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US meddling in Middle East erodes hopes

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-14 09:18
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US President Joe Biden (L) visits Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, on July 13, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Political progress held back by game playing, say experts panning Biden trip

With many in Arab nations losing faith in Western-framed democracy as a vehicle for easing their economic hardships, analysts have highlighted the extent to which the United States and its allies have undermined political progress in a troubled region.

The Western powers have deeply penetrated the Middle East and North Africa and show no letup in their polarizing political games, say the experts, who gave their views as US President Joe Biden tours the Middle East this week. They believe the trip, which was starting with a visit to Israel on Wednesday, will likely only further complicate the situation in the region.

Khaled Almasri, a former dean of the Faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy at Al-Sham Private University in Damascus, said Biden's visit is "going to make things worse" by polarizing the region between some Arab states and Israel on the one hand and Iran on the other.

The visit "is to reconstruct the alliance in the Middle East to contain Iran, China and Russia", he said.

"The situation is going to be more dangerous, and the region will continue to see more wars and economic crises because of the competition between the major powers. It is a highly penetrated region by the outside powers," Almasri said.

Ayman Yousef, a professor of international relations at the Arab American University in Jenin in the West Bank, said that the US' projection of its political system is receding even in countries that have experienced elections, such as Tunisia and Iraq.

"I think the bad economic, political, and social relationships are the main reasons for that. Arab people don't have faith in political leadership or in political parties or in the political process. Therefore, I think the future is dull and done for the region," said Yousef.

He also believes Biden's visit is unlikely to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict but is more about regional politics.

Regional countries and external powers such as the US "are playing a negative role" when it comes to the democratization process in the Middle East, Yousef said.

After visiting Israel, the US president is expected to join a summit led by the Gulf Cooperation Council along with leaders from Iraq, Egypt and Jordan later this week.

A survey published last week by Arab Barometer, a research network based at Princeton University, found that Arabs are losing faith in Western-style democracy to deliver economic stability in the region.

The survey comes just over a decade after the "Arab Spring" protests in 2011, which called for political change with a series of anti-government demonstrations in countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia.

The protests sparked yearslong wars, which have pushed countries like Yemen and Syria into a deep humanitarian crisis. Civil war in Yemen broke out in 2014 and the country has been divided into factions.

In a statement, the Norwegian Refugee Council urged Biden to keep the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the top of his agenda, with the humanitarian organization adding that since Biden took office last year, Israeli authorities have increased both settlement expansion and demolitions.

It said that for each day Biden has spent in office since January 2021, Israel has displaced an average of three Palestinians.

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