Posted by Alex on Monday, February 2nd, 2009
by Alex for Syria Comment
I thought of writing “an open letter to President Obama”. But I kept remembering that he has a Ph.D. From Harvard, and I don’t. For the first time in many long years, I do not feel the urge to lecture the US president about everything that he does not seem to understand about the Middle East.
Then again, President Obama’s first comments about Gaza were not very assuring. Immediate reactions on the Arab side were of two kinds. “I knew it, he is just like Bush”, or “Give him time, the man can not upset AIPAC from day one”
During his inaugural speech President Obama said: “our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint…”.
Besides prudence and temperance, the president often promised … “change”. Yet, his approach to the Middle East until this date, clearly constrained by the obvious sensitivities of the traditional allies represented by established Washington lobby groups, does not reflect a degree of fortitude necessary to change America’s shattered foreign policy in the Middle East.
Watching and reading coverage of the events in Gaza it was clear that when it comes to the Middle East, the United States has been systematically and successfully brainwashed. Aside from the few cautious and polite exceptions, the only politically correct analysis by American politicians or journalists about Gaza had to stay focused on the importance of “Israel’s security” to the United States. If anyone felt the need to express his or her concern about the thousands of Palestinian children and mothers killed or injured, “civilian casualties on both sides” was the proper way to express concern.
The audacity to equate Israel’s 3 civilian casualties to the 1335 Palestinian ones.
Those who clearly deviated from the strict guidelines of Israel’s numerous watchdogs were mostly the 80+ year old former officials who did not care anymore about their political future in the United States … 81 year old Zbigniew Brzezinski, and 85 year old President Carter.
Arab moderate / Arab resistance Cold war
Aside from the difficulty of taking a more balanced approach to the Arab/Israeli conflict, President Obama will also need to reevaluate his country’s position on the various conflicts in the Middle East which are complicated by an obvious cold war between two Arab camps: “Arab Moderates” such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority facing Syria’s “resistance” camp that includes popular Palestinian and Lebanese factions and is reliably backed by the two large non Arab Muslim countries in the Middle East, Turkey and Iran, in addition to many Arabs countries like Algeria and Qatar, home to the CNN of the Arab world, Aljazeera.
Opinion polls have shown that the resistance camp represents the feelings and aspirations of the vast majority of “the Arab street”.
Besides the very active and influential Likud lobbyist group (falsely promoted as an American Jewish lobby), there is also a number of smaller lobby groups representing the interests of “Arab Moderates” in Washington (mainly Saudi Royal family and Lebanese M14 warlords) who are still actively working with their Neocon friends to convince the new President not to speak to Syria and Iran just like they continuously, and successfully, lobbied, and constrained, his predecessor for years and years.
Although there is a welcome new humble tone from President Obama, symbolic gestures like granting his first interview to a Saudi TV station Al-Arabiya, were already tried by the Bush administration.
It is widely known that Syria wants America’s help in negotiating a settlement with Israel that includes the full return of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights. But what is not recognized by many is that a prerequisite to a genuine friendship between the United states and Syria’s resistance camp will be for the United states to recognize the right of all countries in the Middle East (and not only Israel) to exist as friends of the United States, without forcing them to become “American puppets” like America’s current set of friends in the Arab world.
Will president Obama be willing to champion such an arrangement? Is the rest of old Washington ready for this “New Middle East”?
There is probably no going back to the old Middle East. President Bush’ war in Iraq, and Israel’s two unnecessary destructive wars in Lebanon (2006) and in Gaza (2008), in addition to all the other disasters that were produced in Tel Aviv or in Washington the past eight years, led to irreversible changes in the Arab world. Israel’s actions are driving more and more Arabs to believe in resistance as the only language Israel (and its supportive friends in the “international community”) can understand and respect.
I can not publish all the emails I have been receiving from secular, Christian or Muslim, highly educated Arab friends who wrote variations of the following: “they [the Europeans and Americans] are all S.O.B.’s, … we need to forget about them and build our strength to show them we are not insects they can kill whenever they wish”.
