While the USA had to combine all its forces in the first decade of the new century to fight its wars in the “Broader Middle East”, China gradually rose to become the Americans’ new adversary.
Obama reacted to this development and initiated the “Pivot to Asia”, the strategic realignment with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region. From then on, the Middle East was no longer a priority, but seemed almost a nuisance in view of the far-reaching commitments that the US still had in this region.
But in order to make this turnaround and at the same time maintain a position in the Middle East, they had to move towards their adversary. The negotiations on the so-called Iran agreement regarding the development of nuclear weapons are the result of this realisation, and from the Democrats’ point of view this was probably also meant to draw a kind of line under the painful aberrations to which they had succumbed in the previous decade.
Even if the Republicans advocate a different policy, they too have shown no interest in getting involved militarily. In recent years, Iran, but also Turkey and, of course, Russia have taken advantage of this fact to expand their spheres of influence. The USA, meanwhile, is unable to agree on a coherent Middle East strategy and seems willing to rethink its orientation under each new administration.
The already weakened position of the US in the region will thus only be further limited, and possibly more so than it had originally planned. The first weeks under Biden show that the US is increasingly turning towards the Pacific, at the expense of the Gulf region. Other powers will know how to take advantage of this.