March 9, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9816

Arab Writers On Lessons Of War In Ukraine: U.S. Cannot Be Relied Upon; We Must Unite Into One Independent Political, Economic, Military Force

March 9, 2022
Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine | Special Dispatch No. 9816

In light of the war between Russia and Ukraine, articles in the Arab press called on the Arab states to draw lessons from the war and its repercussions. Some of the writers argued that the Arab and Islamic countries must act to improve their global standing, so as to keep themselves from facing the fate of Ukraine and ensure their strength and their deterrence capabilities. For example, one columnist wrote that, had Ukraine been part of the EU, Russia would not have dared to attack it, and therefore advised to form a united bloc of Arab countries, similar to the EU. Another wrote that, in the multipolar world order that is currently taking shape, there is room for an "Islamic giant," i.e., a powerful Islamic-Arab axis.

Others wrote that the main lesson to be drawn from the war is that the West, and especially the U.S., cannot be relied upon to help the Arabs confront the Iranian threat, just as they could not  be relied upon to come to the aid of Ukraine. Instead, the Arabs must take care of themselves and act to build up their armies, and even form a joint Arab military force.[1]

Many of the writers addressed an issue that is currently of grave concern to the Arab world, namely a possible shortage of wheat and other cereals due to the war, given that many Arab countries rely heavily on the import of wheat and cereals from Russia and Ukraine.  The writers argued that this dependence is a threat to the Arabs' food security, and called on them to unify their agrarian policy, prioritize important crops like wheat and seek agrarian self-sufficiency.

The following are excerpts from op-eds in the Arab press discussing the lessons to be drawn from the war in Ukraine.

Arabs Must Act To Improve Their Global Political Standing

Bahraini Former Minister: Forming A Union, Like The EU, Will Strengthen Arab Countries And Increase their Deterrence Capabilities

In his March 3, 2022 column in the London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 'Ali Muhammad Fakhro, Bahrain's former minister of education and culture, wrote that the lesson to be drawn from the Russia-Ukraine war is that the Arab countries should form a union, which would deter external enemies from attacking them, just as Putin is deterred from attacking the European Union. He wrote: "The events in Europe have one aspect that the Arabs can learn from… The lesson is encapsulated in the following question: Would Russia have treated Ukraine this way if Ukraine had been a member of the European Union? Of course not. The Russian leadership would have calculated its moves very carefully [before attacking] a large, strong and significant union of dozens of countries that form a political, economic and security bloc.

"The painful and saddening fact is that, when pan-Arabists utter slogans of unity… some writers and intellectuals attack, vilify and slander them, saying that the call for [Arab] unity is part of an obsolete ideology and foolish dreams. Will those who oppose the unity of this [Arab] nation… learn a lesson from the bitter Ukrainian experience? Will they realize that the large superpowers in this world, such as China, America, Europe, Russia and India, draw their strength from the unity among their parts and components…?

"Oh Young Arab men and women, fight for the unity of your nation and carefully learn the lesson of the past and present. For without uniting your nation, none of your demands will come to be."[2]

Saudi Journalist: A United Islamic-Arab Axis Will Have Impact In The New World Order

Saudi Journalist 'Abdallah Nasser Al-'Otaibi made similar remarks in a March 2, 2022 column in the Emirati daily Al-Ittihad. Headlined "The Kiev [Crisis] May Give Birth to the Islamic Giant," the column argues that, in the multipolar order currently taking shape in the world, there is also room for an Arab-Islamic axis. Al-'Otaibi  wrote: "In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union collapsed and broke up into republics comprising diverse ethnic and religious groups, and the American-British-French alliance [thus] became the world's hegemonial power… Today Russia and China seek to balance this unipolar international [order], not just through their formal presence in the [UN] Security Council, but through economic, political and military strategies that have an impact on the ground…

"But the question is: Can the Islamic and Arab countries find a place for themselves on the new global map, as a rising axis in this [new] era? The answer to this question is somewhat complicated, because this Islamic giant must first of all settle its internal conflicts, and [only] then will it be able to present itself to the world as a civilian coalition among other civilian coalitions, and not as a religious entity lost among worlds that do not resemble it… How can we begin forming our axis? By [maintaining] a calculated neutrality between the East and the West! How can we begin right now? By inviting Moscow and Kiev to negotiate in Medina, [Saudi Arabia,] under the aegis of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation."[3]

Arabs Must Not Rely On U.S. To Help Them Against Iran, But Should Act To Build Up Their Own Military Strength

