Commentary: Getting the US out of Middle East purgatory - Channel NewsAsia
Since the end of the Cold War, the way that the United States has defined its interests in the Middle East has evolved in dramatic ways. These changed. The United States is at an interregnum between the world that existed for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. American foreign policy in the Middle East has undergone many changes since relationship with Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, and Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel.
The idea of further military strikes against Iraq is very unpopular with the masses in the Arab world. The absence of a viable alternative to Saddam Hussein poses a real dilemma for U.
Lost in the Middle East
Likewise, the dual-containment policy, initiated in by the Clinton administration to weaken Iran and Iraq through strict economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, has failed to make the Gulf region any more stable or secure than in the past. There is a growing consensus that containment has failed in its objectives of isolating Iran, converting the regime to the cause of regional peace, or convincing it to stop pursuing missile and nuclear technology.
The implications of the policy have been ominous, as it has alienated U. The emergence of a reformist movement in Iran since seems entirely unrelated to U. Saltiel and Jason S. Purcell question the effectiveness of this policy, while pointing to its paradoxical nature: Those who oppose a change in U.
Several members of the European Union have emphasized the positive impact that trade and economic relations have on Iran, especially in the context of supporting its reformist president.How We Got So Involved In the Middle East
The coup in Iran is a notable case in point. CIA and British agents, in collaboration with Iranian army generals, engineered a coup against the nationalist and constitutionally elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadeq, who nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
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- Commentary: Getting the US out of Middle East purgatory
He was deposed, and the shah was restored to power shortly afterward. Arab ally in the region, yet it has a poor human-rights record. Such considerations are clearly subordinated to U. Sincethe fear of allowing democratic change — violent or otherwise — in Algeria to spread across the entire North African region and the Middle East has heavily influenced U. Often the United States is resented for propping up dictatorial and corrupt regimes rather than prodding them to change.
Osama bin Laden was the price of the U. The actions of the Taliban at that time largely served U. Support for reform-minded groups, Islamic or otherwise, however, is likely to better accommodate some U. The democracy conundrum notwithstanding, there can be no doubt that U.
This policy has contributed greatly to the militarization of the region. Yet the link between stability and militarization has been disproved in the case of the Iranian shah, whose mighty army was brought down by a mass movement in a fairly non-violent revolution, and in the case of Saddam Hussein, whose invasion of Kuwait had to be undone by direct U. Reliance on huge and deadly arsenals has rendered regional stability fragile. Consider, for example, the superiority of Israeli military power, which has produced no order — much less peace — in the occupied territories.
The massive infusions of military aid into the region have worked against the prospects of political opening and democratic change and created only the illusion of stability. Suffice to say, arms sales tend to fortify the position of the extremists in the region, making it difficult for the moderates to win against the militants.
The sale of U. Closely related to the rationale behind these flawed policies is the issue of how American weapons manufacturers influence the U. As one Middle East analyst reminds us: The ambiguity of this question has cast its shadow over the relationship between the United States and pro-Western Middle Eastern regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The governments of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have over the years financed the export of Wahhabism to Afghanistan and Pakistan by building mosques and madrassas religious schools there. That those funds supported Al Qaeda has been seriously debated only in the aftermath of September In fact, Pakistan was the incubator for the Taliban. Has the Pakistani military been a major beneficiary of narcoterrorism in Afghanistan sincewhen the Taliban took power?
Why did the Pakistani military, the main force behind the Taliban, decide to shift its position suddenly after the September 11 tragedy?
Strengthening of US-UAE ties points to growing co-operation beyond Middle East - The National
Some of the tiny Gulf emirates have also been financial supporters of the Taliban, realizing full well that the Al Qaeda terrorist networks had been operative there. How then could these countries be characterized as pro-Western regimes? This is perhaps the best example of the potential extremist backlash a country in a domestic ideological battle can face. Such rhetoric contradicts the goal of the antiterrorist campaign, which is to promote freedom around the world.
It has long fought the issue of drug trafficking on its border and has been host to more than 2 million Afghan refugees. Washington has yet to offer any evidence to substantiate the claims that Iran has become a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
But this campaign is likely to be counterproductive and self-defeating if foreign-policy makers shy away from defining friends and foes along those lines. The gap between principles and practices of U.
