US Middle East policy is predictably unpredictable. It depends on the conjuncture, lobbying of influential departments (political or power) and corporations, the pressure of allies and partners, the foreign policy burden of the past years and not least of all on the priorities of the president or secretary of state. Do not forget about the numerous analytical centers, reports of which (mostly extremely far from the truth) affect the US leadership no less than the media or the political calendar. That is, this policy, as domestic political scientists like to write, is multi-vector. Although it does not make it more consistent.
Some characteristics of US foreign policy are preserved, adding problems: all agreements are treated on the basis of the current conjuncture and are canceled or frozen in accordance with it. The stated goals (the fight against terrorism, for democracy or human rights) have nothing to do with reality. The actions of legislators, the executive branch, the army and the intelligence community in the Middle East (and not only there) give rise to more problems for Americans and the country as a whole than all their opponents combined. Let us consider some aspects of the US Middle East policy, based on the materials prepared by the experts of the institute A. Bystrov and Yu. Shcheglovina prepared for IBI.
American awl in Syrian bag
A priority for the United States is the defeat of the Islamic State (IG) group banned in the Russian Federation in the Euphrates Valley in Syria, and it is not so important who will do it. This statement was made at the briefing for journalists at the Pentagon by the representative of the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, Lieutenant General C. McKenzie. The Trump administration has repeatedly made it clear that they are not seeking to change the regime in Damascus. This is a reaction to the loss of the US Russia in Syria. In fact, Washington is acting in the opposite direction. About the conviction of Riyadh by the Americans to go to the doomed breakthrough from Idlib with irreversible consequences for the Saudi presence in the SAR (Moscow responded by destroying the leadership of the pro-Saudi Jabhat al-Nusra). Now there is evidence of the infiltration of terrorists from the zones of responsibility of the Americans and their allies.
The Russian Defense Ministry believes that the territory around the US military base in Syria has turned into a hundred-kilometer black hole, from which terrorists of the IG come out, supported by, among other things, US satellite intelligence data. This was stated by the representative of the department, Major General I. Konashenkov. As the Syrian troops advance with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces to the east, the presence of Americans in their rear in the Al-Tanfa region becomes a problem. The deployment of this base in April 2017 was justified by the creation of the “New Syrian Army” and the need to conduct operations against the IS, but none of these goals were achieved.
In fact, Washington’s priority in Syria is to contain Russia. Otherwise, the US Army would have appeared in the SAR and began the assault on Mosul in Iraq, without waiting for the Russian Aerospace Forces. Before that, the United States had inflicted rare air strikes against the insignificant targets of the Islamists, which did not stop the IS advance in Iraq and Syria. Washington was implementing a plan to overthrow the B. Assad regime by radical Sunnis, as well as weakening the Shiite regime in Baghdad, which maintained contacts with Tehran, leading the matter to dividing Iraq along religious lines and turning Syria into a stronghold of radical jihadism (“secular” opposition as a result of American policy there not left).
US tactics - to minimize Russian and Iranian influence at any cost. Fortunately, no one will ask the outgoing American president what the example of George W. Bush and Iraq says. To enter Syria and Iraq in earnest, the Americans were forced by the military successes of Russia and Iran into the SAR, and not by the Islamists. Attempts to expand its presence in Syria, ousting the ISIS from there and taking Rakka, are due to this, and not to the fight against international terrorism. The US is doing it randomly and using all the possibilities, but clearly avoiding a direct clash with the Russian military. In this case, the field for maneuvers of the Americans is narrowing. So, the Saudi factor after the failure of the offensive in Idlib, air strikes on the banned “Dzhebhat al-Nusra” in the Russian Federation and the visit of the Saudi monarch to Moscow is minimized.
The Pentagon remains to use the "pocket" in Al-Tanf and to ward the Sunni tribes in Deir al-Zor, since the Kurds are in opposition to the Syrian forces with their support from the Russian aviation hard to count. Conducting distracting attacks from At-Tanf is possible. In this case, the issue for the United States is fundamental. If the plan of the Syrian government forces and the Russian military is realized, Damascus regains control of the oil fields in Deir al-Zor, which is important for the economy, and goes to the border with Iraq. This is not about the "Shiite arc" from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. The Syrians are taking control of the main logistics of goods between Iraq and Syria, which sharply reduces the influence of the Syrian opposition in negotiations on the future arrangement of the ATS.
Iranian Atlantic Solidarity Test
US can’t let Iran get nuclear weapon, believes D. Trump. Having enlisted the support of Congress, he plans to announce the cancellation of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (IFAP) on the Iranian nuclear program. There is no doubt that the promise will be fulfilled - the question is exactly how and to what this will lead. All recent IAEA reports on Tehran’s compliance with the terms of the Iranian nuclear weapons deal do not provide any official pretexts for the White House to do so in the form declared by Trump. Therefore, the pretext of “the continuing threat from Iran to the interests of national security” will be used. It allows not to explain to anyone what Iranians threaten the United States.
