Libmonster ID: SE-318
Author(s) of the publication: A. M. VYSOTSKY


Post-graduate student of MGIMO (U) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia

KeywordsUSAMiddle EastrevolutionsIslamistsmultipolarity

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 launched a new phase of American policy in the Middle East. The way was opened for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq under the banner of the fight against Al-Qaeda. 10 years after the beginning of this stage in the modern history of the region, Osama bin Laden, a symbol of global terrorism and the leader of Al - Qaeda, was eliminated.

The decade of the "war on terror" has weighed heavily on the economy and politics of the United States. At the same time, profound but hidden changes were taking place in the realities of the internal political development of the Arab-Muslim world. The combination of these circumstances can lead to a symbolic outcome - Bin Laden's death is likely to be a reason for the United States to start the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan and, in a broader context, to start the process of distancing itself from new Middle Eastern stories. In turn, such behavior of the United States will mean the need to find a new regional "balance of power" - a process that is not easy at all times, and in the current realities of the Middle East - fraught with large-scale destabilization.

By eliminating the leader of Al-Qaeda, Washington can reasonably claim that the "9/11 task" has been successfully completed: the main organizer of the terrorist attacks has been killed, and Al-Qaeda itself has lost serious influence on Afghan affairs. A previously well-defined divide between al-Qaeda and the Taliban (with the former as a war, and the latter as a window for compromise) will help Washington break the Afghan impasse without significant image losses. Such a move will contribute to the fight to reduce defense spending and, in general, to solving the vital task of reducing the budget deficit for the United States.1 In addition, this measure will have the best effect on the chances of Barack Obama remaining at the helm of American politics for the next presidential term.

The war on terrorism will continue to exist both as a political slogan and as a foreign policy practice, but it will no longer be "tied" to the "narrow" Afghan plot, but will move into the plane of a certain general humanistic value.

In another American operation, the Iraq operation,this trend is already taking shape. A little more than 50 thousand people remain in Iraq. American military personnel. Until the end of 2011, it is expected, in theory, to completely withdraw them from the country, but in practice, most likely, it will be about extending the stay of a relatively small American contingent on Iraqi territory in order to "contain" Tehran. Obviously, this is a rather "narrow" task, which is not directly included in the anti-terrorist framework.

Such a" self-withdrawal " of the United States from those foreign policy subjects that were considered a priority in the 2000s raises new questions for the entire Middle East.

Before proceeding to analyze these new realities, I would like to draw attention to the US-Pakistani context. The role of Pakistanis in the elimination of U.K. is not fully understood. bin Laden. There are possible options here: either a deliberate, sanctioned surrender by the Pakistani intelligence service of its old ally in the fight against the USSR in the 1980s, or a truly independent CIA operation, without prior notification to the Pakistani partners-opponents. Of course, there could have been treachery, but this is an insignificant nuance.

One way or another, if official Pakistan loses its attractiveness to the United States as an unreliable, but still important partner in Afghan affairs, Islamabad risks finding itself in an extremely difficult situation. The United States may make a final choice in favor of developing trade, economic and political cooperation with India. Pakistan, on the other hand, will be of interest to the United States and the rest of the world only insofar as its descent into chaos will affect the problem of the safety and security of its nuclear potential.

However, the Pakistan issue, for all its importance, is rather a private one. It can be written in a wider format

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the context of transformation of the Near and Middle Eastern subsystem of international relations.


Trend towards" self-withdrawal " of the United States from the priority problems in the Middle East (Iraq) and Middle East (Afghanistan, Pakistan)in the 2000s This fits into a broader transformation of US regional policy. The decline in the United States ' involvement in regional affairs, driven more by economic considerations than by Washington's real rethinking of its role in international relations, will have long-term consequences for this part of the world.

The events of 2011 in North Africa point to a further dramatic shift in the focus of regional policy. In the XX century. the latter was in the traditional orbit centered on the Arab-Israeli conflict. This situation allowed the United States to play a key role in the Middle East processes. When Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, King Hussein of Jordan,or PLO leader Yasser Arafat decided to seek a compromise with Israel, they went to Washington. The main and non-alternative intermediary, the United States hosted Israeli and Arab leaders in turn and could significantly influence their negotiating positions, at least in tactical terms. Such opportunities have given the United States the honorary title of "architect" of the Middle East processes.

The Arab-Israeli conflict also fit quite naturally into the logic of the Cold War - not so much in terms of dividing it into monolithic opposing camps (both Israel and the Arab states chose different foreign policy orientations for themselves in different historical periods), but rather in the logic of the "zero-sum game".

