Once Around The Middle East

My regulars know that I am a person who studied the Middle East in college and worked in the region for years after college and the military…..

But these days with protests and pandemic and elections not much attention is being paid to the Middle East…..and I tried to rectify that oversight on the media’s part.

There are changes taking place in the Middle East…

Yet there is a real historic change going on in the Middle East and north Africa, though it has nothing to do with the relationship between Israel and the Arabs. It is a transformation that has been speeded up by the coronavirus cataclysm and will radically change the politics of the Middle East.

The era characterised by the power of the oil states is ending. When the price of oil soared in the aftermath of the 1973 war, countries from Iran to Algeria, mostly though not exclusively Arab, enjoyed an extraordinary accretion of wealth. Their elites could buy everything from Leonardo da Vinci paintings to Park Lane hotels. Their rulers had the money to keep less well-funded governments in power or to put them out of business by funding their opponent.


Then there is that deal between UAE and Israel…..as if this was the whole answer for the region…..BS!

The leaders involved — Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed of the UAE, U.S. President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — deserve much credit for sealing the agreement, and they stand atop a long list of winners. Indeed, the Netanyahu doctrine comes out the biggest winner of all. In its outline, that doctrine holds that peace between Israel and the Palestinians must go through the rest of the Arab world first, rather than waiting for Palestinian approval. Israel is done taking risks and making concessions for an elusive peace that hovers on the horizon, always just out of reach.  

Opposite a long list of winners stands only one real loser. It is not the Palestinians, or at least it doesn’t have to be. Rather, it is the failed belief that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the key to regional stability, and that it is Israel that must be pressured to achieve that peace through territorial and other risky concessions.  


Nothing about this deal strengthens the security in the region….all it does is make Israel a bigger target.

But all that must wait for the election and pandemic to be over and counted…..

But it appears as if the Middle East does not matter as much as it use to…….

Joe Biden has made clear that he wants America “back at the head of the table” to “rally the free world to meet the challenges facing the world today. … No other nation has that capacity.”

While it is essential for the United States to restore U.S. leadership and credibility on issues that are vital to national security and prosperity—most notably, global health cooperation, combating global warming and pushing back on China’s predatory trade practices—there is one region that simply isn’t as important as it used to be: the Middle East.

No matter who wins the White House in November, it is important to recognize that in recent years, the turbulent Middle East—where more often than not American ideas go to die—has become decidedly less important to American foreign policy and to our interests. The change reflects not only new regional dynamics and U.S. domestic priorities but the changing nature of American interests there.

American leadership and exceptionalism cannot fix a broken Middle East or play a major role in leading it to a better future. The U.S. still has interests there to protect but America needs to be realistic, prudent and disciplined in how it secures them. If we can learn to act with restraint, we’ll avoid the overreach, arrogance and self-inflicted wounds that have caused us and many others so much unnecessary misery and trouble.


But none of this means that US will walk away from the Middle East or its conflicts it feeds.

And the overall prognosis for the region is not all that bright…..

We have come a long way from the hopes associated with Camp David, “Globalism,” “the end of history,” the end of the First Gulf War in 1991, and the first year of the Arab Spring in 2011 – almost all of it in the wrong direction. From a “realist” perspective, the greater Middle East has deteriorated over time, and in ways that go far beyond its conflicts, competing ideologies and faiths, and the petty power struggles of its ruling elites.


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