Sunday, December 7, 2014

US: 'Recognizing Iran’s de facto 'positive' participation in the anti-ISIL coalition'

"... The tragically failed hostage rescue attempt in Yemen will have done little to redress the public perception of the Administration’s foreign policy as, to quote a senior NSC official talking privately to us, as “almost drowning under the barrage of criticism”. It will undermine the more optimistic note being struck by Secretary of State Kerry on progress being made by the anti-ISIL coalition and on prospects for Afghanistan, together with the effectiveness of US sanctions against Russia. Behind the scenes, few officials share Kerry’s optimism. And the onslaught of public criticism continues, notably as much from Democratic voices as the more predictable Republican critics. In the White House, however, our assessment is that the atmosphere remains calm. President Obama’s nomination of Ashton Carter as the new Secretary of Defense has been well received, but our Administration contacts tell us that this does not foreshadow any loosening of control by the White House over national security policy. A seasoned Pentagon observer commented to us: “Carter has outstanding defense credentials as a master of topics like force structure, nuclear issues, acquisition and the budget. He has a conspicuous gap in war fighting. It appears that the White House wants him to lead internal Pentagon reform at a time of resource austerity, but to leave the fighting in the Middle East in their hands.”  With regard to ISIL, an emerging factor is the increasing US willingness to recognize Iran’s de facto participation in the coalition and to describe it, as Kerry did, as “positive. The State Department’s line is to keep cooperation with Iran over ISIL and, most likely in the future, against the Taliban in Afghanistan, in totally separate compartments from the nuclear negotiations. However, we understand that the even the sporadic exchanges that are now taking place at local level are having some impact on building trust. This may ease an agreement in 2015, although as we have noted Iran will then face a much more hostile political line-up on Capitol Hill. Another Middle East country with a complex relationship with Washington is Saudi Arabia, whose current production policy designed to keep oil prices low is seen by some as directed against US shale producers. Finally, on November 7th Kerry will deliver a major speech on US-Israeli relations. Given the pro-Israeli venue at the Saban Center, Kerry is not expected to hit hard. Nonetheless, the speech will be closely analyzed for the nuances it will throw on the current troubles state of US relations with Israel..."

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