By Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor*
Through its own actions, the US has diminished its status as leader of the free world and eliminated itself as an honest broker. America’s allies and adversaries are appalled by the recent decision to throw a grenade into the Middle East by unilaterally declaring Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state.
The special relationship between the UK and America is in jeopardy. Furious parliamentarians are calling for the US President Donald Trump to be banned from visiting Britain.
In an unprecedented move, the UK, France and Italy joined with five other countries to demand an emergency session of the UN Security Council to air their condemnations. However, there will be no UN resolution due to America’s power of veto.
Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel dispensed with diplomatic norms, saying: “The US no longer sees the world as a global community, but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage. Even after Trump leaves the White House, relations with the US will never be the same.”
This reckless act has killed all hopes of peace. The motivation behind this decision was either to pacify the right-wing pro-Israel base in the US or to provoke violent reactions within our region to justify US anti-Muslim policies.
Hamas has called for a third Palestinian uprising. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who will shortly be dispatched to the region to undertake damage control.
Worse, this declaration has fed into the narrative of extremist groups. Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, the Taliban and others have made calls to arms.
It has made the world a far more dangerous place for Israeli and American travelers by putting targets on their heads. This gross provocation is a gift to terrorist recruiters and could spark lone wolf attacks in Western and Arab cities.
Trump is aware of the potential repercussions, which is why he has ordered US Marines to guard embassies and the US Department of State has advised Americans in the Middle East to keep a low profile.
Disappointed in former US President Barack Obama’s pro-Iran stance and his affiliation with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, I had high hopes that a businessman could invigorate America’s economy and bring a fresh perspective to US Middle East policy.
Unlike the US media that savaged Trump from the get-go, and still goes for his jugular, I nevertheless chose to give the new US administration a chance, primarily because the US is up there with the countries I most admire and many of my dearest friends are American.
I wanted Trump to succeed for the sake of the American people and hoped he would strengthen the relationship between the US and the Arab world.
It soon became evident that he had surrounded himself with disreputable characters, not least his short-lived chief strategist, the Machiavellian bully Steve Bannon, known for his incendiary anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
His even shorter-lived National Security Advisor Mike Flynn admitted lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and is now cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling with the US election to save his own skin.
In just over a year, 14 top-level officials within his administration have either been fired or have quit. At least nine Trump associates are being probed for collaboration with Moscow. The rogues’ gallery is expanding fast.
True to his word, he binned liberal democratic free trade principles by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and threatening to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Almost the entire international community was shocked and dismayed by his ditching of the Paris climate accord and since, his executive orders have illustrated his disregard for maintaining a healthy environment and preserving wildlife.
Within pro-western Arab nations, the strikes against him were mounting until his wildly successful visit to Saudi Arabia where he discussed ways of combating terrorism with King Salman and other Arab leaders in a warm celebratory atmosphere.
Trump’s criticism of Qatar’s funding of terrorists and his support for the Saudi-led quartet’s political and economic distancing — contingent upon the emir’s acceptance of 13 demands — persuaded me that for all his faults we could count on him as a staunch ally.
That was until his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heaped praise on Qatar for its fight against terrorism while criticizing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt for what he termed their “blockade.”
From my own perspective, the US administration has three major strikes against it:
Strike one: On Iran, it is yet to deliver the campaign pledge to pull America out of the woeful Iran deal, merely opting not to certify Tehran’s compliance. He is still to halt Iran’s aggressive actions toward its neighbors.
Strike two: Following a US military assault to clear Raqqa of Daesh, Washington has seemingly handed Syria back to the Iranian-backed Bashar Assad regime and its Russian protector.
Strike three: Washington has betrayed the Palestinian people, reneged on America’s commitments under the Oslo Accords and trampled upon UN Security Council Resolutions endorsed by his predecessors to the effect that only a final status agreement can determine Jerusalem’s status.
In another mishap, Tillerson seems to have ignored that America has been a fully-fledged partner in the Saudi coalition’s efforts to beat back Iranian-supported Houthis to restore the legitimate government in Yemen.
Now it appears the US State Department is “taking a tougher stance” against the efforts to reinstall a legitimate government in Yemen. That must be music to the ears of the Iranian mullahs and the primitive Houthi rag-tags, who slaughtered former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
I must, therefore, appeal to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan to adopt new policies to cope with these realities.
We must be united to project power in order to protect our part of the world that has suffered so terribly from foreign interference and we should show our displeasure by collaborating with other world powers while diversifying our suppliers of aircraft, weapons, technological items etc.
We Emiratis should work closely with our trusted friends to repair the damage done by the latest US Jerusalem announcement to ensure Jerusalem will always be the capital of Palestine in our hearts — and, if God wills, in reality.
• Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Twitter: @KhalafAlHabtoor