Biden’s ‘Greater Middle East’ Peace Push Lacks Any Meaningful Progress

By Andrew Korybko

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Biden

The reason for this is that the US refuses to learn from its mistakes contrary to its post-Trump rhetoric, which has resulted in scant progress being made in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya.

The Biden Administration isn’t serious about bringing peace to the four countries in the so-called “Greater Middle East” whose suffering the US is responsible for. Whether it’s his over-hyped policy pivot in Yemen, the stalled peace processes in Afghanistan and Syria, or the seemingly forgotten war in Libya, the new American leader appears to be all talk and no real action, at least for the time being. The reason for this is that the US refuses to learn from its mistakes contrary to its post-Trump rhetoric, which has resulted in scant progress being made on any of those four fronts. What follows is a brief review of the current situation in each of those countries, after which some policy suggestions will be shared for jump-starting those peace processes.

Yemen

Biden’s decision to suspend all US military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen was a positive move, but his subsequent ceasefire proposal failed to live up to expectations. It doesn’t fully lift the blockade that’s responsible for what the United Nations previously described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This suggests that his administration is playing a Machiavellian game with the Ansarullah (“Houthi”) rebels whereby the threat of famine is being weaponized as a means of politically pressuring them into unilateral concessions. Instead of being treated as an equally legitimate party to the peace process like the Biden Administration officially regards them as after lifting their prior terrorist designation, they’re treated as a junior one.

Afghanistan

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad appeared to follow in the diplomatic footsteps of his Russian counterpart, Zamir Kabulov, by recently suggesting the creation of an interim government that includes the Taliban. Despite being officially designated as a terrorist organization, world powers have pragmatically engaged with the group over the years in an effort to support the country’s fledgling peace process. No political solution is possible without the Taliban’s participation. The problem, however, is that the Biden Administration is under internal pressure not to complete former President Trump’s previously promised military withdrawal by this May, which risks undermining last year’s peace accord with the Taliban and thus prolonging the war.

Syria

Out of the four examined conflicts, the US is the least serious about bringing peace to Syria, which it no longer even tries to hide. It bombed the country last month on the pretext of targeting allegedly Iranian-affiliated militias that it blamed for attacking American forces in Iraq. The US also continues to tighten its brutal sanctions regime against Syria with the intent of forcing its democratically elected and legitimate leadership into submission. There are also credible reports from official Syrian, Russian, and Iranian sources that the US’ illegal occupation forces support terrorists. The US hasn’t learned anything despite the disastrous war that it’s waged there through hybrid means over the past decade. Its present policy is therefore doomed to fail.

Libya

Most of the world seems to have forgotten about this conflict, but a ceasefire was surprisingly agreed to late last year between its main warring sides: the UN-recognized government in Tripoli and the rebellious Tobruk-based administration in the east most prominently represented by General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army. This in turn led to the creation of an interim government that’ll preside over the country until elections this December. All of this sounds good on paper, but the problem is that Libya has already been down a similar path before but with no success. That’s because its internal divisions are exacerbated through the involvement of foreign forces, but such external actors aren’t negotiating between themselves to pursuit of peace.

Policy Suggestions

In the order that they were mentioned, here’s what the Biden Administration must do in order to jump-start the peace processes in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya:

* Demand the full and immediate lifting of the Saudi-led blockade on Yemen without any preconditions in order to satisfy the Yemeni people’s humanitarian needs and influence the Ansarullah to agree to a ceasefire;

* Respect last year’s peace agreement by withdrawing all US forces from Afghanistan by this May in parallel with accelerating the creation of an interim government with the Taliban to facilitate a forthcoming ceasefire;

* Respect the outcome of this spring’s presidential elections that will likely lead to President Assad’s re-election and use that as the long-overdue pretext for entering into talks with Damascus without preconditions;

* and convene international talks between the US, France, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE with the intent of coordinating each major external party’s post-war vision ahead of meaningful intra-Libyan peace talks.

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