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24 March 2023: The limits of American power in West Asia

Context: The American influence in West Asia is declining, as reflected by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Background: The Soviet Union was in expansion mode somewhere between 1980 and 1989, and at that time the Carter administration in the United States came out with an aggressive approach. In the previous year, the US was dealt a double blow in Asia: in February, Shah’s regime in Iran, one of the pillars of US West Asia policy, collapsed; and in December, the Soviet Union sent the Red Army into Afghanistan. Outlining his policy formulated by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter, in his State of the Union address on January 23, 1980, stated that “any external force should not compromise its vital interests in order to gain control of the Persian Gulf region”. would be considered assault. U.S., such an attack will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force”.

Successful Application of the Carter Policy:

The Carter Doctrine would continue to guide the policy of successive administrations towards the Gulf and ensure that the region remained an exclusive US sphere of influence—until recently. There has been a lot of talk about the shifting of the Arabian sands for some time now.

However, it was on full display when Saudi Arabia and Iran reached an agreement earlier this month in secret talks hosted by China to normalize ties.

The US remained a bystander while its global rival (China) engaged an ally (Saudi Arabia) and an archenemy (Iran) in a meeting to reach a potentially game-changing agreement in the region (the Gulf). Brought along and considered as a specific sphere of influence. This practically put an end to the Carter doctrine.

Past events that turned out to be wrong

The ongoing events didn’t happen overnight. Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has made several missteps in West Asia, which has led to a decline in its overall influence and an associated policy reappraisal by its allies.

Take the cases of Iraq, Syria, and Iran—countries that the US invaded, brought about regime change, and occupied; two, a country where it sought regime change without a full-scale invasion; and three, a country it sought to both include and annexe.

Effects of the US invasion of Iraq

The US began invading Iraq on March 20, 2003. It was at the height of its power. America’s Arab allies agreed to support the war.

But what he saw from a security perspective was the mindless destruction of the Iraqi state, which led to sectarian bloodshed and the rise of radical Islamic organizations such as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later morphed into the Islamic State and later the Iraqi State. destabilized. Area.

From a geopolitical perspective, the invasion of Iraq removed a buffer that the Sunni Arab Gulf monarchies had between themselves and a Shia theocratic Iran and presented post-Saddam Iraq on a platter to Shia parties with historical ties to Tehran.

US Role During the Syrian Civil War

When the Syrian Civil War broke out, the Arab monarchies saw an opportunity to push Iran back by ousting the regime in Damascus. The US supported regime change factions, called for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad, offered aid to the rebels, and launched a covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program.

But after burning its fingers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, America’s appetite for another full-scale military intervention was already waning.

When the US stopped intervening in Syria, Russia and Iran quickly moved in, turning the tide of the civil war.

America’s allies, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Qatar to Turkey, who had bet on anti-Assad forces, watched helplessly as the Syrian army and Iran-trained militias, covered by Russian jets, destroyed the rebellion.

US Policies Towards West Asia: From Obama to Trump

The US President, Barack Obama, who felt that America’s endless entanglements in the region were slowing his efforts to address emerging conventional challenges, reached out to Iran and brokered a multilateral agreement on its nuclear program.

Obama’s plan was to ease tensions with Iran and persuade America’s Arab allies and Tehran to “share” the region.

But the US deal with Tehran comes at a time when America’s own actions have strengthened Iran, angering both its Gulf allies and Israel.

When US President Donald Trump scrapped the nuclear deal, he welcomed it. But Mr Trump had no choice but to check Iran’s immediate conventional military power.

When Tehran responded to Mr Trump’s “maximum pressure” with maximum resistance, specifically targeting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the U.S.

But there are at least three problems with this approach. One, with its devaluation of West Asia, is waning US influence over its allies, which is encouraging allies to make their own foreign decisions.

Dimensions of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories may seek to erode alliances collectively. The UAE not only agreed to normalize relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords but also showed warmth towards Syria and Turkey by revising ties with Iran.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia resisted embracing Israel. Instead, the Kingdom, arguably the most powerful Arab country, saw an alternative to stability in a China-mediated peace plan with Iran.

Israel, the centrepiece of America’s strategy of collectivism, is itself resisting American influence. Israel’s new government is pressing ahead with its judicial reform plan despite pressure from Washington. Israel also refused to join Western sanctions against Russia and refused to send arms to Ukraine.

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