The traditional US practice of attributing Middle Eastern instability to the intervention of a single “bad actor” and claiming that containment of the guilty power brings stability has been challenged in a study by the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
The report says that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the alleged source of terrorism today, with former US villains including Muammar Gadafy’s Libya, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and “Syria of the Assad family”.
No Clean Hands: The Interventions of Middle Eastern Powers, 2010-2020, by Matthew Petti and Trita Parsi, points out that of the six major interventionist regional powers, five – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar and Israel – are US allies.
The sixth, US adversary Iran, is blamed for mounting unrest and conflict, while the others “are often as interventionist as the Islamic Republic – and sometimes even more. In fact, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey have overtaken Iran in recent years. “
The authors also argue that Washington is an “active player” in regional interventions, providing its five partners with “significant political support” and arms, which make up a third of US arms exports.
They point out that this decade began with the “hopeful revolutions of the Arab Spring” but ended with the collapse of the Arab state system, turning nations “into blood-soaked battlefields,” and military interventions and proxy wars by the six seeking states sparked the outcome of conflicts to design.
The authors argue that the “biggest increase in regional interventionism in a year” was the US-backed Saudi-led war against Yemeni rebels. Riyadh, a longtime U.S. ally, had raised concerns that the U.S. could turn to Iran in exchange for the lifting of sanctions after the 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program was signed.
Sunni governments claimed that exempting Iran from sanctions would lead to Iranian “expansionism”, although this has not been confirmed.
The human cost of these interventions was high, the authors say, with the Yemen war killing 250,000 and the Syrian number being 600,000.
They recommend the US “do no harm” by “avoiding policies that fuel the collapse of the state,” promoting regional diplomacy aimed at creating an “inclusive security architecture,” and regional feuds by managing “rivalries between US Partners “counteract.
The Quincy Institute was founded in 2019 by “like-minded progressives and conservatives” with the aim of “laying the foundation for a new foreign policy that is based on diplomatic engagement and military restraint”.