Some prominent analysts predict that the US will soon lose interest in the Middle East, and thin out its presence to the minimum scale possible.
This logic, especially the economic one, looks deceptively alluring but a deep scratch may tone down the validity of this conclusion.
The US never depended on oil it imports from the Middle East. These imports averaged 13-15 per cent of America’s oil imports. Now it is poised to become the leading oil producer in the world.
According to some experts, such a state of affairs will enhance US trade to realise trade surplus and become able to pay its national debt in the future. Thus, the oil factor in keeping the US presence in our oil-rich region would be virtually rendered null and void.
The other urgent factor is that the US sees the challenge in China, and it wants to focus full throttle on that front. The war with China is technological, but it manifests itself in trade and currency wars.
Therefore, the main interest of the US in the region is Israel and its security. To ensure that, Israel will be kept over-weaponised, technology-savvy and enjoying an important status in the region by coercing Arabs and Iran into accepting a “Trumped-up” peace plan that “guarantees Israel’s security and respects the dignity of the Palestinian people”, as Jared Kushner said at the Manama economic workshop.
A check of facts reveals that the US national debt is $22 trillion. It is expected that such a debt would constitute 93 per cent of the US GDP in 2029.
The trade deficit of the US is smaller in 2019, thanks to tariff hikes and sanctions. But it is not zero. It is still around $50 billion a month. Moreover, the impact of higher tariffs on US goods competitiveness and re-exports has not yet taken full effect.
Many goods which come from China are made by American companies investing there. Moreover, US merchants and franchise companies make great profits out of re-exporting imported Chinese goods, like sportswear, clothes, shoes, furniture, construction materials, tools, etc., under famous brand names. The interruption of the flow of such goods will negatively impact the US balance of trade.
To whom would the US leave the Middle East? To China, Russia or Europe? China has been adamantly developing projects, investments and arrangements to enhance its relations with the Middle East and Africa.
Sure, China has less trade surplus and an ageing population, but it has come a long way in space, renewable energy, foreign investments and military power to be cowed by anyone.
Jawad Anani is an ex-minister and regular contributor to the Jordan Times.
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