Across the Mideast, friends and foes of the United States denounce Trump's Jerusalem move
ISTANBUL — Allies and adversaries of the United States found common ground Thursday in rejecting President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling the move reckless and likely to reignite violence in the region.
Criticism of the move, which breaks with decades of U.S. policy, was particularly sharp across the Middle East, with officials, religious leaders and activists of many political persuasions issuing statements of condemnation.
Turkey’s president said it would plunge the region into a “ring of fire,” and Lebanon’s Hezbollah called it “malicious aggression.” Late Wednesday, Egypt said the decision would inflame anger in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar, the premier seat of Sunni learning, also rejected the move, accusing Trump of denying Palestinians their right to Jerusalem.
“This administration does not respect the dignity or values of others,” Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hasan Nasrallah, said in a televised address Thursday night. He urged Palestinians and other Arab nations to withdraw from peace talks until the decision was reversed and advocated protests on the streets and in social media.
Iran, which backs Hezbollah, also weighed in, with its army chief calling Trump’s decision “unwise” and a clear violation of international law, Iran’s state news agency reported. If conflict follows, he said, it will be the fault of the United States and Israel.
Even stalwart U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - otherwise admirers of Trump’s presidency - criticized the administration over the new policy.
The Saudi government 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 Palestinian state. Israelis, for their part, see Jerusalem as their own eternal, undivided capital.
Previous U.S. administrations kept the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, pending a final peace agreement that would determine Jerusalem’s status.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-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.
“The U.S. administration must reverse this unjust decision,” Abadi said Thursday. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry also said it had summoned U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman to receive 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 Americans to stay away from planned protests outside the embassy, as well as from consulates in Istanbul and Adana.
At the U.S. Embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on Thursday, 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.”
Beyond the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday restated her opposition to the policy. “It is clear that in the framework of negotiating a two-state solution the status of Jerusalem also needs to be dealt with,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying. “In that context, we disagree with the decision yesterday.”
Merkel’s remarks were in line with critical statements earlier from major European allies of the United States such as Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
In Pakistan, Islamists protested in Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called the move “a serious setback to the rule of law” and against “international norms.”
He urged the United States to “revisit its decision as soon as possible in order to avoid the potentially grave repercussions in the region and beyond.”
And in Johannesburg, ailing Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu said in a rare public statement: “God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The 86-year-old former archbishop added, “It is our responsibility to tell Mr. Trump that he is wrong,” the AP reported.
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 predicted that it would spark an uprising. He added that the 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, said governments should expel Israeli diplomats and temporarily close 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. Mustafa Salim in Baghdad, Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul, Taylor Luck in Amman, Louisa Loveluck in Beirut and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.