Week of August 26th, 2016

Executive Summary

Although the summer holiday season and the presidential election have the top priority in the Washington Think Tank community, the recent invasion of Syria by Turkey is being closely watched.

The Monitor analysis continues to look at key voter demographics in the 2016 presidential election. This week we look at the Black vote. Although they will side with Clinton, there is an obvious lack of excitement inside the Black community compared to their feelings towards Obama. Since they hold the balance of power in several swing states, the question is if they will turn out in large numbers or stay home.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The Heritage Foundation looks at the $400 million cash payment made to Iran. They conclude, ““We have to go back to the root of the problem: The Obama Administration’s objective was to get a deal with Iran at any price—and make it look as attractive as possible,” Carafano explained. “The deal doesn’t serve the vital interests of the U.S. or contribute to peace and stability in the region—not a surprise since the goal was to get a deal, not solve a problem.” “The White House conducted a campaign worthy of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, to hide the truth and then obfuscate everything after.”

The CSIS wrote a piece about VP Biden’s trip to Turkey and how it was to smooth relations between the two nations. However, the piece was written before the Turkish invasion of Syria, which has complicated both the trip and the relationship. One issue that will remain is the Kurdish issue. The paper notes, “Turkey has become increasingly troubled by the growing U.S. reliance on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the struggle against ISIS despite repeated Turkish warnings that it should not side with the YPG, linked to the Turkish Kurdish separatist group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which Turkey has been fighting for over three decades…On August 18 Erdogan underlined the message to Washington by saying “The YPG attacks happening in northern Syria at the moment constitute a threat to us. We tell those who want to trap Turkey with its domestic matters and create a ‘fait accompli’ on Syria that we are aware of everything. We are also watching to see whether the commitments on northern Syria are being implemented.” The message was further emphasized by Turkish shelling of Manbij on August 21 and reports that Ankara-backed Syrian opposition groups were massing on the Turkish side of the border in preparation for an incursion into northern Syria. It remains to be seen whether Biden will be able to find a formula which bridges the gap between Ankara’s hardening position and the desire of the Obama Administration to continue to rely on the Syrian Kurds as it begins to focus on the goal of capturing Raqqa, the ‘capital of the ISIS Caliphate,’ as part of its goal of ultimately destroying ISIS.”

The Kurdish position in Syria is also the subject in a Washington Institute paper. In moves that would definitely concern Turkey, the paper notes, “From the homogeneously Kurdish areas of Afrin, Kobane, and Qamishli, the PYD has set out to conquer mixed Arab-Kurdish territories and even some non-Kurdish areas. The group’s ultimate aim is to establish territorial contiguity between its Kurdish strongholds, a goal that it furthered by taking Tal Abyad in spring 2015 and Manbij earlier this month (technically, the Manbij offensive was conducted by the mixed Arab-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, but the Kurds dominate that coalition). The rationale for the February conquest of al-Shadadi in southern Hasaka province — a non-Kurdish territory — was to control nearby oil wells and cut the Islamic State’s road between Mosul and Raqqa.”

The Cato Institute looks at the fight over the future of Republican foreign policy. They conclude, “The most reliably interventionist constituency in America is being slowly replaced in the electorate by those least likely to sport hawkish views. The formative historical events in the lives of the Greatest Generation were World War II and the early Cold War. For the Baby Boomers, there is Vietnam. For the millennials, there is Iraq. Four years hence, the electorate will be less religious, less white (and therefore less open to Trump’s nativism), and more millennial (and thus skeptical of the Never Trumpers’ enthusiasm for fighting foreign wars). That would seem to provide an opening for a third way on foreign policy

The American Enterprise Institute looks at Iran’s foreign policy initiative in South America. They note, “After decades in which many countries in Latin America opened their doors to Iran as part of Hugo Chávez’s anti-US project, recent political changes in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru as well as instability in Venezuela have posed a challenge to Tehran’s interests in the region. Zarif is taking advantage of momentum generated by the nuclear deal brokered by the United States to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation. With the nuclear accord in hand, Tehran is no longer constrained in flaunting the relations it has cultivated in the United States’ neighborhood.”

