Despite the previous declaration on the disengagement of American troops from the Middle East, U.S. President Donald Trump is now planning to send 120,000 soldiers to the region, including aircraft carriers and fighter-bombers, against Iran. The American president’s aversion to Tehran is well known, but tensions have increased after some attempts to sabotage oil tankers in the Gulf, that Washington alleges Tehran did. There is a feeling that the story in the Middle East is repeating itself. After the intervention in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq, today America needs a new casus belli to impose its hegemony in the region, at the cost of a further wave of chaos.
Indeed, the weakening of the Middle East order of the last 20 years is mainly due to the role played by the U.S. Since its entry into the region in the ’50s and throughout the consolidation of their alliance with Israel, America’s goals have been the protection of its own national security, supporting the democratization process and accessing oil and regional resources.
Even in recent times, the destabilizing attempts denotes a strategic vision just functional to the U.S.’ own objects, but not to the stability of the area and to the peaceful coexistence of people. By being related to the American internal security, the democratization attempt in the region and the stability of the area has marked the U.S. Middle Eastern policy since 9/11. However, the current turmoil emerges as the U.S. is failing to understand the region.
The 9/11 attack and the American reaction were the real watershed. The subsequent Afghan war in 2001 was carried out along to the principle of state-building, which strengthens state sovereignty and guarantees some order to the region. Instead, a greater insecurity occurred. It became clear to U.S. policy makers that democratizing the Middle East was necessary. Hence, the U.S. implemented the so-called “doctrine of creative chaos” aimed at producing disorder to create a new order.
In other words, Washington’s imperative was to transform the political regime of some pivot states in a democratic way. That was the strategic design backing the 2003 invasion of Iraq. From the American perspective, the dismissal of Saddam Hussein would have stemmed Iraq’s hypothetical hegemonic role and triggered a democratic domino effect in the whole Middle East. Due to its theoretical contradiction, the “exporting democracy” strategy made by the U.S. not only has been a failure from the very beginning, but has further created new centers of insecurity in the Middle East with violent spillovers even on a global scale.
Unlike the George W. Bush administration, Barack Obama tried to pursue the reduction of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. The disengagement was based on a gradual reduction of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite their instability.
Still, new military actions were launched in Libya in support of European allies and in Syria as the leader of the Global Coalition against Daesh through air operations and by supporting some militias involved in the conflict.
President Barack Obama tried also to mediate between Palestinian authorities and Israel, but in spite of all efforts the U.S. lost some credibility as a regional engineer. With the Arab uprisings, the challenges increased and the U.S. did not seem able to play a decisive role. Any attempt to harmonize democratization, national security, control of resources and support to Israel failed again and it created space to Trump’s rise. Since the very beginning of his electoral campaign was very clear a greater determination in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
As the new political vision identifies Iran as a rogue state, the U.S. has legitimized a critical realignment with Israel to the extent that as a cosmetic move the American Embassy was transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In other words, the U.S. security concerns and its discriminatory support to Israel are the cornerstones of Trump’s strategy. It comes as the implementation of a security system pivoting as well on Saudi Arabia and its anti-Iran allies. In this new regional vision, many important state actors will eventually suffer meaningful consequences with the outcome of increasing the potential of competition as well as reflected in proxies’ conflict logic. In other words, the current American strategy aiming to create upheaval in the already fragmented regional status quo is about to create more instability and to open the doors to more confusion. Likely, any rational actor would avoid this wind of change.
* Assistant professor at the University of the Turkish Aeronautical Association, Ankara