The United States desperately needs to rethink its Middle East strategy

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Is the Middle East Still Important? This is a seemingly absurd question, yet some are asking it in Washington. The Middle East is the source of massive oil and gas reserves. Much of the fuel needed to produce goods and trade from Asia and the EU comes from the Middle East. Much of the world economy relies on energy from the Middle East. The region has strategic bottlenecks such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Bab al Mandab. It is a source of some of the most significant threats in the world, such as those from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other groups. It contains some of the most important security connections in the world. Consider the neighbors in the Middle East and not just the Middle East. The Middle East is a crossroads for energy and security. It could also be one of the generators of change and improvement, if allowed and supported to do so.

However, as the United States focuses more on the “great power conflict” in Asia, particularly with China, it becomes increasingly clear that the United States is losing the plot in the Middle. East. Consider the slowness or lack of response to the Iranian fuel shipment with the help of Hezbollah and Syria to Lebanon.

The United States could have done a lot of different things to help the Lebanese in this area without giving their opponents a massive political victory and public relations. But, in some ways, Washington’s sanctions have put him in a corner on such issues. Consider how the United States took anti-missile batteries from Saudi Arabia while the Houthis are still attacking Saudi Arabia with missiles. The Saudis struck a deal with the Russians in response to this and other measures taken by the United States. The United States has given the Russians leverage. These are just two of many examples of the loss of the plot.

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Indeed, China is a threat in the Pacific to Taiwan and others. It is a threat to the freedom of navigation in the western Pacific. It is an economic and technological threat to the United States and has been for a very long time. It is a cyber threat to the United States. It is developing a leverage effect in many countries with its “Belt and Road” initiative. It is now the largest trading partner with almost all countries in the Middle East. It builds an important diplomatic, economic and even military lever in the Middle East. China is moving in the region while the United States is moving in other directions. By the way, it’s increasingly likely that China could have a slice of the nuclear pie in Saudi Arabia.

Russia has also created greater leverage in the region. Its recent big defense deals with Saudi Arabia are just one example. The United States essentially opened the door to them. Similar things happened when the United States cut defense aid to Egypt a few years ago. The Egyptians were in Moscow to quickly make defense and other deals. Russian advisers are back in Egypt. The Russians are building a huge nuclear complex on the north coast of Egypt. There is no doubt that the Russians have a lot more weight and influence in the region than before. Much of this is due to the missteps of the United States or simply the neglect of the United States of this vital region.

The United States is expected to compete for exports of nuclear power plants and other crucial leveraged exports to the region. We could export small modular rectors to the region. These pose much lower proliferation and security risks than older and larger factories. We could further develop the security of this trade by enforcing 123 agreements as we did in the UAE. The UAE has the landmark nuclear power deal with the United States, even though the plants were built by a Korean company.

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Why am I talking about nuclear power plants? Because anyone who exports a nuclear power plant to another country can develop 80 to 100 years of influence and weight in that country. Exports of nuclear power plants are dominated by Russia, followed by China. The United States is not even in the race.

We have seen above some examples of how the Russians and Chinese are increasing their influence and influence in the region. If the United States wants to turn more to the “conflict of the great powers”? Then he should realize that the “great power conflict” is not only in Asia, but also in the Middle East (and Asia begins in Sinai). The Middle East is a contested space.

You can’t win a game of backgammon and chess by letting the other games, your opponents, make smart moves when we don’t have good backgammon moves and we don’t think many moves in the backgammon. advance.

The United States seems to be losing the plot of 4D chess in the Middle East. It is not too late to rethink strategies. The United States needs to be long term and think long term. The United States needs to regain intrigue in the region and the way it connects with the big pictures of geopolitics, geoeconomics, energy, security and more. It is not too late.

By Paul Sullivan for OilUSD

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