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The U.S. Greater Middle East Strategy and its implications

In the national history of America, from the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (the Cold War) until now, Washington has kept implementing a Strategy for the Greater Middle East in order to comprehensively control this important region. The Strategy has been making impacts on peace, security, and stability of the region and the world as well.

Looking back on the U.S. Strategy for the Greater Middle East

Greater Middle East is a geographical region consisting of countries stretching from North Africa and Middle East to the Balkans, North Kavkaz, Central Asia, and South Asia. This region holds a geo-political and geo-economic position of paramount importance to the world politics. Hence, for so long the United States of America has put this region at the forefront of its Greater Middle East Strategy - a part of key importance to the US global strategy. The first version of Greater Middle East Strategy was designed at the beginning of the 1950s, based on the Eisenhower Doctrine, aimed at filling the strategic gap after the British and French Colonialists’ phased withdrawal of their influence in response to the national liberation movement in many countries of this region. The second version was grounded on the Nixon Doctrine at the beginning of the 1970s and aimed at increasing the US presence in the Middle East. The third version was developed in the 1980s under the Carter Doctrine to deal with the Soviet Union’s military presence in Afghanistan. The fourth version was formulated on the basis of Reagan Doctrine and aimed at establishing a chain of strategic regions around the globe, with the Middle East holding a position of utmost importance. The fifth version was built on lessons from the Velvet Revolution which ever changed the political regimes in the Soviet Union and socialist countries in the East Europe at the beginning of the 1990s.

Without the existence of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has gained the complete control over the world order and acted as “world police” and announced its plan to “promote democracy” via the use of its military strength to topple “anti-democratic” regimes and those against “human rights” rated by itself. Since the September 11 terror attacks, Washington has exaggerated terrorism as its “greatest enemy” and launched the Global War on Terror with a view to dividing the world into two sides, namely the anti-terrorism side under the US leadership and the pro-terrorism side. On the pretext of “protecting human rights” and “fighting terrorism,” the U.S. has commenced a “Crusade” to pacify the Greater Middle East in which the first victim was Afghanistan in 2001 and the second was Iraq in 2003; however, it has got bogged down in the two countries.

To rescue the U.S. from the Greater Middle East quagmire, after taking office in 2009, the President Obama made strategic adjustments for this region and a switch to the use of “smart power,” with priority given to employing “soft power” (non-governmental diplomacy, politics, and economic power) associated with “hard power” (military power). In May 2009, in his first visit to Egypt, Obama stated that America would work with other countries in the region to make a “new start” towards renovation and democracy. In late 2010, that “new start” in the relations between the U.S. and the Greater Middle East countries took place in the form of socio-political upheavals in many regional countries, called the “Arab Spring,” beginning with the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. According to President Obama, like the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989, the “Arab Spring” would usher in “a new era” for this region.

In the political upheavals of the “Arab Spring,” the U.S. used the “soft power” to give assistance to the “oppositional forces” in overthrowing the political regimes of their countries, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt. In the countries where the “soft power” brought about no results, the U.S. would adopt the “hard power.” Typically in Libya, after being unable to use the “oppositional forces” to topple the political regime in Tripoli, in cooperation with the NATO, the U.S. launched a military campaign on the pretext of “establishing a no-fly zone” with the aim of overthrowing the then President Gaddafi. Immediately after the end of the US military intervention in Libya, American political circle warned that Libya scenario would be reproduced in Syria, Iran, and many other countries. In Syria, after failing to give political, economic, and diplomatic assistance to the “oppositional forces” in removing the political regime in Damascus, the U.S. enticed its allies from the NATO and the Middle East to conduct military operations in the name of anti-terrorism to topple President Bashar al-Assad. However, thanks to military and political support from Russia and Iran, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained unchanged and managed to safeguard the national sovereignty.

