In these days in which the repercussions of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan continue, we are witnessing rapid developments in the world of politics in the Middle East, as diplomacy is gaining noticeable momentum, in light of the emergence of signs of mutual détente in the relations of countries that have witnessed tensions during the past years.
We can say that this process is not limited to a few countries and that almost all actors in the region have begun to give more spaces to diplomatic means to replace the state of conflicts and tensions that increased between the countries of the region during the “Arab Spring” phase with an approach based on activating the means of diplomacy in politics foreign countries.
Here, the following question must be asked: Why is the process of cooperation in the Middle East now gaining such momentum?
A vacuum in international politics
The date of September 11, 2001, was, of course, an important turning point in the foreign policy of the United States, and it was in the Middle East that the nature of the new American policies was manifested.
The military interventions led by the United States in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, led to deepening chaos in the Middle East, and Washington used its military power in an excessive manner, disregarding global security, to show its position as the sole superpower in international politics after the Cold War.
However, the United States revealed a new strategic approach in conjunction with the increasing threats it is facing in the Middle East and Asia, which is witnessing the rapid rise of China, which has begun to threaten Washington’s interests in many regions.
With the assumption of power by former President Barack Obama in the White House, the belief emerged that the United States should avoid the costs of protecting global security in order to maintain its position as a great power, and this approach became one of the main priorities of American foreign policy, and it continued during the period of former President Donald Trump.
The United States, the most powerful player in the international system, has begun to implement its new approach by reducing its military presence in its military hegemony, and it began in the Middle East.
That region witnessed the beginning of the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2010, and the United States also paid maximum attention to monitoring developments in the Middle East from afar without interfering militarily in the region during the period of the Arab revolutions.
The United States also announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving behind a Middle East in which the balance of power has not changed to a large extent, but which now contains a greater number of areas susceptible to the outbreak of new potential conflicts.
At first glance, the military withdrawal of the United States appears to weaken the image of its global hegemony, but the reality is quite the opposite, as Washington still possesses a huge power that is not comparable with other global actors.
However, this situation does not mean that countries allies or hostile to global superpowers will not be in the process of changing their foreign security and political behavior during the next stage, especially since Washington has long ago abandoned unlimited security commitments to its allies, despite Washington maintaining its position and role in The international system as a global superpower.
Diplomacy Gaining Momentum in the Middle East
We can say that regionally active countries are trying to adapt to the new phase quickly, without forgetting that the United States remains the most decisive force in Middle East politics.
Regional actors began to conduct a review of their foreign policy strategies, bearing in mind that the United States will not take the reins of any military initiative in the Middle East in the near future, especially with its withdrawal from Afghanistan last month. However, these regional powers did not, of course, lose sight of Washington’s global position within the balance of regional and international powers.
In fact, the withdrawal of the United States from the region and the possession of regional actors in the Middle East with tense relations with their surroundings during the period of the Arab revolutions, constitute a cost that is difficult to bear in the new period.
For this reason, the active powers in the Middle East are taking accelerated steps towards activating the means of diplomacy instead of a foreign policy based on confrontation and aggressive stances, in order to adapt to the requirements of the new phase.
The main motive in this behavior of the countries of the Middle East is to try to get rid of the tensions in relations with the countries of the periphery, which increased significantly during the stage of the Arab revolutions, specifically, and to bridge the security gaps by looking at the regional balance of power, because they do not want to be alone in front of any threats potential for national security.
From this point of view, we can say that almost all countries in the Middle East are keen to put aside old tensions and enter into a period of calm, especially since policies based on cooperation in foreign policy contribute to strengthening diplomacy and easing tensions in bilateral relations.
Here, we must say that the regional actors find themselves compelled to show soft policies due to the conditions of the international system, because otherwise, the choice of these countries to protect their national security from various risks, especially security, would be a risky option.
In this context, we must also point out the existence of a general political mood, which has emerged recently, that seeks to reduce tensions between the countries of the Middle East, especially between countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, Turkey and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Hamas, Turkey, the Emirates and Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Turkish-Emirati relations are one of the examples through which we can observe the signs aimed at softening the bilateral relations between the two countries in particular and in the Middle East in general.
Relations between Turkey and the UAE, which had opposing regional visions, have been strained during the Arab Spring, to the point of confrontation in many areas of tension.
Ankara and Abu Dhabi, which showed very different positions on regional issues, especially in Libya, Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Palestine issue and Qatar, entered the stage of normalization of relations in 2016, but that stage quickly collapsed under the weight of regional tensions.
In this context, it must be noted that the UAE’s moves to restrict Turkey in the region are of course one of the main factors in accelerating tension in bilateral relations, in addition to the two countries having different visions of the regional order.
This tension, which some often try to present as an ideological tension, is in fact a reflection of the conflict of regional powers and the conflict of interests.
However, in the same context, it must be noted that the tensions witnessed in Turkish-Emirati relations during the past years did not cause a significant change in the bilateral economic relations, as the strong economic relations between Turkey and the UAE continued as before.
Of course, the United States remains the most decisive actor in the region, however, from the UAE’s perspective, the region is exposed to serious security risks stretching from China to Europe and Afghanistan.
Here it is necessary to point out the strong relations that bind the UAE with China, but at the same time we must point out that the relations of the Beijing administration with Iran are still problematic.
In addition to the above, it is noted that the UAE and Saudi Arabia lost their influence in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the reins of power, while the Qatari and Iranian influence in it increased significantly. This situation constitutes a cause for concern to the Emirates in the coming period.
On the other hand, it can be said that the UAE is trying to build its relations with the Taliban on a more pragmatic basis, and from this standpoint, it is trying to liberate itself from Saudi Arabia’s harsh anti-Taliban stance.
Therefore, it is very logical for the UAE to try to get closer to Turkey, at a time when Ankara is naturally seeking to benefit more from its cooperative relations with Abu Dhabi.
In sum, the actors on the regional scene in the Middle East have begun to seek to restore the deteriorating relations with the countries of the region in conjunction with the withdrawal of the United States militarily from the Middle East, and they have begun to pursue foreign policies based on cooperation in the coming period to reduce the potential threats and risks to their national security.