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18.10.2022 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Americans criticize the USA’s Middle Eastern policies

The USA never misses an opportunity to present itself as an open and democratic society and a state in which the government authorities respect the will of the majority of the people and tailor their policies accordingly. That may have been the case in the past, but the facts no longer support this view – the President and his team are pushing through policies which favor their own interests and which are quite different from what they promised in their election campaigns.

There is a great deal of evidence to support this claim, but one particularly striking example is a new wide-ranging survey of Americans’ views on Washington’s foreign policy in the Middle East.  The survey revealed that the majority of young Americans oppose their country’s policy in relation to Israel and, specifically against its sale of arms to the Israeli regime. The survey also shows that there is a great deal of support in American society for the Iran nuclear deal.

The survey, conducted by the Eurasia Group Foundation (EGF), shows that young Americans are more politically aware than older generations in relation to Israel’s aggressive policies against the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. Most respondents aged between 18 and 29 were not in favor of continuing to supply arms to Israel. Older Americans (over sixty years old), on the other hand, tend to be in favor of the US providing military support to Israel.

The US supplies Israel with military aid worth some $4 billion a year. As a result, Israel is the biggest recipient of American military support in the world. But this support is being paid for by American taxpayers, many of whom are unaware that their taxes are being used to support the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians. Similarly, more than 80% of Americans support the Biden administration’s policy of negotiating in order to revive the Iran nuclear deal, as they consider that this will help improve the situation in the Middle East.  Both in the region and at the international level there is a great deal of debate about how ready ordinary Americans are to criticize their government’s military support for dictatorships and authoritarian regimes enforcing policies of territorial occupation and ethnic segregation. Washington, in a bid to justify its actions, frequently claims that its support is made necessary by so-called security concerns, but many are skeptical of these arguments, dismissing them as cheap populism.

Mark Hannah, senior fellow at the Eurasia Group Foundation, describes the motivation behind the survey, “We began this survey five years ago because we believed lawmakers and foreign policy leaders conducting foreign policy on behalf of the American people would benefit from a window into their opinions and priorities.” He also expressed the hope that the survey results would be used by decision makers responsible for foreign policy in relation to the Middle East would study the survey “to make the activities they pursue more sensitive to – and informed by – the opinions of their constituents, and to bridge the gap between the concerns of policymakers and those of ordinary Americans.”

Unfortunately, the above hope is very naive: officials in Washington and in the Biden administration do not take the interests of ordinary Americans into account when making foreign policy decisions. It would suffice to cite Washington’s involvement supporting neo-Nazi groups in the war in Ukraine, thus threatening the world with nuclear war.

Or one could cite its offer to supply Israel – completely free of charge – with four Boeing military refueling aircraft over the next four years. Boeing signed a contract with the US Defense Department for the supply of four Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aircraft at a cost of $927 million. In effect, this means that the purchase price of $927 million will be paid by the US taxpayer, and Boeing will make a handsome profit from the transaction. According to Israeli media reports and also official government sources, Israel is already planning to use these state-of-the art aircraft to attack Iranian territory. It is obvious that the revival of the so-called Iran nuclear deal is in the interests both of the USA and of ordinary Americans, and that it would have a very positive effect on the highly tense situation in the Middle East.

In a formal statement on the decision to supply Israel with the refueling planes, Benny Gantz, Israel’s Minister of Defense, said, “This is further proof of the alliance and the strategic relations of the Israeli and American defense establishments.” In line with their standard practice, the Minister of Defense and other Israeli officials, along with their counterparts in Washington, all falsely name Iran as the justification for their huge military aid budget. This military aid has support from both parties in Congress, and is approved each year by a majority of lawmakers, even though this support goes against the interests of ordinary Americans.

According to a study by Maryland University, less than 1% of respondents consider Israel to be one of Washington’s two main allies. Many other surveys conducted over a number of years confirm the findings of the Eurasia Group Foundation. Earlier this year a survey by Pew Research also found that Americans under 30 tended to have a negative view of Israel. 61% of respondents in that age group felt sympathy towards the Palestinians. Maryland University also found that only a small proportion were in favor of stronger links with Israel, and that Israel is able to manipulate these links to favor its own interests.

 In an interview with Middle East Eye, Dr. Zuri Linetsky, a Research Fellow at the Eurasia Group Foundation, explained that many American respondents who stated that they were against arms sales to Israel explained that they saw Israel’s long-term occupation of Palestinian territory as a violation of human rights.  That last survey also found that many Americans are against their government’s continuing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with 70% of respondents critical of Washington’s policy in relation to Riyadh.

That is despite the fact that rights groups are deeply concerned about the Biden administration’s continuing approvals of new arms sales to countries such as Israel, which have a record of invading other Arab nations. In August President Biden approved a $5 billion sale of rocket technology to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The survey also shows that respondents are in favor of reining in US military involvement abroad, and, conversely, want to see the US administration make more effort in the field of diplomacy, especially in relation to US rivals.

One of the key findings of the survey conducted by the Eurasia Group Foundation is that respondents attach a lot of importance to the Iran nuclear deal. It revealed that, irrespective of whether they vote Democrat or Republican, most Americans are in favor of talks with Tehran. Almost 80% of them support Joe Biden’s administration, which is engaged in talks to revive the nuclear deal. To a great extent, support for the talks cuts across party divisions, with more than 70% of Republicans believing that the USA should continue with the talks.

However, approximately 80% of respondents also feel that Congress should more strictly control the President’s powers and authority in military matters, and that such decisions should be made by Congress. The USA has invaded many countries, most notably Afghanistan and Iraq, and its military continues to be involved in combat operations in Syria. Washington is also still illegally “occupying” a number of Arab countries, and has military bases in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. And the Pentagon does all this without consulting Congress – it prefers to take action and present the legislature with a fait accompli.

When asked about Afghanistan, almost two thirds of respondents consider that the most important lesson to be learned from the Afghan war is that the USA should not be involved in nation-building, or that it should only send troops into harm’s way if its vital national interests are threatened.

As for nuclear weapons, almost 75% of respondents said that they were concerned about this problem. Those respondents who have served or currently serve in the armed forces were less concerned than those with no military experience. “For the vast majority of the 21st century, the United States has been involved in conflicts in far-flung parts of the world. So the question is, is this what the American people want? Does this represent their interests?”, asked Zuri Linetsky, in his interview with Middle East Eye.

In conclusion, the author can confidently state that the survey is a good test to determine the areas in which respondents are dissatisfied with American policies in relation to the Middle East, and what they consider should be their leaders’ priorities, whether concerning international or domestic matters. The survey shows that in relation to many questions, the White House’s policies are inconsistent with the views of the majority of respondents. The survey sample was made up of a highly diverse group of Americans from all parts of the country, with different religions, political affiliations, drawn from every age group and representing all income levels.

What kind of democracy is that?

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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