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Commentary: CARICOM governments must apply greater diligence to Middle Eastern overtures
Published on March 30, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Ian Francis

To many of our Caribbean Commonwealth governments, the success of diplomatic relations is often equated with quantity rather quality. Unfortunately, the foreign ministries in many of these nations continue to hope and pray that, by opening up arms to certain Middle Eastern nations, bags full of bilateral aid will arrive in private airbuses and marine museums.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at
Middle Eastern nations will not come to their economic rescue but rather spread the seeds of Islam and find safe diplomatic settings in the region for their homegrown terrorists who have become too difficult to locally control.

Recently, on this medium it was reported that the Kingdom of Morocco had embarked upon diplomatic intensity in the Caribbean Commonwealth region. Immediately, Morocco's sudden interest in the region caught my attention. Why such speed when the oppressed people of the Western Sahara are subject to daily bombing and oppression by the Kingdom?

In essence, the Kingdom of Morocco is deeply involved in a dispute with the Polisario Front and our Caribbean Commonwealth nations should have a firm policy and understanding that, where a territorial dispute exists, diplomatic relations should not be established. This is a long standing principle in international relations and Caribbean Commonwealth nations should stick with such principles. Expediency and opportunism in the conduct and management of foreign policy do not always work.

Grenada's bilateral diplomatic initiatives commenced in 1974, when Grenada became independent and went on to establish diplomatic relations with many world nations, including several Middle Eastern states. Five years later, the New Jewel Movement (NJM) under the leadership of Bishop assumed power in an alleged people’s uprising and ran the government for four years before a its demise in a bloody internal conflict.

With fairness to the Bishop regime, a detailed foreign policy review was undertaken, which saw the strengthening of bilateral relations with many foreign states who were considered to be in the political sphere of the Socialist International, the Non Aligned Movement and the New International Economic Order, which was pushed by Manley, Nyerere and Kaunda.

While the NJM’s strengthening of bilateral relations with several Middle Eastern states led to state visits in the Republic of Iraq, the Republics of Libya, Algeria and Syria, it is important to point out the returns were not very much. At least Syria, Libya and Iraq contributed to the construction of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) but they fell short of what the NJM had expected.

While the NJM was a bit disappointed in the bilateral donations from three Middle Eastern states, many groups like the Polisario Front and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) seized the opportunity and were able to establish diplomatic relations with Grenada at the ambassadorial level. My understanding is that the government of St Lucia, whose foreign policy was being directed by the late George Odlum, might have entered into similar diplomatic agreements.

Therefore, there is current cause for concern. Two years ago, the former Grenada foreign affairs minister embarked on a whirlwind to diplomatically court the Kingdom of Morocco. Based on David's efforts, the Kingdom provided a few scholarships and promised to assist Grenada with tourism development. My personal attention to this development was one of surprise that prompted me to seek clarification about existing diplomatic relations between Grenada and the Polisario Front.

In essence, there was no response to my inquiry about diplomatic relations between Grenada and the Polisario Front. The diplomatic courting continued and the Kingdom of Morocco became a close and trusted ally of the Thomas regime. Then of course, Qatar and other pariah Middle Eastern states followed but always found it necessary upon arrival in St George’s to give false excuses as to why the bags and suitcases of promised bilateral aid was left behind.

The current crisis faced by Caribbean Commonwealth nations should not be a path for failed and unrealistic diplomatic destiny. Too many who are versed in international relations and the conduct of foreign policy management are probably shaking their heads as to why Caribbean governments should openly embrace those Middle Eastern nations seeking to establish a diplomatic beachhead in the region.

Politics and governance in Middle Eastern nations are complex and deceitful. Many of the diplomatic schemes now being modelled in the region were previously modelled in Latin America and small African nations. They never worked and therefore were abandoned. Now that economic desperation has entered the region, many pariah Middle Eastern states have concluded that the Caribbean Commonwealth is a fertile testing ground.

There is no doubt in the minds of many that the Caribbean Commonwealth region remains a fertile and strategic location where Islamic fundamentalism and global terrorism can become achievable for pariah Middle Eastern states. The notion by our regional governments and institutions that Middle Eastern nations are democratic and willing to assist is false. Many Middle Eastern nations have realized that the Arab Spring is fast approaching and chances for their survival are limited.

Secondly, homegrown terrorism is becoming uncontrollable and, through the camouflage of diplomatic relations and establishment of diplomatic missions, those homegrown terrorists who are often affiliated with the ruling monarchs will find new comfort and open passages in pursuing their terrorism filth in nations that cannot even properly manage and sustain a public library.

In conclusion, at the end of the day, future bilateral diplomatic relations between pariah Middle Eastern states and Caribbean Commonwealth nations will be the decision of the latter. As Qatar, Indonesia, Kingdom of Morocco and Turkey continue to pave our corridors, my only warning to Caribbean Commonwealth nations is to be cautious.

The oppression of women, dictatorial practices, antiquated laws, maiming and disfiguring of offenders, state brutality and denial of gender rights are only too blatant and Caribbean Commonwealth governments must object and oppose them.

The right is right. The wrong is wrong.
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Ray Chickrie:

Wow, mad hysteria and broad generalization. Do some research before you rant.

Julian Williams:

Great article displaying a sober vision of International relations that is not in the public domain. Sad the only commment was an empty rant from Ray Chikrie with no alternative or substantive info to back up his petty displeasure. Why should Caribbean people align themselves with people that carry a thousand year old prejudice about black folk who do not share their identity, have no respect for the rights of children, religious minorities and who teach their own kids in their schools to hate other people. Its sad that african dont have the guts to trace their backwardness and historical oppression to those North African clear skinned arab people. Those Arab countries are the ones who have practiced and maintained the institution of slavery up to this day. At last I can read an article that can outline Caribbean naievity when dealing with other countries we percieve have our interests at heart.

Ian Francis, Toronto,Ontario:

Your comments are welcome. Caricom governments must take one step backward and understand the diplomatic motives of Middle East.

Look what the Emir of Qatar did to the NDC Thomas administration.

Look at the suffering and oppression of Grenada students in the KOM.

Look at how our Afro brothers and sisters are treated like SLAVES in the UAE.They are flogged daily, little wages and living accommodation is rough.

Finally, the oppression of women, their justice system.They are only looking for safe spots to deposit their home grown terrorists and build mosques.



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