America and the Middle East: Resurrecting Empire

By invading, occupying, and imposing a new regime on Iraq, the United States may be following, intentionally or not, in the footsteps of former western colonial powers, and even worse, may be doing so in a region that within living memory concluded a lengthy struggle to expel just such occupiers.

The World Today Published 1 November 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 4 minute READ

Rashid Khalidi

Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Colombia University

Even if most Iraqis were happy to see Saddam Hussein go, and even if they fear the chaos that may follow a precipitate American withdrawal, that does not mean that they welcome a long-term military presence or heavy-handed dictates. The rest of the Middle East has the same anxieties, not least because of policy over Palestine.

The United States has been a major middle eastern power since the signing of an oil exploration deal with Saudi Arabia in 1933, and the predominant regional power since its forces landed in north Africa and Iran in 1942. America has subsequently exerted its growing influence directly and indirectly.

Once celebrated in the Middle East as a non-colonial, and even anti-colonial power, it was long renowned for its educational, medical and charity efforts. Since the Second World War, however, Washington has intervened more and more in states’ internal affairs and regional conflicts.

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