The End for America in the Middle East?

(Daily Star-Lebanon) Michael Young - Most Arab regimes are old and have lost much legitimacy by consolidating their authoritarianism while offering their younger, expanding populations little in the way of consensual social contracts, useful educational opportunities, and better living conditions. The one-time sway of leading Arab states has devolved to non-Arab states on the region's periphery: Turkey, Israel and Iran. This has had negative consequences for the U.S., whose political preeminence in the region rested on the old Arab order. At the same time, the Obama administration is in the throes of psychological retrenchment over the Middle East. Today, Obama's priority is to withdraw from Iraq, effectively denying Washington the primary terrain needed to contain Iran, but also to exercise its power over Syria and to an extent Saudi Arabia. The U.S. will have to rely on the frail Gulf states to push back against the Islamic Republic. Not surprisingly, Iran sees very few serious obstacles coming from its Gulf Arab neighbors. And these would dissipate completely if Tehran were to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran has the added ability in places such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, but also in Yemen, of being able to mobilize members of disgruntled Shiite minorities. The impact of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement on the Gulf and Iraq, the critical playing field in the American-Iranian rivalry, would be relatively limited. The Palestinians have been a tool used by Iran, as has Lebanon, to protect its core objective: building up its supremacy in the Gulf. Iran's priority is to progressively undermine America in the Middle East. Hizbullah and Hamas act as useful shock absorbers for Iran while it develops a nuclear capability, the cornerstone of its bid for regional hegemony.

2010-05-14 08:39:41

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