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Iran since the nuclear deal with West

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Iran has been the target of anti-Islamic and Arab nations for quite some time, though their objectives vary considerably in content, but the nuclear deal with the Western powers has made its position relatively tension free as Israeli agenda of destabilizing the Islamic nation has ended in futility. Let us review the issue in prospective.

Issue: Targeting Iran’s economy and security

Today, imperialism threatens Islamic world, especially the oil rich West Asia, causing economic and security problems for each Muslim country in the region, including Saudi Arabia – a major Muslim ally of US in capitalism and anti-Islamic wars. Arab world has been made an enemy of Iran – a Shiite nation.

Sunni-Shiite divide, which is becoming wide and dangerous, is being exploited by anti-Islamic nations led by USA and Israel. Since Iraq has been destabilized by the NATO and allies, now Saudi kingdom seeks Iranian fall as well while Israel gladly supports the Arab sick mind.

In July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany signed the historic nuclear deal seeking to bring peace to West Asia. The reason for the deal was to deny Iran any chance for making atomic bombs to make Israel, the regional nuke power, irrelevant.

Iranian economy and security has been the target of USA and its allies for a long time. Since Iran’s nuclear program became public in 2002, the UN, EU and several individual countries have imposed sanctions in an attempt to prevent it from developing military nuclear capability. Iran insists its nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful, but the world’s nuclear watchdog has been unable to verify this.

Sanctions and relief are a routine strategy of USA towards Iran. Iran and world powers agreed an interim deal in 2013 which saw it gain around $7bn in sanctions relief in return for curbing uranium enrichment and giving UN inspectors better access to its facilities. World powers also committed to facilitate Iran’s access to $4.2bn in restricted funds. Several rounds of sanctions in recent years have targeted Iran’s key energy and financial sectors, crippling its economy.

The US sanctions prohibit almost all trade with Iran, making some exceptions only for activity “intended to benefit the Iranian people”, including the export of medical and agricultural equipment, humanitarian assistance and trade in “informational” materials such as films. A ban on the supply of heavy weaponry and nuclear-related technology to Iran; A block on arms exports; an asset freeze on key individuals and companies, etc., Japan and South Korea have also imposed sanctions similar to those of the EU.

As well as more recent sanctions aimed at Iran’s financial, oil and petrochemical sectors, the US has imposed successive rounds of sanctions since the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis, citing what it says is Iran’s support for international terrorism, human rights violations and refusal to co-operate with the IAEA.

As a result of the EU embargo and the US sanctions targeting other major importers, Iran’s oil exports had fallen to 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) by May 2013, compared with an average 2.2 million bpd in 2011. In January 2013, Iran’s oil minister acknowledged for the first time that the fall in exports was costing the country between $4bn and $8bn (£2.5bn-£5bn) each month. Iran is believed to have suffered a loss of about $26bn (£16bn) in oil revenue in 2012 from a total of $95bn (£59m) in 2011.

The loss of oil revenue, which accounted for a half of government expenditure, and isolation from the international banking system, had caused Iran’s currency, the rial, to lose two-thirds of its value against the US dollar and caused inflation to rise to more than 40%, with prices of basic foodstuffs and fuel soaring. Iran wanted the UN sanctions suspended soon after any agreement is reached but sanctions stayed. .

Nuclear facility

Today, officially Israel alone has the nuclear facility and illegally obtained nukes in West Asia and obviously USA-Israel duo does not want any other nation in the region to go nuclear, threatening the military superiority of Israel. Iran’s legal effort to become a nuclear power to protect Muslim nations of the region is opposed by both USA and Israel. The White House says the nuclear deal with Iran aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

USA has not asked Israel to disarm itself so that the region is nuclear free. Israel does not say it wants peace in the region and hence doesn’t want to go denuclearized. Iran says it has the right to nuclear energy – and stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran has been building a heavy-water nuclear facility near the town of Arak. Spent fuel from a heavy-water reactor contains plutonium suitable for a nuclear bomb. World powers had originally wanted Arak dismantled because of the proliferation risk. Under an interim nuclear deal agreed in November 2013, Iran agreed not to commission or fuel the reactor. Iran has agreed to redesign the reactor so it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. All spent fuel will be sent out of the country as long as the modified reactor exists.

There are two uranium enrichment facilities in Iran – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas is fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope U-235. Low-enriched uranium, which has a 3%-4% concentration of U-235, can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. But it can also be enriched to the 90% needed to produce nuclear weapons. In July 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges. However, under this statement of intent Iran will reduce its installed enrichment centrifuges to 6,000, only 5,000 of which will be spinning.

