Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 January 2017
Palestine Is Still Relevant
By Richard Falk
And Turkey Should Find Common Ground
By Ali Vaez
Security In 2017: Critical Threats
By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
Besieged Fox Dies
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
A Terror Tale Unfolded In Riyadh
By Mshari Al Thaydi
Occupation In The Dock As Much As Sergeant Azaria
By Yossi Mekelberg
Obama’s Successes And Failures
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
January 11, 2017
The UN has been reawakened to its long
lapsed responsibility to find a peaceful solution to the conflict
On December 23, 2016, the UN Security
Council (UNSC), by a 14-0 vote, adopted Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli
settlement expansion; notably the US refrained from voting. It was treated as
big news in the West because the Obama presidency had finally, in its last
weeks in office, refused to use its veto to protect Israel from UN censure.
Especially in the US, the media focused on the meaning of this diplomatic move,
wondering aloud whether it was motivated by President Barack Obama's lingering
anger over Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to torpedo Obama's
efforts to reach an agreement with Iran in 2014 on its nuclear programme, or
meant to challenge the incoming Trump leadership to deal responsibly with the
unresolved Israel-Palestine conflict and mount criticism of US president-elect
Donald Trump's reckless pledge to move the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem and
side openly with extremist Israeli leadership in the years ahead.
The likely lasting importance of the
resolution is the evidence of a strong international consensus embodied in the
14-0 vote, with only the US abstention preventing unanimity. Bringing together
China, Russia, France and the UK on an initiative tabled by Senegal, Malaysia
and Venezuela is sending Israel and the US the message that despite the adverse
developments in the Middle East in recent years, the world has not forgotten
the Palestinians or their struggle. It is also significant that the resolution
calls upon the new UN secretary general to report back to the UNSC every three
months on implementation progress and explicitly keeps the council seized of
the issue. Such provisions reinforce the impression that the unresolved
Israel-Palestine conflict will remain on the UN's policy agenda in the months
ahead, which is itself extremely irritating to Israel.
It is widely agreed that 2334 is largely
symbolic, which is a way of saying that nothing on the ground in occupied
Palestine is expected to change, even with respect to Israeli settlement
policy, from the passage of this resolution. Israel responded to the resolution
even more defiantly than anticipated, partly because this challenge to its
policies, although symbolic, was more threatening than a mere gesture of
disapproval. This reaction seemed principally influenced by the US failure to
follow its normal practice of shielding Israel by casting its veto. It also complements
the growing civil society challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, and
Sanctions Campaign (BDS), which has been gaining traction in recent years,
particularly in Europe and North America. In effect, resolution 2334 may be the
beginning of a new stage of the legitimacy war that the Palestinian people and
their supporters have been waging in recent years in opposition to Israeli
policies and practices, not only in the West Bank and East Jerusalem but also
in Gaza and on the world stage. If Trump follows through on his provocative
pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, it is likely to intensify
offsetting efforts to induce the UN to exert greater pressure on Israel to
address Palestinian grievances in an accommodating manner.
A few days after the UN vote, the
motivation for the US's change of tactics was clarified by secretary of state
John Kerry. He mainly connected 2334 with the US effort to save the two-state
solution from collapsing.
Impact Of The Resolution
Kerry quoted approvingly Former Israeli
president Shimon Peres' self-satisfied assertion that 78% of historic Palestine
should be enough for Israel, which Peres was comparing to the excessive demands
for even more land by the settler one-staters. Of course, 78% gives Israel much
more than the 55% it was awarded in 1947 by UN General Assembly resolution 181.
At the time, the entire Arab world and Palestinian representatives rejected
this UN proposal as unacceptable despite being given 45% or more than double
the Palestinian territory after Israeli withdrawal from land occupied since the
1967 war. Beyond this, Kerry's inclusion of land swaps as integral to his
version of the two-state solution would result in further encroachments on
territory left to the Palestinians, a result obscured to some extent by giving
Palestine uninhabitable desert acreage as a dubious equivalent for the prime
agricultural land on which the unlawful Israeli settlements are built. At best,
territorial equality would be achieved quantitatively, but certainly not qualitatively,
which is what counts.
Overall, the impact of resolution 2334 is
likely to be greater than it would have been if Israel had not reacted so
petulantly. Even if Trump reverses the US's critical approach to further
Israeli settlement expansion, the UN has been reawakened to its long lapsed
responsibility to find a peaceful solution for the conflict and end the
Palestinian ordeal that has gone on for an entire century since Lord Alfred
Balfour gave a British colonial green light to the Zionist project to establish
a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine. As well, civil society activists that
have thrown their support to the BDS campaign and governments critical of
Israel's behaviour are likely to feel encouraged by this expression of virtual
unity within the most important organ of the UN system.
Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International
Law at Princeton University
They need to establish a channel for
continuous high-level negotiations over Iraq and Syria
Today's competition between Turkey and Iran
is the latest iteration of an old power game: a struggle their progenitors, the
Byzantine and Persian empires, started over the control of Mesopotamia -
today's Iraq and Syria. While the rivalry outlived their transformation from
empires to nation-states, they have managed to keep the peace between
themselves for nearly 200 years.
Yet Turkey and Iran are now on a collision
course, mostly because of their involvement as the region's major Sunni and
Shiite powers in the deepening sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Their
inability to accommodate each other has the potential to undermine or even undo
the strong ties they have developed over the past two decades, as their
economies became increasingly intertwined.
How the two countries choose to deploy
their power and whether they can overcome their differences are vitally
important to determining the future of the Middle East. Left unchecked, the
present dynamics point toward greater bloodshed, growing instability and
greater risks of direct - even if inadvertent - military confrontation.
Turkey's military involvement in Syria and
Iraq is partly a response to the perception that Iran is increasingly
encroaching on its historic sphere of influence, especially in and around the
Aleppo and Mosul battlefields close to its southern border. It is also an
effort to prevent the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D., which
is affiliated with Turkey's archnemesis the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or
P.K.K., to gain more territory.
Friction between the two countries and
their proxies is rising alarmingly at a time that mutual trust has reached a
Tehran interprets Turkey's Syria policy as
primarily a product of a neo-Ottoman ambition to regain clout and empower
pro-Turkey Sunnis in territories ruled by its progenitor. "What changed in
Syria" after the civil war began "was neither the government's nature
nor Iran's ties with it, but Turkish ambitions," an Iranian national
security official told me. Moreover, Iran blames Turkey for not stemming the
flow of Syria-bound jihadists through Turkish territory and for giving them
logistical and financial support.
In the same vein, officials in Ankara
contend that Iran seeks to resuscitate the Shia version of the ancient Persian
Empire. In March 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey accused Iran of
fighting the Daesh in Iraq only to replace it. Turkey also says that Iran's
mobilisation of Shia militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the
rule of a minority sect, the Alawites, over a majority-Sunni population in
Syria has worsened sectarian tensions, giving Sunni extremists a potent
In trading accusations, each decries the
other's refusal to acknowledge its view of reality, while ignoring the fact
that each has acted in ways for which it faults the other - including deploying
military forces to wars beyond their borders and supporting militias, both
aimed at controlling whatever emerges from the debris of today's turmoil in
Syria and Iraq.
Both countries have attempted to build on
shared interests - defeating or at least marginalising Daesh and curbing the
rise of Syrian Kurds seeking autonomy - but deep suspicions about the other's
ambitions to benefit from the chaos have stopped them from reaching an
arrangement that could reduce tensions. To reverse course and avoid worse,
Turkey and Iran need to overcome mistrust and go beyond merely managing
differences - with the risks of accidents, miscalculations and
miscommunications this entails - and, for once, frankly acknowledge each
other's core interests and security concerns.
To this end, they need to establish a channel
for continuous high-level negotiations over Iraq and Syria. The pace of such
meetings to date has been problematic: periodic senior-level encounters lasting
one or two days, followed by relatively long periods of diplomatic vacuum often
filled with the escalation of proxy wars and one-upmanship. Erdogan and Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran should designate personal representatives with the
authority to manage the diplomatic channel.
Beyond this, the governments should also
find ways to increase cooperation and trust, like sharing intelligence to
better fight common foes and avoid accidental clashes, and coordinating steps
that could defuse tensions where their spheres of influence collide. As a first
step, in northern Iraq, Iran might offer to rein in Shia militias deployed in
Nineveh Province in return for Turkey's agreeing to withdraw its tanks and
other heavy weapons from the area. The United States and Russia, which have
strong military ties with Turkey and Iran respectively, should support such steps,
despite their differences.
Ali Vaez is the International Crisis Group's senior
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
Jan 12, 2017
In a friendly conversation with an old man
reading The Middle East newspaper at a coffee shop in Riyadh, a question was
raised regarding the future of the region as we welcome the new year.
