Middle East Should Be The Focus of US Economic Diplomacy
The Biden administration could improve its Middle Eastern policy by emphasizing economic development and relationships with its allies, even though geopolitical, military, and security issues are crucial pillars of foreign policy.
The US Congress has voiced significant disapproval of the Biden administration’s Middle East strategy. Most of these criticisms are based on security, military, and geopolitical issues. As an illustration, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor about US foreign policy in March and claimed that President Joe Biden’s “clumsy attempts to cut and run from the Middle East have reduced our presence,” adding that “letting key friendships languish erodes our partnerships.” This, according to McConnell, has damaged American credibility and is a “recipe for less American influence, less national security, and a vacuum that Russia and China would be delighted to fill.”
Some experts, academics, and policy analysts also believed that the historic deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which was brokered by China and announced in March, was a sign of the US influence waning in the Middle East. The agreement was a significant development that helped to improve regional security and stability as well as relations between the Saudi government and the Iranian government. Geopolitical and economic landscapes in the region may be significantly impacted by improved relations between Tehran and Riyadh.
The Biden administration’s departure from Afghanistan has also drawn criticism. Some people thought the August 2021 withdrawal was poorly thought out because the Taliban quickly took control of the nation and US taxpayer-funded military equipment worth billions of dollars was left behind. Additionally, the Biden administration has failed to achieve political success concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, as several rounds of negotiations came to an end with no real progress toward a long-term solution.
However, if the Biden administration focuses more on economic developments, it still has time and the chance to achieve political success concerning its Middle East policy.
The US has a long history of successfully using economic diplomacy in a variety of regions around the world, including in Europe and Latin America. According to the State Department, economics and market forces are “at the core of US foreign policy.” To advance American foreign policy through economic diplomacy, one must simultaneously use the instruments of foreign policy to strengthen our economy.
The US national interest would likely be served by such a pragmatic approach and a shift towards economic growth between the US and Middle Eastern nations, along with peace, security, and stability.
The United States can concentrate on several areas. Trade and long-term investments in the technology and infrastructure of some Middle Eastern countries are essential. Positive partnerships are also present in other fields, such as solar energy, renewable energy sources, and climate change. Biden has frequently emphasized his commitment to the environment. Recall that one of his most notable executive orders following his inauguration was to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change. The president believes that putting climate change at the top of the agenda will help him win over younger, more liberal voters. Saudi Arabia is one of the regional nations taking the lead on this problem in the meantime. The obvious choice for shared economic development between the US and Gulf countries is climate change.
The fact that China places more of an emphasis on economic growth than on military strategies is one factor contributing to its growing influence in the Middle East.
Professor of history and international relations at Boston University and president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington, Andrew Bacevich, a retired army officer, has noted: “What is it, do we think, that China is intent on doing in the Middle East? Do we believe they’ll establish a vast network of military installations? No, I’m assuming. Outside of China, I believe they have only two bases worldwide. Do they actively promote investment and economic growth? They are. Is that a pitch we ought to play in? Yes, I would agree. We seek a military definition of competition. The Chinese define competition in terms of investment and trade.
Beyond just importing oil, China maintains close economic and trade ties with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations. Beijing has likewise committed to making a sizeable investment in Iran. A 25-year strategic partnership agreement was signed by China and the Iranian government in 2021; it is currently being implemented.
When it comes to promoting peace and taking center stage on the global stage in this era of globalization, economic developments seem to have surpassed military might in importance.
In summary, the Biden administration needs to pay closer attention to economic developments in the Middle East, particularly those involving investments in renewable energy, technology, and infrastructure. This will advance regional security, stability, and peace in addition to the national interests of the US. Additionally, the US’s diplomatic engagements and role in the region are likely to grow as it ramps up its economic developments in the Middle East.