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America’s Middle East Friendships Are Dying a Natural Death

6 31 4
09.04.2022

About 50 years ago, the United States flipped Egypt. It was a big win in the zero-sum diplomacy of the Cold War, during which the two superpowers went about collecting regional clients. The Egyptians joined a club that included the Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, and small Persian Gulf states that were looking for protection after the British abandoned their positions east of the Suez Canal in 1971.

In the ensuing decades as the United States became more directly involved in the Middle East, those countries would form the core of a group of U.S.-friendly states that made it easier for Washington to pursue its goals in the region, including protecting the free flow of oil from the region, helping to ensure Israeli security, countering terrorists, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as a series of other overly ambitious policies like the invasion of Iraq.

I have been thinking about these relationships since articles began appearing detailing the crises in Washington’s relations with its partners in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There is something to this, of course. Neither the Saudis nor the Emiratis have been receptive to the Biden administration’s entreaties to pump more oil as global prices spiked with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Not long after Russian forces moved west, the Emirati government abstained from a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion in the United Nations Security Council. And while U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to unite the world against Russia, neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates support sanctions on Russia, their partner in OPEC . In mid-March, the Emiratis hosted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Dubai. It is hard to imagine what message Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was sending from the visit of someone responsible for crimes against humanity on a massive scale, but it clearly reflected a fissure with the United States.

About 50 years ago, the United States flipped Egypt. It was a big win in the zero-sum diplomacy of the Cold War, during which the two superpowers went about collecting regional clients. The Egyptians joined a club that included the Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, and small Persian Gulf states that were looking for protection after the British abandoned their positions east of the Suez Canal in 1971.

In the ensuing decades as the United States became more directly involved in the Middle East, those countries would form the core of a group of U.S.-friendly states that made it........

© Foreign Policy


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