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The King and the President's Meeting and Global Political Economics - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The thesis of political economics or the direct impact of economics on politics is very old. It dates back to Ibn Khaldun [14th century Muslim economic philosopher] and Adam Smith. It was given this name by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels but became an axiom only after the first global financial crisis when the New York Stock Exchange collapsed in 1929. That crisis led to global turbulence and collapse, while in the political domain – in view of the instability and spread of unemployment and famine – it led to the triumph of fascist movements and the eruption of the Second World War. Prominent economists (like Nobel Prize winners Joseph Steglitz and Paul Krugman) continue to talk about the US economic fluctuations and the impact this had had upon the rise of the political right-wing and the religious right-wing in the United States since the days of Ronald Reagan.

Everybody’s realization of this point, including the arch right-wingers, drove them to deal with global economic and political issues together – just as they are doing now with the meetings of the western G8 countries – by linking concern with political issues in the world to economics, because “global stability” is dependent upon both these two issues. The global financial crisis erupted in 2008 and was the worst since the crisis of 1929. It threatened the global system and demonstrated that the western G8 countries alone do not and cannot represent the world’s economy. The countries representing the global economy became diversified. Big Asian newcomers and Arab oil countries emerged and other countries – like Brazil and Turkey – are emerging now. Therefore, the former US President was driven to hold a summit that included 20 countries of “global” size or medium size in the economical and political fields. Although these big countries have been primarily preoccupied in their three summits so far with the financial crisis and its repercussions and solutions, they have also been concerned with political stability. Thus, at this summit, they also discussed the problems of the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and the tension between the two Koreas.

As is well known, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the first to use (the oil) economy and its influence in the service of the Palestinian issue following the 1973 war. It has always backed the PLO and tried to protect it from the inter-Arab disputes over it and the Palestinian Cause. Saudi Arabia was most pained at the division that took place between the Palestinians following the death of President Yasser Arafat with the King bringing the two disputing sides to Mecca where they signed a pledge but to no avail. In his peace initiative of 2002, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz set a strategic ceiling and strategy for the Palestinian issue. For the first and last time the Arabs said that the requirements for peace and war are the same; namely, the end of the occupation and the establishment of the Palestinian state, with a comprehensive peace being achieved if these two conditions are met.

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz attended the first G20 summit; this took place during the global financial crisis and on the eve of the Gaza war. He attended this summit with this concept of political economics and stability in mind and in his calculations. The United States – which adopted the policy of constructive chaos under President Bush and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and spread turbulence in other Arab and Muslim lands – has since the last days of the former administration wanted to restore stability in order to withdraw its troops while maintaining its reputation and restoring the balances. The United States needs the cooperation of the Arabs (Saudi Arabia and Egypt especially) in restoring stability by solving the Palestinian issue, rebuilding the Iraqi state, and reining in the Iranian impulse. The US also needs Saudi cooperation (as well as the cooperation of the UAE and Qatar) in resolving the global financial crisis. Since the first G20 conference, it has become known that all the sides are aware of the rules of the game: the Arabs are no longer prepared to cooperate in the financial crisis or any other crisis unless two things happen: a persistent search for a just peace in Palestine, and the restoration of stability and decision-making over the Arabs’ lands and seas. About one and a half years have passed since Obama assumed office, while US plans have advanced in Iraq they have not advanced in Afghanistan or in Palestine. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are gaining strength and intensifying their attacks, while the activities of Al-Qaeda are not subsiding and turmoil in Pakistan is growing. In Palestine, Israel’s actions and policies are moving further and further away from peace and the prerequisites for negotiation. However despite this, and because the Arabs are convinced that the US are serious about its efforts for peace, they have agreed to keep the Arab Peace Initiative on the table, as well as approving indirect negotiations between the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Israel with US mediation. In four months time, either the negotiations will have progressed to the point of becoming direct negotiations, or the Arabs will stop negotiating and instead go to the [UN] Security Council to ask the international community to implement its resolutions that calls for a [Israeli] withdrawal to the 1967 borders, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in accordance with the right to self-determination.

On the eve of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s visit to Washington, the Americans began to talk about progress in the negotiations that may lead to this being developed and transformed into direct negotiations. However, leaks to the Israeli media show that this US optimism is unjustified unless a change occurs in the Israeli government either by removing parts of or all of it. Moreover, and as further evidence that noticeable progress has not been made, the Americans are thinking of calling for a conference to take place prior to direct negotiations – if they ever happen – which would put pressure on the Israelis (and perhaps the Arabs) in the form of public commitment to the international resolutions, the borders, and the desire for peace through negotiations, as well as setting a deadline for the proclamation of a Palestinian state. Once again, the Arabs may be asked to take “confidence building” measures, a firmer stand on Iran, and support the international institutions and agencies in their efforts to emerge from the financial crisis and its repercussions and ramifications. No doubt, the Arabs are compelled to implement the Security Council resolutions with regards to the sanctions on Iran, but they will not go beyond this to increase the blockade [on Iran]. This is not just because this is immoral, but also because Israel is in possession of 200 nuclear weapons that nobody takes into account, while the intention is to strangulate Iran for unconfirmed [nuclear] projects and plans. As for the international institutions, the Gulf countries have heard their requests and provided them with support, however at the same time they stressed that this should be a collective effort with major economies like the United States, the European Union, China, and India exerting the largest share. It is also not clear what is even meant by confidence-building measures, for these are measures that should be taken by the aggressor, not the victim of the aggression.

These days, there are two scales by which we can measure policies and action; a political economics scale, and a scale of continued resistance and armed struggle against Israel’s wars and threats. In the strategic views of some of our thinkers, it was completely wrong to drop the rifle and raise the olive branch, particularly since the Israelis do not take into account anything but force. However after trying both approaches over the past 70 years, the Arabs noted that after Egypt’s withdrawal from the confrontation, resistance movements turned to inevitable civil wars and divisions. The fact is that the economic scale is gaining renewed importance and the whole international community is convinced that after Israel’s wars and the wars of President Bush, is necessary for stability based upon justice to prevail in this region that is vital to the economy and security of the world.

Thus, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s attendance of the G20 summit and his visit to Washington express two major points: The sustainable role of the Arabs in global affairs, and the role of protecting major Arab interests, especially the Palestinian people’s cause.

Radwan Elsayed

Radwan Elsayed

Dr. Radwan Elsayed is a prominent Lebanese intellectual and a professor of Islamic studies at the Lebanese University.

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