However, in the 1990s-2000s, there was a gradual erosion of the existing order in the region. Along with the traditional Arab-Israeli "orbit", other centers of political tension have begun to form in the Middle East. The key issues were the problems of Iraq, Iran-Iraq and, more broadly, Iran-Arab relations, and the growing influence of Islamist forces. Specific embodiments of these problems were the occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's army with the subsequent constant center of tension in the Gulf zone, the victory of Islamists in the elections in Algeria and the subsequent civil war in the country, the aggravation of socio-economic problems in most Arab countries, and a number of other phenomena. At first, these new trends in regional politics could not be compared in terms of their" weight " and permanent extra-regional resonance with the traditional Arab-Israeli orbit. However, over time, their role has steadily increased.

In many ways, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were a turning point, and they were of a "turning point" character for the West, for Western and, in particular, American views and approaches to the problems of the Middle East region. The growth of extremist manifestations in the life of Muslim states became obvious, which was provoked not only by the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict (which many Arab leaders tried to refer to), but also by internal problems and imbalances in the development of the countries of the region.

External players, especially Washington, had to adapt to the changed regional realities. As a result

page 11

American foreign policy is facing fundamentally new and much more complex problems. If mediation in the Arab-Israeli issue was, in general, a traditional political and diplomatic mission, which for decades somehow "closed" the entire regional subsystem of international relations, then this could not be said about the declared need for urgent state-building in the"rogue countries".

This "construction" turned out to be an extremely difficult task and was possible only in the system of relations "metropolis-colony". In the twentieth century, the colonial powers, primarily Britain and France, faced with the need to gradually withdraw from the African and Asian colonies, tried to set a certain framework for the future political existence of the new states of the region. In some cases, this was indeed achieved. However, having emerged from the classical colonial dependence, the new states were included in a new format of global politics-bipolar confrontation. Even the members of the Non-Aligned Movement-most of them newly independent states - could not "separate themselves" from the logic of the cold war and somehow had to adapt to it. However, for many countries, playing on the contradictions between superpowers has become a profitable "business".

What did this experience say? For the ideologues of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was the creation of a new, "enlightened" model of colonialism that served as the desired goal of American policy. Prominent Neoconservative supporters and ideologues have repeatedly stated this openly.2

An additional argument in their favor was the fact that after the end of the bipolar confrontation and the subsequent de facto transition to a unipolar system of international relations for the "third world" countries, including the Arab States, the need to build closer relations with the United States of America became clear.

In the 1990s and early 2000s. The United States has made unprecedented strides in building a system of alliances and allied commitments. This was especially evident in Europe. With the end of the bipolar confrontation, the United States managed to include most of the countries of the former socialist camp in the system of formal and informal unions. The states of Central and Eastern Europe and the three Baltic republics of the former USSR joined NATO. The rest of the former Soviet republics, to varying degrees, also began to focus on the United States in their development and building relations with Russia. In 2007-2008, Ukraine and Georgia received the official status of candidates for membership in the bloc and stopped a step away from the"Action Plan for NATO Membership".

In other regions of the world, including the Middle East, partnership or at least friendly relations with the United States have become the "rule of good taste". Regimes that did not think so, in the eyes of most of the world community, became "enfant-terribles" (the theocratic regime in Iran, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Jong Il, to a lesser extent Hugo Chavez) or at least interesting "fossils" (the Assad and Castro families).

Consequently, the Greater Middle East region was an unfortunate exception to the general rule. Bringing it to the proven "common denominator" was interpreted as a promising task for the United States, the success of which, among other things, would guarantee the security of the United States.


Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a process that can be described as a gradual complication of regional politics was taking place. The local subsystem of international relations became more and more "multi-layered". To the traditional Arab-Israeli "tracks" (in the terminology of the Madrid Conference of 1991), new nodes of contradictions were gradually added. The first of them arose around Iraq, then the civil war in Algeria, the growing influence of Islamists against the background of declining legitimacy of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, the division of Palestine, a new round of the Lebanese crisis, the activation of Hamas and Hezbollah, and other trends were added to it.

While Washington continued to play a key role in the Arab-Israeli context in the 2000s, it also sought to retain sufficient influence in other areas of regional policy. This was partly done in Iraq. By occupying the country and introducing new governance structures, the United States and its allies were able to create a sufficiently comfortable environment to begin the process of comprehensive political construction, which is called the term "state-building". The success of similar actions in Europe (in particular, in Bosnia and Herzegovina) probably added to Washington's "historical optimism."

