In an interview with the monthly Atlantic, US President Barack Obama brought up some sensitive issues to the surface which are worth pointing out. Taking the timing of these remarks into consideration, we can read the statements as part of a new plan to redraw the political composition of the Middle East.
Obama attacked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling him a failure and an authoritarian. He also expressed his belief that Saudi Arabia cannot progress by continuing to oppress half of its population: women.
The US president went on to directly accuse the Saudi regime of spreading extremism and terrorism, both regionally and worldwide by exporting the Wahabbi ideology. He gave Indonesia as an example where Gulf money was able to change the moderate nature of Islam into extremism.
The article read: “Because, Obama answered, the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funneled money, and large numbers of imams and teachers, into the country. In the 1990s, the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favored by the Saudi ruling family, Obama told Turnbull. Today, Islam in Indonesia is much more Arab in orientation than it was when he lived there, he said.”
Obama also suggested what was before unthinkable. He proposed that Riyadh and Tehran “share” the Middle East.
“The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” Obama told The Atlantic.
But why now? The US has long been an ally to Ankara and Riyadh. By adopting this seemingly aggressive policy against Turkey and Saudi Arabia while complementing the Iranian role, the US is trying to push the Saudis and Turks toward establishing relations or normalizing them at the very least with the Isaeli regime, one of the Islamic Republic’s enemies in the region. It is trying to align these states along with the Israeli regime against Iran which has long maintained an anti-Zionist stance.
Washington is bidding on cornering the Saudis and Turks into accepting the Israelis as regional allies. It seems that the US is counting on these countries’ realization of an American abandonment in their confrontation against Iran. When they feel the heat of this relinquishment, they will look for another force in the region to help them implement their agendas that have so far wrought havoc in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. By normalizing relations with the Israeli regime, whose plans to break the axis of resistance are contingent with those of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, these countries would be redrawing the political map of the region.
By adopting this policy; that is, adhering to Iran while driving itself away from Riyadh and Ankara, the Obama administration would be paving the way to break the taboo of normalization with the Israeli regime in the region and perhaps even their full establishment.
When the interviewer asked Obama whether the Saudis are the president’s friends, Obama responded with “it’s complicated.” The United States’ relations with other countries are not a matter of friendship but rather part of an interwoven web of complex strings that tie Washington’s interests with its allies. For now, it seems, snapping those cords—at least briefly—will mark the upcoming US policy in the Middle East.