United States became one of the key factors behind the development of the peace process in the Middle East and is currently forming the basis for its continuation. United States from the very beginning of its entering the Middle East was most actively engaged in negotiating and mediation activities. Those practical steps of the Americans brought some positive results. Together with the Soviet Union, the US was at the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict resolution in the late 60's - early 70`s of XX century. With the participation of Washington first notable successes in this area were achieved, in particular, the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. In the 90`s of the previous century, the U.S. administration played a leading role as a mediator on the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian vectors. The United States also contributed to the conclusion of peace between Israel and Jordan in 1994, providing guarantees and giving a financial hand and political support.
United States are in a unique position, which gives them significant advantages over other potential mediators. On the one hand, they always had traditionally close ties with Israel, and on the other – from the mid 70`s of the XX century Washington was consistently expanding and strengthening its friendship with the Arab world. As a result, by the early 90`s of XX century, Americans have had contacts with the PLO and all the states directly involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Authority of the United States allows them, if necessary, to exert political pressure on the parties to the peace process, to push them to seek a compromise. In addition, the White House, with its rich resources to support and encourage participants in the peace process, has at its disposal a powerful measure for influencing by providing financial, economic and military assistance.
Termination of global confrontation between the two world systems – the US and the USSR, one of the arenas of which was in the second half of the XX century the Middle East, shattered the old system of political and military balance. But this does not mean that the monopoly of any responsibility for solving any regional conflict has been given to the US only.
It needs to be mentioned that the level of popularity of the Americans in the Middle East is extremely low. The result of this is the support of terrorist organizations among Middle East communities, as well as the difficulties faced by the United States in their foreign policy, international trade, etc. As a result, the US is developing a major struggle for the hearts and minds of the Arabs by means of the “soft power”.
Anti-American sentiment in the Arab world had originated long before the formation of "Al Qaeda" and the Islamic Revolution in Iran – they began to be cultivated even in the 1950s, but not by the Islamists but among nationalists and supporters of a secular socialist path of development of the Arab civilization. Today the US Government is determined, after conclusions of the National Commission on Terrorist attacks upon the US to act decisively and even aggressively, otherwise, the Muslim extremists explaining the Islamic world their intentions and actions will do the same job instead of the US.
Robert Satloff in the book “The Battle of Ideas in the War on Terror: Essays on US Public Diplomacy in the Middle East”, divides Muslims into three groups. A Smaller but disproportionately wholehearted group hates the United States. This group includes the extremists and terrorists. American government should not waste resources of public diplomacy on them. Another group consists of supporters of evolutionary changes, which are outraged with some aspects of American foreign policy. Satloff offers to provide to this part of the population with the objective information on the US and with different viewpoints. However, tens of millions of Muslims “are not animated” by any issues with the USA, since they “struggle to eke out a living” (Satloff, XIV). Therefore, US policy should promote a development of the economy and social infrastructure, so that these people could be included in the political process.
Shibley Telhami, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, argues that, in the Arab countries, the number of supporters of the United States reached the minimum value, even in those countries where the United States has a tremendous aid. Telhami conducted a number of surveys in the Arab countries and found that the majority of the Arabs believe the main objectives of the US foreign policy in the region are "the fight for oil", "support for Israel" and "weakening the Islamic civilization" (“The 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll”).
In the first half of the 1970s, the goal of American diplomacy, and, above all, of the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, was primarily to reduce the risk of renewed large-scale fighting in the Middle East. January 18, 1974 under the mediation of the United States and the United Nations an agreement on armies` disengagement between Egypt and Israel was signed, which was the first result of the peacekeeping efforts of the United States in the Middle East. Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy proved its effectiveness. Despite the increased activity of the US on the Middle East peace process in the first half of the 70`s, during the period of the Nixon- Ford administration, was not marked with any decisive breakthrough (occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remained the same).
