By Iran Review
By Behzad Khoshandam*
Despite claims that the Iran deal is the most important legacy of the US President Barack Obama for the Middle East, it seems that, though praiseworthy, this deal can be viewed within framework of four more important legacies of Obama. These four legacies for the Middle East include the Daesh terrorist group, proxy wars, the refugee crisis, and redefinition of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) on the basis of the interests of big powers under the international conditions at the end of Obama’s era.
Concurrent with Obama’s change slogan in 2008, the emerging society-centric order in the Middle East was changing shape under the anarchic conditions of the world. As Obama gets ready to pass the baton to the 45th US president in 2017, the hectic situation in the Middle East has not only remained unchanged, but is witnessing all kinds of threats in the light of Obama’s four important legacies for the Middle East and their effects on international peace and security. According to their basic structures, these four important legacies can configure trends and regional balance in the future perspective of the Middle East on the basis of alternative or simultaneous use of two major tools of war and diplomacy. Therefore, the aforesaid four legacies will gradually turn into driving forces which will shape future developments as well as geopolitical and fundamental maps and emerging discourses in the Middle East.
These four Obama legacies for the Middle East have laid necessary foundation for such discourses as secessionism, federalism, divisionism, ethnicism, the Arab Spring, diplomacy, extremism, terrorism, interventionism, nuclear energy, cold and warm wars, regional conflicts, divergence, Islamophobia, racism, and religious division in practical developments of the Middle East.
Practical materialization of these discourses in the Middle East’s structures and equations during the later years of Obama’s tenure in office was marked with fundamentalism in the region and Washington’s return to an Iranophile approach characterized by renewed attention to the Iran option and more realistic redefinition of Iran’s strategic intensions by the United States. Therefore, in parallel to the effort made to implement an agreement between foreign ministers of the United States and Russia, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, in relation to future regional order and arrangements in the Levant and the Arab world, the way was also paved for more serious recourse by the United States and the NATO to military tools in order to fight Daesh, including by making unprecedented use of such aircraft as B-52 bombers planes.
Under these conditions, influenced by the aforesaid four legacies of Obama and dynamism of other major regional actors such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, major changes were made to regional trends adopted by them from the viewpoint of position, level of effectiveness, influence and the effort made to encourage formation of coalitions among internal and external actors.
The overall framework of relations between Ankara and Washington experienced many strategic cracks and gaps during Obama’s tenure in office, whose effects can be hardly compensated with regard to such issues as fundamentalism, Kurds, human rights, future of Iraq, fighting against Daesh and totalitarian regimes.
During this period, the relationship between Riyadh and Washington has moved toward rising friction and practical confrontation between the two sides’ interests and values in a manner which has had no precedent since the establishment of Al Saud regime up to the present time. As a result, at the same time that Obama’s tenure as the US president is drawing to a close, there are talks about the support provided by the Saudi government for those involved in the 9/11 attacks both in the US media, and at the Congress and even in the US courts, and this has come up as a dominant and reliable discourse.
During this period, the special relationship that Egypt had with the United States, which was highlighted by Obama in his “A New Beginning” speech in Cairo in June 2009, underwent many ups and downs due to Obama’s relative support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement. This is why despite Egyptian military has snatched the political power again, practical tension in relations between this north African country and the United States continues to exist.
The strategic relationship between Israel and the United States has been also seriously affected by differences in opinion between Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has been moving in a direction in which not only an important part of pro-Israeli lobbies in the United States have turned their back on Obama, but have also become inclined toward his rival party.
The killing of the US ambassador and some other diplomats in the Libyan city of Benghazi, bombardment of Serbian diplomats by the US warplanes in Libya, and the death of American soldiers in Iraq in 2016 despite Obama’s promise to pull the American forces out of Iraq are all signs of fundamental weaknesses in Obama’s Middle East policy. These weaknesses are so important that in an almost big part of the US presidential campaigns in 2016, most presidential hopefuls aimed their attacks at Obama’s inaction, passivity, lack of activity as well as practical weakness in dealing with such issues and problems.
Under such complicated conditions, Obama’s effort to practically redefine developments in the Middle East through a confrontation, which is based on the deterrence strategy in the United States’ relations with Russia, has led to one of the most important effects of the four aforesaid legacies of Obama for the Middle East. This strategic effect was practical recognition of Iran’s independent and effective role in determining strategic and tactical future of this geopolitical region of the world.
A post-Obama America, either under a Democrat or a Republican president, will be handed down this legacy, just in the same way that happened toward the end of Obama’s tenure with regard to Washington’s’ relations with Havana, that some traditionally influential actors in the Middle East should be addressed with a language of respect and a literature based on praise and common interests.
When he leaves the White House, the change-oriented Obama can boldly claim that he has promoted relations between the United States and those Middle Eastern countries which were previously uncooperative to a level that it cannot be easily denied by observers of history, international public opinion, and future politicians of the world.
Of course, given the history of the Middle East and experiences that the world politics will have in a post-Obama era, the Middle East, based on a realistic approach to the region, will enjoy the capacity to disturb global peace and will remain as such in the focus of global politics, and this can be historically and politically explained through the narrative, discourse, and effects of the four important legacies of the US president.
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues