Islam Edit Bureau
from a Saudi Citizen to Obama
Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
The Good Old Days Of US-Gulf Ties Gone For Good?
Break-Up of Iraq
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
welcome to Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia that you have visited more
than any other American president. I must say, Saudis are proud of their
historic relations with the United States. The Kingdom has always valued
principled alliances. Our 80-year-old ties have been the cornerstone of the
region’s stability for decades.
played its part in trying to bring peace and security to the region by seeking
to establish good relations with neighbors, and fighting threats such as that
posed by the former Soviet Union, in its bid to spread communism. Indeed,
despite having differing views on various issues, this has not impeded joint
political action when needed the most.
President, what we are now seeing is that many countries in the region, and the
most powerful in the world, are changing their positions. Like many others, we
were surprised at your recent comments in The Atlantic magazine where you
accused Saudi Arabia of inflaming sectarian tensions in the Middle East, and
saying that we have adopted plans contradicting US foreign policy.
At first, I
was one of many who thought that you may have been misquoted. So it came as a
great disappointment to learn that this was what the American president thinks
of its most important ally and friend. Mindful that foreign policy should not
be based on media reports, the Kingdom ignored these statements, with officials
even going out of their way to stress the depth of the two countries’
President, as a Saudi and Arab, let me tell you that there was unprecedented
joy and celebration when you won the elections to become president. We were
optimistic that there was an intellectual in the White House, who was aware of
of your time in office has tempered our hopes. Not that we want to hold you
responsible, but the United States’ disengagement from assisting in resolving
the region’s problems, has resulted in a somewhat gloomy outlook for nations
realize that the gamble on political Islam by nations in the region was wrong.
In Egypt, the people protested against the Muslim Brotherhood president and
demanded change on June 30, 2013. This was a defining moment and sounded the
death-knell for political Islam. This movement, like others, was obsessed with
authority and promoting their ideology. Saudi Arabia, recognizing the danger,
stood with Egypt. What is happening behind closed doors in Washington is
contrary to what is actually happening on the ground in Cairo and the rest of
the Arab capitals. The international political and strategic thinking
concerning the region passes through Riyadh, especially because this country is
known for eschewing expansionism and only seeking stability and security for
the region and avoiding wars and conflicts.
claims it wants peace and understanding with Saudi Arabia, is still supporting
terrorist militias, harbouring fugitive extremists and attacking embassies. It
is politically isolated in the region, with 50 states at the Organization of Islamic
Cooperation Summit in Istanbul recently slamming Iran’s interventionist policy.
President, this is not a Saudi-Iranian conflict but a dispute between Muslim
and Arab countries on one side and Iran’s policies on the other. As you arrive
in Riyadh, Mr. President, there are thousands of Iraqis protesting and raising
their voices against Iran’s blatant intervention in their internal affairs.
As a Saudi
with a great deal of respect for American values and culture, I wonder how
Washington can seek rapprochement with a pro-terrorism Iran. The Kingdom has
initiated several anti-terror measures, including Operation Decisive Storm in
Yemen, to prove, as the US administration has always demanded, for Middle East
countries to assume greater responsibility to keep the region safe. This has
saved Yemen from Iran’s imperialist clutches. The Kingdom also took lead in
forming the Islamic Military Alliance to counter terrorism. The Kingdom is also
working with Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries to form a joint Arab
force to be tasked with the responsibility of countering terrorism.
been press reports that the US Congress is drafting a law to hold Saudi Arabia
liable in its courts for the Sept. 11 attacks. Although your administration has
warned of the consequences of such a move, we Saudis are extremely embittered
by this bizarre situation emerging from Washington.
Arabia knows that there are no free rides in politics and that’s why it took
all these initiatives. Saudis understand that their strategic relationship with
your country is an integral part of the Saudi political doctrine. But, as they
say, it takes two to tango. And both sides need to synchronize their steps to
be in the same rhythm.
