Time to Face the Middle East Realities

January 30, 2017

Last Friday President Trump signed his most controversial executive order so far. Its title was “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”. Soon, it was simply being referred to either as the “refugee ban” or the “Muslim ban”. Mr. Trump said the goal is to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the US.

First, a word about the theatrics of executive orders. President Trump sitting at a huge desk signing these orders with an authoritarian expression and matching body language with very senior members of his administration standing behind either nodding approval or applauding with big and sometimes uneasy smiles is not good public relations. The President needs to stop projecting the big businessman’s image and his entourage needs to act differently to project a team image. Of course, Mr. Trump is the commander-in-chief but all together they don’t have to look like the king and his courtiers. Unfortunately, we in the Middle East happen to be well-accustomed to such scenes but at least some of us wish to see something different on our television screens when news channels report from the capital of exceptionalism.

Second, nobody can dispute the right and indeed the responsibility of any American administration to keep terrorists out of the country. And, there is no doubt that San Bernardino and Orlando massacres are and very likely to stay fresh in the minds of Americans for a long time. However, the combat against what President Trump calls as “radical Islamic terrorism” would be wise to avoid sweeping judgements and labels simply because these only serve Daesh and its likes and their crooked ideology. The cornerstone of this ideology is that the West and Islam are engaged in an eternal struggle. So, whatever security measures are taken, the impression of an all-out-war should be avoided.

US judges came to the aid of refugees and others who were trapped at airports across the United States. They are the ones be applauded because they have once again proved the wisdom of the principle of separation of powers and that there are judges in the US.

On January 29, 2017 Declan Walsh reported in the New York Times that in face of Trump’s order some Muslim nations were conspicuously silent. He said:

“The Germans criticized it. The British voiced their discomfort. The French, the Canadians and even some Republican senators in Washington stood in open opposition.

“But in Cairo and Riyadh, in the heart of the Muslim world, President Trump’s decision to bar millions of refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from the United States was met with a conspicuous silence…

“Even the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group of 57 nations that considers itself the collective voice of the Muslim world, kept quiet…”

And, as he stated, Iran and Iraq were the exceptions. (*)

In reality, the others are just as disappointed but it appears that their leaders are squeezed between their desire to start on a positive note with the Trump administration and their impulse to react. For the moment, the former seems to dominate their attitude.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League have finally reacted to Mr. Trump’s executive order. However, this does not change the fact that they both have failed miserably in confronting the twisted ideology of al Qaida, Daesh and al Nusra terrorists and putting an end to Middle East’s sectarian wars. The majority of the victims of these terrorist organizations have been Muslims. Yet, all the regional leaders have been able to say so far is that those engaging in such atrocities could not be real Muslims, period.

This is what the Charter of the OIC preaches on relations between its members:

“Preamble:

“… to be guided by the noble Islamic values of unity and fraternity, and affirming the essentiality of promoting and consolidating the unity and solidarity among the Member States in securing their common interests at the international arena…

“… to enhance and strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among the Muslim peoples and Member States; to respect, safeguard and defend the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all Member States…

“Objectives and Principles

“Article 1
“The objectives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation shall be:

“1. To enhance and consolidate the bonds of fraternity and solidarity among the Member States…

“3. To respect … non-interference in the domestic affairs and to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each Member State;

“4. To support the restoration of complete sovereignty and territorial integrity of any Member State under occupation, as a result of aggression, on the basis of international law and cooperation with the relevant international and regional organizations…

 “18. To cooperate in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, organized crime, illicit drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering and human trafficking;

Article 2
“… 3. All Member States shall settle their disputes through peaceful means and refrain from use or threat of use of force in their relations;

“4. All Member States undertake to respect national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of other Member States and shall refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of others…”

The Trump administration, if it is interested in formulating a long-term strategy, should launch an effort to bring the members of the OIC together and convince them to address the underlying reasons for Middle East’s current chaos and start taking social/economic/political/cultural measures to eliminate them. Such an effort requires a broad outlook, cool-headed analysis, intense diplomatic groundwork and a determination on the part of all countries to bridge cultural fault lines. Most Middle East leaders have so far remained silent on the root causes of region’s problems but the vast non-radical majority of their peoples are tired of paying the price. It is time to energize those leaders.

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(*) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/world/middleeast/donald-trump-muslims-reaction.html?emc=eta1

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