Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly


The Camp David complex

Al-Ahram Weekly

On the whole, observers seemed baffled by last week’s summit meetings between President Barack Obama and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders. Comments on the summit wavered between the optimistic and the pessimistic, and told us little about the significance of this event, or its possible repercussions.

Analysts spent time speculating on Iran, its influence in the region and its proxy outfits in various countries, but came to no clear conclusion. One wonders if this is the fate of everything that goes on at Camp David, a venue that seems to inspire controversy and confusion, just as it did three or four decades ago.

That the summit was significant is not in doubt, considering that it coincided with the aerial campaign that the Saudi-led coalition is carrying out against Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen. Operation Decisive Storm is not without its faults, but one should remember that it is a concerted joint Arab action, and for once it is a joint action that is independent of foreign dictates.

It is no secret that the Americans weren’t very pleased to see Operation Decisive Storm get off the ground in such a forceful show of independence on the part of the GCC and its regional allies. Those who remember how the Damascus Declaration came into being in the decisive months following Desert Storm may be tempted to make a connection here.

The Damascus Declaration, despite setting the stage for a much-needed strategic alliance, was allowed to disintegrate. Many would like to see the coalition that launched Operation Decisive Storm meet the same fate.

What is remarkable about Operation Decisive Storm is not its immediate military accomplishments, but the fact that it is part of a new concerted Arab action. Back in October 1973, when the Arabs in a rare moment of history came together, the world had to listen.

Many decades later, the world stopped listening, not because the issues at hand were not urgent, not because the fate of our region is unthreatened, but because we forgot how to speak with one voice.

With Operation Decisive Storm, things have started coming together. The chips of our disordered reality are falling into a recognisable pattern, with the promise of the related birth of a new Arab order. Then came this most recent Camp David summit, and things have become muddled again.

It appeared as if the Arabs were looking for a foreign custodian once again, that they were decamping from the realm of independence and taking refuge in the wilderness of indecision.

Reports spoke of Gulf countries wanting to sign a defence treaty with the US, to hedge their bets in case Iran stays on top of the situation and gets the deal it wants from the P5+1 group. Not that a treaty wouldn’t contribute to Gulf security. But some matters cannot be fixed with a treaty, and the security of the Gulf and the region is one of them.

Not all the Gulf countries that attended Camp David were represented by their heads of state, which is perhaps a good thing. It is a sign that the GCC is aware that it needs more than the endorsement of a superpower to stay on top of things. It needs, for example, to look into what is happening at home.

During the summit, the US tried to reassure its interlocutors that its improved ties with Iran will not hurt its partnership with GCC countries. US officials were adamant that any expansion of Tehran’s influence in the region is unacceptable, and that Washington can offer a deterrent buffer against the Iranians.

All this is good news, but it is not enough. If one is to learn anything from recent developments in the region it is that if you need to get things done, don’t ask outsiders to do it for you. Events of the last year tell us it is time to revise our regional security policies.

Operation Decisive Storm may have been a step in the right direction, but we need to do more. We cannot confront the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the Houthis in Yemen, and other challenges in the region, with ad hoc measures.

We need to have a system in place, including military cooperation and a military force willing to deter grave threats. We need to end the political vacuum before it is too late. We need to take charge and not rely on the promises of others.

In a few days, the Islamic State group will be one year old. A totally criminal outfit with no precedent and, ultimately, no hope has managed to withstand an aerial campaign by some of the world’s major powers, simply because we didn’t do what we had to do, which was to act quickly and send trained ground troops to dislodge it.

Let’s learn from the lessons of the past. It’s time to take charge and regain control of our region.

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