Good Old Days Of US-Gulf Ties Gone For Good?
to reassure Riyadh, but Saudis looking past the president
For much of
his presidency, Barack Obama has encouraged America's allies to take on more
responsibility for their own defence.
get a firsthand look at how that central tenet of his foreign policy doctrine
is working when he visits Saudi Arabia. What he finds will likely drive home
the point that allies left increasingly to their own initiative aren't always
going to act in ways that suit the United States.
In the case
of Saudi Arabia, the chief example is the war in neighbouring Yemen, where the
Saudis intervened more than a year ago against advancing Iran-backed Houthi
rebels. The Saudis have become bogged down in a war that has caused tremendous
suffering among civilians, paved the way for expansion of Al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula, and pitted the region's two rival powers - Saudi Arabia and
Iran - in a proxy war.
is "a kind of catch-22," says Frederick Wehrey, an expert at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "We want them to
be more responsible" for themselves, he says, "but when they do it.
travelling to Riyadh as part of a pledge made a year ago at summit of Gulf
countries at Camp David. There, he promised to follow up with a second summit
this year in the region. That meeting of the US-Gulf Cooperation Council summit
will take place on Thursday.
April issue of The Atlantic magazine, the president lamented "free
riders" - including Saudi Arabia - who traditionally have relied too
heavily on the US for their national security.
Saudis have been charting a more independent course at least since the outset
of the Obama presidency and the president's focus on securing a nuclear deal
with Iran. The disagreement now is over the path a more proactive Saudi Arabia
find it a little difficult to understand how the president could accuse the
Saudis of not quite pulling their weight," says Anthony Cordesman, a
national security analyst and Saudi Arabia expert at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies in Washington.
the Saudis' "much more active military voice in the region" -
specifically Saudi initiatives in Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen - Cordesman says
tensions have more to do with divergent priorities, first and foremost over
defence spending is the equivalent of about 14 per cent of the country's gross
domestic product, Cordesman says. That order of annual contribution, even as
oil prices have plummeted, "doesn't exactly equate to standing
meeting should allow the two countries to iron out differences. "It's an
opportunity to stabilise the relationship and move it in a different
direction," says Wehrey.
include "reassurances to mitigate the fallout" from The Atlantic
interview. Obama is also expected to emphasise that the US is, like the Saudis,
deeply concerned about Iran - both its pursuit of missile development and
recent missile tests, and its involvement in Syria and Yemen.
"you can do more" column, Wehrey says, Obama is likely to suggest
that the Saudis step up support for the fight against the Daesh - particularly
financially - and move forward on domestic political reforms.
along with other Gulf leaders at Thursday's meeting, will have in the back of
their minds that the American leader is on his way out.
end of the Obama administration can't come quickly enough for these
leaders," says Perry Cammack, a regional expert at the Carnegie Endowment.
But the next president might not give them what they want, either.
hope is that with a new [US] leader, things will revert back to where they were
for decades - and I'm not sure that's the case," says Cammack, a former Middle
East analyst on the State Department's policy planning staff.
likely to be quizzed about a topsy-turvy presidential campaign that has
America's international partners uneasy.
extremism and Syria's civil war will keep the US engaged in the Middle East,
Cammack and other say, other factors - like falling US dependence on Middle
East oil and continuing implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement - will
also mean that the good old days of US-Gulf relations are likely gone for good.
been facing a deep political crisis since 2003 — the year it was invaded and
occupied by the United States and Britain. For over a decade this religiously
and ethnically diversified country has suffered under a dysfunctional political
system that was abused by Iran and its proxies and tolerated by the West.
the continuous pillaging of Iraq, where hundreds of billions of dollars ended
up in the pockets of influential players, corrupt officers and foreign
companies, the political system had disenfranchised the Sunnis and triggered
bloody sectarian conflicts. Eight years under former Prime Minister Nuri Al-
Maliki’s rule had brought the country to the brink of collapse.
is a failed state; controlled by self-serving politicians with various agendas,
heavily in debt with a non-functioning economy and facing an existential threat
in the form of Daesh. Last week that crisis deepened as the Iraqi parliament
rejected Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s proposal for a government of
technocrats that represented an attempt to depart from the political quota
system. Following that a number of deputies voted to oust Speaker Selim
Al-Jabouri but the legality of that move, which would have paved the way for
firing Al-Abadi as well, was in doubt.
