Across the Mideast, friends and foes of the U.S. denounce Trump's Jerusalem move

Thursday , December 07, 2017 - 10:30 AM

Erin Cunningham and Tamer El-Ghobashy

(c) 2017, The Washington Post.

ISTANBUL - Officials, religious leaders and activists across the Middle East on Thursday condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with U.S. allies and foes alike denouncing the move as reckless and likely to ignite further violence in the region.

Criticism of the move, which breaks with decades of U.S. policy, poured in from countries including Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran. Lebanon’s Hezbollah called it “malicious aggression,” and Turkey’s president said it would plunge the region into a “ring of fire.”

Even stalwart allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - otherwise admirers of Trump’s presidency - took aim at the administration over the new policy. The Saudi government on Thursday described the decision as an “irresponsible and unwarranted step,” according to the state-run news agency. Qatar, too, warned of “serious repercussions” for stability in the region.

Jerusalem, although divided, is considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and Palestinians envision the eastern part of the city as the capital of any future state.

Israelis, on the other hand, see Jerusalem as their own eternal, undivided capital. Previous U.S. administrations kept the embassy in Tel Aviv, pending a final peace agreement that would determine Jerusalem’s status.

“The U.S. administration must reverse this unjust decision,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday.

Abadi, who has partnered closely with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, said the move could lead to “dangerous escalation” in the region. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it has summoned U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman to deliver a formal letter of protest.

In Turkey, where relations with Washington were already strained over U.S. support for Kurdish militias in Syria, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim likened Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem to pulling “the pin on a bomb ready to blow in the region.”

Speaking at a conference in the capital, Ankara, Yildirim said that Turkey, a NATO member, would not recognize the decision, Reuters news agency reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara urged U.S. citizens to stay away from planned protests outside the embassy and consulates in Istanbul and Adana.

Outside the U.S. Embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman, protesters denounced the United States, chanting against the decision and holding signs that read: “No to U.S. arrogance.”

“Before, the U.S. was a partner in peace to solve the problem in Palestine. Now, Jordanians see the U.S. as part of the problem,” said 60-year-old Hafeth Khawaja.

“All of the moderates in this region that stood by America and put their faith in America for so many years now look like fools,” he said. “We have been betrayed.”

Elsewhere, militants who have fought U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq took the opportunity to condemn both Israel and the United States.

Akram al-Kaabi, head of the Iran-backed Nujaba militia in Iraq, called Trump’s decision “foolish” and said it would spark an uprising. He added thatthe move legitimizes attacks on U.S. forces, of which there are thousands in Iraq.

Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shiite cleric who has long opposed the United States, echoed that thought, saying governments should expel Israeli diplomats and temporarily shutter American embassies.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman said in an emailed statement that the decision will “fan the flames of conflict in the entire world.”

Trump, the spokesman said, has exposed U.S. support for a “policy of occupation and colonization of Muslim lands.”

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El-Ghobashy reported from Baghdad. The Washingotn Post’s Mustafa Salim in Baghdad, Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul and Taylor Luck in Amman contributed to this report.


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