Palestinian researchers have concluded that US policy in the Middle East has faded in importance under Barack Obama due to the "heavy and unbearable" burden he inherited from his predecessor. The fact that his eyes are on China and regional instability are also major factors.
Speaking at a workshop held at the Centre of Political and Developmental Studies in Gaza, Dr Ibrahim Habib referred back to the 1950s when the USA wanted to achieve sovereignty over the Middle East as the last vestiges of the British Empire were fading. The lecturer at the Academy of Political Studies pointed out that America wanted control over four strategic waterways in the region. "The US also needed to maintain good relations with the oil-producing countries and find markets for its own products," he said.
Dr Habib added that former US President George W Bush recognised very quickly that the rise to power of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian election would undermine US power in the Middle East. "We did not understand him at the time," he noted, "but the penny dropped when the Arab Spring rebellions were inspired by Hamas's persistence in protecting its electoral victory despite the global boycott against it."
Speaking via Skype from the US, the founder of Electronic Intifada, Ramzi Baroud, reiterated the belief that Obama is no more than a tool in the hands of the pro-Israel Lobby, "which went very deep in the body of the US administration" during Bush's two terms in office.
Baroud agreed that America is retreating from the region under Obama. He attributed this to the strength of the Christian evangelists and the neo-conservatives, who support the pro-Israel Lobby.
"The Christian evangelists call for war against the enemies of the US and war on immigration and everything not American, and the neo-conservatives are pushing for more imperialism," claimed Baroud. "Obama knows that these are the reasons for the US problem, but he cannot get rid of them as they have already embedded themselves deeply within the US political system."
According to the US-based journalist, Obama is trying to convince his administration with a policy based on soft withdrawal from the Middle East to concentrate more on the internal issues about which he promised the electorate. "To have money to repair the health care system, fight unemployment and rebuild areas devastated by hurricanes and tornadoes, Obama needs to reduce the amount spent on war." The president's hot words about Iran and war if necessary are mere rhetoric, he added.
Baroud concluded that US policy in the Middle East has failed not least because its plans to reshape the region have evaporated. He stressed that the US is hardly able to afford the cost of its wars. "What about after the decision to cut $10 trillion of the military budget in the next ten years?" he queried.
Asked about how much Israel is used as a tool by the US, Baroud said: "Thanks to the pro-Israel Lobby and the neo-conservatives, Israel is no longer a tool in the US administrative, but is its most effective decision maker."
Former Palestinian negotiator Yazeed al-Sayegh concurred that the financial costs ruled out any US war in the Middle East against Iran. "Imagine if the Strait of Hormuz is closed for just two months," he asked. "How much would world oil prices rise?"