The shifting sands of Middle East alliances follows diminishing US power

Makram Rabah
Makram Rabah
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For anyone who was anxiously awaiting the new American President breaking away from Obama’s foreign policy, the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan laid those aspirations to rest, while confirming the administration’s disregard for their traditional allies.

Biden’s laissez-faire attitude to the relationships between the nations of the Middle East, and the many who are allies, is a blessing in disguise.

Several regional players are coming together to talk and attempt to agree on issues of mutual interest.

A number of Biden’s policies challenge his country’s position in the Middle East, in one way losing face on the historical role it has played in the region, but also losing the trust of strategic allies around the world.

His indulgence of Iran in the face of its destructive expansionist strategy that has left Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq in ruins is unpalatable to many.

This bleak reality has forced Arab allies to reconsider their relationship with the United States, not only to avoid potential damage in the short-term, but to also avoid disappointments or broken promises from future administrations.

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Several oil-rich Gulf states no longer account for US pragmatism to diffuse tension or offer protection against Iran. They are instead embarking on a series of structural reforms for their own governance. Moreover, they are rethinking their positions with other global powers, such as Russia and China, which the US deem unfavorable.

The Biden effect is implicit in relationship changes between Middle East countries.

We are seeing reengagement between nations in the region, ones that were once unwilling to share a roundtable. When the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia meet Turkey and Qatar with the intention of converting their animosity towards economic and security cooperation, the US is bringing a level of stability to the region, albeit unintentionally.

The recent picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani the Emir of Qatar and UAE’s National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan in their swimming trunks smiling is not merely a public relations stunt but a prologue to peace.

When nations in the region are no longer uncomfortable engaging with each other to discuss and resolve issues, it suddenly becomes clear that Biden and the US aren’t required to act as a conduit to make this happen.

(From left to right): Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani the Emir of Qatar, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and UAE’s National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (Twitter)
(From left to right): Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani the Emir of Qatar, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and UAE’s National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (Twitter)

A nation’s own free will to pursue strategic policies is much better than being coerced to do things that perhaps aren’t in that country’s best interests.

Peace between Israel and the UAE, was unfathomable at one time. The very idea was the elephant in the room. Meanwhile, Bahrain and Sudan have reconciled their differences. The rest of the Arab world are looking on and witnessing progress on many fronts.

It appears Biden is out of the loop, and governments across the Middle East are beginning to understand that this is perhaps a good thing.

Israel under Naftali Bennett is no longer obsessed with preventing the Iran nuclear deal, nor are they under any impression that Iran will change, but equally Israel will stop at nothing to prevent Tehran from continuing its takeover of Southern Syria.

By abandoning the populist hawkish attitude of his predecessor Netanyahu, Bennett is adopting a realpolitik approach which will allow him to expose Iran for the paper tiger it really is, and will secure Israel a better standing vis-à-vis the Arab Gulf.

In the past, many of these wandering Gulf states were heavily invested in keeping countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq afloat, but Iran’s occupation of these states and Biden’s acquiescence of this has driven Gulf countries to a large extent to simply leave Iran to address its own mess.

The United States fickleness and tradition of abandoning allies is hammering home to the Gulf that the idea of having concrete ties with Washington will not endure. There is no real justification, politically, economically or socially to push the US to have a leading position in the region. Middle East powerhouses will soon understand the full extent of the consequences if they do not continue to talk, mend historical wounds and form new alliances.

For too long many countries in the Middle East allowed the US to act as a parent dealing with bickering children. Friction will always remain, but regional players are beginning to acknowledge that the suspicion and sabre rattling based around what were thought to be a swathe of conflicting interests between them actually present opportunities for mutual benefit.

Let Biden and the US get on with their own international policies and their changing view of global politics. Leave them to handle Iran, Hezbollah, Afghanistan and the Taliban and all the despots in the world. Leave the Gulf and wider region to have a peaceful prosperous future.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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