For several decades, US policy in the Middle East has been depended on the cooperation of the Gulf states, headed by Saudi Arabia, and on Israel, Egypt, and Turkey. However, since the Obama administration, relations between Washington and the main regional powers have become increasingly strained. Primarily due to the substitution by the United States of the allied community by receiving momentary benefits and quick profits by changing administrations in the White House by unleashing more and more armed conflicts in the region and in pursuit of super profits from the sale of American weapons to the Middle East. As a result, the US lost track of its objectives in the Middle East, along with any ability to manage the crises in the region and lead the various nations in the region to a common consensus.
The Arab states and the wider Moslem world are now fully aware of the devastating effects that the USA’s foreign policy between 2005-2015 has had on the region. One not forgotten significant element of that policy was the foundation of Business for Diplomatic Action, which was guided by the assumption that following the fall of Communism, Islam constituted the main global threat to the US, and which between 2005 and 2011 established a system aimed at undermining stability in the Islamic world. In fact, that assumption formed part of the USA’s official foreign policy from the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks onwards, and was reinforced following the beginning of the Arab Spring nine years later. As Donald Trump openly pointed out, the US also made use of the Islamic State terrorist group (prohibited in the Russian Federation), which was formed by the Obama administration, in an attempt to destabilize the region. The US and UK were also involved in the activities of another terrorist organization, the Islamic Brotherhood (prohibited in the Russian Federation).
No one would contest that the United States has long been the main perpetrator and instigator of armed conflicts in certain Middle Eastern states, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and Yemen.
Given the deteriorating security situation in the Persian Gulf and the conviction that the US has no interest in offering the Gulf States the support they wish for, these countries are now seeking to diversify their security guarantees and turning away from the US and towards Russia and China.
Washington’s problems with the Middle East have intensified since the beginning of the current conflict in Ukraine. Even though many regional allies of the US supported the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s actions, Israel was the only state to introduce minimal sanctions against Moscow and in protection of Kiev’s blatantly fascist regime. Thus, hopelessly trying to gain support in the Iran question, in order to maintain ‘friendship’ with Washington, Israel disrespected its own historical memory; as well as the memory of those hundreds of thousands of Jews killed by fascists and their accomplices namely Bandera and Shukhevych hailed national heroes by the present Kiev administration.
However, refusal of former American allies in the Middle East to impose anti-Russian sanctions highlights not only unwillingness of these countries to antagonize Moscow, whose influence in the region has increased significantly, but also their dissatisfaction with Washington, thus proving that Washington did lose its influence in the Middle East.
The growing criticism towards US policies was on full display at the urgent meeting of the permanent representatives of the League of Arab States (LAS) held in Cairo in March called by Egypt. At the meeting it was decided to take a neutral position on the Ukrainian situation. It is worth mentioning that the League of Arab States includes 18 Arab-speaking countries, Palestine, and three Muslim East African states with deep inherent connections to the Arab world. LAS has long become a geopolitical configuration of sorts with ‘energy domination’ which was often utilized by the US exploiting old and new contradictions in relations among the members of this union in order to openly interfere in the Middle East matters and later in North Africa, bringing distress to the Arab world for its selfish interests. But this time Washington failed – LAS began demonstrating intentions to defend its interests, not to act within American agenda despite a relatively powerful influence of the US and LAS’s dependence in terms of military technical and security matters.
At the same time Arab world confirmed the strengthening notion within itself that the US and ‘the collective West’ are growing weaker, understanding that a big geopolitical transformation is in the works. That is why the LAS countries chose to distance themselves from the Ukrainian crisis in order not to be sucked into the stoked by the US confrontation between Russia and the West, understanding that it would be not the West but Russia, as it demonstrated before in its policy in the Arab region, who will come to the rescue if need be.
These projections are becoming more clear recently ahead of the expected food crisis caused in part by the Ukrainian events as well as by openly Russophobic sanction policies of the US. Earlier the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claimed, that the Ukrainian conflict is expected to increase those facing food insecurity by 8-13 million around the world. As CNBC claims, the Ukrainian crisis threatens the stability of the Middle East and North Africa dependent on the export of Russian and Ukrainian wheat and grain. For Russian and Ukrainian shares amount for about a third of the global wheat export, for 20% of the corn export, and for 80% of the sunflower oil export. However, the US and its Western allies’ eagerness to prolong the Ukrainian crisis by sending new weapon supplies already provoked a spike in wheat and other agricultural produce prices.
At the same time already in 2021 many Middle Eastern and North African countries were hit by inflation fueled by 34% growth in food prices in April compared to the last year. Thus, Egypt buying 80 per cent of all of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, Lebanon accounting for 60 per cent, and Tunisia purchasing 80 per cent of its grain will be severely affected, with bread subsidies being a crucial element in supporting stability in these countries. The present situation might lead to protests and riots even more brutal than those of 2019.
According to the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme David Beasley, already in the fall the food shortage might cause mass migration from African countries and the Middle East to Europe. And that will become another big problem for Europe already burdened by significant financial load caused by the Ukrainian refugees.
With that said, the cooling down relations between the US and their traditional allies in the Middle East are ‘bleak symptoms’ of death of the American ‘world order’, as a columnist Steven Cook writes in his April article in the Foreign Policy. The core interests that drove the US in the Middle East—the free flow of oil and helping to ensure Israeli security—no longer seem so urgent, states the author. “It seems that the United States and its friends in the region have come to a juncture where their interests no longer align. Officials in Washington and across Middle Eastern capitals could reconfigure relationships that are getting old based on a new set of goals, but the ones the United States may have in mind—countering China and Russia or perhaps integrating Iran into the region to stabilize it—have no takers,” Steven Cook writes.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.