These are the secular intellectuals. You probably can guess how the younger and angrier ones now feel.
No one respects Israel anymore (many Arabs used to). No one is afraid of Israel and its friends anymore … very few still want to have peace with Israel before that country is treated for its dangerous psychological sicknesses.
Read the comments in Arab blogs for yourself. Angry Turkish Prime minister Erdogan, and not the “moderate” Hosni Mubarak, is everyone’s hero. Israel’s many friends in the media can not control blogs, they can not control YouTube, they can not control email attachments. Online, It is not Israel versus the “Arab terrorists”, it is Israel versus 1.3 billion Muslims.
The Middle East is in motion, and leaders of the “resistance” block who have been fighting for the steering wheel for the past few years, seem to be set to take exclusive hold of it. Next time there is an Israeli led (and Moderate Arab supported) slaughter fest in Gaza or in Lebanon, Mubarak may not be able to deliver and the “international community” may not be able to save him through another well attended summit in Sharm El-Shaeikh. Many believe he is already on his way to follow the Shah of Iran and President Sadat. Both of them American allies that were promoted and supported despite increasing internal opposition.
Sharm El-Sheikh Summits
The latest summit to be held at Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, was hurriedly organized, and attended, by only (I’ll explain later) ten Arab moderate and Europeans leaders in order to reach a convenient closure to the bloody results of Israel’s “the boss has gone mad” strategy of dealing with “Hamas”, or “Palestinian people’s resistance” as the rest of the Arab world calls it.
The other reason for holding that summit was to give Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas the essential reinforcement they required.
How effective or necessary was the 2009 Sharm El-Sheikh Summit? Why did the leaders of Italy, Spain, England, Germany and France need to sit on that table?
Thirteen years ago, in 1996, there was an even more impressive Sharm El-Sheikh summit … 27 world leaders assembled on a short notice (after receiving last minute invitations from President Bill Clinton) to … again, support Israel against Hamas and to support Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the head of the Palestinian authority at the time, Yasser Arafat.
When the summit ended, CNN’s reporter concluded “… at its close, some doubted whether the hastily assembled meeting had any real substance.”
Syria was invited, but refused to attend the 1996 Sharm Summit.
Isn’t it about time to recognize that, the number of “Arab moderate” and world leaders assembled not withstanding, all the regional “peace” initiatives that did not respect the legitimate concerns of the the Arab people did not go anywhere?
Throw the donkey a carrot:
The notion that visits to Arab countries by American or European leaders should be used (except in emergencies) as a rewarding tool for good behavior is something that President Obama might need to reconsider if he is genuine about change.
He made it clear that he intends to talk to his enemies and his adversaries. Yet, this week, the president dispatched Mr. George Mitchell, his new envoy to the Middle East to visit Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia … but not Syria.
Is it not prudent to talk to Syria? … or is the Obama administration hoping to again use future visits as potential carrots in exchange for a change in Syria’s behavior?
The real Cost of conflict in the Middle East
Can any of you guess what is the total cost of conflicts in the Middle East? Do you know how many Iraqi children are not in school because of war and sanctions? What would be Israel’s per household yearly dividend if peace breaks out?
India’s Strategic Foresight Group, a Bombay based think tank, came out with a new report on the Cost of Conflict in the Middle East. It is the first report of its kind, with 97 parameters to measure cost, moving beyond the usual economic and political costs and looking at social, human, environmental and other areas, covering Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, the broader Middle East region as well as a section on the costs borne by the International Community.
The report was prepared after a series of workshops with neutral agencies such as the governments of Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the first lady of Qatar
Here is a promotional video that shows some of the report’s depressing figures.
For those in Israel who think they are fooling the Arabs through perpetual negotiations that are designed to go nowhere, and for my Arab friends who want to wait another 50 years until they defeat Israel, the total cost of the conflicts of the Middle East since 1991 is estimated at … 12 Trillion dollars.
We all need President Obama to succeed as a peace maker. There is no other hope, but he can only succeed if he seeks peace among equals.