Welcome to the post-American moment in the Middle East.
American influence has been eroding for decades, from the devastating post-9/11 sprawl to transactions Diplomacy of President Donald Trump.
Now officially here we are, with China brokering a détente agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia and Iran resumed diplomatic relations after seven years of high tensions and violent exchanges between them. In two months, they will reopen the embassies and they have both Pledge Respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. The two countries have been engaged in a proxy war in Yemen for the past eight years, which until recently subsided and were on opposite sides of conflicts across the Middle East, in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. While normalization may not mean a cessation of violence across the region, the cessation of overt hostilities between them should be welcomed by all. This breakthrough is the result of several years of talks in Iraq and Oman.
Perhaps the most interesting dynamic is that China has led the way.
If you create a diplomatic vacuum, someone will fill it. This is basically what happened to US policy in the Gulf,” said Chas Freeman, a retired career diplomat with extensive experience in the Middle East and China. “It’s a really big development.”
That China is playing a role shows where the global power is turning — and a meaningful change in how Chinese President Xi Jinping conducts Middle East policy. So far, Beijing has been careful to take an active role there; Freeman made it clear that this diplomacy, while important, does not mean that China is trying to displace the security role of the United States in the Middle East. instead of, Li said that China is “trying to create a peaceful international environment there, where you can do business.”
Saudi Arabia, a longtime partner of the United States, appears to be shedding its commitment to a unipolar American world. It says a lot about the way Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conducts foreign policy as the kingdom draws closer to China and Iran, in pursuit of security outside of traditional Western allies. Mohammed bin Salman favors an alternative world order dominated by the likes of Xi and [Russian President Vladimir] says Khaled Al-Jabri, a Saudi businessman and doctor. “Take away the grievances between the Saudi and Iranian regimes, and they are, in fact, more alike than they are.”
Did the US abdication in the Middle East lead to China’s diplomatic power?
All diplomacy and normalization is good if it leads to more communication and can calm tensions.
Iran and Saudi Arabia in opposition across the Middle East, in the tragic proxy war in Yemen, where more than 150,000 people diedAs well as in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The speech was fiery with Mohammed bin Salman Comparison Iranian leader Hitler. since then Iran’s pursuit of nuclear enrichment Pushing Saudi Arabia to pursue a civilian nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has been many times alert Iranian attacks, and this has led to fears of an unintended escalation between the two countries that could lead to a wider war.
Saudi Arabia had briefed the United States on the talks, but so had Washington Do not participate directly. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement was apparently not something the Biden administration was working towards.
Freeman served as ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992 argue that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies were already crafting a foreign policy independent of the United States, in response to what they saw as an abdication of US military responsibility for the Gulf and diplomatic incompetence.
After Iran interfered with the main energy shipping route around and in the Strait of Hormuz and it or its affiliated forces The Saudi Aramco facility in Abqaiq was attacked In 2019, so did the United States Does not respond by military force. This American restraint may have been smart in terms of not escalating tensions, but it has left Saudi Arabia and its partners without a sense of American security support. “Basically, the United States has defaulted on a long-term commitment we had to be the strategic supporter and defender of the Gulf Arabs,” Freeman told me.
“The context is one in which a diplomatic failure on the part of the United States provided an opportunity for someone else to emerge as a peacemaker,” he says. The area now speaks for itself. She does not follow anyone’s dictates.
Iran, obstructed Continuous protests Against her government, he might have been more willing to make a deal. It is not yet clear whether the normalization of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is a real reconciliation or just a short cessation of hostilities. Regardless, it is a promising sign for stability in the region in the short term – to a lesser extent for US influence in it.
It is a major blow to the Biden administration’s policy in the Middle East. after Pledge To hold Saudi Arabia accountable on the presidential track, Biden visited the kingdom in around the face Last summer in response to a spike in oil prices caused by the Russian war – and the US got little in return. “They are still pursuing an outdated Cold War mentality and refuting it by doubling down on their existing allies like Saudi Arabia and abandoning all campaign promises, especially on human rights,” Al-Jabri told me.
Both the Biden and Trump administrations linked their Saudi and Middle Eastern policy to uniting Israel and the Gulf states in confronting Iran. The de-escalation of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia shows that despite harsh Saudi anti-Iranian rhetoric in recent years, there is room for cooperation, albeit without a strong US role.
China is the largest Gulf trade partner Most Middle Eastern countries have a real interest in easing tensions. Looking to the future, Saudi Arabia has made a strategic choice here and elsewhere – it is looking forward to joining brix Developing gathers and takes over Observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
“This suggests that the kingdom wants to focus on domestic economic development rather than geopolitical conflicts right now,” says Andrew Lieber, a political science professor who focuses on Saudi Arabia, “particularly with the conflicts in Syria and Yemen deadlocked and Iran’s leaders preoccupied with internal turmoil.” “. at Tulane University.
The Iranian-Saudi announcement comes alike Wall Street Journal and the The New York Times He published stories raising the possibility of Saudi Arabia and Israel establishing diplomatic relations as part of expanding the normalization agreements that former President Donald Trump concluded between Israel and Arab countries. But the analysts I spoke with see little possibility of a deal of the century between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Biden and the United States will never agree to Saudi terms for nuclear energy and security guarantees, and it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will agree to a real peace deal with Israel.
As for the erosion of American power, the Biden administration politely disagrees. “I would vigorously defend this notion that we are retreating in the Middle East — far from it,” White House spokesman John Kirby said. He said.
Even now, there are limits to Biden Diplomacy. The new agreement with some potential for pacifying the Middle East did not begin in Washington, but in Beijing.