Trump 'effectively neutering' U.S. power and prestige in the Mideast: Fisk
Published Friday, November 8, 2019 10:09AM EST
Donald Trump’s “lunacy is effectively neutering American power and prestige in the Middle East” and handing it over to Russia, says a renowned foreign correspondent covering the region.
Robert Fisk, who is based in Beirut and writes for British newspaper The Independent, is on a cross-Canada speaking tour called Trump and Chaos in the Middle East.
On Friday, Fisk told CTV’s Your Morning that it didn’t take Arabs long to realize that “there was a guy with serious mental instability entering the White House.”
He said Trump’s moves to cut all funding to Palestinian refugees, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and most importantly, his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops in Syria, paving the way for a Turkish offensive, have handed the keys to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fisk says there is no doubt that “America’s prestige and standing has really collapsed in the Arab world and the Arabs are turning towards Russia. I mean, you’ve got a choice for the Arabs, between a lunatic in the White House and a sane tyrant in the Kremlin.”
Putin is “frankly, now the winner of the Middle East,” being wined and dined and celebrated by Arab leaders.
As news organizations move away from stationing correspondents in troubled regions for cost and insurance reasons, Fisk says the result is a disconnect from the reality on the ground. Monitoring social media can never fill the void, he says, and much of the reporting he sees about the Middle East bears little resemblance to what he witnesses.
“It’s a big problem, because only if you go to a place and you walk the streets and you talk to real people … only in that way can you actually have some idea what’s going on.”
Fisk is among the most respected foreign correspondents in the world and has won more awards for his reporting than any other. He’s been covering the Middle East for more than 40 years, covering the war in Syria and Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the civil war in Algeria, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the American occupation of Iraq, and the 2011 Arab uprisings.
He has interviewed some of the most infamous people of our time, including Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Osama Bin Laden.
A National Film Board of Canada documentary about his career, called “This is Not a Movie,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It follows him from the front lines to refugee camps, and in it he explains that he always writes as if he’s corresponding with a friend.
Fisk was among demonstrators on the streets of Beirut just days ago. He says protesters, many of them young, highly educated people, are demanding a new constitution that makes Lebanon a modern secular state and takes away the power of the sectarian religious elites that have ruled the country for 100 years.
It’s a “brilliant idea,” says Fisk, because Lebanon is rife with corruption. But those who hold power in the country will not give it up easily.
The protesters “have a very hard struggle in front of them. They’ve got very big enemies, political enemies.”
Fisk’s speaking tour, which is hosted by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, runs until Nov. 16, and has upcoming stops in Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Kelowna, Victoria and Vancouver.