The Heritage Foundation looks at the upcoming elections in Somalia. They note it’s an electoral process rather than an election because the Somalian parliament actually picks the president. They note the unusual nature of the parliament’s composition. “The parliamentary seats for the Lower House have been apportioned according to the “4.5 formula,” by which the four dominant clans—Darod, Dir, Hawiye, and Rahanweyn—receive an equal number of seats, while all other clans combined receive half as many as one of the major clans. So, the four dominant clans will each elect 61 members for the Lower House, while the rest of the clans receive 31 seats among them. The procedure for filling the Upper House is different. Somalia has a federal system, with four established states—Galmudug, South West State, Jubaland, and Puntland—and one region in the process of becoming a state, Hiiraan-Middle Shabelle. The constitution stipulates that states will have an equal number of members in the yet-to-be-composed Upper House of parliament, and that the total number of Upper House seats cannot exceed 54. Once selected, MPs from both houses of parliament will vote on the next president of Somalia.”

The Carnegie Endowment asks what the EU’s role should be in the Syrian civil war. They note, “The EU needs to recalibrate its position vis-à-vis other major players. The United States has become more reluctant to guarantee the region’s security and stability than in the past seventy years. Meanwhile, Russia has established a permanent military infrastructure in the Middle East and regained a more important diplomatic role on the world stage. Moscow has also launched a diplomatic tandem of sorts with Washington, at least on the Syrian war. The exit from the Syrian crisis will likely require an even deeper convergence between Russia and the United States on a political solution. This new trend is already forcing Turkey to amend its foreign policy. The EU may have to fine-tune its policy accordingly by bringing its various tools—humanitarian aid, development aid, reform support, NGO funding, coordination capacity, and a political-military role in a future settlement—to bear through a more proactive role for the EU foreign policy high representative. The EU may also want to weigh in on regional security issues. There are divergences between the West and Russia on the future of Assad and the fight against the Islamic State—in terms of combat operations and possible prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The EU can contribute in two different ways: the individual military actions of some of its member states and the diplomatic role of the EU high representative.”

The Washington Institute looks at the resurgent US military involvement in Libya. They report, “As of August 21, the operation, dubbed Odyssey Lightning…has involved 74 strikes against a combination of tanks, armored vehicles, vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs), and military positions. Although the battle for Sirte continues and will still involve fierce resistance by IS fighters…the tide shifted when the militias seized the Ouagadougou Conference Center on August 10. The GNA and its international backers will next have to contend with “IS Libya 2.0” — an organization still capable of organizing deadly attacks against Libyan, Tunisian, or potentially European targets from ungoverned areas in Libya’s south. The U.S. Department of Defense has denied that U.S. ground forces have been directly supporting Odyssey Lightning, although a small number of U.S. Special Forces have been in and out of Libya since early this year, gathering intelligence on various militia groups and potential allies. While not serving as forward air controllers on the front lines, U.S. forces, with the assistance of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, are likely coordinating targets from a militia operations center.”




Black Voters 2016

There was once a time when the Black vote was reliably Republican. From the Civil War to the mid 1960s, Blacks were a reliable part of the GOP voter base. Even well known civil rights leaders like Dr. Martian Luther King were registered Republicans.

All that changed with the Civil Rights Bill. Although Lyndon Johnson supported it, many southern Democrats opposed it, and it was only with the help of the Republicans congressmen that it made it through Congress.

But, that GOP support didn’t help Republicans. From that time on, Blacks have been a reliable Democratic voter block. In turn, the GOP and Nixon developed a “Southern Strategy” that wooed the Southern White voter. The result was that the once reliable Democratic South became the reliable Republican South.

These facts still are true today. The South will go for Trump, while Black voters will vote for Clinton.

A survey by the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) last spring showed how reliably Democratic the Black vote is. 88% of Black voters 50 years or older said that were definitely or probably likely to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, even though they didn’t know who that would be. Only 3% of Black voters indicated a similar interest for the GOP.

