Political Observation - Rex Tillerson’s Middle East Tour

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation - Rex Tillerson’s Middle East Tour

US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, ended a very significant two-day visit to Turkey on 16 February 2018 as part of a tour to the region that included visits to Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon.The importance of this tour is that it came at a time when the region is undergoing rapid and major events. With the exception of the Iraq reconstruction conference that took place in Kuwait and the attempt to diffuse the situation between Israel and Lebanon regarding the construction of the border wall and gas exploration in the Ballout region, Tillerson's visit to Ankara was of paramount importance in this tour.

Secretary Tillerson began his tour on Sunday, 11 February 2018, in Egypt, where he affirmed US support for the presidential election farce there; and while in Jordan, Tillerson succeeded in signing a memorandum of understanding for the strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan, the aim of which was to renew the US military presence there for an annual payment of $1.3 billion for the next 5 years.

Tillerson also met with a delegation of the Syrian opposition in Amman instead of Turkey where the most prominent members of the opposition reside whom he visited later. Tillerson preferred to meet with the delegation in Amman to send a message to Turkey that the US is able to deal directly with the Syrian opposition without any Turkish mediation. The meeting was a message to Russia as well that the US intends to take the reins of the political initiative itself, and it shall not rely solely on other political tracks such as Geneva, Sochi or Astana.

However, the chief-in-importance stop in Tillerson’s visit is Turkey where critical negotiations are due to take place considering the deep disagreement between the two governments. Turkey's operation Olive Branch has thrown a spanner in the works of the American plan to establish a Kurdish political and military entity in northern Syria.

Facing Turkey's determination to continue the war against the Kurdish forces under the pretext of protecting its national security and with undeclared Russian support, Tillerson’s visit aimed to stop the Afrin operation and prevent an advance of the Turkish forces to Manbij by putting forth proposals that the Turkish leadership may accept. 

Despite the nearly four hour meeting between Secretary Tillerson and President Erdogan on the first day, a joint meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the second day and a press conference and a joint statement, no clear outlook emerged for an official American proposal to overcome the deep crisis between Turkey and the US.

However, what has been officially announced is the "establishment of a joint mechanism" by mid-March to resolve the differences between Washington and Ankara.

Excluding the American proposal to establish a safe zone in northern Syria that Turkey rejected as being a mere hoax to stop the Afrin operation, the leaked new proposal entails an American withdrawal from Manbij in return for the Turkish army not entering the city centre of Afrin. Another proposition involves a Kurdish retreat to East Euphrates in exchange for a Turkish and a US military presence in the region of Manbij, in addition to a host of American guarantees acceptable to Turkey concerning the presence of Kurdish Protection Units in eastern Syria.

It is clear that Olive Branch has dealt a fatal blow to the American plan of establishing a Kurdish entity in northern Syria. Moreover, it is true that the US has taken control over Syria's agricultural and oil wealth due to its control of Raqqa, Deir ez-Zour and northeastern Syria. However, the situation is far from being settled, especially after the emergence of a real and public dispute between the US and Russia on the Kurdish issue. Russia, though politically embracing the Kurds and adopting federalism in Syria, does not want to establish an independent Kurdish entity as America seeks. The Russian foreign minister expressed this position and candidly accused the US of dividing Syria and provoking Turkey on more than one occasion.

Russia's stance stems from her awareness of the serious threat this plan poses not only on Syria but also the territorial integrity of Russia in the coming years, not to mention the plan’s potential to weaken both Turkey and Iran, who are viewed by Russia as the vanguards to the protecting her stability.

It appears that America is behind the downing of the Russian jet, as well as the drone strike on Hmeimim airbase before that which were preceded by the demise of a top Russian military adviser on the outskirts of Deir ez-Zour last September, the recent battles in the Koneko oil field in Deir ez-Zour and the death of several Russian contractors (mercenaries). These are all direct US messages to Russia urging it to observe its relations with America and cease its cooperation with Turkey.

However, it seems that Russia is determined to cooperate with Turkey in an attempt to prevent the US from being the sole determiner of Syria’s future, especially after the renewed Russian fears of an American failure to comply with previous agreements. This was evident in downing the Israeli jet fighter with a drone in the Golan Heights that was then attributed to Iran and the Syrian regime’s defenses.

