The Obama administration has made the strategic decision to pivot toward Southeast Asia, and today it is attempting to make arrangements that will secure its vital interests in the Middle East. For a long time, America’s foreign policy has placed great importance on this region, an entire region held back by hardship and petty conflicts that define its political future.
The United States has sought to make the Middle East both a tool and partner in its global strategy, which revolved around forcing the collapse of the Soviet Union. It used its political and military might to increase its control over the region, so that it may serve its political and military interests.
Israel’s ability to deter conflict with a revitalized Axis of Resistance has been largely exhausted.* Now would be a good time for the best of us to remember those terms we heard so much over the past two decades, terms like “containment,” “the domino effect,” “pincers,” “just war,” “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” …
Except, the last decade has not gone according to America’s plans regarding policy or the balance of power. The U.S. had designs for most, if not all, aspects of the region. I now see that the “building of democracies” in Iraq and Afghanistan, the blockade of Iran, the 2006 war with America’s Israeli stooge, the 2008-2009 Gaza War, everything along those lines, have been wars about security, wars about media, encirclement to economically choke Iran, and other unrelenting efforts to prevent Iranian possession of nuclear technology.
Syria has been host to those efforts for three years, but they extend beyond the obvious war. The U.S. and its allies have not been able to collapse the regime and replace it with a friendly one, which is one of its principle, stated objectives. However, we do not overlook what they have done in the interest of weakening the Syrian Army and Syrian nation.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, all that has been witnessed in the last two decades has concluded with Iran joining the nuclear club and its nuclear capabilities increasing. This has proven Iran, along with its allies, is a central and critical actor in defining the region’s politics and path moving forward. Iran’s influence in the international Islamic arena is now recognized as being as influential as any other.
These facts, among others, have forced the U.S. to adopt a more realistic policy that can “minimize losses with minimal effort.” That means reconfirming its regional alliances, while working to ameliorate conflicts and long-standing distrust. That gives it breathing room to work on its next strategy, centered on economics. The unmistakable purpose of the new strategy was opening the door to reconciliation and negotiations with the region’s great power and America’s implacable enemy, Iran. America’s strategic thinking for the region comes from this context. That is an approach that could be called “realistic.” It is strong for the following reasons:
The new strategy avoids any direct or indirect military involvement in the region — to the chagrin of one American ally, Israel — and prevents any slide into a quagmire, like those experienced in Iran and Afghanistan. The position of the international community, justifications, American public opinion, and American economic conditions, all of these held greater favor for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan than they do today for any potential war with Iran and the Axis of Resistance.
The Axis of Resistance differs now in its potential, intelligence, expanding capabilities and overall scope. The entire region is now included, but nothing beyond it. Any sinking or sliding toward a conflict with it will call to mind the period of history encompassing World War I and World War II. The United States, which had been committed to the Monroe Doctrine, benefited greatly from those wars at the expense of the United Kingdom and other European countries. The U.K. and European powers had been depleted economically and morally from many long, destructive and unnecessary wars. Those wars cost them their global supremacy. The U.S. is not prepared to cede its global supremacy to other competing powers, such as China or Russia. These are the lessons of the 20th century.
Instead of moving forward with limited options, the U.S. watches and waits. It does not feel it can rely on its friends and allies, who are in an unstable position with great hardship and doubt on the horizon. Most recently, it thought it could rely on the Muslim Brotherhood, in Ankara and Cairo, who could act as internal agents and have great credibility with the resistance. This was its last failed attempt.
It is well known that the U.S. cannot rely on its Gulf allies. This makes the “don’t rock the boat” policy of many previous American presidential administrations no longer viable. That leaky boat will not be able to withstand the inevitable tidal waves of change rushing toward it.
Everything hinges on America’s having to face the challenge of squaring its strategic interests with those of its regional allies. America’s own interests have forced it to engage with its allies’ mutual rivals and enemies. It is incumbent on the U.S. to re-assure and compensate its allies. This is especially true regarding its chief allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia — Egypt is no longer of concern. The U.S. has hurried to achieve the following:
– Settling the issue of Syrian chemical weapons by removing and destroying them. This supports Israel’s security.
