The US Should Stop Obsessing About the Middle East

John Quiggin in The National Interest argues persuasively that the U.S. does not have vital national interests in the Middle East.

The perception that the United States has crucial national interests in the Middle East goes back to three events in the 1970s. The first was the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and the subsequent OPEC oil embargo. … The second was the signing of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978. The third was the fall of the Pahlavi regime in Iran …

These events entrenched a set of false, and mutually contradictory, beliefs that have led the United States into a long series of policy disasters.

The first misperception is that oil, and Middle Eastern oil in particular, is a strategic resource of vital importance; therefore the United States must ensure that the flow of oil does not fall under the control of hostile powers. In reality, the economic and strategic significance of oil is greatly overrated.

An oil embargo is a much exaggerated threat. It is a remote danger, best addressed by offshore balancing.

The second false belief is that the United States has a central role to play in negotiating a peaceful accommodation between Israel and its neighbors.

It’s time to let go of this illusion. Yet, that will be difficult because for the US it is a self-serving myth.

Closely related is the belief that Iran is a dangerous, hostile power that the United States must act to contain and whose government it should seek to overthrow.

Indeed, the “Iran threat” is greatly exaggerated.
So, the problem is a combination of threat exaggeration and self-serving bias.

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Filed under Middle East, US politics

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