Washington was preoccupied this week with the fallout from the sacking of FBI Director James Comey. The move has brought back President Donald Trump’s arbitrary tendencies to mind, after a time in which he appeared to have adapted to the solemnness of the presidential office and the need for a well-choreographed functioning of his administration.
The decision to sack Comey also brought back talk of impeachment. Comparisons were made between this incident and Richard Nixon’s firing of Attorney General Archibald Cox in 1973, and the late president’s subsequent impeachment.
The main concern over Comey’s sacking comes from links between some Trump aides – such as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – and Russia during the election campaign, and their continuation despite FBI warnings. Suspicions have followed Trump himself that he may have ties with Moscow that could make him vulnerable to blackmail.
The matter not only touches on feelings of anger over Russia’s alleged interference in US presidential elections, but mainly American national security if the allegation is true. A segment of the US public is ready to hold Trump accountable and even put him on trial, and is convinced he is involved up to his ears. Another segment mocks the claims, citing tense the current state of Russian-US relations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Washington on the day Comey was fired. Talking to reporters, he took a jocular tone when he was asked about the affair and links to Russia, as if he was saying he had more important issues to discuss with his counterpart Rex Tillerson and with Trump.
Before going off course with the sacking, the Trump administration was in the process of developing crucial policies. These included reviving direct US intervention against terror with European and Gulf allies, who would provide funds and some boots on the ground for the US-led surge in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
The visit by Trump to Saudi Arabia this month will not just discuss important bilateral ties, but will include an Arab-American-Islamic Summit that will set a precedent on many levels. From the summit in Riyadh, US-Gulf relations and traditional security guarantees will be rejuvenated.
Resetting America’s regional relations to before former President Barack Obama’s engagement with Iran will provide substantial fuel for the talks. But it is important not to over-interpret the Trump administration’s positions to suit wishful thinking, because this could have dangerous implications. Iran – the elephant in the room – is expected to be absent from the summit hosted by King Salman, with Trump the guest of honor. But it will be present in the conversations, including on security balances in the Gulf, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, as well as on the Palestinian issue and relations between the US and the Middle East.
It is saying Iran needs to withdraw to its borders, stop its incursions in other countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and end its destabilizing tactics and terrorist instruments.
If not, the US and its allies have means other than war to pressure Tehran. Washington is certain that the rule of the mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will eventually implode without the need for a US nudge or a war that would be unpopular in America.
An Iranian strategist said it more clearly: “Iran will not win as long as its borders have expanded to Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.” Controlling mobile borders is not possible, no matter how well Tehran presents its project and how many formidable militias and IRGC troops it deploys. Following his meeting with Lavrov, Trump called on Moscow to rein in the Syrian regime, Iran and Tehran’s proxies. Several senior figures in his administration have firmly said they intend to prevent Tehran from claiming the victory against Daesh and seizing territories recovered from the group.
Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989.
Source : Arab News