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How can we understand Washington today? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Yesterday in Cairo I met with the American politician Robert Malley, a senior advisor to former US President Bill Clinton and current Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group in Washington. Robert Malley’s importance lies in the fact that he has a great understanding of the details of the Palestinian issue and has played a very important role in the legal drafting of various peace projects. I asked Malley about how he envisions the priorities of the current US administration now that President Obama has won a second term. He replied:

First: We cannot expect any major changes in the US President’s policy with regards to the Middle East because this region is not America’s number one priority in terms of foreign policy.

Second: The Palestinian issue ranks low down the list of Middle Eastern priorities from Washington’s perspective.

Third: Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, is the US administration’s target for dialogue now.

Fourth: The Arab Spring experience is being closely followed up and reviewed by the US administration.

Fifth: Washington did not gamble on political Islam in the Arab world but it will deal with it now under the premise that it is a force with sizeable popular credit, and that it came to power through democratic elections.

Sixth: Washington supported Libya militarily because – in all simplicity – it was easier from a military perspective and less costly militarily and economically than the Syrian case.

Seventh: Syria is an influential country with a geographical extension that impacts upon Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Based on the stable conditions now on the Syrian battlefield, any US intervention could have regional repercussions.

Eighth: No US decision has been reached so far on how to contain Iran. It has not yet been decided whether the solution will be negotiations or military action.

This interview with Robert Malley prompted me to come to several conclusions, the most important being that the US seems to completely lack conclusive policies. Sometimes it behaves like a Third World country, partially dealing with events on a daily basis depending on the changes by hour. There is no governing logic for America’s policies other than obtaining the maximum benefits and securing its interests regardless of the victims or those who fall along the way. This is the lesson that we must learn!