The Arabs and the United States of America

Interests, Fears and Concerns in a Turbulent Environment  
14 March, 2018

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has published a 639 page compendium The Arabs and the United States of America, featuring papers presented at the June 14-16, 2014 Doha conference "The Arabs and the United States of America: Interests, Fears and Concerns in a Turbulent Environment." The book, divided into three sections ranging in length from 3 to seven chapters each, examines American strategy in the Middle East, Arab-American bilateral relations, and American approaches to the Arab revolutions. These pages effectively set forth the gamut of transformations that the complex relationship has undergone in the two centuries of contact between the United States of America and the Arabs.

In the first chapter, Richard Murphy examines American strategy in the Fertile Crescent, 1918-1938, during which Woodrow Wilson's 14 points sketched the outlines of self-determination for the peoples of the Eastern half of the globe, with the United States rarely intervening in their affairs. In the second chapter, Political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects and Realities under the Obama Administration Marwan Kabalan assesses the American conflict management approach to a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with an eye on furthering its own strategic goals in the region. Assessing the Prospects of a Political Settlement between Israel and the Palestinians under the Obama administration, Osama Abu Irshaid reviews Israeli anxieties regarding Obama's political, civil and legal background, despite his complete fealty to Israel during the years of his Senate term. Irshaid notes that Obama did exert unprecedented pressure on Israel during the first year of his presidency, calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu to cease construction of settlements and presided over an emerging Washington consensus that continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict without an acceptable settlement could jeopardize vital American interests and national security. "The Future of US Foreign Policy toward Iraq" is discussed by Mazen Ramadani, who shows how shortcomings in the preparation of prospective studies has led to a number of those being - in practice - studies of the past or present, with but brief references to the future.

In chapter 5, Is the United States Redefining its Policy in the Middle East? Ibrahim Freihat measures the degree of change seen in US policy through the three indicators of relative American independence from Arab oil, growing American interest in the Asia-Pacific region, and opposition to any American intervention in political changes in the Arab world. Freihat concludes that "yesterday's allies for the United States are allies today, perhaps even tomorrow, but the strength of the US influence in the allies themselves has declined."

In Chapter 6, The United States and Regional Integration in the Arab Region, Raghid El-Solh examines US policy towards joint at historical turning points after World War II, underscoring American opposition to Arab integration projects. He concludes that the door is open to the possible emergence of a balanced Arab regional system in the future, though this depends on economic and political variables in the structure of the international system.  In Chapter 7, Turkey's role in US Middle East strategy, Kadir Ustun discusses the regional aspects of US policies, focusing on the Turkish model under Obama. He suggests that Turkey is the natural candidate to become the "strong and stable" regional ally on which Washington could rely, in the context of security threats sparked by regional and international changes.

In Chapter 8, the United States: Looking for a new Gulf policy, US policy variables toward the Persian Gulf, David Ottaway looks to history to answer the question: Are there new US orientations in the Arabian Gulf? He concludes that "after two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is going through a period of retreat from direct military intervention." He compares and contrasts US policy toward the Persian Gulf during the Nixon administration's withdrawal of the United States from the Vietnam War in the early 1970s and 'the Obama Doctrine' of avoiding military involvement anywhere in the world and particularly the Middle East.

In the ninth chapter, The impact of the shift in Saudi-US relations on the Saudi regional role, Mansour al-Marzouki al-Buqami observes a "redefining of the role of Saudi Arabia in the region," concluding that the Saudi-US differences would not end the alliance between them, as they will "work to take relations to another level that adapts to the new context." In the 10th chapter, Moving Sands: Changing Oil and Gas Markets and the Changing Middle East, Daniel Serwer focuses on the importance of energy in US policy toward the Arabian Gulf, linking energy variables with political and security variables in the Arabian Gulf, and reflecting on the implications of rising or falling oil prices on military balances In the Arabian Gulf, and vice versa. Serwer observes "As global energy markets change rapidly, oil and gas production in the West is on the rise, with demand increasing in the East, especially in China and India. With the Strait of Hormuz remaining a conduit for global communication, through which oil and gas is increasingly being moved eastward rather than west, new rules are being drawn up for the Middle East, and the conditions of competition in the global market will create new winners and losers; countries with costly oil production will face growing challenges, as will countries that appear not to be reliable as an oil source."

