World: As U.S. Exits Syria, Mideast Faces a Post-American Era - PressFrom - US

WorldAs U.S. Exits Syria, Mideast Faces a Post-American Era

04:55  12 january  2019
04:55  12 january  2019 Source:

Pompeo launches Mideast tour vowing no IS return

Pompeo launches Mideast tour vowing no IS return US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Tuesday in Jordan on a Middle East tour to show commitment to the region after President Donald Trump's surprise decision to withdraw troops from war-torn Syria. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); The top US diplomat, on his longest trip since taking the post last year, pledged that the Islamic State group (IS) would not be allowed to regroup following a string of battlefield defeats.

The US exit from Syria means the set of challenges facing Moscow in the region is significantly changing. MOSCOW — Although a shift in Russia' s Mideast policy had been in the works prior to US President Donald The situation in Syria in the post -US era dominated the discussion, but the

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters. Syrian forces are rolling toward territory the Americans will soon abandon. Israel is bombing Iran-backed militias deep inside Syria .

BEIRUT, Lebanon — When Turkey, Iran and Russia meet to talk about the end of the war in Syria, they do so without the United States.

Pompeo in Egypt amid concerns over US Mideast policy

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Firstly, the “ Syrian opposition” do not actually represent “the Syrian people.” Most of these individuals have been selected by foreign governments—until recently, mainly by U . S . allies in Riyadh, Doha, Ankara—to do their bidding in Geneva, and have been “elected” by no more than a few dozen other

JERUSALEM — The American decision to withdraw from Syria has abruptly scrambled the geopolitics of the Middle East , clearing the way for Iran to expand its influence across the region, leaving Israel virtually alone to stop it

Peace talks to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been frozen for years, but the long-awaited Trump plan to break the impasse has yet to arrive.

And now, despite conflicting messages about how and when it will happen, the United States is set to withdraw from Syria.

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The withdrawal, which the military said began with equipment removal on Friday, is just the latest instance of a broader American disengagement from the Middle East that could have lasting effects on one of the world’s most volatile regions.

As the United States steps back, Russia, Iran and regional strongmen increasingly step in to chart the region’s future.

“It is not pretty,” said Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “It is violent. It is illiberal in every sense of the word, and the United States is essentially missing in action.”

New UN envoy arrives in Damascus on first Syria trip: AFP

New UN envoy arrives in Damascus on first Syria trip: AFP The United Nations' new envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday on his first trip since being appointed, an AFP correspondent reported.The seasoned Norwegian diplomat, who replaces Staffan de Mistura, is the fourth negotiator to have been appointed UN special envoy to Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.He was seen entering a Damascus hotel and is expected to hold talks with senior officials, although no official programme for his visit was published.Officials in the government of President Bashar al-Assad set the tone for the new envoy's tenure shortly after news of his appointment in October last year."Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pedersen provided he avoids the methods of his predecessor," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad said, quoted by Al-Watan newspaper.Assad opponents have said the change in UN envoy would have little impact on the fate of the country as international will and consensus were lacking.Pedersen has not yet spoken publicly about his mission and it remains unclear what his approach will be.De Mistura ended his four-year tenure with an abortive push for the formation of a committee tasked with drawing up a post-war constitution for Syria.

United States foreign policy in the Middle East has its roots as early as the Barbary Wars in the first years of the U . S .' s existence, but became much more expansive after World War II. American policy during the Cold War tried to prevent Soviet Union influence by supporting anti-communist regimes and

Diplomatic relations between Syria and the United States are currently non-existent; they were suspended in 2012 after the onset of the Syrian Civil War.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Middle East has remained perpetually near the top of the American foreign policy agenda, kept there by the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Arab Spring and the battle against the Islamic State.

American leaders have offered a range reasons for the great investment of American blood and treasure in the region: to replace dictatorships with democracies, to enhance the rule of law, to support allied governments and to fight terrorism.

But for some scholars of the region, the concrete benefits of all that engagement pale in comparison to the size of the American efforts.

