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Cheney:Leaving Mideast Benefits Russia 12/09 06:26

   Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned Monday that "American 
disengagement" in the Middle East will benefit only Iran and Russia, indirectly 
criticizing President Donald Trump's pledges to pull forces out of the region.

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned 
Monday that "American disengagement" in the Middle East will benefit only Iran 
and Russia, indirectly criticizing President Donald Trump's pledges to pull 
forces out of the region.

   While stressing that he's no longer in government, Cheney's comments in 
Dubai cut to the core of several policies taken by Trump, including the sudden 
withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. 

   The former vice president mentioned Trump by name only once in praising him 
for pulling out the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. But Cheney's backing of a 
muscular military response in the Mideast starkly contrasts Trump's promises to 
pull America from what he calls the Mideast's "blood-stained sands."

   "Russia is always on standby to fill power voids. That is how it happened 
that Russian troops swept in when the U.S. left northern Syria," Cheney told 
the Arab Strategy Forum. "To sum up that still-unfolding story: nobody will 
remember it as our finest hour." 

   Cheney said that, as well as other challenges from extremist groups like 
al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, show "inaction can carry even greater 
risk than action."

   "There are some deeply malign forces at work in the broader Middle East, as 
well as disturbing influences from outside," Cheney said. "Disengagement is 
just another term for leaving all the power to them."

   On Iran, Cheney alleged that "the mullahs in Tehran want most of all to 
acquire nuclear weapons." However, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy 
Agency says Iran stopped any organized nuclear weapons research in 2003 and 
Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, even as it begins breaking 
limits of the deal. 

   Cheney called NATO "the most-formidable alliance in history." 

   "This post-war system has been so fundamental that it has hardly mattered 
year to year which political parties were in power," the vice president added, 
leaving unmentioned Trump's criticism of the alliance. 

   Cheney's visit marks one of many by former Western officials drawn to the 
Emirates for speaking fees at any number of panels and events held in this 
federation of seven sheikhdoms home to the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai. 

   While praised as "Little Sparta" by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the 
UAE also has drawn increased scrutiny in Washington as Abu Dhabi's powerful 
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan found himself named in the Mueller 
report. The Emirates' involvement in the yearslong Saudi-led war in Yemen also 
drew criticism, though Abu Dhabi has begun withdrawing troops from the campaign 
in recent months. 

   Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, attended the talk by 
Cheney, showing the respect still afforded to the 78-year-old former vice 
president. Cheney made a point himself to describe the UAE as "confident, 
forward-looking influence in the Middle East." 

   As defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, Cheney helped form 
the coalition that forced Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait 
in the 1991 Gulf War. He visited the UAE in 1990, becoming at that time the 
highest-ranking U.S. official to ever visit the country.

   The 1991 war gave birth to the wide American military footprint across the 
region, including in the United Arab Emirates, which hosts some 5,000 U.S. 
troops at Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra Air Base and elsewhere. Dubai's Jebel Ali port 
is the U.S. Navy's busiest foreign port of call.

   Cheney also visited the Emirates as vice president as the U.S. relied on the 
UAE and other Mideast partners amid the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 
2003 war in Iraq that ousted Saddam but sparked sectarian warfare that 
ultimately birthed the Islamic State group. 


(KR)

 
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