A Gulf Monroe Doctrine to bring Middle East peace

31 March 2006
December 1823, US President James Monroe delivered his annual message to Congress and spelt out what history calls the Monroe Doctrine. It was a declaration that Washington would not accept European interference in North and South America.
Almost 200 years later, Gulf countries need a similar doctrine. Monroe rejected the idea that the interests of foreigners, however well grounded, justified intervention in the Americas. Using the same logic today, Gulf countries have the right to declare that foreign powers should stay out unless invited.

But before this is done, the Gulf needs to get its act together.

The first step is to reach agreement about the future of Iraq as a unified, democratic state. The second is to form an association of Gulf nations that would renounce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and interference in each other's affairs. The third is to address legitimate concerns about energy security, which is easily done, and terror, which is more tricky in view of Arab and Islamic support for the Palestinian right to resist occupation. Fourth, the Gulf should offer fair access to its markets, which will grow rapidly for a generation if full peace comes.

The Gulf could then make its own demands.

US and other foreign forces, other than those contributing to regional peace and security, should be withdrawn from the Gulf. The US should permanently renounce regime change and other unilateral forms of Gulf intervention including propaganda and financing anti-government forces.

Washington must use its influence to rid the entire Middle East of WMD, including those stored in other countries on behalf of the US.

Finally, and this condition is non-negotiable, the US should impose a Middle East peace settlement based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 that involves the creation of an independent Palestinian state on terms acceptable to the Palestinian people.

Neo-conservatives and their fellow travellers will sneer. They are on a mission to change the Middle East regardless of cost, sense or the region's needs. But many mocked the Monroe Doctrine and the pretensions of the infant American republic. The sceptics were wrong then. They are wrong now.

Big Mack in Dubai

Morgan Stanley chairman and chief executive officer John Mack was in a mellow mood at a briefing at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) on 26 March to mark the official opening of Morgan's Stanley's first Middle East office. Nine months after returning to the bank where he worked for 31 years until 2001, Mack is under the microscope as he seeks to deliver on his promise to double Morgan Stanley's profits in five years.

But he had a happy story about Gulf business prospects due to persistently high oil prices. 'World energy demand is growing and I don't see that changing for five-15 years,' he said. Turning to the DP World affair, Mack said Congress had got it wrong. 'If you polled the chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, they would say it was a mistake,' he said. 'If the administration had taken more time to explain it, this would not have been an issue.' Morgan Stanley's office in the DIFC is a first step. The bank has applied to open in the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC). Its Middle East head Georges Makhoul also said it would consider opening elsewhere in the region.

Remaking Amman

As I saw at the end of March, the site has been cleared for Amman's Al-Abdali development, the largest urban regeneration project Jordan has ever seen. Previously a military base, Al-Abdali is to be converted into a mixed-use residential and commercial complex in a style familiar to the Gulf but previously unknown in the Hashemite kingdom.

The project is masterminded by Mawared, the National Resources Investment & Development Corporation. This is a new-style executive agency empowered by King Abdullah to get things done. Its two other schemes are

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