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Global Geo-political Series: Is U.S. losing influence in Middle East?

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a rare meeting with top Iraqi and Saudi officials that Iraq’s Shia militia force and their Iranian advisers need to leave Iraq as the struggle against Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) is nearing an end. However, Iraq was not only reluctant to comply with the demand made by the United States, it issued a mild rebuke in a statement released on Facebook. The statement says, “A source close to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi expressed his surprise from the statements attributed to the United States Secretary of state about the popular crowd. According to the source, the combatants of the popular crowd are national Iraqis who have made strict sacrifications to defend their country and the Iraqi people and are subject to Iraqi leadership by the law of the House of Representatives. The source said that no intervention was entitled to the Iraqi side and a report on the Iraqi people. The source confirmed that Iraqis were fighting on Iraqi territory and there were no foreign fighters in Iraq. The source explained that the presence of the international coal forces in Iraq or any other state was limited in preparation for training, logistic and air support and not for fighting on Iraqi territory.” It was added that No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters.

When this comes from one of the closest Middle East allies, the question that naturally comes is whether the United States losing its influence in the Middle East, which effectively help the country to end the Cold War with Russia, without firing any bullets. Some of the recent happenings in the Middle East suggest that Russia has emerged as an alternative force in the Middle East.

  • Russia along with OPEC and other non-OPEC producers backed a deal that aims to reduce global oil supplies by as much as 1.76 million barrels per day. The cooperation with Russia and its influence reached such a level that Saudi oil minister credited Russian cooperation for bringing life back to OPEC.
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salman earlier this month made a historic visit to Moscow. This was the first visit by a Saudi King to Russia in more than 70 years. More than 15 cooperation agreements worth billions of pounds were signed, ranging from oil, military and space exploration.
  • Russia has also emerged as a top mediator in the region over its alliance with Iran.
  • Russian backed Syrian government forces have almost taken back control of the country from Islamic State militants.
  • Russia has emerged as defence suppliers to Turkey, a NATO member.

While Russia continues its diplomatic advancement in the region, many of its allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain in conflict with each other, which the United States has so far failed to resolve. The dispute between Qatar and the Saudi Arabia has brought the former in closer alliance with Iran, which is another failure of the U.S. government.

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