Iran’s uranium stockpile will also be reduced by 98% to 300kg (660lbs) for 15 years. It must also keep its level of enrichment at 3.67%. By January 2016, Iran had drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordo, and shipped tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia. In addition, research and development will take place only at Natanz and be limited for eight years. No enrichment will be permitted at Fordo for 15 years

As per the deal, Iran has agreed not to engage in activities, including research and development, which could contribute to the development of a nuclear bomb. In December 2015, the IAEA’s board of governors voted to end its decade-long investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

Deal

Now the Western powers and allies plus UN as international community are implementing the landmark nuclear deal in March last year between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the USA, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany.

Crippling economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted now that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified that it has restricted its sensitive nuclear activities.

The nuclear deal signed by Iran and western powers is not a peace treaty but just a mechanism to avoid unnecessary war envisaged by Neocons to appease Israel and provoke Arab world. The deal somehow ended a possible civilizational clash and clipped Israeli wings in West Asia, targeting Iran.

The US government has said that the world powers that negotiated the accord — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — made no secret arrangements. But the draft report said the joint commission also agreed to allow Iran to keep operating 19 radiation containment chambers larger than the accord set. These so-called “hot cells” are used for handling radioactive material but can be “misused for secret, mostly small-scale plutonium separation efforts,” said the report. Plutonium is another nuclear weapons fuel.

The deal allowed Iran to meet a 130-tonne limit on heavy water produced at its Arak facility by selling its excess stock on the open market. But with no buyer available, the joint commission helped Tehran meet the sanctions relief deadline by allowing it to send 50 tonnes of the material — which can be used in nuclear weapons production — to Oman, where it was stored under Iranian control

The 159-page accord is a study in unmet high expectations for change, as hard-liners in both Iran and the US Congress fight to undermine the deal to ensure as little political benefit as possible for the chief architect of the accord – Rouhani. It was Iran’s shriveling economy – Iranians voting their pocketbooks, as well as promises of greater social freedoms – that helped Rouhani win election in June 2013. He vowed to engineer a nuclear deal, and resurrect an economy hurt by mismanagement and sanctions.

Almost every powerful group had a say in the accord, which reflected a national, strategic decision to turn the page on the nuclear crisis even as concern remains over the world powers’ commitment. The establishment appeared as determined to implement the deal as it was to seeing the negotiations through – and largely for the same reason: to resuscitate the economy by removing sanctions, either as envisioned in the accord or by showing that Iran is not to blame for failure.

With the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers in force, a chief question is what it means for Iran. The clash between competing visions of the country’s future has heightened since the deal which many believe it could rebalance domestic politics. It not only has boosted the profile of those who promoted it, but, more fundamentally, it has opened space for new debates in a domestic sphere that was dominated by the nuclear issue for more than a decade.

However, according to a think tank report, the USA and its negotiating partners agreed “in secret” to allow Iran to evade some restrictions in last year’s landmark nuclear agreement in order to meet the deadline for it to start getting relief from economic sanctions. Among the exemptions outlined in the think tank’s report were two that allowed Iran to exceed the deal’s limits on how much low-enriched uranium (LEU) it can keep in its nuclear facilities, the report said. LEU can be purified into highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

Israel and Saudi Arabia found this attitude of USA unacceptable. One senior “knowledgeable” official, however, was cited by the report as saying that if the joint commission had not acted to create these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the deal by Jan. 16, the deadline for the beginning of the lifting of sanctions. The US government has said that the world powers that negotiated the accord made no secret arrangements.

Real concessions?

The United States and its negotiating partners apparently agreed “in secret” to allow Iran to evade some restrictions in last year’s landmark nuclear agreement in order to meet the deadline for it to start getting relief from economic sanctions, according to a recent think tank report.

The exemptions were approved by the joint commission the deal created to oversee implementation of the accord. The commission is comprised of the United States and its negotiating partners — called the P5+1 — and Iran.

The report, which was released by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, is based on information provided by several officials of governments involved in the negotiations. The group’s president David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and co-author of the report, said the exemptions or loopholes are happening in secret, and it appears that they favor Iran.

