As strong and solid as the United States government purports to be on the world stage, recent developments in the Middle East are causes to question that perception. There is no question America was the influencer in the region for decades. However, with chief rivals China ascending and Russia in the region; although still powerful, U.S. influence is slipping, say analysts.
“The U.S. remains the dominant military power in the world … obtaining more arms … planning for more arms every day,” said Richard Becker, political analyst with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to End War and Racism Coalition). “It has bases still all over the Middle East,” he added. However, “having said that, there’s no question that the U.S. influence and power in the region is declining.”
The Biden administration has a frenemy relationship with Saudi Arabia. The State Department said the Kingdom is the single largest customer of U.S. foreign military sales. The massive business to American defense companies is to the tune of $140 billion.
Observers note while America is slipping, she still exercises “hegemony because of her petrodollar and military might” over the area. As the major player in the Middle East for decades, America maintains at least 18 military bases and around 40,000 troops in the region.
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia on May 6-9, in what some Middle East watchers couched a “let’s try to fix it” trip, as relations between the countries has soured in recent times. The relationship goes back to the 1930s. However, America’s top diplomat entered a progressively different kingdom and Middle East as it relates to U.S. influence, observers point out. Some say the era of America’s unfettered power is dead.
The visit comes amid major developments that reshaped international relations in the region, such as a China brokered détente between longtime foes, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, changing dynamics in an embattled Yemen, and recent closing of regional ranks with Syria after years of political isolation.
Other pressing issues were on the table including prospects for peace in Sudan, counterterrorism, growing animosity over oil supplies, and an effort to convince the Saudis to sign normalization accords with Israel. Mr. Blinken’s visit was the latest of several by members of America’s foreign policy apparatus in recent weeks.
“This trip was really indicative of the broader U.S. challenge right now that American political elites are facing in trying to maintain their global hegemony as well as their control over the global economy,” said David Yaghoubian, a Middle East expert and history professor at California State-San Bernadino.
Saudi Arabia is arguably one of the key pillars of American global financial control ever since a secret Petro-dollar deal between the two countries in the early 1970s. The move allowed the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to trade oil in only U.S. dollars. This arrangement enabled America to maintain its dollar as a global reserve currency.
But the world is changing against the tide of U.S. sway as a power. Nations are moving toward a more multipolar equation and toward de-dollarization. Saudi Arabia is a key pillar of the petrodollar but is amid dissatisfaction with America on multiple fronts—including sales of energy resources solely in U.S. dollars.
Considering decades-long dissatisfaction with American policies, and changing times, Saudi Arabia is at the front of the line of nations America will have to deal with moving forward, “to stave off what seems to be the inevitable,” reasoned Mr. Yaghoubian. That inevitability is a pivot toward extensive agreements with China and Russia.
Analysts told The Final Call that America has maintained an errant foreign policy that nations are pushing back against, and now redrawing the map of foreign relations, and is playing out in the region. On the one hand, there is a diversification of strategic alliances by traditional U.S. client regimes, like the Saudis, Egyptians, Qataris, and others, while at the same time, Russia and China are playing an increasingly prominent role.
“I think the problem for the U.S. is that Saudi has been displaying increasing autonomy in its policies and the diversification of its alliances,” said Mouin Rabbani, analyst and co-editor of Jadaliyya Magazine, an electronic publication of the Arab Studies Institute.
“So, you have not only the normalization with Iran but a normalization with Iran, that was brokered by U.S. rival China, then you had normalization with Syria. And to top it all off, that was brokered by Russia,” he explained.
“I think, more seriously for the U.S., is the recent OPEC-plus decision to reduce oil production yet further at a time when the U.S. is increasingly desperate to have an increase in Gulf Oil expert exports to keep the price down and compensate for sanctions on the Russian energy sector. “What I think is happening … if you want to put it crudely, (is) the U.S. took Saudi (Arabia) for granted,” said Mr. Rabbani.
Washington lost sight of the changes in the region and globally and is now trying to get the Saudis to recommit to its traditional obedience to U.S. policy priorities, he added.
Perhaps out of a sense of blind arrogance as the world’s top economic and military power and her bent for self-deception and misadventure, America slept on the historical pattern that every nation has a term. They rise and they fall. Warning about her fate in the Middle East has been given by voices like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and his teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. From the scriptures, they cautioned concerning “America’s loss of friendship” on the world stage.
“… As thou has done, it shall be done unto thee,” wrote the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, in his illuminating book, “The Fall of America,” quoting the biblical book of Obadiah.
“America has done the worst work of deceiving other peoples and making false friendships with them,” Mr. Muhammad wrote. “Now her turn has come. No one wants to trust her for friendship, for she has deceived many nations.”
As a strong economic power, Elijah Muhammad wrote that nations would accept America’s gifts. “But that does not mean that America has bought their sincere friendship, He explained. They will take the gifts that America offers, but this does not mean America has their heart.
Student Minister Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, Southwest Regional Representative for the Nation of Islam sees Saudi Arabia forming ties with China and backpedaling, though in degrees from America as an indicator of her future fate.
“The signs are pointing to the fulfillment of what the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, have been telling us. That America will come out the Middle East,” he said. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said America would go to and fro seeking peace and she would not find it,” he added.
Student Min. Abdul Haleem Muhammad pointed out that America’s manifest loss is a nation reaping what it has sowed in other nations. America has been the “number one universal snooper” on the planet and a duplicitous power that promoted democracy but engaged in overthrowing governments she deemed counter to her interests, he said.
There is a crisis of confidence in the Middle East against America. There is also a sense in Saudi Arabia and around the Middle East that they “have been doing Washington’s bidding” for decades, willingly or otherwise and have been paying a price for it. And when it became Washington’s turn to do their bidding, it’s put its own interests first. A prime example was toeing the line of U.S. policy of hostility against Iran and Syria.
“And now these states are deciding they’re better off reducing regional tensions in order to meet their interests than to continue with their previous policies of polarization,” said Mr. Rabbani.
He cautions against overstressing the significance of the geopolitical shifts. “It’s not like you have a rupture in U.S.-Saudi relations,” he explained.
“The U.S. remains Saudi Arabia’s strategic partner of choice and the guarantor of its regime stability and survival against domestic and external threats,” he added. “What has happened is not so much that Saudi Arabia is replacing its strategic alliances, it’s diversifying them.”
He believes for the foreseeable future America will remain in the Middle East, however not as a solo act. “I think the change is not so much that the U.S. will cease being a power … the real change is that the U.S. will no longer be the only power,” said Mr. Rabbani.