by Xinhua writer Li Jun
BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- "When a pyromaniac comes to your home, that is dangerous. What is more terrifying is when the pyromaniac comes dressed as a fireman," Mohammed Alyahya, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, once encapsulated the paradox of America's actions in the Middle East.
Recent events have once again underscored his observation. Despite the U.S. administration's portrayal of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's fifth trip to the Middle East since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict as a peace-mediation effort, Middle Eastern countries perceive Washington as a "factor for instability."
Just days before Blinken's trip, U.S. retaliation airstrikes in Syria and Iraq on Feb. 2 resulted in about 40 deaths. Even before Blinken ended his trip, the United States committed reckless drone strikes in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Baghdad on Feb. 7, killing three.
The Iraqi government has vehemently condemned these actions, emphasizing that the U.S.-led international coalition in Iraq has become a threat to its security and stability. Faced with the recent spate of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Sudani has repeatedly demanded an end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Following the U.S. airstrikes, Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that the Middle East "is a boiler that can explode."
Military means are not the answer, and the misuse of force could only lead to greater crises and exacerbate a vicious tit-for-tat cycle. Following the U.S. airstrikes, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq continued its attack on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi armed group al-Nujaba Movement vowed retaliation while enraged crowds in Baghdad chanted "Death to America."
CNN pointed out that the U.S. administration faced a near-impossible task: Hit hard enough to show you mean it, but also ensure your opponent can absorb the blow without lashing out in return.
Despite rhetorical commitments to quelling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America's actions tell a different story. It strongly supports military support for Israel, deployed additional troops in the region and vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on humanitarian pauses in Gaza.
Blinken's fifth visit is unlikely to result in any meaningful change. As noted by Salah Bin Laghbar, a Yemeni political analyst based in Aden, the Middle East "remains unchanged after Blinken's visit, except for the worsening situation of Palestinians who are dying during his diplomatic failure."
The escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza has even led some of America's European allies to criticize its biased stance towards Israel. According to the New York Times, more than 800 officials in the United States, Britain and the European Union released a public letter of scathing criticism recently against their governments' support of Israel in its war in Gaza.
It's no surprise that many in the Middle East have criticized Washington's self-serving actions in the region. "They reflect the U.S. cowboy policy, which only thinks about its own interests," Iraqi military expert Abdullah al-Jubouri commented, stressing that "there is no doubt that Iraq and the Middle East region would be safer and more stable without U.S. forces."
For decades, America's role in the Middle East has been contentious, with its actions bringing turmoil rather than peace. The international community, especially the people of the Middle East, are increasingly skeptical of America's purported role as a "fireman" in the region.
Mohammed Omari, a Syrian expert on international relations, has criticized the United States' actions in an already tense Middle East. He believes the country could cause the region to become more unstable, adding that a confrontation is imminent, and any miscalculation could push the region to the brink of war.
Looting resources, creating conflicts and stirring up unrest, the United States has been accustomed to playing a pyromaniac role in the Middle East. America frequently stages "peace shows" in the Middle East but finds its credibility and audience dwindling.
The United States must refrain from further provoking conflicts in the Middle East to avoid creating a more volatile region. Instead, it should focus on taking practical steps to promote peace and stability and avoid making decisions based solely on its own geopolitical interests. ■