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Closing Down Guantanamo - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Perhaps Barack Obama thought when he signed that executive order to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention center that he would be met with demonstrations welcoming his courageous resolution, and praise for this message to the world, and especially to the Arabs.

The closure of a prison, all of whose inmates are Muslims, seems to relay the message that he will begin his term in office with a positive move towards them [the Islamic world]. He made the decision to close Guantanamo Bay on the first day in office as President of the United States. This decision was met with Arab indifference and apathy.

Guantanamo will be history, but the coming issues will decide the future of the world, and they are far more dangerous than some prisoners on a remote island; the USA is in the midst of a conflict that will not end just because one President has been replaced by another. The Middle East is a strategically important region, and Obama cannot withdraw from it no matter what he has promised his citizens. Obama began the week getting to grips with the details of governing Iraq which America is involved in behind the scenes. Surprising all, the Iraqi Security Advisor has promised a broad security arrangement [memorandum of understanding] with Iran.

A security agreement at whose expense and how?

Al Qaeda is now present in Iran, and still exists in Iraq. And so how will the Iraqi regime rid itself of Iranian opposition whose activities have solidified over the past 5 years without Tehran ridding itself of Al Qaeda and Shiite extremist groups that target Iraqis. Will Obama remain silent regarding Iraq being handed over to Iranian hands in this manner without any regards for the interests of Iraq itself, or the security of the region?

The White House honeymoon will not last long before Obama is forced to deal with the most serious disputes regarding Iran’s uranium enrichment and its nuclear weapons program. Will Obama be silent over this? That is an option that is completely ruled out. And so if they [Iran and USA] cannot come to an agreement, how will he stop them, with peace or war?

The signing of the executive order to close down Guantanamo took a brief moment from Obama’s day and this cannot be compared to dealing with the biggest problem which is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Obama has at least assured the region that it will be a priority [to his administration] despite the dangers of the American financial crisis, and he has quickly commissioned a diplomatic envoy [to the Middle East, George Mitchell]. Even with this, future diplomatic attention will not address political confrontation such as that which is currently occurring in Gaza.

And what about the Darfur trials [for war crimes]? Is the new US president prepared to go all the way in order to pursue the Sudanese President [Omar Al-Bashir] who is accused of war crimes even at the cost of the destruction of Khartoum?

It is not surprising that President Omar Al-Bashir has fortified his position with civilians, and is threatening to destroy Khartoum rather than surrender himself. This is something Hamas made clear it was prepared to do, and so did Hezbollah and Saddam Hussein previously, and all at the expense of innocent civilians.

The decision to close Guantanamo Bay was a good move by the new President because the prison itself circumvents the authority [of the USA], and represents the greatest abuse on the US reputation in recent history. Guantanamo Bay was a simple issue [to solve] despite its historical and political symbolism.

And so after the detention center closes down and the detainees have begun to be deported, how will he deal with the dangerous issues that involve brutal forces in the region waiting for his first steps in order to pounce on him.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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