The Near and the Middle East have always been a priority in the world strategy of the U.S. For Washington, this region is not just a geography endowed with oil and gas reserves but also the one with concentration of the extremist forces – the lethal weapon if the United States. The Near and the Middle East continue to remain the founding point of the U.S.’s global strategy that relies largely on the regional allies affected by the wave of political turmoil. Regardless, solidification of America’s position in the Middle East is one of crucial components of the U.S. strategy.
The developments of the past 10-15 years in this strategically important region is mostly a reflection and outcome of the geopolitical shifts happening in the world after the disintegration of the USSR. The ruling circles in the U.S. immediately attempted to use this short period to instill the idea to the international community that hereafter, they would remain the only superpower and reserve the right to lecture others and impose their understanding and norms of ‘appropriate’ governance models. In the meantime, it was solely at their discretion that the regimes would either be punished or endorsed.
The pretext for the implementation of such a course was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. While acknowledging the sheer enormity of this crime one cannot fail to notice that it was, in a way, a consequence of a policy of manipulation and flirting with the fledgling religious radical movements, in order to keep the allies on a short leash and conduct subversive activities against the governments that lacked loyalty to the U.S.
The culmination of this course was the military invasion of Iraq in 2003 on ostensible premises of ridding the world of the regime of Saddam Hussein who, according to the allegations by the Americans, had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) available to him. This was a plain act of neocolonialism and the nations of the Middle East paid dearly: hundreds of thousands of lives lost, devastation, complete collapse, chaos… American invasion led to dramatic changes in the fragile balance of forces in the Gulf region that was in place for decades, particularly the well-established equilibrium between the Sunni and the Shia. Then came the period that Arab publicists refer to as ”time of neocolonial extortion”.
One of the links of this chain have been the efforts by the West to use groups of religious radicals for ousting the regime of Bashar Assad and NATO bombings of Libya. Most recently published documents from Hillary Clinton’s correspondence during her time as Secretary of State revealed that Britain and France were nurturing the plans to divide the oil riches of Libya behind the back of the Libyan people. That also included fragmentation of Libya as a nation.
Now, the international media is explicitly acknowledging that the U.S. and other countries stood at the origins of the ”Islamic State of Iraq and Levant” (ISIS) which now spreads like cancer and threatens to provoke new ramifications for the Arab and other nations in Asia and Africa. Having captured significant territories in Iraq and Syria, the ISIS militants have advanced to the borders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and repeatedly threatened to capture Mecca.
The leaders of ISIS allegedly mull to not only perpetrate new terrorist acts in the number of European nations and the U.S. but also hunt for the WMD. But what if they succeed. For now, the international community is awed by not only the vicious murders committed by the ISIS militants but the very fact that their actions that defy common sense and presented as the drive for social justice allure thousands of young people from different Muslim countries. The Western capitals essentially turn a blind eye on the reality and clearly underestimate the threat of new international terrorism. Such a posture pushes the region of the Middle East into the state of extreme turbulence and unpredictability, given the great accumulation of ”flammable material”.
The lack of distinctive political line with regard to emerging threats causes confusion within the different strata of the society. As a result, extreme radical elements become more active in most Western nations. American economist Muhammed Eytan believes that this phenomenon and the inability of the Western leaders to identify the priorities impel political paralysis. Even Senator John McCain publicly accuses the U.S. President of placing flawed emphases in the foreign policy.
The vivid example is the complete fiasco of the migration policy of the European Union. The Mediterranean is turning into a graveyard for thousands of unfortunate people fleeing Africa and Asia in attempt to reach ‘heavenly’ shores of the Northern Mediterranean, seeking better life in Europe. Yet a graver threat stems from the situation with the refugees from Syria and Iraq – some fifteen million people. And the number continues to grow! Unprecedented exodus coupled with military conflicts puts the region on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Colonial aspirations of some Western leaders are disguised under eloquent phrases about human rights. It would be appropriate to recall a ten years old article by American military officer Ralph Peters, published in the American military magazine, where the author insisted that the borders of Turkey, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations had to be changed. This redrawing of a map of the Near and the Middle East, as we witness it, is causing tremendous problems for the peoples of the region. This remains on the conscience of the Western governments. They admit mistakes only when it comes to their predecessors; Obama is happy to highlight the failures of the Bush administration.
Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a painful process of calibrating its position vis-à-vis the ‘Arab Spring’ in the environment of changing balance of forces in the Arab world, aggravation of ties between different factions and alliances and challenges and failures of the Islamic project. For the moment, when Asia-Pacific is gradually occupying the center stage in Washington’s foreign policy, the U.S. is no longer eager to get involved with the Middle Eastern war campaigns because the years-long campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have proven to be expensive endeavors that yielded little dividends.
The U.S. however, is unlikely to abandon the Middle East completely. Dismissing this region implies giving up the superpower status and returning to isolationism. American politicians are aware of that. Yet, America’s desire to cement its dominating position thanks to fomenting religious radicalism is doomed. In the modern world, mass spread of anarchy and instability would have global ramifications, affecting the U.S. as well.