Pence’s “pacifying” trip to Middle East

APD News | 作者: Li Zixin | 时间: 2018-02-06 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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The Middle East trip initiated by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 19th will come to an end. The three destinations including Egypt, Jordan and Israel are all the important allies of U.S. in the region. At the same time, Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries which have established diplomatic relations with Israel. The schedule of Pence highlights its core purpose to pacify its allies and begin the process of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

From “Mediation” to “Judgment”, US still plays big role in Middle East

One of the most important "background conditions" of this trip is the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and starting the relocation of its embassy, which is also the major cause of Pence’s delayed visit. The announcement of U.S. policy has made the world in an uproar. Although the decision was made by the US National Assembly as early as the 1990s, none of the U.S. presidents dared to truly release it.

Suddenly, the "banner" which meant a sign of "political declaration," became a "hammer" stirring up the geopolitics. Trump once again let the world know that he does not play by the rules.

However, as time goes by, the waves raised by the decision are slowly fading away. To be honest, as Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization said, due to the partiality of the U.S. policy, it "can no longer serve as a mediator on the Palestine-Israel issue and Palestine will not accept any proposal from the United States."

As the leader of Palestine, Abbas’ statement is reasonable. However, the evolution of the facts cannot be changed by a mere tough declaration. Even if the United States loses the role of mediator, it still firmly grasps the "ultimate jurisdiction" of the Palestine-Israel issue. Because of the radical policy adopted by the United States and taking into account its strong influence, any new peace plan between Israel and Palestine, no matter which party proposes or presides, will ultimately require the approval of the United States in order to be of practical significance. On the whole, the United States' right to speak in the Middle East has not been weakened, but objectively consolidated.

In the recent meeting with Pence, Jordan’s King said that his country will work closely with the United States on the Palestine-Israel issue. But on the current US policy on Jerusalem and the potential crisis it may trigger, he just skated them over. As the guardian of the Temple Mount, Jordan should play its positive role in the Palestine-Israel issue and the status of Jerusalem. Jordan's stance undoubtedly reflects some compromises and concessions made by the Arab countries on US announcement, and helped push US policy towards its goal.

Goal-oriented policy has definite object in view Actually, according to the 2017 National Security Strategy, “the United States seeks a Middle East that is not a safe haven or breeding ground for Jihadist terrorists, not dominated by any power hostile to the United States, and that contributes to a stable global energy market”. Generally speaking, most of the policies are working well if they’re measured by the goals above.

However, as the world's most powerful political, military and economic power, the US policies undoubtedly have broad global influences and deeply shape the current regional and international situation. In such conditions, it is particularly important that the U.S. foreign policies comply with international conventions and agreements, respond to the broad consensus of the international community and abide by applicable codes of conduct.

On one hand, the United States previously considered itself as the leader and the most important defender of the current international order. However, from Trump's perspective, the cost to the United States in defending its leadership position is too high. After trade-offs, the concepts of "Offshore Balancing" and "American First" have becoming popular. Offshore balance as the "lowest cost" which can maintain its influence has won the favor of senior officials in Washington D.C.

On the other hand, the small circle that currently has the strongest influence on U.S. Middle East policy is mainly composed of generals who had extensive experience in war in the Middle East. Washington does not want to continue the various "democratic transformation programs" that have been implemented more than a decade but with little success. The ideological reform is no longer an important consideration of the Middle East policy for the United States. How to solve the spillover of terrorism in the shortest time, combat the regime hostile to the U.S. and maintain its exclusive influence in the Middle East is imminent.



LI Zixin, Assistant research fellow, China Institute of International Studies.




Source: Asia Pacifc Daily, January 24, 2018.