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In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.
PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.
This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency , during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.
The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden , who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.
Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state .
While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.
Calls for a ceasefire
The situation appears to be spiraling out of control due to Washington's unwavering backing of Israel's offensive in Gaza and the U.S. administration's persistent refusal, over several weeks, to explicitly call for a ceasefire.
Netanyahu's acknowledgment that he intentionally empowered Hamas to weaken the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, viewed as a collaborator with Israel on security matters, has only deepened misunderstanding. Currently, Qatar's influence stems from its agreement to host Hamas leaders, upon requests from both Washington and Tel Aviv, positioning the Emirate to play a pivotal role in aspects of the peace process.
Traditional Western actors have shown an inability to formulate a lasting framework for peace.
Over time, traditional Western actors have shown an inability to formulate a lasting framework for peace. This is compounded by historical liabilities, perceived arrogance, evident failures of Europe and the United States across various conflicts, and the global perception of exporting democracy and combating terrorism as "imperialist" stances.
These factors risk ultimately working against Israel, which is often seen as a bastion of Western values in an increasingly Eastern-focused world. Initially, we may witness a reinvestment by regional powers — both Arab and non-Arab — in the Middle East to stabilize and secure their own region. Subsequently, there might be involvement from distant countries utilizing their political and diplomatic influence to impose peace, a task the West seems unable to accomplish. This could signal the definitive end of American influence in the Middle East.
November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both invite each other to sit before the start of a meeting
Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ ZUMA
The United States has continually refrained from exerting influence on its Israeli ally, particularly regarding the expansion of settlements, which has obstructed any progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. Over the past 70 years, while Palestinian land has diminished, Israeli territory has expanded, surpassing the borders set by the United Nations and impeding the possibility of a cohesive and viable Palestine.
The post-World War II international system was shaped by Western powers for Western interests.
The failure of Israel to adhere to numerous United Nations resolutions, specifically regarding the colonization of Palestinian territories, showcases the severe weakening of multilateralism. The United States, a key player in this process, now faces the consequences.
The post-World War II international system, established to prevent such events from recurring, seems outdated. Primarily shaped by Western powers for Western interests , it should have been reformed long ago to include newer global diplomatic approaches.
One hypothesis of a different future could include a more complicated relationship between the US and Israel, departing from the unquestioned support seen in the past.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, welcomes Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Bernd Von Jutrczenka/dpa via ZUMA
Russia and China , among the emerging Eastern powers, play a substantial role in impeding Western initiatives at the United Nations Security Council. With the United States facing challenges in its attempts to achieve victories in conflicts or to foster peace, it increasingly looks to regional allies, possibly extending beyond Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia .
This marks a crucial moment for Washington before ceding influence to other global powers, and allowing them to establish a lasting presence in the region. Initially, the so-called petro-monarchies are expected to continue serving as crucial intermediaries for the West in the Middle East.
The Global South, led by influential nations such as China (whose recent mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia surprised many), India , Russia, and Brazil , all with connections to Israel and interests in Arab nations, is gearing up to assert its presence in the Middle East.
This transformation poses a challenge to the Western dominance that has persisted in the region for nearly a century. The significance of the Gulf powers lies in their practicality and adeptness in managing relationships with both established and emerging global powers.
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