Macron’s not getting mad. He’s getting even
Macron defended the visit, telling reporters in Dubai: How can we “preserve peace and stability in the Middle East if we say, ‘We’re not going to speak to Saudi Arabia, the most populated and most powerful country in the Gulf?'” reported news site France24.
All is not lost, of course. But time is running short as events of recent weeks are dramatically showing.
It’s time — indeed nearly past time — the US showed flexibility and reliability in dealing with those nations whose friendship it wants to maintain. At the same time, the US needs to demonstrate a deeper sensitivity to issues that could be calculated to alienate countries that are profoundly sensitive towards the behavior of foreign partners.
This clearly applies to longtime close allies like France but equally to countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, with sensitivities that cut across cultural, religious and social lines.
But it’s the backstories that are more revealing today of the dramatic turn that may be in store for traditional alliances and alignments across this region and beyond.
Weeks later, France’s multi-billion-dollar fighter jets deal with the Emirates has all the hallmarks of “don’t get mad, get even.”
Indeed, in a marathon, 90-minute prime-time interview on France’s TF-1 Wednesday evening, the AUKUS submarine affair was the one foreign policy issue that Macron dealt with. “We have responded in the strongest way,” Macron shrugged, adding that “over time” the American action would be fully addressed.
Macron’s comments come against the backdrop of an Iran nuclear deal in tatters and growing fears from regional powers — including the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — of being held hostage to Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The Biden administration’s failure to restore restraints over Iranian activities following Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2018 has done little to bolster US standing.
Now, the American nuclear umbrella that for decades appeared to be a sufficient guarantee is suddenly looking increasingly flimsy.
Saudi Arabia is also looking increasingly to China, which is already one of the Saudis’ largest trading partners. Most recently, this has meant a sixth mammoth desalination facility being built in the kingdom by a Saudi-China-Spanish consortium and other arms sales.
An understanding of the priorities and especially the fears of America’s longtime allies throughout the region and beyond are essential if the United States is not to find itself marginalized in a part of the world where it once played a central role.
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