US: 2020 ‘Meal’ is Being Prepared

Eyad Abu Shakra – Asharq Al-Awsat

During the last few days, Middle Eastern affairs followers were interested in the Bahrain Economic Conference, which some have associated with the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ that aims to settle the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. On the other hand, those interested in global politics and international relations keenly followed the G 20 Economic Summit in Japan. This is quite normal.
However, the real ‘kitchen’ where Middle Eastern and global politics are ‘cooked’ was opened in the US with the launch of the Democratic Party’s campaign. It will reach its climax by choosing the Democratic presidential candidate who is expected to face President Donald Trump in the Presidential elections in early November 2020.
Until this moment, Trump seems to be assured of being the Republican Party’s candidate; as he has succeeded since his victory in 2016 in reshaping the Party in his own image, and has marginalized all potential rivals.
While it would be wrong to underestimate Trump’s personal achievement here, one must admit that the slogans and stances adopted by Trump, and promoted by him and his backers, have not been limited to the American political scene, as we see them rapidly spreading throughout Europe, Latin America, and even to south Asia and Australia.
The 2020 US Presidential elections may prove to be a landmark in the history of democracy, as well as what it may contribute to redefining globalization, race and inter-faith relations, and the differences between state-controlled and free market economies. However, what will be in the very heart of the American political debate in early 2020 is the ‘program’ of a superpower that is living on the edge of a global confrontation in defense of its unipolar hegemony, as ambitious rising power which are not afraid to challenge it.
The meetings Trump held with his Chinese and Russian counterparts Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were pointers to a tacit, but serious confrontation. In fact, if the Mueller Investigation was called to deal with allegations of Russian ‘interference’ – in favor of Trump – in the 2016 Presidential elections, the Huawei Issue and the ‘open war’ against China’s meteoric economic rise, reflect the other side of the Russo-Chinese challenge.
In the meantime, the Middle East gives Washington an important insight as to how to check this Russo-Chinese challenge; more specifically its Russian part since Chinese power is more clearly visible in east and central Africa.
In the Middle East, Moscow has capitalized on Washington’s mistakes since the ‘Cold War’. Then American policies consistently provided the former USSR with opportunities to establish a foothold in the Arab ‘Mashreq’ for the first time since the ‘Moscovite’ Orthodox schools in the 19th century. Today, Putin’s Russia has reclaimed its former strongholds thanks to Washington’s ongoing mistakes, such as: fully supporting Israel’s hard line Likud, retreating from decisively ending the crises in Syria, Yemen and the Gulf, and sending contradictory messages towards the polarizing power struggle between the military and the movements of ‘Political Islam.’
The wise critics of the Bahrain Economic Conference – unattended by Israeli and Palestinian officials – based their argument on Washington’s placing the carriage in front of the horse, by putting economic incentives before political settlement. Those critics argue that any long-term investment requires stability based on a genuine political solution, and agreed upon by parties that are directly-involved in the conflict and enjoy enough credibility. This would be the only way to convince their respective constituents of the benefits of sacrificing some political demands.
As for decisively ending the above-mentioned regional crises, the overall picture as to how far is Washington going to act against Iran in Syria, Yemen, the Gulf, and even in Iraq and Lebanon, is quite unclear. Some are talking about American – Russian – Israeli ‘understandings’ leading to ‘get the Iranians out of Syria’; although these would require a vision of the future of Lebanon, the role of Iraq, let alone how the Syrian map should look like if it is partitioned into ‘de facto’ areas of influence between Washington, Moscow and Tel Aviv.
Next comes the issue of the power struggle between military regimes and ‘Political Islam’. Here, Washington does not seem to be studying the serious geo-political complexities thoroughly enough after ‘the Arab Spring’ and its aftershocks and repercussions. This is a serious situation, more so if Tehran escalates its challenges, and if some regional powers continue their spiteful maneuvers on the remains of shattered states.
Back to the American ‘kitchen’; a few days ago I read a piece by Susan E Rice, the former US envoy to the UN, who was one of the pillars of ex-President Barack Obama’s pro-Iran foreign policy team. Like most senior Democrats, Rice’s passionate defense of JCPOA and her whole-hearted advice against ‘starting a war’ with Iran, do not give any thought of Tehran’s victims in the Middle East. She does not give a hoot about the poisonous sectarian atmosphere it has created, nor about genocide, mass displacement and security hegemony perpetrated and imposed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its sectarian militias.
Democratic presidential candidates who took part in the Miami debates recently showed that their Iran policies do not differ much from Rice’s; which means that we, the Arabs, are unable to clarify any realities – to the American public – let alone change viewpoints.
This pitiful inability looked even worse after I read in ‘The Hill’, the other day, a report about the preparations of the extremist US Evangelist groups for the 2020 US elections. These groups have already begun planning how to bankroll the campaigns of President Trump and other Republican candidates.
Noting that political agendas of any candidate in America are partly decided by his/her financial backers; the powerful ultra-right wing Evangelist groups were major contributors to the rise of Ex-President Ronald Reagan and the conservatives’ takeover of the Republican Party since the early 1980s. Today, the efforts of Evangelists are now allied to conservative currents with white-supremacist rhetoric, as well as radical groups opposed to immigrants, asylum-seekers, Muslims and liberals, not only in the US but also expanding to ‘Catholic’ Latin America! Evangelist support has been a decisive factor in the victory of the extreme right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, in the presidential elections. In Brazil, the world’s most populous Catholic country.
US Evangelists, through their various organizations, are already pouring tens of millions of US dollars in Republican 2020 campaign coffers; targeting ‘battleground state’, in particular.
Thus, as usual, whether the meal being cooked in America 2020’s kitchen comes out Republican or Democrat, it is not expected to be a delicious dish for the Arabs.

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