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Ian Explains: How is America's "Pivot to Asia" playing out?
Ian Explains: How is America's "Pivot to Asia" playing out? | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Ian Explains: How is America's "Pivot to Asia" playing out?

Why can't the US seem to focus on the Asia-Pacific region instead of the Middle East?

In November 2011, President Barack Obama laid out his vision for America’s expanded role in the Asia-Pacific region, which soon became known as the "pivot to Asia.” American foreign policy, Obama announced, would be shifting its focus away from costly wars in the Middle East and towards strengthening partnerships in the Asia-Pacific to curb a rising China. In short, America’s 21st-century foreign policy would be pointed firmly to the East.

Fast-forward to 2023, and America’s “Pivot to Asia” is a little more complicated. The Israel-Hamas conflict, which could quite easily spiral into a larger regional war with the US and Iran, is only the latest example. And though not in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine remains one of the biggest and most expensive US foreign policy priorities. This is not, in short, the 21st-century foreign policy vision that President Obama had in mind.

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Biden's Israel policy hurts his 2024 reelection chances from all angles
Is the Israel-Hamas war hurting Biden's 2024 prospects? | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's Israel policy hurts his 2024 reelection chances from all angles

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Why is Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war hurting his reelection bid?

Well, look, there is virtually no position he can take on Israel and not alienate a significant piece of his own support base in the United States. He is presently stapled to the Netanyahu government and policy, which is really antagonizing more than 50% of committed Democrats, people who say they're going to vote for Biden. On the other hand, strongly pro-Israel Biden, Israel being America's most important ally in the Middle East, is seen as soft on that policy vis-a-vis the Republicans. The only way this is a winning issue for Biden is if it's no longer anywhere close to the headlines when the election hits.

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US-Israel relations strained as Gaza war continues
TITLE PLACEHOLDER | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

US-Israel relations strained as Gaza war continues

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here from Tokyo, Japan. And a Quick Take to kick off your week. And, of course, we are still talking about the ongoing war in the Middle East, which is very much on again, as there is inability to get further deals on hostages for prisoners and aid. And that means the Gaza War is not only in the north, but now across the south as well. And this is a significant problem for the United States which, increasingly, is finding itself isolated on this issue. In fact, I would say in terms of global support for the US on Israel, it's about as opposed as we saw in the initial weeks of the world against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It's a shocking place to be, given, first of all, how important and how deep the US Military alliance is and has been with Israel. And, also, given that it is in response to horrific, unprecedented terrorist attacks and unspeakable atrocities on October 7th.

But the reality is that, as the war has pressed on, the information war is being won by Hamas internationally. And the level of atrocities that are being committed on the ground, and impossible to remove Hamas, short of that, is hurting Israel's position. We are seeing the Americans start to move publicly towards a position of pressuring Israel more. And I specifically note, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who came out in recent hours saying that the Palestinian civilian population would be the center of the future of whether or not there's resolution and peace and stability following this war. And that Israel was in danger of winning the tactical battle, but losing the strategic battle, as Palestinians continue to be devastated in large, large numbers. That's the first time I've ever seen a US Secretary of Defense talk about the potential strategic loss in a war of a principal US ally, certainly in my lifetime. And it was said pointedly and certainly with preparation. In other words, this was a message, even like a brushback against Bibi Netanyahu and the war cabinet.

Two other things I would mention quickly. One is that the cases against Bibi Netanyahu at home in Israel, you'd think these aren't relevant to the war, but they have been reopened. And those investigations are restarting now in the Jerusalem District Court. And certainly Bibi understands that unless he's able... Very unpopular right now, not likely to last very much beyond the war. Unless he's able to get his political allies to find a way to make those crimes not crimes, legislatively, then he's facing jail time. So he has an incentive to keep the war going domestically, in addition to removing Hamas.

There's also the question of what it means to destroy Hamas. Is it you have to kill the leadership, but you can still have a lot of people running around with weapons? Is that you have to get rid of all of the tunnel infrastructure and all of their military infrastructure? At some point, someone's going to make that decision inside the Israeli war cabinet, and it's not going to be 100 or zero. It's going to be 50% or 60% or 70% or 80%. And that decision is going to be not just about what the Israeli generals think, but also the level of international pressure on the country. So it's a tough one.

