Arabs helpless as the neighborhood implodes
Obama says he wants to pivot the U.S. away from the Middle East. Let’s help him on his way by taking responsibility for our own security
Feeling proud to be Arab isn’t easy nowadays. What’s there to be proud of when bodies are piling high in Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Libya while the Arab World does little except to appeal for help from the U.S. and its allies, which only intervene militarily when such intervention suits their geopolitical interests?
President Obama is a maestro of finger-wagging and uttering condemnations but when it comes to acting in dire emergencies his record is poor. His foreign policy is a maze of directionless confusion as his approval ratings evidence. He stepped in to relieve Libya of its dictator and subsequently abandoned the country to feuding militias while ignoring recent calls by the Libyan government for urgent assistance. He pledged to arm the Syrian opposition only to renege on that promise and, worse, he pulled back from military intervention there are at the 11th hour, permitting the Assad regime to continue slaughtering its own citizens.
Likewise, he’s displayed glaring double standards over Israel’s massacre of almost 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza, handing out light criticisms of Israel’s disproportionate assaults while re-supplying Netanyahu with heavy weapons in equal measure. Moreover, the White House has chosen to bash Egypt, currently mediating sensitive negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, over its jailing of three Al Jazeera journalists, which is laughable given the carnage throughout the region, not to mention that several journalists were arrested and others gassed during the recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
Just days ago, he gave a press conference announcing that he was sending the cavalry to rescue thousands of Yazidis trapped on an arid mountain top without shade, food or water surrounded by ISIS terrorists, only to change his mind the very next day on the grounds there were only 2,000 left - a figure rejected by Yazidis who say there are still 10,000 in danger. The images of desperate women and children scrambling to get on aid helicopters and, in some cases, throwing their babies into the arms of someone inside, are heart-breaking. Dropping bombs just won’t cut it.
Now Obama proposes to arm the Kurdish Peshmerga to take on an organization so bloodthirsty it hands it children severed heads to parade on social media, buries people alive or nails them to crosses. It’s preposterous that 10,000 – 15,000 monstrous killers have been allowed to proliferate across northern Syria and Iraq terrorising minorities, grabbing towns, villages, weapons depots, cash from banks, power stations and a crucial dam that could be used to flood entire areas of the country as far south as the capital.
Obama isn’t being naïve
One is left wondering on why he failed to support the Syrian opposition with sophisticated weapons, but has no hesitation in arming the Kurds. A skeptic would say that the oil-rich Kurdish region has been a U.S. client state since Saddam’s era, which is now supplying oil to Israel via a pipeline.
Obama says he wants to pivot the U.S. away from the Middle East. Let’s help him on his way by taking responsibility for our own securityKhalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
America’s Commander-in-Chief seems to think that a mere change of face in Iraq’s prime ministerial chair will do the trick in that Sunni tribes sick of being oppressed and marginalized by Maliki will now rally around the government, even though his replacement Haider al-Abadi shares his predecessor’s ideology. Obama isn’t being naïve. His message is ‘We are punishing Maliki for refusing to sign our status of forces agreement but we will support Abadi as long as he accepts that the U.S. now owns him’.
In all honesty, it feels as if the U.S. owns all of us and it’s beyond time the unhealthy dependency of Arab countries on western protection is ended because, for one thing, we are not being protected and, for another, when we have armies, ‘Made in America’ airplanes, helicopters, missiles and tanks, why aren’t we defending ourselves? Are our hefty arms purchases that help fill U.S. and European state coffers and bump up the share prices of weapons manufacturers simply décor?
With the Arab region in such political and security disarray, GCC States should band together and take the lead. The first step would be to form a joint military under a single commander, which has been talked about, but never implemented. Together, we could wield substantial military strength that would not be ignored.
A unified position
The GCC should also take a unified position on the diplomatic front. Enough issuing statements disregarded by the international community because they are not backed up with serious clout! We have so many tools that could be used for influence at our disposal if only we mustered the guts to use them. Why is it that when the U.S., the U.N., the EU and Russia throw out sanctions like confetti, all we do is grumble? The Arabian Gulf Countries invest hundreds of billions in the U.S. and the EU and private GCC investors account for hundreds of billions more.
Obama says he wants to pivot the U.S. away from the Middle East. Let’s help him on his way by taking responsibility for our own security. We should start with wiping ISIS from the face of the earth before its evil contaminates our own soil. The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution barring all funding to ISIS and insisting that all U.N. member countries must stem recruitment. Too little, too late! It’s currently deemed the wealthiest terrorist group, flush with captured U.S. weapons. What I find particularly distressing is the way ISIS is being treated by the U.S. and other countries as though it really does constitute a de facto legal state, instead of the murderous gang it is. You don’t boycott terrorists, you eradicate them. That should be self-evident but in this world gone mad, a world where black is often portrayed as white and vice versa, apparently not. When western ISIS fighters return to their home countries with an ingrained thirst for blood, perhaps then the international community will come to its senses.
Once again, I would strongly urge GCC leaders to adopt a unified strategy designed to tackle these new threats and injustices. If we continue living in the past, expecting to be taken care of by outside powers, our children’s future will be betrayed by our apathy and if something isn’t done, we risk witnessing our own borders being re-drawn.
Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and the has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad.
Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books.
Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.