Pivoting Away From America

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Author: Michael Young
Affiliation: Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center
Organization/Publisher: Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center
Date/Place: October, 2021/ Beirut, Lebanon
Type of Literature: Insight Article (Diwan blog)
Word Count: 1350
Link: https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/85474
Keywords: United States, Gulf Arab States, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria
Brief:
Michael Young analyzes what he considers as a newly-emerging regional order in the Middle East. He argues that the absence of the United States as ‘regional regulator’ in the Middle East has provoked Arab states to arrange new power games by accumulating cards in the region. In this regard, Young refers to the Biden administration’s refusal to release the report on Hezbollah’s financial status and how it is related to the shift in the US position toward Lebanon and its tendency to lift economic sanctions on Lebanon as well as the Assad regime in Syria to pave the way for an energy deal with Lebanon. This deal implies sending Egyptian natural gas, passing through Syria and Jordan, to supply Lebanon’s Deir Ammar power station. The deal would maintain Lebanon with required energy to sustain its instable economy. Correspondingly, such a plan provides that Egypt and Jordan have followed a similar approach toward Lebanon, which they worked on persuading Biden’s administration to support. Young claims that the real narrative behind this approach adopted by both Egypt and Jordan is aimed at reconciliation of Syria into the gathering of Arab states. In other words, Young underlines that what has been considered as an American sway toward the Assad regime and Iran, could be understood as an effort from Arab states to reopen with Syria and Lebanon to confront Iranian influence in both countries. Due to the United States’ inclination and long-standing strategy to contain Iranian expansion in the Middle East, Arab states have sought to maintain a counterbalance to Iran in the region. The normalization agreements between Gulf States and Israel are another indicator of this strategy. Arab states have realized that despite years of sanctions, Iran’s influence and expansionism increased. Therefore, they have changed their tactics and policies with Syria and Lebanon. Accordingly, Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, UAE, and Qatar have believed in the effectiveness of the mobilization of Sunni-majority states and alliances, rather than depending on the US or Israeli arms to maintain their interests in the region. To sum up, the region has witnessed the rise of competing regional and international players beside the US such as Iran, Turkey, Israel, Russia, and France, therefore, the prospects of balancing efforts should be taken into consideration. Young underlines the emergence of “self-generating regional balance of power” to fill the vacuum of the US military withdrawal from the scenes. The US refrain from playing its role as the Middle East regulator has pushed Arab states to play their own regional power games while “preparing for a region that has pivoted away from America”.
By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant