KT edit: Engagement in Middle East is crucial for the US

A "big and growing" coalition to exert pressure on Iran is the aim.

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Published: Sun 13 Jan 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Jan 2019, 9:24 PM

It seems like Mike Pompeo is on a damage control trip. The US Secretary of State's week-long visit to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait is an effort to 'sell' the US President Donald Trump's "we are leaving Syria" policy to America's allies in the region. And since none of these countries' primary concern is Syria, as much as it is Iran's influence and military activities there and the growth of Daesh, the secretary has reiterated the US commitment to containing extremist forces and countering Tehran's destabilising activities. Pompeo is also persuading the nations to look at ways to pile pressure on Iran. A "big and growing" coalition to exert pressure on Iran is the aim.
The withdrawal of over 2,000 US troops from Syria will see Turkey, Russia, Iran and the government of Bashar Al Assad emerge victorious. The withdrawal could be an effort to appease Turkey which has been objecting to the Syrian Kurdish forces. And Ankara has got everything it asked for - a decisive voice in Syria's future and a clear path to attack the Kurds who have fought Daesh along with the US. The Russians will now get to decide on their military future of Syria, while Iran gets an unobstructed path to retain its military and intelligence presence in Syria. Assad will be able to expand his control over his country, including the oil-rich areas hosting the US troops.
Trump's announcement of a precipitous withdrawal saw the abandonment of all proclaimed objectives for the US presence in Syria - an enduring defeat of Daesh, the removal of Iranian forces and its proxies from Syria, a commitment from Turkey not to attack the Kurds, and an irreversible political transition. Engagement in the region is critical to America as long as Iranian aggression and extremism remain a threat to global security. Whether Pompeo has been able to clear up the confusion and reassure allies of his country's commitment to the region is yet to be seen. For now, Trump's Middle East policy is in a flux.

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