Is the United States’ Influence in the Middle East Waning?

Before a meeting that took place in Beijing, China on April 6, 2023 between Saudi Arabia foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, an Iranian official declared that the era of United States involvement in the Middle East is over. 

Specifically, the official said, “The era of the United States’ involvement in this region is over … The regional countries are capable of preserving security and stability in the Middle East without Washington’s interference.”

These comments come at a time when the two traditionally hostile Islamic rivals have taken steps to mend diplomatic relations thanks to a new deal that China recently brokered. 

This meeting between the Saudi and Iranian top diplomats was the first formal meeting between the countries’ leading diplomats in over seven years. 

Following a multi-decade proxy war, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to end their diplomatic kerfuffle  and re-open embassies in a groundbreaking deal facilitated by China in March.

Saudi Arabia broke ties with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran was stormed by Shi’ite protestors during a diplomatic row between the two countries over the Saudi authorities’ execution of a Shi’ite Muslim cleric xxx.  The Saudi government subsequently urged Iranian diplomats to withdraw from their posts within 48 hours while it evacuated its embassy staff from Tehran.

The Saudi-Iranian Cold War has gone on for decades, but has taken a more hostile turn since 2015,  after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates decided to intervene in the Yemen war, where the Iranian-backed  Houthi rebel movement deposed the Saudi-backed government and seized the capital of Sanaa.

The Saudis have repeatedly  blamed Iran for providing military aid to the Houthis who launched missile and drone attacks on its cities and oil facilities. 

The fact these two bitter rivals are mending their relations is proof that countries are growing uncomfortable with US hegemony. This dynamic in international relations has only brought instability and mayhem to countless countries in the Middle East.

In this instance, China may prove to be a stabler geopolitical partner due to its less belligerent foreign policy orientation and lack of desire in remaking the world in its image. That, among other reasons, makes China look attractive in the long-term.

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