There is a popular saying in the Middle East, literally translated as, “America sneezes, the World catches a cold!”
This is the condition of our world today! Sick, weak with a rising fever. And the world is asking: Where is the doctor?
During the 53rd Security Conference in Munich, Germany (February 17–19, 2017), almost all the world leaders speaking at the conference expressed a great deal of anxiety about the current state of our world.
The conference was attended by participants from 125 countries and it was titled, “Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?”
Here are some of the fears expressed by a few Eastern and Western leaders:
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir described the region “rife with turmoil: We have a crisis in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, Libya. We have an Iran that is rampant in its support of terrorism and interference in the affairs of other countries. We face terrorism, we face piracy, we face challenges of economic development and job creation. . . . We have the challenge of trying to bring peace between Israelis and Arabs.” He accused Iran of exporting its Islamic Revolution and called it the biggest threat to Sunni nations, affiliating Iran with ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman believed that the rising chaos and instability in the Middle East today was due to a lack of “political determination.” Describing the regional threat as a triangle composed of only one country: “Iran, Iran and Iran.” He outlined the Iranian “pattern of behavior” destabilizing through providing support for Hizbollah in the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Palestine, Houti militias in Yemen, Shiite militias in Iraq, etc. He called Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps “the biggest and most powerful, sophisticated and brutal terror organization of the world” and its Senior Commander Qassem Soleimani the “number one terrorist in the world.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced his concerns about sectarianism in the Middle East and chiefly blamed Iran for contributing to instabilities and insecurity in the region. Revise your “regional policies and take constructive steps,” and stop threatening the region, he warned Iran.
Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haidar Al-Abadi, whose country has been at the forefront of fighting against ISIS, voiced his concerns about the rise of terrorism and the unceasing armed conflicts in the region that had resulted in rising instabilities and a major humanitarian crisis. He seemed to attempt to find a common ground for his regional partners—combating ISIS and resolving the Syrian armed conflict.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif proposed his regional and international adversaries to find a common goal and common ground by redefining the current global crisis threatening the world today. He defined ISIS and al-Nusrah as the two terrorist groups threatening the region. He traced the rise of extremism and “extremist recruitment” due to “endemic problems of foreign invasion and occupation.” This “unprecedented ruthless and barbaric violence . . . can be traced back to the foreign military misadventures of early 2000s” who aimed and financed these groups, claimed Zarif. He further “challenged zero-sum approaches” and depicted Iran as a cooperative nation, logical, and willing to do everything it can to contribute to regional security and fight extremism and terrorism. Countering U.S. administration’s “alternative facts,” he defended Iran’s nuclear deal as measures taken by Iran to build international confidence and security. He warned that no power was able to address global issues alone—especially security and terrorism.
As Iranian-Israeli tensions were escalating over the weekend, organizers of the conference “hurriedly” cancelled the joint session scheduled with Israeli, Iranian, Saudi, and Turkish Ministers. They separated out their addresses with panels in between.
These are just a few examples of high tensions between the leaders of a few major Middle Eastern countries. Then, came Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who seemed to believe that the West was still suffering from a Cold War mentality. “Humanity stands at a crossroads today. . . . The world has become neither ‘Western-centric,’ nor a safer and more stable place.” Today’s global challenges are “Terrorism, drug trafficking, or the crises that engulfed territories from Libya to Afghanistan, leaving countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen bleeding.” He called for “a dialogue on [these] complex issues” with “mutual respect and understanding” in order to find “mutually acceptable compromises” on how to advance “global stability.” He denounced “actions based on confrontation and the zero-sum game approach,” and called for “constructive Russia-U.S. relations.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis seemed to hint that combating terrorism—specifically ISIS— is Trump’s foremost Mid-East policy. He called for NATO’s alliance and cost sharing in their combat against “terrorism, cyber threats and hybrid war,” which have spread “from the Mediterranean to Turkey’s border.”