Iraqi Journalist: The War Proves U.S. Will Not Help Arabs Confront Iran

Iraqi journalist Ibrahim Al-Zubaidi wrote in the London-based daily Al-Arab that the American conduct in the Ukraine crisis is a disappointment for the Arab countries, who have realized they cannot count on America to help them against the Iranian threat: "The feeble and indecisive position taken by President Biden regarding the recent Russian invasion did not only disappoint the Ukrainians. It also disappointed and saddened other allies of the U.S., and especially our Arab peoples, who suffer from the Iranian wolves. Because, if the Iranian regime has already occupied four Arab capitals and waged all types of terrorism and aggression against other countries in the region, it has [now] been proved that Biden will not came to the rescue if [Iran's] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, like its Russian ally, decides to take over a fifth Arab country. [This is especially clear] now that [the West and the U.S.] have revived the old nuclear agreement, lifted sanctions [from Iran], and failed to respond to the aggressive Iranian actions in the region. It is now patently clear that the Yemenis, Lebanese, Iraqis, Syrians, Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Kuwaitis, [who all suffer from Iranian aggression], will not receive anything but empty words [from the West], rather than real, military action."[4]   

Saudi Journalist: U.S., Europe Cannot Be Relied Upon; Every Country Must Fend For Itself

In his column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, senior journalist Tariq Al-Homayed wrote that recent events prove that the world has changed and the U.S. and Europe can no longer be relied upon: "The world has definitely changed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, [which is] the first war to be launched against a democratic country in Europe since World War II. The [global] alliances will also change: Those who could be relied upon yesterday can no longer be trusted today, and the enemy of yesterday may now become an ally.

"Our generation and the next one will have to face a clear truth, namely that the U.S. and Europe can no longer be counted on, [as evident from] momentous [recent] events, from Afghanistan to Ukraine. The world will never forget the images of the Afghans dropping off the sides of the American planes [as they took off], nor will it forget that the Ukrainian President begged 27 countries to [let] his country join NATO, but they ignored him, and that [now] he can find no-one to stand with him against the Russian invasion… The world has changed, and whoever does not understand this is deluding himself. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will impact alliances all over the world. So far, the one who benefits [from this] is China, and the losers, from a strategic standpoint, are the U.S. and Europe, because the Western statesmen are interested only in [winning] elections, regardless of the enormous damage done to their country's [global standing]. The world has changed, and the lesson is that whoever sees to his own affairs and his national interests, and behaves wisely, is the one who profits… In this new world, the clear message is that you can rely on no one…"[5]

Editor Of Saudi Daily: Every Country Must Build Up Its Military Capabilities, Rather Than Count On U.S.

Faisal 'Abbas, editor of the English-language Saudi daily Arab News, wrote on February 26 that the recent events in Ukraine are another reminder of the unreliability of the U.S. and the West. He stated that all countries must fend for themselves and build up their military abilities, rather than count on the U.S. to help them in their hour of need. He wrote:  "On Feb. 17, we ran an interview in Arab News with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti…

"Throughout the interview, I repeatedly asked whether he still thought the West – namely the US, NATO and the EU – remained reliable, and whether these entities, should push come to shove, would stand up for Kosovo or abandon it as they did in Afghanistan and, as we are now seeing, in Ukraine.

"Prime Minister Kurti defended the West and said that he thought America and NATO were there to stay. Kurti, 47, belongs to the same generation as I do. It is a generation that saw the US – under the leadership of George W. Bush – rush to help liberate Kuwait in the 1990s with the help of regional allies. Later in the decade, the US – under Bill Clinton – helped end the Balkan War and halt the Serbian massacres in Kosovo and Bosnia.

"However, in more recent years our generation also saw embarrassing acts by the same superpower not standing up for its own values or acting upon its own red lines. We saw that happen in both Syria and Ukraine. Former US President Barack Obama threatened Syrian dictator Bashar Assad with an imaginary red line if he used chemical weapons in 2012. There was also a similar threat if Russia took over Crimea in 2014. On both occasions, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner did absolutely nothing.

"Today, we are seeing President Joe Biden follow the same path. Despite the tough talking, he is not really saying much. You can grin and you can frown but as long as what you are essentially saying is, 'NATO is not sending troops to Ukraine,' then the outcome is the same as not doing anything…

"Back to our interview with Kosovo’s PM which I referred to at the beginning, perhaps the only thing I can now agree with Kurti on is the other part of his answer to me. Which is that while his country continues to rely on the US and NATO, it also is working on building its own army in the meantime. That is obviously a very wise decision for any country depending on the US and Western powers in general these days."[6]

Arabs Must Form Unified Bloc, Seek Economic And Other Self-Sufficiency

Egyptian Journalist: The Arabs Must Form An Economic Union, Which Can Be The Basis For A Joint Arab Army

In his February 25, 2022 column in the daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Diab called on the Arab countries to form an economic bloc that will strengthen their economies and end their dependence on foreign imports, and which can later form the basis of a joint Arab military force. He wrote: "At present, nobody knows when the war between Russia and Ukraine will end, how large the total damage will be, and whether [the war] will expand [beyond Ukraine]… [But] it is clear that this war will drastically change the map of the world and the global power-balances. [Moreover,] it already has devastating economic repercussions that are likely to persist: the prices of gold and oil, and of all products containing wheat and cereals, are rising, among other [consequences]. This will have a detrimental effect on all of the countries in the world, and exacerbate the wave of inflation that many of them are currently experiencing, including Egypt and [other] Arab states.

