FOR A LONG time, the Middle East has played an important role in American geostrategic interests because of its vast energy reserves. The region remains important but it no longer has the same existential role as it once did, at least for the United States.

I think the only reason the US is still in the Middle East is because it wants to sustain the region’s energy production for its allies and the wider global network, not so much because it needs it.

But it’s foreseeable that America may not remain in the Middle East, or if it does, it won’t remain there as the primary security guarantor. They can produce their own energy now.

This presents a problem for the local OPEC (Organization of Oil Exporting Countries) and changes incentives for the rest.

Personally, I think that, in a political vacuum, the Middle East will be divided into two or three factions: Iran and its allies, Turkey and its own allies and the rest.

But we don’t live in a vacuum, and a post-US Middle East will involve other players, most notably Russia, China, possibly India and non-state actors, like large corporations and mercenaries.

It’s difficult to predict how such a setup will look like but it will be radically different from the one led by the US as primary security guarantor.

Personally, I think the region will be more fragmented, more heavily armed. How much instability the region will have under such circumstances, people can only guess.

What is certain is that the issues in the region go back to before Pax Americana and they will remain after the Americans have left. The sectarian lines will remain, as will the geopolitical issues.

What is not certain is how these new factors will affect the region. Maybe it will spark more sectarian conflict. Maybe it will dissolve the old Nation States in favor of a larger Islamic regional body.

Or maybe nothing will happen, and things will go on as they are but with a smaller American/Western presence.

The moment America leaves will be a new age, good or bad, for the Middle East./PN