The US can’t just leave the Middle East | American Institute of Enterprise
A profound realignment is underway in the Middle East. Not just the Sunni Arab-Israeli accord – evidenced by the Emirati-Bahraini-Moroccan accord hosted by Israel Mountain peak over the weekend – not the controversial Iran-US rapprochement, but also the growing coverage against US betrayal by traditional allies like Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. What is happening is indisputable. And the why is easy to deduce, too — growing doubts about Washington’s loyalty to old friends, questions about the judgment of successive US administrations on traditional threats like Iran, and new adversaries like al-Qaeda and ISIS. . The question is what to do. The future security of the region and of American geostrategic dominance hinges on the response.
For Middle Eastern hands, straws have been in vogue for quite some time, perhaps even as early as the turn of the 21st century. Israeli governments were becoming more and more obviously irritated by the perennial American efforts to “resolve” the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The Palestinian leaders, too, had soured on the “peace process” which, after more than half a century, appeared more like a process than like peace. Each began to seek to advance their national interests in parallel, but less and less often withUnited States.
American disaffection with the region in the wake of the war in Iraq has only deepened existing trends and fears. When the Arab Spring broke out in 2011, the Obama administration made it clear that it had little interest in backing longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak (not a Democrat), nor in the aftermath of the political tsunami. that swept across the Levant, North Africa and even Iran and Iraq. Barack Obama’s disinterest in the war in Syria, the Syrian people’s battle for democratic freedoms or even, ultimately, the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons have been viewed with dismay across the region. His willingness to invite Russia into Syria, regardless of the consequences, stunned most observers.
NATO’s bizarre and reckless intervention in Libya has only compounded the dilemma for Arab and Israeli leaders. Of course, Muammar Gaddafi was no loss, but Libya’s almost pathological lack of strategic follow-through and Obama’s oft-stated horror at joining the campaign sounded less like a bug than a feature of the news. American foreign policy. Layer on Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal which, from the region’s perspective, gave a new license to Iran’s hegemonic goals, and the roadmap to move away from dependence on Washington was written.
The Trump administration was an aberration in some ways. The will of the Trump team to abandon all the clichés about the good conduct of American policy in the Middle East, to relegate the question of Palestine to the background, to lock Iran into a web of punitive sanctions and throwing its weight behind what had been a clandestine partnership between the Gulf Arabs and Israel had an almost transformative effect: new peace treaties, new attitudes towards security partnerships and a firm and shared conviction that the century American was well and truly over.
Ironically, with Trump outlining what could be, Obama’s former VP return to the White House has only reinforced the idea that the future is too uncertain and Iran too dangerous to assume. that the answer to all security questions would be Washington. Also, regional leaders note, look at the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Finally, however, Ukraine did lay bare the change: Israel was reluctant to apply sanctions against Vladimir Putin and his cronies despite calls to do so from Europe and the United States. Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, would have refused to answer a call from US President Joe Biden asking for oil to fill Russia’s lost supply. Ditto the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammad bin Zayed. The White House later denied that the calls had been dismissed, but the message from the Middle East is clear: We don’t trust the United States and will no longer align with your national security priorities.
Others have skillfully exposed the evidence of the Middle East blanket, including the quiet but obviously important Moscow-Jerusalem relationship; Emirati arms purchases from China; Saudi culture from Russia and China; and much more. But the question is not whether this realignment is happening, it is whether it is in the American interest to allow it to continue. And perhaps more importantly, if not, what to do.
Is realignment in America’s interest? From the perspective of the Biden administration and its Obama remnants, the sooner the Middle East tends to knit together, the better. Israel can defend itself against Iran and others; as for the rest of them… In this view, renewing the deal with Iran is a coda, supposedly blocking the Islamic Republic’s path to nuclear weaponry and paving the way for Washington to deal with threats more serious like China. But it’s an ahistorical, willfully ignorant take.
Certainly, much of the Middle East is drudgery – autocrats, Salafis, murders, chaos, tyranny. There are only two democracies (Tunisia, for those wondering who counts next to Israel), and neither is the Eastern Netherlands. However, unlike the distorted global landscape seen from 1600 Pennsylvania, America has enduring interests in the Middle East. Some are economic interests, like the energy supply that prompted the President of the United States to call the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and lured his national security adviser to Riyadh on his knees. Other interests are directly related to the safety and security of the American people, including the likely proliferation of nuclear weapons, the growth and flourishing of Sunni and Shia Islamist terrorism, and the security of Europe (if where some would have forgotten the masses of refugees pouring into Europe from Syria in 2015).
There is no confrontation with China without a secure supply of oil, no guarantee of Israel’s security from the Pacific, and no claim that freedom of navigation through Suez or the Bab al Mandab is worthless.
If the reality is that the United States has real geopolitical interests in the Middle East – putting aside the false statements on the imperative of democracy or human rights – then the second question is how to pursue them, having royally ruined Washington’s relations with even its closest friends, the Israelis.
The most obvious source of the deterioration of relations with Arabs and Jews is Iran. The simplest step for the Biden administration to take would be to recognize that its efforts to resuscitate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran should end and be replaced by an effort to forge what nominee Biden promised to to be a “longer and louder” chord. . This is not a marginal recommendation, but rather the opinion of the majority of Congress (including Republicans and Democrats) and many members of the nonproliferation community.
It’s not that Iran’s neighbors aren’t afraid that Iran is finalizing its development of a nuclear weapon; is that additional money, sanctions relief and readmission to the community of civilized nations is a proven recipe for Iranian escalation, attacks on its neighbors, increased funding flows to terrorist groups and greater regional destabilization. It happened in 2015, and it will happen again in 2022 if Biden’s negotiators capitulate to Tehran’s demands.
Another key to restoring relationships is acknowledging that commitments have been broken to almost all of Washington’s former friends and partners. In Iraq, promises to secure the country against both political and military Iranian threats have fallen through. In the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, promises to deal seriously with Yemen’s growing Houthi attacks on soft targets and to provide defensive weapons have been ignored. Israel’s security demands were honored, but growing threats from Syria and Lebanon were ignored. It is no coincidence that all these threats come from Iranian-backed proxies.
It is also high time to acknowledge that the terrorist threats plaguing the region are very real. Lebanon was taken over by the most powerful terrorist group in the world, Hezbollah. Syria is a hub for Iranian arms proliferation and a training ground for Islamist terrorists. Egypt is under fire from the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Yemen is an ongoing threat to its neighbors and a training ground for terrorists targeting the United States. These are indisputable facts, and the Biden administration’s willingness to downplay these threats – removing the Houthis from the terrorist list, downplaying Hezbollah’s dominance over Lebanon, completely ignoring Syria, (repeatedly) declaring defeat of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State – lessens the very real dangers to the peoples of the Middle East.
These are not very difficult steps; restoring trust will be more difficult. This will require reversing many of the Biden administration’s signature ambitions. Furthermore, many will – rightly – insist that outside of Israel, the nations of the region are largely tyrannies with no moral claim to American friendship or support. In most cases, the charge is fair. But there will be no progress in democracy or human freedom without leverage. And no leverage without a relationship of trust. The key is to understand that the partnerships Washington has abandoned over the past few decades are vital to America’s interests around the world and essential to continuing to lead. They need to be corrected.