Introduction — Oct 22, 2017
We have to wonder if U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson really is trying to forge an alliance, as recent reports suggest? Because if he is trying to get Iraq and Saudi Arabia to form an alliance against Iran we would suggest that he’s doomed to failure.
For a start, Saudi-backed militants in the form of Daesh (Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL) wrought havoc in Syria and Iraq. The Syrians know that the Sunni-militants were armed and financed by the gulf states, Saudi Arabia in particular.
Iraqi intelligence know this too.
Like Syria, the Iraqis also have much to thank Iran for. Despite long-standing enmity dating back to Saddam Hussein, Iran helped Iraq and Syria when the Sunni-militants looked set to take control of both countries.
Yet Tillerson is reportedly urging Iraq to form an alliance with Saudi Arabia, the very country that financed the recent terror onslaught in Iraq, and he wants them to turn against a proven ally in Iran.
The obvious irony won’t have escaped many Iraqis, even if it isn’t mentioned by the western corporate media.
However efforts to form an alliance turn out, the fact that the Americans are advocating this suggests a measure of desperation in their attempts to contain Iran’s growing regional influence.
The Americans are clearly out of their depth and as their standing in the Middle East declines so Russian and Iranian influence is growing.
For many Iraqis relief from U.S. interference couldn’t come sooner. For it was the U.S. that armed, equipped and encouraged Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. That only ended in a bloody stalemate after more than a million on both sides died.
Thereafter, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. and its allies imposed sanctions on Iraq, which included vital medical supplies, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died as the health infrastructure crumbled.
According to Juan Cole it was tantamount to “genocide” and it didn’t end when Saddam was ousted. After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a further 200,000 were to die in the prolonged and bloody occupation.
It’s not a proud record nor is it likely to endear Iraqis to America’s plans so we somehow don’t think that they will be ready to join an alliance against Iran.
The real irony in the following report comes when Trump’s National Security advisor H.R. McMaster describes Iran’s mode of operation. When he talks about Tehran’s malign influence and its modus operandi he could easily be describing Washington’s. Ed.
Tillerson’s Mideast aim is a Saudi-Iraqi axis against Iran
Matthew Lee — ABC News Oct 22, 2017
As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits the Middle East this weekend, he’ll hope to achieve something that has eluded top American diplomats for a generation: sealing a new alliance between Saudi Arabia and Iraq that would shut the doors of the Arab world to neighboring Iran.
While the United States strives to heal the rift between the Gulf Arab states and Qatar, and resolve civil wars in Yemen and Syria, Tillerson is the Trump administration’s point man on an even more ambitious and perhaps even less likely geopolitical gambit.
U.S. officials see a new axis that unites Riyadh and Baghdad as central to countering Iran’s growing influence from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, particularly as the Iraqi government struggles to rebuild recently liberated Islamic State strongholds and confronts a newly assertive Kurdish independence movement.
History, religion and lots of politics stand in Tillerson’s way. He arrived in Riyadh on Saturday and planned to visit Qatar on Monday.
The effort to wean Iraq from Iran and bond it to Saudi Arabia isn’t new, but U.S. officials are optimistically pointing to a surer footing they believe they’ve seen in recent months. They’re hoping to push the improved relations into a more advanced phase Sunday when Tillerson participates in the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee in Riyadh.
Tillerson will seek Saudi financial generosity and political support for Iraq, its embattled northern neighbor. Two U.S. officials said Tillerson hopes the oil-rich Saudis will contribute to the massive reconstruction projects needed to restore pre-IS life in Iraqi cities such as Mosul and lend their backing to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He is treading delicately among a host of powerful countries on Iraq’s borders which are increasingly trying to shape the future of the ethnically and religiously divided nation.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly preview Tillerson’s plans.
Shiite-majority Iraq and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, estranged for decades after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have tried in recent years to bridge their differences.
Nevertheless, the relationship is still plagued by suspicion.
Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 after a quarter-century, and earlier this year unblocked long-closed border crossings. But the emergence of arch-Saudi rival Iran as a power player in Iraq continues to gnaw at Riyadh and Washington.
Iran’s reported intervention in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, following last month’s much-criticized vote for independence in a referendum, has deepened the unease.
President Donald Trump wants to see “a stable Iraq, but a stable Iraq that is not aligned with Iran,” H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, said this past week. He suggested Saudi Arabia could play a pivotal role.
The U.S. view is that the alternative may mean more conflict in Iraq, which endured years of insurgency after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion and ethnic warfare when the Islamic State group rampaged across the country in 2014.
“Iran is very good at pitting communities against each other,” McMaster said Thursday at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is something they share with groups like ISIS, with al-Qaida. They pit communities against each other because they use tribal and ethnic and sectarian conflicts to gain influence by portraying themselves as a patron or protector of one of the parties in the conflict and then they use that invitation to come in and to help to advance their agenda and, in Iran’s case, I think is a hegemonic design.”
Trump and his national security team have framed much of the Middle East security agenda around counteracting Iran, which they see as a malign influence that poses an existential threat to Israel and other American allies and partners in the region. They also accuse Iran of menacing the United States and its interests at home and elsewhere in the world.
Shortly after taking office, Tillerson identified improving Saudi-Iraqi ties as a priority in the administration’s broader policy to confront and contain Iran. Officials say he has devoted himself to the effort.
On his second official trip abroad, Tillerson in February canceled a planned “meet and greet” with staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to focus on the matter, according to one of the U.S. officials.
Tillerson’s decision to skip that gathering was widely criticized at the time as a sign of disengagement with his employees, but the official said Tillerson adjusted plans to speak by secure telephone to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on the Iraq rapprochement.
Tillerson, according to the official, implored al-Jubeir to visit Baghdad as a sign of Saudi goodwill and commitment to the effort to defeat IS, which then still held about half of Mosul.
Al-Jubeir agreed. Two days later, he made a surprise trip to the Iraqi capital. He was the first Saudi foreign minister to do so in 27 years.