Monday, November 12, 2012

Arabs and Obama’s Second Term

America elected a president, but the whole world had something to say about it. Reaction in the Middle East was mixed from those who shrugged pretending total disinterest to those who jubilated for no apparent reason and others who wept also for no good reason. Still there were others who believe any President of the United States is bad news for them and the region on account of the U.S.’s historical, unwavering support of Israel.

The U.S. gave Barack Obama four more years on the helm. Foreign policy was not a determining factor in this election. If you pay attention to all the post-election analysis, it was mainly young African-American women that made a big difference in the race. Minorities and middle class America came out in droves in Obama’s support. The African-American vote in general played a major role as well as progressives believing in the man who promised them hope in 2008. For those progressives, sending Obama to the White House for four more years means that there is more work to be done by this administration at all levels and they would like to see things finished properly!

The most important message to read from Obama’s re-election is that Americans want their president to focus on domestic problems while keeping good relations, paying the U.S.’s dues and playing a responsible role around the world; exactly in this order, not the other way around. The U.S. faces major challenges today and it stands at a significant crossroad economically and culturally. It cannot afford to be dragged into more unnecessary wars or conflicts that do not affect its national interests directly. Barack Obama understands that the stakes are very high as he articulated clearly during his campaign. This position drove millions to come out in his support, surprising Republicans at home and skeptics around the world.

For the Middle East, this is a golden opportunity to set the record straight. But, what record? That is the question.

With Syria up in flames in a full fledged civil war as Arabs watch from the distance fanning the flames of strife instead of putting them out. Iran and Israel are readying for a faceoff of some sort which, if not managed properly, could potentially explode into a doomsday for the entire region with severe global repercussions. Lebanon is as unstable as ever, with an ineffective government, zero security, deep divisions, a heavily armed Hezbollah state within a failed Lebanese state, and puppets of leaders only waiting for orders to sway things anyway the regional winds order them to go. You find them one day leaning towards escalation while another day calling for calm and restraint. Consider Lebanon a Joker in a Poker game where all the cards are wild cards and nothing is what it seems.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is bound to change the name of the game when it comes to the peace treaty with Israel. Even if Egypt is bound to international agreements and dependent on American aide, this is a time to maneuver and tweak deals to reflect the new reality on the ground.

Iran has already shown signs of willingness to “talk” even prior to the U.S. election results. It reduced its uranium enrichment by 20% according to reports, and expressed readiness to participate in the proposed nuclear conference to discuss banning weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the largest stumbling block in the face of any regional forward-moving process. I expect President Obama to launch an early call for renewing the peace process in his second term in office. I expect this round to be more determined and more forceful than any other rounds we have seen before. I don’t expect all parties to be cooperative but I also expect pressure to be applied against any effort to block the talks.

The myth of unconditional American support of Israel was debunked under the Obama administration and with the support of none other that the Jewish American moderates. This Democratic voting force – while its loyalty and support of Israel are unquestionable -- stands in opposition of Netanyahu and his Likud party’s hawkish and unfair approach to dealing with the Palestinians. They lean more towards finding a fair compromise to the conflict for all involved. The truth is, most powerful Arab nations have already begun the normalization process with Israel or they have expressed publically or privately their openness to the idea.

When Obama re-launches the peace process, Arabs stand to play a major role and make a major difference for themselves and the region. The notion of the carrot and the stick in negotiations has worked like magic when Arabs were on the receiving end. Wouldn’t it be nice to start using all the Arab carrots and all the Arab sticks for the purpose of imposing a fair solution to the region’s ancient as well as modern problems?


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peace is the only answer...yet the Israel/ Palestine conflict is heating up to scary level. So much futile chaos and loss of life.

November 16, 2012 at 8:05 AM  

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