Bluster and Begging: The Duality of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East
The Bush administration requested Syria’s participation in “calming the situation” in Iraq. Bashar al-Asad received letters from Bush and Colin Powell concerning bilateral relations and Iraq.
At the same time, Gen. Myers insisted that foreign fighters continued to infiltrate from Syria and Iran, criticizing the two countries for seeking their interests or protecting themselves.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage announced that he would undertake a tour of Gulf countries to seek their help in dealing with the “problems in the Sunni area” of Iraq, and asking them to play a political role in containing the situation there. He said he just wanted them to reassure the Sunni Arabs that they would have a place in the new Iraq, but was not asking for the dispatch of Gulf troops. Since Armitage has just had the rug pulled out from under him with regard to Arab diplomacy by Bush’s formal induction into the Likud Party on Thursday as a back bencher for his party leader Ariel Sharon, it is a little unlikely that Arab diplomats are going to want to do any favors for the US right about now.
I have concluded that the Bush administration is like Iran. The Iranian government has two of everything. It has a relatively liberal president, and a hardline supreme jurisprudent. The reformists control the foreign ministry, the hardliners control the military. The reformists have some parliament representatives, the hardliners control the Guardian Council, which has the power of judicial review over parliament. You never know with the Iranian government who is on top or what a policy means, since it could be coming from either competing section of the same government.
Likewise, in the Bush administration, the Pentagon has its own foreign policy, which competes with and often trumps the foreign policy of the State Department and the National Security Council. Thus, Gen. Myers is pointing fingers at Iran and Syria and making all sorts of wild accusations at them, darkly hinting they will be overthrown if they don’t shape up. And Colin Powell is writing them polite letters about bilateral relations and could they please use their good offices to help the Americans in Iraq. It is bizarre, and the urbane, canny leaders in Damascus and Tehran (who have long experience of residence in the UK and Germany respectively), must be scratching their heads in wonder at this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde American hyperpower that rages about an axis of evil and goes about preemptively invading countries on the one hand and then comes politely, hat in hand, to request selfless assistance on the other.