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News Analysis: As U.S. Exits Syria, Mideast Faces a Post-American Era

With little notice to the United States, Saudi Arabia began a military intervention in Yemen that nearly four years later has failed to dislodge the Iran-aligned rebels it targeted while causing a humanitarian crisis. Iran has deepened its ties with militias in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, undercutting their governments. And the American withdrawal from eastern Syria could set off a scramble between Russia, Iran and Turkey to fill the void.

While the players are new, their intervention perpetuates the history of foreign interference that has kept Arab states weak, said Rami G. Khouri, a professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“Less external military intervention by lots of people, the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks and the Americans — that would be helpful,” he said. That would allow the people of the region to “define the balance of power and culture and identity and authority in the region by themselves over time.”

As the United States begins to withdraw from Syria, critics have compared the move to President Obama’s decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq after deciding that America’s military role there was no longer essential. Within a few years, the jihadists the United States had thought were defeated were back and stronger, rebranded as the Islamic State, and prompting a new American military operation.

That operation has now nearly succeeded in ousting the jihadists from the territory it once controlled. But it has also left entire cities in ruins with no clear path to rebuilding and done little to address the issues of poor governance that fueled the jihadists’ rise. Many fear that could cause the cycle to repeat itself — again.

Some say the only solution is for the United States to find more productive, long-term ways to be involved in shaping the region’s future as opposed to just using force when there is a crisis.

“We have got to find a middle ground between trying to transform the Middle East and increasingly walking away from the Middle East,” said Mr. Haass of the Council of Foreign Relations.

“We want to wash our hands of it,” he said, “but history suggests that the Middle East won’t let us.”

Source: NYT > World

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