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The United States is sending mixed signals to its allies in the Middle East by simultaneously giving support to the Saudi-led Sunni coalition fighting in Yemen and negotiating with Shiite Iran on its nuclear program, according to NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Engel pinpoints an apparent contradiction: Even as the U.S. is assisting Saudi Arabia and other nations in “confronting the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen” by providing intelligence and other support, it continues to negotiate with Tehran on its nuclear program, and to collaborate with Iranian forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.
As a result, Engel says, “the Saudis, and the larger Sunni Muslim world, doesn’t sic feel the U.S. can really be trusted.”
Gee, no kidding. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni ally of the US that hates Iran. Iraq is a Shiite ally who’s cozy with Iran. The US itself is hostile toward Iran, but shares a common enemy in ISIS. Syria is a total mess with no clear good guys. And, yes, a good nuclear deal with Iran would be a bonus for the safety of the entire region.
That’s it. That’s the way the world is. The United States is not allied solely with Shiite or Sunni regimes and hasn’t been since at least 9/11. It’s confusing. It’s messy. And maybe President Obama hasn’t handled it as skillfully as he could have. But who could have done any better? There just aren’t any clean battle lines here, and the sooner everyone faces up to that, the better off we’ll be.
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