Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor delivered a strongly-worded speech in Washington DC just two weeks before the US election where he urged American voters to choose their next President wisely, and told the audience how past leaders have wreaked havoc in the Middle East. He said the next leader needs to prioritize poverty alleviation, which he believes is the biggest challenge facing the world. The well-known UAE philanthropist pledged USD 20 million of his own money to kick-start a global initiative, and urged others to follow his lead. Joanna Andrews reports.
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor delivered a hard-hitting speech at the 25th Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference in Washington DC on Wednesday 26 October 2016. The event, under the conference title ‘The Next US Presidency and US-Arab Relations: Probabilities, Possibilities, Potential Pitfalls’, was organized by the National Council on US-Arab Relations, and came just two weeks ahead of the US Presidential election, on 8 November.
Al Habtoor, a prolific and influential commentator and writer on Middle East politics, told the 100-plus strong audience that the next US President needs to be someone who can take tough decisions. He said the next US administration needs to decide who its friends are in the Middle East. “The GCC countries have been good friends to America yet the US government is leaning nowadays in favour of Iran. This is a cause of concern. Iran is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism. A truth that the US seems to forget for its own interests.”
He added, “You may ask what right do I have as an Arab, a non-American citizen, to pass comment on your future leader… I have the right, because whoever gets into the White House affects everybody. The entire world. The new President’s policies will either empower our enemies or weaken them.”
Al Habtoor said, “Iran’s intentions are clear. It wants to be the dominant player in the region. And it is getting its wish with the help of the US and other Western nations. Rather than focusing on Iran, and getting rid of its evils, the US is targeting its long-time ally the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
He also criticized the passing by the US Congress of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), saying it is another nail in the coffin of US-GCC relations.
The speech focused on what he sees as the main challenges that need addressing when the next US President is elected, including what he calls “everyone’s nightmare, our biggest man-made monster - Daesh.”
He highlighted the neglect by world leaders of the millions of refugees around the world, adding that it is “a global threat to stability”. He said the “lack of education and irresponsible media” has contributed to a sharp rise in Islamophobia around the world.
Al Habtoor urged American voters to take these points into consideration when choosing their next President. “I have high hopes that America will make the right choice and its new leader will be able to take tough decisions when needed,” he said. “The biggest threats we face today are because of past failures. We cannot afford any more mistakes.”
Al Habtoor said, “It is time to stop talking politics and let us focus and deal with real the problems threatening our world today.” He pledged USD 20 million of his own money to kick-start a global initiative to combat poverty alleviation. “If we join hands together, we will be strong enough to dismantle terrorism in the Middle East, and the world. It is a fact that poor countries have significantly higher terrorism rates. Terrorism plays on poverty.”
The speech was followed by a moderated session with Randa Fahmy, Member of the Board, National Council on US-Arab Relations, and President of Fahmy Hudome International, a strategic consulting firm based in Washington DC.
At the conference, Khalaf Al Habtoor’s new book ‘Is Anybody Listening?’ made its US debut. The book, which features a Foreword by former US President Jimmy Carter, and an Introduction by Dr John Duke Anthony, Founding President & CEO of the National Council on US-Arab Relations, spells out how misguided foreign policies have adversely affected the Middle East and provides advice to future policymakers on how to rectify past errors.