From Afghanitan to Iraq and Syria, the US has been unable to achieve its imperialistic objectives, starting instead a long and gradual process whereby the ‘all-mighty empire’ is now running fast towards its eventual exhaustion. The hegemon is now fatiguing and the result is both military and diplomatic defeats in the various battle fields and now in the UNO where an overwhelming majority of the countries, many of whom are still US allies and members of NATO, voted against the US for its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Despite all the threats and application of coercive diplomacy to pressurize the voting countries, the decision has been negative, becoming the most obvious and the strongest evidence for where the US is currently standing in the world. What was being projected by the Trump administration as the key to bringing peace has instead exemplified how the US has become isolated due to nothing but its ill-informed decision that violates a number of UN resolutions, goes against the spirit of international law and clearly sets aside the 1993 Oslo Peace accords, which are still valid and foresees a two-state solution and accordingly a mutual decision on Jerusalem becoming the capital city for both Palestine and Israel.
While the US’ decision in itself does reflect that it no longer considers the Oslo accords diplomatically relevant, its diplomats continue to make attempts at selling the lie that recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would bring peace to the region. This lie, as the voting has shown, could not be sold and credit for it must go to the Trump administration’s own constructed image of America as an isolated (read: ‘exceptional) country—an image that has popped up on a number of occasions (the Paris agreement, the TPP, the Iran-nuke deal) and has only accelerated American isolation than actually restoring its waning domination.
The fact that the US had actually to send a threatening letter to force other countries into subjugation speaks volumes about how powerless it has become over the years. Besides other things, the letter does show how the US was hoping that majority of the countries, if not all of them, could still be forced to toe the US line, and bow down to the US-Israeli interests. Nikki Haley accordingly wrote that all that the US is ‘asking for’ is that other countries:
…acknowledge the historical friendship, partnership, and support we have extended (to them and Israel) and respect our decision about our own embassy. The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested that I report back on those who voted against us.
And, as the voting has shown, none of these countries bowed down to this ridiculous yet open and explicit threat. Will the US now impose sanctions on these countries, including those from NATO such as Turkey? Will it work? Will the US be able to put enough pressure on these countries to reverse their decision? None of this sounds practical, feasible and even pragmatic enough, for this will only further the process of rapidly waning US influence.
The US must realise that this is not the cold war era when it was the only ‘super-power.’ The rise of powerful military and economic powers from the East has caused a lot to change and many from within the West are gradually but surely moving away from the Atlantic Alliance. Its major illustration came in May when Germany’s Merkel said, “the times in which we could completely depend on others (the USA) are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days”, and “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
This has become quite clear now, particularly evident from a quick comparison of what the US was hoping to achieve right after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was Nikki Haley who said in early December that the U.S. still had ‘credibility’ as a mediator with Israel and Palestinians. Comparing that self-declared ‘credibility’ with the threats made in the letter tend to completely expose how the US is today the world’s least credible country, undergoing intense humiliation after the UNGA vote on Jerusalem.
An important question now to consider is: will the US retaliate by cutting aid? As it stands, this retaliation will only turn out to be self-defeating and even a politically bad move for the Trump administration.
For instance, if the US decides to target Egypt, the mover of resolution in the UNSC, it will do the US more harm than good both in the Middle East and in the US as well, for most of the aid given to Egypt comes in the form of American-made military equipment. The Egyptian government has more military helicopters than it actually needs, and many of them are just stacked in warehouses; while the money goes to US manufacturers. This is equally true of a number of other countries as well who have voted against the US. In this context, if Egypt or any other country was to face embargoes, Trump would be hurting US corporations more than Egypt, and might end up facing political opposition in domestic front from the US military industrial complex.
Even if it doesn’t happen, the recipient countries are already aware of the considerable reduction in the US ‘aid’, and that this will not change anything even if they favoured the US decision. In March 2017, in line with the Trump’s “America First” mantra, the administration announced plans to slash foreign aid by 28 percent for 2018.
There is as such little incentive for the countries who voted against the US to toe the US line in an unquestionable manner and thus risk internal political instability. This is especially true of the Arab countries, including Egypt, the recipient of US$1.2 billion every year, where the prevailing sentiment is that if the Zionist dream of creating a ‘greater Israel’ was to be realized, the crucial step was to capture Jerusalem. And if countries like Egypt were to support this program, they will only be supporting something that will eventually grab a whole lot of territory from a number of countries surrounding Israel, including Egypt’s own most of Sinai Peninsula.
But the fact that even Egypt voted against the US shows how meaningless has the US presence, aid and influence become in the Middle East, as also elsewhere, and how weak is its ability to steer global politics to a its own desired direction. The Jerusalem decision isn’t the beginning of the process of America’s decline; it is perhaps its culmination.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.