Washington's push gets little traction | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 13, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 13, 2019

NEW US MIDDLE EAST VISION

Washington's push gets little traction

The United States is seeking this week in Warsaw to rally the world behind a vision of the Middle East that includes maximum pressure on Iran and strong backing of Israel, but it is winning little fresh support.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month announced the two-day conference starting today, saying that foreign ministers from around the world would come to Poland to take up the "destabilising influence" of Iran in the Middle East.

US Vice President Mike Pence will address the conference, whose co-host is Pompeo.

Even though the meeting takes place in the European Union, major European powers are sending low-level representation with the exception of British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who signalled that he primarily wants to address the humanitarian crisis triggered by the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she had previous commitments and Pompeo instead will have breakfast with her in Brussels on his way home.

Even host Poland -- which is eager for strong relations with the United States in the face of a resurgent Russia -- has stressed that it still joins the European Union in backing a 2015 deal negotiated by former US president Barack Obama to ease sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

The United States is also expected to offer hints of its proposals for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has been putting final touches on a "deal of the century" for the Middle East, will make a rare speaking appearance tomorrow. Kushner, whose family is close to Netanyahu, is not expected to unveil the proposal until after the April 9 election in Israel.

The Trump administration faces an uphill climb in selling any deal to the Palestinian Authority, which remains livid over Trump's landmark 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem -- claimed by both peoples -- as Israel's capital.

The Palestinian government -- which has labelled the Warsaw conference an "American conspiracy" -- has refused talks with the United States until it starts what it calls a more balanced policy.

Iran was not invited to Warsaw and summoned the Polish ambassador to protest. But in a show of diplomatic clout, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will travel during the US-led conference to Russia, which declined to attend in Warsaw. In the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Rouhani will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syria, where Trump is pulling out US troops.

"I doubt Washington will succeed in achieving this objective, because while many in Europe share US concerns with regards to Iran's regional activities and ballistic missiles programme, they don't agree with Washington's one-sided and maximalist view that Iran is the source of all evil in the region," said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group think tank.

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