Trump Follows Well-Worn Mideast Trail

Despite the chaotic appearance of President Trump’s Mideast policies, they actually represent a troubling consistency in U.S. subservience to Israel and Saudi Arabia, as ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller explains.

By Graham E. Fuller

Washington media, think tanks, various commentators and now Sen. John McCain continue hammering on an old theme — that the U.S. has “no policy towards the Middle East.” This is fake analysis. In fact the U.S. very much does have a long-standing policy towards the Middle East. It’s just the wrong one.

President Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Sept. 18, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)

What, then, is U.S. policy in the Middle East — under Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton (and even earlier)? When all the rhetoric has been stripped away, we can identity quite clear, precise, and fairly consistent major strategic policy positions.

–First, Washington accedes to almost anything that Israel wants. This is an untouchable posture, a third rail, beyond any debate or discussion lest we anger the powerful Zionist lobby of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and end up being labeled “anti-Semitic.”

The New York Times does not even allow us to know that In Israel itself these issues are indeed seriously debated — but never in the U.S. Small tactical issues aside, there is zero American discussion about whether the far-right government of Israel should be the lode-star of U.S. policy-making in the Middle East.

–Second, we oppose all Iranian actions and seek to weaken that state. Not surprisingly this reflects a key Israeli position on the Middle East as well. Admittedly the U.S. has its own grudges against Iran going back a long way, while the Iranians bear grudges against the U.S. going back well before that.

–Oppose almost anything that Russia does in the Middle East and routinely seek to weaken the Russian position in the region.

–Destroy armed radical jihadi groups anywhere — unilaterally or via proxy.

–Support Saudi Arabia on nearly all issues. Never mind that the Saudi state is responsible for the export of the most radical, dangerous and ugly interpretations of Islam anywhere and is the prime promoter of extremist Islamist ideas across the Muslim world.

-=Maintain a U.S. military presence (and as many U.S. military bases as possible) across the Middle East and Eurasia.

–Maximize U.S. arms sales across the region for profit and influence. (There is of course a lot of competition here from the U.K., Russia, France, China, and Israel.)

–Support any regime in the Middle East — regardless of how authoritarian or reactionary it may be — as long as it supports these U.S. goals and policies in the region.

–“Protect the free flow of oil.” Yet that free flow of Middle East oil has almost never been threatened and its chief consumers — China, Japan, Korea — should bear whatever burden that might be. But the U.S. wants to bear that “burden” to justify permanent U.S. military forces in the Gulf.

But what about “American values” that are often invoked as goals — such as support for democracy and human rights? Yes, these values are worthy, but they receive support in practice only as long as they do not conflict with the paramount hierarchy of the main goals stated above. And they usually do conflict with those goals.

Far from a “lack of Middle East policy,” all this sounds to me like a very clear set of U.S. policy positions. Washington has consistently followed them for long decades. They largely represent a solid “Washington consensus” that varies only slightly as the think-tankers of one party or the other rotate in and out of government.

Trump in Line

Donald Trump has typically upset the apple cart somewhat on all of this — mostly in matters of style in his spontaneous policy lurchings of the moment. But Official Washington is pretty good in keeping the range of foreign policy choices fairly narrowly focused within these parameters. Indeed, some might say that this policy mix is just about right. Yet these U.S. aspirations have fairly consistently failed.

President Donald Trump poses for photos with ceremonial swordsmen on his arrival to Murabba Palace, as the guest of Saudi King Salman, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The most prominent U.S. policy failures are familiar and proceed from the goals.

–If unquestioning support to Israel is the top priority, Washington has not failed here. But Israel remains about as truculent as ever in maintaining its own priority of extending territorial control and creeping takeover of all Palestinian lands and people. Washington has not been able to protect Israel from itself; Israel has never been more of an international pariah than now in the eyes of most of the world, including large numbers of Jews.

Actually it would serve American interests to officially abandon the absurd theater of the  “peace process” which has always served as Israeli cover for ever greater annexation of Palestinian land. Instead the U.S. should let the international community assume the major voice, yes, including the United Nations, in holding Israel to international norms.

By now the “two-state solution” is unreachable; the issue is how to manage the very difficult and painful transition to an inevitable “one-state solution” for Palestinians and Israelis — in a democratic and binational secular state.

–Russia is today stronger and more important in the Middle East than since Soviet days. Moscow has been outplaying the U.S. in nearly every respect of the policy game since 9/11. U.S. influence meanwhile has declined in both relative and absolute terms. Yet Washington’s determination to maintain its own absolute primacy across the world firmly excludes any significant Russian role in global issues.

