The nature of hostilities between the United States and its adversaries has changed enormously since the Cold War. The recent engagements the U.S. has participated in have served as a means to communicate American interest, most notably, the quasi attempt to democratize the Middle East.
The policy of democratization is different from the one utilized by the United States during the Cold War. Back then, the goal of the United States overseas was to merely contain its ideological nemesis: communism.
Today, the problems that plague the Middle East are much more complex than the “Red v. Blue” approach used during the Cold War. One odd similarity, however, is the competition to exercise some form of influence over a certain region. Thankfully, it has gone from a balance of terror to a balance of regional powers. A viable approach to the contemporary Middle East would mirror that which the United States took with China during the height of the Cold War.
The Middle East is a diverse and divided region. The areas most affected by warfare and political instability are predominantly Sunni Arab nations such as Libya and Syria, while countries with significant Shia populations such as Iraq and Yemen, although in deep sectarian turmoil, have been offered a lifeline by Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a repressive regime which funds foreign terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza strip. Despite several sanctions limiting the regime’s ability to export terror, Iranian elite troops and generals have been fighting alongside the regime’s allies.
The funding and direct cooperation with moderate branches of the resistance in war-torn countries such as Syria is crucial to creating nations which look favorably upon the United States. As it stands now, U.S. involvement favors Kurdish resistance group YPG (People’s Protection Units), but struggles to maintain a solid relationship with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA must not be crushed by Pro-Assad and Pro-Iranian militias if there is any hope that Syria can break free from Iran’s sphere of influence.
Limiting Iran’s sway in the Middle East begins by backing up the Arab world. Much like how the U.S. normalized relations with China in the 1970s as a means to undermine the Soviet Union, it must now help the Arab people if it wishes to limit Iranian puppet regimes and terror organizations.
The longer it takes for the United States to commit strong support for the moderate opposition in the Arab world, the harder it will be to democratize the region and liberate it from Iranian dominance.