At the beginning of 2021, as the Biden administration took office, there were rapid and unexpected changes in the political landscape of the Middle East. Some experts believe that the economic impact of the pandemic was the reason, while others suggest that the United States is repositioning itself in the region in anticipation of a potential conflict with one or both poles of the East. Although both explanations are true to some extent, they are not enough to explain the intensity and speed of these changes, and even sometimes their nature, which seems to be contrary to US interests in the region. Then, how can we read the new scene in the Middle East?
We can summarize the essence of these changes as a reaction to the political agenda of the Biden administration. Those in power in the region were aware of the radical changes that the new administration in the White House would push for globally in various aspects, including political, economic, and social ones.
From one side, no one in the region has an interest or wants to be a part of the upcoming conflict between East and West, whether it is going to be an economic dispute, as some optimists believe, or a military one, as others fear. They all would rather remain neutral in the worst-case scenarios, and at the same time, they hope that their movements will discourage the US administration from pursuing confrontation and push it to reconsider its intentions.
As for the other aspects, the true stance of those in power regarding the economic and social changes that President Biden's administration is strongly pushing towards is still ambiguous. However, even if they support these changes or at least do not oppose them, they are still unwilling and unprepared to implement them at the same pace as the US administration is pushing for and trying to impose. Not to mention, it is certain that at least some of them completely reject such changes. Some of them refuse the economic side because their economy relies heavily on fossil fuels. While others oppose the social part of the agenda for religious reasons. Even if they acquiesced to those, they would anger the conservative wings in power and seriously infuriate the public whose frustration is already at a concerning level and constantly growing for various reasons.
However, everyone realizes that the United States still holds many of the keys to the game in the region, and that it is not in their best interest to stand in confrontation against it. Therefore, they had to take measured reactions that secure their interests without triggering severe repercussions from the American administration. Therefore, an accelerated movement began to increase economic partnerships with Eastern countries to reduce reliance on the United States to some extent, and also to use that as an excuse for maintaining a neutral position in case of further tensions between the East and West.
Most importantly, this economic cooperation may serve as a cover for slight political and military rapprochement with Eastern powers. While this may annoy the American administration, it is unlikely to trigger any significant reactions. The desire for such a rapprochement with the East is driven by the realization that the United States is not a dependable ally, unlike the Eastern powers, especially Russia, which consistently offer robust support to their allies when required. This understanding has been gained over a long history. It is widely known among diplomats that the United States is a mean ally, often prioritizing its own interests over those of its allies. The US may stand by you when it benefits them but can quickly stab you in the back without hesitation when it suits their interests. They rely on their power, your reliance on them, and your inability to retaliate. Even Europe, the United States' closest ally, has always expressed dissatisfaction with this behavior, as seen recently in their protests against the United States' exploitation of the Ukraine conflict for its own economic gain at their expense.
Of course, that slight shift towards the East has its own costs, some of which might infuriate the public, such as the reconciliation with the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, these costs are still lower for them than the potential consequences of continuing to follow the American agenda at the pace set by the Biden administration.
And to atone for their guilt, the major players in the region keep trying to appease the residents of the White House by making more rapprochements to its spoiled child, Israel, which, ironically, is currently experiencing unprecedented political turmoil. They also partially embrace the American perspective and work towards easing tensions in the region. Taking into consideration the economic situation post-Covid-19, it is unsurprising that they have collectively determined that it is imperative to address any conflicts with neighboring countries to please the White House, capitalize on shared interests in impeding the agenda of the Biden administration, and exchange support in the face of US pressure now and later if things were to escalate.
Despite the potential turnover of White House residents in the next eighteen months, it is unlikely to be sufficient to reverse the current trend of the United States losing influence in the region. This development, whether the US likes it or not, has already taken root and will prove challenging to rectify.
Finally, it is worth noting that what has been said here about states is also true about groups and parties in the region.