By downing the Israeli fighter, Russia sought to shuffle the rules of engagement and drag Israel into the war in Syria, which would frustrate America's plans, in light of Turkey's determination to fight the pro-Pentagon Kurdish organizations. It is true that Russia does not have the ability to confront America head-on, in Syria or elsewhere, but it has the tools to impede America's projects in Syria, especially after it has acquired a military presence in the Hmeimim airbase and Tartus naval base.

Given the new circumstances, a Russian attempt to capitalize on the increased tensions between Turkey and the United States is expected in order to strike at the unity of NATO from within. However, that does not mean that America will stop pushing for the implementation of parts of the Greater Middle East Initiative in the region, despite Turkish military intervention and rising tensions with Russia upsetting some of its plans in Syria.

The Turkish military intervention in Afrin (Operation Olive Branch) and previously Operation Euphrates Shield have proven that confronting America and thwarting some or all of her plans is within the grasp of anyone who strives to control his political and military volition, a process that entails manufacturing one’s own weapons.

It seems clear from the Turkish insistence on the Afrin operation that this is a tactical move towards her strategic objective of controlling Manbij and expelling the Kurdish Protection Units to East Euphrates, thus smoothing her path towards upping the ante to gain a better deal in the region from the US, the most important of which is suspending US support for the Kurdish units and retrieving their heavy weapons, then withdrawing the Kurdish units from the Arab territories under their control, thus paving the way for the return of the Syrians to their land headed by refugees in Turkey.

The question remains, will Turkey dare to engage the US in a direct military confrontation if the latter refuses a Kurdish withdrawal from Manbij? Or will America fail its Kurdish agents in Manbij in the same way it did in Afrin and before that in Iraqi Kurdistan in order to maintain its relationship with Turkey, its NATO ally, and to prevent a further tightening of Turkish-Russian relations and cooperation? Manbij is a real test for the Turkish leadership, the US government and the course of their relationship. This is clearly what the Turkish foreign minister meant at the joint press conference with US Secretary of State Tillerson when he said: "Ankara will be able to take joint steps with the United States in Syria once the Kurdish People's Protection Units leave the Syrian city of Manbij."

30 Jumada al-Oulah 1439
16 February 2018 

 

 

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    20 Rabi’ al-Awwal 1444h                                hizbuttahrir.org
    15 November 2022

     

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    Political Follow-up - The Assassination Attempt Against Imran Khan

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    In the context of the event, we draw attention to the fact that the removal of Imran Khan from the premiership last April was an American decision, which was exposed by the complicity of the army which is closely linked to the United States, and the position of America’s agents in the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) and of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), who formed an opposition front against Khan's continuation in government. We also draw attention to the fact that what is happening in Pakistan falls within the framework of the American interest in restructuring the domestic Pakistani situation, which is suffocated by the economic deterioration and the contempt of the military and political authorities and families from Punjab in corruption and monopoly of power.

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    America and its men in Pakistan perceived clearly Imran Khan’s message and took advantage of his moves to restructure the domestic situation, but he went too far in his domestic and foreign behaviour, which America considers to be taboo that threatens to challenge its will and audacity against it in Pakistan and elsewhere. Therefore, America decided to punish him with an assassination operation that would add fuel to the fire and put the political and military leadership under pressure of the masses to force them to change their behaviour, reshape and purge the domestic structures, especially since the excessive corruption of the old guard and the army’s control of the economy is no longer tolerated by the masses;  it also threatens American interests, just as America is seeking to generate influence on China and neighbouring India by deterring and controlling the Indian political and military milieu from the restructuring of the Pakistani situation.

    In the context of curtailing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the United States, through the Pakistani government, supported the "Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan Movement ", which is headquartered in the city of Lahore in Punjab, and enjoys representation in the government. The movement was exhorted to stand up to the defamation of the Messenger (saw), assume the role of the opposition, attract and contain the masses who are resentful towards the authority and jostle with Imran Khan and the PTI, which has become a weight in Pakistani political life that enables it to transcend domestic politics and foreign dictates.