The terms of recertification (re-audit of Iran's compliance with the terms of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program) by the US State Department expire on October 15. Most likely, Trump will advise the State Department not to carry out the procedure within the deadline set for this. Thereby, it automatically suspends the deal, which triggers a congressional decision-making decision on tightening sanctions during 60 days. From the point of view of international law, these steps are not considered a way out of the deal, it formally continues to act, but the Americans block it and once again tighten sanctions against Iran. The agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in the same capacity remains for a short time, and President Trump gives the brunt of the decision on this issue to Congress. Without leaving the country, the Americans impose an individual sanctions regime against Tehran. In this regard, the position of the main international players is interesting: the EU, Russia, China and India regarding the decision of Washington.
Moscow and Beijing will certainly remain on the side of American initiatives and will be opponents of such a decision. The United States will not receive the relevant UN Security Council resolution, which will weaken Washington’s position. India, which has begun an active expansion into the Iranian market, will be discouraged by this option. Indian business runs the risk of running into fines from the United States if business contacts with Iran continue. The package of US sanctions for Tehran will be tough. But there is reason to believe that the Indians will develop the Iranian market and the Americans will close their eyes to this. India for the White House is a key player in the new US strategy on Afghanistan. New Delhi can feel free in economic cooperation with Iran. Otherwise, the Afghan strategy of Washington will fail due to the sabotage from the Indian side and its lurch towards Moscow. As for the PRC, the United States has no real opportunity to influence its policies due to the interconnectedness of the American and Chinese economies. Starting a trade war with Beijing Trump is unprofitable, despite all his rhetoric.
The main question is the position of the EU. The head of EU diplomacy, F. Mogherini, has repeatedly stressed that the FISS belongs not to the United States, but to the world community. She assured that Tehran fulfills all the conditions of the transaction. But the Western European business will ignore the risks from the US only if Berlin and Paris guarantee protection, and this is already a matter of the political will of European leaders. For Russia, another example of ill-conceived US policy is useful. It fixes Tehran in the existing regional alliance, including in discussions about the future political structure of the SAR, and also causes tension through the EU-US. America, in conflict with all parties to the Iranian nuclear deal, isolates itself (with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Israel). There is also a risky test of US stability of the Atlantic solidarity system.
Iraq and Kurds are asked not to quarrel
The United States did not recognize the September 11 referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan and its results, and also fear the potential negative consequences of the plebiscite. This was stated by US Secretary of State R. Tillerson. He called on the government of Iraq and the authorities of autonomy to refrain from mutual recriminations and threats. The emphasis on the rejection of the idea of a referendum is not even explained by the sharp reaction of Baghdad to the event, but by the support of this position by the majority of neighboring countries. Libya, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey and Iran supported the decision of Baghdad to suspend flights from Erbil. Iran has temporarily stopped purchasing petroleum products there, Turkey is preparing to limit the supply of oil from the Kurdish autonomy (although it has not done so yet). Baghdad then sends armed convoys to the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, then cancels or slows down the relevant decision. So far, we see demonstrative steps by opponents of the referendum, the main purpose of which is to cause information noise and put pressure on Erbil to make it abide by the rules of the game and not take further steps towards isolation.
Opponents of Erbil have little practical effect. Even the cessation of air traffic is conditional, since humanitarian and military flights have not been canceled to please Washington - the main route of arms supplies to Syrian Kurds goes through Erbil. In autonomy, the weapon is transferred by air, and then transported by truck to Syria. It is supplied through the Kurdish lands and the Iraqi army near Mosul: the transport arm is much shorter than through Baghdad. As for the Syrian Kurds, this is the only way to supply arms to loyal Americans in the north of the SAR, since it is impossible to do this through Turkey.
At the Pentagon and the CIA, the US has developed ties with the Barzani clan and is correcting the position of the White House and the public statements of its representatives. Washington will maintain relations with Erbil, torpedoing Baghdad or Ankara’s attempts to implement force measures against Iraqi Kurdistan, which will question the presence of Americans in Syria, which is important for the global confrontation and deterrence of Moscow, and not for fighting the IS, which is used as an excuse for American presence in the SAR. For Washington, any outbreak of armed confrontation between Baghdad, Ankara and Erbil is unacceptable. The United States will do everything to prevent this. Needless to say about the Kurds - Barzani is manageable. All movements of Peshmerga squads are coordinated by the Kurdish leadership with the United States, and attempts to transfer them in early summer to the north of Syria in connection with the request of Ankara were blocked by Washington.