As the question is too broad to be answered
in detail, it was narrowed down to address two main concerns: 1) Is terrorism
going to end? and 2) Will bloodshed in the region be stopped and will peace
The short answer to these questions is no.
Terrorism will not end, since the dramatic changes that have swept across the
region in recent years have produced a fertile ground for terrorist
organizations which have not developed their mechanisms of action to operate
within the borders of a nation-state; rather, their brutal activities and
ideology encroach on the nation state to form trans-boundary and
Sponsors of terrorism, Iran for instance,
will not give up their interference in the internal affairs of other countries
or stop providing support to terrorist and sectarian organizations.
Terrorism is a sophisticated compound
phenomenon that is directly linked to the raising of violent non-state actors
within the international system.
This came to the fore in the first decade
of this century as the 9/11 attacks marked a clear and evident demonstration.
In those events, the United States, a traditional actor in the international
arena, was facing Al-Qaeda, a new trans-boundary and transcontinental actor
that has no nation, region or nation state institutions. The latter crossed the
borders of Afghanistan to hit the US World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Five years later, the July war took place
between Israel, a traditional actor, and Hezbollah, an international actor that
trespasses the Lebanese borders. In fact, Lebanon never was a part of the war
as a nation state; it had no plans for war, and it was the most negatively
affected by the war. Likewise, the Gaza war was fought between Palestinian
resistance movements including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in
Palestine on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Most recently, the Syrian
revolution, as part of the Arab Spring, brought new trans-boundary and
transcontinental actors into the international system, including Daesh (the
self-proclaimed IS) and Al-Nusra Front.
Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism will
never give up interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
Revolution is the foundation stone of the Iranian regime that transformed it
into constitutional provisions under the pretext of aiding disadvantaged and
oppressed people around the world. Thus, interference in the internal affairs
of other countries has become Iran’s nature, duty and a source of its
legitimacy. Such principles led Iran to disregard all international conventions
and disrespect the sovereignty of states. Therefore, Iran will move forward
with its arrogance.
When will the region witness peace? It can
be argued that two main factors may bring peace to the region:
Firstly, when terrorism is defeated.
Institutions of nation states have to be empowered in order to effectively
contribute to the fight against terrorism. The security of nation states must
be controlled, borders must be defended, and laws must be enacted to form
national institutions based on a unified national vision. Such actions may
reduce sub-loyalties that enhance roles of “non-state actors”.
Secondly, when Iran is neutralized. Iran
can be neutralized either by international pressure to discourage its terrorist
actions or by changing the foundation of its regime itself. It has to change
from a revolutionary state to one that is committed to respecting the
sovereignty of other states, and give up its interference in the internal
affairs of other countries. These two factors are the only way out of the
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs
specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh.
Reports that Iran is in danger following
the death of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the regime’s prominent figures,
are not true. Tehran lost its hawk years ago, stripping him of his powers, and
putting him in isolation and under observation.
Moreover, the former president’s men were
excluded from government. Even his daughter Faiza was imprisoned. His son Mahdi
was given reassurances that he would not be held accountable if he voluntarily
returned from abroad. No sooner had he arrived in Tehran than he was arrested
The Iranian regime has been getting rid of
its own members since the beginning of the 1979 revolution. Power-seekers
plotted against Iran’s first President Abolhassan Banisadr, who was a close
aide of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Banisadr fled the country and found
political asylum in France, but he still fears for his life. Former Foreign
Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, spokesperson of the revolution, was executed.
Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi are
the latest among several leaders of Iran’s revolution to be put under house
arrest. Both men objected to election forgery and misuse of power. All those
men were regime members, not opponents.
The Iranian opposition was suspicious about
Rafsanjani’s death, because he had been practicing his activities until his last
day despite his old age. Regardless of whether he died of natural causes or
not, it is certain that the current leadership practically killed him years ago
when it isolated him. What had Rafsanjani done to be punished? No anti-regime
action or stance had been reported against him.
His differences with the leadership were
about details of Iranian policy, which is by no means a cause for dispute as
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the one who decides policy. They were afraid of
Rafsanjani because his legitimacy came after Khamenei’s — he was wealthy and
one of the regime’s oldest leaders. All this made Rafsanjani a target for his
opponents in government circles.
He had not been personally accused.
Instead, members of his family were accused. This was due to his popularity on
the Iranian street, the many international relationships he built after taking
office, and his support of the regime’s “moderate” old leaders. In addition, he
contributed to bringing former President Mohammad Khatami to power.
