The following map shows the dead end the Americans face in the Middle East, where the United States are left almost without allies, and it also explains the American turn towards Iran, or at least towards adopting a more neutral stance towards the countries of the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia was the traditional American ally in the Middle East, at least after the rise of the pro-Soviet socialists in Iraq, and after the rise of the Islamic socialists in Iran. The Americans had promised to protect Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia had promised to provide an uninterrupted flow of oil to the American economy (security for oil agreement).
But as I have said many times, at some point the United States reduced their imports from the Persian Gulf, due to their increased production from shale rock, and due to their increased oil and gas imports from Canada and Mexico, which are countries also very rich in shale rock. Saudi Arabia started looking at China, which is now the big economic player in the Persian Gulf, and Saudi funds started financing terrorist attacks against the United States, even though the Saudi Kings never dared to get personally involved in these attacks.
The United States, after the attack at the Twin Towers (9/11), they moved their military bases from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. Qatar was happy to accommodate the American military bases, because Qatar is a very small country, and it is bullied by Saudi Arabia and Iran. But Qatar, even though it has a huge liquidity, and it can buy jihadists at the battlefields and socialists at the European and American parliaments, it is only a small country in military terms, and it does not have the geopolitical might of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Besides, Qatar is also exporting to Asia.
Iran, the other major player of the Gulf, has been an American enemy since the rise of the Islamic socialists to power in 1979, and the nationalization of the western energy companies. With the economic rise of China, Iran and China are very strongly connected, because Iran’s main ambition is to export to China through the Iran-Pakistan-China economic corridor.
In Iraq things were not better than in Iran for the Americans. The Sunni socialist Saddam Hussein was a Soviet ally, and like the Iranians, during his leadership he supported many terrorist attacks against the United States.
What I describe is a very hostile environment for the United States, which was becoming more hostile the more the Americans were reducing their oil imports from the Gulf, and the more the Chinese were increasing theirs.
And like all that was not enough, there was also the cooperation between Turkey and Russia on the natural gas and nuclear energy sectors. Moreover Turkey is hoping to receive billions in Chinese investments as a strategic country on the New Silk Roads which are promoted by China.
Therefore the Saudi turn to China, and the energy cooperation between Turkey and Russia, and the cooperation between Turkey and China on infrastructure, left the United States without a strategic ally in the region. As a result the United States were no longer willing, neither they had a motive, to be an enthusiastic supporter of any country. In the past, the United States were decisively defending Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but they no longer had a motive to do so.
The American attack to Saddam Hussein and Iraq should be seen within this context. With the attack to Iraq in 2003, the Americans overturned the Sunni Arab minority, and brought to power the Shia Arab majority that was oppressed by Saddam Hussein, hoping to find a new friend. See “The Truth about the US Invasion of Iraq in 2003”.
With the attack against Saddam Hussein, the Kurds of Iraq, who have also been oppressed by Saddam Hussein, were strengthened too. The Kurds are perhaps the only strategic ally of the United States, even though the Americans have to compete with the Russians for influence over the Kurds.
Map 2 Kurdistan
From all the above, we can see that the new American approach, which is to play with everyone, might be quite beneficial from an American point of view. By approaching Iran, the Americans made it much harder for Iran to support terrorist attacks against the United States, and Iran is one of the major supporters of international Islamic terrorism.
It is true that the Arab allies of the United States were infuriated by the Iran-US détente, but what can the Arabs do? They cannot quit the United States, even though they would like to do so, because China is closer to Iran, and because Russia is their main competitor in the oil and natural gas markets. If the Arabs were under Russian protection, they would have to listen to the Russians about where to sell and about what prices to sell. Therefore the Arabs of the Gulf need the Americans, no matter how much they hate them.
Israel was also infuriated with the US policy towards Iran, but what can the Israelis do? They can do nothing. Israel has allied with Russia against Turkey and Islamic terrorism, but Israel can not survive without the United States.
Therefore the traditional allies of the United States are infuriated with the new American policy in the Middle East, but they have nowhere else to go. And now Iran will be reluctant to support terrorism against the United States, and Saddam Hussein, a major international terrorist, is out of the equation.
Moreover, as long as the United States were fighting with Iran, Iran could not export its oil and gas to Europe, and thus it was not a threat for the Russian economic interests. Therefore, two natural rivals in the oil and gas markets, Russia and Iran, became allies because of the American-Iranian and the American-Russian rivalry. Now that the economic sanctions against Iran are lifted, the Iranians are discussing with the Turks the possibility of exporting natural gas to Europe through Turkey, and the alliance between Iran and Russia starts having some cracks.
Moreover the Turks do not have to rely on the Russians, who for centuries have been their traditional rival in the region, and they also have the Iranian option. That is also causing some cracks on the Turkish-Russian energy cooperation.
This is not a “divide and rule” situation as some people think. The Ottomans, the Russians and the Persians (Iranians), are three traditional empires, that have been fighting in the Caucasus region and the Middle East for centuries. They have been fighting even before the United States existed as a nation.
Map 3 The Caucasus Region
With its rivalry with the Iranians, the Americans were eliminating the differences between these three different empires, and that was not beneficial for the Americans. And they decided to change their policy.
Moreover, by adopting a more neutral stance towards the countries of the Middle East, the United States do not have to incur the huge military cost of safeguarding the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf i.e. the oil lanes. It is not a secret that in the Persian Gulf the United States want to share influence and military cost with China, since it is China that mostly counts on the Persian Gulf. The Americans think that the Europeans and the Chinese are free riders, and all these years they have been enjoying the safety provided by the Americans, without making significant contributions, and with too much criticism for the United States.