A Decline In US Middle East Power Results In Regional Unity
Iran-Saudi peace has been subsequently followed by Saudi negotiations with Yemen’s Ansarallah government, to end the war that erupted back in 2015 and has claimed the lives of around 400,000 Yemenis.
Ever since the 1940’s the United States government has opposed and eventually thwarted all attempts for Middle East nations to unify towards the region's interests. Despite Washington’s pronouncements that its hegemonic influence was for the advancement of democracy, the decline of its power has ushered in a new wave of peace and compromise.
With the eruption of the war in Ukraine, back in February of 2022, and the imposition of sanctions against Moscow, what was once thought to be the unmatchable power of the US regime began to crumble in the eyes of the world. Not only have US sanctions failed to cripple Russia, but they have inflicted great blowback on Europe, in addition to opening up new opportunities for economic alliances that fall outside of Washington’s domain.
The US’s catastrophic failure, during its hasty evacuation of forces from Afghanistan, provided optics tantamount to those present during its 1975 withdrawal from Saigon, in Vietnam. Back then the message to the Global South was that victory against the US war machine is possible, however, the overarching lesson that emanated from the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal was that Washington had overstretched itself and this signaled a change of an era.
A Wave of Middle East Unity
What emerged as the shock of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia, brokered by China, has seemingly birthed a wave of compromise, peace negotiations, and revival of ties, between former regional foes. The fact that Beijing was the one to facilitate the Tehran-Riyadh rapprochement spoke volumes about the fading role of Washington in the Middle East, for decades a region that it viewed as part of its own backyard.
The Saudis had been provided with US military protection, as it was termed, since the first Iraq war back in 1990, allowing them to entrench themselves inside Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries, all under the guise of combating Saddam Hussein at the time. The role of the United States, across the Middle East, was to sow division and place the region under its thumb. Due to the US owning the position as being the sole world power for so long, this seemed to be what fed into the decisions of many States to follow its orders; as those who refused were usually invaded or subject to coup d'etat and economic war.
Iran-Saudi peace has been subsequently followed by Saudi negotiations with Yemen’s Ansarallah government, to end the war that erupted back in 2015 and has claimed the lives of around 400,000 Yemenis. Now, Syria is being further integrated back into the Arab world, with Tunisia being the latest to formally reestablish diplomatic relations. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, also arrived in Damascus in order to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Then we have the re-opening of ties between Qatar and Bahrain, which was followed by an announcement in Doha that Qatar is set to restore diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and re-open embassies, after a long bitter dispute.
Perhaps the most significant development on its way, could be the possibility of Turkey-Syria rapprochement. In the event that Damascus officially normalizes ties with Ankara, this would provide for much more than opportunities for economic revival inside Syria. Although the war in Syria has come to a somewhat standstill, Turkish troop presence in the northwest is a buffer to the Syrian government recapturing the territory without a final peace settlement. Most crucially, however, is the effect that normalization may have on northeastern Syria, where the United States illegally occupies roughly a third of Syria’s territory, with the help of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
If Turkey-Syria relations are mended and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, decides to conduct another military operation against the SDF in northeastern Syria, it is likely that US forces stationed in that territory will once again leave. In 2018 and 2019, when Turkish forces invaded Syrian territory to fight SDF armed groups, the US military deserted their Kurdish allies, likely fearing an escalation with their NATO ally Turkey. In 2019, the Turkish military incursion allowed for the capture of a small pocket in the north of Syria, during which the US army pulled out its service members from Syria before sending them back after the escalation was finished. At that time, the Syrian government had attempted diplomacy and sent in its own troops to find a solution but did not muster an offensive against any side.
The importance of the third of Syrian territory, under the de facto occupation of the US, is due to this being the territory where Syria’s most fertile agricultural lands and 90% of their oil resources happen to be located. If Turkey and Syria normalize ties, then Turkey attacks the SDF again, and the possibility of a US troop withdrawal or retreat is high, under this scenario, Damascus and Ankara would be able to directly communicate. This would provide for an opportunity for a Syrian Arab Army offensive to retake their oil fields, at a time where any US resistance would be weak and likely limited to strikes from a distance. After the oil fields are recaptured, there is no reason for the US to return to Syria and mounting a full-scale war would be too costly, in addition to being unpopular domestically.
A future in the Middle East, where US power can be limited, seems to be proving better for regional stability and productivity at this moment. Although Washington constantly markets itself as the bringer of peace, the second their power begins to recede, it becomes apparent that they have been the single largest barrier to peace in the Middle East.