The report ignited a chorus of Republican criticism, including from the campaign of presidential nominee Donald Trump. His campaign sought to link the findings to Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when secret talks were held with Iran but had left office before formal negotiations began. “The deeply flawed nuclear deal Hillary Clinton secretly spearheaded with Iran looks worse and worse by the day,” said a statement issued by retired Army General Michael Flynn, a top Trump adviser. “It’s now clear President Obama gave away the store to secure a weak agreement that is full of loopholes.”

The Clinton campaign did not immediately comment on the report. The White House said it took “significant exception” to some of the report’s findings, saying that the easing of sanctions was always dependent upon Iran’s adherence to the agreement. “The implementation date was driven by the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that Iran had completed the steps that they promised to take,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing. “That is what precipitated implementation day. Since then Iran has been in compliance with the agreement,” Earnest said.

Among the exemptions outlined in the think tank’s report were two that allowed Iran to exceed the deal’s limits on how much low-enriched uranium (LEU) it can keep in its nuclear facilities, the report said. LEU can be purified into highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

One senior “knowledgeable” official was cited by the report as saying that if the joint commission had not acted to create these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the deal by Jan. 16, the deadline for the beginning of the lifting of sanctions.

Outcomes

The nuclear talks and agreement between Iran and Western powers have averted a possible deadly war situation that was being promoted by most anti-Islamic nations, particularly Israel that still seeks to attack all nuclear sites of Islamic power in West Asia. Also, the deal enabled to set the tone for a peaceful situation in a region which is torn with terror wars launched by the Pentagon led NATO terror organization supported by all colonialist powers led by Israel. While Israel sought to destabilize Iran, the latter warned Jewish terror nation of dreadful consequences for the Zionist regime, Israel and Zionism.

At the outset, the nuclear deal has not fundamentally changed Iran’s ties with the USA. American companies are still generally prohibited from trading with Iran because of other sanctions for human rights violations, support of terrorism, and ballistic missile programs.

The Obama government signed agreements with Iran including sale of Boeing to Tehran. Boeing was required to receive permission from the US Treasury before even negotiating with Iran Air. Republican lawmakers quickly criticized the Boeing sale agreement with Iran, arguing it could hurt US national security interests. On July 7, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a spending bill intended to block to the Boeing deal.

Having achieved the deal, joy erupted on the streets of Tehran a year ago, when Iran signed a landmark nuclear deal with six world powers hailed as a victory of diplomacy over war. As jubilant Iranians waved flags and heralded an easing of Iran’s isolation, President Hassan Rouhani promised that a page has turned in the history of Iran. The deal was marketed by both sides as a “win-win”: Iran would dismantle the most controversial aspects of its nuclear program – minimizing the chance of acquiring a nuclear weapon for at least a decade – in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that crippled its economy.

Expectations had been high in Iran, fanned by supporters of the deal, that its benefits would be palpable and immediate. Yet Iran has received back only a fraction of the $150 billion of its own funds that it expected, and financing new deals is a major issue because of the Western banks’ concerns. Iranians’ hopes for the benefits, however, have not yet dissipated.

However, things have not improved, there is no real tangible impact on people’s lives, but there is still a glimmer of hope for better things to come. One year later, the post deal situation does not suggest any great achievement. The deal has not ushered in a new significant era. Steady warnings from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about “infiltration” and “soft war” from the USA and the West reveals the deceptive nature of the deal with USA. USA and European banks also are proving reluctant to engage with Iran, fearful that non-nuclear US sanctions might bite, thereby depriving Iran of the full hoped-for benefits of the deal.

Iran has dramatically reduced the scale of its nuclear infrastructure – reconfiguring a heavy water nuclear reactor and a deeply buried uranium enrichment facility, for example – while keeping a limited capacity to produce fuel for nuclear energy. And non-nuclear sanctions have been lifted, partially ushering Iran back into the global economy.

Iran’s economy has slowly but measurably rebounded in the year since Tehran signed a historic nuclear deal with the world’s six major powers. Iran is still progressing as the region’s first power. Still, sanctions relief has already brought “significant benefit” to Iran, notes Vaez, such as oil production returning to pre-sanctions levels; a boost of trade with the EU by 22 percent; and $3.5 billion of a foreign direct investment in Iran in the first quarter of 2016 – breaking a decade-long record. Washington’s behavior has also been closely watched in Tehran.

Foreign trade

The nuclear deal, by lifting many of the sanctions, is reopening the doors to those foreign companies. Iran has hosted dozens of foreign delegations, many of whom had visited Iran even before the deal was signed. More than 140 economic delegations from 48 countries traveled to Iran between March and December 2015, according to Mir-Abutorab Badri, an official with the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran. Around half of them were from Europe and North America.

