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Since Egypt left the orbit of the Soviet Union after its war with Israel in October 1973, and since the undermining of the US-Iranian alliance after the Islamic revolution overthrew the monarchy in Iran in 1979, the United States has modified its strategy in the region after these major changes in the seventies, including The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and the bloody attack by extremist militants who occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks, to be located on four pillars: two Arabians, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and two non-Arabs, Turkey and Israel.
Over forty years, the United States ’achievements in the Middle East and its surroundings were the result of Washington’s cooperation with one or more of these countries, most notably: the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty; Containing the Iranian Revolution, including the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia for Iraq in its war with Iran during the 1980s; The defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan as a result of coordinating American-Saudi-Egyptian efforts (with Pakistan) to support the Afghan mujahideen organizations; And the war against “Al-Qaeda” and its offshoot organizations, and finally the defeat of the “Islamic State” as an organized fighting force in Iraq and Syria.
But the regional landscape today is very different from what it was four decades ago. It is true that the Islamic regime in Iran has greatly enhanced its influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, at the expense of Washington and its allies in the region. However, Iran is besieged by the United States, and its influence in Iraq is facing serious challenges. More importantly, the Islamic regime is facing an Iranian popular resentment that, at the end of last year, reached unprecedented levels of questioning of its legitimacy.
The Soviet Union, which collapsed in the 1990s, gave life to a nationalist Russia ruled by the chauvinist autocrat Vladimir Putin with a gang of oligarchs seeking to restore the old Soviet influence in Europe and the Middle East, which Putin translated with aggressive and expansionary measures such as the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 And the military intervention in Syria in 2015, and the Russian interference in the US presidential elections in 2016, and in the European elections in favor of nationalist and chauvinist forces in Western Europe, hostile to immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
Whereas 40 years ago the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) largely controlled oil markets and prices, this organization has lost much of its influence today, as the United States has become the largest energy producer in the world. This new reality in the field of energy contributed, in addition to the exhaustion of American society from the two longest wars in the country’s history: Afghanistan and Iraq, to push former President Barack Obama to start a gradual military and political withdrawal from a region that Washington no longer relies on its oil and sees it increasingly disobedient to American influence. And political reform and respect for human rights, as evidenced by the failure of most of the popular uprisings that swept through a number of Arab countries in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
This coincided with the emergence of China in the past decades as the second largest economy in the world, and as a power determined to extend its military and political influence in Asia and beyond Asia, a challenge that Washington cannot ignore and which in recent years has turned from the rule of former President Obama to something like an obsession.
Trump and the Endless Wars
During his election campaign, candidate Donald Trump reiterated his call to end America’s “endless” wars in the Middle East and South Asia, stressing his desire to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Trump maintained his position after arriving at the White House, and he sought more than once to withdraw American forces from Syria, until months ago he succeeded in withdrawing most of them, and his administration is still trying to reach an understanding with the various forces in Afghanistan, including the “Taliban” movement, allowing him to withdraw About half of the US forces are from Afghanistan.
It is true that Trump ordered the sending of new naval and air forces to the Gulf region to deter Iran in the wake of its military attacks against Saudi oil facilities and in the wake of the bombing of oil tankers owned by Washington’s allies in the Gulf and Europe, but these supplies do not change the fact that the US military presence in the Gulf region will not It remains at these levels for a long time, and political interest in the Middle East and its conflicts is ebbing and will continue to decline, as we see from Washington’s admission that Moscow is the most influential international party in the conflict in Syria and to a lesser extent in Libya.
The recent announcement of what was called an American plan to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel does not change the fact that the United States under Trump has completely abandoned its role as a semi-honest broker between the Arabs and Israel.
Israel in the American collective memory
During the past forty years, the US’s relations with these four countries have changed, as has the status of these countries with the American people and their representatives in Congress. Perhaps the stark irony in this context is that at a time when President Trump developed personal and friendly relations with Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – all of them are accused of either corruption or bullying. Abuse of their powers or intimidation and assassination of their opponents – we find that the status of these four countries with the Americans has ebbed and flowed, and these countries no longer enjoy the confidence and support of many US lawmakers or those influencing public opinion.
US Presidents Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Even Israel, which still enjoys remarkable support in Congress, has lost its previous place in the collective memory of Americans as a democracy that deserves American support, due to its flagrant violations of Palestinian rights, and its chauvinistic delinquency represented by the ruling coalition, which includes political figures known for their racism against the Palestinians and their religious intolerance.
Israel and its policies in the occupied territories are under increasing criticism from politicians and leaders of the Democratic Party in Congress, and the Netanyahu government is also exposed to significant criticism among American Jews. Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has described Netanyahu on more than one occasion as a “racist”. Democratic candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren called for linking US aid to Israel to the continued commitment of the Israeli government to the two-state solution, and that if Israeli settlement continues and threatens this solution, US aid will be “on the table” if elected, meaning that it will be ready to suspend this aid.
Egypt and the Missing Regional Role
In the past, the other three countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) had friends in Congress and among the American media, but now things have changed. During congressional hearings or lawmakers’ speeches, we no longer hear lawmakers speak positively about Egypt, but rather we hear increasing criticism of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s poor record in respect of human rights and his increasing inclination to intimidate those who dare to criticize him. We also no longer hear from analysts about the importance of Egypt and its usefulness to the United States and its interests in the region.
