American President George Bush danced the al Ardha* dance in Bahrain, enjoyed a comfortable stay in Israel, greeted the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas with kisses and was warmly welcomed in Kuwait. He also gave a critical speech about Iran in Abu Dhabi in the presence of hundreds of citizens and officials, and the US president is due to receive further hospitality during his stay as a guest in Riyadh’s al Janadriya Farm after which he will be hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Much will depend on these nine days of hospitality both in Washington and the Arab world – even if the president is due to leave the White House in a year. This is a man who is on the verge of changing the course of Arab-American relations and strategic alliances following the bloody events of September 11. Today we see him visiting allies and prominent figures in the Arab world as a friend and ally.
This visit is testimony to a shift in Washington that cannot be ignored by Bush’s successor in the White House – whether Republican or Democrat, especially with regards to the outcome of the peace process in terms of success or failure. Suffice it to mention that foreign policy is strongly present in the US elections, not only in relation to Iraqi affairs but also with regards to what Iran and Syria are undertaking in the region.
Much has changed in seven years; we witnessed the invasion of two states; one Arab and the other Islamic. It’s enough to mention all that has transpired in Iraq, which has been experiencing changes that reflect the shift in Washington; the most prominent of which is the support of the al Sahwa (Awakening) councils.
But is Bush capable of achieving peace? And why has he been so hospitably received during his visit?
With regards to the peace process, the situation is different today from what it was during Bill Clinton’s term since reluctance and mistrust exist both on an Arab level and on an international one as well.
Today there is Arab, Islamic and international support and consensus to revive the peace process which has been reawakened by the Arab [Peace] Initiative. Bush is the first American president to call for a Palestinian state.
As for the warm reception that Bush received, the president is obliged to send a letter to both Syria and Iran saying, “Dear enemies, thanks to you; the threat that you pose over the region has led to warm hospitality!”
What Iran has done and is still doing in terms of widening the Palestinian chasm, disrupting stability in Iraq, continuing its occupation of the islands that belong to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), threatening the Gulf’s security and interfering in internal Arab affairs through its support of Hezbollah, supporting Syria’s position which threatens Lebanon’s stability and its disruption in Iraq – makes Arab states keen to forge an alliance with the US, and Europe as well.
It has been proven to the Arab states that Iran seeks to destroy anything that comes in its way to dominate over Arab decision-making, after which it would be able to negotiate with the US from a position of power so that it [Iran] may secure the leadership of the region. The moderate Arab states do not want to get dragged into the Iranian game lest they suffer the same fate of internal economic deterioration and ongoing military confrontations with militias that are backed by Iran.
As for Syria which has foiled all plans; the American, French and Arab alike to resolve the Lebanese presidential issue; it has proven that it is not concerned with the unity of the Arab ranks, which in turn has provided a cover for it in the resolution of the Lebanese crisis.
It’s true that the Iranians hate Bush but they are flirting with America – suffice it to recall Ali Khamenei’s recent statements. Likewise, the Syrians hate Bush as well but they are doing the impossible to ensure that they engage in talks with the Americans – it is enough to recall their attendance in Annapolis and the Syrian president’s statements about the importance of America.
The issue is not subordinate [to the US] but having relations with the US means having relations with the entire international community, and the failure of relations with the only superpower means failure on an international level.
* Al ‘Ardha: traditional folk dance in the Gulf.