. Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2017

Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, a conversation in which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reports Mattis said he is mulling expanded U.S. military action in Africa in the wake of the attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers.

"The war is morphing," Graham said. "You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you're going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you're going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field."

Meanwhile, other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have argued the Niger incident highlights the need to reconsider the broad war-making authority the executive branch has claimed in the post-9/11 era. "The many questions surrounding the death of American service members in Niger show the urgent need to have a public discussion about the current extent of our military operations around the world," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Likewise, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said present threats necessitate "a sober national conversation about Congress' constitutional role in authorizing the use of military force." Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads