- - Monday, March 27, 2023

One consequence of the United States’ massive military failures in the Greater Middle East is its waning influence in a region where U.S. leaders once dreamt democracy would spread outward from Kabul and Baghdad. As the U.S. presence and its credibility have shrunk, regional powers are looking elsewhere to resolve entrenched disputes.

Enter China.

In this episode of History As It Happens, the Quincy Institute’s Trita Parsi discusses a potential paradigm shift decades in the making. Without firing a shot or taking sides – without any military presence at all in the Middle East – China helped broker a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran that will restore diplomatic relations between the two nations. In Mr. Parsi’s view, the diplomatic breakthrough proves that the U.S. strategy toward Saudi Arabia and Iran destroyed its role as a potential peacemaker.

“What I think is fascinating is the belief that if we leave, or if we are not dominating the region, the region will inevitably descend into chaos, has not been proven true,” said Mr. Parsi, an expert on U.S.-Iranian relations and the geopolitics of the Middle East.

“Whether the U.S. is physically leaving or not, the perception in the region is that we will be leaving. And we’re now seeing regional diplomacy between the Saudis and Iranians mediated by Omanis and Iraqis, as well as outside powers such as China stepping in because they ultimately benefit from stability,” he said.

While China attempts to become a peace broker, the U.S. must face the consequences of its post-9/11 approach of moralizing its mission in the Middle East to achieve “total victory” over its foes, Mr. Parsi said, referring to its “maximum pressure” policy to subjugate Iran. This is a long way from the days when U.S. leaders brokered historic agreements between enemies, such as the Camp David Accords of 1978 or the Oslo Accords of 1993.

Listen to Trita Parsi discuss the evolving geopolitical landscape in the Middle East by downloading this episode of History As It Happens.

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