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Middle East

The Afghan pullout has a silver lining

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

America’s disengagement from the Middle East “may be a positive force for peace”, says Fred Kaplan in Slate. Gulf Arabs are rattled by pictures of Afghans abandoned by their American protectors. These countries – Qatar, Oman, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – will now have to take more responsibility for their own security. “And that may be for the good.” Iran and Saudi Arabia – the bitterest rivals in the Middle East, which have supported and armed opposite sides in several of the region’s proxy wars, including Yemen’s – have held four rounds of diplomatic talks in recent months. That’s new.

Some fear Russia or China will step in to replace the US. “Fine. Let them get bogged down in this quagmire of sand for the next 40 years.” Would that really harm American security interests? Would the Arab states refuse to give us oil if at some point we needed it? Are they really going to turn down the dollar? The Iran-Saudi talks show us “a potentially brighter side of this picture”. Perhaps America’s unqualified assurances of unabashed support kept Saudi Arabia in an infantilised state. Its comprehension of a new situation – that it can’t count on an outside power rescuing them from the next calamity – might turn it into a more responsible regional power.