Americans Handing Over Middle East to Russians and Iranians

The American forces has started withdrawing their equipment from Syria as part of President Trump’s last month order of US pull out from Northwest Syria. President Trump announced that they are withdrawing as Islamic State has been defeated and now there is no point in staying. But even the United States closest allies like United Kingdom didn’t share the same view of US President on defeat of ISIS. Tobias Ellwood, a minister in the British Ministry of Defence, said in a tweet that he “strongly” disagrees with Trump’s comment that ISIS had been defeated. But it’s not only about Syria it seems that United States wants to lower down its engagement in the whole region. Concurrently with the decision to pull out from Syrian battlefield President Trump also announced that US will also drastically reduce the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan and the likely soon to be announced further drawdown of U.S. personnel in Iraq. For many, the withdrawal represents that the United States ceding its traditional dominance in the Greater Middle East region. This kind of abrupt American pull out gives strength to the idea which is increasingly pervasive in the Middle East, that the United States support for its allies is not what it once was and it’s not interested in the region like before.

Americans are reducing their commitment level in the region at very crucial time when two of its most fierce adversaries that is Iran and Russia are leaving no stone unturned to increase their influence in the greater Middle East. On one hand Russia which can be considered up to some extend a global adversary to US is trying hard to get United States allies in the region on its side. On the other hand, Iran which is a biggest regional concern for US is successfully strengthening and creating its own proxy forces against US and its allies. Let’s see how Russia is trying to court US allies.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman chose Moscow over Washington for his first and so far only official overseas visit the first visit ever by a Saudi monarch to Russia. The emir of Qatar unexpectedly flew to Moscow to meet with Putin on the eve of his visit to Washington in last March. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, a close U.S. ally, declined an invitation to Washington last spring, diplomats say. But he travelled to Moscow in May 2018, his seventh trip in five years, signing a “strategic partnership” agreement with Russian President Putin. Most recently, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in October made his fourth visit to Russia compared with one to Washington and also signed a strategic-partnership agreement with Putin marking a significant shift of a U.S. ally toward Russia. All these high-level meetings convey one clear cut message that Russia is being acknowledged by US allies as an important power in the region. If this is not checked by US it would leave Russia gradually as the major global power in the region and will restore its Soviet-era role as a player in the Middle East.

Iran on the other hand aggressively fielding its proxies directly against United States or its allies. There is almost no crisis in today’s Middle East that can be analysed without attention to Iran’s role in it. In past Iran backed and sponsored militias which directly challenged American forces in Iraq. Now Iran is using this strategy on US allies in the region. Most notably against most staunch US ally i.e. Israel. Iran has strengthened its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas against Jewish state by equipping them with sophisticated rocket and missiles capabilities. In addition to this Iran is working hard to prepare third front against Israel in Syria which can be used by Iran elite Quds force in case of any future conflict with Israel. Same strategy up-to some extend is used by Iran by supporting Houthis in Yemen against Saudis and Emiratis both of them allies of US. Even in Bahrain where US fifth fleet is based Iranian supports Al-Ashtar Brigades against US allies Al-Khalifa’s. Tehran is spreading its tentacles in the region by expanding list of its loyal proxies which are always expected to target US interests.

US national interests in the greater Middle East may be diminishing due to an affordable and abundant domestic energy sources. Yet a calm and stable Middle East remains a critical for security and geo-political interests of United states. Hence this is the time when United States needs to define its interests and involvement in the region with greater precision. The US leadership has to understand that they are facing constantly major challenges in the region from its foes and to contain them it requires a high-level attention and the commitment of significant military, economic, and diplomatic resources. Rather than gradual exit from the region.

About the Author
Manish Rai is a columnist for the Middle East and Af-Pak region; Editor of a geo-political news agency Views Around (VA)
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