US tries to convince Arab allies not to leave the Middle East

US tries to convince Arab allies not to leave the Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – The Biden administration is trying to convince its Arab allies that, despite appearances to the contrary, the United States is not tired of the region and is headed for the doors.

It’s a tough sell. At a meeting in Bahrain on Saturday on the eve of global talks aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III was faced with difficult questions about how Arab allies should deal with the whiplash of a US national security policy. that is turned upside down with a new president every four to eight years.

As President Biden now seeks to undo President Donald J. Trump’s undoing of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, some Arab allies expressed frustration that they were in the middle and had to go their own way. The United Arab Emirates, for example, is taking steps to de-escalate its own tensions with Tehran after years of taking a tougher stance.

The tumultuous US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August after 20 years, the announced withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq by the end of this year, and the recent hype of China by the Biden administration as its biggest and most serious priority on National security has left officials feeling left out in the Middle East, where so much US national security fear has reigned for the past 20 years.

“Now that you’re on the clock to withdraw your combat troops from Iraq, and with the withdrawal of Afghanistan, there are a lot of concerns here,” Farhad Alaaldin, chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, a research institute in Baghdad, told Mr. Austin. during a question-and-answer session on Saturday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies conference in Bahrain’s capital Manama. “Your partners on the ground are concerned and some are starting to run for cover.”

The defense secretary did his best to reassure his colleagues in Bahrain that the United States would remain engaged in the Middle East. Referring to “a lot of fear I hear,” Mr Austin insisted that “we will not give up these interests going forward.”

As part of diplomatic outreach this weekend, Brett McGurk, the White House’s Middle East coordinator, and Robert Malley, Mr. Biden’s Iranian envoy, joined the defense secretary in Manama.

Mr Austin said the Biden administration would try to counter Iran, even as the United States tries to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that Mr Trump left behind. The latest round of talks to revive that deal is: set to start on November 29 in Vienna, and officials have been personally pessimistic that a breakthrough would come soon.

“We remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue,” said Mr Austin. “But if Iran does not want to participate seriously, we will look at all options necessary to keep the United States safe.”

Those options are limited. If, for all his often expressed antipathy towards Tehran, Mr Trump refrained from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities for fear of renewed long-term US involvement in the region, then Mr Biden is even less likely to take such action, recognize assistants, it doesn’t matter how many “options” Mr. Austin calls. In fact, concerns about ruining impending nuclear talks is one of the reasons the government has so far refrained from hitting back at Iran for an armed drone strike last month on a US military base in southern Syria.

US officials say they believe the drone strike, which caused no casualties, was Iranian retaliation for Israeli airstrikes in Syria.

Five so-called suicide drones were launched on October 20 at the US base in Al Tanf in what the US Central Command called a “deliberate and coordinated” attack. Only two exploded on impact, but they were loaded with ball bearings and shrapnel with a “clear intent to kill,” a senior US military official said.

Most of the 200 US troops stationed at the base, mainly training Syrian militias to fight Islamic State, had been evacuated hours earlier after being tipped off by Israeli intelligence, officials said.

US officials said they believed Iran directed and supplied the proxy forces carrying out the attack. Iran has not claimed responsibility for the attack, although Iranian news media has applauded it.

Brian Katulis, a vice president for policy at the Middle East Institute, called the Biden administration’s policies in the region one of “water traps.” He warned that it could come with inherent problems.

“In a turbulent region,” said Mr. Katulis, “the seas can get rough and waves swell in an instant, making it nearly impossible to keep one’s head above water.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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