Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to change the Middle East. Nor did he get the kind of success he sought.
But as the US has reduced its regional footprint and ambitions, the Middle East has begun to change on its own. One of its decades-old recent signs was Saudi Prince Bandar’s sharp criticism of Palestinian leaders for making poor decisions over their decades. His words have not been underlined by his state’s decision to open its airspace for commercial flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai. Shifting from the United Arab Emirates and not recognizing the Jewish state to form a warm peace and economic partnership with Israel, it is clear that the region is moving towards something new, away from the predictability of the past.
Last week I asked UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba to explain what was going on, and to explain that he first pointed to the recent elections for the Jogbee Organization and the 12th annual ASDAA BCW Arab Youth Survey, which includes 4,000 young Arabs ( From 18) interviewed 24) in 17 countries.
President Trump’s peace plan, which was long dismissed by many Middle East experts as a terrible explosion that would destroy the American role in Middle East peace talks, has become relatively popular on the Arab street. The Jogby poll found majorities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in favor of the “Deal of the Century”
The survey named more young Arabs in the US than any other country to ask which countries have increased their influence over the last five years. (Only 24% of Russia’s name.) Sixty-five percent considered the United States to be “an ally” of their country, less than 35% in 2011 35.
On other issues, 67% of young Arabs surveyed agreed that “religion plays a very big role in the Middle East.” Seventy percent of young women and 70% of young men supported the idea of married women working outside the home.
If attitudes are changing on the Arab street, then attitudes in suites are changing even more. The picture that came out of my conversation with Mr. Otaiba, underlined in a subsequent conversation with National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, was that leading Arab leaders have adopted the idea that a better relationship with Israel would be Are important for the security of states. Even existence.
It is more Turkish than Iran that keeps some Arab leaders awake at night. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has closely associated himself with the Muslim Brotherhood, a regional Islamist movement that Mr. Obama once hoped to pacify terrorism by introducing the liberal and democratic nature of Islamist politics in the region can go. That dream died with Mr Erdogan with a more authoritarian outlook, the inability of Mohammed Morsi’s government in Egypt and continued support for violence by the Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas.
Many Arab leaders fear that Turkey will use a network of brotherhoods to build support for Ankara’s regional ambitions. Iran can only call minority Shiites for religious support, but Turkey can draw supporters from a Sunni majority.
Ironically, the current Arab nightmare is that the next US administration will not adequately support Israel. Regional leaders fear that despite Mr. Erdogan’s ambitions, Team Biden faces sanctions against Israel as well as Arab objections, embracing Turkey, a North Atlantic treaty organization, and Iran as part of the withdrawal of the 2015 nuclear deal Will ignore to leave.
Close Arab cooperation with Israel, some hope in the Gulf, helps keep that audience at bay. The agreement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the declarations of the West Bank region for relations with the United Arab Emirates was a gift to both US political parties. Republicans can celebrate a foreign policy victory for Mr. Trump. For Democrats, this meant that the Biden campaign and Biden, a president, would not be distracted by a bitter infiltration over America’s response to Israeli comments. Aligned with Israel, the Arabs hope to have their voices heard more clearly and their interests taken more seriously no matter what the November election is.
Meanwhile, Mr. Otaiba believes that bringing the Gulf capital to Israel’s economy and Israeli technical expertise in the Gulf can help Arab countries achieve economic results that will satisfy the restless young generation. There is a doubt that Washington would welcome that America’s Gulf allies would displace China as an important source of foreign investment in Israel.
The Middle East has changed; American thinking will have to adjust.
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