x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Academic hopeful 'frayed' US-Arab relations will improve under Obama with US to improve under Obama

A US administration under Barack Obama could bring about a warmer relationship between America and the Arab world, says Gulf region consultant.

ABU DHABI // A US administration under Barack Obama could bring about a warmer relationship between America and the Arab world, says a longtime consultant and lecturer on the Gulf region. Dr John Duke Anthony was in the capital last night to deliver a lecture at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. More US engagement with the region under Mr Obama, and particularly a change in tone from George W Bush's presidency, could go far towards improving relations, he said.

"What you would see before a policy change is a change in style and tone and tenor, which counts for a lot, especially when relations have been frayed," said Dr Anthony, president of the National Council on US-Arab Relations, a Washington-based educational organisation. "America has had an image problem for the past eight years; being seen as less willing to listen and more inclined to lecture and be pompous. I don't think you'll see anywhere near the same degree of that."

If the new administration were to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the positive repercussions would go further than anything else, he said. "The top three issues in my mind are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." One way of focusing on the problem would be to appoint a credible US special envoy. Appointing someone with the ability to send a listening message and who is not burdened by the Bush administration would go a long way, he said. He named Colin Powell, the former US general and secretary of state, as a potential candidate.

"I feel a special envoy should be appointed, but not only for the Israeli-Palestinian question, but also the Syrian component as well." Dr Anthony, has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 1986, and is the author of several books, including Arab States in the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum. An adjunct professor at Georgetown University, he has been a consultant and lecturer on the region for the past 35 years.

"Hope springs eternal that something can be changed," he said. "But, I think Obama has the potential." zconstantine@thenational.ae