However, if Washington can bring itself to abandon the zero-sum game mindset and work towards a win-win approach with Moscow, it will find much to cooperate with Russia about. As it stands, persistent confrontational policies guarantee unending rivalry, a never-ending self-fulfilling prophesy.

–Contrary to stated U.S. policy goals, Iran has emerged the massive winner from nearly all U.S. policies in the region over two decades. Yet Turkey and Iran represent the only two serious, developed, advanced, stable states in the region, with broadly developed economies, serious “soft power,” and a flexible policies that have gained the respect of most Middle Eastern peoples, even if not of their governments.

Yes, Erdogan’s Turkey is at the moment a loose cannon; but Turkish political institutions will certainly survive him even as the clock is ticking on his power grip. Iran’s elections are more real than virtually any other Muslim state in the area. It may be convenient for some to lay virtually all U.S. troubles in the region at Iran’s door, but such analysis upon serious examination is quite deliberately skewed.

–U.S. policies and actions against radical and violent Islamist movements in the Muslim world represent a serious task. Sadly, it is the ongoing U.S. military actions themselves that help explain much of the continued existence and growth of radical movements, starting with major U.S. military support to Islamist mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Later the U.S. destruction of state and societal structures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, to some extent even in Syria and Yemen, have further stirred up anger and radical jihadism.

Another Way?

What can be done? Withdrawal of U.S. boots on the ground and the chain of military bases across the region and into Asia would represent a start, but only a start, in allowing the region to calm down. The region must work out its own problems and not be the object of incessant self-serving U.S. helicopter interventions.

Seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marines conduct a combat logistics patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz)

Yes, ISIS is a target deserving of destruction, and U.S. policies have been a bit wiser in at least allowing many international forces to play a role in that campaign. But radicalism invariably emerges from radical conditions. There are few military solutions to radical social, political, economic and identity problems. And autocratic rulers will always greet a U.S. presence that helps maintain them in power.

Saudi policies that view Iran as the source of all Middle Eastern problems are erroneous and self-serving, and ignore the real roots of the region’s problems: unceasing war (primarily launched by the U.S.), vast human and economic dislocations, self-serving monarchs and presidents for life, and the absence of any voice by the people over the way they are ruled.

The militarization of U.S. foreign policy everywhere is ill-designed to solve regional problems that call for diplomacy and close cooperation with all regional powers — not their exclusion. Yet these U.S. policies increasingly resemble the late days of the Roman Empire as it found itself up to its neck in barbarians.

Most of the world would welcome shifts in U.S. policies away from the heavy focus on the military option. One reason the U.S. has been losing respect, clout and influence in the region is due to this failing military focus.

The rest of the world is now simply trying to work around U.S. fixations. Donald Trump is exacerbating the problem but he is in many ways the logical culmination of decades of failed American policies. Even a kinder gentler Trump cannot solve systemic U.S. foreign policy failures that are now deeply institutionalized.

So repeating the mantra that the U.S. lacks a Middle East policy serves only to conceal the problem. The U.S. very much does have a clear policy. It’s just been dead wrong.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com  [This article originally appeared at http://grahamefuller.com/washington-does-have-a-clear-me-policy-its-just-the-wrong-one/ ]

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25 comments for “Trump Follows Well-Worn Mideast Trail

  1. Mild-ly - Facetious
    November 5, 2017 at 12:53

    Trump will highlight ‘horrible’ trade deals on Asian tour

    Five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week

    By REUTERS NOVEMBER 5, 2017

    http://www.atimes.com

  2. HobeSoundJay
    November 4, 2017 at 13:53

    Hypocrites yap about so-called “Russian interference” in the 2016 election, yet Israel has been meddling in US foreign and domestic policies, as well as influencing elections, for decades via AIPAC and numerous other Israeli-aligned NGOs operating in broad daylight and sanctioned by the US media and every level of government.

  3. Watcher
    November 3, 2017 at 02:28

    Wow, I’m impressed with the great comments here. It is my first visit, directed by a comment on the recent Crosstalk discussion with Peter Lavelle (RT channel). The comment section on RT.com has just become a mess with trolls and nutcases. Thanks all.

    Oh, BTW, today 2 Nov is the hundred year anniversary of the day that Lord Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild letting him know that the Brisitsh government had agreed to give the Zionist movement land in Palestine. Here is a direct quote from that letter:

    “…it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    • Sam F
      November 3, 2017 at 11:38

      Yes, this condition is conspicuously ignored by zionists and their opportunists in the US oligarchy mass media and USG.

