U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).
What is the U.S. up to in the Middle East? How does the granular reality of developments as seen from the region square with Washington’s strategic assessment? Last week, a senior Biden administration official offered some answers to those questions in a briefing for journalists on the White House’s plan for a realistic, downsized Middle East policy. (Though the official remained anonymous, it sounds an awful lot like Brett McGurk ). Whether or not this plan will work—and I’m not so sure that it will—the administration’s description of its own approach sounds accurate, and that’s a welcome change. It does away [...]
Iran’s national security adviser, Ali Shamkhani, and the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shake hands prior to their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).
High-level diplomacy has intensified among competing Middle East regional powers, a flurry of bilateral talks that increasingly suggests what a “Plan B” would look like if, as seems likely, the U.S. and Iran fail to revive the deal that briefly constrained Tehran’s nuclear program. The pace of contacts and meetings between the region’s prime movers has stepped up a notch in recent weeks, in a tangible sign that governments in the Middle East are responding to what they see as a clear downsizing of Washington’s role in the region. The most visible example of this adjustment was a meeting that [...]
U.S. soldiers sit in a C-17 aircraft at Sather Air Base in Baghdad as they begin their journey home after a year in Iraq, Nov. 30, 2010 (AP photo by Maya Alleruzzo).
If Washington is as committed as ever to its historical role as security guarantor in the Middle East, why do U.S. officials feel compelled to constantly reassure their regional partners that the U.S. isn’t pulling back from the region? The question speaks to the disconnect between Washington’s strategic interests in the Middle East and the priorities of its regional partners. It also reflects the difficulty U.S. policymakers face in seeking to exert influence in a region beset by poor governance and a multiplicity of state, nonstate and hybrid actors.  But it also reflects a paradox at the heart of U.S. [...]
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