A Clear Choice in the Middle East for a Confused America
The trend has been over the last three administrations beginning with Obama, to try to find a way to distance the United States from the region. In other words, as a kind of consensus, not just on the left, saying Obama on the Democratic side, but also to some extent on the Republican side, that wants to wash its hands from the region but says the region is always problems. The region costs American money and costs American lives without any benefit. So there's the kind of tendency to want the pivot, pivot to Asia, to peer confrontation with China, with Russia, so many people in the West and the United States would love to kind of wash their hands from the Middle East and kind of let the Middle East go its way, whatever happens there. It's not important to us. But then things happen. And it winds up being important again.
For example, we've seen the same reality with the Ukraine crisis, the war between Russia and Ukraine, how something which is limited to one part of the world, so local war, involvingdirect conflict between two countries, right? And yet, it's had a global effect in many, many different ways, not just energy, but agriculture or fertilizer or maritime transport or supply chains.Not just in the confrontation between the United States and NATO against Russia. The danger is of regional conflicts becoming more generalized, for example, an Iranian war against Saudi Arabia or an Iranian war against Israel tomorrow; this regional conflict would have global ramifications.
It is easy to think that there are many bad things in the Middle East. There is an axis of revolution led by Iran and its allies in the region. You know, Assad, Hezbollah, and the Houthis Hamas, the Iranian-controlled death squads in Iraq. This is the axis of constant revolt, constant destruction, and constant revolution, there is another axis, which I think of as an axis of reform. It's an axis of moderation. It's an axis of development, of improving things, which is the UAE, which is Saudi Arabia, and those countries which are closer to them. These are not perfect, there are many challenges, but clearly are countries that are trying to make things better for their own populations and beyond. So these are clearly the two axes that I see in the region; of course, I think the West and the United States should obviously be on the axis of reform against the axis of revolution and destruction.
The Abraham Accords are very much a part of the axis of reform. It is about seeing the need for the region to move out of the cycle of violence, revolution, and destruction of countries.Look at Lebanon today, look at Syria today. Look at the criminal theft in Iraq that we saw connected to these pro-Iranian mafias.Aside from the constant propaganda call for “resistance,” they have no program or reform or vision for the future. Then you have countries that want to reform themselves, that want to improve their situation, that want to give their youth an education to provide them with good jobs that you see in Saudi Arabia, and you see in the UAE and other places. Any thinking person who was not an ideologue has to be hoping that they succeed, with all their faults, nobody's perfect. No country is perfect. The United States is not perfect. No regime is perfect. But there's a clear difference between reformists and Islamist revolutionaries. And we have to be with the reformists.
But it hasn’t worked out that way with the current American Administration. Certain things have happened. First, I think this administration has specific complexes or obsessions. Rewarding Iran is one of them. And the Administration tries to play out some domestic issues on the global stage – whether internal American partisan politics or various trendy progressive ideologies - which I think is a problem. Our policy should be based on working with our friends against our adversaries. We have historic strategic friends and close allies in the region, and we used to work closely with them. The estrangement that happened between the administration and Saudi Arabia, or with the UAE or with other countries, even Egypt and others, is not in the interest of US foreign policy. That doesn't mean we can't criticize our friends, we can do that behind the scenes, and we can exert our influence. But the US has to understand who its adversaries are and who its allies are in the region in order to advance its interests. And for some reason, despite being cautioned about it early on, this repeatedly seems to be a difficult thing for this administration to understand.
About the author
Alberto Miguel Fernandez is a former US diplomat and vice president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), and former president of the Middle East Broadcasting Network. You can follow him on Twitter @AlbertoMiguelF5