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7 Nov, 2012

Will Obama Now Honour his 2009 Pledge To Make Peace With Islamic World?

On June 4, 2009, the same year he won the Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama stood behind a podium at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, one of Islam’s most eminent centres of learning, and delivered his famous speech to the Islamic world. His objective was reset the United States’ relations with Islam and make “a new beginning”. He covered all the usual ground – violence, Iran, Arab-Israeli relations and Palestine. Much has changed since that famous speech. But one thing has not changed: Palestine remains under Israeli occupation, and the following Obama pledge remains unfulfilled:

“Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.”

On Nov 6, just as the American people went to the polls, the following headline appeared in CNN: Israel plans new homes in East Jerusalem, West Bank. It was not the first such headline. Israel has been building settlements incessantly since the famous Cairo speech. Obama has been unable to do anything about it.

He now has four years to fix that, and the political freedom to act on the basis of principles, not politics. The positives are enormous and the negatives are potentially catastrophic. Time is not on his side. If Asia is rising today, the Islamic world will rise tomorrow, especially as most of the Asian countries are either majority Muslim or with significant minorities. Right at the heart of U.S.-Islamic relations is the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which can be solved if the President re-elect gets his priorities right, separates symptom from cause, abandons double-standards and puts Islamic and Jewish concerns on par.

Let’s be perfectly clear. The Islamic world will not give up, nor can it lose. In fact, the United States, already in a state of decline, has the most to lose. The Islamic world’s geographic and strategic importance is unshakeable and will gain ground in a globalised world. Readers can access the full list of Organisation of Islamic Co-operation countries here, weigh the following 11 points and make up your own minds.

1.   Population: A total of 1.46 billion people scattered as majorities and/or minorities right across the geographical centre of the planet from Morocco to Mindanao. Their natural resources and populations are a global source of minerals and medicines. Their own populations also generate both money and markets. They are all proud of their history and heritage.

2.   Oil, gas and energy: The energy and mineral reserves of the Islamic world are well known. All the way from the Gulf to the Central Asian Republics through to Indonesia and Brunei. Cheap access to these reserves contributed to the past economic development of the industrialised countries. Great power rivalries and geopolitical battles have been waged over decades for control of these riches, and will continue to do so in future.

3.   Money: The financial resources of the oil-rich and underpopulated Islamic countries are enormous. Billions of dollars are being poured into huge development and construction projects, as well as on weapons, stocks, bonds, treasury bills and real estate in the West. If Islamic oil and gas are important to the survival of Western economies, the recycling of Islamic mega-millions is equally important.

4.   Crossroads of the World: Islamic countries straddle all the most critical crossroads of trading and transport routes. Vital shipping lanes include the Straits of Malacca (Malaysia), the Straits of Gibraltar (Morocco), the Suez Canal (Egypt), the Straits of Hormuz (Iran/UAE) and the Straits of Bosporus (Turkey). The Trans-Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway that will eventually link Asia to Europe runs through Central Asia. All flights between Australasia and Europe have to overfly Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

5.   Rainforests: Most of the world’s remaining rainforests are in Indonesia, Malaysia and the many Islamic countries of equatorial Africa. These rainforests contain the secrets of science, health and medical breakthroughs. They are also the lungs and carbon sinks of the world. Both health and climate change are primary challenges of this era, and potential solutions lie in Islamic lands.

6.   Diplomacy and International Relations: Geopolitically, the Islamic countries are a significant voting bloc. Without the support of this 57-member grouping, it is virtually impossible to pass any mandate or resolution in international forums.

7.   Migrant labour: Millions of expatriates working in the Gulf countries remit billions of dollars to their home countries, a major source of poverty alleviation and economic progress.

8.   The Youth Bulge: The young people who comprise the majority of the Islamic world’s population are major markets of the future. As they are also tomorrow’s world leaders, influencing their mindset today is vital. Joblessness and despair amongst this group can be a major source of destabilisation and unrest, forcing migration to the rich countries and feeding frustration and violence.

9.  The Arts: The art, culture, music, dance, cuisine and literature created and/or authored by Muslims is spectacular – from the poetry of Rumi to the architecture of the Alhambra and the artistry of the Taj Mahal to the magnificent monuments of Iran and Uzbekistan, a supremely creative, inspiring and motivating force.

10. Mind-power: No peoples who can come up with the inventions and discoveries shown on the website http://www.1001inventions.com can remain intellectually stagnant forever. Given academic freedom and license, Islamic universities can easily regain the glory of the erstwhile centres of learning of Baghdad, Damascus, Samarkand and Cairo.

