How to Restore American Influence in the Middle East

(Wall Street Journal) Walter Russell Mead - With Tehran's utter rejection of Biden administration efforts for conciliation and its wholehearted embrace of Moscow, U.S. and Israeli views of Iran have become more aligned. The long European romance with Iran is cooling as the regime's brutality at home and its collusion with Russian aggression in Ukraine sour European hopes for profitable and peaceful relations with the mullahs. Higher energy prices have sent floods of cash into the Middle East, boosting the confidence of local rulers. China is working to raise its economic and political profile in a region essential to its future. The White House, feeling overstretched against Russian aggression in Ukraine and Chinese ambition in the Indo-Pacific, wants to minimize its exposure to the Middle East. Yet the region is too important to ignore - and the more the U.S. withdraws, the more influence it sheds. As America becomes less relevant, regional actors feel free to make more decisions that Washington dislikes, effectively undermining U.S. influence around the globe. If President Biden wants to restore American influence in the region, he can still do so. The price, however, is a resolute and effective U.S. policy to disrupt Iran's ability to threaten its Arab neighbors. If combined with measures to ensure that Israel and its friends can, if all else fails, take military action to block Tehran's nuclear program, this would put the U.S. back at the center of Middle Eastern order. The cost of influence is high, but impotence is more expensive in the long run. The writer, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College.

2023-01-12 00:00:00

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