In November 1976, the new administration headed by Jimmy Carter came to power. The administration was aware of the growing dependence on oil supplies from abroad, and the embargo, allegedly possible in the case of a new war, was regarded as a very serious potential threat to national security. Since the winter of 1978, Washington was more determined to conduct separate negotiations between Egypt and Israel. US president offered Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin to come to Camp David to meet in private and to negotiate terms for a settlement. By great efforts of Carter as mediator, the Camp David peace between Egypt and Israel was signed. Subsequently, many researchers started to consider the agreements signed at Camp David as contrary to the interests of the Arabs and hindering the development of the peace process. To this day accusations against the U.S. administration and President Jimmy Carter, who is suspected of lobbying the interests of Israel and a desire to destroy the unity of the Arabs, can be heard.
Next President Ronald Reagan made an attempt of settling the conflict by following the plan coined out by his analytics, which, however, was not successful at all. The failure of the "Reagan Plan" together with unfavorable conditions in the region (the dominant role of radical forces in Israeli politics, as well as the ongoing Palestinian terrorist activity) led to the fact that in the mid-80s until the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, the USA was undertaking only very cautious attempts to achieve progress in the peace settlement. A new plan, better known as the "Shultz plan", which was offering convocation of an international conference under the auspices of the permanent members of the Security Council for mulling over further developments of the Middle East conflict, also failed. Establishment in late 1988 contacts with the PLO was the only major achievement of American diplomacy in the Middle East towards the second half of the 80s.
Soon after the election of George H. W. Bush, the US began to pursue a tough line against Israel in order to encourage Israeli officials to take a more constructive position which would allow starting a dialogue with the Palestinians. However, a true resumption of the peace process became possible only after the Kuwait crisis of 1990-1991, which, without exaggeration, in the most radical way affected the situation in the region and created the conditions for finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In the 90 years of the twentieth century, the United States managed to achieve some success. Using its authority, the United States became one of the founders and members of the "Quartet" of international mediators on the Middle East, designed to push the parties to seek a compromise. What is important, the American approach guaranteeing performance of reforms on the territory of the Palestine Authority and continuation of the peace process, formed the basis of the developed Plan of Palestinian-Israeli settlement – the “road map”.
Another vector of the US diplomacy at the Middle East is Iraq, where, in my consideration, senseless, not saying about its eternal horrors lasting for more than ten years, war was conducted by the US together with the Coalition of its allies. The regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein certainly was not the sample of protestant virtues, moreover he is truly considered of a lot of criminal acts against his own people. However the reverse of the coin is that the Iraqi people over ten years existed under conditions of daily military nightmare, with shelling and aero bombing that caused thousands of deaths among Iraqi civil people. What is more, the US and its allies` military intervention in Iraq could neither confirm allegations of Hussein's preparation of war with the use of weapons of mass destruction, nor any accusations against Hussein of destabilizing the situation in the region as a whole.
Iran is a perfect example of “action-reaction” relations with the US. In 2005 at the course of a presidential election much more radical president than preceding, Mohammad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected. His victory over the other candidates Ahmadinejad is much obliged to the severe, uncompromising policy of the United States which it has been conducted since 1979. During his two consecutive terms, Ahmadinejad was deliberately provoking Western public opinion with his outrageous statements against America and its supporters. Conducting a war of words and threatening with nuclear programm, he was pitting the whole democratic world community against himself and the country he was ruling. As a result, Hassan Rouhani, more restrained and accommodating took post in August of the previous year. Another problem is that he directed all his efforts at the friendly relations with the United States and other Western nations as well as proclaiming his ability to start a dialogue with his Arabic neighbors. American “flirtation” with the new Iranian government in no way does not fit in interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The United States and Saudi Arabia established full diplomatic relations in 1940. The unique role of Saudi Arabia in the Arab and Islamic world, possession of the world's largest oil reserves and its strategic location – all these factors make good relations with this Kingdom of the greatest importance for the United States. Both countries share common interests and closely consult on issues of regional security, oil exports and imports, and sustainable economic development of the Middle East peace process. Saudi Arabia is a strong partner of the US in the fight against terrorism, as well as in the military, diplomatic and financial sphere. Saudi authorities are working closely with US law enforcement agencies in the interests of national security.
