Geopolitical clash for influence in the Middle East
US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Since American hostages were seized in Iran in 1979 and Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, the United States has steadily increased its military presence in the Middle East. This policy was formulated and substantiated in the Carter Doctrine, according to which the United States “will use military force, if necessary, to protect its national interests in the Persian Gulf.”
The doctrine, proclaimed on January 23, 1980, led to the emergence of a separate military command to monitor operations – the Joint Operational Rapid Deployment Force, which became the Joint Central Command (CENTCOM) three years later.
Today, the US military footprint in the region, which stretches from Egypt to Pakistan, is huge. CENTCOM forces, both civilian and military, numbered more than 90,000 in March 2020, with less than 20% of those in Iraq and Afghanistan. CENTCOM annually allocates more than $ 2 billion for security assistance (another $ 3.1 billion goes to Israel). He manages dozens of military bases, airfields, training centers and headquarters, writes The National Interest.
While the United States relies on military force, military assistance and sanctions to maintain its influence in the Middle East, America’s sworn rivals – Russia and China – use a completely different strategy to achieve the same goal. While US-backed operations lead to the destruction of homes and cities throughout the region, Russia is increasing its influence by proposing the restoration of critical infrastructure, buildings and pipelines.
At the end of 2019, Moscow announced a plan for the reconstruction of Syria, which included the allocation of $ 500 million for the development of the Tartus seaport, oil and gas exploration, as well as $ 200 million for the restoration of the fertilizer plant in Homs. This is in addition to the supply of Russian grain as humanitarian aid and $ 17 million to assist the UN in Syria.
In Iraq, Russia has invested heavily in the country’s energy sector (over $ 10 billion), security infrastructure and media space. In 2008, Moscow wrote off most of the Soviet-era Iraqi debt ($ 12.9 billion) in exchange for access to one of the world’s largest oil fields.
The Kremlin also increased its authority among the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. President’s visitVladimir Putin to Riyadh and Dubai in 2019 led to the conclusion of agreements for $ 3.4 billion. Another notable event was the heyday of relations between Russia and Israel.
While the United States is talking about stability and democracy to justify its military campaigns in the Middle East, China is fighting for influence under the banner of prosperity and economic cooperation, and without any conditions. Today, China is the largest investor in the Middle East region. In 2018, China allocated loans to the Arab countries for $ 20 billion for reconstruction, as well as $ 3 billion for the banking sector. Beijing has also provided a number of soft and commercial loans, as well as currency swaps to support central banks and finance infrastructure projects involving Chinese companies and using Chinese labor.
Of key importance to China’s growing presence in the Middle East is the One Belt – One Road Initiative, which aims to build closer trade ties between Asia, Africa and Europe. The Middle East is especially important for the marine segment of the project due to China’s dependence on energy imports by sea, as well as the strategic location of the region at the crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa.
Over the past four decades, the United States has pursued a policy in the Middle East that was once called gunboat diplomacy. Perhaps it was appropriate in the 1980s and 1990s to protect the Persian Gulf from the Soviet invasion, protect Israel, liberate Kuwait and deter Iran. Today this region has changed a lot, but the United States does not seem to want to change its strategy, which is mainly based on military force.
It is not yet clear which of the main geopolitical players – Russia, China and the USA – will ultimately win the region. This may be one winner or a group of countries, but without a fundamental review of the military approach used, the United States is unlikely to be the winner.
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