Amr Moussa: The Arabs will never say ‘Yes, sir’ to Turkey or Iran
Cairo - Former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa remains a busy man. A veteran of Middle East politics — he was Egyptian Foreign minister from 1991-2001 — Moussa is keeping a weather eye on the national, regional and international situation, including attending the World Economic Forum in January in Switzerland.
Moussa, speaking at his office in Cairo one day after the anniversary of the January 25th, 2011, Egyptian revolution, addressed many of the unprecedented challenges the Middle East is facing.
“Yes, it was a real revolution and as a reaction to bad governance but it was also hijacked very quickly and it didn’t last long,” Moussa told The Arab Weekly. “Still, the effect is deep. The change has started. Egypt will never go back to how it was before and I believe the reaction will take a long time but there will be a new Egypt at the end of the road.
“Of course, it could be better but this is the beginning.”
Six years after the revolution, Egypt finds itself confronted with a region in flux and is backing different sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya. This is a precarious state that is raising tensions between Cairo and traditional stalwart supporter Saudi Arabia. Many Egyptian officials deny any tension between Riyadh and Cairo but the signs of strain are clear.
“Egyptian-Arab relations have their own life,” Moussa said. “There are pushes and pulls — positives and negatives — but all of us feel that, in the final analysis, we all belong to the Arab nation. We all belong to the Arab world and the differences will be dealt with as we go.”
He added: “This is not the first time that Egypt and other Arab countries [have had problems]. You remember after Camp David? That was a total boycott. And then you see what happened thereafter. So, I hope, I trust, that this tense situation will not continue for long.
“I agree with you, of course it is a tense situation. Of course, relations are not what they should be among Arab countries.”
Moussa said the region has completely changed and that change requires Arab countries to work together to build a more stable future.
“With the developments that are taking place we have to discuss the future regional arrangement, particularly following the advent of two regional powers — Iran and Turkey — which are after all from the region but are not Arab,” he said.
“So, I believe that the solution to the Syrian issue and with it the Iraqi issue and with it the Kurdish issue and with it the Iranian ambitions and [safeguarding] Arab rights is for all of this to be dealt with in one pot. We must all sit and talk about the future of the region. And this is the constructive thing I am calling everybody to do.”
Moussa warned that, unless it worked together to put forward a clear vision for the future of the region, the Arab world could see the United States and Russia try to impose a vision that would lead to disaster.
“Should they [Moscow and Washington] commission Iran and Turkey to take care of the region? They can’t. They just can’t,” Moussa said. “They [Iran and Turkey] are not Arab. The majority [of the Middle East] is Arab and the Arabs will never say ‘Yes, sir’ to Turkey or Iran. But if there are leaders from among our own ranks, like the Saudis and Egyptians, so I believe this is the way to solve the problems.”
As for whether Egypt, which has been preoccupied with domestic concerns over regional ones since the 2011 revolution, has returned to its regional role after the revolution, Moussa was clear.
“No, not yet but we are on the way,” he said. “It will take time and sound policies but the Arab world is in need of Egypt. Wherever you go, you will hear talks that ‘We cannot do it without Egypt. We want Egypt back’. This, in itself, is essential for Egypt to assist the situation. As the Arabs need Egypt, Egypt also needs the Arabs and altogether we can do the game. Separately we can’t.”
Egypt must play a larger role in resolving regional crises, Moussa said, particularly the political and security crises next door in Libya.
“We witness active politics. Yes, Egypt is playing a role there, particularly as the situation in Libya is a threat to Egypt if it is left to the terrorists. They were eyeing Egypt [from Libya], especially [the Islamic State] ISIS. So, the role of neighbouring countries, and particularly Egypt, is to bring together all of the parties in the Libyan conflict to sit together and chart the route forward. I can see some glimpse of hope now.”
Speaking less than one week after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the US president, Moussa struck a note of caution. “Well, the beginning has not been very encouraging but let us wait and see how things will develop. In the United States, it is not just the personage of the president himself; there are the rest of the institutions as well. So, let us give him the first 100 days, or even the first six months,” he said.
“Let us give him a chance. Provided, of course, that he does not embark on something that will confuse the whole issue,” he added, speaking before Trump’s controversial decree to ban citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the United States.