x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

US lacks an ideological guidebook for peace

The US president Barack Obama may be trying to bring changes to his country's global foreign policy, but US ideologists do not endorse his efforts because Washington is mesmerised by concepts of hegemony and confrontation.

The US president Barack Obama may be trying to bring changes to his country's global foreign policy, but US ideologists do not endorse his efforts because Washington is mesmerised by concepts of hegemony and confrontation, wrote Hussein Majdoubi in the comment page of the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi. American history shows that US relations with the rest of the world have always been coloured by tension. From the beginning of the 20th century, the US reunion with the "old world" has consisted of a series of clashes: the two world wars, the Korean war, Vietnam, the Cold War, the first Gulf war, and now Afghanistan and Iraq.

Such a record of strained diplomacy has led strategic studies centres to formulate various hypotheses that say: many evil powers are seeking to destroy the American model, so there is a need to protect it, and this will entail disseminating it around the globe. "The American political way of thinking suffers from a terrible psychological block indeed." Generation after generation of thinkers and theorists like Samuel Huntington and Robert Kagan keep pegging their premises to notions of war and confrontation to such an extent that any different approach, pitched by someone like Noam Chomsky from the angle of peace and dialogue, seems like a betrayal of the nation's higher principles.

The "war on terror" obviously comes at an exorbitant financial cost but this not the only aspect of it, wrote Ahmed Amorabi, a Sudanese writer, in the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan. Neither is the CIA's annual multi-billion dollar budget that goes to operations to hunt down terrorists around the world. "This kind of spending goes under the category of 'direct expenditure', but I want to talk here about 'indirect costs'."

A study conducted by the US federation of travel and tourism agencies showed that the majority of US visitors consider the treatment of US airport and customs officials to be rude. The study also revealed that entry procedures in the US are the worst worldwide, which has driven the numbers of visitors and immigrants, including students and highly skilled workers, to drop steadily. Faced with stringent visa requirements, more foreign students are applying to universities outside the US, and more international conference organisers are avoiding American cities for fear that key guests and participants will not be able to attend the conference because of a last-minute visa denial. All this comes at a dear cost to the local economy, the private education sector and all tourism-related businesses.

"Iran's religious regime, which celebrated its 31st anniversary yesterday, is decidedly in a confrontation with just about the whole world because of its nuclear programme. But its more practical battle is with the Iranians themselves, as indicated by the country's wide internal divisions," commented Hassan Haidar in the opinion pages of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Iran's interior troubles, and its tenuous relations with its Arab and Muslim neighbourhood, are a result of Tehran's stated choice to prioritise the spirit of the revolution over the interests of the republic. Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, Iran's late Supreme Leader and the spearhead of the 1979 revolution, fixed the discrepancy between the two concepts in 1988 after the war with Iraq, and relegated the notion of the republic to a secondary position.

Backed by hardline religious authority figures, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led two proxy wars in Lebanon and Gaza. And despite their disastrous repercussions on the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples, Mr Ahmadinejad saw in them unmatched triumphs because they have restored the "revolutionary" face of Iran and aborted peace prospects in the region. Now, the threat of new international economic sanctions is looming over the Iranian regime; a regime that can hardly afford to keep on following the path its revolutionary leader has paved.

The exchange of threats between Israel and Syria last week has revived the debate over the possibility of a return to peace talks after they stopped when Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government came to power, wrote Randa Haidar in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar. Those in favour of talks consider that a settlement with Damascus will "lift up the face of the Middle East" and pull the Arab country away from the axis of evil, thus weakening Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas. The cons, on the other hand, which are the right-wing parties in general, maintain that resuming indirect talks will not affect Syria's regional alliances and will only lead to Israeli concessions offered gratis, namely a withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

The debate over Syria can be seen manifestly at the higher ranks of the Israeli cabinet. The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, who has a strong say in his country's foreign policy, is one of the most enthusiastic for the resumption of talks with Damascus.The foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who prefers to play the part of the "bad guy", does not like Mr Barak's diplomatic language regarding Syria.

Between them, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sticking to his grey position on the matter. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae