Whoever controls the Middle East can control the world. The region has the largest oil and natural gas deposits on the planet and its strategic location is unprecedented. In retrospect, the most powerful and successful empires were either located in the Middle East or have had large swaths of land under control there.
The Middle East has been one of the most contentious and quarrelsome places in the world since the Sykes-Picot agreement. The power vacuum and the prominence of the Middle East has attracted many global rivals. The United States seems as though it is about to be deprived of its interests in the region due to the Shi’ite crescent, which is almost in the Mediterranean.
The Russians are one of the main players in the region now. Saudi Arabia is about to engulfed by its fierce foes the Shi’ites. The Kurds are stronger than ever and are on the brink of declaring their independent state – something Iran strongly opposes. Turkey and Qatar are in political downturns. The contemporary Middle East is combustible and headed toward a new order.
Will the US continue its global hegemony or it will return to its ancient policy of isolationism? The Islamic Republic of Iran has been anti-American since its birth in 1979. The Iranians are Twelver Shi’ites. Their ideology is in conflict with the Sunni sect of Islam and incompatible with those of the US, Russia and Europe, and even that of China.
They reject any other ideas and are attempting to swallow the whole Middle East. They have rejected the petro-dollar in their oil businesses and instead they use gold in their bilateral and multilateral trade.
If successful, these attempts would have huge deleterious effects on the US dollar and economy, stifling any sanctions and embargoes imposed on Iran. Iran and Qatar share the largest natural gas reserve in the world. In 2012 Qatar decided to export its natural gas and this required cooperation with Iran, irritating the Gulf States, American allies in the Middle East and the US itself. Currently Iran has proxies in most Middle Eastern states, including Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, which have uninterruptedly put US interests in danger.
For example in Iraq, through the Popular Mobilization Forces, which recently took control of Mosul, Iran and the Shi’ites have begun a demographic alteration plan in the Sunni-populated conquered areas of Iraq to change Iraq into a Shi’ite state forever and eliminate the American influence and remnants.
Americans fear Iran reaching the Mediterranean and losing Iraq totally to the Iranians. The US has spent more than a staggering $2 trillion dollars on wars in Iraq and such losses will have devastating consequences. Iraq is home to the holiest Shi’ite site in the world, and is thus a crucial strategic objective for US in the Middle East.
Iran and its allies try to enervate the Middle Eastern American allies and have menaced US interests in the region. Saudi Arabia is in a region-wide rivalry with its archenemy. The new Saudi crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, is characterized as ambitious, astute and anti-Iran. The Saudis have been shattered in the Yemen war. They have staunchly supported the Syrian rebels in their attempt to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, but Iran has strangulated the Saudi efforts.
Iran’s constant support for Hezbollah is a great concern for the Israelis; Iran is the archfoe of Israel and does not recognize its sovereignty. Israel is the strongest and most loyal ally of the US in the region. Hezbollah and Iran actively fund and support anti-Israeli groups, trying to weaken US allies in the region. For example, Jordan and Lebanon, both US allies, are on the brink of falling and have been burdened with refugees as a result of Iranian-involved wars.
Qatar and Turkey are Muslim Brotherhood hardliners and have publicly expressed their support for the organization, infuriating the Egyptians and Saudis (Saudis are Wahhabis, and have harsh ideological conflicts with the Muslim Brotherhood. Each considers the other apostates). Turkey and Egypt have no diplomatic relations and Egypt expelled the Turkish ambassador, referring to him as persona non grata, for supporting ousted president Muhammad Morsi. Egypt is one of the participant states in the Qatar blockade.
Recently Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Sisi inaugurated a military base – the largest military base in the Middle East – with the president stating it will be used for the purpose of fighting terrorism. However, with Turkey’s strong support of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s new base might be in fact aimed at Turkey.
Qatar has been a loyal and strong economic ally of Turkey. Turkey has established a military base in Qatar, and Doha’s $3 billion in donations to Turkey in the aftermath of the failed Turkish coup saved the Turkish currency.
US-Turkish relations have been deteriorating recently, and indeed, only Israel supports the US in the Middle East at this time.
US policymakers, fearing an end to their global hegemony, might be looking to create another Israel, namely Kurdistan.
With these threats against American hegemony and interests in the region, Iran’s exponential growth in the region has put US power and hegemony in question. US losses in Vietnam, Afghanistan and eventually Iraq have drawn nothing but condemnation.
The large US debt, which is equal to almost 100% of its GDP, means America might not be able to conduct its policy as it did in the past.
Recently, Iraqi forces backed directly by Iran took Kirkuk from Kurdish Peshmerga forces. If the US uses Kirkuk as a Kuwait scenario Iran could be dragged into war.
Iranians have been successful in their Shi’ite crescent policy, partially breaching American containment as they have turned Iraq into another Iranian province and forging strong relations with Turkey. If the US continues its silence on Iran’s actions in the region US hegemony will be over.
However, President Donald Trump’s willingness to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal might be a sign that the US still wants to protect its influence and interests in the region. But the nuclear program is vital to Iran’s survival and Iran will not easily abandon it. Iran already challenges the US even without possessing nuclear weapons – with them, the US will have no choice but to agree to Iran’s terms or, probably, leave the Middle East. Or face war.
The author is an engineer and a student of politics and international relations in the University of Sulaymaniyah. He has translated books on politics from English to Kurdish. He is an activist and a writer focusing on politics in the Middle East.
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