The U.S. is gambling on longtime allies

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

Whether the U.S. is aware of the risks posed by its rolling back of strategic alliances with key Middle Eastern countries, lack of immediate action to repair the growing breach will inevitably lead to long-term consequences on America’s prestige as the world’s unchallenged power.

The U.S. is “gambling” on staunch alliances in the geopolitically strategic oil-rich Middle East that have long been bedrock components of the affairs of the region and the entire world.

This will definitely backfire on the U.S., the so-far unrivaled creator of the world’s politics and economy.

The talk here is mainly about the emerging shake-up in America’s relationship with some of its most-longstanding allies in the Middle East, mainly Saudi Arabia and consequently Jordan, UAE and the rest of the Gulf states, that resulted from Washington’s inaction over the Syrian crisis and its softening stance on Tehran.

No doubt, other factors, including America’s involvement in large-scale spying activity on European and Latin American allies and its economic downturns, will all contribute to weakening the image and “soft power” of the U.S. and thus its long-preserved status as the world’s leader.

What is so remarkable in the whole scene is that even Israel, the U.S. closest Middle Eastern ally, is seemingly unhappy with Washington’s change of policies and its pulling back of partnerships with other regional allies.

The ‘Arab moderation camp’

While it is true that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and other members of the so-called “Arab moderation camp” are not at ease with the wavering U.S. stance on Syria, Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, America will also receive the negative impact of the cracks in its Mideast relations.

With nothing tangible so far done by President Barack Obama to resolve the Syrian dilemma, except maybe for sentiments advocating a political solution to the 31-month-old conflict, coupled with a growing conviction that America has in fact no stake in Syria, the long-held omniscient presence of the U.S. in the Middle East can now be said to be on shaky ground.

That is of course as opposed to the bold, daring and unaltered endeavor of the Russians to secure influence in the strategic yet volatile region.

The Obama administration’s “easy” abandonment of their heavy-weighted ally in the Middle East, ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and their desertion of Egypt’s new rulers because of angry at Mohammad Mursi’s ouster - as opposed to Russia’s relentless and unwavering support of its allies - has had an impact on its reliability as a longstanding strategic partner.

Welcome Russians

Dismayed, probably convinced with the unreliability of relying on the U.S. as an everlasting ally, or in a bid to balance their alliances, some Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan and the UAE, have decided to build partnerships with Russia.

Russian partnerships by the two Arab countries can be seen in Abu Dhabi’s announcement in September to invest up to $5 billion in Russia’s infrastructure and Jordan’s recent decision to have its first ever nuclear plants built by the Russians.

Reports on Egypt now looking to Moscow for arms after America’s aid freeze are just examples of the new political adjustments of some Mideast countries to cope with new world realities. The U.S. is no longer alone there.

Egypt, UAE and Jordan, in not confining their strategic alliances solely to the U.S. resemble to a large extent a country’s pegging of its exchange value of its money to a basket of currencies rather than a single currency, as a method of lowering risks.

Expected breach

A danger now is the already-dismayed Saudis deciding to completely - or even partially - shift alliances away from America.

The sudden yet expected breach between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., said to be a strategic alliance that dates back to the 1930s, has so far still manifested in sentiments of dismay by the former and diplomatic affirmations of unwavering partnership by the U.S., although Riyadh’s refusal of the Security Council seat was just part of that.

The real risk to come will be a Saudi decision to increase that break between the two countries and completely shift alliances to Moscow, Europe or China.

Will America then tolerate seeing Saudi Arabia, said to be ploughing much of its earnings back into U.S. assets, shifting away to Moscow or Beijing, taking into account that the Saudi central bank’s foreign assets are in U.S. dollars?

Many observers have seen very little chance in the possibility of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners escalating their measures and pushing their grievances against Washington for deep damage, citing their need of the U.S. as a source of protection and arms. But it has happened in history.

Saudi Arabia imposed its famous 1973 oil embargo to punish the West for supporting Israel during the October Arab-Israeli war, referred to in Israel’s history as the Yom Kippur war.

Oil self-sufficiency news

Although scientifically refuted by many oil experts, several economic pundits have seen in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) report on the possibility of the U.S. overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017 as being primarily released to change the distortion that happened to America’s image due to the consequences of the government shutdown.

Following the several-day government shutdown, lots of countries have called for finding substitute currency to replace the reign of the dominating U.S. dollar as the world reserve.

Now regardless of the reliability of the Western energy agency’s report and affirmation or refuting of its findings, what is certain is that oil has never been only a matter of supply for the U.S. and has never been handled in terms of export-import framework, but purely from a political dimension.

The U.S. has long used oil to impose its capitalist dominance on the world’s markets. Since the 1930s, oil has been priced and sold worldwide in U.S. dollars - guaranteeing Washington a prevalent economic power and unsurpassed dominance over the world’s markets.

For that reason, the U.S. has long been sensitive when it comes the oil-rich Middle East. Its 1990-91 and 2003 wars on Iraq were for ambitions for oil dominance goals rather than anything else.

Therefore, the U.S. can’t leave the Middle East for another country to come in and be a rival in oil pricing and sales. However, China is already there - awaiting a vacuum left by the U.S. in the Middle East to step in on oil supply.

Can Washington allow that when there is already a China-U.S. dollar dilemma?

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

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