Robert Fisk talks Trump, “the deal of the century,” and the current state of the Middle East
Robert Fisk, acclaimed Middle East correspondent for the Independent, visited UVic on Nov. 15 as part of his cross-Canada tour entitled “Tweets and Deals of the Century: How to join the Arab World’s sectarian war under the guise of peace.” The tour was organized by the advocacy group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
Fisk has been a foreign correspondent in the Middle East since 1976, first for the Times before moving to the Independent, where he has worked since 1989. Fisk has primarily worked in war reporting and has covered such conflicts as the Lebanese Civil War, the Iran-Iraq War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current Syrian Civil War. He has also interviewed some of the most feared and controversial figures of recent times, including Osama Bin Laden (whom he spoke to on three occasions), Ayatollah Khomeini, and Saddam Hussein.
In front of a packed David Lam Auditorium, Fisk spoke about the effect that American President Donald Trump has had on the Middle East. He discussed the potential for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dismissing the myth of a Trumpian “deal of the century” and assessing the feasibility of a two-state solution.
Donald Trump, in Fisk’s opinion, is mentally ill and needs to be confined to a psychiatric hospital. Trump, Fisk goes on, has effectively destroyed any influence that the U.S. retained in the Middle East following the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. His decisions to withdraw from Syria, abandon America’s Kurdish allies, gave the initial green light for a Turkish offensive against these former allies, and to provide overt support of Israeli annexation of the occupied territories in the West Bank has led to a collapse of respect for the U.S. among Arab leaders. These leaders, such as Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, have begun to turn ever more towards Russia for support as Fisk opines that they would rather deal with a “sane tyrant in the Kremlin than a lunatic in the White House.”
On the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Fisk repeatedly referenced the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (in which Britain promised Zionist Jews a “national home” for the Jewish people “in Palestine”) as the root of the conflict. As for a resolution, Fisk stated his belief that the only good outcome would be a two-state solution. However, he does not believe that is possible at the moment due to the primacy of Israel’s position in the West Bank, which has prevented any unified Palestinian state from emerging. Fisk feels that American acceptance of Israeli imperialist aims will shortly lead to the annexation of the West Bank once and for all.
Fisk lastly dispelled for his audience of any ideas of a Trumpian “deal of the century” in Palestine or of an American invasion of Iran. Trump’s lack of a foreign policy, Fisk concludes, prevents the organization of a peace or invasion plan which would require both commitment and planning, both aspects of which Fisk does not believe the present American regime is capable of.
Fisk’s Victoria talk was his penultimate speaking engagement of this tour. His final talk took place on Nov. 16 in Vancouver. Previous stops included Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Kelowna.