Has the “post-American” Middle East arrived?
Once traditional US allies in the Middle East are now turning their backs on Washington and moving closer to Moscow and Beijing in a significant shift in loyalties.
When two of America’s loyalist allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), gave Washington the cold shoulder, you know the oft-vaunted “post-American” Middle East happened for real.
In fact, it was more than just a snub; rather, it was an act of outright defiance when the de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Muhammad bin Salman and Muhammad bin Zayed, refused to answer President Biden’s phone call as part of of the latter’s efforts to replace Russian oil on the market by inducing non-Russian producers to increase oil production in the context of the war in Ukraine.
Although the two Gulf princes had their own vindications and even “legitimate” sources of resentment against the Biden administration, the treatment was still striking given the history and nature of Washington’s relationship with its allies in the Gulf.
Given that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have depended almost entirely on US security arrangements for their survival and existence for decades, it is not easy to find precedents where the former has resisted the latter in this way in the history of their bilateral relations, with the exception of a few exceptional incidents.
More importantly, the scorn of Biden by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi was not limited to a “one-off” protest; their act of defiance is also based on a concrete policy. Shortly after Biden’s high-profile visit to Riyadh, which was primarily aimed at “reassuring” Washington’s traditional allies that “the United States is not giving up and will not give up” on the region and, of course, , to get them to increase oil production, OPEC+ announced a production cut, exactly contrary to what Biden demanded.
While it can be argued that this was OPEC+’s decision rather than Riyadh’s and Abu Dhabi’s respective national policy or decision, it is known that Riyadh dominated the organization, in especially when it comes to decisions about oil production volumes for decades. Moreover, OPEC+ is an unofficial formation, which is essentially an expanded OPEC with the addition of other oil producing nations led by Russia.
Just as OPEC has been dominated by Riyadh for decades, it’s safe to say that OPEC+ has been dominated by Riyadh and Moscow in very similar ways since its formation. As OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production would not be possible without the joint blessing of Riyadh, Moscow and Abu Dhabi as leading members, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s act of defiance against Biden takes on another meaning. .
At a time when Biden is desperate for a substitute for Russian oil and gas, to the point of even exploiting Iran and Venezuela, longtime “loyal” US allies Riyadh and Abu Dhabi not only fail to respond to Washington’s request, but are also acting together and in unison with Moscow, much to Biden’s annoyance.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s alignment with Moscow despite strong “advice” from Biden is not just about an accidental, sectoral convergence on energy interests, but also about a larger shift in the nature of their relationship with Washington. In fact, this change has not only affected Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but also all other traditional US allies in the Middle East, such as Israel, Egypt and even the ally of NATO, Turkey.
Change did not happen overnight; rather, it has been underway for a long time since Washington’s strategic choice to “pivot to Asia,” which has gradually but steadily downgraded the Middle East to a region of lower priority and interest for Washington.
The progressive degradation of the Middle East as a priority region for Washington has inevitably led to its neglect of the national and vital interests of its traditional allies in the Middle East. This neglect has also been exacerbated by certain political choices made by Washington over the past decade, which amounted to “hostile acts” in the eyes of its traditional allies.
After a painful period of struggle to adapt to Washington’s change in approach to their respective relations with the former, regional actors seem to have finally recognized the nature of their relations with Washington for what it is: it is not is more a stable and strategic relationship, but rather an unstable and transactional relationship.
The natural result of this recognition by regional players has been to diversify and balance their relationship with Washington by cultivating new ones with Moscow and Beijing over the past decade.
All regional players have found a way to secure their national interests through deals with Moscow and Beijing to varying degrees in the absence of Washington, and “doing business” with Russia or China has proven be – perhaps not easier – but far more predictable and stable than dealing with Washington.
Washington has ceased to be a reliable partner or ally for its traditional allies in the Middle East due to a decade-long practice of alienating, neglecting and sometimes even undermining the national interests of its regional allies.
It is no coincidence that all of the main traditional US allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and even Israel – have taken an ambivalent position towards Russia. and resisted Washington’s drag into the war in Ukraine because of their substantial relationship with Moscow. .
None of these regional players are in the mood to damage or sever relations with Moscow in the name of an unchecked and unpredictable Washington. That is why we are witnessing undeterred acts of resistance in Washington by regional actors that were incomprehensible even a decade ago.
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Source: World TRT