The Iraq experiment became an impetus for a new ideological formulation of the US Middle East policy - the "Greater Middle East" plan, which spelled out the relationship between the democratization and liberalization of Arab regimes , on the one hand, and their economic development, the fight against terrorism and extremism, on the other. In Iraq, this doctrine began to be implemented using "hard power" methods. However, on the scale of the entire Arab-Muslim world, such an operation turned out to be impossible. The symptoms of new crises developed according to their own scenario, uncontrolled from the outside.

Initially weak and inconspicuous new trends and" centers of concentration " in the near future-

page 12

Eastern politicians were gradually able to compete with traditional Arab-Israeli "tracks". Previously a central issue, the Arab-Israeli issue has gradually been integrated into the broader context of regional processes. Before our eyes, it ceased to be the center around which regional politics revolved, and gradually fell into the" alien " political orbit.

The year 2006 marked an important milestone in this key process for regional policy. The territorial and political split of the Palestinian Authority - into supporters of the weakening Fatah and the dynamic Hamas, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - was the beginning of a new stage in the development of the Palestinian problem, the evolution of Palestinian-Israeli relations, and the transformation of the entire region.

In the Palestinian reality, the split meant further disorientation over the establishment of an independent State. Traditional, fundamental questions have become more acute : how to declare an independent Palestinian state, in what territories it will be located, where its capital will be, how administrative functions will be performed, what to do with the diplomatic side of the matter, what will the relations of the new state with Israel look like?

In the Palestinian-Israeli context, the demonstrative unwillingness of Israel and Fatah to "pay attention" to Hamas and the desire to continue to conduct business as if there were no parliamentary elections in the autonomy led to a natural impasse in the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and, more broadly, in the long-suffering Middle East settlement process. Preserving the old settlement format became impossible in principle, and any new format - due to the diametrically opposed positions of the interested parties - was not objectively visible.

In the regional context, the victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections was the second example (after Algeria in 1991) of Islamists coming to power through democratic expression of will. This was evidence of the further growth of the influence of Islamists on public opinion in Arab countries.

Part of the responsibility for this result was borne by the United States - it was Washington that nurtured the idea of free elections in the PNA, forcing Israel to agree to the participation of Hamas members in them. Analogies with the Algerian events of 1991 are interesting here. For comparison, let's quote former US Secretary of State John Kerry. Baker: "...we tried to exclude radical Islamists from the political life of Algeria, although we were aware that this was contrary to the course of supporting democracy. In principle, such a course assumes that you accept any of its consequences, even if, in your opinion, they are undesirable... However, in Algeria, we behaved very differently, because the success of the fundamentalists was too contrary to the national interests of the United States, and their values were incompatible with our own values."3

Another important event in 2006 was the war between Israel and Hezbollah. On the one hand, it was a logical continuation of the events that took place in Lebanon during the civil war. On the other hand, the conflict has become in many ways a new phenomenon. Israel was opposed not by Arab states, but by a new entity, a "state within a state", even if it enjoyed support from abroad.

As a result, the Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli contradictions, far from losing their sharpness, received a new dimension. The conflict has gone beyond the usual framework of de facto inter-state relations along the line of "Arab states-Israel" (with active American mediation), beyond territorial trade. Along with the traditional ones, new driving forces have emerged in the conflict, and it has become one of the elements of a broader regional context. Finally, the attempts of its "isolated" solution became futile. The range of issues and tasks expanded, which meant an automatic reduction in the ability of the United States and other external forces to influence each regional plot taken separately.


Finally, a new "track" in the Middle East was the popular protests and revolutions that began in 2011 and were directed against obsolete authoritarian regimes. Ironically, George W. Bush's words that"the emergence of a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a turning point in the global democratic revolution" 4 were unexpectedly confirmed.

It is safe to say that the overthrow of the Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni regimes went against the regional security interests of the United States. Overnight, Washington lost several of its main allies, and the situation of the rest also became extremely precarious. However, the United States was unable to really influence the course of events. To a certain extent, they only tried to ride the wave that they could not stop-by calling for Hosni Mubarak to leave office and, more abstractly, for the voice of the opposition in the Arab world to finally be heard.

It is significant that in the case of Libya, the United States was not at the forefront of the accelerated marginalization of Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Washington supported the Franco-British "cavalry charge", but it did it rather out of inertia, clearly not wanting to take on new military-strategic obligations.

