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Mattis Middle East Trip Sheds Light on Strategy for Middle East Conflicts

by Countable | 4.19.17

America’s strategy in the Middle East has been in the spotlight since the missile strike on a Syrian military base in early April, and now the nation’s defense chief is on a week-long roadtrip to meet with some of the region’s key U.S. allies.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the first of several visits that will give the Trump administration an opportunity to clarify its strategy on a host of regional issues — from dealing with the Assad regime in Syria, to defeating ISIS, countering Iran, and preventing Yemen’s civil war from worsening. Mattis will hold meetings in four other countries on the trip, and we’ve broken down the significance of each to U.S. foreign policy and what may come up below:

Saudi Arabia is most significant counterweight to Iran among the region’s Muslim-majority nations and has been leading a coalition that’s fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, its neighbor to the south. The U.S. has carried out airstrikes and raids by special operations forces in Yemen against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of which led to the death of a Navy SEAL earlier this year. The Pentagon is considering ramping up assistance for Saudi Arabia’s campaign after the Obama administration curtailed aid in response to allegations that the Saudis carried out indiscriminate airstrikes that killed civilians. Additionally, the Saudis have debated sending their troops to help defeat ISIS in its stronghold of Raqqa.

Egypt is struggling to root out ISIS within its own borders, as the terrorist group has carried out attacks against security forces with regularity. Recently, ISIS bombed Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday, killing at least 47 people. The country, which is a long-time U.S. ally in the region, has declared a national state of emergency for dealing with the terror group. As a result, strengthening the Egyptian military’s ability to counter and defeat ISIS will be a focus of talks there.

Israel has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in its relationship with the U.S. Things had grown icy between the allies during the final weeks of the Obama administration, but have thawed since President Donald Trump took office. Israel faces several threats to its security, as it shares a border with Syria and also has to deal with two internationally-recognized terror groups that govern neighboring territory — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Not only that, Israel remains uneasy about Iran’s willingness to abide by the terms of its agreement to restrict its nuclear program over the long-term, so Mattis’s trip to Israel will be a busy one.

Qatar is the home of the primary U.S. airbase in the Middle East and joined its Persian Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates in opposing Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. The country is also sensitive to provocations by Iran’s navy in the Strait of Hormuz — the narrow body of water through which all ships sailing to and from Persian Gulf ports must pass.

Djibouti hosts an American drone base from which covert strikes against militant groups in Yemen and Somalia are launched. The Pentagon is considering ramping up its campaign against the al-Shabab terror group in Somalia, which could lead to an increased U.S. military presence in Djibouti in the future.

Tell your reps where you stand on the Trump administration’s Middle East policy using the "Take Action" button.


Have questions about politics? Let us know! Send us an email and you could see your answer in a future post.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Dept. of Defense / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(85)
  • David
    04/19/2017
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    You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb he world to peace. Diplomacy is a civilized country's answer.

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  • denali
    04/19/2017
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    Diplomacy is the only answer. We can't bomb our way to peace.

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  • DrRichSwier
    04/19/2017
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    Time for an Arab NATO. An Arab coalition to defeat Iran and ISIS.

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  • Donna
    04/19/2017
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    There are always alternatives to killing other humans and you who were elected to represent the interest of people need to make it clear that WE THE PEOPLE DO NOT CONSENT TO ANY WAR LIKE ACTION AGAINST ANY COUNTRY OR BEINGS ANYWHERE ON EARTH OR SPACE. ENOUGH OF ENOUGH OF THIS PUT AN END TO IT NOW!

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  • Nan
    04/19/2017
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    Please don't get us into another war

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  • Wendysmash
    04/19/2017
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    I just wish we had a good grasp of history between the US and other countries.

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  • Hershey
    04/19/2017
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    So Congressional support was not available during the Obama Administration to go forward and take care of this problem when it first reared its ugly head, I get it. We were just finishing up another war and Americans were weary ... wanting our troops home. Obama promised to return our troops and he did. But at this time, aside from raising political popularity, what ultimately is the Trump Administration trying to gain. It is extremely unclear if they even know how to resolve the issue in a way that it will be completely dealt with and done. If anyone is to blame for making a climate suitable for terrorist groups to flourish, I would have to say the Trump platform did awesome job by consistently bombarding the media with protests and tweets of the Obama ministration taking action, hindering support and creating fear. Again, Obama listened to the people and gave us what we wanted. We now have a president who does not listen to the people or the needs of the people. Are we ready now to correct the error in judgement that Trump's knowledge has created? Or will this be another failure costing America dearly?

