It has been a while since American take on the Middle East mirrored ground reality. The way it blundered into the Iraq war, and how that mistake cost the region and its people, should have been instructive. Yet things have only worsened since the so-called Arab Spring took off. Back in ’11, just a day or two before Hosni Mubarak resigned, Hillary Clinton – then secretary of state – called him “practically family”. Then, when focus shifted to Libya, Washington thought combining NATO airpower with Saudi funded al Qaeda like hordes on the ground was a smart idea. It got Gaddafi out, alright, but then the country and the people went to the dogs.
And then came the Syrian nightmare. For the first three years the Obama Administration pushed the narrative that Assad was evil, the protestors were simple people asking for jobs, etc, and Russia, Iran and Hezbollah were backing the bad guys while Saudi Arabia, Turkey, GCC were fighting the good fight. It turned out later, of course, that the Saudis were funding the same militias that earlier swept Libya, Turkey was allowing border passes and soon enough Da’ish declared its caliphate.
But of late, strangely, the American position has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. Obama did not commit militarily even when Saudi and Turkey cried for it. And he shocked the whole world by reaching an agreement with Iran. Now, he’s come up with yet more sane advice for the Arabs and their Iranian neighbours. Tehran and Riyadh must find a way to reach a ‘cold peace’, he said, and share the neighbourhood. Why, after all, must there be only one policeman of the Gulf – a position KSA has kept since President Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz reached the secret arms for oil deal aboard the USS Quincy at the Suez in ‘45. But the region is a different world now. And the US president is right. Either the two main power brokers will find a way to make peace, or invest the next generation or two in this war before coming to their senses.