Iran’s government system has nothing to do
with individuals; it is a collective religious and security system, just like
past Communist regimes. It has nothing to do with positions and hierarchy,
including the president — except for the supreme leader, who has the last say.
Rafsanjani was a political fox long before
taking office. He was keen to portray himself as a moderate leader, but that
did not mean he was moderate by international standards. He called on his
regime’s members to end the West’s embargo on Iran several years before nuclear
negotiations led to the same results he was calling for. However, his rivals
did not back down until economic sanctions became so harsh that they threatened
the regime’s existence.
Tehran’s fox was the one who took the
reconciliation initiative with the Gulf states following the war to liberate
Kuwait. He was keen to go to then-Crown Prince Abdullah, who headed the Saudi
delegation to the Islamic Summit in Senegal. He met with the prince and
reconciled with Saudi Arabia following a dispute over Iranian pilgrims.
The Kingdom had insisted on reducing their
number to 70,000 from 120,000, in line with a decision by the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and after sabotage by Iran’s Haj mission in Makkah.
Tehran accepted the reduction, and the Kingdom agreed that the rites of
innocence take place in the area dedicated to Iran’s Haj mission, but not
inside the Grand Mosque or its neighborhood.
However, Saudi-Iranian relations collapsed
again when Iranian intelligence carried out the bombing of Alkhobar Towers, in
which many Americans were killed and injured. Rafsanjani spent two weeks in the
Kingdom and reached a reconciliation.
Relations deteriorated for a third time
when it was found that Tehran had been involved in the 2004 Riyadh bombings,
carried out at the direction of Al-Qaeda leaders residing in Iran. When faced
with evidence, Tehran could not deny its involvement, and claimed the operation
was carried out behind its back.
Since then, the Kingdom and other countries
in the region have not trusted the promises of Rafsanjani or any other Iranian
leaders. His death proves to the world that Tehran’s leadership has failed to
make the transition from the 1979 revolution to a modern, moderate state.
Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al
Arabiya News Channel, and fomer editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this
article was originally published.
Mshari Al Thaydi
11 January 2017
Elimination of two wanted terrorists –
Tayea Salem Yaslam al-Sayari and Talal Samran al-Saadi – in Riyadh few days ago
highlighted the story of Saudi struggle against terror groups. Tayea, who
prepared explosive belts, was a student on a scholarship program.
He gave up education and joined his brother
Motea in ISIS. Talal did the same and joined his brother Fahd whose activity
launched the major Saudi assault against al-Qaeda groups and their recent
breed, the ISIS.
Officially, Saudi Arabia’s war against
terrorism began 14 years ago, in March 2003. This was after security forces
unearthed a house from where al-Qaeda was operating. The house, which served
recruitment and storage purposes, was located in al-Jazira neighborhood of
Riyadh. A huge explosion happened there killing al-Qaeda member Fahd, who was
then 29 years old.
This explosion exposed al-Qaeda’s evil
designs and came as a response to all those who had any doubts about the extent
of al-Qaeda plans to set up an extensive terror network across the country.
This is where it all began. It was followed
by a confrontation between Saudi security forces and the society, which was
shocked by these developments. Operations began against al-Qaeda terror cells
which were mostly formed of Saudi “sahwi” youths and dangerous commanders from
Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Egypt and other countries.
In May 2003, in a new approach adopted by
the state to deal with terror groups, Saudi authorities revealed the first list
of suspected terrorists. Thus came a list of 19 names and it included dangerous
men such as the first founder of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia Yusef al-Ayeri, his
successor Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, Saleh al-Awfi, Khaled Hajj, a dangerous Yemeni
al-Qaeda member, and others.
Five days later, a terrorist group which
included five men from those on the list raided three residential compounds in
Riyadh using booby-trapped cars. The attacks, which took place in May, 2003 in
east of Riyadh, later came to be known as al-Hamra and Granada attacks.
Subsequent developments took dangerous
dimensions and the most recent has been the killing of Talal and Tayea in the
al-Yasmeen neighborhood of Riyadh. A lot has been written in the media and said
during religious sermons since the launch of operations to neutralize terror
outfits. However, the ideology has only expanded and branched across the world.
I think it is time to establish “real”
research centers to examine this problem as it truly as and not as some
preachers think it is. These centers must analyze this ideology’s intellectual,
media and social manifestations. These research centers must take matters
seriously and they must work hard and be patient while performing their duties.