In the past, Egypt had a role in the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel, or in coordination with Washington to combat terrorism or cooperation to prevent regional conflicts from escalating further. Egypt’s shrinking regional role – an Egyptian decision dating back to the Hosni Mubarak era, but which increased during Sisi’s rule – justifies Washington’s disregard for Egypt’s regional importance.
In Washington, as in the region’s capitals, many are asking: What is the role of Cairo in the region? Its role in the eastern Mediterranean is almost non-existent, its role in the Gulf is very secondary, and it is under the Saudi umbrella. Even its role in Libya is very limited, and it is barely able to deal with Ethiopia to persuade it not to reduce the size of Egypt’s share of the Nile water during Ethiopia’s mobilization of the large lake that it will create behind the huge Renaissance Dam. Egypt is still unable until now to extend its full military control over the Sinai Peninsula, as it was asking Israel from time to time to bomb the sites of Islamic extremists in the Sinai.
Turkey, from ally to adversary?
US-Turkish relations were good during the Cold War era, when Turkey was one of the main pillars of NATO as the only country that had a common border with the Soviet Union, albeit briefly disturbed by the US military sanctions imposed by Congress against Turkey following its invasion of northern Cyprus in the middle of 1970s.
However, relations began to worsen since the US invasion of Iraq, when Turkey refused to allow the American army to invade northern Iraq from Turkish territory, and it became more and more tense with the improvement of relations between the United States and the Iraqi Kurds.
With the tendency of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent years to adopt remarkable “Islamic” stances inside Turkey and in the region, such as entering into alliances with the “Muslim Brotherhood” in Egypt and cooperating with Qatar to support Islamists in the region, and with his suppression of the media and civil liberties, American criticism of Turkey has increased. From Congress, the media, and human rights organizations.
Relations worsened when Washington rejected Erdogan’s requests to recover the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, his old ally who turned into a great opponent from his voluntary exile in Pennsylvania, and reached high levels of tension following Erdogan’s accusation of American figures of involvement in the attempted military coup against him in the summer of 2016.
These developments paved the way for the emergence of anti-American feelings among the Turkish public opinion in support of Erdogan, and the media controlled by Erdogan and his party contributed to fueling them. Once again, the United States resorted to imposing military sanctions against Turkey, which violated NATO policy when it decided to purchase a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile system. This development, and the accompanying strong criticism of Turkey in the US Congress, brought relations to their lowest levels, as many analysts have seen.
However, Turkey’s position in America suffered a major setback when it decided to invade northern Syria and strike the Syrian Kurdish forces and their Syrian Arab allies who fought with the American forces against the “Islamic State” forces and suffered many losses. President Trump’s “blessing” of opportunism for the Turkish invasion of northern Syria did not alter or diminish the intensity of criticism of Turkey in Congress or in the media.
In this context, many questions arose in the media and research centers about the feasibility of Turkey remaining in NATO. It is not excluded that Turkey will move in the foreseeable future – if Erdogan remains in power – from a traditional ally of America to a new opponent in the region.
Saudi Arabia and destabilizing the region
During his second term, President Barack Obama urged the Gulf Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, to play a greater role in protecting themselves and solving the region’s problems, including the Gulf’s “sharing” with Iran. It is no secret that Obama’s relations with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been tepid and unfriendly.
Obama saw that the nuclear agreement with Iran – which came after secret negotiations between America and Iran in Oman, which angered Saudi Arabia and the UAE – was one of his most prominent achievements in the region. But when Obama was in the White House, he did not realize that he had made a catastrophic mistake when he encouraged Saudi Arabia to bear the burdens of stability in the region. When Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an air war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Washington contributed its logistical support.
This war, initiated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, quickly turned into a catastrophic war and one of the greatest human tragedies of the twenty-first century. Thousands of Yemeni civilians and children fell in the Saudi indiscriminate bombing, which led to the emergence of very harsh criticism against Saudi Arabia and decisions from the majority in Congress to stop US military supplies to Saudi Arabia, which would have succeeded had President Trump not use his veto power against it.
And if the disaster of the Yemen war, committed by a young, reckless and lacking in experience and wisdom, the crown prince, along with his successors in the Gulf and Egypt, imposed a political and economic blockade against Qatar, the member state of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has practically become a council for Gulf rivalry.
It is true that Qatar’s “Islamic” policies and its cooperation with Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood (including its previous support for “Hezbollah” in Lebanon), its interference in the internal affairs of its neighbors and the use of its media in this interference, are all positions that deserve to be condemned and condemned. The blockade on it is not justified politically or legally.
The blockade did not succeed in forcing Qatar to adjust its policies, and it can even be said that it pushed it further into the arms of Iran, and encouraged it more to ask Turkey to increase the number of its forces stationed in Qatar. Thus Qatar contributed to the return of Turkish forces to the Gulf waters for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.
Saudi Arabia’s prestige and the reputation of its crown prince collapsed to uncommon levels in the United States after Prince Muhammad bin Salman and his top aides were revealed in the murder of journalist and commentator Jamal Khashoggi, who was publishing articles in the “Washington Post” newspaper and his body was dismembered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. In October 2018. The echoes of this crime still reverberate in the United States, despite President Trump’s attempts to help his friend, the Saudi Prince, evade bearing legal and moral responsibility for this crime.
With such allies in the Middle East, the United States does not need enemies.
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