Sanctions relief also allowed Iran to export millions more barrels of oil monthly. In February, Iran exported its first shipment of oil to Europe since the deal was implemented. Oil exports to China, India, Japan, and South Korea increased 50% in March 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. By May 2016, oil exports had climbed to 2.3 million barrels per day, double the amount exported before sanctions relief.

Iran has made gains in the recovery of the oil market. Iran’s crude exports have soared after the lifting of UN sanctions. Exports have doubled and old customers in Asia and Europe are returning. The country’s market share of global crude exports has returned to pre-sanctions levels. However, lower oil prices have not done much to increase Iran’s capital to a booming level. Neither could oil earnings alone do this.

The relatively moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani is trying to nudge aside the conservative Revolutionary Guards in some areas to make way for what it hopes will be a “flood” of Western money from energy sales. While the deal lifted EU and UN sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sector, most of the unilateral US sanctions relating to non-nuclear issues remain.

In January, Rouhani praised the nuclear deal for opening “new windows for engagement with the world.” Foreign governments and firms quickly began finalizing agreements once sanctions were lifted. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran on January 22, 2016 and signed 17 agreements. Two days later, Rouhani embarked on his first trip to Europe, where he inked deals worth $43 billion with French and Italian companies. In January, Iran also finalized a deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus to deliver more than 100 commercial jets to Iran. Even some US companies have explored trade deals with Iran. In June, U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing signed a preliminary $17.6 billion deal to sell Iran Air 80 aircraft between 2017 and 2025. General Electric has also reportedly scoped out opportunities in Iran’s oil and gas industry.

Iran turned to its North to broker one of the most surprising barter deals — the “goods-for-gas” deal between Iran and Turkmenistan, comprising a $-30 billion deal over ten years. The purpose was to supply energy to Iran’s north-eastern provinces that are far from its domestic gas fields. This saves Iran from diverting capital into major new pipeline projects

The nuclear deal has helped raise GDP, boost oil production, and expand trade. But as Rouhani prepares for a reelection bid in 2017, many Iranians expected to see more from the nuclear deal than they experienced in its first year.

Foreign companies are also still restricted from trading with more than 200 Iranian entities sanctioned by the United States for non-nuclear reasons. Despite enthusiasm for Iran’s economic potential, foreign companies still face serious risks that have not been alleviated by the nuclear deal. Corruption, lack of transparency, poor transportation infrastructure, and other issues with Iran’s business environment etc have deterred investors. Iran ranks 118th out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s 2016 ease of doing business index, and 136th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index.

One year after the deal, lingering economic questions and pressure from hardliners still created challenges for Rouhani. Unemployment rose from 10.6% in March 2015 to 11% in March 2016. Some Iranian businessmen complained that foreign investment was primarily channeled to large state-run enterprises rather than small businesses in the private sector. According to the World Bank, Iran still needed to improve its business environment, reduce government influence in the economy, and reform its financial sector in order to see tangible benefits in job creation.

Religious leadership

Tensions within the Islamic Republic stem in no small part from its blend of popular sovereignty and religious authority. Theocratic forces seek to maintain the dominance of the supreme leader and other tutelary bodies, while republican forces advocate more clout for popularly-elected institutions. Each camp is further split between pragmatists who seek incremental political evolution and radicals who either resist any change or promote revolutionary transformation. The supreme leader – powerful but not omnipotent – maintains stability by accommodating both theocratic and republican trends.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had endorsed bilateral negotiations with the USA before Rouhani ran for office. He then supported the new president’s diplomatic push and kept his opponents at bay. But given the leader’s aversion to risk, his support was qualified and did not obviate Rouhani’s need for a coalition with other power centres.

Supreme Leader announced that the theme of the upcoming year would be “The Resistance Economy.” Focusing on domestic production, Khamenei argued, will be Iran’s best defense against sanctions. “With the Resistance Economy, it is possible to fight unemployment and recession and to curb inflation; it is possible to stand up to the enemies’ threats,” he said. Rouhani has insisted that his policies are not at odds with Khamenei’s vision for the economy—and public opinion polls support him. Citing remaining financial restrictions, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the USA of not fulfilling its pledges under the nuclear deal. “In Western countries and places which are under US influence, our banking transactions and the repatriation of our funds from their banks face problems … because banks fear the Americans,” he said in March.