  4. Marko
    November 3, 2017 at 01:12

    I can only assume that since Fuller is commonly featured here , that Robert Parry has no serious issues with the impact that Fuller’s ideas and actions have had on U.S. foreign policy and its domestic ramifications over recent decades. I would no more look to Fuller to gain truthful insights on the issues of the day than I would look to John McCain or Henry Kissinger.

    This is more than just a bit disappointing to me. I feel gutted.

  5. turk151
    November 1, 2017 at 17:06

    “–Destroy armed radical jihadi groups anywhere — unilaterally or via proxy.”

    should be revised to:

    “–Create armed radical jihadi groups anywhere — unilaterally or via proxy.”

    But, otherwise a fine article.

  6. November 1, 2017 at 15:42

    What it all boils down to is that the world does not want to be saved by the USA it wants to be protected from the USA.

  7. Sam F
    November 1, 2017 at 12:43

    The article makes sensible suggestions on the demilitarization of US foreign policy. But it makes no case at all for an “inevitable ‘one-state solution’ for Palestinians and Israelis — in a democratic and binational secular state.”

    This cannot work because:
    1. Democracy fails with major entrenched, angry, distrustful, irrational factions (see Ukraine, US before Civil War);
    2. Both factions are heavily religious, so could not agree on secular policies;
    3. Obviously the Jews would tyrannize the Palestinians economically if they could not do so with direct force;
    4. At least three generations of peace with demilitarized dual states with a DMZ are necessary before cooperation;
    5. The zionists are led by violent extremists who maintain power by tyrannizing their own people.
    Mr. Fuller would have to argue much more than the difficulty of a two-state solution to show that a single state is “inevitable,” but has made no argument at all.

    It is improper to slip in an unsupported unrelated policy conclusion in a general article, in appearing to be the propaganda pretense of general acceptance.

  8. Abe
    November 1, 2017 at 12:16

    Fuller makes a heroic effort to state the obvious concerning Israel, but conspicuously neglects to mention Israel’s loud threats of war against Lebanon and Syria, ultimately directed at Iran.

    Then, echoing the anti-Iran propaganda boilerplate rhetoric of John McCain and all the rest of the pro-Israel Lobby, Fuller hammers on the old theme that Iran somehow is a “massive winner from nearly all U.S. policies in the region over two decades”.

    I doubt the Iranians would agree with this nonsense. In many areas, United States sanctions against Iran substantially remain in effect, U.S. military forces surround Iran, and threats of war abound.

    Fuller pairs “Turkey and Iran” and predictably describes Erdogan as a “loose cannon”.

    Beyond admitting a few undeniable facts about Israeli influence on U.S. foreign policy, and his requisite jab at Erdogan, Fuller has little else to offer.

    Deeper analysis of the strategic environment in the Middle East would examine Turkey’s role in the game. Here’s an example:

    “Despite all its efforts to demonise Turkey and Muslims, the West doesn’t really want Turkey on the opposite side, because it also has historical memory. To appease the millions of EU citizens whose homelands were ruled by the Ottomans for 500 years, it would have to deal with Russia as a partner, however much those same people also hate the Russians.

    “This was confirmed by the recent Turkish military action in Syria, which was undertaken in collaboration with the Russians. It was only a year ago that Turkey shot down a Russian jet over Syria, an action which had severe diplomatic repercussions. Russia would not be working with Turkey, or vice versa, unless the two countries had identified a mutual interest which overrode any conflict between them.

    “The basis of this mutual interest is spelled out in the Astana memorandum, signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey. This establishes de-escalation areas in a number of locations in Syria, in which conflict is supposed to end and humanitarian assistance is to be provided, which will be policed by these three countries. It confirms that the three countries will continue to fight ISIS and other groups declared terrorist by the UN, but that everyone else should respect a ceasefire within these zones.

    “According to global affairs analyst Patrick Henningsen, this memorandum reformulates the language of the Syrian conflict from the fabricated, inverted reality used by NATO and moves its centre of gravity eastwards, by making the regional powers responsible for resolving the conflict. As a Kremlin press release from Sept. 25 says: ‘The Syrian de-escalation zones give an opening for putting an end to the civil war in the country and for a political settlement of the crisis based on respect for Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity.’

