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America is being forced out of the Middle East

This is what happens when we abandon our friends and allies.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. President Joe Biden. Source: U.S. State Department/Joe Biden via Facebook.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. President Joe Biden. Source: U.S. State Department/Joe Biden via Facebook.
Eric Levine
Eric Levine

The Suez Crisis of 1956 is generally accepted as the United Kingdom’s last desperate attempt to prevent the sun from setting on the British Empire. It failed and the sun set.

Britain had been weakened economically and militarily by World War II and was overwhelmed by the tide of nationalist movements around the world. Numerous former imperial domains, such as India, were winning their independence.

As a result, Britain saw Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal as an existential threat to England’s status as a world power and Middle East hegemon. Determined to maintain its control over the Canal, Britain allied with France and Israel, launching a war against Egypt to retake the strategic asset.

In response, though outgunned and outmanned, Nasser cunningly played the United States and the Soviet Union against each other. The U.S. was creating an American-led post-war world order and was determined to replace Britain as the primary Western power in the Middle East. President Dwight Eisenhower saw a friendly Nasser as critical to achieving that goal. The Soviets saw Nasser as an important ally in their quest for world domination.

Eisenhower, based in large part on horrible advice from Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, forced the British, French and Israelis to withdraw their forces and return the Canal to Egyptian sovereignty. In so doing, the U.S. turned Nasser’s military defeat into a political victory, making him the undisputed leader of the Arab world. Nasser then rejected American overtures and chose to align with the Soviet bloc.

This is what happens when America abandons its friends and allies: Bad outcomes are inevitable.

From 1956-1973, the Middle East became a focal point for Cold War competition, which frequently bordered on direct conflict between the two superpowers.

Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat changed this. On his order, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against an unprepared Israel in Oct. 1973. The initial assault was so successful that it brought Israel to the brink of extinction. Only because of Richard Nixon’s decision to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel against the Arabs and their Soviet benefactor, was the Jewish state able to turn the tide of the war from a near defeat into a clear and decisive victory.

Following Egypt’s defeat in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Sadat concluded that Egypt could no longer endure being a client state of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were incapable of providing the economic aid Egypt needed to feed its 38 million people and Soviet-supplied military hardware was grossly inferior to Israel’s U.S.-supplied weapons.

Sadat was determined to save the Egyptian economy and regain the Sinai Peninsula, which Nasser lost to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. The U.S. could deliver both, but the Soviets could not. With this in mind, Sadat forced the Soviets out of Egypt and turned to the U.S. This laid the groundwork for the 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

This is what happens when America stands with its friends and allies: Good outcomes are inevitable.

From 1973 to 2012, when former President Barack Obama failed to enforce his “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, the U.S. was the lone superpower in the Middle East. In 2012, however, instead of his pledged military response, Obama pleaded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to save him from a predicament of Obama’s own making.

In exchange, Putin extracted Obama’s acquiescence to a permanent Russian presence in the region. Thus, in addition to empowering Putin, Obama weakened America, put the humanitarian crisis in Syria into overdrive and undermined our friends and allies in the region—most notably, Israel.

This is what happens when America abandons its friends and allies: Bad outcomes are inevitable.

Competition between the U.S. and Russia in the Middle East remained in place from 2012 until just last week, when China brokered an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in which the two archenemies agreed to restore diplomatic relations. This came about as a direct result of President Joe Biden’s catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan and appeasement of Iran.

Biden’s craven departure from Afghanistan proved to our friends and allies that America is an unreliable partner whose leadership cannot be trusted. The groveling before the ayatollahs in hopes of persuading them to return to the Iran nuclear deal highlighted the point by proving the U.S. was prepared to compromise the security of Israel, one of its closest allies, in pursuit of the fantasy of a moderate Iran.

Saudi Arabia drew the inevitable conclusions. The Saudis feel abandoned and betrayed by the Biden administration. From his first day in office, Biden has been quite open about his goal of making Saudi Arabia a “pariah” among nations, and heaped non-stop verbal abuse on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. There was only so much abuse the Saudis were willing to take.

All of this pushed the Saudis into the arms of the Chinese. They realized that if America will not protect them from Iran, perhaps an ascendant China will.

There is much we do not know about the Iran-Saudi agreement and its implications, but this much we do know: China and Iran are stronger today because of it and America and Israel are weaker. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was yesterday.

This is what happens when America abandons its friends and allies: Bad outcomes are inevitable.

It is not too late, however. The decline can be reversed, but that reversal must begin immediately.

Unfortunately, early signs are not encouraging. When asked about the Iran-Saudi agreement, White House National Security Council Strategic Coordinator John Kirby responded, “This is not about China. We support any effort to de-escalate tensions in the region. We think that’s in our interests, and it’s something that we worked on through our own effective combination of deterrence and diplomacy.”

Kirby’s statement is delusional. Of course it’s about China. All of this is about China. The supposed de-escalation of tensions is completely at our and Israel’s expense and to China and Iran’s benefit. There has been no “effective combination of deterrence and diplomacy,” only appeasement, the empowerment of our enemies and the betrayal of our friends and allies.

This is what happens when America abandons its friends and allies: Bad outcomes are inevitable.

If America continues down the road of appeasement and self-delusion, the same road that Britain took in 1956, America’s catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan may well be viewed by history as the event that led to the end of the American Century.

Eric R. Levine is a founding member of the New York City law firm Eiseman Levine Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis, P.C. He is an essayist, political commentator and fundraiser for Republican candidates with an emphasis on the United States Senate.

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