US and Arab interests should not clash

Harming Arab interests harms American interests and I expect the Arabs have clarified this equation in the dialogue between them and the United States.
Thursday 02/05/2019
US President Donald Trump (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hold up a Golan Heights proclamation in the White House, March 25. (AFP)
Obvious bias. US President Donald Trump (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hold up a Golan Heights proclamation in the White House, March 25. (AFP)

Any decision taken by US President Donald Trump that is detrimental to Arab interests is often presented as an urgent matter that can wait no longer. Anything that is in Arabs’ favour, however, is discussed in the wings and decisions are usually postponed and even neglected for good. Such is the obvious bias in the way American administrations perceive and deal with the issues of the region.

Once again, we see Trump gingerly sidestepping historical realities and international resolutions and quite casually handing the Golan Heights to Israel. The decision is obviously anti-Arab and reflects a disregard for the potential ramifications of an unfair bias. The man simply and calmly offered occupied land to those who have no right to it.

By contrast, the extreme zeal shown by Trump in thinking of ways to contain Iran, clip its military wings and curb its direct and indirect hegemony over Arab countries oftentimes takes festive or farcical aspects as if they were part of an election parade.

Even the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, although not particularly backbreaking in the first place, have been allowed exceptions by the Trump administration, allowing Iran to continue developing its missile programmes and finance its proxy militias in Arab countries. That way, Iran can rest assured that everything is still under its control.

When they saw Trump's zeal and that of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when it came to the Iranian file, Arabs expected this file would become a priority in the American administration’s foreign policy and thought that Trump had outdone his predecessors by daring to side with the Arabs in their just causes. And then here is Trump stabbing them in the heart by foolishly recognising Israel's right to annex the occupied Golan Heights.

With his reckless decision, Trump returned to the days of regional imbalance when every issue was seen through the lens of Israeli interests first. Trump dared do what no other US president had even thought of doing. He made it legitimate for a country to take other people’s lands. Such a decision, though symbolic in nature, carries the many signs of moral collapse in international politics.

A strong Arab political reaction will force the US administration to clarify its ambiguous position. Of course, such a response cannot be made in the typical Arab way, which relies on mobilising and agitating public opinion while overlooking diplomatic channels of communication.

The question is more complex and sensitive than to be paraded about in the media because the issue is not only about harming Arab interests but is also about the credibility of the US position, the attitudes towards which could affect US interests in the region.

What should be clear to the Trump administration is that the Arabs are weighing their interests against those of the United States. By so doing, they are speaking the same language as the West. Trump and other Western leaders will not then be able to turn their backs on the pretext that they do not understand language used by Arabs.

The real interest of the Arabs lies in the fact that the United States should carry out its duty to maintain world peace. The recognition of Israel's right to seize the Golan Heights is not one of the terms of that mission.

What the United States should do to preserve its interests in the region is to respect the interests of Arabs, meaning that it should not sweep what benefits them under the rug and start harming them. Harming Arab interests harms American interests and I expect the Arabs have clarified this equation in the dialogue between them and the United States.

So, if the United States is sincere in its quest to lift the region out of the chaos of terrorism, it must begin its plan to curtail Iran. By doing so, the United States will show that it is serious about preserving its interests. The Arabs can deliver that simple message without public or media hullaballoo.

The "Golan game" should not eclipse clarifying the US position with respect to the Iranian threat in the region because that threat is dangerous to both Arab interests and American interests.