Every US administration suffers from the same strategic rigidity - opinion

Most analysts and authors agree that each successive US administration has made strategic mistakes in their relations with Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

 HOUSE DEMOCRATIC leader Nancy Pelosi presents then-US president Barack Obama with a book in 2016 containing Democratic members’ statements of support for the Iran nuclear agreement. Obama ignored concerns of Gulf allies about the threat posed by Iran.  (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
HOUSE DEMOCRATIC leader Nancy Pelosi presents then-US president Barack Obama with a book in 2016 containing Democratic members’ statements of support for the Iran nuclear agreement. Obama ignored concerns of Gulf allies about the threat posed by Iran.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Recently, I have been following a number of analyses and studies dealing with the evolution of relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the United States, as well as the future of the US presence in the Gulf region in particular and the Middle East in general.

Perhaps most strikingly, despite the differing identities of the analysts and authors, there is consensus in pointing out the strategic mistakes made by successive US administrations, all of which have led to deteriorating relations between Washington and its GCC allies.

First and foremost, this means, the mistakes repeatedly made by US administrations, whether Democrats or Republicans, have not been reviewed and reassessed in light of changes in the security and strategic environment at the regional and international levels.

In my view, US mistakes in its relations with its Gulf allies did not begin in 2015, when the administration of then-president Barack Obama ignored its concerns about the threat posed by Iran, and signed a nuclear agreement that helped Iran expand strategically and later threaten US interests themselves. Evidence of this abounds, including the targeting of US bases in Iraq by Iranian missiles.

Yet, these mistakes started much earlier. Namely, when Washington conceded that terrorist organizations were connected with some GCC states in particular and the Gulf region in general. American politicians have been confident that their allies played no role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Former US president Barack Obama hosts a working session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at Camp David in Maryland May 14, 2015. Obama opened a summit with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies on Thursday, seeking to convince them of Washington’s commitment to their security despite d (credit: REUTERS)Former US president Barack Obama hosts a working session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at Camp David in Maryland May 14, 2015. Obama opened a summit with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies on Thursday, seeking to convince them of Washington’s commitment to their security despite d (credit: REUTERS)

So, Washington should have had reached out to its allies to combat the common threat of terrorism. Instead, it used this crime to put pressure on its allies, who found themselves in a position of self-defense against something they themselves had initially warned against and rejected.

Let’s also not forget that the discussions and controversies about US involvement in foreign wars only emerged after the 2003 Iraq War, where a number of US mistakes were committed in the postwar period that played into Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.

Then followed a series of events signaling a loss of US interest in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2011, Washington took to promoting religious organizations and groups jostling for power under the guise of democracy and change, with no realistic indication that they would champion the interests of Arab societies.

This placed the US position in the cross hairs with Arab peoples, which pushed these organizations out faster than expected by US political and academic circles who had bought into the illusions of the so-called Arab Spring. These did not try to correct their mistakes or reconsider their positions.

Instead, they continued to pressure several Arab capitals by relying on issues such as human rights and other cards that everyone knows are instruments for implementing US foreign policy, not expressions of the values that govern that policy.

Since that time, the US has reduced its strategic vision for the Middle East and the Gulf region to two factors: the security of Israel and energy security and, to a lesser extent, pure arms exports. The problem was not with these goals, either individually or collectively. It was the manner in which they were achieved.

Israel’s security, for example, required more than making and reaffirming commitments to protect the security of a closer ally in the Middle East. In other words, peace-making and stabilization certainly benefit Israel more than simply promising to protect it.

This is not a role that the US has played as expected, at least not in trying to break the cycle of traditional solutions and seek innovative alternatives to bring peace and stability. Washington has ignored the demands and views of its allies on regional security agreements and the growing sense among those allies that Iran poses a threat.

So it was only natural that Washington’s relations with its allies, including Israel, gradually eroded, creating a strategic vacuum that other international powers sought to exploit.

In shaping their international relations in general, these powers rely on mutual cooperation and the creation of networks of common interests and benefits, respecting the specifics of each state, and not interfering in any way in its internal affairs and national sovereignty.

The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.