January 22nd, 2018
By Edward Hunt
In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, four former U.S. diplomats provided remarkably candid commentary on recent U.S. involvement in the Middle East, revealing a number of the most closely guarded secrets of U.S. diplomacy.
The four former diplomats emphasized the importance of the region’s oil, spoke critically about the weaknesses of U.S. strategy, made a number of crude comments about U.S. partners, displayed little concern about ongoing violence, and called for more “discipline” throughout the region.
One of the former diplomats, James Jeffrey, criticized the Obama administration for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 rather than going through with a secret deal to maintain a secret network of military bases in the country. Even today, Jeffrey said, officials in Washington must not “melt down” and retrench when U.S. forces get killed. Officials must accept that there could always be “new Benghazis and new Nigers,” he said, referring to incidents in which U.S. agents have been killed.
The four former diplomats also lambasted U.S. partners in the region. They criticized many of their closest allies for poor governance, a lack of democracy, and an inability to coordinate on shared strategic objectives.
Jeffrey made some of the strongest criticisms, charging Kurdish leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan with making their region into “another basket case” in the Middle East. He also complained that U.S. officials had to deal “with a lot of bitching” from the Turkish government over U.S. support for the Kurdish fighters confronting the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) in Syria.
In addition to Jeffrey, who once held high-level positions in the George W. Bush administration, the group of former diplomats included Ryan Crocker, Eric Edelman, and Stuart Jones. Crocker has been the U.S. ambassador to six different countries in the Middle East. Edelman and Jones, who have both been diplomats in the Middle East, have held senior positions in numerous administrations.
Over the past few decades, all four men have played significant roles in crafting and implementing U.S. policies in the region. They were “giants” who had “walked the earth,” according to Edelman.
Together, these four former diplomats called on the Trump administration to play a more assertive role in the Middle East. Although they largely agreed that IS has been significantly weakened over the last two and a half years, removing a significant challenge to U.S. power, they saw ongoing challenges from Iran and Russia and growing problems between the U.S. and its allies. They wanted to ensure that the United States remained well positioned to call the shots in the region and maintain a U.S.-led system of regional order.
“Clarity on U.S. plans and goals and particularly success against Iran will help mobilize allies, but the U.S. must discipline the system and overwatch partners constantly,” Jeffrey said.
published by alfonso