Under the Obama administration, a coalition of 68 nations was formed to support the U.S. in waging war against the Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS. The latest meeting was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, to hear the Trump administration’s strategy for defeating the jihadists.
According to Newsweek, the gathering was hosted by U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who had just returned from a trip to Asia-Pacific on the issue of North Korea.
“Everyone recognizes there’s been significant progress in the past year, especially. We’ve seen gains made against ISIS across the board, whether it’s in Syria, but certainly in Iraq, liberations of large areas that they previously held,” said Mark Toner, acting spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.
One area to note in this discussion is that any strategic plan formulated by the U.S. and its allies has real consequences for the individuals living in the Middle East, as the region has several countries that are unstable or plunged into a civil war. This group includes Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. In each of these countries, not only is ISIS active, but Iran has also been adding its own forces to the mix, choosing a side and then supporting the training of militias and mercenaries to fight in these countries.
As revealed earlier this year by the National Council of the Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been on the front line of training fighters and terrorist cells to export terror around the globe. No region has felt the hand of the Iranian regime more than the Middle East. Various governments in the region, including Saudi Arabia, are looking to the U.S. for assistance in controlling or limiting the influence of Iran in the region.
ISIS was able to take large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria before a range of international and local forces were able to reign them in, according to the Agence-France Press (AFP). “But eyebrows have been raised by Trump’s plan to slash 28% from the State Department’s budget for diplomacy and foreign aid, suggesting fewer resources for post-conflict stabilization,” according to the AFP.
The day-long ministerial-level talks are also going to help plan for the political aftermath of battles for various cities, including Mosul in Iraq and Raqa in Syria. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, said, “We are killing Daesh (ISIS). We are proving that Daesh can be killed, can be eliminated. We can do it not only in Iraq, but in the region. I am encouraging our allies and our friends to stay focused. We shouldn’t lose focus, we shouldn’t give Daesh a second chance,” said al-Abadi.
Yet even while this progress has been made, world leaders continue to point to Iran as a threat to the peace and stability of the region. Arab Parliament Speaker Dr. Mshaal bin Fahm Al-Salami said that the Iranian regime poses a grave threat to national Arab security, interference in domestic affairs of the Arab countries, spread of sectarian strife, formation of armed militias, and issuance of hostile statements against the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Republic of Yemen.
“Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world,” said Adel Al Jubeir at the Munich Security Conference in February. “It’s determined to upend the order in [the] Middle East…(and) until and unless Iran changes its behavior, it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.”
Therefore, it is key that Trump’s plan address the role of Iran in the region, as many world leaders have continued to point to their contribution to the instability in the region. Yet, it is notable that Russia, Iran or Syria were invited to the gathering. This seems to suggest that the Trump administration may believe that their actions are a source of concern versus assistance in this fight.
Whatever the outcome of the gathering, the Trump administration is clearly signally a change in U.S. foreign policy and the world waits to see where the U.S. will lead and if it will be worth following.