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Security in a Post-American Middle East

The war in Ukraine has shown that security frameworks that exclude anti-status-quo powers are fundamentally fragile. The message for Middle Eastern countries attempting to bolster regional security is clear: excluding the Palestinians or the Iranians is a non-starter.

TEL AVIV – The Middle East is learning to live without America. While the United States will continue to shape regional security, not least through its advanced weapons systems, its (perceived) retreat from the Middle East has raised serious doubts about its willingness to fulfill its commitments to its allies. Now, local actors are revising their geopolitical strategies, with old enemies pursuing reconciliation and some countries even seeking to create a system of collective security. To deliver regional peace and stability, however, countries will have to overcome even bigger hurdles than they seem to realize.

Middle Eastern leaders’ disillusionment with the US has been growing for more than a decade. Autocratic Arab rulers accuse the US of betraying them during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, by aligning with the forces trying to overthrow them. They also blame the US for effectively negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal behind their backs, and for failing to discipline Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime in Syria.

More recently, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were none too happy with America’s non-response to attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on their oil infrastructure. That probably explains, at least partly, why neither country has been willing to meet US President Joe Biden’s requests to boost oil and gas production to contain surging energy prices amid the Ukraine war. Reportedly, they will not even take his calls.

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