U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee called the state of the world today “dangerous times.” He warned that today’s world was moving “toward old ties of blood, race, and sectarianism.” We harbor “resentment toward immigrants, refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.” We display “the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.” While the West still has “the power to maintain our world order,” it has lost its “will.” He recognized the “profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called today’s world “more dangerous place than at any point since the collapse of communism a quarter century ago.” He declared the current state of U.S.-NATO alliance in an intense “Global war against radical Islamic terrorists. . . . From Yemen to Libya, Nigeria to Syria, the rise of extremist groups ranging from ISIS and al-Qaeda, to al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. . . ISIS is perhaps the greatest evil of them all.” He promised that the U.S. will stand with its transatlantic allies in its tireless fight against terrorism. Iran and North Korea remained to be the top two states that posed the greatest threats to today’s world.
Then came the E.U. High Representative Federica Mogherini who displayed little confidence in the U.S.’s commitments to its European allies. “We are actually in a state of confusion where the power stands, who has the power today in the world. The new “Global Strategy” has become the new “predictable unpredictability.” Scolding the U.S. administration, she said, “Let me also say that for Europeans, the transatlantic friendships and partnerships go beyond the friendship we have with the United States. It belongs also to our Canadian friends, to our Mexican friends, to the whole Latin America which is also for us across the Atlantic. And it means that we will continue to invest in partnerships and cooperation with all the other partners we have around the world, be them countries, be them other regional organizations—from the African Union to the League of Arab States, and investing in a strong UN system. The European Union is and will continue to be the first supporter of this multilateral approach and obviously we will continue working with NATO. . . . I know this is the European way: friendship, partnership, with many—starting from the United States.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintained a more moderate tone, extending a very warm welcome to the U.S. delegation, in particular Vice President Pence. She placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of the EU, NATO, and UN partnership and cooperation. It was the cohesive strategies and “value-base cooperation” among Western partners, in particular “the transatlantic operation” that led to the end of Cold War in 1990, she said. “Today, more than a quarter century later the world has changed dramatically. There are no longer two blocks. There is a new pattern, a new order and indeed a new balance of power. And structures have become more multilateral and we see the United States of America as a superpower. There is also a transatlantic bond. We also have a unified Europe of 28-member states and we have the rise of Asian economies.” She defined terrorism the greatest challenge facing the world today. We witness the rise of “Islamic terror,” throughout the Middle East and Europe. We witness Israel’s growing fight “against anti-Islamic state alliances.” The ongoing war in Syria has had a tremendous effect on Europe. And, we have witnessed the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine. One thing is for sure, says Merkel, safety, security and peace have become urgent matters. But she sees today’s world absent of a “fix international global order” and does not believe that these challenges can be “mastered by one state alone.” Instead, she believes in “multilateral efforts” among EU, NATO, and UN partners.
So, with all this said and done, who is the world leader?
Despite anxieties displayed by the Eastern and Western leaders about the grave state of our world today, they seemed to still look toward the United States for leadership and intervention. America still remains “The Leader of the Free World,” even if parts of the world do not agree with the policies of the Trump administration.
This places a lot of responsibilities on President Trump as his administration begins prioritizing its foreign policy—and hopefully acts quickly! It is simply a good reminder for President Trump and his national security team that the world is watching the U.S. closely and following its lead. Precise, concise policies and plans that will help the world calm down, help her fever go down, and hopefully begin the healing process will be good for everyone. The world leaders seem to express confusion about the White House, not sure which voice they need to follow. Who is the ultimate person in charge of the U.S. foreign policy? It is a question for these leaders. This is a critical matter that the administration needs to consider clarifying immediately and hopefully maintain a unified voice on its policy directions.
Unfortunately, according to these world leaders, the current state of our world is more serious than most of us imagined. Perhaps our world is not fighting a cold but a severe flu with serious complications. We simply need our leaders to act quickly and strategically to prevent spread of the disease. It is alright if the healing process is slow with some complications, but we cannot let our world move toward destruction. America has to remain strong, let her light shine, and enlighten the world about the path we need to take for years, decades, and centuries to come.
Now, what are you, as an ordinary American citizen, doing to help our world during these critical times? Share your thoughts here.