The beginning of the healing process is the accurate understanding of the
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya
News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held
the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at
pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on
political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on
several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist
groups and terrorists.
In front of a packed courtroom last week,
an Israeli military court convicted Sergeant Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier,
of the manslaughter of a Palestinian militant. He shot the wounded Abdel Fattah
al-Sharif at point blank range, killing al-Sharif, who had attacked other
Israeli soldiers with a knife only minutes earlier, but was shot by them.
The court rejected the soldier’s version
that al-Sharif posed any threat while he was lying bleeding on the ground. This
case would never have reached an indictment, let alone a conviction, had it not
been for the presence of a human rights researcher from the Israeli
organization B’tselem, who recorded this gruesome extrajudicial killing.
Anyone with any common sense and decency
would have understood that the only logical conclusion to this footage was
indictment, which would most likely lead to a conviction of at least
manslaughter. Instead of responding with universal embarrassment and
condemnation, this act found wide support within the right wing forces in
Israel and their leaders in government.
Not only was an Israeli soldier in the
dock, but the entire Israeli occupation and the control of the lives of almost
five million Palestinians for nearly 50 years. This killing should not have
caught anyone by surprise, considering the ample evidence of similar gross
violations of Palestinians’ human rights.
According to B’etselem’s spokesperson Roy
Yellin, in recent years there have been 719 cases of bodily harm, ranging from
injuries to fatalities, which potentially merited indictment. However, the
Israeli authorities turned a blind eye.
The split in the reaction to the case of
Sgt. Azaria is indicative of the divisions within the Israeli society,
vis-à-vis relations with the Palestinians, and an example of how the occupation
has changed Israeli society, for the worse, beyond recognition. It has also
exposed how vulnerable the supremacy the rule of law is in Israel and the
preeminence of populist-nationalist politicians in the country’s politics.
Interestingly enough, it was the very
highest echelons of the Israeli military, including the Chief of Staff, Gadi
Eizenkot, who were quick to distance themselves from Sgt. Azaria’s behavior.
For them it represented a complete breakdown in discipline which if allowed to
prevail is bound to compromise the professionalism of the army, would make
their daily tasks more difficult, and may end in the army becoming no more than
a militia-like entity.
The corollary of this was for them to allow
the courts, and the courts only, to decide whether Azaria was guilty or not. On
the other hand politicians from the right wing coalition, including Prim
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of the settlers, reacted diametrically
opposite. For them it became an opportunity to increase their popularity among
their political supporters, portraying this law breaker soldier as a hero.
Ministers ignored due process, declaring
the innocence of Azaria even before any indictment was filed. One minister, in
her typical hysterical and inciting manner, threatened that a conviction would
harm the ability of the Israeli military to defend Israel, and would lead to
youth avoiding serving in combat units.
It is mind boggling that a leader of
whatever political persuasion would argue that unless the country allows war
crimes to occur, it loses its ability to defend itself. The calls to pardon the
soldier, even before the length of sentence has been decided, undermine the
country’s judiciary system and make a mockery of the country’s democratic
character. This is in addition to a wave of vile incitement against the judges
in this trial and the Chief of Staff following the verdict.
An Entire Nation
Those in the political system or among the
settlers, who are quick to defend the soldier’s horrific act, are legitimizing
the unlawful harming of Palestinians. The entire occupation is based on
victimizing an entire nation in the name of Israel’s alleged security and
ideological needs. It is based on scaring the whole population into submission.
Daily humiliation at checkpoints; breaking
into and searching houses in the middle of the night; confiscating land and
preventing people from traveling freely and earning their livelihood; are just
a few examples of the daily hardships suffered by Palestinians in the West
Bank. And yes, in a civilized society even an assailant has rights. When
al-Sharif was incapacitated by the soldiers his fate should have been decided
by the courts and not by a mob trial.
The military establishment should bear
responsibility for allowing soldiers to be exposed daily to the influence of
some of the most extreme settlers. In the case of Hebron, the scene of the
killing of al-Sharif, the messianic and most racist of settlers are allowed to
indoctrinate soldiers who serve there and even give them gifts. While
Palestinians are put on trial for the most minor of offences, some soldiers and
settlers are getting away, literally at times, with murder.
The judges were explicit in their verdict
that what Sgt. Azaria did was a criminal act, breaking the law in complete
disregard of military orders. What the court could not say is that the social
discourse within Israeli society makes these acts permissible, even desirable.
It is an atmosphere that does not perceive Palestinians as equal human beings
entitled to the same rights even on their own land.
