Mon Dec 3, 2018, 08:41 AM

George HW Bush and the American era in the Middle East

In October 1990, when the United States and the Soviet Union co-chaired the Madrid Peace talks between Arabs and Israelis, the two bitter enemies sat across from each other for the first time since the 1948 creation of Israel.

Secretary of State James Baker did the shuttle diplomacy and took ultimate credit for the historic event, famous for its political significance and the high drama that unfolded during its opening session.

A landmark achievement for the United States, it marked the start of the so-called “American Era in the Middle East.” It was also the beginning of the end of Russian influence in the region. Two months later, the USSR was dissolved.

The Madrid process eventually led to the 1993 Oslo Accords between Yasser Arafat and Yizhak Rabin, and the 1994 Wadi Araba Agreement between Israel and King Hussein of Jordan. It even came close to inspiring a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement in the mid-1990s.

The engineer of the original Madrid breakthrough was George HW Bush, the 41st president of the United States, who died at his home in Houston over the weekend, aged 94. Depending on who one talks to in the Arab world, he is either hailed as a brave visionary and history-maker or dismissed and written off as a war criminal. To the generation of Arabs who supported Saddam Hussein, Bush falls into the second category.


The former US president, scheduled to be laid to rest on Thursday in Texas after a four-day tribute, leaves behind a very different landscape in the Middle East. America’s influence in the region is declining and rapidly being replaced by that of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Syria, a country that Bush courted during the peace process, is at extreme odds with the United States. Iraq is still in a shambles, thanks to the combined efforts of the Bush dynasty. The Arab-Israeli conflict is far from over, hampered by the very obstacles that existed when Bush left the White House in 1993.

Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council are curious when it comes to dealing with Bush’s fourth successor, Donald Trump, who shows little or no interest in promoting peace or stability in the region.

The Saudis are particularly upset, given the contradicting signals they have been receiving from Trump, who says that he will support them until curtain fall yet refused to end support for Qatar after its 2017 diplomatic quarrel with Riyadh, and more recently, left them in confusion over the Khashoggi Affair.

0 replies, 78 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse