Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1353, (20 - 26 July 2017)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1353, (20 - 26 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The end of the ‘Arab world’

Under US direction, the Qatar crisis is just another tool to usher in a “New Middle East” cleaved from the concept of the Arab nation, writes Mohamed Salmawy


اقرأ باللغة العربية

Is it true that the US is mediating in the Qatari crisis? The visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the region ended without any progress to resolve the crisis, but did Tillerson come with the intention to resolve it to begin with? Previously, the position of the US was not as ambiguous as it is now. US President Donald Trump demanded an end to funding terrorism and blessed the decision to boycott Qatar by clearly stating that Qatar has a long history of funding terrorism. But then he sent Tillerson to Doha to sign a new agreement with Qatar’s Prince Tamim that implicitly absolves Qatar of funding terrorism, since it’s an agreement banning such funding and if Qatar signed it with the US, ergo Doha does not fund terrorism. In fact, Tillerson even called on countries boycotting Qatar to follow suit and sign the agreement, as if overnight Qatar has become the model of fighting terrorism.

So, what is this new game the US is playing in the Arab world? And is it genuinely mediating between the two sides to mend fences? To answer this question and attempt to explain the role of the US in the region, I recall an extensive feature in The New York Times Magazine about the Arab world 13 years after the US invasion of Iraq. In an unusual and rare practice in journalism, the magazine dedicated an entire special issue to the subject.

I was surprised that none of our publications noticed this highly significant coverage or translated it and republished it, if not in its entirety then at least by printing the most important sections in a special supplement. Setting aside the political bias of this newspaper which is controlled by the American Jewish lobby, this remarkable coverage titled “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart” was relatively impartial. It clearly showed that splintering, rivalry and fighting in the Arab world today began with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which ushered in chaos and destruction in most of the Arab nation.

The newspaper stated that the US invasion of Iraq that aimed to “achieve democracy” destroyed the state of Iraq state and its institutions, creating conditions ideal for the birth of terrorist religious groups and spreading chaos. This has transformed the Arab world into a war-torn region, which was the starting gun for an era of terrorism around the world.

The toll of losses of that invasion in numbers is as follows: 1,455,590 Iraqis killed; 4,801 American soldiers killed; 3,478 other military personnel participating in the invasion with US killed. The financial cost on both sides has reached $1.7 trillion, and international financial sources believe the material losses of the Arab world are $830 billion, as well as loss of life resulting from chaos across the region which led to ongoing fighting among Arabs in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Since the start of this century, US think tanks and political circles have talked about a “New Middle East” that divides the region, whereby large countries such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt are erased and replaced by small rival statelets. The only remaining regional power would be Israel. And here we are, watching the birth of the “New Middle East”, which was often mocked as impossible to achieve. Ironically, we are the ones creating it with our own hands.

Those fighting in Syria are Syrians, those fighting in Iraq are Iraqis, and the same is true in Yemen and Libya. As for terrorist groups, which the US was the first to support and fund directly or indirectly, they have also killed many. Even though they wage war in the name of Islam, some 70 per cent of their victims are Muslim. They also further decimate Arab societies and spread chaos across the nation.

The most dangerous threat facing the Arab world currently is that the concept of the Arab nation itself has dissipated, although in the 1950s and 1960s it was the power base for Arab action in the international domain. There was a specific entity known to the globe as the Arab world, with its own cultural and social characteristics that distinguished it from other geographic locations in the world. If the units of this Arab world are the countries that consist within, today we are seeing these countries teetering and collapsing, with the notion of a national state waning as each country divides into social entities not based on loyalty to the homeland, but instead to religion, faction, doctrine or ethnicity.

The greatest evidence that the notion of Arab nation has dissipated is the disgraceful absence of the Arab League in crises facing the Arab world and any ensuing mediation efforts. How is it reasonable or acceptable that the US mediates between Qatar and Gulf countries, with the participation of some European countries such as Germany and France, without minimal presence by the Arab League in this quarrel between member states who are bound by its charter?

The presence of the Arab League may not resolve the issue, but its presence at such times of need is what will keep the Arab umbrella over our heads. Its presence confirms the Arab character they are trying to undermine. Reaching conciliation under its umbrella will show the world that no matter what, an entity called the Arab world still exists. However, I do not see that a single Arab country involved in the dispute has asked for the participation of the Arab League, or to active its role, or even asked for it to be present during US mediation.

The purpose of the US role is not to mediate, but to ensure the implementation of the New Middle East plot that would only materialise by destroying the notion of the Arab nation itself. There is no place in this plot for what was once called the Arab world.

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