Finally, when we look at the Middle East more broadly, as the Israelis have restarted the war in Gaza against Hamas, you also have a significant escalation of Houthis, the Shia militant forces in Yemen, attacking the United States. And an unprecedented level of military strikes against the US warship, as well as lots of commercial traffic and the Americans responding in kind. That is very different. For the first time, not a nuisance attack against an American ship or a base that would be easy to shoot down, but rather a more significant and extended amount of violence. The potential for this war to expand across the region is very real indeed. And in that regard, we don't see guardrails in the Middle East. That's also something that a Biden administration, facing a very tough reelection campaign, is super, super concerned about. So anyway, that's it from me for now, and I'll talk to you all real soon.

Luisa Vieira

How Qatar became the mediator

After weeks of devastating fighting, Qatar helped mediate a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas that opened the door for exchanges of hostages and prisoners. So how has Qatar, a nation that doesn’t have official diplomatic relations with Israel, played such an outsized role in this process?

Why Qatar: The Gulf state has repeatedly served as a mediator in conflicts across the Middle East and beyond, offering itself as a bridge of communication between historic, bitter adversaries like the US and Iran, the US and the Taliban, Ukraine and Russia, and Israel and Hamas. The tiny, gas-rich, wealthy nation has sought to boost its global profile over the past decade or so by serving in this capacity – and it’s had help from the US government along the way.

Qatar is home to the largest US military base in the Middle East – Al Udeid Air Base, which the US has been operating out of since 2001 – and its role as a mediator has “been largely a strategy pursued in coordination with Washington to deal with different regional issues,” says Ayham Kamel, head of Eurasia Group’s Middle East and North Africa research team.

But it’s also in Qatar’s DNA. Mediating conflict, says Patrick Theros, former US ambassador to Qatar, is “quite literally in Qatar’s Constitution,” and it’s seen as a key part of the country’s national security strategy.

Stability starts at home. Qatar views mediation as a vital means of maintaining regional stability and reducing its own security risks. “Qatar is, by citizen population, the smallest state in the Gulf region and, per capita, the richest in the Gulf and arguably the world. It is surrounded by predatory larger and stronger neighbors,” Theros notes.

Qatar was blockaded from 2017 to 2021 by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries that accused Doha of supporting terror groups and of being too close to Iran. This episode highlighted the risks that Qatar’s approach to foreign affairs can pose, but those risks have also paid off in big ways.

The US, which played a role in ending the blockade, clearly sees Qatar’s desire to be a peacemaker in a prickly region as advantageous to its interests. In October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken lauded Qatar as a “close partner” to the US on a range of crucial issues.

Doha has secured the “protection of powerful outside powers” like the US by making itself “indispensable” with its mediation efforts, Theros said.

Elements of leverage: Qatar has been engaging with Israel since the 1990s, and since 2012, it has also hosted a political office for Hamas, which Doha says was opened at the request of the US. This gives Qatar a degree of influence over the militant group, and some exiled senior Hamas officials live in Qatar, which has also poured hundreds of millions of dollars of aid into Gaza.

Doha maintains “good credible relations with a lot of less than nice parties” that Washington can’t engage with directly and has hosted groups like Hamas and the Taliban “at the express request of the US,” says Theros.

Some prominent Israeli politicians are not thrilled that Qatar has been tapped as a peacemaker in the conflict given its relationship with Hamas. There has also been some pushback regarding Qatar’s ties to Hamas from pro-Israel politicians in the US. But Doha maintains that keeping the Hamas office open allows Qatar to be a channel of communication, which benefits the US and Israel, as we’ve seen this past week.

“In the Israel-Hamas conflict, Qatar has proven itself to be one of the few viable channels to pressure Hamas to conduct deals on releasing Israeli hostages,” Kamel says. “At this point, the US is leveraging Qatar's influence to release as many hostages as possible while still maintaining support for Israel's objective of eliminating the Hamas threat.”

