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Partners don’t pivot

As published by the Middle East Institute by Mick Mulroy
Non-Resident Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Yemen Steering Initiative

In Washington, policy professionals frequently talk about the need for America to pivot to focus on great power competition, effectively moving on from the Middle East. This sends the wrong message to our key partners in the region. Meanwhile, China and Russia — the reason for our stated desire to pivot — are themselves expanding their influence in the Middle East.

Like it or not, the United States is the leader of the free world. We need to be able to compete in every sphere, everywhere, and with everyone. The war in Ukraine shows just how intertwined the world is, especially economically. Russia tried to use its energy production as a weapon against NATO. Given Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped that NATO would not unite against his unprovoked and unlawful invasion of Ukraine. He was wrong. Instead, the world has united in standing with the people of Ukraine — no matter the economic cost.

The United States is doing everything it can to mitigate the effect of the sanctions on the rest of the world, especially our NATO allies and their energy needs. We have asked our key partners in the Middle East to increase oil production to compensate for the shortage. These are the same partners that are continually attacked by Iran and their proxy forces, including against the actual facilities to produce the energy that our allies need.

The United States must always promote human rights at home and around the world. We must hold both our adversaries and our allies to account when they fail to meet our core principles. That said, we need to remember who came to our side when we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. We must remember which nations provided basing and opened up their countries to support our military. We must never forget who sent their forces to fight alongside us in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our allies in the Middle East must not be cast aside.

There have been multiple recent attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis against the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — all while we are in the final stages of renegotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran.

We need to realize that Iran has not changed. They continue to attack their neighbors. They continue to sponsor terrorism. Withdrawing from the negotiations may be a step too far. However, we need to listen to the concerns of our partners. We need to remember who our allies and our adversaries really are. Finally, we need to take steps to protect the resources needed to fuel the world and weather the storm caused by the actions of one man: Putin.

Follow on Twitter: @MickMulroy