There is a remarkable absence of a comprehensive US foreign policy in the Middle East with the Obama administration missing the beat on just about every major event in the region.
Concentrated US presence is missing in Syria, where the civil war has now been raging for three years, killed 150,000, maimed probably twice that number and forced some nine million Syrians, out of a total population of 22 million people, into exile. Allowing this war to continue is not only a tragedy and a crime, but it is attracting radical elements from all over the world, many from Western Europe and the United States and among whom many will one day return to their home countries and engage in terrorist acts. See what FBI Director James B. Comey had to say about this issue:
“It is one of my greatest worries in the counter¬terrorism area,” Comey said. “The conflict in Syria has attracted so many people from so many places of so many motivations, including Americans, that it is an enormous challenge for all intelligence services, including the FBI, to identify the ones of bad intent, to figure out where they’re going, why they’re going and keep track of them.”
He added: “As long as people are flowing in, learning how to kill other people and meeting really bad people, it’s going to be a big worry.”
US presence is missing in Lebanon where the Syrian war is starting to seep over and where not much is required before rival Lebanese groups start fighting each other. All that is needed to unleash the violence there is only one misplaced gunshot. Allowing the seepage of mujahedeen fighters into Lebanon and within close proximity to Israel is a monumental mistake that all parties will live to regret.
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A comprehensive US policy is missing in the Palestinian Territories. After the initial interest displayed in trying to reach a comprehensive agreement and find an acceptable settlement to the six-decade old conflict when he first came into office and prematurely won a Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama has practically given up on further attempts at trying to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians. If overall the Palestinian territories are quiet on the surface, there is a potential demographic time bomb percolating below that surface. Particularly in Gaza. The longer the Palestinian issue is left on its own, the harder it will fall and the bigger the explosion is likely to be.
Likewise it is missing in the Gulf where ever since the end of World War II the United States had enjoyed a very special relationship with the local powerhouse, Saudi Arabia. Again, after a strong disagreement over military intervention the two fell apart when Washington refused to launch air strikes on Syria.
In Egypt, where once strong ties with Washington existed have all but disappeared as Washington refused to support the military coup, although the Obama administration was careful not to call the forceful removal of the democratically elected president by an armed military force, ”a coup.”
Now with American influence ebbing in the region, the Russians are making a comeback in places like Egypt, until recently a guarded US zone of influence. Now even in Saudi Arabia, where the Soviet Union was more detested than the devil incarnate, the authorities are flirting with the Russians and the Chinese.
The once tight relations that the United States enjoyed with many Arab countries is becoming a distant memory. That critical absence of policy will be further felt when Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is elected president in Egypt, as is now expected.
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Sisi was cleared to run for president by the country's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), setting the stage for what is widely expected to be an easy glide into the presidency by the broadly popular military figure.
Sisi emerged as Egypt's most popular figure after the army's July 2013 ouster of then-president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-linked government, which came amid mass protest calling for Morsi's resignation and early elections. Egypt's English-language Ahram Online this weekend described Sisi as "the Brotherhood's arch-foe" and assessed that the Islamist organization is "more outcast than ever."
A win by Sisi may end up making relations with Washington even more complicated and complex. But then again, when were things not complicated in the Middle East.
By. Claude Salhani
Claude Salhani is a journalist and political analyst. He is Senior editor with Trend News Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan. He specializes in the Greater Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at @claudesalhani.