In Chapter 11, Ways to improve the US-Gulf partnership: planning for the future, Gulf-US relations for the foreseeable future, Anthony Cordesman explores these relations, observing that at the time of writing the United States had not reduced its presence in the Gulf but strengthened it. He predicts no US retreat from the Middle East towards Asia nor a real shift towards rapprochement with Iran and away from its allies in the Gulf; rather it will remain committed to defending and building up its allies in the south of the Gulf, supplying as much as much as $ 70 billion in US weapons.  GCC countries - particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - are importing sophisticated military equipment and spending more money to strengthen their armed forces and arms imports. Cordesman notes, however, that while GCC countries - particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - are importing sophisticated military equipment and spending more money to strengthen their armed forces and arms imports, they have made little effort to transform the GCC into a modern, integrated and coherent force. According to him, the main factors that divide and weaken these states and waste a large part of their military expenditures are simple national competition combined with failures in training and joint military action and the failure to give the same priority to real military action as to the purchase of the latest weaponry.

In the twelfth chapter, Abdelwahab El-Affendi examines America and Sudan querying whether the case constitutes A model in Arab-American relations or an exception; the shifts in American foreign policy towards Sudan in the past four decades.  Sudan, he suggests, is a special case in Arab-American relations, since America considers it to be on the one hand an African country eliciting treatment as a humanitarian situation that requires intervention to achieve peace and the delivery of humanitarian aid and relief, but on the other hand it is seen as a state sponsor of terrorism threatening America's allies in the region. In Chapter 13, Sudanese-US Relations in the Government of the Salvation Government: The Transition from Foreign Policy to Internal Affairs, Hassan al-Haj Ali Ahmad analyzes principle factors influencing the formation of US policies towards Sudan: the Islamic orientation of the country,  the political "hegemonic" behavior of US administrations, and the position taken towards southern Sudan.

In chapter 14, Ayad al-Qazzaz studies The image of Arabs and Islam after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in introductory sociology textbooks in the United States between 2005 and 2014, examining the impact of the September 11 attacks on the contents of sociological books on Arabs, Americans of Arab origin, and American Muslims. Al-Qazzaz reviews 16 textbooks, representing about 40 percent of the basic educational books available in the market, all published after the September 11 attacks, and widely used throughout the United States, adopting a content analysis approach to study key topics and other sub-headings such as Ibn Khaldun, Edward Said, Islam, American Muslim community, Arab American community, Arab and Muslim women, FGM, Iraq, Abu Ghraib prison, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Spring, social media, and Al-Jazeera.

In the fifteenth chapter, American policies toward democratic transition – European (1989) and Arab (2011), Ghassan al-Izzi found that the United States actively contributed to the democratization of Eastern European countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union and continued to sponsor and support it in order to consolidate it and make it irreversible These countries joined the Western system through the European Union and NATO, and Washington gained new allies to depend on them in the international arena. In the Arab case, during the Cold War, the United States dealt with the Arab world from the perspective of interests and strategies focused on securing safe corridors for the region's oil, supporting Israel, and combating Communist expansionism. It did not use the slogan of democracy in its Arab policies.

In the sixteenth chapter, Washington and Cairo: From the January Revolution to the election of Sisi: reality of interests and illusion of change, Mohammed al-Minshawi addresses the American stance towards the Egyptian revolution until the coup of July 3, 2013, reviewing Egyptian experience since the revolution of 25 January 2011 underlining the American reaction of unprecedented confusion with regard to developments in the Egyptian situation, with US policies characterized by lack of initiative and indicating the weakening of American influence in the country.

In chapter 17, The United States' response to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, researcher Michel Dan compares the American positions on the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions since the overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, in Egypt spotlighting judicial proceedings against NGOs, the election of Mohamed Morsi, and the military coup, and in Tunisia, the attack on the US Embassy.

Anwar Al-Jamawi studies the American administration's position on the rule of the Islamists in Tunisia before and after the 2011 revolution in Chapter 18, The Relationship between the Renaissance (En-Nahda) Movement in Tunisia and the United States. He finds that the United States enjoyed an extended dialogue, since 2006, with the En-Nahda movement and other political actors in Tunisia.

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