Hardliners allege that Rouhani’s policies will make the Islamic Republic too economically dependent and open Iran to Western cultural influence. On Jan. 30, Iranian students protested outside the Iranian Oil Ministry against the new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC), chanting that the contracts would lead to the “plundering of national wealth.”

Economy boost and challenges

After sanctions were lifted, the Islamic Republic aggressively ramped up oil and gas output. Oil production climbed from 2.9 million barrels per day in January to 3.8 million barrels per day in late May. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh predicted that output could top 4 million barrels per day by March 2017.

Sanctions relief has led to higher oil production, restored access to billions of dollars of assets, and easier trade and financial transactions. The two most tangible changes have been the increase in oil exports–which have nearly doubled since sanctions were lifted on Jan. 16–and the dozens of foreign trade and investment deals Iran has negotiated. In June, Iran even reached a tentative $17.6 billion deal with Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, to purchase passenger planes. But one year after the deal, some international firms are still hesitant to do business in the Middle East’s second largest economy.

Foreign direct investment could total $8 billion by March 2017, according to Seyed Hossein Salimi of the Iranian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, foreign direct investment only reached around $2 billion.

Overall, Iran’s economic outlook has improved since the deal. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts between 4% and 5.5% growth in 2016 – up from the 1.3% growth it had predicted for 2016 before the deal was signed. Iran has moved up from number 12 position among 14 Mid-East countries in Foreign Direct investment (FDI) and it is just behind Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, Iranian banks and foreign banks that are to play an anchor role in processing this FDI are not allowed to deal in US dollars — the global reserve currency

Natural gas production has also increased by 23 billion cubic meters in the past year, after Iran completed development projects in the South Pars field, the largest gas field in the world. European companies estimated that Iran – which holds the world’s second largest natural gas reserves, after Russia – could potentially supply Europe with up to 35 billion cubic meters of gas per year by 2030.

Low oil prices, however, have limited Iran’s revenue from these production increases. In January, oil prices fell below $30 a barrel for the first time in 12 years. Prices have rebounded slightly since then, reaching $46 a barrel in June 2016.

However, low prices have also pushed Iran to diversify its economy. Only around 25%of the state budget relies on oil revenues, compared to 60% in past years. In the last Iranian year, which ended on March 19, Iran had a non-oil trade surplus for the first time since the 1979 revolution.

Iran’s increasing oil output–despite low prices–has put it at odds with other oil producers. In February, Russia and OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Venezuela called for a production freeze to stabilize prices. Iran would only entertain the idea of a freeze after production reaches 4 million barrels per day, which was about its pre-sanctions output.

Even if prices increase, Iran may have trouble increasing its oil production beyond that target without significant foreign investment. The Islamic Republic plans to fund and implement oil and gas projects worth a lofty $185 billion by 2020 to boost its crude oil output and refining capabilities.

The Islamic Republic hopes to entice foreign oil companies by offering more favorable contract terms. On June 27, Zanganeh announced that Iran was finalizing the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC). Unlike the “buy-back” contracts unpopular with foreign firms, the IPC allows companies to participate in all the stages of an oil or gas field’s lifecycle.

Domestically, the deal has yet to yield significant benefits for the average Iranian. Corruption, a lack of transparency, and other issues make Iran’s business environment challenging for investors. Foreign companies also risk incurring penalties from remaining US sanctions on Iran for terrorism and human rights violations. Unemployment increased slightly in 2016. Only 46% of Iranians believe the country’s economic situation is good as of March 2016, compared to 54% in May 2015. Hardliners question President Hassan Rouhani’s focus on foreign investment over domestic production.

Iran still has to overcome more US sanctions to resume trade with European nations. European and Asian conglomerates that would otherwise want to invest in the Iranian market do not know how to bypass many US sanctions which continue to extend to organizations and individuals having ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRG) which is aspiring to play a “bigger role” in the country’s economy, by some estimates, directly or indirectly control over 40% of Iran’s economy.

Since the 1979 Revolution, the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran have sought to lead Islamic world along with Saudi Arabia, dominate the West Asia region where Saudi Arabia is considered to be the leader. Since the Iran deal was signed by USA, peace has remained remarkably elusive as Iran considers the nuclear deal with western powers is an endorsement against Sunni nations while Saudi Arabia looks at it as promotion of Shiite nations by its ally USA. Not only Riyadh rejected Iran as an ally to pursue Islamic goals worldwide but treats as its enemy. So much so, today Saudi leadership considers Iran an enemy worse than Israel.