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  • Kodiwodi
    04/19/2017
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    Do we still have allies? I thought 45 had insulted them all.

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  • SherryTX
    04/19/2017
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    Squash the terrorists- Obama policies only emboldened them. Peace through strength. Reagan proved that it works.

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  • Donna
    04/19/2017
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    Funny that where ever the US sticks its nose there is WAR. More saber rattling and the story that is told to justify your support has little to do with their true intentions. Question Everything then question those who support willful aggression against any other country.

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  • Kathy
    04/20/2017
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    We do not need to get into another war. We need some grown up in the room to sit down and use diplomacy and engage with others countries. We do not need this Wild West mentality thinking we can shoot up and bomb every country we don't like. The very people who are ready to start a war are the very people who won't or voided going to war themselves. 45 couldn't go because he had foot problems, what a joke. What about his sons what's their excuse! Personally for all that think we should go to war then they should join and let there children go to. I don't believe an individual can ever be the same going to war. How much money has been spend since George W Bush took us into wars? We don't have money for a single payer healthcare, we don't have money for infrastructure, education, housing crisis Americans lost their homes and 401K's, pension plans, jobs because of greed. Yet we can find money to fight wars, drop bombs and give taxes breaks to the very people who are doing well. Our national debt has increase under every Republican administration.

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  • Joanne
    04/19/2017
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    Obviously ISIS needs to be dealt with and we need to support these nations, however, we need to be careful and not necessarily jump into war. Thank you.

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  • Judith
    04/19/2017
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    Trump needs bodies to throw at these wars he is instigating. That's why he's trying to get rid of Medicaid. The food stamp program is part of Medicaid. Without Medicaid there's no food stamps ! And where will all the currently unemployed people find food ?? WHY IN THE MILITARY !!!!! OF COURSE !!!!!!

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  • Clayton1
    04/20/2017
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    There is so much more to the military other than combat arms. I wish the general public could educate themselves on the humanitarian arm of the military such as civil affairs, psychological operations and engineering to list a few. As a combat veteran I know that combat operations were not our priority when it came to foreign policy and we always put out a helping hand first. Caveat, unless our other hand was forced first.

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  • Melissa
    04/20/2017
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    Being a bully only makes us more enemies. Anyone who believes that might makes right really needs to read the real history of our involvement in the Middle East.

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  • Oneda
    04/20/2017
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    Our own country is at unrest. All of the programs benefitting marginalized and working poor, environment, and any people or color are being decreased or eliminated. While under the slogan "Making America Great Again" we are closing the borders, assaulting both legal and illegal immigrants and police are still murdering innocent blacks without repercussion. In the meantime there have numerous conflicts of interest and ethics in the current administration. Add to that that we still don't have disclosure on Russian collusion with Trump and his cabinet. Every day we are embarrassed and humiliated by our leader. While we are spending millions in his travel and residence security Flint Michigan residents are being poisoned by their water. And add to this that we're considering throwing ourselves into war. (With the likelihood of harming innocent civilians who are not allowed any solace in our country.). For what purpose? Shouldn't we be concentrating on strengthening our own country first?

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  • Desiree
    04/20/2017
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    I have no trust for this administration. Nullification of the 2016 presidential election is my hope. Reboot.

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  • Marc
    04/20/2017
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    I don't believe what I just read was any kind of foreign policy statement. It somehow tries to give an overview of the state of affairs in each country, but does not identify a vision with any goals for each country and the region as a whole. In fact some of the tactics talked about are totally counter productive for the US

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  • Mel
    04/20/2017
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    ISiS throws gays off roofs. They make women second class citizens. They murder anyone that doesn't submit to their beliefs. How long will good men do nothing to let evil persist?

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  • Orville
    04/20/2017
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    Not to be biblical, but you have to read the Bible to understand that our Western way of thinking doesn't work here. They don't want us in the Middle East. We should come grips with that. Yes be an Allie but that's it, to many complex things that we don't get. So instead of trying to impose are might, let those countries solve their own problems.

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