Interestingly enough, 70% of the Black voters said the economy was in good shape – although a majority of 50/or older voters said the economy was in bad shape.

But, will that be enough? There is considerable data to indicate that the black vote may not help Clinton win – a fact that was clearly demonstrated in the primaries.

The 2016 Democratic Primaries and the Black Vote

Without a black presidential candidate at the top of the ticket, there is evidence that Black voter turnout may drop considerably. The number of African-Americans who voted in swing state primaries this year, plummeted by an estimated 40 percent in Ohio, 38 percent in Florida and 34 percent in North Carolina compared with the 2008 Democratic primary when Barack Obama was on the ballot, reported the advocacy group Black Votes Matter.

“Hillary’s repeated trouncing of Bernie Sanders with the black vote has masked the alarming fact that there has been a dramatic drop-off in black turnout in the Democratic primaries,” said Charlie King, founder of the Black Voters Matter super PAC.

“It will be very hard for the Hillary campaign alone to have a message that excites Reagan Democrats and the 4 million new black Barack Obama voters to come out and vote. That is why Donald Trump poses a real challenge,” he said.

Black Turnout

While Black voters will remain loyal to the Democrats and Clinton, the question is if they will turnout at the polls in the same numbers that they did for Obama.

True, Clinton is overwhelmingly popular among African-American voters. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found her favorable ratings among black voters at 81 percent – that’s higher than her favorable ratings among all Democrats (75 percent), Hispanics (51 percent) or liberals (73 percent).

But favorability is a lot different than turning voters out on November 8th.

In 2008, Obama inspired record numbers of black voters to come to the polls for the historic election – African Americans – age 18 to 44 – outnumbered any other ethnic group.

The Cook Report says, “According to exit polls, African-Americans were just 10 percent of the electorate in 2000 and 11 percent in 2004, but rose to 13 percent in 2008 and stayed there in 2012. In fact, in 2012, African-American turn-out exceeded white turn-out by two points (66 percent to 64 percent). And, while black turn-out has been on the rise since 1996, it is only in the last two elections -2008 and 2012 – where African American turn-out was even with white turn-out. Between 1996 and 2004, white turn-out exceeded African-American turnout by an average of seven points.”

We can’t underestimate how black voters have become to today’s Democratic Party, particularly when it comes to the Electoral College. According to exit poll data from 2012, African-American voters accounted for Obama’s entire margin of victory in seven states: Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Without these states’ 112 electoral votes, Obama would have lost decisively. African-Americans also accounted for almost all of Obama’s margin in Wisconsin. All of these states, except Maryland, will be crucial 2016 battlegrounds.

That doesn’t mean that a bad Black voter turn-out will doom Clinton, but it would leave her with a whole lot less margin for error in a host of swing states according to the Cook Report. For example, in Virginia, what if the African-American share of the vote had been 18 percent instead of 20 percent in 2012? They estimate Obama would have won by 1.6 percent, rather than 3.9 percent. In Ohio, what if it had been 13 percent instead of 15 percent? They estimate Obama would have won by 0.8 percent, not 3.0 percent. In Pennsylvania, what if it had been 11 percent instead of 13 percent? Obama’s edge would have shrunk from 5.4 percent to 3.4 percent.

A drop in black turnout would probably doom Clinton in Florida, where Romney narrowly lost 50% to 49% to Obama. And, in recent history, the winner of Florida becomes the president.

If Black voter turnout – without a Black presidential candidate at the top of the ballot – mimics mid term elections, it could even be worse as Black voter turnout in swing states was 10% to 29% lower in 2010 than 2008.

There is even worse news. That slight downturn in Black voter turnout may become fatal, when combined with Trump’s share of former White Democratic voters (what were once called Reagan Democrats).   Working-class whites gave Obama just 36 percent nationally in 2012. That means, if the African-American share of the electorate were to drop two points in 2016, Clinton would need to do about 1.5 percent better than Obama did among all white voters just to offset that decline – a realistic goal, but one that would require reversing the Democratic Party’s declining share of the White vote.

