New Age Islam Edit Bureau
05 December 2016
How Facebook Hurt the Syrian
By Riham Alkousaa
Russia and Pakistan Slowly Move
Towards an Embrace
By Ahmed Rashid
Who's Conning Whom In Donald Trump's
By Mark Levine
Obama’s Legacy for the GCC in the Middle
By Dr. Theodore Karasik
Egypt Bets on Strategic Relations with
Trump and Putin
By Raghida Dergham
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
How Facebook Hurt the Syrian Revolution
"Will I die, miss? Will I die?"
asks a Syrian boy in panic. The recent video shot in a wrecked hospital in
Aleppo in the aftermath of a chlorine gas attack went viral on social media.
Just a few months earlier, Aleppo hit the newsfeeds with another shocking image
of an injured child: five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an orange
Aleppo has been one of the highest trending
news on social media in the United States for a while now. People express
anger, sadness, disappointment; they like and share; they tweet. And what of
it? Nothing changes in Aleppo.
At the same time, across the ocean, in the
US, there has been a heated discussion about the major role social media played
in the recent elections. Some have argued that Donald Trump's tweets got him
more media coverage and attracted voters' attention while fake news, which
spread on social media, helped him seal his victory.
So why is it that social media can help win
an election in one country and cannot stop a month-long massacre in another?
Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the School
of International Studies at the University of Denver, has argued that social
media is helping dictators, while giving the masses an illusion of empowerment
and political worthiness.
At a recent lecture at Columbia University,
when asked for an example where social media played a negative role in a social
movement, Chenoweth paused a little to finally say, "what comes to my mind
now is Syria."
Indeed, social media hurt the Syrian
uprising. It gave the Syrian people the hope that the old dictatorship can be
toppled just by uploading videos of protests and publishing critical posts.
Many were convinced that if social media helped Egyptians get rid of Hosni
Mubarak, it would help them overthrow Bashar al-Assad.
It created the false illusion that toppling
him would be easy and doable.
The Limits of Social Media Activism
Social media didn't highlight the
differences in the political structures of Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. The
absence of a developed political opposition in Syria didn't come to the mind of
those young protesters eagerly posting on Facebook and Twitter. Egypt had
decades of experience with political opposition to the regime and Syria didn't.
But with a society under constant and
pervasive surveillance, how could the Syrians develop a mature political
opposition? The brief period of political relaxation following the death of
Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, in June 2000, could've been an opportunity to
start this process.
But the Damascus Spring, as this period of
intense political and social debate was later called, ended in the autumn of
2001 with serious government repressions.
In March 2011, it looked easy to be in
opposition on Facebook; it was a great platform for those who wanted to
protest. The Facebook page "Syrian Revolution" was just a click away
and its followers quickly grew above 100,000. What few people knew in Syria was
that the administrator was actually a Syrian living in the safety of Sweden and
that only 35 percent of those liking the page were Syrians actually living in
It is not surprising, therefore, that the
numbers turning up sometimes at scheduled protests were low. Many were waiting
for a huge sit-in to be in Umayyad Square in the heart of Damascus, or at least
in Abaseen Square near the big stadium. It never happened.
Instead, the regime was able to organise
major counter-marches in the same squares. The difference is that Assad wasn't
relying on Facebook to gather the crowds. He had some loyal supporters who
would volunteer to turn up and the rest of the crowd would get volunteered -
that is to say, various state institutions would force its workers to rally …
Social media also limited social movements
to only one tactic: street demonstrations. Crowds of protesters were easy
targets for killing (live ammunition was widely used) and mass arrests, quickly
shrinking the numbers of those willing to come out.
The few attempted boycotts would also fail
for the same reason. In December 2011, activists tried to organise a trade
boycott, encouraging shops to close down; many refused to do it after they saw
all the shops that were burned in Deraa after a similar initiative.
The use of social media also made activists
and regular protesters highly vulnerable. When the regime allowed direct access
to Facebook (which had been only accessible through VPN until then) in February
2011, it was clear that it is doing so to facilitate surveillance and the
targeting of the protest movement.
