Opinion

Why is America Involved in the Middle East?

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Middle East – There is a risk that US interventions, motivated by the fight against terrorism, are determined by what is militarily feasible rather than by what is politically desirable.

Given its current status as sole superpower, the United States feels empowered to intervene where and when it sees fit to safeguard its particular interests, protect its allies and, at least from its point of view, repair injustices and make the world a better place, well at least according to the politicians.

Frequently, the intervention is of a military nature, either in the form of long-term wars, as in the cases of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, or of brief and almost ridiculous expeditions, as in Grenada. 

The actions of war have become so integral to US foreign policy that the past president, Barack Obama, was accused of “isolationism” when he refused to provide military support to the Syrian opposition after 2011.

One of the consequences of this interventionism is that, in some parts of the world, the growing political role played by the army is evident above all in the Middle East. 

The issue of security has always been at the center of US strategy in the region. However, until recently, the army did not participate decisively in the process of defining policies. 

The proliferation of violent Islamism has changed the situation

There is a danger that in the future the actions will be determined by what is militarily feasible rather than by what is politically desirable. 

Perhaps this year’s intervention in Syria and Iraq, in which military action has been developed without a political strategy, is a harbinger of the problems that lie ahead.

After the Second World War, US policy in the Middle East has been driven by three fundamental concerns: limiting Soviet influence, maintaining access to oil and safeguarding Israel’s security. 

Obviously, the first has ceased to be one of these drivers. 

Although the aggressiveness of the president, Vladimir Putin, does not stop increasing, in the Middle East Russia has represented for the USA an annoyance more than a real threat. 

Israel’s access to oil and security, for its part, continue to be the engines of political action and, since September 2001, the fight against terrorism has become the undisputed and probably enduring third pillar of US interventions in the fight against terrorism.

Middle East oil and Bottlenecks

The United States does not depend on direct oil imports from the Gulf countries. 

Exports from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to the US have not stopped decreasing over the years, and the revolutions of the national oil and gas will further reduce them. 

But the oil market is an integrated market on a global scale and any threat to the main oil and gas producers in the Gulf, including Iran and Iraq, could have economic repercussions around the world. 

The safe passage of oil tankers and ships that transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb and the Suez Canal remains an imperative, regardless of whether the shipment is destined for China, Japan, Europe or the United States.

To ensure access to oil in this region, the US has historically depended on maintaining solid relations with both the Arab countries of the Gulf and Iran. 

But with the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, ties with Iran were broken and the country became the threat that had to be restrained rather than the ally who helped maintain stability. Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the relationship with the Arab countries of the Gulf has also been undermined. For Saudi Arabia and its smaller neighbors, the US decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein without consulting them and without considering the repercussions for the rest of the region undermined security in the Gulf by weakening the only country in the area powerful enough to act as a counterweight to Iran.

For the Gulf countries, already irritated by the US insistence on democratic elections in Iraq – which, in his opinion, would further destabilize the country by increasing Shiite power and with it Iranian influence – the support The US overthrow of several Arab regimes during the Arab Spring was a source of outrage. 

According to the dominant rhetoric in the region, in Egypt the Obama administration had no problem in leaving behind its ally, President Hosni Mubarak; in Bahrain he was perilously on the verge of taking sides with the Shiite opposition at a time when the Gulf countries were sending in protective forces to support the monarchy; and, on top of that, when the Syrians rose up against President Bashar al Assad,

All in all, the Gulf countries are still waiting for the United States to protect them and maintain security in the region; They have no one else to turn to. 

However, they have become stubborn and suspicious allies who doubt the sincerity of US commitment and are reluctant to unconditionally support Washington’s leadership of Donald Trump.

 

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