US Mideast engagement to decline, experts say

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – The strategic importance the Middle East holds for the United States will decline in coming years and the region will see an American military withdrawal, experts said Wednesday.

"American engagement there is going to decrease, although it is certainly not going to disappear," said Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

"The United States is going to remain diplomatically, and in some cases possibly militarily engaged," he said.

Walt spoke at a panel hosted by the Turkish Heritage organization in Washington, alongside a panel of experts who has similar conclusions.

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former White House official, said an American pullback is forthcoming as Washington sets its sights eastwards towards Asian markets.

But a withdrawal from the region has faced difficulties, as U.S. presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama have made attempts to withdraw from Afghanistan and Syria.

"We keep trying to get out of the Middle East and the Middle East keeps sucking us back in," Kupchan said.

One of the problems in the U.S. approach to the Middle East has been that Washington makes a point to emphasize special relationships with certain countries against others, which alienates some countries abilities to establish a relationship.

It most notably materialized in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with the U.S. having a special relationship with Israel.

"What we should do is try to have a normal relationship with as many countries in the region as possible," Walt added.