The United States began playing an active role in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) since World War II, establishing a strategic partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the shah of Iran, and developing close relations with Egypt since the Anwar Sadat presidency.
The MENA region plays an essential geopolitical role because most of world crude oil transits through the Strait of Hormuz, between Oman, the UAE and Iran, and the Suez Canal in Egypt is the main maritime route between Asia and Europe.
Since the shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, U.S foreign policy has been directed to the containment of Iran, supporting its main rivals in the region: Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The conclusion of the Abraham Accords, which were the result of a successful mediation by the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, represented a major step toward the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab countries in the region.
For many years, the United States has been providing financial assistance to Egypt, about $1.5 billion per year, to safeguard the transit through the Suez Canal and to preserve peace in the region.
The U.S. strategic partnership with Egypt and Saudi Arabia worked well during the Trump administration. However, since Joe Biden assumed the presidency, he devoted his efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, restarting negotiations with the main rival of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, while expressing strong criticism of the Saudi leadership.
While the United States and Saudi Arabia have deep ties that go beyond the oil trade, the kingdom felt the need to find additional partners to protect its interests.
Therefore, instead of the United States brokering a nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran, China mediated a peace agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which re-established diplomatic ties between the two regional powers.
It is the first time since World War II that the United States is left sidelined in a major diplomatic agreement in the Middle East.
The Saudi-Iran rapprochement threatens the expansion of the Abraham Accords, as it may dissuade Saudi Arabia from joining them, after re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran, which is Israel's foe in the region.
During his electoral campaign, President Biden vowed to get tough on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, but he adopted an ambiguous policy. He first threatened the withdrawal of financial aid to the country, and then disbursed millions of dollars in military aid.
Apparently, such an ambiguous policy backfired.
In fact, this month, leaked documents showed that Egypt planned to supply weapons to Russia, while the United States is giving billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine to counter Russia.
Although Egypt denied such accusations, in recent years it increased its bilateral relations with Russia, which is providing support for the construction of a nuclear power plant in El Dabaa, northwest of Cairo.
These recent developments are clear evidence that, because of the Biden administration's contradictory policies with U.S. allies, the U.S. influence in the Middle East is declining.
The U.S. leadership should set a clear and unambiguous policy with its allies in order to reassert its protagonist role and preserve peace and stability in the MENA region.
Francesco Stipo is an author and expert in international affairs. He is the president of the Houston Energy Club, a member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C., a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and recently joined the Bretton Woods Committee. Born in Italy, Dr. Stipo is a naturalized United States citizen. He holds a Ph.D. in International Law and a Master's Degree in Comparative Law from the University of Miami. Read Francesco Stipo's Reports — More Here.
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