Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

fischer162_FAYEZ NURELDINEAFPGetty Images_irandefenceministerpowerpoint Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East’s Dangerous New Hegemonic Confrontation

Although Yemen's Houthi rebels have claimed credit for the sophisticated nighttime strike on Saudi oil facilities last month, the attack was almost certainly launched by Iran. By giving Iran no other option but to demonstrate its military prowess, US President Donald Trump has exposed himself and his Saudi allies as paper tigers.

BERLIN – In the old Middle East, a single overarching conflict – between Israel and the Arab countries – had many fronts, and it was the West’s prerogative to protect the flow of oil to the global economy. In the new Middle East, the defining conflict is a broader struggle among multiple players seeking regional primacy.

This new struggle began when former US President Barack Obama initiated America’s broader withdrawal from the region, but it has intensified under Donald Trump. Obama, at least, had a political vision for the region. With the 2015 Iran nuclear deal having forestalled a nuclear-arms race, he hoped that an easing of sanctions and faster economic growth would permit Iran’s gradual reintegration into the international community over the following decade. Trump, by contrast, has no strategy, and wants to disguise America’s retreat from the region, currently demonstrated in Syria by the open betrayal of the Kurds, with militant rhetoric and massive arms exports to US partners and allies in the Gulf.

For its part, Saudi Arabia, the region’s wealthy, predominantly Sunni power (if one doesn’t count Turkey), has long harbored ambitions for regional hegemony – at least in the Persian Gulf and on the Arabian Peninsula – and views predominantly Shia Iran as its main rival. For the past few years, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been waging a disastrous proxy war in Yemen, resulting in a massive toll of civilian casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/5JWUey7;
  1. skidelsky147_Christoph Soederpicture alliance via Getty Images_policechristmasmarketgermany Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images

    The Terrorism Paradox

    Robert Skidelsky

    As the number of deaths from terrorism in Western Europe declines, public alarm about terrorist attacks grows. But citizens should stay calm and not give governments the tools they increasingly demand to win the “battle” against terrorism, crime, or any other technically avoidable misfortune that life throws up.