If all that’s alleged [regarding Khashoggi] is true, WeWork will be in bed with a regime that has expressed brazen disregard for virtually any norm of international politics. They should tread carefully before accepting a majority stake from a fund that’s in effect a Saudi investment vehicle.
[On Alex Jones' banning from Facebook and Youtube] It’s interesting they finally pulled the trigger. I think the biggest point of vulnerability on social media platforms is anti-competitive behavior. To me, it always seemed this is the way it would play out is for folks who disagree with the way the tech platforms are targeting the alt-right in particular or folks like Alex Jones. The leverage they have to get back on them is on they’re effectively a monopoly in control of online communication.
Power abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of strong U.S. leadership on Syria, Russia and Iran have been more than happy to move in. It's a measure of just how much they've come to dominate the conflict that they'll be the only major foreign powers at the summit. The White House has largely washed its hands of Syria. But with Iran entrenched in Damascus, and the Islamic State biding its time in the far countryside, it's likely only a matter of time before our hands are dirtied again. When that happens we'll likely look at these negotiations as a lost opportunity.
The main takeaway from Facebook's announcement is not just that Russia-style meddling is exportable, but that it's inevitable. If Moscow authored the playbook, Tehran read it word for word, and they won't be the only country to do so. Spreading disinformation on Facebook is so easy and effective that we need to assume every foreign adversary will now do it.
Sanctions relief may not have lifted the Iranian economy as a whole, but it has lifted the fortunes of Iranian elites. Zarif may frame sanctions in terms of the harm it’s doing to Iran overall, but he’s really concerned about the checkbooks of the political, financial and military elite that the regime in Tehran depends on for support and legitimacy.
For decades, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as the leading champion of Sunni Islam. One way they've done that is by bankrolling Palestinian causes, including funding the Palestinian Authority to the tune of $20 million a month. Yet Saudi efforts in the West Bank pose a problem for President Erdogan. He's made it no secret that he wants to restore Turkey to what he views as its rightful place atop Sunni Islam. Yet so long as the Saudis are viewed as the defenders of the Palestinians, that's not a mantle he can steal. That's why Erdogan is cultivating support within East Jerusalem—and why the Palestinian Authority is pushing back.
[Jared] Kushner is meeting with King Abdullah to generate support for his peace plan, but it doesn't come at a great time for him. King Abdullah has had to spend the past month quelling the worst unrest in years, and providing cover for a new peace plan is not likely to top his list of priorities. Early reports suggest that Kushner is trying to sweeten the deal with several hundred million dollars in aid for Gaza. Yet the fighting in 2009 alone produced over $4 billion in damages, so it's hard to see how a few hundred million will make the deal popular in the Arab world, especially since it is still fuming over the Trump administration's decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The ceasefire shows yet again the leverage the Taliban now has thanks to its recent attacks. What’s most interesting is that the ceasefire doesn’t apply to the Islamic State. Whereas the Taliban have primarily attacked security forces, the Islamic State’s violence has much been much less selective, and has killed far more civilians. The Taliban’s strategy appears to have paid off— there’s popular support for a ceasefire with the Taliban, but not for one with the Islamic State.
We have a system that was designed in 1975 to work, and security was an afterthought. The security flaws have been known for a long time. They’ve never really been addressed because the underlying technology is so useful.
Israel and Iran were on a collision course even without the JCPOA following apart. Now that Iran is rebuilding its nuclear infrastructure, it's difficult to see how conflict can be avoided—Israel has made it clear that a nuclear Iran is not an option, and Iran is all but daring Israel to stop it.