West News Wire: Countries all throughout the Middle East are turning to compromise, rapprochement, and peace talks as Washington’s influence in the region dwindles, dealing a blow to the US narrative that tries to portray its role as a stabiliser and supporter of democracy.
Under the direction of President Joe Biden, the West’s standing among a number of long-standing Middle East allies has significantly declined. While the US-led West concentrates most of its efforts on the conflict in Ukraine, its poor judgement in the Middle East is now starting to catch up with it.
The first major blow to Washington’s influence came in the form of a Chinese-mediated agreement to end a decades-long feud between major nations Iran and Saudi Arabia, one which led to the severing of ties in 2016. This has a number of implications for US power in the region.
The first being that this collapsed a strategy that the US was developing, to unite Saudi Arabia with the likes of Egypt, the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, and Israel, against Iran and its allies in the region; the alliance was speculated to serve as a “Middle East NATO.” The second is that the Iran-Saudi rapprochement appears to have caused Riyadh to scrap its plans for normalizing ties with Israel at this time, something that the Biden administration clearly values as a foreign policy achievement. There is also the additional aspect of this being negotiated by Beijing without any regard for how it would reflect on the White House.
Despite Washington’s efforts to portray the agreement as something it supports and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated statements about how close normalisation with Saudi Arabia is, the deal was undoubtedly a setback and will have a significant impact on how the US approaches the region. Earlier in April, it was claimed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had reportedly informed advisors that appeasing Americans is no longer a priority. In March, he had stated that he didn’t care if the US President had misinterpreted things about him.
Following the normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Riyadh began serious talks with Yemen’s Houthis in an effort to put an end to the conflict between the two parties, which has been raging since 2015 and claimed roughly 400,000 lives in the nation. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister recently travelled to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which only served to exacerbate the situation for the US. In addition to Riyadh’s actions and Tunisia’s decision to resume relations with Syria, it appears as though Ankara may be close to doing the same, and there is a push for Syria to rejoin the Arab League, all of which go against US policy.
Then there is the announcement by Qatar that it is reestablishing ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. While this step is not as big as the ones described above, it does add to the list of peacekeeping choices made without the involvement of the United States. On a visual level, this gives the impression that the US’s absence is the common factor. On the other hand, the strengthening of Washington’s connections with the Kingdom of Morocco is escalating hostilities with Algeria, which lies next door. Both the diplomatic dispute between the two sides and the military tensions in an arms race between Rabat and Algiers are being fueled by the Biden administration. The US gave its approval to a potential sale of HIMARS artillery rockets for $524.2 million earlier this month.
Furthermore, a raging domestic political crisis over a planned judicial overhaul by the Israeli government has seriously weakened the United States’ top Middle East ally, Israel. Israel’s stance on matters like maintaining the status quo at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a holy site over which Jordan has custody, has also given rise to issues and has recently resulted in significant arguments between Amman and Tel Aviv. The US has yet another challenge as it attempts to negotiate between the two parties to keep the peace. Another aspect is the conflict between Biden and Netanyahu, which has, for the first time since the 1950s, called into doubt the special ties between Israel and the US.