The U.S. Is Forsaking Middle Eastern Liberals

March 25 2015

Lebanese journalist Hanin Ghaddar argues that, in its quest for détente with Iran, America has abandoned its decades-long policy of promoting democracy and human rights in the region:

Democracy, freedom, self-determination, [and] human and individual rights are values that Arab liberals like myself thought we shared with the United States. That’s what you told us. For years, we’ve . . . been preached to by visiting American diplomats and think-tankers and journalists about the virtues of citizenship and democracy. We took plenty of notes. We’ve been told that if we speak out to defend our rights, we will be supported by America. And now we’ve been betrayed.

For many liberal Arab citizens like me, it looks like the United States is now taking sides in a sectarian conflict and turning a deliberate blind eye to violations of rights and values which are supposedly the core of what the United States represents. The United States is siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis. It is helping Assad, Hizballah, and other allies of Iran stay in power. . . .

Reality now tells us that today’s America does not care about our aspirations for freedom, for democracy, and for citizenship. The reality today says one thing: take things into your own hands because no one will help you. The gap left by the United States will be filled with extremists who despise liberal ideas, freedom of speech, and democracy. Whatever is left of our civil society will eventually lose legitimacy, because its ideals and goals will be considered too liberal and Westernized for communities radicalized by sectarian tension. The people who will emerge from the societies that are formed along this sectarian model will not be good citizens of open societies. They will be locked in cages of hatred and fear. We know from experience how that story turns out.

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More about: Arab democracy, Iran, Liberalism, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations