It is Friday, so that means it is panel time!
There's a lot that has transpired this week. Today, government workers missed their first payday of this shutdown. About a quarter of the federal government is going without funding until a budget is agreed upon, leaving 800,000 employees without pay. US President Donald Trump made an Oval Office presentation on Tuesday, and Democrats Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi provided their rebuttal. I don't think either of them moved the needle. Neither of them offered the American people anything new. I thought they both looked bad. The president made no mention of the national emergency during his Oval Office speech. Why not?
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei and also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was apprehended in Vancouver on December 1. The US Justice Department sought the arrest as part of an ongoing investigation, and she is still in Canada and faces extradition to the United States. The Canadian government has said 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since Meng's arrest. Previously, only three of the detentions had been made known to the public. Today it is reported that a Huawei executive and a former Polish state security officer have been arrested in Poland on allegations of spying for China's secret service, raising fresh questions for the telecom group amid global scrutiny of its connections with the Chinese state. As the US wrapped up trade talks with China yesterday, are these events linked?
The US says it has begun military withdrawal from Syria: it is reported that the American military has started withdrawing some equipment, but no troops yet. As I understand it, the equipment is being moved to Iraq. Last Sunday, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said that the pullout was conditional — based on circumstances that could leave American forces there for months or even years.
The "US is increasingly being seen as a joke," said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, an Israeli think tank. "You cannot keep implementing such a disorganized policy, you cannot keep making such contradicting statements, without eventually being taken as a joke." The confusion over US policy stems in part because Mr. Trump is seeking to navigate two seemingly contradictory missions — ensure the defeat of Daesh, the Sunni extremist group that once controlled a swath of territory across Syria and Iraq, while also downsizing American presence in the Middle East. Washington also says it wants to counter Iran, accusing Tehran of having a destabilizing influence across the Middle East.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration's Mideast policies and addressed a wide range of regional topics in a speech in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. Pompeo said that while Hezbollah is a major presence in Lebanon, the US will not accept this as the status quo. Pompeo added that US will not let Iran turn Syria into the next Lebanon and will act with diplomacy and partners to "expel every Iranian boot" from Syria. "America is a force for good in the Middle East… We need to acknowledge that truth, because if we don't, we make bad choices — now and in the future." Pompeo said, "I'm standing today to have this discussion at the American University here in beautiful Cairo… the AUC [American University in Cairo] is more than just a university. It is an important symbol of America's friendship with Egypt and what binds our people together." Then-US President Barack Obama said in a 2009 speech at the same university, "I am honoured to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress."
The United States refused to recognize Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's legitimacy as he started a new term and urged rank-and-file government employees to empower the opposition. "The US will not recognize the Maduro dictatorship's illegitimate inauguration," National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted. "We will continue to increase pressure on the corrupt regime, support the Democratic National Assembly and call for democracy and freedom in Venezuela," he wrote. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Venezuelans to work not with Maduro but with the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition but has been sidelined by a new Constituent Assembly created by Maduro's government. Your thoughts.
Dr. Anthony Monteiro — Author, activist, DuBois Scholar and former professor in the African American Studies Department at Temple University.
Tom Porter — African American Studies Department at Ohio University and former director of the King Center in Atlanta.
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