Monday, November 7, 2016

44's Failed Middle East Policy

Everyone knows the Iraq 44 inherited was seemingly stable but had 144,000 American troops in the country. Saddam's dictatorship was deposed. The 2007 Bush military surge had worked and Iraq was beginning to exhibit long-awaited signs of stability. By a precipitous politically motivated withdrawal of U.S. forces, 44's policy mortgaged the hard-won gains made through spilled blood and treasure and, moreover, allowed Iraq's venal sectarian divide to dominate the Baghdad government.

Thus, the outcome, which witnessed the rise of IS, reflected a quick political fix rather than a commitment to long-term stability. Key Iraqi cities fell to the ISIL militant insurgents. Fast forward. Now thousands of American special forces are back in Iraq trying to help the Iraqi military retake lost territory.

We are still paying the regional price for 44's hasty withdrawal.

Egypt: While much of the Mideast appeared strangely static, the Arab Spring exploded in Cairo in 2011. Pro-democracy demonstrations toppled the authoritarian but pro-American rule of President Hosni Mubarak ushering in a swirl of events that resulted in an elected but thuggish Muslim Brotherhood regime. Soon rising frustrations the following year led to a new military government in Cairo. Once close political ties between Cairo and Washington are destabilized.

Syria exploded in 2011 as demonstrations tried to topple the entrenched Assad Family regime, a secular but longtime Russian client. Syria's original uprisings were probably democratic but were soon hijacked by hardline Islamic jihadi forces. While 44 fiddled rhetorically while supporting the Syrian uprising, his Administration led from behind when it came to decisive action. Before long Russia decided to support their longtime Syrian client. Over 500,000 people have been killed; Aleppo is a humanitarian hell. Millions of Syrians have become refugees; the surge has swamped neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and is flooding into Europe. There's no end in sight in this grinding conflict.

Libya saw its longtime dictator Col. Gaddafi toppled by a series of tribal uprisings. Later the U.S. and France sent massive air support to help break in the impasse in the civil war. But what then? Radical jihadi militias burned down the American consulate in Banghazi and killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Libya remains in chaos and serves as a conduit for refugee flows into Italy. While we are well rid of Gaddafi, what were HRC State Department's plans for the day after the overthrow?

Yemen: Once touted as an Administration socio-political success story, Yemen has descended into a dangerous spiral of tribal conflict amid sectarian divides. A U.N. official told the Security Council, "The state of Yemen is broken," and there are 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance."

Turkey: The once rock solid and reliable relationship between the U.S. and Turkey is threatened. Tragically, Turkey's once staunchly secular Republic is increasingly Islamic-lite under the authoritarian rule of President Erdogan. Ties with Washington are deeply frayed.

The Mideast now suffers the aftershocks of 44's fundamentally failed foreign policy.