U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent “reassurance tour” of America’s Middle East partners was not a resounding success. Kerry’s attempts to convince skeptical allies that the United States remains committed to their security and well-being, interrupted in part by the secretary’s decision to travel to Geneva to attend the second round of talks over Iran’s nuclear program, were confronted with concerns that the United States lacks both strategic focus and staying power. Writing in Gulf News, Linda S. Heard opined, “The U.S. is currently bleeding trust with many of its regional allies.” On Egypt, Syria, Israel-Palestine and Iran, U.S. policy in the region is being met with frustration and dismay by long-standing allies.
The search is on for new options. As a recent editorial in Saudi Arabia’s al-Watan pointed out, “Actual U.S. policy is gradually withdrawing from the region and this is why there is the need to create alternative strategic axes to protect the interests of Arab countries.” In their search for a hedge against perceived American unreliability, U.S. partners have taken the first steps to diversify their relationships—starting with a reassessment of the desirability of expanded ties with Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu this week completed a landmark visit to Egypt, whose relations with the United States have been strained following the military coup that removed former President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Shoigu, after completing his talks with senior Egyptian officials, including Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, praised the start of a “constructive dialog on every aspect of military and technical cooperation.”