America is Losing

The non-Western response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special military operation against Ukraine in February 2022 came as a surprise to many US and European officials. They could not understand why most African, Arab, and Asian governments did not heed American calls to condemn Russia for violating what they call ‘rules-based international order’. In truth the so-called American order is vanishing very quickly. American hypocrisy is being exposed with every passing day. People don’t believe in their lies. Their attempt to isolate Putin in Europe is successful but Washington’s policy of containing Russia over the Ukraine issue has not many takers in the Middle East and Asia.

On February 17, 2022, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke before the UN Security Council and demanded that other countries take a stand against Putin’s designs on Ukraine, saying American intelligence could confirm an attack was imminent. Many in the chamber and those watching Blinken’s address on television in the Middle East could not help but think of the misleading presentation about Iraq’s supposed weapons programme that one of his predecessors, Colin Powell, gave to the council in February 2003. Although Powell’s request for backing of the invasion of Iraq and Blinken’s request for condemnation of Russia are vastly different, the lukewarm response to the second request can be traced back to the first. As Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said last month, “There must be a universal application of the rules-based order.” No, it is not there. Double standard is the core of American diplomacy! How they created a case out of nothing to invade Iraq is history. Today even America’s age-old trusted allies are questioning the Uncle Sam’s credibility in international affairs. The end of Unipolar world is very much in sight. America’s inability in 2022 to convince key Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, to follow its lead in Ukraine shocked the Democrats and Republicans alike in the US. Now many have begun to think the ‘unthinkable’--the sun set over the empire, rather the evil empire, has started. The Russia-China-Iran axis is emerging.

Then there is the perception that the United States cannot maintain its foreign policy positions from one administration to the next, which also caused US allies to hesitate before supporting Ukraine. Over and over, the United States has decided to re-establish ties with leaders it previously considered hostile, such as Qaddafi in Libya, the Iranian regime during nuclear negotiations, and the Taliban in 2020 ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. These reversals have caused many in the Arab world to question whether the United States might strike a deal with Russia, despite all its public rhetoric against Putin’s war, and leave the Middle East to deal with the fallout once again. Yes, America can make overtures to Russia anytime if its strategic interests serve that purpose.

The past 20 years of eroding trust between the United States and the Arab world were on display earlier in March, when China mediated a resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The announcement suggested US influence had waned given that Saudi Arabia, a major US ally, turned to China, the United States’ biggest rival, to help it seal a deal. It’s a serious blow to American authority in the Middle East. If anything America is paying for the decision it made 20 years ago, to invade Iraq, all in the name of saving democracy and ruled-based-order. The US went to war in Iraq without the permission of the UN Security Council. But they are now asking Russia to do it what it didn’t do in case of Iraq.

Although the United States’ standing in the Middle East has declined, the country still wields enormous influence. The United States continues to have the largest military presence in the region. Between 40,000 and 60,000 US troops are deployed there, with approximately 2,500 of them in Iraq. Many countries either peg their currencies to the US dollar or have economies that function on the conversion of that currency. China and Russia are now offering a different currency route to cripple the dominance of dollar. But what has changed radically is that, as Biden has made clear, the era of American-led attempts at nation building is over. Most people in the Middle East welcome this development.


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Vol 55, No. 41, April 9 - 15, 2023