How do Middle Eastern allies deal with an ever changing US foreign policy?

Iran-US relations are shaping the US' politics in the Middle East (Photo by Shutterstock)

Since September 11, 2001, and perhaps since the end of the Cold War in 1990, successive US administrations have dramatically changed their attitudes toward their Middle East partners. Ahmad Abdel-Rahman explains.

Countries of the Middle East and the Arab world, historically allied with the US, have to adapt to volatile American policies towards the region. One of the challenges facing leaders, politicians, media professionals, and civil society organisations in the Middle East is interpreting the changes taking place in public opinion in Middle Eastern and Arab countries. As such, how do the Middle East countries and the Arab world deal with Washington DC?

According to Walid Fares, Secretary General of the Atlantic Parliamentary Group, the theory of "the American conspiracy, whether it is with Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood, quickly spreads every time the public feels that Washington has abandoned an Arab or regional state or sided with Tehran or Islamic forces". Radical forces quickly attack the media and immediately seek to destroy bridges with the US as soon as there are differences of opinion.

Since September 11, 2001, and perhaps since the end of the Cold War in 1990, US administrations have dramatically changed their attitudes toward their regional partners. The Iranian regime and its allies such as the Assad regime, the Qatar-Turkey axis, and the Baathist nationalist forces have always sought to have US support in the region.

Tehran and Damascus, and the AKP in Turkey, have always taken a hardline stance towards the US. Iran has always been hostile to what it called the "Great Satan" and has not changed its position. even since signing the nuclear agreement in 2015. As for the Muslim Brotherhood, despite having received the full support of the Obama administration since his famous speech in Cairo in 2009, the movement continued to attack the US in the media.

In short, the partner countries and friends of America and the majority of the peoples of the Middle East did not become hostile to the US because of a change in its approach to the region. Instead, they have resolutely resisted their enemies and maintained the best possible relations with the US.

Relations with Iran

American foreign policy is not only always changing, but American public opinion always aligns with historical causes. For this reason, the parties that consider themselves harmed by the US change of course since 2009, and are historically allies of Washington DC, did not break the alliance and build an axis with America's opponents, as Abdel Nasser, a former Egyptian president, did in the 1950s or leaders in Latin America and the Third World did during the Cold War. At the time, Nasser severed Egypt's relations with the US and announced its alliance with the former Soviet Union, especially after the World Bank refused to finance the building of the Aswan Dam in southern Egypt.

As for Donald Trump's presidency in the past decade, Washington's policy toward the Middle East changed. This was in late January 2017. The new administration exited the nuclear agreement with Iran, put the Pasdaran on the list of terrorist organisations, began confronting militias on the ground in the region and eliminating ISIS. As such, most Middle East countries countries opened their doors to cooperation again, as was shown by the Riyadh summit held in 2017, with the attendance of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders.

Plans were made to confront the dangers in the region, the Warsaw meeting was held in 2019 to isolate the Iranian regime, and the allied capitals of the US felt that a golden era of cooperation had begun once more, but on stronger foundations than what existed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

The Biden administration is hoping to return to the Iranian nuclear agreement. Already, it has handed over Afghanistan to the Taliban, with the resulting repercussions in Sunni countries globally. The decision to remove the Houthis in Yemen from the US terrorism list marked another change in US foreign policy.

The Middle Eastern partner countries of Washington during the first nuclear agreement stage, had established their positions until Washington's internal policies changed. These countries took almost the same stance in both 2021 and early 2022. They wanted to return to the Iran nuclear agreement, especially since the Abraham Accords were signed in 2020.Therefore,the countries of the region played an important role in dealing with Israel and the Biden administration towards Iran. However, the Ukraine war changed matters again, the energy crisis exploded, and the Biden Administration in the US moved to find alternative energy sources.

US President Biden and the Arab leaders met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in June 2022 and the equation changed again. Now, there is even normal cooperation between the Saudi-led coalition and Washington DC on the basis of preventing Iran from benefiting from the agreement to harm the GCC countries. As for Israel, through its many friends in the US, it was able to put the Iranian nuclear deal back on the table. This has put pressure on the Biden Administration not to compromise in its discussions about returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The US's  partners, whether Israel or the Arab coalition, were able through their American relations to move the position from a a difficult one in 2021 to a better one in 2022.
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Saturday, 30 September 2023