“When you look at the cost-benefit analysis, there is a limited payoff, and the United States is going to reduce its footprint over time because there are so many other things to deal with in the world,” said Gary Sick, a Middle East scholar at Columbia University who served on the National Security Council under three presidents.

American caught in Syria says curious about Islamic State: report

American caught in Syria says curious about Islamic State: report An American teacher captured by Kurdish-led forces in Syria acknowledged in an interview aired Tuesday that he was drawn to the Islamic State movement but said he did not fight. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); NBC News broadcast an interview with Warren Christopher Clark, one of five foreigners, including another American, whom the Syrian Democratic Forces last week said they had seized as they battled remnants of the Islamic State group in eastern Syria.

American officials said the movement of modern battle tanks into Syria was part of an escalating American military specialists analyzing satellite photographs and other information said Russia had Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq assumed his post with the support of the United States but is

Explore Syrian Civil War news on live map in English. Civil war and International intervention in Syria . U . S . President Trump, Conservative, traditional or far-right personalities and organizations(illiberal). Rebels forces: FSA, Ahrar al-Sham, other moderate groups.

A similar view of the region has shaped the approach of both the Obama and Trump administrations. Despite the drastic differences in their words and style, both have viewed the Middle East primarily as a source of nuisance that siphoned resources from other American priorities. Both presidents called on regional powers to play a greater role in protecting and governing the region.

The immediate desire to step back was driven by battle fatigue after years of deadly combat in Iraq, and a feeling that American military investment often did not make matters better. But scholars say that longer term shifts have made the region less central to America’s priorities.

American protection is no longer necessary to ensure the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, for example, and a boom in domestic production has made the United States less dependent on Middle Eastern oil anyway. Israel now boasts the region’s most effective military and a strong economy while many of its neighbors are in shambles, making it less dependent on American protection.

German woman charged over years in IS-controlled Syria

German woman charged over years in IS-controlled Syria German prosecutors have filed terrorism charges against a German woman arrested after allegedly spending several years in a part of Syria controlled by the Islamic State group. Federal prosecutors says that 32-year-old Sabine Ulrike Sch., whose full name wasn't disclosed in line with privacy rules, faces charges of membership in a terrorist organization, looting and violating weapons laws. They said she traveled to Syria in late 2013 and married an IS fighter, living with him in houses seized by the group. She allegedly received weapons training between 2014 and mid-2017 and wrote blogs praising life in IS-controlled territory.

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Thursday night that the United States had carried out a missile strike in Syria in response to the Syrian government’ s chemical weapons attack this week, which killed more than 80 civilians.

U . S . forces in Syria have already faced direct threats from Syrian and Iranian-backed forces, leading to the shoot-down of Iranian drones and a Syrian jet last U . S .-backed SDF and the pro- Syrian forces had largely avoided direct confrontation while both were fighting the common Islamic State enemy.

“The reality is that our direct interests in terms of protecting the American homeland are very few in the Middle East,” said Mr. Sick, adding that the record on American interventions doing more good than harm was at best mixed.

“Things are pretty chaotic as they are, and I don’t see them getting better with our presence and I don’t see them getting worse if we’re not there,” he said.

Others argue that American leverage still matters and can make a difference when the United States chooses to use it. They point to examples such as the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s giving up his country’s nuclear program under American pressure.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process began with and was nurtured by American involvement, although Mr. Trump’s moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem last year undermined a sense among Palestinians that the United States could serve as an honest broker. And pressure by American presidents pushed both Egypt and Saudi Arabia to take modest steps toward political openness.

“It can be significant for an American president to publicly criticize America’s autocratic allies and lend rhetorical support to those in the region struggling against oppression and for human rights,” said Amy Hawthorne, the deputy director of the Project on Middle East Democracy. “Strong presidential rhetoric combined with strong presidential action behind the scenes can move the needle.”