Many were arrested for just sharing a
photo, commenting or uploading a video. Facebook-organised protests also
allowed the regime to know in advance the location and prepare its crack-down
Virtual Protests Stay Virtual
More importantly, social media created the
illusion that one can change and challenge the events on ground by being active
online. Aleppo has been severely bombed since September 2015 with the Russian
intervention. This year, when news erupts that the situation is catastrophic,
thousands of Syrians around the world protest … by changing their Facebook
People react virtually while not much is
changing on the ground. The number of actual protests on the ground for Syria
had declined by 2013. The feeling that social media gives you that you've done
your bit by posting online is one reason for this demobilisation.
In this regard, Syria is like Palestine,
where calls for a third Intifada have not materialised into actions, despite
the growing number of Israeli violations.
In fact, this trend is obvious, not just in
the Middle East, but globally. In the 1990s, before the advent of social media,
around 70 percent of nonviolent social movements succeeded while this number
plummeted to only 30 percent in the Facebook and Twitter era.
Social media, of course, is not the only
reason why the Syrian uprising failed. But it is something that Syrian
revolutionaries should think about when thinking about the future of their
Facebook posts cannot defeat an
unscrupulous dictator armed with a brutal repressive apparatus and resolved to
use it at will.
Riham Alkousaa is a Syrian journalist covering refugees in Europe and
conflict in Syria. She is currently a masters' student of Politics and Global
Affairs at Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism.
Russia and Pakistan Slowly Move Towards an
After decades of hostility, Russia and
Pakistan are gingerly trying to improve relations. Russia is cautiously wooing
Pakistan in a bid to temper Islamabad's support for the Afghan Taliban and to
end the civil war in Afghanistan, which is threatening Central Asia - the soft
underbelly of Russian influence in the former Soviet Union territories.
Pakistan faces increasing isolation in the
region - spurned by India, Afghanistan and Iran, and criticised by the US and
NATO countries - because of its continued harbouring of the Afghan Taliban. At
present, it is solely dependent on Chinese economic and political support.
It is not surprising; therefore, that
Pakistan is desperately keen to rebuild relations with Russia. Islamabad would
like to use warmer ties with Moscow to counter US and western pressure and be
able to boast of more than one ally in the region.
Closer Military Cooperation
The actual signs of an improved
relationship between Pakistan and Russia are still scant. In September 2016, 70
Russian and 130 Pakistani special forces held their first joint military
exercises in Cherat, in northern Pakistan, home of Pakistan's Special Forces.
India had asked Russia to call off the exercise following the 18 September
militant attack on an Indian army base which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan, but
the Russians declined.
The military games went ahead and senior
army officers from both countries visited the exercise.
Soon after, Pakistan offered Russia the use
of Gwadar, its new Chinese-built port on the Gulf, which is close to Iran and
opposite Oman. From Tsarist times, Russia has always wanted a port in the
''warm waters'' of the Gulf. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan was
convinced that the Russian dream was to have a base on Pakistan's Gulf
coastline. Ironically, Pakistan is now offering the same facility.
However, Gwadar port is yet to become fully
operational and it is surrounded by insurgencies in Afghanistan and Balochistan
province. Its capacity is being enhanced by a Chinese-built network of roads
that will eventually connect to the Chinese border in northern Pakistan.
Use of the port by foreign ships is still
some way off, and Pakistan has not made it clear if it would allow Russian
warships to dock there. The Chinese navy has already been granted landing
rights at the port.
Russia has also agreed to sell helicopters
to Pakistan, lifting its decades-old arms embargo against Islamabad, while
India is now looking for arms from Western nations such as the US and France.
Historic Divisions over Afghanistan
However, while the Pakistani government is
playing up its new relationship with Moscow, the Russians are reacting
cautiously, especially because of their long-standing relationship with
Pakistan's archenemy, India.
Russia cannot afford to annoy India, which
is the largest market in the world for its arms and military aircraft.
Historically, India was one of the few non-aligned Asian countries that sided
with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Both Russia and India are also
providing Soviet-era arms and helicopters to the government in Kabul.
Earlier in March 2016 Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif made overtures to Russia for President Vladimir Putin to visit Pakistan,
but the Russians said that they do not believe there was enough substance on
the agenda to justify such a visit - a clear snub to Islamabad and a warning to
do more to curtail the Taliban, who have twice captured the city of Kunduz that
borders Central Asia.
No Russian president has ever visited
Pakistan, but as long as the Taliban threaten Central Asia it is unlikely that
a Russian leader will do so.
Afghanistan remains a key Russian interest.
