Dr. Khaled Hashem – Researcher in International Relations
US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East from 13-16 July 2022 represents a turning point in the US administration’s policy towards the region, and the return of US interest in it and its issues after being ignored for a long time, specifically since Barack Obama took office in 2008.
On the other hand, the presence of Iraq, represented by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, represents an important turning point in Iraq’s relationship with the United States on the one hand, and the Arab countries on the other. Iraq has not participated in such summits for a long time, and Iraq has been far from exercising its real role, which is not commensurate with the great potential available to it at the economic and political levels.
Since his last election campaign, Joe Biden has avoided talking about Middle East issues, except in a few cases, such as the case of returning to the Iranian nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018, and this trend continued with Biden until recently.
Within this context as well, Iraq is no longer present in the mind or agenda of the United States of America. If we review the American National Security Document, which is issued every four years to determine the strategic priorities and goals of the United States at the global level, we will find that Iraq is absent in that document; Starting with the National Security Document 2010 and 2014, and then 2018 and 2022, the reader of that document will find Iraq’s presence marginal in specific issues related to terrorism, or that Iraq is not a source of danger, and therefore Iraq has been absent in the priorities of the United States for a while.
This American tendency to disregard Middle East issues reflected a conviction among a number of decision-making circles in the United States. That the Middle East region has become less important to American strategic interests and no longer has the relative importance that it had previously had for American policy for many reasons:
The decrease in the United States’ need for Middle Eastern oil, because of its diversification of oil import sources, and its heavy reliance on sources outside the Arabian Gulf region, such as Canada, Mexico, and Nigeria, or with regard to the huge discoveries of so-called “shale oil” in the United States, and the start of its extraction and production according to economic standards (the United States is now the largest oil producer in the world, with an average of 18 million barrels per day); This has led the United States to reach a state of energy self-sufficiency. According to estimates, the United States will become an oil exporter during the period from 2025 to 2030, and thus no need for oil imports from abroad, especially from the Middle East.
The decline in American interest in the Middle East has been linked to the trends of American public opinion, which is no longer as enthusiastic as in the past for American intervention in the region, or excessive activity in it; Because of the economic and human costs that the United States paid in its invasion and occupation of Iraq. This was clearly evident in the limited American role and influence in the post-Arab Spring era, and a wide segment of public opinion in Arab countries and various political forces rejected any role for the United States, describing it as discredited and skeptical of its intentions.
That is, there is an American understanding of the limited role it can play in the region, and the unwelcomeness it will face. Hence, some US government circles, such as the State Department, have reached realistic convictions that there is no need for such a role.
Reducing military spending. There is no doubt that the high level of US budget deficits and the pressures faced by the various previous administrations have made it difficult to get involved in new wars in the Middle East or to continue in the state of American attrition. In addition, the increasing rates of instability in the Middle East have led to the reformulation of the strategic objectives of American interests. Instead of the traditional goals of maintaining the flow of oil, Israel’s security, non-proliferation, and countering Russian influence, the heir to the Soviet Union; The focus has become more on how to achieve stability in this region, by supporting friendly countries in the face of the rise of extremist terrorist movements without getting involved or going there. Starting with the continuity of adherence to not being militarily involved in the region, focusing on dealing with the region’s crises selectively, not adopting a comprehensive strategy, and paying attention to the countries in the region playing a central role in dealing directly with the region’s issues and crises, and not relying on American intervention, leading to changing the strategic environment of the region. As is the case in transforming the pattern of the relationship, for example with Iran, from a state of hostility to a state of cooperation, and then moving to a different level that includes normal relations in the long run.