negotiations went into the night in an attempt to avoid political chaos,
influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr issued a statement giving the
Parliament 72 hours to vote in a new Cabinet. His followers staged a sit-in
outside the Green Zone waiting for further orders. Now various players are
trying to hold an emergency session of Parliament, under Al-Jabouri, to allow
Al-Abadi to present a new Cabinet. It is clear that Baghdad is witnessing an
unprecedented crisis that threatens to unravel the country altogether.
with the political quota system is a step in the right direction. That system
has been abused in a way that has weakened the country’s institutions, allowed
for corruption and graft to spread and alienated the country’s Sunnis. It has
also paved the way for the emergence of largely Shiite militias, some under the
direct command of Iranian officers, who have committed human rights abuses
against the Sunnis. Furthermore, the dysfunctional system has marginalized the
Iraqi Army, which has been attempting to recapture large areas under the control
of Daesh in Al-Anbar province. And as things stand now many doubt the ability
of the army to launch a much-anticipated campaign to liberate Mosul in northern
of sectarian confrontations has been masterminded by Iran and its proxies. But
one cannot exempt the US, which carried out regime change and enforced a
controversial political system, from the responsibility for the destruction of
Iraq. The birth of Daesh and its expansion in the past few years is a direct
result of America’s myopic policies and Iran’s direct meddling in Iraq’s
politicians fail to find a new political formula that would restore people’s
trust and defuse sectarian tensions, in addition to making those who
participated in pilfering the country and deepening ethnic and sectarian
divides accountable, Iraq as we know today will cease to exist. The Kurds will
be the first to distance themselves from the central government in Baghdad and
carry out their historical ambition of independence.
breaking up of Iraq, along ethnic and sectarian fault lines, is more plausible
today than any other time. If that chaotic scenario takes place its
geopolitical reverberations will be felt across the region. Preserving the
unity and territorial integrity of Iraq is a direct responsibility of the Arab
world at a time when countries in this region are facing possible
But this is
easier said than done. Arab countries are engaged in internal challenges and
their contribution to resolving the crises in Libya and Syria has been limited.
A more boarder coalition, along the lines that Saudi Arabia is proposing, will
bring pressure to bear on capitals that still carry influence in Iraq such as
Tehran and Washington.
every reason to keep Iraq weak and divided. This is part of implementing its
regional agenda and Iranian officials have made no secret of their goal to
extend their influence from Tehran to Baghdad and from there to Damascus and
Beirut. This is why its designs for Iraq must be stopped before it is too late.
drawn from Iraq should be remembered as America and Russia seek to implement a
political solution in war-torn Syria. And this is why only Syrians should be
involved in writing a new constitution for their country that excludes
political quotas, which has brought Iraq to its downfall.
now rests with a small political group that has no outside agendas or loyalty
to outside powers. A federal and democratic Iraq that does away with political
quotas and severs ties with Iran and its proxies is a tall order at this stage;
but it’s the only path forward.
family, which produced several prominent Lebanese politicians, never really
enjoyed nationwide support. The reason being that Sheikh Pierre Gemayel, the
family’s “patriarch” founded a political party with candid sectarian overtones
throughout Sheikh Pierre’s long leadership of the party “The Lebanese
Phalanges,” its ideological and political identities became ever more
pronounced. Although like most successful parties it has been able to develop
an ideological “cliché” that was relatively free from static sectarian
boundaries and more open to interacting with the “others.” This “cliché” took
the shape of “Lebanese” nationalism against those speaking of “Syrian” or
party, which developed from a youth and sports movement into the most powerful
and highly organized Christian political party in Lebanon thanks to Sheikh
Pierre Gemayel, had other co-founders some of whom later left it. Today, the
political dynasty is represented in the Parliament by the two surviving grandsons:
Sami Amin Gemayel and Nadim Bechir Gemayel, with the first assuming the party’s
Pierre “the Grandson’s” short period in politics, his younger brother Sami was
preoccupied in a youth organization with candid slogans and ideas that many
Lebanese at the time thought controversial and marginal. In reality, those
slogans and ideas were closer to being voices of protest than proper blueprint
for a comprehensive political agenda that deserves to be taken seriously, in a
divided society that became even more divided, obsessed, extremist and
exclusionist as a result of a 15-year civil-regional war.
