Print version

Unpredictability in US foreign policy and the regional order in the Middle East: reacting vis-à-vis a volatile external security-provider


This article explores the impact of the US foreign policy’s predictability, or lack thereof, vis-à-vis the Middle Easter regional order. It lays out two main arguments. Firstly, since 2003, the US has undertaken some concrete actions which have undermined former expectations of its behaviour among regional actors. By that, Washington distanced itself from open and predictable foreign policy that played a key role in maintaining the regional order, most concretely as an external security provider. US actions fostered a double-level uncertainty: amid a broader process of strategic disengagement from the region, the US’s level of intervention was not really predictable as in some occasions it adhered to its former responsibilities and opted either for direct intervention or offshore engagement, while in others it advanced in its disengagement by not intervening or doing less than expected by regional actors; additionally, in terms of the direction of its interventions, its policies fostered uncertainty as they fluctuated from some reinforcing the status to those disrupting it. Secondly, this uncertainty prompted regional actors to assume further security-oriented responsibilities, as shown by the renewed centrality of the Gulf Cooperation Council or the innovative Saudi foreign policy in Bahrain, Yemen or Qatar since 2011.

Prepared within the framework of the MENARA Project.

Related content