Written by Staff Writer at CNN
“Dawn of an American retreat from the region” isn’t just the headline on this year’s Economist Magazine cover. It’s also the title of this month’s cover story in the publication’s magazine, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration.
The Economist’s “Arab Spring” took place during the presidency of Barack Obama. And the once-critical magazine’s latest cover shows Obama in profile alongside his successor, Donald Trump.
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But it’s not just in the pages of the influential weekly publication that the Obama legacy is being questioned — the US president’s worldview, which centered on the rise of Chinese and Russian influence, is being hotly debated in policy circles.
At the same time, however, there are signs that the US administration is starting to rethink how it deals with Islamic republics such as Saudi Arabia.
Even before Trump’s decision to ease export restrictions on lethal exports to Saudi Arabia, there was a marked change in policy under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson .
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Tillerson was greeted by a chorus of condemnation from regional allies after he chose not to join the diplomatic delegation to Baghdad in May, which met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss a potential US presence in Iraq.
Those calls came as part of an ongoing effort to curb Iran’s influence in Iraq, after US airstrikes destroyed a base used by Iran-backed militias in southern Iraq.
Little progress was made when the two neighboring states met in June in Saudi Arabia to discuss relations.
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In his resignation letter, Tillerson took aim at Iran for not participating in efforts to end the conflict in Yemen.
The lack of forward momentum on cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia is being reflected in the tone of the new US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
On her first week in the role, Haley criticized the UN’s Human Rights Council, which Saudi Arabia maintains is biased against the kingdom.
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Earlier this month, the US invited Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to Washington for discussions about post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
These factors are not lost on American ally Turkey — the country’s new leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tells Foreign Policy Magazine how he sees American influence in the region in 2020.
For Erdogan, the global economic powerhouses are the two regional powers that most need to be helping the Muslim world. But he says Washington has been markedly disengaged, particularly since Trump took office.
“We’re in a crisis with the absence of a strategically thinking administration,” Erdogan says. “There will be a major crisis and major issues emerge that will no longer be under control of the US, so we see its absence as a major factor … Actually, there will be no escape from the crisis of the future unless the US leadership becomes bolder, because if a crisis arises, it will only be managed by the EU.”