Op-Ed: Now is the Time to Divest from the Middle-East


As we head into a new administration, we desperately need to revisit our current international entanglements and reconsider the countries we associate with and defend. In order to understand what type of situation we are in, we need to look at the very recent actions of the Trump administration. 

    The extrajudicial killing of Qasem Soleimani by the U.S government, namely Donald Trump, is the perfect example of unnecessary American involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. Modern U.S politics are interventionist in nature, with U.S presidents claiming anything from the need to promote democracy in the Middle East, to the War on Terror as a reason to get involved. But the idea that a democratic state is the best state to live in is a Western idea, one perpetuated by scholars and pundits who, most likely, have never lived in another style of regime. Assuming that some tragedy must have occurred to prevent Iran from democratizing is a narrow-minded view and one that discounts the importance of religion in non-secular societies. If the U.S really wants peace in the Middle-East, and not just their grips in a wealth of oil, then they would pull out all economic, physical, and political support of Saudi Arabia, and refrain from intervening in Iranian domestic politics. 

From an international war perspective, states strive for hegemony (Mearsheimer). While neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran is rising to the level of the U.S anytime soon, there is a distinct lack of a regional hegemon in the Middle-East. The U.S needs to relinquish its colony view of the Middle-East, divest from strategic Saudi oil interests, and refrain from extrajudicial killings. 

    The human rights records of Saudi Arabia and Iran destroy historic U.S rhetoric around supporting Saudi Arabia, that supporting the Saudis with our taxes and our soldiers and our weaponry is fundamental to protecting and elevating democracy everywhere. If “elevating democracy” and supporting the will of the people was the objective of U.S/Saudi relations, then why did the U.S and Britain team up to stage a coup against Iran's elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh? Why did the U.S not support an elected leader, praise the citizens of Iran for toppling the oppressive and cruel Shah Pahlavi, who was known for brutalizing his citizens? Oil. The U.S and Britain, allies in all forms of imperialism, teamed up to overthrow Mossadegh because he wanted to nationalize oil, and cut Britain out of the deal. The U.S and Britain got what they wanted, and created a military state in Iran that was dependent on U.S funding. With the previous criteria in mind, the U.S has no right to intervene in Middle-Eastern affairs, according to the standards set by Coady. 

Super-cut past the Hostage Crisis of 1979 and the radicalization of Iran, among strict religious and royal rule in Saudi Arabia, relations are violent, to say the least. To circle back to the questions at the beginning, how do we solve the proxy wars in Saudi Arabia and Iran? The U.S simply needs to disengage. Remove all funding and all troops, without worrying about Russian reciprocal action. Saudi Arabia and Iran are at war, ultimately, to respectively become the regional hegemon of the Middle-East. According to the Balance of Power theory, states will engage in conflict if they disagree on who has more power in the situation. At the moment, they are both sitting at a relatively equal position, due to outside support by the U.S and Russia. As long as they each believe they have a chance at becoming the hegemon, they will both stop at nothing to dominate each other, entrenching the region in war, and soaking the streets in blood and violence. 

It may seem cruel to abandon Saudi Arabia against the combined power of Iran with Russian support, but the international system is anarchic. The only benefit the U.S reaps from supporting conflict in the Middle-East is strategic oil interests, in exchange for the perpetuation of homicides, rape, and child soldiers, among other lovely occurrences. However, the safest the modern international world has ever been was when the U.S held unipolarity post-Cold-War (I classify safety here as in the lowest chances of another world war occurring). A single regional hegemon in the Middle-East would put an end to regional proxy wars, because there would be no title to fight over. With the theories of Mueller in mind, the U.S can become a role-model in the obsolescence of war, and spread a new type of influence over the Middle-East.