What’s Driving Pompeo’s Arab Tour?
Ensuring allies of Syria exit
Alwaght- A great deal of media focus has been given to the tour of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Arab countries starting with Jordan. The 8-nation tour comes as Pompeo seeks to discuss with, or better to say to dictate to, the Arab states the latest Washington’s regional policies. The tour is taking him also to Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
There is no doubt that the trip is highly significant in terms of timing. Some of the regional cases, including the Syrian crisis, Afghanistan war, Lebanon government formation delay, the Palestinian cause, and the Arab-Israeli relations are now fast developing, with the regional and international players trying to leave the maximum impact with regard to their interests, strategies, and alliances.
In Afghanistan case, talks with the Taliban are intensifying. In Syria case, Damascus government is restoring its regional and international position it lost after the devastating war. The US is reviewing its Syria strategy, and the Arab rulers are bringing their secret ties to Tel Aviv to the surface in a normalization path.
Ensuring allies of Syria exit
Pompeo's trip comes while last month the world, and mainly the US allies, went into a shock to hear the American President Donald Trump announcing a plan to withdraw his troops from Syria. Almost all of the analyses and comments by experts, both inside the US and outside it, argued against Trump justification that the results of the pull-out will be the preservation of the US and its allies’ interests in Syria. Trump faced pressures from some Congressmen over his plan. His Defense Secretary resigned in protest. Now the administration is tangibly retracting its exit comments, both in terms of the exit timetable and the destination of the removed troops. The stances very well display a confusion of the White House officials and consequently their allies, mainly Tel Aviv, Riyadh, and Ankara. Washington sent its National Security Advisor John Bolton to convince the Turks to agree with the plan. They failed as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey skipped a meeting with Bolton.
End of Bolton’s regional trip was the start of Pompeo's mission in the Arab states. The Arab rulers, living with fear of coup, popular uprisings, and intervention by the larger Arab countries for half a century, now follow the regional developments with anxiety amid Washington aim to pull its forces out of Syria and Afghanistan as the Trump US removes focus from West Asia to East Asia and cuts its military and financial support for its allies across the world. Pompeo’s visit is apparently presenting assurances, telling the Arab rulers that their throne will stay safe and the US will continue to protect them.
Encouraging Arab states to normalize with Tel Aviv
The US Secretary of State has another mission: Speeding up the Arab-Israeli diplomatic normalization based on the “deal of the century”, a Trump plan to kill the Oslo Accords, the Arab initiative for peace with aim of establishing a Palestine state with al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital. Over the past year, once top-secret links of some Arab states to the Tel Aviv have been made public. The policy, driven by Washington pressures, is now reaching new boundaries. In October 2017, Israeli regime's Premier Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in an official trip to the Persian Gulf Arab state. In April, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an unprecedented speech advocated the decades-long Israeli occupation policy, saying "There are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan."
Before his tour, Pompeo told Newsmax broadcaster that the US brokered relations between the Arab states and Tel Aviv to set up an alliance in the West Asia to protect the US interests and security. Netanyahu in early January said that the Arab countries view Tel Aviv as an “indispensable ally” and this view has “caused a revolution in relations with the Arab world.”
Struggling to rescue the dying (P) GCC using Iranophobia
Pompeo is visiting all Arab states struck by the crisis in the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatar blockade, a move that ignited a serious crisis among the member states, remains in place after 18 months, making the highly inconsistent Cooperation Council teeter on the brink of collapse. So far, Washington’s efforts to settle the crisis have gone nowhere. Recently, verbal clashes between the Saudi and Qatar leaders raged, particularly after Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani rejected to attend Saudi-hosted (P) GCC summit despite an official invitation. Also recently, Anthony Zinni, a Trump administration’s envoy to Qatar dispute, resigned. In an interview with the CBS News, he said he could not help resolve the Qatar dispute "because of the unwillingness of the regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort that we offered to conduct or assist in implementing.” Zinni also felt there was no need for his involvement with the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) concept, a NATO-style security alliance that he was asked to introduce to regional leaders, since other members of the administration are carrying it forward.
In early December last year, Qatar announced the intention to quit the OPEC. The move, in the eyes of the experts, was seen as ushering in a major review of the foreign policy that could take Doha out of the Cooperation Council. Washington is worried about the possible cooperation of some of Persian Gulf Arab states with the Moscow-Tehran-Ankara bloc, which can fill the vacuum caused by gradual US withdrawal from the region. Driven by this concern, Pompeo apparently wants to follow the policy of having Iran replace Israeli regime as regional boogeyman and encouraging Arab states to go to a confrontation with Tehran and its regional allies, also known as Axis of Resistance.
Green light to bin Salman
Pompeo’s visit and his possible meeting with bin Salman after a recent Senate resolution condemned him for killing the prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi carries a significant message to the Saudi king’s son. A senior State Department diplomat told the media on Friday that Saudi Arabian account of the killing lacks adequate credibility but Pompeo will not be pressuring Saudi Arabia. The diplomat said Pompeo called the Congress request for anti-Riyadh sanctions annoying clamor. So, one of Pompeo’s trip aims is to pass a message of the White House support to Prince Mohammed, as well as to the recent King Salman cabinet shake-up believed to give Mohammed bigger clout to crack down on the home opponents and pave the way for his ascension to the throne.