Taking office in 2017, US President Donald Trump made a lot of decisions to realise the Greater Middle East Strategy’s consistent unfinished goal of changing the political regimes in Syria and Iran. To overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, Donald Trump decided to continue making a direct military intervention in Syria, starting with a military offensive against Syria’s Army on April 13th, 2018, pretending that this force had used chemical weapons - an adventure decision that President Obama had to give up in 2013. Nevertheless, this decision by Donald Trump was ruined due to the firm support form Russia and Iran for Syria. After announcing that “the U.S. defeated terrorism,” President Donald Trump withdrew American troops from Syria and only retained a small force for “defending America’s oil fields against terrorists.” At the same time, he withdrew American troops from Northeast Syria, which was described as America’s abandonment of its Kurdish allies amidst Turkey’s military campaigns.

To topple the political regime in Tehran, President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which had been made by 5 Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, for the Deal between the P5+1 Group and Iran, while accusing Iran of “sponsoring terrorism.” For that reason, Washington imposed the most severe sanctions on Tehran, believing that Iran would fall into a comprehensive crisis as an essential precondition for the “oppositional forces” to rise up and overthrow this country’s political regime. However, this sanction policy by the U.S. would be hard to produce good results. To continue pushing Iran into a crisis, President Donald Trump ordered an attack to kill major general Qasem Soleimani, who was one of the key commanders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and had great influence on the political system of Tehran. Nevertheless, Iran still stays strong against all acts of sabotage by America.

With the goal of establishing “a new NATO in the Middle East” based on the Israel-driven alliance between regional countries, on January 28th, 2020, President Donald Trump announced a peace plan for the Middle East called the “Deal of the Century.”  According to his plan, Palestine would have to recognise Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and the U.S. would acknowledge Israel’s resettlement zones in Palestine’s regions regardless of the international law. Although these advantages for Israel were completely against the international law, President Donald Trump believed that all member states of the “new NATO in the Middle East” would back his plan.

Implications of the U.S. Greater Middle East Strategy

According to experts around the globe, America’s Greater Middle East Strategy has made negative impacts on peace and security of the region and the world. First, on the pretext of “conducting humanitarian intervention,” “promoting democracy,” and “protecting human rights,” the U.S. seriously violated the principle of non-intervention in other countries’ national sovereignty specified in the United Nations Charter. Second, the Global War on Terror launched by the U.S. and the NATO since 2001 has spread the terrorism threat across the world, instead of eradicating terrorism. Third, at present, the countries which have undergone the “Arab Spring,” such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen are all falling into political, economic, and social chaos, which is completely contrary to the U.S. policy to “bring freedom” and “promote democracy.” Fourth, wars and socio-economic crises in the North Africa and Middle East countries have created the largest refugee wave of ever in the Europe since the World War II, pushing countries on this continent into a miserable situation and causing disunity among them. Fifth, the “Arab Spring” has produced a new type of war called “riot war” or “revolution from the Internet.” Researching into political upheavals in the North Africa and Middle East countries provoked by the social networks, political analysts in the U.S. believe that the “Arab Spring” has ushered in a new era of “revolutions from the Internet.” Drawing lessons from the “Arab Spring,” many countries have made adjustments in their policy for the use of the Internet in order to prevent political riots. Moreover, a number of countries around the world have adopted cyber security law to defend their national security. Sixth, the peace plan for the Middle East proposed by President Donald Trump completely went against the United Nations’ relevant resolutions towards equal, comprehensive and sustainable measures for the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which were grounded on the peaceful coexistence of two states. According to the United Nations, Israel must withdraw from the territories which they have illegally occupied, while Palestine will be allowed to establish an independent state whose border was drawn up prior to 1967 and its capital city will be East Jerusalem.

Hence, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas resolutely rejected and considered Donald Trump’s plan as a “slap of the century” on the Middle East’s peace process. Together with Palestine, several other countries, such as Jordan, Turkey, and Iran stated that the plan would be ruined soon. According to Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General, the United Nations would commit itself to maintaining the measures for the two states with the borders established before Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War of 1967. In the meantime, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States announced that the imposition of all solutions to the conflict between Israel and Palestine would not work. Therefore, President Donald Trump’s peace plan was described as “time bomb” which would push the Middle East into a new spiral of conflicts and wars with the unpredictable implications and negative impacts beyond the regional scope.

Sr. Col. Le The Mau

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