A Bahraini ruler has warned that America’s “schizophrenic” approach to the Middle East could result in key Arab states aligning themselves more closely with Russia.
Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said in an interview with London’s Daily Telegraph that the Barack Obama administration’s “transient and reactive” foreign policy could force it to lose influence in the region.
“America seems to suffer from schizophrenia when it deals with the Arab world,” Sheikh Salman said, referring to the US’s changing stance on Syria and Iran as well as its calls for former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to be deposed in 2011 despite his staunch support of the West for more than 30 years.
The relationship between America and the Arab states has been strained recently, particularly since the US decided not to go ahead with a military strike on Syria’s Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which the Sunni-led Arab states oppose, and a controversial six-nation agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, in which no Gulf state was involved.
Saudi Arabia in October rejected its seat at the United Nations Security Council over its lack of action in Syria, in what was widely viewed as an insult to the US, a previously strong ally of the kingdom.
Sheikh Salman said President Obama’s handling of the Syrian chemical weapons issue, which allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to take the initiative by proposing Al Assad depose of the weapons and prevent a military attack, meant some Arab states were now seriously reviewing their relations with the US.
“The Russians have proved they are reliable friends,” he said. “As a result some states in the region have already started to look at developing more multilateral relations rather than just relying on Washington.”
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s powerful 5th Fleet and has been a longtime key ally of the UK.
But Sheikh Salman, who was educated at Washington and Cambridge universities, said America’s recent policies in the region meant some states now doubted whether they could rely on the West to protect their interests.
“The US cannot sit from afar making condescending judgments. It needs friends and partners to achieve its goals,” he said.
However, US ambassador to Riyadh during 2001-03, Robert Jordan, told Reuters earlier this month the possibility of Arab states such as Saudi Arabia – considered the most important ally due to its financial influence – creating alliances with other powers would be difficult.
“There is no country in the world more capable of providing the protection of their oil fields, and their economy, than the US, and the Saudis are aware of that,” he said.
“We’re not going to see them jump out of the orbit.”