Time for Arab States to Realize That Their Interests Are Not Identical with Those of US

“Arab countries have to understand that if they believe that the rule is to please America, this will jeopardize their strategic interest,” Valdai Club expert Tarek Heggy believes.

Last week’s emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo designed to work out a unified response to Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel demonstrated formal unity, but, in fact, only a few Arab states are ready to pressure the United States over the issue, believes Egyptian writer Tarek Heggy. According to him, the international stance of key Arab countries is very much in line with American interests, and this needs to be changed.

“There are few countries that can put pressure on the White House, including Saudi Arabia and the Emirates but they will never do that,” Heggy said in an interview with valdaiclub.com. “The relationship between Trump and these countries is like a love story. As someone who was watching Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, [I can say that] we cannot expect Saudi Arabia to put any pressure on Trump – and I don’t think that he expects any pressure from his allies.”

It was Egypt who initiated a campaign in the United Nations to denounce Trump’s move, Heggy said. “It failed in the Security Council because of the veto so it went to the General Assembly and won a great victory,” he said. “After the Europeans also supported the General Assembly’s resolution, it became very clear that Trump is alone with most of the world being against what Trump said.”

However, Heggy believes that it does that change any facts on the ground. “The whole story is harmful, it cannot do any good,” he said. “There is no pressure on Israel to even move on the negotiations [with the Palestinians]. That’s why I believe that in reality we are stagnant with or without what Trump said.”

There is a broader question of America’s goals with regard to the Arab nations, the Egyptian scholar stressed. The relations between Egypt and the United States since Anwar Sadat have not been based on equality. “Anwar Sadat threw himself between the two arms of the USA and said that 99% of any movement in the world is related to USA, which is totally wrong,” he said. “If 99% of any solutions is in the hands of the Americans, we better go and surrender and say to them: tell us what to do.”

Egypt begins to realize that this paradigm does not serve its interests. According to Heggy, the turning point was in 2011, when the United States supported the revolution, which toppled Hosni Mubarak, a longtime US ally, and replaced him with Mohammed Morsi, a candidate of the Islamist movement Muslim Brotherhood. “Many Egyptians, including myself, were surprised to discover in the year 2011 that the USA is backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” Heggy said. “As someone who spent my life studying the Muslim Brotherhood, I fail to understand how the values of the Muslim Brotherhood can match with the values of the USA. I think, since this moment the Egyptian-American relationship is not as it used to be and, actually, it should not go back to what it used to be.”

Today, Egypt works on better relations with Russia, China, and other international centres of power. “I am one of those who have been saying that an excellent relationship between Egypt and Russia and between Egypt and China is a must and is imperative,” Heggy said. “Egypt buys weapons from France and Russia, the first nuclear plant in Egypt will be built by Russia. I do not think that this pleases America but neither do I think that Egypt should be aiming at pleasing America. Egypt should be doing what is good for the country.”

“The whole picture is that Arab countries have to understand that if they believe that the rule is to please America, this will jeopardize their strategic interest by 100%,” Heggy stressed. “They have to serve their own interests and their own interest is, for instance, that Syria does not collapse. If Syria collapses and you have Saudi Arabia spent millions on this target, that means that although the Muslim Brotherhood lost Egypt, it would gain Syria. This is very bad for the future of the region,” he said.

“If Russia had not intervened in Syria, Syria would have been today three countries: a small Alawite country, a small Kurdish country and a very large Sunni country. The Sunni country would have been in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. For America, this is very convenient. For us, who believe in modernity, this would have been a disaster,” Heggy concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.