In April, Zamir Kabulov, Russia's special envoy to Afghanistan criticised the
format of the peace talks that Pakistan was trying to bring about between the
Kabul government and the Afghan Taliban. Russia was not happy it was sidelined
in the talks, which included China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Kabulov called the talks inefficient and
said Russia wanted to create a new format.
Nevertheless, Islamabad and Moscow are
moving away from their years of hostility. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union
occupied Afghanistan while the Afghan Mujaheddin were armed and financed by
Western intelligence agencies and Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services
Intelligence. The Mujaheddin fought the Russians to a standstill, forcing it to
withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989.
Throughout the 1990s, as Pakistan continued
to support the Taliban regime in Kabul and the separatist uprising in Indian
Kashmir, Russia remained wedded to its close ally, India.
The key to warmer ties is an end to the
continuing civil war in Afghanistan. Both China and Russia feel threatened by
this war, and by the number of young men from their Muslim populations who are
joining militant groups. In an important development, Russia, China and
Pakistan are due to hold a tripartite meeting to discuss the common threats
they face in Afghanistan. Russia will host the meeting and Pakistan has already
called it a watershed moment.
Russia and Pakistan also now share a common
threat - that of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as
ISIS), which is recruiting youngsters in Russia, Central Asia, Pakistan and
Afghanistan. The two nations may have a long way to go before relations
actually warm up.
Ahmed Rashid is the author of five books on Afghanistan, Pakistan and
Central Asia. His latest book is Pakistan on the Brink.
Who's Conning Whom in Donald Trump's
By Mark LeVine
It was fitting that the most important
struggle on the eve of the now-historic presidential election was the battle
for Standing Rock. Even more than the Movement for Black Lives, the conflict
between Native Americans and toxic corporations and their government allies
(including President-elect Donald Trump) symbolises the ruined promises and
outright lies that have always defined the United States' treatment of its most
violated and vulnerable inhabitants.
Many progressives have criticised working
and middle-class Trump voters for being "conned" or
"scammed" by a someone who will not (and in fact could not) deliver
on his promises of white economic and political renewal.
But I think Trump voters are, in fact, a
lot smarter than they're being given credit, and that's even scarier. A large
share of the working and middle-class voters who have turned to Trump, in fact,
see the world precisely as it is - stacked against them.
They realise that the promises of Democrats
going back to Bill Clinton to help them adapt to the neoliberal global order
whose basic contours and structures cannot be changed have proved empty.
Despite shepherding an unprecedented
economic recovery after the disastrous George W Bush years, the Obama
administration failed to end the state of constant precarity in which so many
Americans are forced to live.
For many historically oppressed groups,
like African Americans and Latinos, whose lives have always been precarious,
the economic improvement was undeniable and largely appreciated.
But for whites, who historically have felt
entitled to far more secure lives, whatever improvements he managed to bring
did not address the core economic and cultural insecurities that have come to
dominate their lives (and can be traced, among other things, in the massive
opioid epidemic and suicides among white Americans).
That Republican obstructionism, rather his
own lack of interest or concern, is the chief reason for this failure is
irrelevant. The reality is that there was a clear rise in "racial
resentment", among the millions of white Americans who previously supported
Barack Obama, that was clearly transferred to his anointed successor, Hillary
Its roots lie in the realisation by many
working/middle-class whites that they've been put in a classic zero-sum
situation: a global and US political economy that is never going to produce the
kinds of jobs and lives for which they've long felt entitled, while at the same
time other groups see improvements in their situations relative to historic
white power and privilege.
And so, when Trump gave them a choice
between an ersatz multiracial democracy in which they are increasingly
disadvantaged and a return to the order and stability of white primacy, they
made a logical choice: if the pie isn't going to get any bigger (and in fact,
is in some ways shrinking) then the only way they can keep, never mind
increase, their share, is to make sure others get less.
If Trump can install two to four Supreme
Court justices who will back such an agenda with the full force of the
constitution, their superiority will be assured for decades, even after the
demographic balance tips away from them.
Thus, voting for Trump was not voting for a
con man - or at least most didn't buy the con. Rather, it was a strategic
action: a vote for the candidate who will push everyone else back and ensure they
at least maintain their fragile superiority and privilege, such as it is, for
as long as possible.
