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The Peninsula / US influence in Middle East declining, says official

3/21/2007 5:8:32
Source ::: The Peninsula
Flynt Leverett

doha • The balance of power and the regional security environment in the Middle East are in a state of extraordinary flux, says a former US Administration official.

"The most important factor contributing to the flux is an ongoing decline in US standing and influence in the region", said Flynt Leverett, Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative, New America Foundation, speaking at the 'Enriching The Middle East's Economic Future Conference' here yesterday.

"If the decline continues, it will have numerous and profound implications for the Middle East and the role it plays in global energy balance and for the way in which this region develops economically," said Leverett.

Over the past five years, the US strategic supremacy in this part of the world has been increasingly called into question due to some extremely poor strategic choices in how it dealt with various problems and threats to its interests in the region.

Leverett served in President George W Bush Administration during his first term in office. He left as Senior Director for M E Affairs at the National Security Council in 2003.

With the increase in liquidity that came with the rising oil prices in contrast to the previous oil booms, the region has been able to do much more in terms of investments and infrastructure development and also in terms of growth of non-oil private sector activity, he said.

There has been increasing realisation around the world that the Middle East is going to be even more important to the global energy balance.

Over the last several years, the region has become a genuinely global economic player in ways that it hasn't done before, said Leverett.

"The decline of the American standing and effectiveness in the region, the increasing importance of the region to global energy balance and its emergence as an important economic player, mean that the US is for the first time in competition for influence in this part of the world."

Other players such as Europe and emerging economies from Asia have been moving ahead of the US in terms of trade links and investments with this region, while increasingly there is more movement of investments from this region into other areas.

Leverett thought of two basic scenarios for the way the US and other external players could interact in this competition for influence in this critical part of the world.

He said that in one scenario competition could lead to a kind of confrontation, not necessarily military, but tensions between the players would be a serious mistake which would incur greater costs on US's position in the region.

The other possibility is that the US begins to work in a cooperative way with other external as well as regional players here, said Leverett.

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