The Arab world after operation Decisive Storm
The Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East are advantageous to the Gulf states in one respect: They force them to face the reality of their internal and external situations.
In a recent interview with American journalist Thomas Friedman, US President Barack Obama opined that the greatest threats to the Sunni Arab states are internal. According to Obama, the threat to Arab states lies with “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances”.
In the same interview Obama said he would have a “tough conversation” with the Gulf states about their internal challenges while providing strong support against external threats. The US president also expressed solidarity with Israel, stressing the view that the relationship between Israel and the United States is larger than any passing disagreements about Iran and its nuclear programme.
Obama’s allusion to internal challenges makes it clear that the contagion of the “Arab spring” still has the potential to spread to the Arab Gulf states. Alienated populations, underemployed youth and political grievances were the rallying cry for the revolutionaries of the “Arab spring”. That is, until the revolutionaries realised they were being used as fuel for the fires of war and civil strife, as was particularly clear in the cases of Libya and Yemen.
It is also clear from Obama’s comments that the United States will no longer be an absolute ally to the Arab Gulf states. Rather, the United States will be the Arab Gulf states’ arms dealer, providing them with weapons to help them defend themselves against external aggression. In this regard, Obama only mentioned one potential aggressor: Iran. Ironically, it is precisely Iran that has long been the darling of the Obama administration, an administration that has chosen to ignore Iranian interference and meddling in the countries of the region.
As a result of Iranian policies and US indulgence, Tehran is more willing and able than ever to continue its flagrant intervention in Arab states. These interventions are either direct or via the Shia Arab leaderships in the region and have led to the humiliation and provocation of Sunni Arabs. This is especially clear in Iraq and Lebanon, which represent the focus of Iranian attempts to shred Arab national security and achieve Iranian objectives.
The success of the Iranian agenda was made clear in the reactions of Arab Shia politicians to Operation Decisive Storm. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Hezbollah Secretary- General Hassan Nasrallah all vehemently denounced the operation. That is how the region’s most prominent Shia Arab politicians reacted after the formation of an alliance to fight the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces in Yemen and push them to return to the negotiating table.
Israel, of course, is the primary beneficiary from the current disarray in the region. Israeli gains, moreover, are not the result of Iranian losses, in spite of the strength of Israel’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear programme. Israel gains from the current situation primarily at the expense of the Palestinians whose losses are forecast to increase exponentially. It will finalise its occupation; and the peace process will disappear forever. Israel will become de facto reality, making it imperative for the Arabs to recognise it as a full, legitimate, Middle Eastern state.
Responsibility for this lies first and foremost with Iran, which for 35 years has fought the Arab nation states. Iran has also exploited Arab tractability to weaken the makeup of Arab states and control their social, political and economic structures. In the case of Iraq and Lebanon, this has extended to the state’s military articulation as well, a state of affairs Iran hoped to replicate in Yemen.
The dream of a Greater Israel and a new Persian Empire meet in an Arab region that has become exposed to both designs because of the transformation of a number of Arab countries into failed states or, at the very least, states unable to contend with their regional enemies.
Arabs are left with no choice but to resist these imperialistic ambitions, which surround them on every side. Moreover, Arabs will never succeed in resisting such trends if they do not unify their political, military and economic capabilities and build a system capable of combating the threats, which have emanated from the “Arab spring” including the dismemberment of the nation states, the proliferation of civil wars and mounting terrorism.
From this starting point, and in the coming years, it might be possible to combat the imperialistic aspirations that exploit the results of the “Arab spring” to threaten Arabs along with the independence of their states.
The hope, in spite of everything, is that Arabs wake up to the political and military realities of the region. Operation Decisive Storm has given hope that there will be no return to Arab weakness and that there will be rather a continuing mobilisation against the ambitions that exploit Arab frailties.