Put another way, Trump's white legions
understand that unless there is a radically new political order, they are
simply never going to achieve a level of prosperity and security under
neoliberal capitalism as they did under the post-War corporate welfare state.
Until someone can articulate a plausible
path to such a future, we can expect them to continue to cling to white
privilege and power as long as it's believed it will deliver more benefits than
the available alternatives.
A Strong Country
In fact, Americans have heard this sales
pitch before, on the other end of the imperial bell curve. In the late 19th
century, as the US was becoming a global power, one of the foremost preachers
in America, Josiah Strong, a Protestant clergyman, argued for a
"strong" America, projecting American power and reining in
immigration of "the pauper and criminal class" in much the same
fashion as Trump.
Where Trump sees Muslims as an existential
threat, Strong saw Catholics. Similarly, Trump's casually vicious eugenics saw
its predecessor in Strong's celebration of white "Anglo-Saxon"
Christian men who were the natural epitome of the "pure, spiritual Christianity
and... civil liberty" that were missing from and undeserved by everyone
Crucially, Strong believed that "the
time is coming when ... the world enter upon a new stage of its history-the
final competition of races... Then this race of unequalled energy ... having
developed peculiarly aggressive traits calculated to impress its institutions
upon mankind, will ... move down upon Mexico [and] Central and South America
... over upon Africa and beyond. And can anyone doubt that the result of this
competition of races will be the 'survival of the fittest'?" (PDF)
Today, the US's frontiers are long closed,
the future no longer wide open. Its global power is shrinking with no ideology,
or even managerial method capable of managing, as did Fordism and Taylorism in
the 20th century, the still-developing global neoliberal economic order.
The present "survival of the
fittest" contest is not one working and middle-class, white, Christian
America is likely to "win" on its merits, unless the game is again
rigged in its favour. And nothing helps rig politics more powerfully than the
So we are left, at the dawn of the Trump
era, wondering how a progressive movement can both appeal to the full spectrum
of Americans while still offering Trump's white core a vision and narrative
that is both more hopeful and indicative of a change that benefits them than
the soon-to-be-installed system of hyper capitalism with a pronounced white
In the interim, it's clear that any attempt
by progressives, such as Bernie Sanders, to work with Trump would be a
disaster. There is no way to de-racialise Trump's policies. Any success would
only reinforce the profoundly racist system that will be (re)installed during
Meanwhile, unions face an "existential
crisis"; the large-scale protests of the kind we now see at Standing Rock
might succeed in individual circumstances, but will almost assuredly be
unsustainable at a national level, unless the left shows a level of organisation
and training that it has shown no indication of possessing.
Simply put, in the Trump era we are all
increasingly "indigenous"; suffering from the lack of political
representation, discrimination and economic marginalisation that have defined
Native America since the 18th century.
But as the elders often repeat at Standing
Rock, when people of different races and identities - literally, the "four
winds" - come together as is occurring now on that hauntingly beautiful
landscape, their collective force can blow away even the strongest obstacle to
healing and change. That at least is a vision through which a broad and
inclusive progressive vision can be articulated.
Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of
California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.
4 December 2016
In the past eight years, GCC strategic
thinking has experienced geopolitical earthquakes brought on by the Obama
Administration’s Middle East policy that bodes ill for the 44th US president’s
When Obama started his tenure of America’s
commander in chief, GCC officials were already upset with the Bush
Administration’s handling of the US occupation of Iraq and the subsequent Obama
Administration’s ending of the SOFA agreement with Baghdad in 2011. The Egypt
debacle is also a case where Washington shrank away from supporting Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak.
A new round of damage to GCC interests
occurred during the last two years of the Obama Administration and is
continuing to bring disorder.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
(JCPOA): The GCC states see that Iran is empowered to further occupy Arab lands
and apply direct pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia thru proxy fights
especially on the Yemeni-Saudi border. In Yemen, Iran’s supplying and equipping
of arms for the Houthis including missile support continues. A GCC official
stated “this is the real US-Iran Grand Bargain we were all worried about. And
looked what happened. There is an Iranian proxy state on Saudi Arabia’s border
simply because of JCPOA’s impact on the Persian psyche to dominate.” There are
moves to amend JCPOA but the damage is already done.
Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act
(JASTA): Under Obama’s watch, the US Congress passed JASTA which opens up the
door to years of litigation while Americans can sue Saudi Arabia for the events
of 9/11. JASTA narrows the scope of the legal doctrine of foreign sovereign
immunity which can be used by any legal authority against Americans abroad.
There are deep concerns in the US legal community about the impact of JASTA on
bilateral economic ties between America and the GCC.
Egypt’s continuing problems: The Obama
Administration abandoned an Arab ally in a time of crisis while experimenting
with the Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative form of authority to reshape the
Middle East by making political Islam a model of governance. The GCC states saw
this Obama Administration effort as a direct threat to Arab monarchies. The
effort failed miserably and left several countries shattered including Egypt
which just received IMF funding while navigating a spat with some Arab allies.
The Obama Administration’s support of the Brotherhood can be seen through the
Middle East, specifically in Libya. Egypt’s brittle neighbor is now shifting
gears again in its civil war with dramatic consequences for the security and
safety of North Africa.
Iraq and Syria battle space: The GCC
accuses Obama of withdrawing from Iraq before its armed forces were prepared to
defend the country while standing by and abetting former Iraqi Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki’s relationship with Iran that marginalized everyone but the
Shiites. The result was the rise and spread of ISIS. In Syria, Obama’s “red
line” debacle and lack of resolve to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
continues to be a very sore spot. The GCC states see Obama’s, failed strategy
gave rise to ISIS, Iranian hegemony, rampaging Shiite militias numbering over
100,000, and a regional proxy war. There is no doubt that Obama’s strategy - or
lack thereof - allowed Russia to enter the Middle East as a major regional
player that the GCC states see as a new possible partner in some regional
Legacy Or Not?
There are other problems that affect
Obama’s legacy - notably the US President’s interview to The New Yorker where
he called out “free riders” - but there may be one fortunate consequence: The
Obama Administration empowered the GCC states to step out on their own by
forcing them to defend themselves from state and non-state threats. The idea
that the GCC states do not need America—like they used to—is becoming a solid
fact. To be sure, GCC states need American military technology and support, but
politically the tide can continue to where GCC states stand up for themselves
and fight their own regional battles based on their own realpolitik.
Let’s remember that Obama bequests this
legacy to his successor President-Elect Donald Trump who, given his transition
team’s smart appointments at the US Department of Defense and the US State
Department, leads us to believe that an opening to boost GCC views in the
Middle East is forthcoming. Honest, straight talk between the GCC and the Trump
Administration will produce necessary dividends in the Middle East.
Gulf Arabs have looked to America and its
allies for protection in the Middle East. But the region appears to be
“America-less” in the waning days of the Obama Administration. The Obama legacy
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political
affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California
in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in
Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.
Egypt Bets on Strategic Relations with Trump
According to sources close to Egyptian
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, next year will be Egypt’s year par excellence.
They say Egypt will be the only Arab country that will have strategic
quasi-alliances with both Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America. They say in all
confidence that Egypt’s economy will recover but also its strategic role, to
the point that it will stop needing assistance from wealthy Gulf governments.
The sources claim that there is a nationalistic and patriotic surge in Egypt
coupled with a wager on a special relationship between Trump and Putin, and the
belief that the Egyptian leadership has made good use of strategic alliances
with powers led by Russia. Many in Egypt are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory
as though they were American voters. One of the main reasons is the antipathy
towards the Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
whom they accuse, alongside the outgoing President Barack Obama, of endorsing
the Muslim Brotherhood and their rise to power in Cairo and beyond.
However, the supposedly cozy relationship
between Trump and Putin, as suggested by Trump’s campaign remarks, will have a
definitive impact on US policy in the Middle East including in the Gulf, the
sources argue. They are convinced the biggest winner will be Egypt and the
biggest loser will be the Arab Gulf states, and thus Egypt has decided
“nationalist pragmatism” requires it to support Russia’s efforts in Syria
despite war crimes accusations coming from key European powers. Without
equivocation, then, it seems the ruling class in Egypt have washed their hands
clean of any moral responsibility vis-à-vis Syrian civilians. The rulers of
Egypt seem to have resolved that the fight against Islamist groups like the Muslim
Brotherhood is an absolute priority and decided to support the efforts led by
Russia, Iran and allied proxy militias fighting to keep Assad in power.
