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Cooperation on regional and global issues

57 - Relations with the US on the Middle East

Grade: C
Unity 3/5
Resources 2/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 1/5
Total 8/20
Scorecard 2015: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2013: B+ (14/20)
Scorecard 2012: B+ (14/20)

Europe is paying a heavy price for outsourcing its Middle East strategy to the US

EU policy towards Syria, including cooperation with the US on the conflict, has failed. For several years, the EU has effectively outsourced management of this crisis, which is vital to its own security, to another country with less of an interest in it. The result is that the situation has dramatically worsened and is now destabilising Europe in two ways – through refugee flows and attacks by ISIS. The Obama administration remains wary of becoming more engaged in the Syrian civil war, partly because i tis less vulnerable to its effects.

In 2015, the US, France, and the UK all ramped up operations in the “Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”. However, there is virtually no prospect of Western nations sending in large numbers of ground forces, meaning that hopes are pinned on Sunni forces that may never materialise.

The US response to the Syrian conflict is a major issue in the presidential election. Most of the serious candidates are committed to doing more –no-fly zones, safe zones, special forces, and ramped-up air strikes – although all have stopped short of committing large numbers of ground forces. European preferences on how the EU can contribute to crafting and implementing an effective strategy are absent from this discussion.

The Vienna Process peace talks have made little progress, but are the only real opening in over two years. Vienna is led by the US and Russia. The US sees Europe as divided and unhelpful, and has tried to marginalise its role. France and others worry that the USis caving into the Russian position, giving a greater role to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that the Russians may impose an agreement.

Meanwhile, after the collapse of the US-led Israel/Palestine peace process in 2014, the EU missed the opportunity to assume a more active role, despite EU High Representative Federica Mogherini proposing an“international support group”. The US sees little reason to restart the talks until there is a greater prospect of success.