Political analyst Dmitry Drobnickiy on how “infrastructure of friendship” is gradually destroyed in the USA.
Originally appeared at Izvestia, translated by James Cooksey exclusively for SouthFront
American Middle East policy is in serious decline. It has become common topic not only of the world’s media, but among most American experts in international affairs, and the 2016 elections candidates for the President of the United States.
It’s not just the effects of two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who are to blame, but also the destruction of the Libyan state, chaos in Syria, incredibly fast spread of DAESH (its offshoots are already in Pakistan, and the Xinjiang Uygur region of China) and complete stall of the Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement.
Old-time US allies in the region ― Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also part of the problem.
On one hand, Washington can’t suddenly collapse its security umbrella, which covers its cronies. Because “infrastructure of friendship” in a way of lobbyists, mutual interchanging of economies, American military-industrial complex interests, etc. can’t be easily dismantled in a year or two.
On the other hand, solid trust in U.S. is not there anymore. I would even say that crippled is not just trust in American protectorate, but mutual trust in the relationships between Washington, Ankara, Tel Aviv and Riyadh. What was once a unified machine brought together by the realities of the Cold war, today is an expensive, but unsuitable for resolving modern geopolitical issues mechanism.
That’s why Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia today often put U.S. before a kind of fait accompli in their actions, confident that the drive belt mechanism — U.S. ally duty is still running.
During his years of tenure president Barack Obama has done a lot to limit the influence of American “friends” on her foreign policy. Hence — Iranian detente, which whoever wins in American November presidential elections will find difficult to undo.
However, it’s not like some of the candidates really intended to do it.
As early as summer of 2014 it seemed that a cornerstone of the Republican election campaign would be anti-Iranian notions. However, by the end of the year, it became clear that all the efforts of the Saudi and Israeli lobbyists have gone to no avail. Tough talk against Iran is only coming from Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and they are pretty much done on their candidate’s trail. Others mention Iranian deal only during criticism of inadequate negotiations by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Moreover, at least three Republican candidates — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul say today that course taken for elimination of secular dictators in the Middle East (Libya, Iraq, Egypt) has led to the fact that resulted vacuum is quickly occupied by radicals of the self-proclaimed Caliphate. For this reason, mentioned above candidates do not require immediate departure of Bashar al-Assad, and even fear the dire consequences of his removal from power.
But the summary rating of these candidates is enough for unconditional victory in the primaries.
Obama and Hillary Clinton keep saying the “Assad must go” mantra, but their political rivals already vehemently tell them: “You have created DAESH”. The accusation which may pose very difficult to shake off.
It remains unclear how to deal with the Caliphate in Syria, Iraq and some other countries, especially given the highly questionable role of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in this matter.
All the polemics that Muslim nations in the region should deal with the terrorists on their own, relying only on air support from the U.S., Britain and France, remain just talk in the air. Every Middle Eastern crony of U.S. demands full-scale political and military assistance.
Further complicating the situation is intense hybrid warfare occurring between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. And after the execution of a Shia cleric and human rights activist Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia which sparked severe criticism among political and religious leadership of Iran even direct military conflict between Riyadh and Tehran couldn’t be totally ruled out.
It must be said that execution of al-Nimr sparked criticism within the United States.
Several respectable American editions have published articles condemning such harsh penalty as well as extremely nervous, aggressive Saudi foreign policy, absence of democracy and religious freedoms, oppression of women, medieval judicial system and etc.
Despite the fact that Iran is, beyond any doubt, spiritual center of Shia Islam and alternative (to the Gulf kingdoms) model of Muslim state, al-Nimr himself being Shia human rights activist wasn’t Tehran’s agent. Being much more of the “Arab spring” than of Iran ayatollahs, he represented what is extremely rare and hard to find in Syria nowadays, – the moderate Islamic opposition.
His execution became the trigger not only for escalation of Saudi-Iranian conflict, but also for the emergence of appeal “to temper the Riyadh hawks “, “adopt more hardline approach with the Saudis” or “stay away from the nervous countries” in American media.
The more the sentiments of decreased U.S. involvement in the region prevail, the more nervous Riyadh will get, sparking a new spin of distrust in himself as a reliable partner.
However, as I said, distrust is mutual. Saudi Arabia’s (which already is contemplating going nuclear) most horrible fear is that it will cease being Washington’s “one of the lads”, leaving her one-on-one with Iran, now fully legitimate and free of international sanctions.
Recently a historic event has occurred. Under the budget deal Congress revoked a longstanding ban on crude oil exports from the United States.
This is, perhaps, not very optimistic news for Russia, but definitely bad for the ruling house of Saud.
Surely it’s not only about oil. The Middle East has become a place where large players are no longer planning anything in the long term.
Like air station in Syrian Hmeymim, which creation Putin described at his big press conference: “Put together in two days, loaded into “Anteys” — Bam! It’s done.”
Not in two days, of course and not in two years, but quit swiftly by historic standards the Middle Eastern once seemed unshakeable configuration will remain in the past.
And American 2016 elections will clearly be the turning point.