In the face of such a half-forced, half-conscious American withdrawal from Middle Eastern affairs-according to the classical theory of the "balance of power" - there must come a moment when the resulting "vacuum" will begin.

page 13

take on new, more dynamic players. The question arises: who will it be?

Apparently, it is out of the question that the European Union, weakened by internal crises and contradictions, or even some of its most "brisk" representatives, should have such a desire. The role of" substitutes " for the United States in the Arab world is traditionally predicted by the growing power of China, ambitious, economically attractive and religiously close Turkey, as well as Iran.

Perhaps some of them, and most likely each of these three states, would really like to strengthen their positions in an important region of the Middle East. However, it is impossible not to see that neither Beijing, nor Ankara, nor Tehran has a real opportunity to take on regulatory functions in this vast space. Under these conditions, the "Greater Middle East" risks becoming the first zone of a truly "pole-free" world.

If in global realities, the departure from the unipolar world order is traditionally linked to a more equal distribution of a certain "sum of influences" between a mathematical set of actors (the United States, the EU, China, Russia, India, BRICS, ASEAN, etc.), then in the current Middle East context, the notorious multipolarity is hardly achievable. First of all, because of the weakness of any of the potential "poles".

In short, all the poles of influence that are alternative to the United States on our planet can count on a gradual relative weakening of American positions in their regions and a smooth replacement of American influence with their own. This process, figuratively speaking, is the first stage of the formation of polycentricity, and in fact it is happening today.

The second stage, in theory, should be the development of some new norms of behavior at the global level, when the possibility of dictating one of the poles (read, the United States) will be excluded on the world stage. However, the implementation of this stage has not yet begun. The fact that the United States did not want to repeat the Iraqi scenario in Libya or Syria does not mean that anyone in the world could have prevented them from doing so if Washington had wanted to. Here, the internal limitations are fully revealed.

The problem and misfortune of the Middle East in the context of American " self-withdrawal "is the lack of independent centers of power in the region that can" take on "the released" resource of influence " when there are no candidates for the position of a new external regulator.

Concerns are raised both by the fact of a disoriented change in the "balance of power" and by the speed with which this change occurs.

The "Middle East cauldron" can reach a boiling point in a fairly short time, when instability in the region becomes the rule. In such" muddy water"," fishing " from the outside will be as difficult as possible. And dynamic domestic players will have chances to further strengthen their positions - but not traditional states that are experiencing growing internal pressure, but rather new forces. They may turn out to be traditionalist elements in the Middle East realities, in the context of growing further "confusion in the minds".

Islamic fundamentalism gets a chance to become an alternative to the chaos of primitive democracy for the region for a while. And the ability of the military or liberal forces, even if they forced the decrepit regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali to leave, to compete with opponents in the inevitable internal political struggle, still needs strong evidence.

The boiling process can't go on forever. It is inevitable that the situation will return to one of the more balanced states. But such an equilibrium state must rest on some reliable support, one or more "whales".

Stable socio-political structures should claim the role of such "whales". All over the world, their role is traditionally played by national States and international structures derived from them. In the Arab world, we are not talking about supranational mechanisms simply due to the fact that the old regimes are unstable, the nature of the new ones is only being formed. The image of the "new Middle East" depends on what it will be like.

1 For more information on this topic, see: Altman R.Haas R. American Waste and American Power (published in Foreign Affairs, No. 6, 2010).

2 For example, former Wall Street Journal editor M. Booth wrote in his article "In Defense of the American Empire":: "Today, Afghanistan and other troubled countries are begging for the introduction of a kind of enlightened foreign rule, once sent down to them by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets." He was echoed by the Washington Post columnist S. Mallaby, who noted that " the logic of neo-imperialism is too convincing ... to resist, "and advised organized societies led by the United States to"plant their institutions among the unorganized." In another article, he also called for ensuring economic progress in the third world through "neocolonial management methods" - see: Boot M. The Case for American Empire // Weekly Standard, Washington, 15 October 2001, vol. 7, N 5; a также Mallaby S. The Reluctant Imperialist, Terrorism, Failed States, and the Case for American Empire // Foreign Affairs, NY, March-April 2002; его же - The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty - ng-poverty/8134

3 Interview with J. R. R. Tolkien Baker to Middle East Quarterly, vol. 1, No. 3, September 1994, p. 83.

4 Remarks by the President at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy. US Chamber of Commerce. November 6, 2003.


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