Grandson’ managed to “re-establish” and reorganize the “Phalanges” during his
father’s (ex-president Amin) exile in France, and succeeded in returning it to
its position as the biggest organized Christian political force in Lebanon. At
this juncture it is important to mention that the party had been weakened by
internal dissent and the exit of several leading figures, while other figures
became openly associated with the so-called “Syrio-Lebanese Security
apparatus.” The party had also suffered from the emergence of new
organizations, which were once part of or close to it, like “The Lebanese
Forces,” and the extremist “Christian” outbidding of Gen. Michel Aoun claiming
to be more “Christian” than all, including the Maronite Patriarch himself, to
the extent of refusing the “Taif Accords” accepted by the Patriarchate!
assassination of Pierre Amin Gemayel during the wave of assassinations
targeting the leaders of the Lebanese popular uprising against the hegemony of
the Damascus-Tehran axis, was a very well-thought out and meticulously
calculated crime. What the murderers intended was to undermine a young and
highly promising Christian leadership that was also capable of crossing
religious and sectarian barriers, more so, as it neither participated directly
in the war like “The Lebanese Phalanges,” nor is an avowed enemy to other
Lebanese sects like Michel Aoun.
while, the murderers appeared to have won. The “Phalanges” were shaken and
confused, partly because few expected the younger brother Sami to be a worthy
successor. However, Sami Amin Gemayel was quick to surprise the skeptics and
prove them wrong. He firmly took over the party leadership, and soon enough
emerged a serious player on the national arena. Some might say it is the
“political instinct” within Lebanon’s many traditional political dynasties that
is instrumental in the “rapid maturing process.”
Today, in spite
of a bout of vigour, which is a hallmark of youth, Sami enjoys a real presence
that has benefitted from his self-confidence, clear vision, candid honesty, as
well as the disappointment of many who had expected more from Christian
once, before 2006, shocked the Lebanese when he called for a “federal” Lebanon
when he was still on the fringes of the political arena, has not really changed
his deeply-held convictions on that matter, although he is now more mature and
diplomatic in arguing his views. Moreover, after the debacles of Iraq and
Syria, the term “federalism” does not sound like a “partitioning” nightmare nor
an act of treason given Iran’s expansionist schemes and the threat of Daesh. In
addition, the “Taif Accords” specifically called for “Broad Administrative
de-Centralization” as they noted the impossibility of continuing with a fully
centralized system of government after a devastating civil war before
re-assuring the fearful vanquished and containing the ambitions of the jubilant
obvious today that the gamble of Dr. Samir Geagea, the leader of “The Lebanese
Forces,” of securing a political breakthrough through a “Christian
reconciliation” with Aoun has lost its glitter, if not its credibility. This
“Christian reconciliation” has provided Iran’s strategy of creating a political
vacuum that facilitates its hegemony — through Hezbollah — an extended
Christian cover, instead of convincing Aoun to stop using Hezbollah to gain
personal ascendancy. Furthermore, instead of putting Iran and its henchmen in a
fix, this “reconciliation” has strained the relations within the anti-Tehran
March 14th Alliance and shaken trust among its members.
Amin Gemayel has now emerged as the frankest and most realistic Christian
voice; firstly, in diagnosing Lebanon’s problem as it approaches two years
without an elected president; and secondly, in telling the truth about
Hezbollah, its organization, role, philosophy and loyalty; and thirdly, in
dealing with fears relating to the future of Lebanon as regional taboos are
broken, identities redefined, borders re-drawn, demographic uprooting and
change is in full swing.
