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08/11/2022

Biden’s trip to West Asia and the US’s frustrated ambitions

Biden’s trip to West Asia and the US’s frustrated ambitions

Nearly simultaneously with the Tehran Summit, US President Joe Biden visited the region. What was the outcome of this visit?

First of all, I would say this: The US has lost trust in West Asia. To give a couple of examples: that the US-Iran nuclear negotiations did not satisfy Saudi Arabia, the significant withdrawal of US military forces from the region, the defeat in Afghanistan, the isolation of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and the war in Ukraine. The states of the region are more and more convinced that the US cannot protect them. They realized that simply leaning on the US alone is not enough. The Ibrahim Accords are done, but that is not enough. Despite the accords, the countries in the region feel that the US cannot defend them against Iran. Biden had to meet with the person he called a murderer. The US demanded Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, but with little success.

The US is still in the regional equation, but with Biden’s visit it has become clear that the US is not the decisive power there. Consequently, the ambitions of the US in the region, such as the “Arab NATO”, have been frustrated.

Zakho attack: who did it?

Immediately after the Tehran Summit, an attack took place in Zakho/Iraq, and civilians lost their lives. Some officials and some groups blamed Türkiye. What is your assessment?

This happened right after the Tehran Summit. This is an action to put Türkiye in a difficult situation.  Who could have done it? Some people think of Iranian-backed forces, but I believe that this action was carried out by US intelligence through a subcontractor. This move is intended to worsen the relations between Türkiye, Iraq and Iran.  Especially the conflict between Türkiye and Iran is a definite target of the US. If one pays attention, the attack was carried out at a time when the government in Iraq could not be formed and confusion about it was going on. The presidential candidate that Iran is closer to in Iraq is different from the one Türkiye is closer to. It was done at such a time that they made it look like Iran was behind it. Thus, the way was paved for the comments that “Iran wants Türkiye to leave the region”, but it is the westerners who really want Türkiye to leave.

There are also differences between the perspectives of Türkiye, Iraq and Iran. Türkiye and the Sadr group in Iraq see Iraq as an Arab state, but Iran sees Iraq as a Shiite state. The US is also exploiting the distinctions between Iraqi Shiism and Iranian Shiism to increase its influence. These topics require a very cautious approach. It was these kinds of conflicts that Huntington was dealing with his book Clash of Civilizations”. Ethnic and sectarian divisions should be treated very calmly.

The US wants to achieve its ambitions in the Greater Middle East Project. It is not at all true that the US has abandoned these plans. If they get the opportunity, they will try to implement it.

The grain corridor and Türkiye’s humanitarian mission

An agreement on the grain corridor was reached in Istanbul with the participation of representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations. What was the role of Türkiye in this?

The US previously had not welcomed the meeting between Russia and Ukraine in Antalya/Türkiye and Türkiye’s hosting of the meeting. Some Western states likewise. The US wants to prolong the war and wear Russia down.

The agreement on the grain corridor is one of Türkiye’s major diplomatic achievements.  The West is only giving arms to Ukraine.  But Türkiye is doing a humanitarian work. There are starving people and the grain needs to be delivered to them.

If we look at the strategic dimension of the issue, the failure in the transportation of grain may lead to famine and therefore to migrations. In return, these migrations may lead to conflicts.

What is important for the rest is that the process should start as soon as possible and not be delayed for minor reasons. There may be some provocations in the meantime. That is why the Joint Coordination Center established in the Istanbul agreement is so important.

Türkiye has undertaken a very important mission and gotten this far in a very short time. Other countries should also appreciate and support Türkiye. Any migration that will occur as a result of failure to solve this problem will affect not only Türkiye but also all countries.

Ismail Hakkı Pekin
Retired Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakkı Pekin is the former Head of Turkey’s General Staff Intelligence Agency between 2007-2011. He was born in 1951 in Iznik. He is married and is the father of two children.

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