    Despite the reactions of America, the army leadership, Pakistani President Arif Alvi, and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, which strongly condemned the assassination attempt, the truth is that there is a clear American will to control Imran Khan and keep him away from the political scene with a group of his party leaders, especially since he was ousted from power and has been directing his arrows towards America and its agents in the state with unprecedented defiance in Pakistani political life, as well as his rapprochement with China and his persistence in the approach that contributed to establishing and building the Sino-Pakistani economic zone and a number of projects, which were integrated with the Belt and Road Initiative. The value of the projects implemented and under implementation amounted to nearly $50 billion, which is the largest Chinese investment in the developing world, while Chinese loans to Pakistan in recent years amounted to about $11 billion, in light of the decline in US financial support. This is in addition to Imran Khan’s rapprochement with Russia, which was demonstrated by Pakistan's abstention from voting on the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia and declaring that Pakistan would continue buying wheat and oil from it, while the Pakistani army chief, Qamar Javid, disagreed with him, stressing that his country has "a history and an excellent strategic relationship with America." Qamar Javid also slammed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, referring to the centrality of the army and its importance to American interests, after the American criticism of Pakistan had affected the government and the army.

    All of this explains the reasons behind America's resentment towards Imran Khan and the reasons behind deposing and punishing him harshly. Khan had previously stated that America supported the opposition in its attempt to overthrow him because of his visit to Moscow and his meeting with Vladimir Putin on February 24, 2022. This made the Pakistani army leaders who objected to his visit to Moscow express their resentment at Imran Khan's accusations that they formed part of the American conspiracy that ousted him through Parliament.

    As a result of Khan’s continued troublemaking behaviour towards the regime through the continuous demonstrations and his insistence on running for office and exerting popular pressure to dissuade the government and the army from disqualifying him, and after he had attracted tens of thousands of supporters in the march that began on October 28, and embroiled the masses into politics, which America prohibits despite the benefits it reaped from politicising the masses in terms of reshaping the domestic structures, harming or assassinating him, as was the case with some of his predecessors, purging his party of dissidents, and removing them from the political scene became a favourite option for his opponents. This is because the United States does not allow the masses to have an influential word in Islamic countries with large populations such as Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia; thus, it entrusts the running of their regimes to the army and the collaborating leaders.

    This narrative was admitted by Pakistani Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) between 1987 and 1989; he confirmed that the United States had some treacherous inputs on senior military appointments and emphasised that Washington had extensive networks of influence across Pakistan's political, academic, and media aspects, as well as the diplomatic elite.

    It is clear from the aforementioned that Imran Khan's behaviour has transgressed the rules of the domestic and foreign political game; on the day the popular march was launched against what he called the "imported government," he declared: "This nation is ready to make all sacrifices, but it will not accept thieves. The aim of the march is for the people to make decisions for themselves." This was in addition to his previous statement on May 23, when he called his supporters for a peaceful march to press for new elections and described the march as a "step towards protecting the country's sovereignty", and that "the vote that ousted him was a conspiracy organised by the United States."

    The assassination attempt on Imran Khan came after the assassination of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif on 23 October in Kenya. Arshad Sharif had been briefed by Imran Khan on the contents of the notorious letter from Pakistan's ambassador to Washington. Among the repercussions of the assassination attempt, it is expected that Imran Khan’s popularity will increase, pressure will increase on the government of Shahbaz Sharif and the Election Commission to prevent Imran Khan’s candidacy, and Khan will turn into a complex number in the political equation, and that the regime will resort to cosmetic changes under the pressure of societal unrest, which may provide a justification for the army to intervene and seize power in order to prevent events from getting out of control.

    The events may lead Pakistan to chaos and civil war, Allah forbid, especially since the geopolitical position of Pakistan constitutes a hotbed of tension for China, and it is feared that the United States will plunge Pakistan into chaos, and ignite fighting in the Pakistani-Indian border, and in the flank of China on the side of the Muslim East Turkestan, and embroil the Muslims in the midst of a war that is not theirs. This is what the United States has been doing and the whole West has practised in their dealings with Muslims in the absence of their guardian and their State.

    13 Rabi’ al-Thani 1444h                           hizbuttahrir.org
    8 November 2022
     

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