Israel-Hamas war: Hostage release doesn't mean the end is near
Israel-Hamas war: Hostage release doesn't mean the end is near | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Israel-Hamas war: Hostage release doesn't mean the end is near

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week. And yes, we are back to the Israel-Gaza war and it is at least a little bit of good news with some hostages finally being released over a month and a half from when they were originally taken. That has gotten us some Palestinian prisoners released, some humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza and a ceasefire for a few days. And indeed, looks like it will now plausibly be extended for another day or two as more hostages are being let go.

Got to give Qatar a lot of credit here for playing a role in negotiating between Israel and Hamas. Not an easy thing to do. Qatar, an ally of the United States, the biggest military base on the ground, but also a government that has allowed the political leadership of Hamas to live inside their territory in peace and security as they have Taliban leadership for years. And that proves to be useful for both the Americans and the Israelis, more on that later. But is this potentially the beginning of the end of the war? And on that front, I think we have to say absolutely not for a few reasons.

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Argentina's economy will get a lot worse before it gets better | World In: 60 | GZERO Media

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Will Israel and Hamas finally reach a hostage deal?

We keep hearing about this deal. We're now saying it's imminent, but imminent doesn't mean announced. And, you know, things can go wrong at the last minute still, where the details make it seem like this is going to happen. And what that means is not only we're going to see at least a few dozen Israeli women and children released and some Palestinians, also mostly women, it looks like, released as well from Israel, but that you'll get a temporary ceasefire in three days, five days, and maybe that leads to more diplomacy. It doesn't lead to Israel no longer attacking Hamas. Let's be clear. It's not an actual ceasefire, but it creates more space for people to be talking, especially talking with the Israelis, major leaders in the region. That is something we'll be watching very closely.

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Why the Israel-Hamas war is so divisive
Why the Israel-Hamas war is so divisive | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Why the Israel-Hamas war is so divisive

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week. And more from the Middle East, the story that continues to dominate the headlines.The story that continues to dominate the headlines. And right now, foreign ministers from across the Middle East and the Muslim world, including the Palestinian foreign minister in Beijing and soon to be in Moscow and soon after that, to be in London and Paris to talk about efforts to contain and end the war in the Middle East. The Chinese foreign minister calling for an immediate ceasefire, also calling for a two-state solution, agreeing with the Americans on the latter, not agreeing with the Americans on the former. This is an environment where pretty much everybody involved is trying to get an end to the fighting except the United States, which is the most important ally, the critical ally of Israel.

And the Israelis intend to continue their military strikes until they feel like they have destroyed Hamas on the ground. And that means not just in Gaza City, but also it means in the south of Gaza. This is causing difficulties inside the United States with stronger opposition inside the Democratic Party, especially among young people where Biden is under water wanting a much more balanced, much less pro-Israel policy. And Republicans who on balance think that Biden has been too soft in his support for Israel. This means that Biden's at 40% approval right now, the lowest of his administration to date. And it's hard to see this getting any better any time soon. I think that the Israelis are clearly having military successes on the ground in Gaza. And when you talk to the generals, they feel like they're on the timeline they want to be. They are finding the tunnels, finding the militant leaders, able to go after with impunity, those that are there. Of course, the very fact that Hamas is fighting inside a civilian area, that they have tunnels underneath schools and hospitals, and that's where they're putting the hostages. And we've seen those videos now that are confirmed and where they're putting their military equipment makes Hamas responsible for a lot of the civilians that are getting killed, but also makes the Israelis responsible in the global environment for not being able to take out Hamas unless they put massive numbers of civilians at risk.

And so what you have is the Israelis winning, at least tactically, the military battles on the ground, whether one can destroy Hamas or extremist militarism against Israel through bombing and a ground war is another longer question. But losing the information war where around the world and including in the United States, there is just a lot more sympathy increasingly for the Palestinians. Only six weeks after the worst terrorist attacks, the worst violence against Jews anywhere in the world since the Holocaust. That is the reality.

