When a research fellow from the Washington Institute of Near East Policy visited China recently, we had an in-depth talk. We discussed a wide range of topics, including the Ebola epidemic, the terrorism threat from the Islamic State (IS) group, and how China and the United States can cooperate in tackling these issues and challenges. The important discussion topic, however, was what kind of legacy President Obama will have after he leaves office in two years. The outcome of the midterm elections surely raised that question and made this a priority in our discussion.
The Middle East has always served as a crucial connection for the US global strategy in interest and power. The dominant role in the region continues to be a priority for the US government. However, even though Obama has shown extraordinary ambitions in domestic and international affairs, he has yet to make breakthroughs on the issues that have an impact on global security, such as the Iraq and Iran conflicts and the Middle East peace processes.
Back in 2009, when the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama for his diplomatic actions on disarmament, he pledged to reduce nuclear arms and ease conflicts with the Muslims. According to the Nobel Committee, Obama was providing hope for a better future.
“A dumb war, a rash war.. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” From his speech against the Iraq war in 2002 to the complete US military pullout from Iraq in 2011, Obama had nearly 10 years to pursue his dream of achieving peace and fulfilling the promise he made during his election campaign. “(I do so recognizing that) change cannot happen overnight… no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust.” Reality is a testament to what Obama said.
Currently, it seems that the IS extremist forces are using an escalating “trap strategy” to gradually drag the United States again into an endless war. I believe it’s time for Obama to promptly adjust the Middle East policy and take pragmatic attitude in joining hands with regional and international forces. With that in mind, we will be able to root out the IS fighters and help guide the United States out of the “war marshes.” This, by all means, should potentially be one of Obama’s “political legacies”.
The recent chlorine gas attack in Iraq, which was against international law, marked an escalation of extremist terror acts by the IS fighters, and triggered worldwide indignation and condemnation. It also made people to ponder ways to root out the IS extremists.. The pressing situation calls for immediate action, and has forced Iraq, the Middle East countries as well as every responsible nation across the world to rethink their responsibilities. The fundamental solution to achieve the global anti-terror goal is to have the United Nations play a leading role, to persuade the countries in the region, to shelve their differences, to make concerted anti-terror efforts, and to establish an extensive international anti-terror alliance.
China, as one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, knows well the responsibilities and duties it shoulders in safeguarding world peace and stability. China is completely opposed to any forms of terrorism, and is willing to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with the international community, the United States included, to battle against terrorism. Some political and academic figures from the United States and other Western countries, maintain distrust about China’s Middle East policy. They believe that the country is seeking to “take over” the role of the United States in the region by their tactical “proactiveness” in the Middle East. In fact, China’s Middle East policy is very similar to the US Middle East policy, which aims for peace, stability and common development. This means that the two countries could jointly play an irreplaceable, positive role in pushing for improvement in the security situation in the Middle East.
Extensive and in-depth cooperation between China and the United States in the fight against terrorism can help create important opportunities to promote stability in the Middle East. There is no secret that these policies reflect the interests of both China and the US. A positive, stable, sound and healthy China-US relationship will become an important part of President Obama’s “political legacy” if he makes it a top priority. Our expectations are that President Obama and US political elites will have the vision and insight to consider the Middle East as a platform for the construction of the new type of big-power relations between the two nations, and will work together to consolidate the foundation for developing China-US relations.