Warning against the trend toward unilateralism, Joseph S. The process might be contentious, tedious and sluggish, but it is likely to lead to more sustainable positive outcomes than unilateral actions.
William Quandt, who was actively involved in the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords, argues that the United States has looked the other way as countries such as Israel have developed nuclear weapons and Egypt and Syria and others have long had chemical capabilities. The idea of the development of a zone free of WMD faces a major obstacle: International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities and materials.
A more long-range missile program remains only a matter of speculation. This prospect bodes ill for stability and is reason enough to question the military option against Iran. This is a means by which the United States exerts immense leverage on other states to take part in international regimes dominated by Washington, especially in relation to the struggle against global terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the transnational control of migration and drugs.
We are reminded that despite military success in Afghanistan, the United States finds itself facing a much larger ideological adversary that may prove to be as hard to defeat as militant Islam: The Enron scandal, on the other hand, clearly was about us.
I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not September 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U. This painful tragedy can and should prove to be a valuable learning experience. The September 11 tragedy told us as much about Wahhabism as it did about U. The experiences of the past half century have shown that the profound problems that September 11 has brought so starkly to light cannot be resolved merely through the use of military force, partisan diplomacy and sustaining oppressive but pro-Western regimes.
For the near future, three policy goals must be pursued: An equitable resolution of the Palestinian Israeli problem is the key to ending the intifada and resuming negotiations.
It is clear that a peaceful resolution of this conflict hinges upon fair and balanced terms of agreement. The land-for-peace proposal has stirred hope even in Israel, especially after a paroxysm of killing in recent months.
The creation of a Palestinian state is the first step en route to resolving other issues. Israel cannot gain security by imposing a version of peace unacceptable to the Palestinian leadership. Only the active and balanced involvement of the United States and the EU, coupled with progressive Arab leadership, can lead to peace. An effective negotiation must begin with halting further settlement building in the occupied territories, and a just solution must provide security and equity for both sides.
Justifying such aid in the name of the political necessity of victory, Ian S. Lustick argues that the victory over fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and imperial Japan was followed and consolidated by a massive program of aid in the reconstruction of European democracy and the foundation of Japanese democracy. In this context, it should be noted that in the early twentieth century, the petroleum industries flourished all over the world, but most especially in Europe and North America.
During World War I, major world powers began to prioritize oil as a vital military asset; modern warfare caused a constant need for oil and its subsidiary petroleum-based products which were a necessity for ships, airplanes, tanks, submarines, and the lubrication of modern rifles.
This heavy use of oil during World War I created a severe shortage in Paul, The idea behind these mutual concessions was to negotiate solutions to incompatible political and business agendas and to make entrepreneurial explorations safer. At the close of the Second World War, the United States government became wary about cutbacks in oil production and the possible economic hiccups that would stem from a fuel shortage.
To prevent a fuel shortage, the United States made economic demands for concessions with multiple Middle Eastern countries. This requirement started in the pre-war years with concessions in BahrainKuwaitand Saudi Arabia These concessions were shared by multiple oil companies Rustow, Infollowing American demands, several companies were developed to exploit these concessions.
These companies soon surveyed and developed large production fields that allowed them to harvest massive profits from low-cost oil that would be used to rebuild the economies of Europe and Japan that had been destroyed during World War II. The boom eventually brought this cheap oil to United States shores and stimulated the growth of the post-war American economy, which reiterated the desire for more United States companies to seek concessions in Kuwait, Iran, and other oil producers in the region Diller, Meanwhile, as the development of the Middle Eastern concessions increased, the United States oil production began to decrease in ratio to its increased consumption.
Following World War II, the United States began looking for alternative sources of oil abroad to meet its own future demands. The Middle East was very attractive to both the United States government and American petroleum companies due to its proven long-term oil reserves.
To attest to this high-quality Middle Eastern oil was known to flow freely of its own pressure. This is a considerable difference when it comes to the bottom line Rustow, Gelvin, in his book, The Modern Middle East: A History, indicates that among the most notable objectives of the United States in the Middle East region is to assure Western access to oil.
The reasons for this are twofold: Even today the amount of oil remains at one-fifth of American imports. From a strategic perspective, the post-war economic recoveries of Europe and Japan were fueled by cheap Middle Eastern oil. Ever since the Oil Embargo Crisis, American policy has viewed oil as a strategic resource, as does much of the world.