US officials, however, have insisted that Washington has complied with the nuclear deal. The Obama administration has reportedly sought to encourage Iran’s reintegration into global markets, hoping to solidify the deal and prevent it from unraveling under future administrations. On May 10, Secretary of State John Kerry told European businesses that they “should not use the USA as an excuse” for not doing business in Iran.

In the coming year, Rouhani may face even more pressure to prove that the deal has yielded the economic benefits that many Iranians anticipated. The IMF predicts that average inflation will drop from 15.1% in the 2015-2016 Iranian fiscal year to 11.5% in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Rouhani has courted foreign trade and investment, but Iran’s political factions have debated whether Iran should pursue greater foreign engagement at all. Others in the regime are more skeptical. Two thirds of Iranians surveyed in March supported greater economic engagement with the West, and reformists fared well in the spring 2016 parliamentary elections.

Saudi led GCC joins Israel against Iran

Israel and its cruel sponsors in the West believe occupational atrocities make history interesting. USA and Israel, as well as other colonialist nations are keen to retain their occupational posts held abroad. NATO terror wars in Afghanistan and Arab world have helped Israel prolong the occupational crimes in Palestine thus far, making its expansionist drives smooth as USA continues to back all crimes against humanity

Interestingly, Arab leaders now think anomalies make history interesting and thus they try to find a common non-vegetarian language. Saudi Arabs seems to be leading the anti-Islamic nations against Islamic faith. Interestingly, they also think they are doing the right thing. Maybe they hope all anti-Islamic nations become Islamic in due course. Millions of Muslims have been slaughtered by these anti-Islamic forces globally in their war on Islam and they relish the taste of Islamic blood.

Saudi for some mysterious reasons considers Iran its arch foe and opposes it and frames policies keeping in view Iran’s sidelining as its objective. Anti-Iranism has become too strong that Saudi government indeed treats Iran worse enemy than Israel and tries for a common platform to disgrace Iran. So much so anti-Islamic Israel emerges as Islamic Saudi’s strategic partner against Islamic Iran.

Funny Islamic leaders!

A simmer Sunni-Shiite cold war is on for quite some time and western world and Israel seeks to take full advantage of the clash of their common enemies in island. Arab world says that today Iran is posing a serious challenge to Saudi led Arab nations, as its proxy groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sadrist militias in Iraq have taken the fight beyond the capacity of Iranian government forces. In Yemen and Bahrain, groups funded from Tehran have been armed, funded and trained to challenge the Arab governments.

True, unlike Israel or even Saudi Arabia, Iran does not seek wars and, knowing the intricacies of regional crises, being accelerated by the US intervention, always goes for diplomatic resolution of crises and succeeded n averting all war situations. Iran has not changed its position on Palestine nation as it continues to support the Palestinians and their struggle for sovereignty.

Iran will have a presidential poll in June 2017. With elections due next year, the pressure on Rouhani’s government is likely to increase if the next US president follows in the footsteps of his predecessor to continue to play the “sanctions game.” Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani’s competitors are concerned that he and his allies will parlay their foreign policy achievements into electoral victories.

Iranian success in the nuclear deal depends on many factors. Nothing unusual in the flowery language coming from Western capitals about a new era of relations with Iran has some reality and justification because Iran and USA have begun viewing each other not as prime enemies as they had done for years now especially after the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, even during prolonged talks, notwithstanding all negative rhetoric emanating from Israel and elsewhere against the deal and new alignments.

The deal obviously weakened Israeli position and hold over US strategic lots. Having been isolated internationally already on genocides in Gaza and its regular threats of terror attacks on Iran, Israel will not be able to keep ignoring such a broad international engagement.

Now Zionists in Israel and USA understand that it must cope with a process of Palestine statehood that has started rolling and won’t be easily stopped. It must now position itself differently after the repeatedly failed US mediation and ahead of the practical part of the French initiative, as the French distributed in June the tasks to different working groups.

The UN Quartet report on the obstacles ahead of a two-state solution and the main themes to be tackled should be published without further delay and used as a main tool of work for the French initiative.

Observation

The debate on whether or not Iran gained from the nuclear deal with western powers is inconclusive but one is clear: Iran hasn’t lost the spot by signing the deal with US led powers. The deal appeared to be the only option for the time being as Israel is pushing for a terror attack on Iran and sought the US approval. The president, Many Iranian strategists believe, has been duped into accepting the deal and his failure to boost economy even after a year is an clear proof of the “West’s treachery”.