Sudan partially forgiven
The United States decided to lift the economic sanctions on Sudan imposed by 20 years ago, officials of the Trump administration announced. At the same time, Khartoum remained in the gosdepovskom list of countries supporting terrorism. In justifying this decision at a special briefing, Washington stressed: The White House is satisfied that the Sudanese government continues to make progress in areas such as countering terrorists and respecting human rights. At the same time, in January B. Obama ordered to temporarily lift the financial restrictions on Khartoum. It was stated that if the authorities support positive actions taken over the past six months, individuals and legal entities in the United States will be able to enter into transactions with individuals and organizations in Sudan, and government property under US jurisdiction will be unlocked. The cooperation of Khartoum with Washington in the areas of combating terrorism and settling regional conflicts was emphasized.
It was supposed that sanctions would be finally lifted in July, but President Trump gave another three months to his assistants so that they would come to a final decision. Recall that in the year 1997 for violations of human rights in the country and the creation of a terrorist threat, the United States imposed sanctions against Sudan, which included a trade embargo and freezing of government assets. In 2006, Washington expanded its interventions by accusing Khartoum of contributing to violence in Darfur, where in 2003 a conflict broke out between the Arabized population, supported by the authorities, and rebel groups, the victims of which were 300 thousand people, though about two millions fled from the region.
The lifting of sanctions demonstrates the example of US practice in international affairs. As to the fact that Sudan is still on the list of sponsors of international terrorism, we note: the events in Darfur, which served as a pretext for the imposition of sanctions, played a secondary role in everything that happens. The guerrilla war in this region went on and on. Opposition to the Khartoum rebels from the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SOD) M. Minawi (Zagawa people) and SOD-Nur (Fur people) did not undertake anything to stop this struggle, as well as part of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). There is no progress in establishing peace in Darfur. Progress in the protection of human rights (the President of Sudan is under the verdict of the International Criminal Court), referenced by the United States, also does not exist, especially against the backdrop of arrests and deportations of opposition leaders and persecution of journalists.
As to the charges of sponsoring terrorism, Khartoum has long been irrelevant to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida. The Sudanese no longer provide it with territory for the construction of chemical weapons factories, which was the main reason for the introduction of US economic sanctions. At the same time, they allow weapons to be transported through their Hamas territory to the Gaza Strip, and Qatar to Libya and Egypt, to Sinai. The camps of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood openly exist in the border Sudanese territory, from there the militants make raids deep into Egypt. Leaving Sudan on the official list of sponsors of terrorism in incorporating Khartoum into the international financial system leaves many questions about the integrity of the US approach to countering terrorism. As in Syria, where Americans use the radicals on their official blacklists to contain Russia.
At the same time, the answer to the question that Washington needs from Khartoum is quite simple. Sudan is the main US security partner in Africa. Sudanese have serious operational capabilities and provide intelligence on the activity of international Islamist groups, including Al-Qaida and the IG. Thus, they informed the CIA a month before the attack on the September 11 attack, but they were not listened to. Now they are trying not to recall this in Langley, but the CIA squeezed Trump to remove the economic embargo from Khartoum. At the end of May, he refused to lift the sanctions, but it threatened the operational capabilities of intelligence after Sudanese President O. al-Bashir blocked all channels of interaction with the CIA and the FBI. Langley does not have enough agents to cover the processes in Islamist International, including in the global movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which the White House has ordered to focus.
The US President was pressured not only by the CIA and the NSA (Khartoum’s largest radio intelligence station in Africa is located in this area), but also the Pentagon. The military is fulfilling the requests of the American arms corporations, which have become the main contractors of multi-billion dollar contracts in the field of military-technical cooperation with Saudi Arabia. This was requested from Riyadh, lobbying for the lifting of sanctions against Sudan due to the strategic role of Khartoum in the KSA's efforts in Africa, to oppose the expansion of Iran on the continent and because of participation on its side in the Yemeni conflict. To achieve the lifting of the sanctions O. al-Bashiru promised Crown Prince and Minister of Defense KSA M. Bin Salman, in charge of military-technical cooperation and security with the United States. So the pressure on Washington in the pro-Saud lobby is the second reason for lifting the US sanctions on Sudan.
The third reason is the fronde of South Sudan to the attempts of Americans to dictate to President S. Kiir a line of conduct in establishing a dialogue with the internal opposition to reach agreement on the division of power. In Washington, in this regard, they are now seriously thinking about punishing Juba, since the American military from South Sudan had to relocate to Uganda. Obama's previous line on strengthening South Sudan against Sudan, largely due to the lobbyism of the African-American wing of his State Department due to black racism (which is not accepted in America based on political correctness), rather than the effectiveness of American policy, is being revised. And for this, Sudan is strengthened in opposition to South Sudan.
Quote: The priority of Washington in Syria is the containment of Russia. Otherwise, the US Army would have appeared in the SAR and began the assault on Mosul in Iraq, without waiting for the appearance of the Russian HQs.