Trump Reaches Out to Black Voters

While Clinton is failing to energize either White or Black voters, Trump has started to reach out to Blacks. In a key note speech last week in Michigan, he noted that Obama and Clinton have failed to improve the lot for Blacks in the last 8 years. He encouraged them to vote for him, noting that they “couldn’t do any worse.”

Black speakers are an important part of Trump rallies. In Tuesday night’s rally in Austin, TX, a Black preacher and a Black leader in the Texas GOP were “warm-up” speakers before Trump came onstage. And, although there were more Whites at the rally, there were enough Blacks in the audience to prove that the black community isn’t fully behind Clinton.

It appears that economic opportunity is the key issue for Blacks supporting Trump. Trump has attacked trade policies that have sent American jobs overseas and that appears to resonate with some Blacks. The AARP poll showed that economic issues concerned 40% of working Blacks over the age of 50.

In the end, Trump doesn’t have to win the Black vote. If he can induce a small percentage to either vote for him (2% to 3% more than did for Romney) or not vote at all, he can win several critical swing states.

However, in what must be worrying to Clinton team members, some polls show Trump getting historic levels of Black support. Twenty percent of African-American voters in Florida support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump according to a poll released Wednesday by Florida Atlantic University (in 2012, Romney only got 4% of the Florida Black vote). In the poll, released on Wednesday, Clinton has the support of 68 percent of African-American voters in Florida. The poll shows Trump leading 43 to 41 percent among all Florida voters. 1200 registered Florida voters were surveyed from August 19-22.

Is the Black Vote the Critical Voter Block of 2016?

Although the Hispanic vote is the “popular” minority voter block of 2016, as we noted last week, most of those voters are in non-battleground states like Texas and California. According to the Cook Report, “had ZERO Latinos voted in 2012, Obama would have lost the popular vote but still would have won the White House with 283 Electoral votes.”

The Black vote, on the other hand is in several states that will determine the winner of the election. This may very well explain why Clinton has focused on some Black issues like “Black Lives Matter.” She knows that it may be the turnout among black voters in November that may mean the difference between a narrow loss or a narrow win.




The $400,000,000 Cash Payment to Iran: What You Need to Know
By Harold Kazianis
Heritage Foundation
August 21, 2016

Various media outlets today are reporting some disturbing news: that the U.S. State Department has confirmed a $400 million cash payment to Iran was linked to the release of multiple Americans that were held by Tehran. Heritage Foundation experts have been tracking this issue—as well as the challenges with the Iran nuclear deal overall—for some time now. Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies here at Heritage, noted some disturbing trends when it comes to the cash shipment and the Iran deal: “The Obama Administration has violated a long standing U.S. policy—probably dating back to the time of the Barbary Wars—of never paying ransom for U.S. hostages overseas.” Coffey explained “The Obama Administration has now put a value on captured Americans. This will undoubtedly place Americans under a greater risk in the future of being captured for ransom. This revelation is just the latest example of how the Iran deal was bad for America and bad for its allies.”

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Somalia’s Milestone Electoral Process Requires U.S. Scrutiny
By Joshua Meservey
Heritage Foundation
August 19, 2016

The East African country of Somalia is approaching a milestone in its efforts to emerge from more than two decades of conflict. It is in the midst of an electoral process that will culminate in October with members of the Somali parliament electing a president, the country’s first electoral process since the United States recognized the Federal Republic of Somalia in January 2013. The current process will be a useful measure of how effective strong U.S. support for the government has been. U.S. policymakers should follow events closely to determine if the process represents progress; push all parties to conduct the process in a manner that establishes the primacy of rule of law and contributes to building the systems and institutions necessary for stability and peaceful transfers of power; and increase U.S. ability to monitor its investment in Somalia.

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The Battle for the GOP’s Foreign Policy Soul
By Christopher A. Preble
Cato Institute
August 23, 2016.
The Federalist

When I saw that Fox News’s Sean Hannity and the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens were engaged in a nasty public spat over Donald Trump, it reminded me of what Henry Kissinger allegedly said of the contestants in the Iran-Iraq war: “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.” In the Hannity-Stephens war, they both might. Hannity and Stephens reflect two of the foreign policy paths Republicans could take in Trump’s wake. But there is at least one other approach, one that rejects both Trump and Hannity’s nativism and xenophobia, and Stephens’ enthusiasm for having the U.S. military fight lots of foreign wars. If the GOP seems poised to go down that third path, expect Hannity and Stephens to put aside their differences and team up to stop it.

