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Addustour, Jordan

Obama’s New Term


By Hussein Al Rawashda

[N]othing will change during Obama's second presidential term with respect to the administration’s approach to the Arab world and its biggest issues. But what has become important is determining what the Arab people can do to open eyes and minds, not hearts, in Washington and to force it to capture the event, to understand it, to adapt to it, and, if necessary, to respect it.

Translated By Robert Mogielnicki

18 November 2012

Edited by Lau­ren Gerken


Jordan - Addustour - Original Article (Arabic)

The eyes of the Arab world were wide open to the “change” coming from the U.S. elections. There were those who bet on the awaited Mahdi* coming from Washington to get the political “blood” flowing in the clogged “Arab” arteries. It is true that every “change” comes with admirers and a price. Similarly, it is true that, since World War II, the collective Arab memory does not contain a single good recollection of any U.S. president. It is also true that the Arab people were born with a disadvantage that takes the shape of the hope that others will accomplish for them what they cannot do for themselves.

Finally, the Arab people have disproved this hypothesis. This is perhaps the first time that Arabs have interacted with the U.S. election and its repercussions with a more rational logic. Consequently, the new Washington politician will find himself, yet again, forced to deal with an historical “wave” that has swept across Arab land and will have to adapt to events being produced, this time, by the people themselves. That person will also have to deal with “wishes” that political regimes are trying to pass along to U.S. decision-making circles under the auspices of shared “interest”.

This, of course, does not negate the U.S.’s ability to influence, intervene, or quickly adapt to these new transformations. Yet the scale and nature of this intervention will remain tightly bound to criterion within the Arab interior, reforms and revolutions that the Arab peoples are able to accomplish. Furthermore, they must highlight political and social unity while maintaining the strength of their position toward factors of “sabotage” that they face from the inside and the outside.

The spread of the Arab dawn probably holds no interest for the U.S. The messages that Obama has recently sent to Egypt probably reflect the caution that haunts U.S. policy concerning the “transitions” that have occurred. But there is a difference between what Obama must do and what he chooses to do: In countries that have already achieved change, he finds himself forced to deal with the Islamists that came to power and have already begun their experiment. Consequently, the newcomer to this new term of U.S. politics will be part of suppressing the movement of these regimes and ensuring that they are compatible with the U.S. rhythm, particularly with respect to Israel and its security and Iran and its nuclear ambition. As for choices, they will be available at the borders of countries that the light of the Arab dawn has not yet reached. I think that Obama will use a “siege” policy that is careful to preserve the status quo and is unlikely to make improvements.

As the Syrian issue continues, we must remember that the West, and especially the U.S., has relied on a policy of “stagnation” that neither defends Assad nor ensures the success of the revolution. Rather, the policy punishes the “Arab Spring,” which is facing its biggest test in Syria. Second, it provides whatever time is necessary to arrange U.S. interests and ensure a suitable alternative to the old regime. Third, it subjugates the country of Syria and inflicts a western agenda in on Syrian politics and economy.

It is true that Obama’s moment of decision on Syria has approached, but it will not necessarily be a direct military decision. Washington has turned the page of failed conspiracies after Iraq and Afghanistan, but it could be politically engaged in a military crisis with other allies, whether through buffer zones, presenting more weapons to the opposition, or an international decision to impose a type of political transition, combined with the expulsion of Assad.

In conclusion, nothing will change during Obama's second presidential term with respect to the administration’s approach to the Arab world and its biggest issues. But what has become important is determining what the Arab people can do to open eyes and minds, not hearts, in Washington and to force it to capture the event, to understand it, to adapt to it, and, if necessary, to respect it.


*Editor’s note: In Islamic eschatology, the Mahdi is the prophesied redeemer of Islam, who will rid the world of wrongdoing, injustice and tyranny.



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