France will stay 'militarily engaged' in Mideast in 2019: Macron

France will stay 'militarily engaged' in Mideast in 2019: Macron France will remain "militarily engaged" in the Middle East through 2019 despite the announced US withdrawal from the coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria, President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday. "The retreat from Syria announced by our American friend cannot make us deviate from our strategic objective: eradicating Daesh," the president said in a speech at an army base in southern France, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group. The French military has deployed 1,200 soldiers as part of the anti-IS efforts, via air operations, artillery, special forces in Syria and training for the Iraqi army.

Then there’ s America . Donald Trump may have hinted at changes up his sleeve, but he’ s treading the same tired path as his predecessor on Syria . So the U . S . turned its hand to resuscitating a limp Geneva peace process that might have delivered a Syrian political settlement sans Assad.

Cordesman warned that a precipitous exit from Syria could allow militants to regroup and launch attacks into western Iraq. Although Trump has repeatedly emphasized the need to withdraw U . S . troops from Syria , he has said very little about his perspective on the U . S . military footprint in neighboring Iraq.

Although President Trump has spoken little of human rights abroad while unabashedly embracing autocratic allies, many analysts said that even when the United States did champion democracy and human rights, it was tainted by the whiff of hypocrisy given its support for regional strongmen and its reluctance to punish them.

It was under President Obama, for example, that Egypt killed hundreds of civilians protesting a military coup and Saudi Arabia executed 47 people in one morning. Neither faced meaningful sanctions. Nor did Mr. Obama enforce his self-imposed red line after Syria killed more than 1,000 people in a chemical weapons attack.

Such positions have battered the reputation of the United States in the Middle East as a champion of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

“The loss of this has been quite tragic, the sense that the United States doesn’t stand up for these values any more,” said Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “We are seeing a growing sense of impunity among Arab autocrats, a sense that they can do what they want no matter how many human rights violations they commit.”

But as the United States pulls back, regional powers are left to their own devices and other foreign states move in.

With little notice to the United States, Saudi Arabia began a military intervention in Yemen that nearly four years later has failed to dislodge the Iran-aligned rebels it targeted while causing a humanitarian crisis. Iran has deepened its ties with militias in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, undercutting their governments. And the American withdrawal from eastern Syria could set off a scramble between Russia, Iran and Turkey to fill the void.

Macron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS

Macron: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France will not "deviate" from its efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria despite President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the country. 

Israel will escalate its fight against Iranian-aligned forces in Syria after the withdrawal of U . S . troops from the country, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Israel also worries that its main ally’ s exit could reduce its diplomatic leverage with Russia, the Syrian government’ s big-power backer.

“The Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave,” he said, adding that Washington should learn the lesson of its war in Iraq, which lasted longer and was much costlier than anticipated. Trump said in April he wanted to withdraw American troops from Syria relatively soon, but also

While the players are new, their intervention perpetuates the history of foreign interference that has kept Arab states weak, said Rami G. Khouri, a professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“Less external military intervention by lots of people, the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks and the Americans — that would be helpful,” he said. That would allow the people of the region to “define the balance of power and culture and identity and authority in the region by themselves over time.”

As the United States begins to withdraw from Syria, critics have compared the move to President Obama’s decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq after deciding that America’s military role there was no longer essential. Within a few years, the jihadists the United States had thought were defeated were back and stronger, rebranded as the Islamic State, and prompting a new American military operation.

That operation has now nearly succeeded in ousting the jihadists from the territory it once controlled. But it has also left entire cities in ruins with no clear path to rebuilding and done little to address the issues of poor governance that fueled the jihadists’ rise. Many fear that could cause the cycle to repeat itself — again.

Some say the only solution is for the United States to find more productive, long-term ways to be involved in shaping the region’s future as opposed to just using force when there is a crisis.

“We have got to find a middle ground between trying to transform the Middle East and increasingly walking away from the Middle East,” said Mr. Haass of the Council of Foreign Relations.

“We want to wash our hands of it,” he said, “but history suggests that the Middle East won’t let us.”

Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter: @NYTBen.

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