President Obama participated in the Gulf Summit in Riyadh, where he repeated assurances minus the guarantees. Such pledges failed to change attitudes in the United States, where days later, veteran Sen. John McCain, the number one critic of U.S. foreign policy strategy, notably spoke derisively, once again criticizing the Obama administration saying, “Our neglect of the region has filled it with U.S. enemies from Iran to al-Qaida and now Russia.”
McCain took a harsh position against the Obama administration last year when he accused it of failing to support America’s allies, leaving them in a perpetual state of confusion about the viability of their alliance with Washington while they watched their opponents take advantage of Obama’s isolation and retreat, causing further discouragement. He described Obama’s policy in the Middle East as “wreckage” and said that in the midst of this “wreckage,” Vladimir Putin has emerged to romp around in the Middle East.
The manifestations of such an isolationist American policy are seemingly evident in the state of affairs in Syria and Yemen, i.e., the absurd negotiations in Geneva and Kuwait, the intransigence of the regime in Damascus, the rebels in Yemen, and the United Nation’s failure, and that of the five permanent Security Council members, to issue declarations against obstinate parties which would permit the Security Council to implement relevant resolutions and to confront the transgressors with their legal responsibilities. Likewise, it seems that the results of the catastrophic American harvest are evident in Iraq, which is immersed in conflict along with political and security paralysis among its various camps. Such issues led Vice President Joe Biden to make a surprise visit to Iraq last week to rescue the fragments of the harvest from the Obama administration, an administration whose strategy in the last few months has been to incrementally increase the number of American forces in Iraq and Syria for the liberation of Mosul. This while intensifying pressure on the Islamic State so as to defeat it in its areas of influence, especially Mosul, before Obama leaves the White House, apparently using Iran, Iraqi armed forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga. However, the reality is that the Obama administration’s problem continues to be the nonexistence of a viable partner on the ground to fight the Islamic State group.
This brings us back again to the wretched state of Arab affairs, given what is happening in Aleppo with systematic killing, the flagrant violation of the ceasefire, the lack of commitment for implementing Security Council Resolution 2254, the committing of massacres and atrocities of unspeakable cruelty, and where more than 200 people were killed in one week of heavy bombing with numbers reaching as high as 40 strikes in a single day on residential neighborhoods in the city. What is more, the bombing struck a hospital, a clinic, a mosque, and markets! Amid the silence of the international community and the inability of the United Nations and regional powers, especially the Arab countries and Turkey, to stop the uninterrupted shedding of blood despite the declaration of a ceasefire more than a month ago, it is clear that there is no sincere effort being made to deal with the complex issues of the region. These issues are simply managed in lieu of offering solutions that would end the state of disintegration and chaos. This is because fighting terrorism, and allies who offer their services as partners in fighting terrorism, are prioritized above all else.
Last week, I participated in a television interview on Sky News Arabic with Yemen’s permanent representative to the U.N., Ambassador Khalid al-Yamani, on the Yemeni government’s delegation in Kuwait. It was clearly a frustrating situation for the ambassador where the Houthi delegation stonewalled, procrastinated and arrived late to participate in the negotiations which were hosted by Kuwait. After two weeks of negotiations, the talks had not advanced one step. Also, positions zigzagged. After a number of meetings and delay, participants had not even agreed on the agenda, let alone discussed the points of Security Council Resolution 2216, which was issued over a year ago.
The Houthis have refused to comply with and implement the U.N. resolution points, the five most notable of which are the withdrawal of rebels from the cities, the surrender of weapons, the restoration of state institutions, the release of detainees and the launch of the political process. These were in accordance with U.N. resolution references, outcomes from national dialogue and the Gulf Initiative.
The Yemeni president emerged after two weeks of procrastination on the part of Saleh and the Houthi delegation demanding “U.N. pressure on rebel forces pursuant to constructive engagement without preconditions on the agenda of the Kuwait consultations.” This is clear evidence that the U.N. and its envoy, Ismail Walid al-Shaykh, purposely failed, as was the case with Staffan de Mitsura, the U.N. envoy to Syria, to make a declaration against the intransigent party responsible for railroading the negotiations. It also shows that the U.N. refused to implement Security Council resolutions in Syria and in Yemen abandoning the U.N. Security Council’s duty to put pressure on these parties by imposing further sanctions and threatening the use of force against the intransigent side, as dictated by the Security Council Charter and which are applicable for Security Council decisions for Syria and Yemen because they were issued under Chapter VII of the charter.
Once again we are witnessing the harvest from desisting, retreat and the Cold War conflict among major and regional powers. We see the ineffectualness and the inability on the part of the Arabs and the Turks to convince allies and major powers to stay at an equal distance from all of the parties in the conflict and to work together to find a solution that would end the human tragedy and put everything right!