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Is it just me? Or is our Middle East policy in tatters?
Take our approach toward Iran. The administration is trying to forge ahead with nuclear deal negotiations in advance of a June 30 deadline. But more and more ostensible allies who we’ve been counting on to back the deal are dropping out.
Over the weekend, King Salman of Saudi Arabia reversed course and declined President Obama’s invitation to join him at Camp David. So did leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
The summit was supposed to bring together six Middle East heads of state, in order to build a stronger consensus about what to do with Iran. But one unnamed Arab official told the Wall Street Journal, “There isn’t substance for the summit.” So only lower-ranked officials and functionaries are now going to participate.
|The Obama administration’s attempt to build a stronger consensus about Iran’s nuclear aggression has hit a roadblock.|
Naturally, the Obama administration tried to downplay the diplomatic snub. But it’s clear that many in the Middle East don’t like the U.S. push to go easier on Shiite-majority Iran, an enemy to several Sunni-led nations in the region.
Meanwhile, Syria remains deeply fractured — with no end in sight to the fighting there. We’re so desperate that Secretary of State John Kerry is now traveling to Russia to lobby President Vladimir Putin for help in sorting Syria out. So much for all that tough talk about taking a “hard line” on Russia over Putin’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine!
As for Yemen, Saudi Arabia is still bombing Houthi rebels daily despite promises of a “cease fire.” If anything, conditions appear poised to deteriorate because the Houthis are now reportedly launching mortar and rocket attacks into Saudi Arabia from border territory. The next step could be a full-fledged ground invasion.
|“I find it hard to identify a single promising development resulting from our Middle East policy these days.”|
Bottom line: I find it hard to identify a single promising development resulting from our Middle East policy these days. Peace certainly isn’t breaking out in Syria, Yemen or the disputed areas of Iraq, nor is our attempt to find common ground with the Iranians playing well with our Sunni allies.
That means the Middle East arms race is unlikely to end anytime soon. It should also put upward pressure on energy prices, particularly if regional oil infrastructure is threatened directly.
So what do you think? Am I being overly pessimistic here … or just realistic? Is Obama to blame for the latest round of Middle East turmoil? Or is it simply a reflection of long-standing religious and ethnic divisions? Can anything be done to restore the peace, and if so, what? Use the Money and Markets website to sound off.
|Our Readers Speak|
Back home, what’s really going on with the American job market? That’s a major issue you discussed at the website over the past couple of days.
Reader Thomas S. said: “They may need to revise the expected unemployment rate. Economic theory used to include people not looking for work, and with us Boomers retiring early (I retired at 62, with Social Security and a defined benefit pension from the government), the number of people not seeking employment increases. In addition, people are staying in school longer — and many more people are going the ‘mommy and daddy’ track.”
Reader Chuck B. added: “Even the government admits that some 37.2 percent of working age Americans are unemployed — not finding suitable jobs, or giving up, etc. The jobs are simply not there, having been exported to cheaper labor markets or eliminated via automation, etc.
“Many of those who are employed have to settle for part time, often jobs below their educational and skill abilities. Except at higher skill levels, government work, or in licensed jobs, the 40-hour week is basically kaput. This is what we must learn to live with. It is not easy to accept, but it is how things are.”
As for anecdotal observations, Reader Al shared this one: “Just getting back from a nice road trip. What I have seen is ‘help wanted’ signs all up and down the Gulf Coast. Summer jobs may make the figures look stronger than last month, but look at the type of jobs it is!”
Plus, Reader Jerome said: “My workplace received no wage increase for 2015. For 2014, it was less than 3 percent. Governor Rick Perry, of Texas, recently did such a bang up job of recruiting businesses to relocate to Texas that … we now have a housing shortage. Prices and taxes are going up.”
In other words, the general consensus remains that the U.S. labor market faces considerable challenges. Even if Wall Street loves “Goldilocks” jobs numbers, Main Street would like to see better job growth, bigger wage and salary hikes, and less red tape gumming everything up!
Want to add to the discussion? Then make sure you add your comments over at the Money and Markets website.
|Other Developments of the Day|
Sure would’ve been nice to own Rosetta Resources (ROSE, Weiss Ratings: D+), huh? I say that because the Houston oil and gas producer just agreed to sell itself to Noble Energy (NBL, Weiss Ratings: C+) for a cool $2.1 billion in stock. The price works out to a 38 percent premium to ROSE’s close on Friday.
The transaction is the largest in the oil patch so far in 2015, here in the U.S. But mark my words: It will absolutely, positively NOT be the last! You can bet an army of lawyers, bankers, and company officials are huddling in conference rooms all over, working on the next batch of M&A transactions.
China tried to give its sagging economy another shot in the arm over the weekend, cutting its benchmark lending rate by 25 basis points to 5.1 percent. That was the third interest rate reduction in the past six months, and it helped propel the Shanghai Composite Index higher by around 3 percent.
Federal Reserve policymakers pay much more attention to every little wiggle in the stock and bond markets now than they ever did in the past. That’s something I believe, and this Bloomberg story makes it clear that big money investors do too!
Say it ain’t so! The 15-year run of American Idol is coming to an end. The music talent reality show will go off the air after the 2016 season. No word yet on whether they will bring back Simon Cowell for an episode or two as a surprise guest judge!
Will China’s rate cuts help revive their economy? Will more energy sector M&A get investors excited about oil and gas stocks? Here’s the link to the website to add your thoughts!
Until next time,