US President Donald Trump has just thrown a grenade into a volatile region without thought for consequences. He has resorted to upending decades of US policy, blackmailing countries to bend them to his will and, to cap it all, he boasts “I don’t care.”
I have rarely witnessed a US leader resort to open blackmail in such a direct fashion as he and his female cohort Nikki Haley did on the eve of the UN General Assembly vote on occupied Jerusalem’s status. They have crudely wielded America’s dollars as a weapon with which to batter the economically vulnerable over the head.
Attempting to manipulate votes by threatening to deprive countries from aid and the United Nations of funding to prevent them adhering to international law and UN Resolutions is blatantly undemocratic. Russia’s alleged propagandist interference in US elections pales by comparison.
Haley is a diplomat yet she uses the language of a schoolmarm with her vow to “take names” in a letter delivered to 180 UN member countries prior to the vote. She left the assembly with egg on her face.
She did her best to distract from the issue with attacks on the UN body for being anti-Israel and told a glaring untruth asserting that Trump’s announcement was in accordance with the American people’s will. A CNN poll indicates that a mere 36 per cent approve of relocating the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem. She refers to Israel as a democracy when it is literally an apartheid state engaged in an illegal occupation.
Isolated on world stage
America’s isolation has now been set in stone. Only seven states voted against the resolution aside from the US and Israel—Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. I wonder how many of those Trump could locate on a map!
The Trump administration has since tried to spin their own goal as a triumph citing abstentions and countries that neglected to turn up. For those which chose to cop out of their international obligations, ambassador Haley is throwing a party to show America’s gratitude.
Trump has virtually admitted that US aid is a bribe to keep recipients in line with America’s interests and foreign policy. “To all of those nations that take our money and then they vote against us in the Security Council or potentially in the General Assembly . . . We are watching those votes,” he said.
Almost all US allies that voted for the resolution or abstained sent a clear message to the White House—The World is not for sale.
That said, it was unfortunate that Afghanistan, which receives $4.2 billion in annual aid from the very country that once threatened to bomb it back to the Stone Age, and Mali that is suffering from a humanitarian crisis were ‘persuaded’ to withdraw their sponsorship of the resolution, although both did vote in favour.
Aid that is given on the basis of ‘Do what we order you or else’ deserves to be shunned. While there are a few states which cannot function without it, Egypt isn’t in that category. Cairo is slated to receive $1.3 billion next year in “untouchable compensation” for maintaining peace with Israel under the Camp David Accords.
Obama punished Egypt for its rejection of its Muslim Brotherhood government by withholding a significant proportion of aid and suspending deliveries of paid-for F16s and Apache helicopters. The US Congress more recently suspended military aid to Egypt and is deliberating on withdrawing all.
Egypt is now in a position to free itself of this encumbrance; its economy is growing year upon year. It is now almost energy self-sufficient and both the IMF and the World Bank have issued positive predictions.
Next year, the country is expected to see a 4.4 per cent growth in gross domestic product. Moreover, since it was stabbed in the back by Obama, the government has wisely reached out to several world powers in terms of trade and military purchases.
Jordan, one of America’s closest Middle East partners and the custodian of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites, is set to receive $1 billion from the US in 2018. Trump’s declaration is a blow to the historic Hashemite role in preserving the city’s religious heritage and to the feelings of Jordanians, over half of whom are either Palestinian or are of Palestinian origin.
It is surely the moment when Egypt and Jordan should seriously consider cutting the strings, which provided wealthy Arab states would agree to make up the shortfall, especially in the case of Jordan, at least one tool in the box of America’s domination will be forever smashed.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.