U.S Foreign Policy and the Middle East

Middle East has significant impact on global economic and security based on its rich oil energy resources and insecurity activities respectively. These key contributing factors have formed the basis on which U.S foreign policy intervention towards the Middle East is formulated. Through different administrations, U.S has exploited the region’s geopolitical and economic imbalance in executing international intervention in Middle East basing their justification on the need to promote democracy. However, U.S war intervention in the region has elicited varying debates on its effort in utilizing its foreign policy in promoting democracy. Some argue that U.S’s intervention in Middle East is based on its national interest to developing autocratic regimes among Arabs countries. Such a system is believed to serve its selfish interest in acquiring the region’s rich energy resources.

On the other hand, some scholars argue that the need to fight terrorism activities is the main reason for U.S intervention in Middle East. However, both the U.S foreign policy and international interventions have not fully enhanced stability and democracy in the region. The write up thus discusses why supporting nascent democratic movements in the Middle East serves U.S’s national interest. It identifies key hurdles to the democratic movements. Moreover, the paper outlines two policy options that would help in increasing the emergence of stable and democratic regimes in the region. Furthermore, it highlights whether such efforts can be opposed by any individual or groups in the United States.

Kaye & Wehrey (2010)note that, in the past, the American foreign policy in the Middle East did concentrate on maintaining the supply of oil from the region as well as safeguarding the sovereignty of Israel. While protecting sovereignty of Israel, a Christian country in the Middle East is essential, Kaye & Wehrey believe that it has led to the interference of democratic process in the region. He notes that by sidelining most of the Arab governments in countries, such as Dominican Republic, Haiti, Iran, and Chile, U.S had established strong anti-communist regimes that had neither brought peace nor stability in the region. This has led to these Arab countries engaging in activities, such as terrorism, that they allude to enhance their security and sovereignty.

As pointed out by Chomsky (2010), the current American foreign policy in the Middle East seems to revolve around two major issues. These include; the threat of Iran, which is ultimately engaged in nuclear weapon, and the unresolved Israel-Palestinian war. Chomsky notes that the U.S intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq led to the fall of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship regime thereby allowing the U.S to establish their control over the region with the aim of making it stabilize. He adds that while the use of destabilization policy framework by U.S in establishing control over Arab countries was seen to stabilize the region; such policy framework have been adopted by Iran in gaining control over the region. This has undermined both the political, religious, and economic independency and democracy in the Middle East.

Why Democratization in Middle East Serves U.S’s National Interest

According to Hamid (2011), as early as 1990s, the U.S administrations had begun emphasizing the need to develop civil society in the Middle East to enhance democracy. He notes that this led to America’s democracy aid in the region which ultimately increased after the 9/11 attack which saw the Bush administration  spending more fund than ever in supporting democracy in the region. While Hamid terms democracy as the alternation of power that infringes on human rights and freedom, he points out that the U.S’s democracy aid did not make any of such efforts, but rather envisaged their national interest.

Hamid (2011) notes that the main reason behind the U.S’s democracy support in the Middle East is to enforce their comfortable strategic arrangements that allows it to secure national interest in the region. This include; establishing a forward military posture, ultimate access to oil energy resources, and enhanced security of the Israel state which can advance its fight against Islamism. Hamid points out that U.S, just like other Western countries, feared that the radical Islamic revolution such as the Iranian revolution would undermine the global security and its national interest in the region. For this reason, he adds that the U.S administration funded pro-democracy organizations such as National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute in the region. This was to ensure that weaker political parties are funded with women empowered to search for political positions in countering the Islamic radicals.

Additionally, Hamid (2011) notes that President George Bush, in his 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, pointed out that lack of freedom or democracy in the Middle East posed global security challenge. He adds that the Bush administration denoted the need for democracy as key reason for its attack on Iraq. That it aimed at toppling the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein. This led to subsequent emergence of Cedar Revolution that resulted in the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanese and constitutional reforms in Bahrain which helped in enhancing democracy (Hamid, 2011).

Hurdles to Democratic Movements in the Middle East Region

As pointed out by Hamid (2011), the U.S invasion in Iraq in the name of enhancing democracy frightened the Arab countries who felt that their Islamic culture was being undermined by Western cultures. Therefore, the Arab regimes lobbied themselves through their powers thereby leading to succession of Islamist election victories in the region as was evident in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Palestine (Hamid, 2011). This resulted into the withdrawal of U.S democracy aid in the region. This in turn negatively affected the role played by democratic movements as they continued to suffer not only from Islamic oppression but also from underfunding.

