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Two new beginnings

Jan 12,2019 - Last updated at Jan 12,2019

Recent shuttle diplomacy by American envoys in the region aims at solidifying a new regional order to confront Iran’s influence and expansionist policies. This new regional order, known as Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), rises from the ashes of “the age of self-inflicted American shame”, which US Secretary of State Pompeo declared as “over” at his speech to the American University in Cairo (AUC) on Thursday. The speech was a scathing rebuttal of president Barack Obama’s speech on June 4, 2009. Obama’s speech was more reconciliation-oriented, while Pompeo’s was more contemptuous and confrontational, especially in reference to Iran.

Owing to his ideological background as an evangelical Christian and a military and intelligence official, Pompeo wants to reinvigorate American power projection. He conveyed that America cannot walk out of the region with unfinished business left behind. Hence, Obama’s new beginning, military withdrawal, was blamed for the rise of Daesh and the expansion of Iran’s influence in Iraq, Yemen and Syria. Pompeo’s new order is meant to rectify Obama’s approach, by reinstating America’s power projection. Caught between the two approaches, the region continues to pay the price through active wars. Now, there is a build up for what looks like a new war with Iran, if pressure does not deliver a denuclearisation.

This build up is already well under way diplomatically and in terms of negative framing of Iran in international public opinion. Pompeo announced on Friday a global conference which will be held in Poland on  February 13-14 to address the Iran issue. The details he announced in his speech at the AUC about the capabilities of Hizbollah’s missiles remind us all of the type of “information” published prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The proposed conference may result in a list of demands to Iran with timelines. If, and when, Iran does not meet these demands, the attendees may become the nucleus of the new “coalition of the willing” to attack Iran. Recent declarations from Saudi Arabia and Israel clearly demonstrate that there is no lack of enthusiasts to curb Iran and “clip its wings”.

Establishing MESA is another major part of anti-Iran buildup. It is proposed to include Israel, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Cooperation Council partners, including Qatar, which has good working relations with Iran, and Oman, which has mediated between Iran and its declared enemies. Although Iran’s policies are not conducive to more stability in the region, it will be preferable to MESA to have a diplomatic, rather than a military, resolution. Thus, it is expected that Iran will face more pressure, which may push the mullahs to take a harder anti-MESA line, escalating tensions further.

 

The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. [email protected]

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