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The Countdown Has Begun - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The countdown has begun. It is a tradition within political analysis to judge any new president after the first 100 days of their presidency, and not immediately after he has assumed office. Let’s be generous, unlike tradition, and show patience towards the new American President Barack Obama for an entire year to tackle our regional issues and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular.

However, we cannot wait another day to discuss our thoughts on what might happen. In my opinion, not much will take place despite that Obama selected the best politicians who know our region well, from envoys, advisers, officials to senior state officials such as Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who are aware of the smallest details of our region and know it better than most of its own residents. They are different to the Bush team that emerged from the ranch.

How can I worry despite all the available success factors; Obama enjoys widespread popularity in America and around the world and he is supported by battalion of ministers and experts. Moreover, Obama has pledged not to commit the same mistakes as Bush and that he will learn from such mistakes.

In my opinion, the problem lies in the [Middle East] region itself, not across the ocean. History has witnessed a number of opportunities that have been lost and there are no indications that the Arab mindset is changing. Since the 1960s, the ideology of the Arab regime itself has not changed. It is haunted by uncertainty, fear, regional conflicts and the inability to take decisive decisions. What has changed since the defeat of 1967? The answer is nothing practically, with the exception of the era of late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who engaged in peace and war and changed history in the interest of his nation. Had it not been for Sadat, Egypt today would be like Palestine, Syria and Lebanon; its territories would be occupied by Israel and its movement suspended.

Obama will spend a year sending his envoys to wander around the Arab capitals and he will not discover the truth until his second year in power; there will be many promises but a lack of political seriousness and Obama will get bored and devote himself to another part of the world. This is what happened to the Russians during the era of Kennedy, then Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and Bush Junior. It began in the days of US President Eisenhower in the fifties when he presented a political project to deal with the issue of [Palestinian] refugees, water and territories, until Bush Junior who announced his recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

As for Israel, it has been the permanent beneficiary of the Arab situation without having to make much effort. Through their states, quarrels and lies, the Arabs are working in Israel’s favor and Israel knows this. The Arabs today are preoccupied with Iran which is a more of a source of concern for the Europeans than it is for the Americans. The Arabs are overburdened with terrorism which has caused them to lose all the sympathy that they once had and they are overburdened with internal conflict at its worst.

However, we stand before a new American president; from his demeanor, language and early action, Obama seems to be a good president, who is ready to carry out great work in our region. But he will fail as long as we, as Arabs, do not work hard. Obama deserves to be given a chance because this is our chance also.

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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