Saturday, May 18, 2013

Revaluation of a strategic importance: "The Middle East lost its status as the default energy supplier to the US!"

'The debate within the foreign policy community about Syria continues to rage, with no decisions forthcoming. As a senior analyst in the military intelligence community remarked to us: “for every reason in favor of taking action, there is an equally compelling reason not to. We just can’t puzzle out how to make this work for us.” The situation of indecision remains, therefore, much as we have been reporting for some weeks and we see little immediate scope for US military intervention short of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Underlying this stand-back approach in the White House, some strategic changes in the US posture to the Middle East are beginning to manifest themselves. Some commentators refer to this as a “retreat,” but from our private exchanges with senior officials, we see an incipient revaluation in progress of the strategic importance to the US of the Middle East. To be sure, the pace of diplomatic activity continues unbroken. Despite a series of contentious domestic troubles, there is no sign of inattention in President Obama’s discussions with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, the meetings between Secretary of Defense Hagel and his foreign counterparts and the renewed travel to the Middle East by Secretary of State Kerry. An important new report from the International Energy Agency, however, sets out a new context for US energy supplies. Simply put, the Middle East is losing its status as the default energy supplier to the US. In an exchange with an NSC official on this subject, he remarked to us: “This phenomenon will take a long time to work its way through the system, but over the years the emergence of virtual North American energy sufficiency will be as important a development as the collapse of the Soviet Union. The temptation to draw in our overall presence will be very great.” Rather than trying to resolve what are increasingly seen as insoluble Middle East regional issues, the US may start focusing more on global challenges like terrorism spreading into Northern Nigeria and the rise of China’s military power. As Obama prepares to travel to next month’s G8 summit, some of this new orientation in US policy may become more apparent.'

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