When the occupation becomes the norm and
the subjugation of millions of people to its whims a daily routine, there will
always be those that will see this as consent, even encouragement, to actions
such as the one condemned in court last week. However, condemnation and putting
the soldier behind bars without rethinking the root causes of this is
Those who defend shooting an injured
person, who poses no threat, at this point are destroying any semblance of
democracy in Israel and its legal justice pillar. Not only is it morally
abhorrent, but it also becomes a main source of radicalization among
Palestinians. In the process it also deepens the frictions within Israeli
society, bringing it to a breaking point.
Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle
East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs,
Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict
resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the
International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in
London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s
College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are
international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East,
human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of
the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and
Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international
media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
President Barack Obama will soon vacate the
Oval Office after having served two terms and staying in power for eight years.
Undoubtedly, it is not easy to pass judgment on the achievements he has made or
to decide how important they are at the present time. However, Obama’s failures
will be a subject of long debate among many.
Some will say that these failures are few
compared with Obama’s many accomplishments while others will blow the whole
matter out of proportion and say that the failures have outweighed and
obliterated Obama’s successes.
Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
around eight months after being elected president of the United States. The
Nobel Prize committee did not award him the prize as recognition of concrete
achievements but for the promising achievements he was going to make. Usually,
the prize is awarded to persons who have excelled and made great achievements
in their fields. But for Obama, the situation was different.
It was undoubtedly a great accomplishment,
if not a miracle, so to speak, for an African-American to be elected president
of the United States for the first time in the country’s history. Despite the
fact that we live in an age of technology, not miracles, Obama won the election
and became president in 2009. Who would have thought that something like this
could happen in a society that is controlled by white people and where black
people are not treated equally?
Born to a Kenyan father and a white
American mother, Obama was raised by his maternal grandparents. He excelled at
his studies and earned prestigious college degrees from the best American
universities. He served as a law school professor and was able to prove that he
had what it takes to be a candidate of the Democratic Party and later the 44th
The consequences of the legacy of former US
president George W. Bush were heavy and filled with crises. The effects of
Bush’s presidency took the American economy, and the global one for that
matter, down. During his era, the economy hit rock bottom. However, Obama
succeeded in reducing the unemployment rate, reviving the auto industry, and
driving corporate taxes down. Reducing such taxes created job opportunities in
the market. Obama also cut the budget deficit.
Obama’s main achievement on the national
level is clearly Obamacare. The main objective of it is to provide medical
healthcare services to the majority of Americans at a lower cost. Obama’s
predecessors were unable to reform the healthcare system. Obamacare was enacted
despite Republican opposition and Trump threatened to repeal it if he won the
But Trump later said that he would not
cancel it, but would introduce amendments to it. After all, the Republicans do
not have any other alternative at present. Moreover, over 20 million Americans
who benefit from Obamacare will not forget this achievement.
As far as US foreign policy is concerned,
Obama made some promises but totally failed to fulfill them. He could not stop
Israel from building settlements in the Palestinian territories and he failed
to resolve the Palestinian issue and reach a two-state solution for the
Palestine-Israel conflict. Although he expressed his deep affection for Israel
several times, just like his predecessors had done, he could not build strong
relations with the Israeli prime minister.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay but
he failed. However, he reduced the number of inmates who were held there
without being brought to trial. He also failed to stop the enactment of the
Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) although he opposed it and
vetoed it. Two thirds of Congress voted to override his veto.
Obama’s successes include his historic
visit to Cuba and his efforts to end the American embargo on that country that
was imposed over half a century ago. His visit to Myanmar following the end of
military rule there and signing business agreements with local officials was
another success. Nevertheless, he failed to exercise pressure on the Myanmar
government to end genocide and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims.
Obama also visited Vietnam as part of his
administration’s strategy to focus on the East. As a result, the visit made
China angry. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, the city that was completely destroyed
when Americans dropped an atomic bomb on it, is another feat. It was the first
time an American president visited the city while he was still in power. But
Obama never apologized to the Japanese people; he only said in a speech that he
wished that we had a nuclear-free world.
Another success was the nuclear agreement
with Iran. Obama said the agreement would prevent Iran from producing and
manufacturing nuclear weapons. However, President-elect Trump said that he
would tear up the agreement and then later said that he would amend some of its
Despite the failures of the Obama
administration in the Arab and Muslim world, he was able to pull off a number
of initiatives, and in the final analysis, history will place him among the
most successful US presidents.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who
specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.