    “This action is a direct contradiction of the US and NATO policy of removing Assad because he is considered the greater threat. The nature of the de-escalation zones, as spelled out, also makes them starkly different to the demilitarised zones established by NATO during the Balkan Wars, which were never demilitarised from within but became arms dumps from which attacks on Serbs were launched with impunity.

    “Furthermore, it was the US which instigated the Syrian conflict by selecting ‘moderate’ terrorists it could use to create a Kurdish state in the region. If other powers walk in and sort it out, more attention will be paid to this, and US freedom of action in other countries will be curtailed. We might also note that US-Turkish relations have been on the rocks since Washington refused to extradite the US-based Gulen to Turkey. With Trump under pressure in the US for alleged illegal links with the Russians, it will soon be asked why this action was taken, when it produced the diplomatic outcome Russia wanted but the West didn’t.

    “For all these reasons, these zones present a challenge to the West. But if this challenge is met head on this will drive Turkey into Russia’s orbit, not Europe’s, and all parties concerned know Europe hasn’t got the nerve to do that.”

    https://journal-neo.org/2017/10/31/does-russia-see-turkish-dominance-of-the-middle-east-as-a-good-thing/

    But that sort of discussion all waaay beyond Fuller’s “former senior CIA official” capacities of analysis

    In any event, one may very well expect a few more “terrorist incidents” to erupt that conveniently “help” Europe find “the nerve”.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    November 1, 2017 at 12:09

    In the beginning George Washington gave us some pretty sound advice, and that was to ‘beware of foreign entanglements’. Although in time Americans have come to believe that the ‘Munich Agreement’ was a utter failure, because it left the door open for Hitler to invade Poland, but holy cow America wasn’t even part of that agreement that was doomed from the very start. In fact there are mountains of evidence that there was a substantial amount of American dollars, and business agreements made with the Third Reich. So, one could argue that America’s biggest blunder of inaction was really posed to be the other way around, as with how American businesses at that time in history were entangling itself through business with the likes of Hitler, and to their betterment to gain a huge profit by doing so.

    So here America is today, stretched out across the globe, apparently finding it better to get itself all entangled up into other nations affairs. The most disappointing part of all of this, is that while we Americans are led to believe that all of this warmongering is done to protect America’s Homeland it’s really just another way as for the American politician to issue more favoritism towards their Israeli and Saudi Arabian benefactors. We American citizens have been had.

    • Seer
      November 2, 2017 at 03:39

      Joe, one has to wonder whether the oligarchs want this fracturing of governments. Seems that there are basically two tracks (well, there’s something else, but POWER won’t allow something else): 1) One World Government; 2) Corporate rule. One could say there are “positives” with each (mostly combating the other’s negatives), but given the nature of humans, these, or any other means, would eventually be what we now see (and have always seen)- power grabs. And once power is wielded abuse is necessary.

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 2, 2017 at 10:19

        You know Seer you make an excellent point, that we are being led like cattle towards something more awful than what we now currently have. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t believe anything the government tells us. So if the future plan is to end with a one world order, no borders, no money as we know it, then that will explain somehow all the lying, and where these lies were meant to lead us all along. Joe

  10. Myles Hagar
    November 1, 2017 at 11:53

    If you are following reports from Russia and China, you will know that the U.S. has become irrelevant and the rest of the world is quickly moving on along a co-operative, peaceful, totally different path. They are avoiding confrontation and stepping aside as the Empire implodes upon itself without any provocation from them.

    • john wilson
      November 1, 2017 at 15:27

      They might be ignoring it at the moment Myles, but an attack on North Korea is imminent so when it happens the Russians and
      especially the Chinese will most certainly have to sit up and take notice. As I mention above, I will be amazed if the Yanks don’t attack North Korea within the next 6 months.

      • mike k
        November 1, 2017 at 17:46

        Your fears are well founded John. The preemptive strike make well occur this month. I hope Kim Jong Un will keep his trap shut (fat chance) and not egg Trump on, and give him the excuses he needs to order this attack. When this shit hits this fan, the world will be up for grabs, and probably done for.

      • turk 151
        November 1, 2017 at 19:35

        The US does not fight real wars and N. Korea would be a real war.

      • Sam F
        November 3, 2017 at 11:28

        Let’s not promote a Korea scare: the US threats are likely propaganda against the People of the US.

