Why the Middle East is still America's problem

What is the current US foreign policy in the Middle East?

Dr James Carafano

I think there are really two tenants to Obama’s foreign policy. One was his thought that peace between Palestine and Israel was very important, that was a cornerstone. And the second cornerstone was really a rapprochement with Iran – having an acceptable nuclear deal, getting them to cooperate on dealing with the crisis in Syria, also in Afghanistan and potentially in Iraq. So I think those are really the two cornerstones of where the administration really thought they were going to be proactive, and drive the agenda in the Middle East.

How is this strategy impacting US foreign policy in other global hotspots like Ukraine and Asia-Pacific?

Dr James Carafano

Well, it hasn’t been very helpful because the notion was the United States was going to disengage more from Middle East policy, and lower the temperature on the Palestinian conflict and by dealing with Iran, then the US would be able to focus on other things.

But what we’ve seen is exactly the opposite has happened. We’ve seen increasing tensions in Eastern Europe, we’ve seen continued demand for US presence in Asia and the Middle East isn’t getting quieter. So instead of being able to shift their attention, now they’re having to divide their attention.

What would the global impact be if the US was to totally disengage with the Middle East?

Dr James Carafano

I think it would be disastrous. First of all oil is a global commodity, and so if you reduce the flow of oil and gas anywhere it impacts everywhere. It affects the global market, the United States is heavily integrated with the global market. You’re always going to be concerned about that.

But in many ways the Middle East is still the crossroads of the world. You have the Suez Canal, you have the amount of shipping and traffic that transits the Middle East, you have financial centres. And so in many ways the Middle East is called the Middle East for a reason because it does connect disparate parts of the world, and major issues there can impact everyone.

And then, of course, there’s always the issue of transnational terrorism. When you have pipelines bringing foreign fighters into fights like we have in Syria, Afghanistan, some places in North Africa like Libya, the potential blow-back is that those fighters can come back and threaten you. So you need to be concerned about that as well.

So there’s plenty of reasons why you can’t just walk away from the Middle East and say ‘ that’s somebody else’s problem’.

(Photo credit:dpa)