America has no allies in the Middle East

The recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping to Saudi Arabia brought to the surface the issue of the old relations that bind the United States with some key countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Israel, which have witnessed developments and tensions in the past years for many reasons, including all the greater economic and strategic role of countries such as China and Russia in the region, and the tendency of these countries to adopt autocratic or extremist policies on the internal and regional level, which exposed them to increasing criticism from the United States.

Before the Iranian Islamic Revolution, US policy in the Middle East was based on close economic and military relations with 4 countries: Israel, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s exit from this axis in 1979 was compensated by Egypt’s entry into it after its exit from the Russian (then Soviet) orbit. These relations helped Washington in its policy in Afghanistan after the Soviet occupation, in dealing with Iran in the eighties of the last century, and in the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1991, and in the fight against terrorism in its many manifestations (from al-Qaeda to ISIS). . and in the peace process between the Arab countries, Israel and the Palestinians.

During the Cold War era, Washington was generally reluctant to criticize its friends – including an official ally like Turkey or a country with which it has very close relations like Israel – for human rights abuses or any hostile policies towards its neighbors.

The relations of the United States with non-democratic countries, and perhaps it would be more correct to describe them as anti-democratic, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and even with a country like Turkey where democratic institutions functioned from time to time, were not relations between allies, as is Washington’s relationship with its allies in NATO or with other countries, such as Japan and Australia, connecting these countries with democratic values, principles, institutions and traditions that give these relationships durability and transparency. Washington’s relations with these countries were based on common economic interests or on opposing opponents or enemies that threaten the security of these countries. Successive US governments have justified their strong relations and traditional support for Israel by talking about the democratic values ​​that bind the two countries, and this is true, but only partially.

From the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century, countries such as China and Russia, and to a lesser extent India, began to play economic and strategic roles in the region, some of which were previously exclusive to Western countries, especially the United States. China and India became important markets for Gulf oil, along with Japan and South Korea, and these countries began to attract Gulf investments to themselves, and also began to implement important economic projects, especially in the Gulf markets.

During this period, these four countries: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Egypt, tended to adopt stricter domestic policies against their opponents, including political activists, journalists and intellectuals, and encouraged the emergence of chauvinist political, religious or nationalist movements, accompanied by hostile actions against their neighbors.

During the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, religious parties grew in extremism, and Israel sanctified its Jewish identity at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs among its citizens, and intensified its appropriation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank to expand settlement operations.

The era of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey was marked by the status of these countries, which were secular since the founding of the Republic of Turkey, on the path of political Islam, and by the accompanying increasing suppression of the opposition in the country, especially in the phase after the coup attempt, since these internal events coincided with increasing hostility of Turkey towards the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s purchase of Russian weapons, in clear violation of its obligations as a NATO member state, has raised questions about the feasibility of its remaining in the alliance.

The autocracy that characterized the regime of Hosni Mubarak (and the brief rule of the Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt has turned into bloody repression and political intimidation uncharacteristic since 1919 in the latest manifestations of military rule with the era of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In Saudi Arabia, political power has become more brutal since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became the de facto ruler of the kingdom, as we have seen from the suppression of political activists, men and women (including the unprecedented torture of women and academics in prisons) and the persecution of journalists (including murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey) and the intimidation of members of the royal family and rich businessmen and the seizure of their wealth. Although all Saudi kings have interfered in the internal affairs of Yemen, the war waged by Mohammed bin Salman against Yemen has led to material destruction and human tragedy the likes of which no Saudi monarch has committed in the past.

This penchant for political and religious extremism, chauvinism and intimidation in these countries has exposed them all, albeit to varying degrees, to increasing criticism not only from the US government or Congress, but also from US civil society: the media, academic and artistic circles. It is no exaggeration to say that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey no longer have real friends in Washington, and this is evident by watching any congressional hearing on these countries or the Middle East region. Even Israel, with its religious and racist policies, has not escaped criticism from politicians, intellectuals and members of Congress. These criticisms have reached their peak among young Jews in recent years.

