Thank you, Anthony, and thanks to ASPI and Peter Abigail for inviting me here, it’s great to be here. Ashley Tellis yesterday made a comment about the rise of Asia and its technology. I’m afraid that I may unwittingly illustrate that following Chung Min, who had all of these lovely colour slides and moving pieces. I don’t even know how to use PowerPoint, so I’ll do the Asian thing and apologise for that – but I’ll bring a couple of thoughts about the Middle East, even if I can’t show you what they look like.
The title of this panel is, ‘Crescent of Crisis’, and maybe I’ll start by just a word on that. Last year we ran a project and wrote and edited a book, a volume called The Crescent of Crisis in which we brought together some top specialists on the Middle East. We met in Paris and we looked at Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan – it really is a geographic arc of crisis, to go back to Brzezinski’s term of nearly 30 years ago – and assessed this question of prospects for the greater Middle East. Since we met in Paris we called it the ‘Croissant of Crisis Project’ – but frankly that was about the only thing funny about it because in all seriousness the prospects did not seem very good at the time, and I’m afraid I’m here to say today that they don’t look terribly good now.
What I will try to do is begin with a snapshot of what the Middle East looks like now and why I suggest that the prospects aren’t very good. If you will permit, I will do that from a US point of view, which I think is legitimate, partly because the US plays such a central role in what’s going on in the Middle East, and partly because maybe I have a bit more light to shed on that coming, as I just have, from Washington.
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.
Putting the context of [Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia] aside, the imagery is striking: Here is Donald Trump in the birthplace of Islam speaking to Muslim leaders from across the world, and the Koran is bring recited before he gives his address...That's at least somewhat positive in showing that he's going out of his way to address Muslim leaders in a way that's not overly antagonistic.