A US Pivot Away from the Middle East: Fact or Fiction?

A US Pivot Away from the Middle East: Fact or Fiction? is a collection of essays tackling different aspects of a potential American pivot away from the Middle East and toward addressing, among other aspects, the challenge that China presents for US foreign policy.

Over the last decade, there have been ongoing debates about US disengagement from the Middle East. At the same time, Russia and China have stepped up their roles and investments in the Arab world and have sought greater influence in the region. In response to this, ACW organized a half-day conference on May 18, 2023, to discuss the notion of US disengagement and a pivot away from the Middle East, the realities and dimensions of this perceived retreat, and the question of whether a new multipolar international political order is emerging in light of these shifts.

The general conclusion from the conference speakers (and this subsequent volume’s contributing authors) is that the United States is not fully disengaging from the Middle East but rather recalibrating its priorities and positions in the region while simultaneously devoting resources, time, and effort to maintaining as much influence in the Indo-Pacific region as possible to preserve its interests there.

Imad K. Harb, David Kanbergs

Sahar Aziz, Charles W. Dunne, Mark Finley, Imad K. Harb, Waleed Hazbun, Khalil E. Jahshan, Patricia Karam, Tamara Kharroub, Lina Khatib, Rami G. Khouri, Nabeel Khoury, Yousef Munayyer, Mahsa Rouhi, Yun Sun, Sarah Leah Whitson, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

Book Chapters

The Past and Future of the American “Pivot to Asia”
by Charles W. Dunne

US Military Strategy in the Middle East and the Challenge of Demilitarization
by Waleed Hazbun

The Economic Dimension of a Pivot Away from the Middle East
by Mark Finley

Current US-China Relations and the Pivot to Asia
by Yun Sun

The US Pivot in the Context of Great Power Competition: A New Multipolar Global Order?
by Patricia Karam

Arab Views on an American Pivot Away from the Middle East
by Rami G. Khouri

The Greatly Exaggerated US Pivot and America’s Failures on Human Rights
by Sarah Leah Whitson

The US Pivot and Great Cyberpower Competition in the MENA Region
by Tamara Kharroub

The US-Israel Nexus and the Question of a Pivot
by Yousef Munayyer

The United States and the Arabian Peninsula
by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

Declining American Influence in the Middle East: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya
by Nabeel Khoury

The Syrian Conflict: A Turning Point in US Middle East Policy
by Lina Khatib

The Mutual Pivot to Asia in US-Egypt Relations
by Sahar Aziz

Iran and the Perceived US Pivot Away from the Middle East
Mahsa Rouhi

The US in the Middle East: Staying Put While Simultaneously Pivoting
by Imad K. Harb

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Sahar Aziz

Distinguished Professor of Law, Middle East Legal Studies Scholar, and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar at Rutgers University Law School

Mark Finley

Fellow in Energy and Global Oil at Rice University’s Baker Institute

Headshot of Imad K. Harb
Imad K. Harb

Director of Research and Analysis


​Waleed Hazbun

Non-resident Fellow

Tamara Kharroub

Deputy Executive Director & Senior Fellow


Lina Khatib

Director of the SOAS Middle East Institute and MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies, as well as Professor of Practice at the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS University of London

Rami G. Khouri

Non-resident Fellow

Nabeel A. Khoury

Non-resident Senior Fellow


Yousef Munayyer

Head of Palestine/Israel Program and Senior Fellow


Mahsa Rouhi

Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Research at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at National Defense University.

Yun Sun

Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center.

Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

Non-resident Senior Fellow