Additionally, Kaye & Wehrey (2010) point out that the U.S involvement in Middle East’s government autocracy has undermined the role of democratic movements. They note that the U.S’s foreign policy intervention in Middle East presented democracy as a defensive and managed process that is incorporated not to enhance democracy itself, but rather to prevent its emergence. This led to endless transitional succession with powerful governance structures that undermine the work of democratic movements. For instance, Hamid (2011) notes that the problem in Egypt was not in their President Hosni Mubarak’s policies but rather the American foreign policy that wished Mubarak to rule as American administration wanted. It is these factors that have made the Middle East countries to spread the anti-Americanism slogan, which has in turn prevented democratic movements in the region in exercising their mandate.

On the other hand, the rise of Iran in the region has also undermined the role of democratic movements in the Middle East. According to Kaye & Wehrey (2010), the defeat of Iraqi Saddam Hussein by U.S war intervention, seem to have given Iran an over edge over the freedom of actions and influence in the Middle East. This has not only presented new strategic challenges to the U.S’ administration, but has also affected the regional cooperation in the area which has in turn undermined the work of human activists in advocating for democracy. For instance, there is no agreement concerning the need to enhance Tehran’s activism to enable it respond to Iran’s influence in the region (Kaye & Wehrey, 2010). It has created more disjoint among the Middle East countries especially between Israeli and Arab countries thereby undermining the role of democratic movements.

As pointed out by Bowman (2008), democratic movements have also been affected by insecurity posed by the Middle East countries. He notes that Iran, which has a great influence in the region, has embarked on nuclear weapon programs enabling it to dictate the political, economic, and religious undertakings in the region. It has, thus, undermined the work of civil activists.

In the past, Lindsay & Takeyh (2010) note that the Iran’s Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatani used nuclear weapons to deter the influence of U.S and Saddam Hussein. However, currently, the Iran’s administration has used it as a tool for ensuring Iran’s preeminence in the Middle East. It is this need for self-sufficiency that has resulted into Iran’s political turmoil. This has in turn denied the local or regional based activists the possibility of gaining the international support in promoting democracy in the region for fear of Iran’s nuclear attack.

Policy Options in Enhancing Democracy and Stability in Middle East Countries

Lindsay & Takeyh (2010) note that to discourage other Middle East countries from engaging in nuclear weapon programs the U.S foreign policy should contain mitigating consequences against Iran and any other Middle East country’s defiance towards nuclear programs. They argue that the U.S foreign policy should not ignore the reasons behind Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons. By identifying the major reasons for Iran’s involvement in nuclear weapon programs and the forces behind it, the U.S and other Western countries would be able to effectively enhance intervention that would deprive Iran from such activities. He adds this can be accomplished through; neglecting Iran’s demand-side for nuclear power ambitions, eliminating international pressure, and using economic sanctions.

On the other hand, Lindsay & Takeyh (2010) point out that the U.S foreign policy should agitated for mutual resistance in signing security treaties with Middle East countries. They note that by doing so, U.S would be encouraging the formation of regional alliances in the area thus enabling them to marshal the defense forces that could be instrumental in countering any state that tries to undermine the democratization process in the region. For instance, enhancing Middle East Treaty Organization network between U.S and Arab countries would secure the regional benefits without portraying American as a partisan party in the region (Lindsay & Takeyh, 2010). 

However, engaging in such efforts would encounter opposition from certain political figures in United State who feel that such policies would undermine America’s intervention in the Middle East.  For instance, McCain in his 2007 presidential campaign had formed a strong military attack towards Iran’s nuclear project fearing that the country could form an alliance with other Arab countries leading in to an alarming terrorist organization from the region.


In conclusion, it is evident that the U.S foreign policy in the Middle East is primarily based on its national interest in the region’s resources and control for power. However, for the U.S to succeed in enhancing democracy in the region, it will have to identify and address the concerns and the driving forces that make the region to involve itself in activities such as nuclear weapon programs that undermines the democratic process in the region. Moreover, enhancing policy framework that agitates for regional benefits for all Middle East countries would stabilize and promote democracy in the region.

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