Iran’s expectation of a big boom in economy through “economic recovery” after the lifting of UN sanctions has not been realized yet. Iranians, although upset by this, still believe this deal is by far the best way for Tehran to end global isolation, recapture lost markets, diversify its foreign relations and win “the ideological war” Iran’s enemies in the Gulf have waged against it.

The situation for Iran’s moderate leadership is tricky. Not only does it have to deal with the still imposed US sanctions and mounting domestic pressure against the nuke-deal, but also the IRG, its own business interests and political hardliners in Iran.

Today, USA and Russia compete for arms sale in energy-cash rich West Asia. The West should recognize that any change in Iran will be gradual, best supported by implementing the nuclear accord, resuming trade, and diplomacy that balances Iranian and Arab interests in the Middle East. As its guardians try to quell the deal’s reverberations and preserve the balance of power, any attempt by Western countries to play politics within the Iranian system could well backfire. If world powers hope to progress on areas of concern and common interest, they must engage Iran as it is, not the Iran they wish to see.

The best option for Western states and Iran is to continue reversing the negative narratives from decades of suspicion and hostility by fully implementing the nuclear accord; creating discrete and non-politicized channels to address other issues of concern or common interest; and, eventually, pushing for regional security architecture that takes account of both Iranian and Arab interests. In the end, Iran and the West may not be able to agree on a range of issues, but trying to game the Iranian system will ensure that they will not.

Saudi Arabia needs to come to sense- earlier the better for it and Islam, though it might feel Islam should not have been born there so that their variety of capitalism and anti-Islamism can go on without any sense of shame or guilt. Because of Saudi attitude even ordinary Muslims, for their own reasons, are scared of criticizing anti-Islamism while badly suffering from Islamophobia.

Middle East

The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism in the Era of MbS – an Update

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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There has long been debate about the longevity of the Saudi ruling family. One major reason for doubts about the Al Sauds’ viability was the Faustian bargain they made with the Wahhabis, proponents of a puritan, intolerant, discriminatory, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam.

It was a bargain that has produced the single largest dedicated public diplomacy campaign in history. Estimates of Saudi spending on the funding of ultra-conservative Muslim cultural institutions across the globe and the forging of close ties to non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders and intelligence agencies in various Muslim nations that have bought into significant, geopolitical elements of the Wahhabi worldview are ballpark. With no accurate date available, they range from $75 to $100 billion.

It was a campaign that frequently tallied nicely with the kingdom’s deep-seated anti-communism, its hostility to post-1979 Iran, and the West’s Cold War view of Islam as a useful tool against Arab nationalism and the left – a perception that at times was shared by Arab autocrats other than the Saudis.

The campaign was not simply a product of the marriage between the Al Sauds and the Wahhabis. It was long central to Saudi soft power policy and the Al Saud’s survival strategy. One reason, certainly not the only one, that the longevity of the Al Sauds was a matter of debate was the fact that the propagation of Wahhabism was having a backlash at home and in countries across the globe. More than ever before theological or ideological similarities between Wahhabism or for that matter Salafism and jihadism were since 9/11 under the spotlight.

The problem for the Al Sauds was not just that their legitimacy seemed to be wholly dependent on their identification with Wahhabism. It was that the Al Sauds since the launch of the campaign were often only nominally in control of it. They had let a genie out of the bottle that now leads an independent life and that can’t be put back into the bottle.

That is one major reason why some have argued in the past decade that the Al Sauds and the Wahhabis were nearing a crunch point. One that would not necessarily offer solutions but could make things worse by sparking ever more militant splits that would make themselves felt across the Muslim world and in minority Muslim communities elsewhere in multiple ways including increasing sectarian and intolerant attitudes in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The rise of Mohammed bin Salman clearly challenges these assumptions. For one, it raises the question to what degree the rule of the Al Sauds remains dependent on religious legitimization as Mohammed moves de facto from consensual family to one-man rule in which he anchors his legitimacy in his role as a reformer.

It also begs the question of what would ideologically replace ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Islam as Saudi Arabia’s answer to perceived Iranian revolutionary zeal. The jury on all of this is out. They key lies in the degree to which Mohammed is successful in implementing social and economic reform, his yet to be clarified definition of what he envisions as moderate Islam, and what resistance to his religious redefinition and social reforms will emerge among members of the religious establishment and segments of the population.