During the tenure of former President Donald Trump, these countries enjoyed the immunity given to them by the American president who admires “strong” and authoritarian leaders, whether they are called Vladimir Putin, Erdogan, Sisi or Netanyahu.

Trump has blessed Israel’s expansionist policies. Rather, he contributed to it when he “recognized” his annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He did not criticize the obvious violations of human rights in Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Instead, he tried to cover up the responsibility of the Saudi crown prince for the murder of Khashoggi. So it’s no wonder that the leaders of those countries have expressed their admiration and respect for the American president who has been twice tried by the House of Representatives as he now faces charges that could land him in prison.

This is the stifling political legacy that President Joseph Biden inherited when he arrived in the White House. During the election campaign and the first months of his term, Biden spoke openly about this ugly legacy. He did not hesitate to criticize Mohammed bin Salman, Abdel Fattah al-Salisi and Erdogan. His opinion about Benjamin Netanyahu may not be as prophetic as former President Barack Obama’s opinion when Biden was his vice president, and when Netanyahu “received” him as vice president during one of his visits to Israel by announcing new settlements, but it is not a positive opinion and certainly not a friendly one.

Biden’s criticism, like many in the political class and civil society of these countries, coincided with increased demand for oil and gas, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These factors have prompted countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel to virtually, though not officially, side with Russia in its war against the Ukrainian people. Saudi Arabia is coordinating its oil policy with Russia to help it overcome US and European boycotts and sanctions. Turkey is also coordinating with Russia on energy and wheat exports through the Black Sea straits controlled by Ankara, while Israel is sticking to its deal with Moscow in Syria. is resisting the request of Washington and its NATO allies to arm Ukraine.

These data have prompted Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries and Turkey to work to strengthen their relations with China and Russia, under the pretext that its old relations with Washington are not necessarily at odds with the development of its complex relations with China and Russia in political, economic and investment terms. territory. Those countries say that Washington wants to reduce its strategic and political “profile” in the region, and therefore Washington should not blame it if it strengthens its relations with China or Russia. These countries say they want more independence in their international relations, but in reality they seek to serve their own immediate interests, and that in itself is legitimate, but what these countries want from Washington is to ignore its human rights violations or its hostile policies towards its neighbors , just as China and Russia deal with it. These countries also believe that they have other options in the field of their weapons and can turn to Chinese or Russian weapons to replace American weapons.

But what these countries don’t realize, or don’t want to admit, is that the oil markets and prices – which now correspond to them – are always subject to vibrations and changes, and that their implicit threat to “turn” to the East for weapons is not a realistic option. Neither China nor Russia are able to arm a country like Saudi Arabia in a short period of time or without excessive costs (Egypt’s transformation from Russian weapons to American weapons took many years), just as China and Russia do not possess advanced weapons like American weapons. (The Russian invasion of Ukraine revealed that Russia is a third- or perhaps fourth-rate military country.) These countries in the Middle East cannot do without – at least for the foreseeable future – the dollar as their preferred international currency, just as they cannot do without American technology and universities. Will Saudi Arabia send tens of thousands of students to Chinese universities? Will China stand up to Iran if Tehran decides to persist in its hostile policy and encourage the Houthis to bomb Saudi oil facilities? Everyone knows that Saudi Arabia is not capable of defeating the Houthis or repelling their rockets or marches, despite the huge amount of weapons it has bought from Western countries.

These countries in the Middle East are not allies of the United States and do not deserve to be called allies, and Washington must deal with them in accordance with its interests and based on its principles and values ​​(which means not hesitating to criticize their human rights violations) and must to establish clean trade and economic relations with them, and to help them militarily. If it serves the interests of America. (When America rescued Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the clutches of Saddam Hussein’s brother, it helped the two countries and served its interests and the interests of the world). A country like Saudi Arabia should not enjoy the protection of the United States, as if it automatically deserves that protection or that such protection is a one-way street. And if the rulers of Saudi Arabia don’t like it, they can always look to China for knowledge.

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