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Biden Back in Turkey: Personal Diplomacy After the Coup Attempt
By Bulent Aliriza
Center for Strategic and International Studies
August 23, 2016

Vice President Joe Biden will be back in Turkey on August 24 on a hastily arranged one-day trip designed to ease additional tensions which have arisen in the U.S.-Turkish relationship since the failed coup attempt on July 15. Biden last visited Turkey in January, following his earlier visits in 2011 and 2014. This trip, which is almost certainly his last while in office, promises to be considerably more difficult than his previous ones. The fact that it is Biden who is traveling to Turkey rather than Secretary of State John Kerry, who was originally scheduled to go to Ankara, underlines the Obama Administration’s recognition of the seriousness of the current malaise in the relationship. Biden, who is known to be proud of his abilities at personal diplomacy, clearly believes that his meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish leaders will help steer U.S.-Turkish relations back on track. However, while he is likely to leave without solving the issues on the agenda which will continue to cast a shadow over the relationship, the reestablishment of a dialogue at the highest level between Washington and Ankara, combined with positive optics associated with the visit, will surely help to ease strains to some extent.

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Iranian envoy shoring up ties on US doorstep
By Roger F. Noriega
American Enterprise Institute
August 24, 2016

On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, began a tour of Latin America with the stated objective of strengthening economic ties — in agriculture, petroleum, petrochemicals, mining, medicine, and engineering. His trip includes stops in Cuba, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Venezuela. It is not surprising that Zarif will visit regimes that aid, abet, or engage in criminality and that share Iran’s anti-American sentiment. Chile is out of place among the rogue regimes that the Iranian envoy will visit. However, since President Michelle Bachelet returned to power in 2014, Iran’s ties with that country have never been better. In 2015, after 37 years without an embassy, Bachelet’s administration reopened its diplomatic mission in Tehran, reversing the previous administration’s position of strict enforcement of sanctions against Iran. For its part, Iran has shown particular interest in Chile’s banking, mining, and energy sectors.

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In Search of an EU Role in the Syrian War
By Marc Pierini
Carnegie Endowment
August 18, 2016

The Syrian war has left the EU in a second-tier position among international actors. The violent policies of the Syrian regime, Russia’s show of force, Turkey’s ambivalent policy on the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the Syrian Kurds, and the EU’s internal divisions have given the union little influence on the course of events in Syria. Yet the brunt of the war’s humanitarian, economic, and security consequences falls on EU countries. The EU’s future role in Syria will be a litmus test of a genuine common foreign and security policy.
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Rojava’s Sustainability and the PKK’s Regional Strategy
By Fabrice Balanche
Washington Institute
August 24, 2016

Although it is still difficult to predict the future of Syria as a whole, the existence of an increasingly autonomous Kurdish region along the country’s northern frontier has become a reality. For now, the boundaries of this “Rojava” remain blurred and might be different from those officially claimed by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). Yet the group’s ongoing efforts to expand and merge its cantons reflect a firm commitment to gathering Syria’s Kurds into an economically viable statelet that extends tantalizingly close to the Mediterranean Sea — a prospect that could also advance the goals of its parent organization in Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

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The Twin Battle in Libya: Against the Islamic State and for Unity
By Ben Fishman
Washington Institute
August 23, 2016
PolicyWatch 2679

On August 1, the United States initiated airstrikes against the Islamic State’s stronghold in Libya. Although a significant victory against IS seems assured, the legitimacy of the Government of National Accord (GNA) is threatened by continuing political rivalries with the previous governing authority, the House of Representatives (HOR), based in the east. The next few weeks could determine whether Libya will maintain a semblance of political unity or descend into another civil war, leaving open the possibility of an IS resurgence — the very factor that prompted the U.S. summer offensive.

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