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US Locked Into the Middle East

While events will not allow the United States to pivot from the Middle East to Asia, the US still needs a coherent strategy for the region, writes Jean-Loup Samaan.
A Palestinian man walks near placards designed by an activist depicting U.S. President Barack Obama, ahead of his visit to the region, in the West Bank city of Ramallah March 12, 2013. The White House has yet to officially announce the dates for the trip, but Israeli news media have reported that Obama will arrive in the region on March 20. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3EVUU

For the last two years, the narrative prevailing in the strategic community was that due to the security and economic priorities in the Asia-Pacific region, the US government would rebalance its military and diplomatic means to that region. After a decade of long wars and an unending financial crisis, the US has no choice but to scale down its global engagements.

Meanwhile, with the rise of China as an assertive military power in Asia, the priority appears to be a reaffirmation of US commitment to its allies such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea. That was the so-called “pivot” that had been acknowledged in several instances by former Cabinet members Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates and eventually officialized in the 2012 Defense Planning Guidance.

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