Rex Tillerson reaping whirlwind of Trump’s disruptive Middle East policies

Like Jeeves clearing up broken crockery after a night of riotous partying by Bertie Wooster and his chums, Rex Tillerson is trying to soothe tempers and repair damage across the Middle East after a year of Donald Trump shenanigans.

As a former high-flying Exxon-Mobil chief executive, the US secretary of state is unaccustomed to groveling.

But Tillerson, whose five-country regional mission culminates in Turkey later this week, may have no choice.

America’s top diplomat is reaping the whirlwind of 12 months of disruptive, divisive policies and what critics say is Trump’s lack of strategic vision for a troubled region vital for western interests.

Nobody is angrier than Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s choleric president.

Erdogan has a long list of additional grievances with his Nato ally. But it is US policy in Syria, and especially its support for the YPG Kurdish militia, that really gets his goat.

Before invading the Kurdish stronghold of Afrin last month, Erdogan told the US to get out of the way.

Erdogan has vowed to “strangle” a Kurd-led border security force recently unveiled by Tillerson, and warned that Turkish troops and their Syrian allies intend to advance east from Afrin to Manbij, where US special forces are deployed alongside the Kurds.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, accused the US of bad faith and delivered an ultimatum: “Our relations are at a very critical point. Either we repair our relations or [they] will be broken altogether.”

But the US military has told the Turks, in effect, to get lost. In an unusually frank admission, the state department says it expects Tillerson will have a “difficult conversation” in Ankara.

History suggests the row will be patched up. But Erdogan believes he has other options if the US alliance implodes. He is increasingly cooperating with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s main backers, Iran and Russia.

This collaboration has grave implications for Turkey’s place in Nato. Russia and the US are involved in a far wider, escalating struggle for control and influence in post-Isis Syria.

Just how dangerous this is was shown when a Russian Su-25 fighter jet was shot down recently by Syrian rebels using a shoulder-held MANPAD missile, allegedly supplied by the US.

In addition, there are unconfirmed reports that several, and maybe dozens, of Russian nationals fighting alongside Syrian government troops were killed last week in clashes with US and US-backed forces. Russians, possibly mercenaries, are also said to have died in an American airstrike near Deir al-Zour, close to the Iraqi border.

 

For more read the full of article at The Guardian

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