x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Challenges of the Arab world face US election winner

Special report: Within a brief flying time from Abu Dhabi are issues that impact US foreign policy and which are of critical concern to the UAE and the wider UAE.

Turkish soldiers stand guard in Akcakale near the Turkish-Syria border in the southern Sanliurfa province.
Turkish soldiers stand guard in Akcakale near the Turkish-Syria border in the southern Sanliurfa province.

With the latest public opinion polls showing the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney a dead heat, the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election in the United States is anyone's guess.

What is certain, however, is that main foreign policy challenges facing the next US administration are located within a brief flying time from Abu Dhabi and are of critical concern to the UAE and the other nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Some 2,000 kilometres to the north-west is Damascus, where Syrian president Bashar Al Assad fights to hold on to power against a formidable rebel challenge backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and to a lesser extent, the United States.

Some 1,270 kilometres to the north is Tehran, where the government of the Islamic Republic insists - in defiance of accumulating evidence to the contrary - that the goals of Iran's nuclear programme are peaceful.

The closing weeks of the presidential campaign have been dominated by charges and counter-charges over Washington's handling of the September attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But it is the long-simmering - and far more volatile - conflicts in Syria and with Iran that could soon come to a head and make the weeks and months after a new Obama or Romney administration takes office in Washington on January 20 especially fateful ones for the UAE and its neighbours.

As the foreign correspondents of The National note in their dispatches, there are other international challenges to the next US administration that, while less charged than Iran and Syria, are no less important to the UAE and its neighbours.

Many of the difficult predicaments ahead - in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, for example - revolve around the regional tumult sparked by a distraught fruit seller in southern Tunisia almost two years ago.

Other challenges centre on the increasing influence of one Asian power (China) and the long-standing impact of another (India). Still others testify to the importance of longtime economic ties (Europe's debt crisis) or exert an enduring moral claim on our attention (the Palestinian drive for self-determination).

Whatever the case, the US election this week will mark a key crossroads in a period of ferment and change in the region.

1.  Arabian Gulf 2. Yemen 3. Iran

4Iraq 5. Syria 6. Jordan

7. Palestinian Territories and Israel 8. Egypt

9. Libya and Tunisia 10. India 11. China

12. Turkey 13. Europe