        It is very unlikely that even the US oligarchy would attack NK:
        1. There is no bribery money for that in DC: the zionists, MIC, and KSA would get nothing;
        2. Trade with China and Russia can be disrupted more easily otherwise;
        3. Casualties in NK and SK would be in the millions with no gain for anyone and much discredit;
        4. Russia would not be affected; China’s Monroe Doctrine in surrounding waters would be unaffected;

        The likely motives for US threats against NK are:
        1. To distract and conceal war preparations with Israel/KSA in Lebanon/Syria./Iraq/Iran;
        2. To beat war drums for domestic political effects and war spending for the MIC;
        3. To build up a right wing in China/Russia/Korea/Iran for mutual threats to build the right wing in the US.

      • turk151
        November 3, 2017 at 12:22

        The only way we will have a real war in N. Korea, is if someone makes a mistake, that is, with all the saber-rattling going on right now, fly-overs, etc. someone, with access to real weapons, takes the theater seriously. This is not an insignificant possibility.

    • Shahram23
      November 7, 2017 at 10:02

      Unfortunately, that still leaves the US, poked incessantly by the Israelis and Saudis with Trump at its helm, brimming with weaponry it so desperately wants to inflict on its ‘enemies’
      with a load of pissed-off generals and neoliberals who see Iran as one of the main reasons
      the US was thwarted (among other things) in its Iraq misadventures. These are generals
      around Trump who were on the ground in Iraq and experienced the backlash of Iranian
      supported opposition. Their bellicosity toward Iran and proximity to the Netanyahu narrative makes the situation even more dangerous…given the pushback in the US toward warmongering is pretty feeble.

  11. Drew Hunkins
    November 1, 2017 at 10:43

    Watch for Russiagate to slowly fade away as the breathless mainstream media topic du jour if Trump really truly gets on board with Netanyahu’s plans to have Washington launch military strikes on Tehran.

    Professor James Petras has a stunning piece from last week in which he writes that it seems Trump is now starting to let Netanyahu pull him around like a lapdog while some of ‘the generals” are uneasy about it.

    It’ll be fascinating and likely quite dismaying to see how this all plays out over the next couple of years. Power faction versus power faction versus power faction, some using Russiagate, others discarding it if Trump plays the psychopathic Zio game, only time will tell.

    Missing from all this is any serious presence of a truly progressive-populist anti war movement that clearly sees through all the phony baloney and doesn’t hitch its wagon to the DNC, Rachelle Maddow, or an Antifa that seems more focused on going after bogeymen who don’t really matter.

    • john wilson
      November 1, 2017 at 15:23

      Drew, I think you will find that the main course for lunch in the coming war with Iran is with Korea because there are ever more reports of a continuous build up of ships and war apparatus by the Americans off the coast of the Korean peninsular. This has caused North Korean officials to have evacuation drills from the cities. Iran will be the second course after the Americans have murdered most of the North Korean population and laid waste to their country. This will serve as an example to Iran to capitulate and bow down before their Yankee masters. I will be amazed if the Yanks don’t attack Korea within the next 6 months or sooner.

    • mike k
      November 1, 2017 at 17:40

      Good and true thoughts Drew. An anti war movement would need large numbers of citizens who have somehow freed themselves from the comprehensive brainwashing narratives they had previously bought into. This site and others could be very helpful in that, but how do we get more people to be willing to take a good look here and at other investigative sites? The establishment is clearly afraid of the internet, but how do we get people to use it, so that we can really make the PTB VERY AFRAID?

      • Drew Hunkins
        November 1, 2017 at 18:13

        Great points all mike k.

        The sick thing is that folks who read WaPo, listen to NPR, watch MSDNC and believe all the bellicosity and Russophobia dripping off the page and screen are the first to declare that WE (you and I and all of our peace & justice desiring brethren) are the naive ones ingesting fake news, and that we’re conspiracy mongers by reading independent sites like ConsortiumNews and Counterpunch and a couple of other outlets.

        It’s truly maddening and almost has an ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ feel to it all.

      • mike k
        November 1, 2017 at 19:08

        I have often thought of Body Snatchers these days. Or you could call it Brain Thieves. Are we surrounded by propaganda zombies? You bet.

      • November 4, 2017 at 01:13

        Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” seems applicable as well … And, if only Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame were still alive to share his perceptions of the world today. Many are totally unaware that writer Rod Serling was forced to resort to fiction to express his political and philosophical beliefs, because in his time – just as now – those who speak the truth are effectively censored by the major corporate media/broadcast organizations in America. One can see in Twilight Zone episodes Serling wrote a clear line of social criticism and activism.

        Peace.

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