Turning a Blind Eye
Likewise, Germany is also turning a blind
eye to Russian-Iranian violations in Syria. Berlin sees itself as the nexus of
Western-Russian/Iranian relations and because it played a key role in making
the nuclear deal with Iran happen, the ruling class and the elite in Germany
are keen to protect the deal, and therefore Iran, from accountability for its
actions in Syria. Egypt in the Arab region is similar to Germany in Europe, in
terms of the default exoneration of Iran’s actions in Syria. The difference,
however, is that Germany plays a leading role in in influencing US-Russian
relations from a strategic standpoint, while Egypt is riding on the coattails
of these relations having judged them to be proceeding along a path favorable
This week, an event held by the
Körber-Stiftung Institute in Berlin featured a debate on the nuclear deal. The
debate asked whether the deal has made the Middle East more or less stable. A
pre-debate poll saw 80 percent disagree with its premise, compared to 60
percent following the discussions. The other 40 said the deal emboldened Iran
to carry out military interventions in the Arab countries.
Despite hearing evidence of Iran’s
violations, the number of people agreeing to the premise of the debate question
doubled. What matters most in this context is therefore the knee-jerk way in
which the nuclear deal has come to be defended, coupled with resistance to
scrutinizing Iran’s practices in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Such keenness
is obvious in discussions with decision makers in Berlin, not just in terms of
bilateral relations with Iran but also in terms of what issues will figure in
the agenda of prospective talks with the Trump administration.
The top priority in Germany seems to be the
Minsk talks with Russia on Ukraine, which German diplomats say they want to
keep separate from Syria. Germany does not accept that separating the two
issues – something that it will seek to convince Trump of – will have the same
effect as the separation of the nuclear deal from regional issues during
negotiations with Tehran, which emboldened Iran against Arab countries.
Meanwhile, there is no indication Arab –
especially Gulf – governments are thinking about influencing policies being
drafted ahead of Trump’s inauguration, be they US or European policies. Russia
and Iran are both at the heart of these policies and so there is a vital need
to think of an Arab approach.
Egypt is no exception. It is taking out
bets, not planning. The political class and elite are furious with the Gulf
countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and seem to be willing to gamble relations
with them despite the implications for the Egyptian economy. Egypt believes its
interests require strengthening the strategic relationship with Russia, an
important ally to Cairo in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood. For
Egypt’s rulers, Obama’s departure removes one major foe and obstacle. Donald
Trump, they believe, will usher in a new strategic US-Egyptian relationship
that will upgrade Egypt’s role in the regional balance of power, without the
need for Gulf governments. This is what a visitor to Cairo senses these days.
Yet despite hopes for Egyptian economic and regional recovery, it is difficult
to be reassured by Egypt’s nationalist wave marred by extreme detachment from
the reality of its internal circumstances and regional ambitions.
Egypt’s leadership has made clear its
support for the regime army in Syria and decided that its interest lies in
becoming the fourth pole of the Russia-Iran-regime axis. Egypt may not be the
fourth pole in a military sense, but it will definitely be one in the political
and strategic senses. This is a major development, especially as Saudi Arabia
and the UAE had rushed to give billions to Egypt to shore up its internal
stability and Arab weight in the regional balance of power. But now, things
could be altogether different.
The elephant in the room is Donald Trump.
Everyone is waiting for the message he will send through his key appointments,
led by the state department and the national security advisor posts. Some
believe the appointments would determine the trends of Trumps policies. But
others believe Trump will personally set the tone for US foreign policy despite
being a newcomer.
For its part, Germany is gearing up to
influence the Trump administration in a calculated manner, based on policies,
relations and strategies. Egypt, however, is betting on changes in the
international landscape that it believes would serve its interests, such as the
election of Donald Trump and the Russian president’s determination to impose
his country’s role in the Middle East through Syria with Iranian partnership.
That will be nothing short of a very Egyptian adventure.
Raghida Dergham is Columnist, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, and New
York Bureau Chief for the London-based Al Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is
dean of the international media at the United Nations. Dergham is Founder and
Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute, an indigenous, independent,
inter-generational think tank for the Arab region with a global reach. An
authority on strategic international relations, Dergham is a member of the
Council on Foreign Relations, and an Honorary Fellow at the Foreign Policy
Association. She served on the International Media Council of the World
Economic Forum, and is a member of the Development Advisory Committee of the
IAP- the Global Network of Science Academies. She can be reached on Twitter