Ambassador John Negroponte joined The Cats Roundtable this Sunday to give a brief, but spectacular, tour of the international news, including his forecast on the rise of popular protests, movements, and violent unrest around the globe.
Closest to home, with the death of nine American citizens in Mexico as cartel violence intensifies, Ambassador Negroponte believes proper investigations from U.S. authorities are looking into the deaths and calls the violence a “tragedy.”
“Does anybody know the truth of what happened in that situation?” Catsimatidis asked.
“If they do, I haven’t heard it yet,” the Ambassador replied.
Negroponte then redirected the discussion to South America, where countrywide protests in Chile have led to the government agreeing on constitutional reforms, along with a recent call-in Columbia for a general strike; together they have joined a continent “convulsed with popular protests.”
Focusing on the economic and governmental crisis in Venezuela, he believes despite “more sanctions” and the fact that the country is “bleeding to death economically,” there seems to be “no political change there.”
What about the Middle East?
Occurring alongside the United States withdrawal from Syria, Ambassador Negroponte finds Turkey and Russia moving in to fill the gap, and bolster their interests.
“Turkey is still a NATO country?” Catsimatidis asked.
“It is,” Ambassador Negroponte stated, but cited Turkey’s purchase of Russian armaments as a “contradiction of terms” as a NATO member. With the November visit of the President of Turkey Erdogan’s to the White House, Ambassador Negroponte points out Turkey’s decision to move into Syria came on the heels of the United States withdrawal. “We’ve pulled in our horns when it comes to Syria,” he admitted, but stated “the key thing” is Turkey and Russia’s involvement in the civil war there only adds to the fact that “there is no real resolution to the political situation in that country.”
Russia’s larger role in the Middle East alarms Ambassador Negroponte, who states Russia has “recouped” their positions in the Middle East, pointing to the Kremlin’s influence on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
“Putin’s playing a fair to medium-sized hand extremely skillfully,” the Ambassador said, adding despite not having nearly the prosperity or economic strength of the United States, Russia is “playing their political cards extremely well.”
As for Iran and news of protests there, Ambassador Negroponte says there seems to be political “stirring” and discontent across the Iranian sphere of influence, including Lebanon and Iraq, which have seen their own waves of public demonstrations.
Though the Ambassador believes sanctions put on Iran “have been substantial” and that Iran is losing prestige abroad, he doesn’t want to mischaracterize events.
“It would be wrong to say that the regime is about to collapse,” he explained, “but I think they’re facing some very serious internal difficulties.” He believes the challenge is how the United States can take “diplomatic advantage” of the situation, such as a tougher nuclear deal that “protects the interests of the international community.”
In Iraq, Negroponte connects the dots of discontent with Iranian foreign presence and political instability that has led to scores of deaths. He says Iraq has “real hope” considering its vast natural resources and infrastructure, and says he was “pleased” when a non-sectarian government was formed in Baghdad this year.
“They’re obviously having issues about popular discontent,” the Ambassador said, but Negroponte thinks it would be a mistake to write Iraq off. He says the United States will continue to play an important role and continue “to retain a certain amount of influence” in Iraq. As for the situation in Afghanistan, the Ambassador keeps it brief, calling it “quite a different” issue.
Turning the focus east, Catsimatidis asked the Ambassador, “China, Hong Kong—what do you think?”
“It’s unprecedented the turmoil that has existed and taken place in Hong Kong for the last five or six months,” Negroponte replied. He tells The Cats Roundtable he hopes the situation eventually “stabilizes and resolves itself” in a way that allowed residents of Hong Kong to live in a way “they’re accustomed,” and despite the tension, doubts Beijing will send in the military.
“I think that’ll be very much a last resort for them,” he said, “but the situation is precarious.” With 18,000 American businesspeople living in Hong Kong, he’s afraid that the protests “have taken their toll” already on the economic sector.
“You opened with this question about turmoil around the world, John—it’s interesting to see how much discontent, popular discontent, there is around the world these days,” the Ambassador reflected.