by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 1, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1431)
Tiny Qatar likes to punch above its weight in the international arena. From its Al-Jazeera television network that has now become a household name at least in the Middle East, to its upstart airline, Qatar Airways that competes with such regional rivals as Emirates (of Dubai) and Etihad (of United Arab Emirates), Qatar is really asserting itself. The tiny country is also a major base for the US military. Given all this, Qatari rulers can rightly thumb their noses at their larger Saudi rivals. It is, however, at the international level that Qatar has started to act way above its size and weight.
Last month, the Saban Center at Washington’s Brookings Institution and the Government of Qatar hosted the Seventh Annual US Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar (February 13 to 15). Each year, the forum brings together rulers and wannabes from across the Muslim world for dialogue with key US officials and policymakers. It is essentially a talking shop where US officials project their policy priorities and line up their Middle Eastern clients behind them. This year was no different and given the line-up of US officials that descended on Doha — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; White House Senior Director for Global Engagement Pradeep Ramamurthy; US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke; and Senator John Kerry, chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee — it is clear that the US takes the forum quite seriously. And it should, for obvious reason. The US has much to do to furbish its jaded image.
Even US President Barack Obama piped in with a video message telling the assembled crowd that he was serious about “engaging” the Muslim world, whatever that may mean. He reminded participants that he wanted to implement the promises he had made in Cairo last June. And to reinforce the point, he used the forum to announce his appointment of Rashad Hussain as the new US Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Would the appointment of a Muslim really solve these problems?
Aware that the promises he had made in Cairo have fallen far short, he attempted to sugar-coat the failures. Obama said, “As leaders in government, academia, media, business, faith organizations and civil society, you understand that we are all bound together by common aspirations — to live with dignity, to get an education, to enjoy healthy lives, to live in peace and security, and to give our children a better future.” While the forum participants easily swallowed Obama’s rhetoric, he is smart enough to know that his words were being heard by Muslims globally and they cannot be swayed so easily since they are at the receiving end of US’s brutal policies. He tried to deflect criticism by admitting, “Yet you also know that the United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation. That is why in Cairo last year I called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”
The US has shown little respect for Muslims anywhere. American troops continue their murderous attacks on innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq. And now, the smooth-talking Obama is threatening Islamic Iran. He has demanded that Tehran abandon its rights under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) to enrich uranium. Where is the mutual respect in such insulting demands or does he not believe that Iran is part of the Muslim world? Perhaps, for Obama and other American officials only those people, rulers and countries qualify as members of the Muslim world that toe the US line.
Referring to his Cairo promises, he said, “I laid out a vision where we all embrace our responsibilities to build a world that is more peaceful and secure. It has only been eight months since Cairo, and much remains to be done. But I believe we’ve laid the groundwork to turn those pledges into action.” Muslims would love to have some peace in their lives. After all, it is not Muslim troops that break down doors of American homes in the middle of the night demanding people come out with their hands in the air or they will be shot dead. In fact, American troops do precisely that in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their mercenaries — Blackwater — are now operating in Pakistan as well with impunity. Hundreds of innocent people have been murdered in Pakistani cities by these outlaws that operate under contract with the CIA. Where is the mutual respect? Muslim lives clearly count for nothing as far as Americans are concerned.
Obama’s greatest failure has been in his inability to prevent the Zionists from continuing their settlements on land stolen from the Palestinians. He was warmly applauded when he announced in Cairo that Israel must stop its settlements. He called them “illegal”, which they are. In fact, the entire Zionist enterprise is illegal. The Zionists have dismissed Obama’s appeals with contempt. What has he done to punish them for such egregious crimes and open defiance of international law? Is he capable of standing up to the Zionists? Instead, the US continues to finance the illegitimate entity to the tune of $4–5 billion in direct aid annually. Zionist Israel is a parasitic state that cannot survive without American largesse yet it is the Zionists that control American policy.
In her address to the forum’s main plenary session, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton parroted the same litany of complaints against Muslims: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; violent extremism; and lack of respect for human rights and support for greater religious understanding and tolerance. She also mentioned the advancement of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that is nowhere in sight. Clinton could sense that her audience would want to see some tangible results, so she admitted, “I understand why people might be impatient. Building a stronger relationship cannot happen overnight or even in a year. It takes patience, persistence and hard work from us all.” The US would make a good start by announcing a date for the withdrawal of its illegal occupation troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and cease hostile acts against Iran, Pakistan and Yemen. But that would be like asking a scorpion not to sting. Aggression is embedded in America’s genes.
American officials repeatedly attempted to explain away US failures to fulfill the promises made by Obama with great fanfare in Cairo. Like Clinton, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that repairing long-standing rifts would take patience and determination. He said, “We gather at a time when many have serious doubts about whether real progress has been made since President Obama’s historic speech in Cairo. We can’t speak honestly at a forum like this without recognizing the widespread frustration many people feel. Much of it is justified. Some of it is not. But it is important to remember where we began. For a decade, our relationship was framed by trauma and terrorism, by two ongoing wars and political conflict — and the fallout only polarized us further.”
Honesty, of course, was in short supply at Doha. The “trauma and terrorism”, and the “two ongoing wars and political conflict,” were all initiated by the US. Both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq were and remain illegal and unjustified. The war against Iraq in particular was launched on a pack of lies. Exactly the same lies are now being repeated against Iran about its peaceful nuclear program. Both Clinton and Kerry repeatedly harped on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program hyping a non-existent threat and cajoling Arab regimes into line to fight against the Islamic State.
“It is especially important that we remain united in preventing Iran’s nuclear program from setting off an arms race in the region. Make no mistake. Iran is not being singled out — it has chosen to defy an international non-proliferation regime that is in all of our interests to enforce,” said Kerry. Clinton chimed in with her own words of wisdom. Instead of accepting a nuclear-free Middle East that has been proposed by Iran and even accepted by Egypt, she advocated a US security umbrella for Middle Eastern client regimes to “protect” them from Iran. Her proposal essentially confirmed US hegemony over the region. “They can just give in to the threat; or they can seek their own capabilities, including nuclear; or they ally themselves with a country like the United States that is willing to help defend them,” Clinton announced. Stripped of verbiage, what Clinton was telling the assembled potentates was that the US would protect them from Iran but not Zionist Israel that has stolen not only Palestinian land but also that of the Syrians and Lebanese. Accepting US hegemony means also accepting Zionist supremacy in the region.
The only sensible words uttered at Doha came from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He focussed on the need for the West to rein in fear and misunderstanding of Islam. “The values of Islam and the Islamic world are being misinterpreted,” he told the Forum audience, adding, “Racism is dangerous, anti-Semitism is dangerous, and Islamophobia is just as dangerous.” Unfortunately, the Arabian rulers do not have the courage to speak with such conviction. Might this have been the reason why an aide to Clinton and Erdogan almost came to blows during their meeting? Clinton’s aide barged into the room and demanded that the meeting must end because she had to go elsewhere. The Turkish advisor was furious. He told the American to get lost.
Only a country and people that understand the meaning of self-respect can stand up to US bullying and tell the ill-mannered Americans where to go.