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Tillerson defends US foreign policy under Trump

Rex Tillerson praised diplomacy efforts during Trump's first year [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 December, 2017

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has defended Trump's first year of foreign policy, citing the fight against Islamic State group and efforts to curb Iranian threats.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has defended the Trump administration's first year of foreign policy, citing the military defeat of Islamic State group and countering "immense challenges" posed by Iran, Russia and North Korea.

In an op-ed published on Wednesday in The New York Times, the diplomat said Americans "should be encouraged by the progress" of the State Department in "pushing for global peace and stability".

He praised the "administration's aggressive strategy to counter the Islamic State" as well as other terror-linked groups, achieved by "giving our forces more freedom and speed to do what they do best".

"As a result, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS has accelerated operations and has recaptured virtually all of previously held Islamic State territory in Iraq and Syria," he wrote.

Read more: Comment: Tillerson's vanishing act while the Middle East is burning

In the article, titled I am Proud of Our Diplomacy, Tillerson acknowledged "Russian aggression" but defended the need to cooperate with the country on "mutual interests", citing Syria and the Moscow-led peace talks.

"We are confident that the fulfilment of these talks will produce a Syria that is free of Bashar al-Assad and his family," he wrote.

On Iran, he said the "flawed" nuclear deal was not the focal point of its policy towards the Islamic republic, rather "confronting the totality of Iranian threats" by building stronger alliances with Middle East allies and punishing Iran for violations of ballistic missile sanctions and its "destabilising activities" in the region.

While praising the efforts of diplomacy in addressing various challenges, Tillerson however did not mention the failed efforts to break the seven-month Saudi Arabia-led blockade on Qatar, the worst dispute to hit the Gulf since the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981.

Tillerson visited the region twice – in July and October – during Trump's first year but failed to resolve the crisis, blaming the Saudi-led bloc on the impasse.

The mediation attempts followed Trump's initial support for Saudi Arabia in isolating Qatar, echoing its accusations that  Doha was funding terrorist groups at a "very high level" – a charge that Qatar strongly denies.

They were contrasted with more balanced remarks by Tillerson, who urged calm as Doha remains blockaded by neighbouring states, and warned of "far-reaching consequences".

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