Motivated for Choosing the Study

While Arab countries are going through massive
political change, the role of the United States in the Middle East region is
changing. The political ties between the US and the newly emerging democracies
are likely to be weaker than has been the case under dictatorship. At the same
time, tensions between the US and Iran are rising and getting close to a
boiling point.

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 To explore
the potential outcomes of these developments and to come up with possibilities
for reducing the tensions in the region more effectively, one needs to examine
how the interests and strategies of the actors involved have shaped their
multi-lateral interactions.

 Thus, the
questions are: What are the objectives of the United States in the Middle East?

How do those objectives interact with the interests
of different countries in the region; in particular, those of America’s biggest
adversary, Iran, and the closest US ally, Israel?

What are the options of these stakeholders in
avoiding tension and unnecessary conflict?

 How are the
recent political developments in Arab countries influencing these relations and
the possible outcomes?

There is a vast literature that examines the above
questions from various angles across the field of international relations.

This project is an attempt to address these
questions jointly in an interdisciplinary context, taking into account the
economic as well as political dimensions of the US relationships with Middle
Eastern countries in the global context. The project particularly highlights
the role of Iran, Israel, and the GCC in these relationships.

and Nature

and Strategies of the Key Players

Interests and Strategies

 US businesses
and consumers have a keen interest in ensuring a reliable and efficient flow of
oil. While they mostly prefer lower oil prices, they understand that little can
be done to control the price when it is market driven. However, they are
concerned about supply disruptions and potential holdups by major producers. To
deal with this concern, US policymakers find it necessary to maintain military
and political presence in the Persian Gulf area to ensure that trade routes
remain open and the oil-rich countries there have “friendly” governments. They
are also keen to keep out potential rivals (e.g., Russians, who have
historically tried to extend their influence in the region).



Interests and Strategies

 Turning to
Israel’s objectives and characteristics, there are a number of issues that need
to be listed. To begin with, Israel has been important for Jews generally
around the world as a focal point and symbol of identity. So, they sympathize
with its cause and want to see it survive and prosper. However, realizing this
goal has been a challenge. Formation of Israel was associated with a great deal
of violence and dispossession of a large part of Palestinian population.
Consequently, despite the fact that peoples of different ethnicities and
religions had lived together in that area relatively peacefully for centuries,
Arabs came to see Jewish settlers as their enemies.

Interests and Strategies

 Iran’s utmost
interest in its external relations emerges from its need to ensure the security
of its territory and its natural resources (and their marketing options),
especially oil, gas, and marine resources. Some of these resources are shared
across Iran’s borders with its neighbors and have been subject of dispute in the
past. Iran also suffers from a long history of superpower intervention and
manipulation, aimed at gaining leverage over and its policies and resources. At
times foreign forces have invaded parts of Iran or have supported external or
internal proxies to destabilize the country.

and Strategies of Other Major Players: The EU

The EU’s interests and strategies in Middle Eastern
region are similar to those of the US. However, the EU’s interests are much
more focused on economic issues, with the non-oil components also having
somewhat more weight. The EU has a particular interest in helping the Middle
East develop economically and politically so that the immigration pressure from
the region would diminish. In terms of strategic difference, the EU countries
focus more on the North Africa region, while the US is more focused on military
presence in the Persian Gulf, where it is the dominant foreign power