And, you know, it's very different in this regard than covering the Russia-Ukraine invasion, where, first of all, the Ukrainians were winning the information war and also it was very clearly a black versus white struggle. I mean, these were, you know, not that the Ukrainians are Democrats and didn't have problems with corruption, but they were minding their own business. They wanted to join NATO. True. That's a decision that is made by a sovereign country. But they weren't threatening Russia. They weren't invading Russia. They were doing nothing to Russians in the Federation. And that was even true despite years of annexation illegally by the Russians of Ukrainian territory. So it was very clear when the Russians invaded Ukraine that the Russians were at fault and that the question is how can you respond to that? It was black and white.

In the case of Israel and Palestine, it is very clear that Hamas is responsible for October 7th. That's clear. But it's also clear that the Israelis have engaged in a lot of illegal actions in taking Palestinian territory on the ground in the West Bank and continue to occupy territory that is not theirs that nobody thinks is theirs and not prepared to do anything about it. It's also clear that the Israeli government had been supporting Hamas in undermining the Palestinian Authority and in refuse thing to consider a two-state solution under Netanyahu and his far right coalition. So, I mean, it's not black and white. There are different shades of gray. There are you know, it's very easy to say that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that means they should be destroyed and Netanyahu is a bad leader and that means he should be voted out. But there's no equivalence between these two leaders. But saying there's no equivalence doesn't mean that one is good and the other's bad. Here we are talking about different shades of illegal activity and we're also talking about different shades of behavior that is causing immense amounts of responsibility for human suffering.

And you can't simply say that Hamas is only responsible for all the people that are getting killed. You can't say that. You can say they're mostly responsible because they're the ones that have the hostages. They're the ones targeting the civilians. They're the ones putting civilians in harm's way. But certainly the Israeli Defense Forces deserve some culpability for their willingness to, you know, have a siege and not allow in humanitarian aid. And their willingness to engage in attacks that are going to take out some militants, but are going to risk the lives of far more civilians. And, you know, how do you balance that? Is it 90:10 Hamas responsible? Is it 70:30? Is it 80:20? I'm not sure I care, you know, doing a percentage as I am in recognizing that we have to describe the nuance. We have to be reasonable in not trying to play one side off as purely responsible and guilty and bad, that the only way this is going to lead to peace is if Hamas is removed, if they are destroyed as a terrorist organization. Number one. If there are prospects for peace for Palestinians to have livelihoods in Gaza and the West Bank going forward, and if Netanyahu and his far right coalition are removed from office, those things are all necessary antecedent conditions before we can have stability in the region.

That's where we are. So it's not an easy conversation. It's a nuanced conversation. It's one that makes almost nobody satisfied and happy in a way that on Russia and Ukraine, it was very easy to be on team Ukraine, even though they frequently lied about stuff in terms of propaganda and support of the war. And their government wasn't 100% clean and isn't 100% clean. But it's still very easy to say the Ukrainians deserve their territory back. It's much harder in this environment on Israel-Palestine to put your thumb on one side of the scale, you have to have a broader conversation if you want to be accurate and if you want to have peace. And that's where we are, and that's part of the reason why it's been so damn difficult to get peace in the Middle East for decades and decades, why the Americans, like many others, have kind of given up on it in favor of just trying to create stability with everybody else. And that worked to a degree. But now we see it wasn't enough. And so we're going to have to go back yet again in one of the most challenging geopolitical missions that we face in the world today.

So that's it for me, but I'm sure we'll be back to this real soon.

Should Israel have waited before invading Gaza?
Should Israel have waited before invading Gaza? | GZERO Media

Should Israel have waited before invading Gaza?

Could Israel have waited longer to start its war in Gaza?

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer asked former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak if Israel had fallen into a trap in the way it’s fighting the war against Hamas. In the last month, there’s been a shift away from sympathy for Israel in the wake of October 7th and a growing criticism of its tactics in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, hundreds of thousands more have fled their homes, and Israel’s total blockade has prevented desperately needed humanitarian aid from reaching civilians.

Barak believes that Israel could have gotten more aid in sooner but also says that it’s determined to destroy Hamas, arguing that waiting longer would have put them at a disadvantage militarily. But the former prime minister does concede that Israel’s current government needs to be realistic about what they can achieve in Gaza.

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