Paul Bonnifield: U.S. Middle East policy concerning
January 18, 2018
I’m deeply concerned by the United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East. An Oct. 3 article in Bloomberg stated, “Putin is filling Middle East Power Vacuum — The Israelis and Turks, The Egyptians and Jordanians — they’re beating [a path] to the Kremlin in hope that Vladimir Putin, the new master of the Middle East, can secure their interests and fix their problems.” Similar findings were expressed in a Carnegie report.
Within the last few months, Russia has increased its foreign aid, trade and influence in Egypt and Libya. The Saudi Arabian King Salman recently made an unprecedented visit to Moscow and signed a memorandum of understanding and purchased S-400 anti-missile missiles.
Two serious incidents involving Israeli and Syrian — attacks on a missile site and an Iranian military base were resolved by Moscow. The threat of civil war in Lebanon was contained by France and Moscow.
Russia and Syria have signed military agreements allowing a naval base at the Port of Tartus, permanent air bases and Russian Military Police. After Isis, there may be a scaling down of troops, but Moscow’s control of Syria will remain.
Russia and Iranian relations have important implications for the United States especially gas prices. Last summer’s meeting of leading oil-producing nations in Vienna made it clear that Russia is nearing the point it controls world oil prices. Its union with Iran will give Russia undisputed control.
Currently, Russia plans to build three major oil pipelines from the Middle East across Turkey to Europe. The French oil company Total has agreed to construct a pipeline from Iran to Europe. The Iranian oil minister claims 10 other pipelines are being negotiated. All the pipelines will cross Syria, which Russia controls.
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Iranian military presence in Syria is unacceptable to Israel. Russia and not the United States is brokering the solution. Recently, Moscow agreed to sell missiles, planes and heavy military equipment to Iran.
Over 16,000 Iranian troops were used to defeat Isis in the battles for Mosul. Once Isis was defeated, CIA Director Mike Pompeo handed Iran’s senior commander Qasem Soleimani a sealed letter threatening Iran. The letter was set aside unopened. In diplomatic language, the U.S. was told to go to hell, and short of invading Iran there is nothing we can do to enforce our threat, resulting in the United States appearing weak.
In October, President Trump refused to certify the Iranian Nuclear Arms Treaty and called on Congress to act. All the other nations in the treaty ignored Trump, and Congress failed to act. Thus, the United States’ position became irrelevant. That is terrible.
On Nov. 22, Russia, Turkey and Iran met at Sochi to consider a separate peace conference. Afterwards Putin called Trump and other world leaders and briefed them on his plans. They were briefed — not consulted.
Saudi Arabia organized a separate peace platform. Russia later brokered an understanding between the two factions allowing for the UN Peace Talks in Geneva. To date, the United States has failed to play a serious leadership role in laying the foundation for lasting peace.
Tension is extremely high along the Persian Gulf. The United States can ill afford armed conflict in the region. Yet, it is Russia that is the new master of the Middle East and has control of American interests in the vital oil rich region.