I think that a good chunk of Americans agree that the United States has less foreign policy influence nowadays than it used to have until very recently. Noticeably in three areas, the Middle East, North Korea and in Europe, a waning influence which is creating very real dilemmas with a great potential for generating extremely serious problems and difficulties to the country and its people. This has been a result of its increasingly active involvement in the problems of many countries all over the world, and to make things even worse on these interference were very often based on very flawed strategies, and poorly executed. This has resulted in an increasing loss of its credibility, and some extremely vexing foreign policy dilemmas, and no where were these dilemmas as evident as they were in the Middle East where America became increasingly politically, and militarily active after the British left it as part of the dismantling of their four hundred years old empire. The United States involvement which brought them nothing but trouble and misery to the people who are living there, like the last war in Iraq which brought extremely appalling tragedies and disasters in its aftermath, and encouraged the rise of very nasty and vicious militant organizations like the Islamic State.
The United States foreign policy is less influential than it was until very recently, and especially in the Middle East, in whose affairs the United States involvement is once again escalating in the midst of the deteriorating situation in that very sensitive area. The terrible situation which was triggered by many factors, the most important of which is the violence and wars which have been raging there for the last more than a quarter of a century, to which this country has been drawn into because of its substantial political and economic interests there , an involvement which has been very costly in terms of blood and fortune, but has unfortunately failed to produce the hoped for results, which is increasingly questioning the role America is playing there, and in the whole world. This update is essentially about America’s recent involvement in the affairs of the Middle East, nevertheless I am going to start with few short notes about two vexing problems which are facing the United States, The Ukraine Crisis and North Korea.
A very serious crisis erupted in Ukraine on 21 November 2013, when Viktor Yanukovych the country’s president suspended preparations for the implementation of an association agreement with the European Union. This decision resulted in mass protests by his opponents, who were able with the help of the army to oust him from office on 22 February 2014. Following his ousting, unrest enveloped the largely Russian speaking eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, from where he had drawn most of his support. An ensuing political crisis in Ukrainian autonomous region of Crimea resulted in its annexation by Russia on 18 March. Subsequently, unrest in those areas evolved into a war between the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents. The European Union, led by the United States took the side of the Ukrainian government in the dispute and responded with a series of sanctions against the separatist and their Russian supporters which only inflamed the situation and led to a very serious war which has already claimed more than six thousand lives which has seen the United States embroiled in with no end in sight.
The other major trouble spot is North Korea, a rogue state, which is ruled by a not very stable dictators which is known to have a major a very active nuclear weapons program, which is causing very serious threats to the whole of eastern Asia, and in particular South Korea and Japan, which are very important and key allies of the United States that resulted in a very tense relations between the two. North Korea–United States relations are currently extremely hostile and have developed primarily during the Korean War, but in recent years have been largely defined by North Korea's three tests of nuclear weapons, its development of long-range missiles capable of striking targets thousands of miles away, and its ongoing threats to strike the United States itself, and South Korea with nuclear weapons and conventional forces. The United States and North Korea were at the brink of war in 1994 when the U.S. military drew up plans to prevent North Korea from acquiring raw materials for nuclear weapons. Since then, the two countries have gone through various diplomatic relations from the U.S. near-success in getting North Korea to denuclearize, to secret nuclear testing in North Korea leading the parties to abandon dialogue, to the recent imposition of sanctions and possibly relisting of the isolated country as a state sponsor of terrorism. In a nutshell, the United States and North Korea will continue to be mutually hostile. North Korea is a very dangerous adversary, unbalanced and extremely unpredictable.
But the most serious situation, which the Americans are facing is the one which is unfolding in the Middle East now, a massive conflagration is engulfing the whole region from Iraq and Syria in the near east, to Libya and Tunisia in north Africa to Yemen in southern Arabia, these are becoming war zones and theaters of an extremely nasty clash between the Shiites and the Sunnis, the two main sects of Islam, who have been fighting each other on and off for centuries, a fight which has been re-ignited recently. As a result of the enmities and rivalries between the Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Iran, a conflict which was becoming increasingly vicious and spiteful with the increasing involvement in it of the Islamic State, which is famous, or rather infamous atrocities, an extremely fundamentalist organization, which claims that it is fighting a jihad [holy war] against the infidels, which burst on the scene on June 2014, when it was able to kick the Iraqi army out of Mosul, which is the second largest city in Iraq, and was able to make steady gains after that both in Syria and in Iraq, and then it was able on May 17, to rout the Iraqi troops in the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province about 70 miles from Baghdad. IS group took the ancient and strategic city of Palmyra, and has also extended its reach in Libya and conducted its first attack in Saudi Arabia, blowing up a Shiite mosque in the eastern city of Qatif, an attack which is very significant in that illustrates very clearly the nature of the current Middle Eastern conflagration, as a very vicious conflict between the two main sects of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shiite. All of this has forced the United States to return to the region again, in an increasingly active military role, in spite of its recent very sad involvement there. Once again without a very clear strategy on how to deal with the dangers which the jihadists are posing very serious dangers to which the president has set forth nine months ago a policy of “degrade and destroy” on how to deal with jihadists, when he assembled a coalition of some 60 Middle Eastern and European countries, and started with them a program of daily airstrikes, increased tempo of training of Iraqi troops and the provision of intelligence and logistical data. This was a very futile exercise and far from being degraded the group which has been able to deliver its recent absolutely stunning surprises, this has called for a serious soul searching.
Mr. Ashton carter the American secretary of defense said after the debacle in Anbar, that loss of Ramadi was the result of the Iraqi army having no will to fight, a statement which spawned a huge controversy, enter the president, who during a press conference he held in Germany on June 8, said “we don’t have a complete strategy, yet, because it requires commitments on the parts of the Iraqis, about how recruitment takes place, and how the training takes place”. The President’s new announcement was a return to his ideas of nine months ago, so he decided on June 10, to send another 450 US military advisers to Iraq to help train local forces fighting the Islamic State, few days earlier he had said that he was "absolutely confident" the militants would be driven out of Iraq, if the Iraq government has the support of the international coalition, as well as a real government that represents all the Iraqi people, but this seems more like wishful thinking rather than a realistic hope, because for all practical reasons, the Islamic State is not going to be defeated any time soon, which is encouraging a highly vocal, and increasingly influential chorus in the United States to demand that their country should start to rethink her priorities, should stop acting like an international policeman, and decide on the kind of role she need to play in the World.
Wednesday June 10, 2015