Barack Obama is visiting the Kingdom. He is scheduled to meet Custodian of the
Two Holy Mosque King Salman and will also attend the Gulf Cooperation Council’s
summit to be hosted by the king.
comes at a critical juncture in the bilateral relations between the two
countries. We all know that the ties between Riyadh and Washington are not as
cordial as they used to be just a few years ago but analysts and policymakers
believe that both sides have not yet reached the point of no return.
relationship goes back to 1943. Since then the two countries have always
maintained strong cooperation in all fields. It is true that the ties have
experienced ups and downs, which is natural.
the last 14 months have witnessed a dramatic increase in the differences
between the two sides over various regional issues like the Iranian nuclear
deal and the Syrian crisis. The Kingdom’s leadership has expressed its
disappointment over Washington’s inaction in the region and its policies toward
Tehran, which are apparently seen as attempts to appease a country that is
openly flouting international laws by interfering in the internal matters of
other countries. As a matter of fact, many regional conflicts are the result of
the Iranian covert and overt support — Assad would not have possibly been able
to resist popular pressure without Iranian backing and the Houthi militants in
Yemen created unrest at the behest of Tehran. In addition to this Iranian
elements are responsible for stoking sectarian sentiments in Iraq and Bahrain.
There is a
growing feeling in the region that the United States has abandoned its
traditional allies and is gradually withdrawing from the region, as is evident
from its eerie silence over Iranian aggression in the Middle East.
led Saudi Arabia to take bold and decisive measures to check the Iranian
threats in the region. Through an Arab alliance, the Kingdom launched the
Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthi rebels to restore the legitimate
government in Yemen. The rebellion is almost coming to an end.
As for the
Syrian crisis, the Kingdom has extended its support to moderate opposition
fighting against Bashar Assad’s regime, Iran, Hezbollah and their allies. Had
the US intervened earlier in Syria, the situation would have been very
Arab world is disappointed by the US double standard. Former US President Bush
invaded Iraq under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, toppled Saddam’s
regime and allowed Shiite fanatics to run loose in the country. The same
country, however, did nothing to stop the massacre of innocent Syrian
civilians. A prompt US action in Syria could have saved thousands of lives and
averted the refugee crisis but it did not even allow providing the armed
resistance with qualitative weapons as suggested by the Kingdom.
the US administration had no plans or intentions to help put an end to the
Assad regime, while giving Vladimir Putin a free hand to send his war planes to
bomb the opposition forces, the Kingdom invited representatives of various
Syrian opposition parties to meet in Riyadh to elect a united leadership to
manage negotiations with the regime representatives in Geneva. Although a
cease-fire agreement was reached, the regime and its allies are continuing
their bombardment against the opposition forces while the US is watching
silently. This has only encouraged Iran to increase its military intervention
statements by the US State Department and the White House against Iran’s
armament and missile program, the US is merely watching Iran arming itself to
the teeth, and has recently received the first shipment of the Soviet missiles.
The Kingdom believes that Iran is amassing weapons to threaten the security of
the GCC countries, which always have called for peaceful coexistence and
friendly neighborly relations with their neighbors including Iran.
Kingdom’s leadership had no option but to work for the formation of an Islamic
alliance to contain Iranian ambitions. The OIC summit in Turkey last week was
another victory for the Saudi diplomacy where the final communiqué accused Iran
and Hezbollah of spreading dissention and sectarian strife in the region, while
President Obama wants the Kingdom to “share” the region. In fact, the Kingdom
has no territorial ambitions in the neighboring countries, but it wants to keep
Iran away from its borders.
important thing that the Americans are not prepared to understand is that the
Kingdom has nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. It is true that 14 of the
hijackers were Saudi nationals but they were members of Al-Qaeda, which was and
is at war with the Kingdom.
that the Zionist and Jewish lobby is behind this hostile campaign against the
Kingdom. Those who want to know the truth should read Susan Lindauer’s book
“Extreme Prejudice,” and they should ask the US administration to release the
full report of the investigation committee and why a New York court has
convicted Iran for its involvement in the conspiracy.
It is an
Arab and Muslim tradition to honor their guests and this is what we are going
to do when President Obama visits our country. But we hope that President Obama
is not coming to say goodbye at the end of his term. What we hope is that the
US will remain faithful to the legacy of the founders of the US and will work
to bring Saudi-US relations to their past glory.