– The interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, which the U.S. views as a positive for Israel’s strategic security because it does not allow Iran to reach breakout capability — which it has not done yet. The chosen means of pressure on Iran allow the U.S. to limit or halt an Iranian rush toward a bomb. This was the main accomplishment of the P5+1 with this agreement.
– A path toward the political settlement of the Syrian conflict structured around an agreement with Russia via the negotiations of Geneva II. The ongoing conflict in Syria threatens the entire region. Moreover, the battle is not going the way America’s allies wish it to go. This is especially true if the conflict continues as it has since the Syrian Army and Hezbollah took Qusayr, subsequently gaining in Damascus and Aleppo.
– Coordinating with Russia to combat terrorism because it presents a great danger to America’s own interests and the interests of its long-time allies. By doing this, the U.S. is improving its standing in the Geneva Syrian negotiations.
– Stationing 35,000 troops in the region to protect allies and interests. However, even the totality of all of those assurances and compensatory measures do not seem adequate!
So, Israel and Saudi Arabia face many challenges. Their national security schemes have depended on a strong and direct American presence in our region for two decades. They both see that the U.S. is gradually withdrawing its protection and leaving them politically and existentially vulnerable. This is what explains Israel’s hard-nosed position regarding America’s nuclear agreement with Iran, and Saudi Arabia’s calls for the White House to grant it a written security guarantee against Iran, something that Iran would not accept.
Because of this duality, America’s allies must accept whatever the U.S. decides as the best possible terms.
One can see that the U.S. has an interest in the Gulf, particularly in Saudi Arabia. America’s priority is to find a compensatory measure acceptable to Israel, without overlooking assurances acceptable to Saudi Arabia. We have continually seen that Saudi Arabia’s problems with Iran are mostly contrived. We think that cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding are the only “weapons” before us that are agreeable to Iran. We hope that Saudi Arabia does not lose sight of this because of an extremist undercurrent in its military and foreign policy decisions.
The Palestinian issue is a central one for Israel’s security and stability. The only true compensation for Israel will be progress at Palestine’s expense, so that the regional, Arab and internal Palestinian environments allow it to make sure that negotiations will be on its terms. We can see evidence of this today, with the brutal Prawer Plan to usurp and judaize Jerusalem, Israeli proposals to annex settlements on 1948-land, and unprecedented actions in American diplomacy in attempting to settle this issue.**
It seems that the U.S. seeks to revive and adopt Henry Kissinger’s policy of “linkage,” presenting that policy’s various forms of pressure and intimidation as the key to a solution and greater regional stability. This explains the U.K. and America’s sudden friendly overtures to Iran, as well as the interim recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear technology. This has allowed Iranian society, after three decades, to breathe a sigh of relief and glimpse economic recovery.
The positive talk regarding granting Iran an elevated status in the region could subtly act to pressure and embarrass the authorities in Iran and the Axis of Resistance. So, perhaps, this sudden friendliness could act as pressure on Iran to make concessions over Palestine, or perhaps to simply turn a blind eye to it. All such talk comes in this context.
Any arrangement could constitute a direct threat to the Palestinian resistance. Is this not the very purpose of “linkage?” Is the six-month interim nuclear agreement linked to arrangements to compensate the Hebrew nation and allow a phase of the peace process to pass under Israeli terms?
The coming months will be difficult; conflict will increase in scope and become more frequent. Everybody involved must make well thought-out preparations. This is a time that belongs to the strong, who are able to guard their rights and nation. The Iranian people, their leadership, and entire Axis of Resistance will always see Palestine as an issue that exceeds the realm of mere “interests” or tactics, despite its rising cost to them. They see it as a matter of principle and truth. The Palestinian question will once again reveal the true nature of the conflict that has been with us for so long.
*Translator’s Note: The Axis of Resistance is an unofficial name for those countries and entities that oppose Israel, no matter what. Which countries are a part of the Axis may differ, depending on perspective. For example, the Syrian resistance would say that Assad is not a part of the Axis, while Assad would claim that the Syrian resistance is not a part of the Axis. Most commonly, though, it means Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Hamas.
**Translator’s Note: The Prawer Plan, which was basically a Israeli land-grab disguised as an economic development plan, was conceived in 2011 and nixed in 2013, after heavy protests.
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