Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor tackles key issues facing the Middle East at the 24th Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference in Washington DC. Joanna Andrews brings the highlights of the Chairman’s keynote address, entitled ‘Call for Action.’
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor was the keynote speaker at the 24th Annual Arab- US Policymakers Conference in Washington DC on Thursday 15th October, 2015.
The title of this year’s conference, hosted by The National Council on US-Arab Relations, was ‘US-Arab Relations at a Crossroads: What Paths Forward?’ The two-day event, which ran from October 14-15, took place in the Atrium Hall of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC.
Al Habtoor addressed the conference of around 600 people, which comprised of Arab and American leaders from government, military business and academe.
In his speech entitled, ‘Call for Action’, Al Habtoor said the relationship between the United States and Arab countries is at a turning point.
“Unfortunately, America no longer inspires the world. I say that with deep regret,” he said. “What the previous administrations have done to the Arab world in the last decade, particularly to the Sunni populations, leaves a dark stain on this great nation’s history.”
He said, “When American troops pulled out of Iraq they handed it to Iran on a silver platter, and this former great Arab nation, the Cradle of Civilization, was turned into a cradle for terrorism.”
He raised concerns over improved US-Iran relations, telling the conference, “When President Obama signed up to the Iran nuclear deal, he placed the Middle East and the Gulf in danger from an enriched empowered, and legitimised Tehran.”
He said, “Why the Obama administration has made supreme efforts to shake hands with America’s long-time enemy is perplexing.”
“Iran’s malicious fingerprints are left all over the region by supporting terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, militant groups in Iraq, and most recently the Houthis in Yemen.”
Speaking about the crisis in Syria, Al Habtoor said the situation had escalated beyond control because of the lack of action by world leaders, notably the United States of America and called for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be handed to the International Criminal Court. “Instead of dealing with this escalating crisis, this human tragedy, why are we not dealing with the source of the problem? We are looking at solutions to deal with its ramifications, rather than eliminating it at its root. If Bashar al-Assad was dealt with in 2011, or when he used chemical weapons in 2013 against the Syrian people, then we would not be dealing with a world epidemic.”
He said, “While world leaders are making plans to host refugees in their countries, all they offer is a temporary solution. But you must know that Syrians do not want to be refugees in Europe even more than Europe’s reluctance to host them! What they need is to go back home to Syria. A ‘safe zone’ should be created within Syrian land, where Syrians can have a safe shelter from the butcher Assad while a solution is being found. A safe zone protected by the NATO.”
Al Habtoor also expressed his grave concerns over the continuous Palestinian tragedy. “The daily suffering of our Palestinian brothers and sisters is marginalised,” he said. “It rarely even make the daily news. But the US State Department was fast to make a statement on Monday [Oct 12] ‘condemning in strong terms the terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians which resulted in the murder of three Israelis.’ I never take the death of a human being lightly, any human being, whether Palestinian or Israeli.”
He concluded his speech with a minute's silence to honour the UAE military men and women who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty in Yemen recently.
The conference was moderated by Dr John Duke Anthony, Founding President & CEO, National Council on US-Arab Relations. Dr Anthony currently serves on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and its Subcommittee on Sanctions.
Dr Anthony said, “The Chairman’s speech as delivered are words to inspire all of us to work even harder and redouble our efforts in promoting peace and a more inclusive development for all. Among the many participants in this 24th Annual Arab- US Policymakers Conference, there are many who fashion their success as self-made and exemplary to others. In the case of Chairman Al Habtoor, there should be little doubt that among us today stands a sterling example of someone who is not only self-made but is humble enough to extend credit to his family, upbringing and country.”
He added, “With a passion for his own country, the United Arab Emirates and regarded as an unofficial Ambassador of the UAE to the world Chairman Al Habtoor has dedicated his life to playing an active role in finding intelligent and practical solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”
The annual conference brings together many of the foremost American and Arab specialists to analyse, discuss and debate issues of over-arching importance to the American and Arab people’s needs, concerns, interest, and key foreign policy objectives.