By Joyce Karam
Diplomatic sources in Washington, DC have confirmed to Arab News that the Trump administration is planning an anti-Daesh summit to be held in the US capital as early as March 21.
Plans for the summit have been ongoing “for weeks,” said the sources, and are being discussed with core members of the anti-Daesh coalition.
The coalition includes more than 60 countries. Those from the Middle East are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Lebanon.
Sources confirmed that both Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil are planning to attend the meeting, marking the first visit for many of these delegations to Washington since President Donald Trump entered office.
Asked about the meeting, a US State Department official told Arab News they would be better suited to officially respond next week.
“There has been a Counter- ISIS Coalition meeting every 3 to 4 months and we are continuing with that schedule and planning the next one for March in Washington, DC but the details are not final yet.”
While the agenda is still being worked on, the summit is expected to be held at the ministerial level, and would follow in its timing the rollout of the Trump administration’s new anti-Daesh strategy.
The Pentagon had submitted recommendations to the White House on Monday, following a 30-day review that lays out the military, diplomatic and financial options to defeat the group.
In this context, the anti-Daesh meeting is similar to previous summits the Obama administration had held in the past three years.
The last anti-Daesh Summit was convened in London in December, led by former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
The news of the meeting comes as Defense Secretary James Mattis has presided over national security meetings this week to discuss his department’s recommendations and the way forward.
Mattis has also been working on staffing the Pentagon, blocking — according to sources — two names who worked with and advised Trump during the campaign, and favoring a more moderate line of appointees.
Politico reported yesterday that Mattis is considering the appointment of former US Ambassador to Egypt and Pakistan Anne Patterson as his undersecretary of defense for policy, the fourth-highest position at the Pentagon.
Patterson is a career diplomat who has worked for Republican and Democratic presidents. Her appointment, however, is facing a pushback from White House officials who, according to Politico, see her as someone “who worked closely with former Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and his Islamist government.”
A former US official who has worked directly with Patterson in Cairo, however, told Arab News that the former ambassador had maintained “very good relations with the Egyptian military.”
Patterson’s tenure as assistant secretary for Near East affairs at the State Department in former President Barack Obama’s second term involved close work with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries on Yemen and intelligence coordination with the US.
Another potential appointment generating news in Washington is Fiona Hill, a former intelligence officer and scholar on Russia who might be tapped as a top Russia adviser for Trump.
The news, first reported by Foreign Policy, would ease concerns among Trump’s critics about his approach to Russia.
Hill, now a senior fellow at Brookings, wrote the book “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” and has advocated keeping sanctions on Russia and that Trump “continues the policy of nonrecognition of Crimea’s illegal annexation by Russia.”