By Salama A Salama
President Mubarak's tour of several European countries was a good opportunity to inform the world of the grave consequences of US policy moves. There is a lack of reasoned perspective, a recklessness of purpose that runs through US imperialist designs from Afghanistan to Iraq. The imperialist quest has not boosted US security, nor has it reinforced world peace -- it actually aggravated the perils emanating from the Middle East.
Arabs are rightly disturbed by the torrent of initiatives that has been coming their way since Washington launched its Greater Middle East initiative. President Mubarak vented these worries by saying that he "senses something strange in the air". He was referring, of course, to the US manner of thinking, to its bid to impose a uniform reform scheme on a region rich with variety. Washington is doing so without consulting with those involved. Moreover, it is doing so without pausing to consider the causes behind the region's troubles -- Israel and the US occupation of Iraq.
President Mubarak may have succeeded in clarifying some points to Berlusconi, a man with a limited understanding of Middle East complexities. It would be harder to explain things to Tony Blair, whose domestic image has been shaken by his close association with US policy. The French would be more understanding of the risks and motivation involved in the US game. The French are probably more aware than their allies, the Germans, that the course of political and economic reform in the Arab region is inseparable from the course of just peace and security in the Middle East. To eliminate terror, one has to eliminate its causes -- to address the anger, frustration and desperation of the Palestinians, so unjustly treated. Also, the war on terror should not be used as a pretext for war on Islam.
Even if major European countries were to see the light, there is only so much they can do about US policy. With US elections approaching, US policy is likely to get bogged down on two fronts. One is the Palestinian issue, which Israel has successfully forestalled, entirely derailing the road map. The other is Iraq; a country threatened with chaos with the planned withdrawal of US forces from cities in June on the pretext of handing power to a transitional government. Sectarianism is rearing its head in Iraq, with frictions surfacing between Shias and other factions. To make things worse, Iraq has no security service capable of enforcing law and order.
Europe has not regained its international influence since the Bush administration launched its imperial policies on a global scale. Despite the efforts France and Germany exerted to mend bridges with the US over the war on Iraq, the EU has not been able to formulate a consensual foreign policy. As the US tries to subvert relations within the EU, and as the UK, Spain and Italy refrain from endorsing a unified European policy, preferring instead to side with US policy on Iraq and Israel, the prospects look dim.
Once the 10 additional members join the EU in May, the US will have a chance to woo what Rumsfeld calls "new Europe", prodding it into challenging French and German control over the EU and into endorsing US reform schemes for the Middle East. Not unlike Arabs, Europe cannot speak in one voice. This is an added motive for the Arab summit in Tunis to come up with a common position on foreign reform schemes. Arab self-reliance is essential for reform. Arabs need to find their own path to reform, one that furthers their own interests.