"Oh Arabs, is it not time to form a [regional] integration of the Arab and Gulf countries and a strong and unified Arab economic entity? After all, these countries have the means, natural resources, agrarian infrastructures, manpower, experience and expertise to manufacture all the food they consume and all the other products they need, and do not need to import the majority of their products from the West. They can end this dependence and their [vulnerability] to external impacts, such as the impact of this devastating war, which will last God knows how long, and which may or may not develop into a third world war that will destroy everything…

"The Arab leaders must take advantage of this global disaster and immediately start developing an Arab economic bloc, which should include [the following aspects]: removing customs barriers; eliminating double taxation; unifying border procedures to facilitate the passage of goods and boost trade among the Arab countries; forming a common Arab market, and increasing cooperation in the areas of naval shipping, logistics, aviation and tourism. All this will develop Arab industry, which in turn will increase the rate of growth in the Arab homelands, raise the income of Arab citizens and reduce unemployment, from which many young Arabs are suffering.

"If such an Arab economic bloc arises – and quickly, God willing – it can also form the basis for a joint Arab army that will defend every Arab state and protect the wealth and natural resources of the Arab homeland, which have been plundered by some Western countries for decades. Will this Arab economic bloc be established? I hope so."[7]

Cartoon in Qatari daily: Ukraine-Russia war causes wheat prices to rise  (Al-Watan, Qatar, March 9, 2022)

Qatari Journalist: In Light Of The Anticipated Wheat Shortage, The Arab Countries Should Formulate A Strategic Agrarian Policy To Ensure Food Security

Qatari journalist Iman 'Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Ishaq, a columnist for the Qatari daily Al-Arab, wrote on March 2 that the war in Ukraine threatens food security the Arab countries, most of which rely on wheat and cereals imported from Russia and Ukraine. She therefore called to reshape the agrarian sector in the Arab countries and work towards self-sufficiency.

She wrote: "Immediately after the war broke out, alarming figures began to be published, as expected, regarding the Arabs' reliance on wheat [imported] from Russia and Ukraine… Have we considered alternatives and can we secure [the wheat] we need?... Sadly, most of the Arab countries are in a state of alert, fearing the repercussions of the war in Ukraine. The Arab countries that grow [their own] wheat can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This dependence of the Arab countries threatens our food security.

"Now that wheat shipments from Ukrainian ports have stopped because of the war, and Russian ports are also affected by the hostilities taking place in the region, and now that Russian banks have been cut off from the SWIFT global payment system… many assess that we will witness a global shortage of goods, at least in the coming weeks or months. And let's not forget the rising prices of oil and gas, and of transport and transport security, and the difficulty of transferring funds to Russia, which will automatically cause a rise in costs…

"We must ask which countries can take the place of Russia and Ukraine if the crisis persists and imports from these [countries] stop. Are there alternatives? This means going back to the countries we imported from in the past, [namely] France, Canada, the U.S., Argentina and others, so as to ensure our supply of wheat and other cereals… We will be forced to knock again on the doors of these countries, in order to prevent a shortage that will leave [our people] without bread. In Lebanon, for example, the present wheat reserves will last only a month and a half, and most other Arab states have limited storage [for reserves]…

"In the Arab countries, the cultivation of most key crops is inefficient, and requires replanning… The Arab countries have arable land, and can all benefit from unifying their [agrarian] policy. But the neglect of strategic crops like wheat has reduced the yield and dramatically increased [our] dependence on outside sources. The Arab countries must overhaul their agrarian policy and prioritize the growing of cereals through every kind of government subsidy. There is no choice but to adopt a policy of subsidizing [local] produce, developing drought-resistant cereals, and granting loans in order to meet the production needs. Some Arab countries have granted various types of subsidies and were very successful. We all agree that we need promising strategic plans at this stage, and that all the Arab countries should work together to avert disaster."[8]   


[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 3, 2022.

[3] Al-Ittihad (UAE), March 2, 2022.

[4] Al-Arab (London), February 27, 2022,

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 26, 2022.

[6] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), February 26, 2022.

[7] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 25, 2022.

[8] Al-Arab (Qatar), March 2, 2022.

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