The embargo also applied to other countries that braced Israel including South Africa, the Netherlands, and Portugal. In fact, maintaining a strong Israel in the Middle East solidifies American national security interests there.
This perspective has dominated American foreign policy since the mid-twentieth century and continues to shape the current policy. The historical land of Palestine was under the authority of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I, when Britain assumed control of Palestine as a mandate under the League of Nations. Before Britain announced the Balfour Declaration, the British government tried to persuade President Woodrow Wilson to endorse the proposed statement Balfour Declaration. Initially, Wilson was reluctant to do so as he thought that such a declaration would worsen US-Ottoman relations.
Finally, under pressure by Louis D. From then on, the United States continued to support Jewish migration to Palestine. Congress adopted a resolution in December for this explicit purpose.
On May 14,the State of Israel announced its independence.
From that point on, the historical land of Palestine has been known as Israel. Minutes after Israel declared its independence, the United States became the first country to recognize their independence. Shortly after that, the Soviet Union and other countries also recognized the independence of the Jewish state. Following the announcement of the independence of Israel, the first Arab-Israeli War of began, and Egypt led Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Saudi Arabia in launching attacks on the territory in support of the Arab Palestinians.
Continuing their policy of supporting Jewish immigration to Palestine, following the Arab-Israeli War ofthe Truman administration explicitly facilitated this process.
After the war, a small number of Palestinian Arabs remained in Israel while most of them retreated to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that remained under Jordanian and Egyptian control respectively until the Six-Day War of They also criticized their governments for not developing the military infrastructure necessary to claim victory on the battlefield Gelvin, The succeeding American presidents have sponsored some initiatives, agreements, and treaties with some Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO to assure the sustainability of Israel.
From the onset of the Cold War, Israel is viewed as a close ally of the United States in a turbulent Middle East region and critical to American national security interests. Despite many political changes, this logic remains true to this day, with Israel serving as a protection against political Islam and other extremists. These military bases are not open to the public and usually, take different shapes according to the military purpose for which they were established. However, with the onset of the Cold War, the number of military bases and military installations increased rapidly around the world.
Prior tothe United States maintained a minimal military presence in the Middle East. However, following the Arab-Israeli War, Bahrain, no longer supportive of the American military presence, terminated the lease Sandars, In his State of the Union address, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would defend its interests in the Gulf region from outside force by any means necessary, including military action. In order to promote a long-term solution to the region, President Ronald Reagan unified the command structure of the RDJTF and became more involved in its relationship with the region.
After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait inthe United States began assembling a coalition of more than 30 countries to oust the Iraqi military from Kuwait in January Specifically, at that time, the George W. As a result of these factors, America invaded Iraq in It was not until December of that the United States officially withdrew its troops, leaving only personnel remaining at the American embassy in Iraq.
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait inthe United States intensified its military presence and expanded its military base footprint in the Gulf states. The relationship is bilateral, and normally beneficial one, with mutual, although different, obligations.
The client state… is often militarily powerful but economically weak…. At the beginning of the Cold War, several Middle Eastern countries were divided into two respective camps. In one camp, countries such as Egypt and Syria supported the Soviet Union and were adopting international communist ideas.
In the other camp, countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Israel backed the United States and adopted capitalist ideas and style. Both parties, however, were getting economic, military, and diplomatic support from either Washington or Moscow.
In addition, to some extent, a few states were able to use their diplomatic skills to gain support from both parties. Both superpowers recognized the importance of the region for their national security interests and thus sought to reinforce their relationships with the countries of the region and build what came to be known as client-states. Division among countries of the area rapidly appeared with some states giving support to the Soviet Union and other states supporting the United States.
Since the earlys, the United States has pledged to provide economic, military, and protective assistance to several countries in the Middle East to maintain its national security and strategic interests there. The patron-client relationship within the Middle Eastern countries has achieved success in maintaining American and Allied security interests in the region.
However, throughout this process, an uneven relationship was fashioned between the United States and the Middle Eastern countries. This uneven patron-client relationship has enabled the United States to gain full access to proven energy supplies. Also, this relationship opened the door for establishing more military bases and installations that consequently have increased the presence of American personnel in the Gulf.
Finally, economic, military, and diplomatic support has been extended to friendly regimes in the Middle East.