The United States is the largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia, and this country is one of the largest US export market in the Middle East. Both countries signed a framework investment trade agreement. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading sources of oil for the United States, supplying more than one million barrels per day to the U.S. market. However, as it was mentioned above, in 2013, cooldown in cooperation of two nations began in connection with the improvement of US relations with Iran, the main rival of the kingdom in the Persian Gulf. Relations with Saudi Arabia recently started deteriorating because of disagreements concerning state of things in Egypt, Syria (inability of America`s overthrowing of much undesirable for Saudi Arabia regime of Assad), as well.
Saudi Arabia is still in need for security assurances from the United States. In particular, the situation in its states neighbors escalated after a series of revolutions in the so-called "Arab Spring", when throughout the Middle East numerous armies of rebels emerged. The United States have promised to be present in the Persian Gulf to support Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. However, today we can see that the America's main interests are shifting toward the Pacific region, the US is worried more about China`s influence in that region, when Saudi Arabia is worried that the US may change its defense policy and withdraw some of its military infrastructures out of the Gulf. To that end, the Kingdom is buying in large volumes high-end armaments from the US military industry sector. Another trend that is observed in the region is the rising influence of China and India in the region (mostly in the energy sector), whereas US`s influence is steadily reducing. Moreover, oil doesn`t play nowadays that role it used to play forty years ago – nowadays shift to other sources of energy for the technologically developed United States is a matter of extra financial spending and efforts of its scientists, which Unites States can absolutely afford. Even more, American deposits of shale gas, other world sources of supply of energy resources further reduce the importance of Saudi Arabia as American main partner in the region of the Persian Gulf. Ron Paul, an influential politician in the US even considers Saudi-American relations to be “unhealthy”, and he fully supports variant of solving Middle East tensions and conflicts by means of the countries of the Region only (Paul, “A Welcome US/Saudi ‘Reset’”).
Finally, I would like to mention that the administration of the current US President Barack Obama is shifting from ways of conducting policy not only toward the world as a whole, but also toward the region of Middle East. In his speech at the General Assembly of UN Obama announced a new style of American foreign policy. Obama made it clear that the US was not going to play the role of world policeman. For this reason, the troops were withdrawn from Iraq and are decided to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2015. Obama assured that the US was ready to respect democracy options, emerged in authoritarian countries. Nevertheless, he mentioned “We (the United States) will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War” (“Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly”) meaning that its allies in the Gulf region will be protected by American Fifth Navy deployed at the shore of Bahrain.
In the first half of the 70s of the twentieth century, the United States began to actively pursue its policy in the Middle East, particularly in the peace process, aiming to reduce tensions in the region, and as history has shown, in some cases, Washington has managed to achieve notable success.
Talking about the US policy in the Middle East starting from the second half of the twentieth century, it can be argued that, during this concrete period, the US administration has done a great job. However, at the same time there were serious blunders committed that largely determined the stagnation of the peace process, particularly on the Palestinian and Syrian vectors, which set at the beginning of the XXI century.
Blanchard M., Christopher. Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations. Congressional Research Service. 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. PDF file. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33533.pdf
“Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States”. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. 2001. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Exec.htm
“History of Mid-East peace talks”. BBC. 29 Jul. 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-11103745
Obama, Barack. Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly. The White House. 24 Sep. 2013 Web. 08 Mar. 2014. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/24/remarks-president-obama-address-united-nations-general-assembly
Paul, Ron. A Welcome US/Saudi ‘Reset’. Ron Paul Institute. 27 Oct. 2013 Web. 08 Mar. 2014. http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2013/october/27/a-welcome-ussaudi-%E2%80%98reset%E2%80%99.aspx
Satloff, Robert. The battle of ideas in the war on terror : essays on U.S. publicdiplomacy in the Middle East. Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004. Print.
Telhami, Shibley. The 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll General Assembly. Brookings. 21 Nov. 2011 Web. 09 Mar. 2014. http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2011/11/21-arab-public-opinion-telhami