11.  Religious Power: Like all great religions, Islam has great spiritual and philosophical relevance, scientific depth and the ability to uplift societies. How the world’s only religion to be born in the desert spread across such a large swathe of territory is a story in itself. As the last of the world’s great religions, it offers practical solutions to many of the world’s social, economic, environmental, financial problems. At its core lies an uncompromising sense of justice.

All of the above is known to top decision-makers in United States and other Western countries. They know that a united Islam can be powerful and positive source of energy and transformation. Hence, to keep it divided and destabilised is a geopolitical imperative.

Doing so has proven easy – so far. The Islamic world has large rich-poor income gaps, internecine ethnic and religious rivalries, poor quality leaders and corrupt dictators. Leading such people astray with a combination of alcohol, illicit sex, bribery and blackmail requires no great effort. Colonial powers have a proven history of expertise in dividing countries, communities and religious groups. Portraying the Islamic world as being full of liars, illiterates, fundamentalists, etc. is part of this game-plan. Keeping it that way is the future challenge.

In the 1970s, three game-changing events rocked the United States and its concept of post-World War II security, underscoring the power of a united Islam and exposing the fragility of U.S.-Islamic relations:

1. Arab-Israeli war, October 1973: The year 2013 will mark 40 years since this conflict in which Arab armies, led by Egypt, came dangerously close to defeating the Israelis and freeing occupied Palestine. It was only a massive, last minute military airlift by the U.S. and its allies that changed the game. But it gave the Arabs a fleeting sense of confidence in what unity could achieve.

2. Arab oil embargo: This use of the “oil weapon” was part of the October 1973 war. It nearly crippled the economies of the West and exposed the threat of dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

3. Iran 1979: The Shah of Iran, one of the US government’s puppets in the Gulf, was overthrown by a revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a religious leader exiled by the Shah. In what was the world’s first “electronic revolution,” cassette tapes smuggled in were played across mosques in Iran, leading to massive demonstrations which forced out the Shah and led to the return of Khomeini in February 1979.

Since these events, as well as the U.S. defeat in Vietnam in 1975, U.S. security doctrines have been revamped. All economic, defence and foreign policy mechanisms were geared towards ensuring that it never happens again. True, some efforts were made to forge an Arab-Israeli peace, such as under the Carter and Clinton administrations. Then came the 4 November 1995 Jewish terrorist assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It’s been downhill ever since.

Since that black day, U.S. government policy and its formidable Jewish lobby has focussed intently on subjugating and dividing the Arab/Islamic world by backing corrupt dictators, entertaining their royal families, penetrating their businesses, militaries, education systems, media and the political establishment. Today, the U.S. has military bases right across the Gulf. Its companies win huge business and construction contracts. Its brand-name products sell well across the malls and shopping complexes.

But the recent Arab spring revolutions have proved that all the people cannot be fooled all the time, that the best-laid plans can go awry, that underlying problems have not gone away, and the desire for Palestinian freedom still burns bright across the entire region.

The U.S. government is deeply involved in the quagmire and can only cope with the situation by fire-fighting and managing the symptoms rather than treating the cause. It cannot admit mistakes and backtrack without losing face, trust and respect.

The next big test will come when the Palestinians seek elevated statehood status in the UN, possibly within the next few weeks. That will set the stage for a confrontation between the U.S. establishment and Israel and its Zionist backers. If the U.S. blocks that effort, it is only a matter of time before Egypt, now a full-fledged democracy similar to Israel, begins to push for a renegotiation of its peace treaty with Israel. Subsequent events could become even more unpredictable and unmanageable.

If Mr. Obama can honour his still unfulfilled pledge of June 4, 2009 to the Islamic world and give birth to a Palestinian state, he will earn his 2009 Nobel Peace prize and change the rest of the 21st century for the better. The Arab world will boom, trillions of dollars worth of swords could be converted into plowshares and millions of man-hours worth of productivity, time and resources will be freed up to realise the UN Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015.

The most dangerous men on the planet now are not Islamic terrorists but those who tried desperately to unseat Obama and make Iran the next victim of their War on Islam. These people are of the same stock as those who created and bred the Rabin assassin. Over the next four years, they will do everything in their power to get him to attack Iran and stop him from creating a Palestinian state. Their goal is to fuel more instability and conflict with the Islamic world.

The world cannot afford another four such years. Now that the American people have given Barack Hussein Obama a renewed mandate, it is time for him to honour their trust, fulfill his pledge to the Islamic world and create a truly global peace.

His date with destiny awaits.