CAIRO, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) — The United States is attempting to enhance its presence in the Middle East through visits and military cooperation. However, its influence on the region has been dwindling due to decades-long wars wreaking havoc on regional peace and development, its “unfair policies” on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other factors, Egyptian analysts said.
DEMOCRACY USED FOR U.S. HEGEMONY
In the name of democracy and freedom, the United States has waged cruel wars in the Middle East, causing huge casualties and displacing a huge number of people. Observers believe U.S. military intervention has nothing to do with its so-called democracy, but aims for its own global and regional hegemony.
The “main reasons for the U.S. pursuit of rebuilding a new Middle East” are to benefit from the large oil reserves in the region, control international navigation lines, and secure Israel; and the United States has been trying to achieve its goals through falsely spreading the principles of democracy and freedom, Egyptian political expert Akram Hossam told Xinhua recently.
The United States is obsessed with maintaining a unipolar system by maximizing its military and political power. And its failed military intervention in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen has destroyed its image as a democracy, he said.
“The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dealt a blow to U.S. democratic theories and showed that the Western power could use power and interventions unwisely to the extent it causes instability,” he added.
The U.S. botched retreat from Afghanistan, as well as its military withdrawal from Iraq and Syria, signaled that Washington had stumbled over its Mideast policies, said Hamid Faris, an international relations professor at Misr University for Science and Technology.
The Mideast policies pursued by the current White House are of no difference from the former administrations. Despite the wars in the region, the United States has never achieved security, stability and prosperity as it had promised, Faris added.
Despite calling for a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the United States as a one-sided mediator has no way to increase chances of securing a peace deal, according to analysts.
In the eyes of Palestinians, the United States has been flagrantly backing Israel’s assaults. Former U.S. President Donald Trump, in particular, orchestrated the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cut aid for the main UN program for Palestinian refugees, Hossam said.
On Monday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discussed with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken the ongoing escalation of tensions between Palestine and Israel.
As part of his three-day Mideast trip, Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before traveling to Ramallah to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.
His visit seems to ease the tensions on the surface; nonetheless, assuming a weak and unfair mediating role, his country has not presented anything new to serve the Palestinian cause in the past few years, according to Hossam and Faris.
Faris described Washington as one of the struggling parties, but not a broker of a fair settlement based on the two-state solution.
Mokhtar Gobashy, vice chairman of Cairo-based Arab Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, doesn’t expect the U.S. diplomat’s visit to bring tangible results for the settlement of the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict, though it “might lead to a surface calm for the interest of Israel.”
Washington is reassessing its role in the Middle East amid changing geopolitical landscapes and “is keener now to return to fill in a political vacuum in the Middle East,” Gobashy said.
Iraqi Shiite militia says calm with U.S. forces ‘temporary tactic’
The leader of an Iraqi Shiite militia said Sunday that the current period of calm among Iraqi armed groups in their conflict with the U.S. forces is a “temporary tactic” and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has not abandoned its support for the Palestinians.
Akram al-Kaabi, secretary general of the Iranian-backed al-Nujaba Movement, said in a statement that the current calm is only a tactic for repositioning and deployment. “It is only the calm before the storm.”
He said that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq “is an essential part in the battle to confront the Zionist aggression (the Israeli military campaign) and its supporter America against the Gaza Strip.”
Al-Kaabi also said that there is high-level coordination between different “open fronts” against the Americans and Israelis in the region, stressing that “any calm on one front and ignition on another is an intentional, purposeful and coordinated strategy.”
“Although the Islamic resistance did not reject the government’s negotiations to schedule the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, we affirm that the U.S. occupier is a liar, a deceiver and an arrogant one,” the statement said.
Days after fighting broke out between the Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip on October 7, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq launched rocket, drone and mortar attacks on military bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.
On January 27, Iraq and the U.S. began the first round of dialogue to discuss ending the U.S.-led international coalition’s mission in Iraq, but later three U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack on a U.S. base near Jordan’s border with Syria. The U.S. said the attack was carried out by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella term for pro-Iran Shiite Islamic armed groups in Iraq.
The death of the U.S. soldiers prompted the U.S. forces to retaliate by striking some headquarters of Iranian-backed armed groups affiliated with the Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces, killing and wounding dozens of them.
Later, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq suspended their attacks on U.S. bases to pave the way for the Iraqi government to hold negotiations with the U.S.-led coalition to end their presence in Iraq.
U.S., UK launch new wave of strikes against Yemen’s Houthis
The U.S. and the UK carried out a fresh wave of strikes on Saturday against 18 Houthi targets in Yemen, according to a joint statement, following weeks of attacks on Red Sea shipping by the Iran-backed group.
The strikes “specifically targeted 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen associated with Houthi underground weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, air defense systems, radars and a helicopter,” said the joint statement.
It was co-signed by Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, who gave unspecified “support” to the new round of strikes, the second this month and fourth since the Houthis began their attacks on ships in the region.
“The Houthis’ now more than 45 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since mid-November constitute a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability and demand an international response,” the statement said.
Houthi-run Al-Masirah television reported “a series of raids on the capital Sanaa,” while AFP correspondents in the Houthi-controlled city in western Yemen said they heard several loud bangs.
“The United States will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a separate statement after the strikes.
“We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage, and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries.”
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree was defiant, vowing in a social media statement that the group would “confront the American-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arab Seas.”
The UK Ministry of Defense said four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s targeted “several very long-range drones, used by the Houthis for both reconnaissance and attack missions,” on Saturday at a site north-east of Sanaa.
Saturday’s operation comes after several merchant vessels were struck this week in the region, including the fertilizer-filled Rubymar, whose crew had to abandon ship after it was hit Sunday and began taking on water.
Apart from the joint operations with Britain, the United States has also carried out unilateral strikes against Houthi positions and weaponry in Yemen and downed dozens of missiles and drones in the Red Sea.
Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris as air strikes continue
Gaza truce talks were underway in Paris on Friday, marking the most serious push in weeks to halt the fighting in the battered Palestinian enclave and see Israeli and foreign hostages released.
Reuters reported that the talks had begun, with Israel’s head of the Mossad intelligence service meeting separately with each party – Qatar, Egypt and the United States, according to an anonymous source.
“There are budding signs of optimism about moving forward toward the start of serious negotiations,” the source was quoted as saying. Egypt’s Al Qahera TV News also reported that the talks had commenced.
An official from Hamas stated that the militant group had concluded ceasefire talks in Cairo and was now awaiting the outcome of the weekend talks with Israel mediated by others.
Mediators have intensified efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, aiming to prevent an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.
Israel has threatened to attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has urged its close ally not to proceed, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city occurs.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Egyptian mediators in Cairo this past week to discuss a truce, marking his first visit since December.
Two Egyptian security sources confirmed that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel would head to Paris for talks with the Israelis after wrapping up discussions with Haniyeh on Thursday. Israel has not publicly commented on the Paris talks, which are expected to continue through the weekend.
Reuters reported that the militant group did not offer any new proposals at the talks with the Egyptians but was waiting to see what the mediators would bring back from their discussions with the Israelis, citing a Hamas official who requested anonymity.
Ceasefire outline emerged from earlier talks
The last time similar talks were held in Paris, at the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the conflict, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as “delusional.”
Hamas, believed to still be holding more than 100 hostages seized in the October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the conflict, insists on their release only as part of a truce that includes an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel, on the other hand, refuses to withdraw until Hamas is eradicated.
Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza once the fighting stops. He emphasized that Israel expects to maintain security control over the enclave after destroying Hamas and also sees no role there for the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank.
Washington favors a role for a reformed PA.
Two Palestinian officials familiar with the negotiations stated that Hamas has not changed its stance in the latest push to reach a deal and still demands that a truce end with an Israeli pullout.
“Israel’s position and its response to mediation has been negative and this poses many obstacles towards reaching an agreement,” senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said on Friday during a press conference in Beirut.
“Netanyahu is procrastinating… He does not care about the release of his hostages, but rather uses this issue as a card to achieve his goals,” Hamdan said.
At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, the Gaza health ministry said on Friday.
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