theSkimm's Guide to

US FRENEMIES

LAST UPDATED JUL 19, 2017

THE STORY

The US has got frenemies, got a lotta frenemies.

WHAT NAMES DO I NEED TO KNOW?

Cuba...as in the one with the Castros. Cuba’s been run by a Communist government for decades, which is part of the reason why the US put a trade embargo on the country in the 60s. But in 2016, President Obama told Congress it was time to forgive, forget, and lift the embargo. Then he became the first US president in almost 90 years to smoke a Cuban in Cuba. Earlier this year, President Trump announced some edits to those policy changes. Think: restricting who can visit Cuba, where Americans can spend their money while they're there. Gov agencies are expected to officially issue the new rules sometime in the next few months.

Saudi Arabia...as in the one with all the oil. Saudi Arabia is on Team USA in the US-led coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Saudis are also very much on board with the US opinion that Syrian President Assad needs to go. But Saudi Arabia has a serious problem with human rights violations, which the US has *mostly* ignored. Mostly because Saudi Arabia has oil. Lots and lots of oil.

Iran...as in the one with the nuke program. The US relationship with Iran is kinda like your relationship with that guy you met at the bar last month: very informal. In 2015, Iran and the US and friends signed a nuclear deal that lifted harsh sanctions on the country in exchange for Iran curbing its nuke program. But a lot of people think bargaining with Iran is like playing with fire. So when President Trump signed an executive order banning travel to the US from several Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, the two countries got even less friendly.

Russia...as in the one with Putin. The US has been smiling and shaking Russia’s hand in person -- and then talking behind its back -- since the fall of the Soviet Union. The relationship turned from bad to worse in recent years when Russia decided to support separatists in Ukraine (against the wishes of the US) and back President Assad in the Syrian Civil War (also against the wishes of the US). And then it came out that Russian hackers attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in favor of now-President Trump. Now US officials are investigating whether the Trump team had anything to do with it. Mother Russia’s a major player in international politics, so the US is stuck between a vodka bottle and a hard place.

Qatar...as in the one that’s gassy. Qatar is a really small, really rich country thanks to natural gas. The US loves that gas, so in the past it's put on a friendly face for the cameras. But Qatar has 99 problems, and the US usually turns a blind eye to all of them. See: human rights abuses connected to World Cup stadium construction, and sending cash money to Hamas (a terror group in Israel – which happens to be a close US ally). See the problems there? And things just got more complicated. Earlier this year, several other Middle Eastern countries decided to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, citing its connections to terrorist groups. And the US has sent mixed signals on whether or not it's OK with the move.

China...as in the one with its ear to the door….and the wall and the ceiling. China’s hoarding loooots of US debt, so the US tries not to bite the hand that feeds it. But China’s accused of hardcore spying on the US. And the country is currently saying ‘mine’ to contested areas of the South China Sea -- which has the US thinking the country is trying to expand its military presence. So China’s not exactly invited to Thanksgiving dinner.

Egypt...as in the one with a revolving door of leaders. The US and Egypt have a common enemy in ISIS, and the US supported the democratic election of President Mohamed Morsi in 2012. But then Morsi was overthrown by the military, and the US had to pretend to be upset about it, even though Morsi was a leader who missed the ‘how to encourage democracy’ lesson in school. The US really wants Egypt as a strong ally in the Mideast, but the country can’t seem to pull itself together. When he got elected, President Trump decided the two countries should try to be friends again. So things have gotten a little cozier lately.

theSKIMM

Relationships between the US and its frenemies are like a game of Operation. Tread carefully, and everything should be fine. Make one wrong move, and you’ll get zapped.

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