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Did Obama Surprise You? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Many people in the Arab world were surprised by the speech delivered by the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference. During the address, Obama pledged to give $30 US billion in military aid to Israel over a ten-year period and stated that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel.

Barack Obama, a person who many Arab intellectuals identify with out of their hatred for the incumbent US President George W Bush, and who instilled hope in many people especially when he promised that he would negotiate with Iran and withdraw [American troops] quickly from Iraq, went back on his word a few days ago during his speech at the AIPAC conference.

Obama promised to protect Israel and to deal with Iran by all means available, just as he stipulated the conditions for dealing with Hamas, the most important of which was that it must recognize Israel. Moreover, he promised a “cautious” withdrawal from Iraq. All of that suggests that Obama brings nothing new with respect to the aspirations of some people in our region just as nothing new has been brought to the Arab mind-set.

With every American election, Arabs investigate the potential presidents whilst forgetting that every American president who enters the White House will be governed by American interests and the reports and information that are submitted to him. Barack Obama’s understanding of politics is not important here; it is the reports and documents that will be placed on his desk regarding Iran, Syria and Hamas that are of significance.

There are states and groups in the region that speculate on what will come of the American elections, most notably Iran and Syria considering that Obama dangled a carrot in front of them; today however they are most certainly disappointed in him.

The question is how can we expect America, regardless of who assumes the presidential post, to assist the Israeli-Palestinian peace process when we have two different Palestinian agendas? Fatah wants peace and a Palestinian state whereas Hamas wants authority without accountability and wants the world to obey it or to curl up and sleep in Tehran’s arms.

From another angle, we have Syria that wants the Golan Heights returned to it and to continue its obsession with Lebanon. The Arabs are divided over this; there are those who want mediation between Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt without Damascus having to change the way that it behaves whilst the Syrians are preoccupied with negotiations with Israel to buy time until the frightful US President George Bush leaves office in the same way as the Israelis. And after all of this the biggest loser, without doubt, is the Palestinian cause and Lebanese stability!

As for Iran, which has hijacked the Palestinian cause and occupies Iraq and Lebanon, all it wants is to either obtain a nuclear weapon or to negotiate with America, a promise that Obama has already made, as part of its search for a way to influence and control the Arabs.

The shock of Obama’s speech could be considered an indication that Iran and its allies will realize that the near future will not be necessarily brighter for them; therefore they will reconsider the current appeasement in hope of imposing a new reality on the ground, especially that America is about to enter a political coma because of the election period.

Therefore, we must say that our problems have been left for us to deal with and that we are the biggest losers. If we do not solve these problems ourselves nobody will help us in Iraq, Lebanon, with the Palestinians, and with Syria and Iran. Nobody solves a problem better than those whom it afflicts directly.

However that does not mean that we should go along with fearful Arabs who look to sweep issues under the carpet rather than solve them. We always find that we are faced with accumulated problems that become more complex! The question is do we have a clear vision and strategy?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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