Mohammed has so far dropped tantalizing clues, but neither said nor done anything that could be considered conclusive. In fact, what he has not done or said may be more telling, even if it would be premature to draw from that conclusions of the potential limits of change that he envisions. On the plus side, he introduced social reforms that enhance women’s opportunities and relaxed restrictions on cultural expression.

At the same time, he has whipped the religious establishment into subservience and positioned them, including key vehicles like the World Muslim League that the government used to fund and propagate ultra-conservatism, as forces against extremism and militancy and in favour of religious tolerance and dialogue. In February, Saudi Arabia agreed to surrender control of the Great Mosque in Brussels after its efforts to install a more moderate administration failed to counter mounting Belgian criticism of alleged intolerance and supremacism propagated by mosque executives.

Saudi officials have spoken of a possible halt to the funding internationally of religious institutions although an apparent agreement to pump $1 billion into the building of hundreds of mosques and religious centres in Bangladesh would suggest otherwise. The failure in Brussels and the fact that there is little reason to believe that the religious establishment has experienced a true change of heart or that Saudi Arabia has satisfactorily completed a revision of its text and religious books suggests that the kingdom is ill-prepared to propagate a truly moderate form of Islam in Bangladesh or anywhere else.

In some ways, the question is whether this matters as much outside the kingdom as it does domestically. The parameters have changed with Mohammed’s grip on power but the fact that the religious establishment was willing to ultimately compromise on its theological principles to accommodate the political and geopolitical needs of the Al Sauds has been a long-standing fixture of Saudi policy making.

For the Wahhabi and Salafi ulema, the public diplomacy campaign was about proselytization, the spreading of their specific interpretation of the faith. For the government, it was about soft power. At times the interests of the government and the ulema coincided, and at times they diverged.

Yet, more often than not the requirements of the government and the family took precedence. While contacts between Wahhabi and Deobandi scholars from the Indian sub-continent go back to the 1930s, if not earlier, Saudi scholars were willing to put their differences aside as Deobandis emerged as a powerful force among the anti-Soviet mujahedeen in the 1980s and subsequent anti-Shiite strife in Pakistan.

The problem in mapping the financial flows of the campaign is that the sources were multiple and the lines between the funding streams often blurred. No doubt, the government was the major funding source but even than the picture is messy. For one, who constitutes the government? Were senior princes who occupied powerful government positions officials or private persons when they donated from their personal accounts in a country in which it was long difficult to distinguish between the budget of the government and of the family?

On top of that, the government had multiple funding streams that included the foreign ministry using its network of diplomatic missions abroad, the multiple well-endowed governmental non-governmental organizations such as the Muslim World League that often were run with little if any oversight by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood with their own agenda, institutions in the kingdom like the Islamic University of Medina and its counterparts in Pakistan and Malaysia, as well as funds distributed by Islamic scholars and wealthy individuals.

Adding to the complexity was the fact that there was no overview of what private donors were doing and who was a private donor and who wasn’t. This pertains not only to the blurred lines between the government and the ruling family but also to Saudis of specific ethnic heritage, for example Pakistanis or Baloch, as well as Saudi intelligence. At times members of ethnic communities potentially served as government proxies for relationships with militant anti-Shiite groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Taiba and their successors and offshoots in Pakistan.

Further complicating a financial assessment is the lack of transparency on the receiver’s end. In some cases, like Malaysia the flow of funds was controlled by authorities and/or a political party in government. In others like Indonesia, money often came in suitcases. Customs officials at airports were instructed to take their cut and allow the money in with no registration.

In other words, while the Saudis donated they seldom prior to 9/11 and the 2003/2004 Al Qaeda attacks in the kingdom exercised control over what was done with the funds. The National Commercial Bank when it was Saudi Arabia’s largest financial institution had a department of numbered accounts. These were largely accounts belonging to members of the ruling family. Only three people had access to those accounts, one of them was the majority owner of the bank, Khaled Bin Mahfouz. Khaled would get a phone call from a senior member of the family who would instruct him to transfer money to a specific country, leaving it up to Khaled where precisely that money would go.

In one instance, Khaled was instructed by Prince Sultan, the then defense minister, to wire $5 million to Bosnia. Sultan did not indicate the beneficiary. Khaled sent the money to a charity in Sarajevo that in the wake of 9/11 was raided by US law enforcement and Bosnian security agents. The hard disks of the foundation revealed the degree to which the institution was controlled by jihadists.

At one point, the Saudis suspected one of the foundation’s operatives of being a member of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad. They sent someone to Sarajevo to investigate. The investigator confronted the man saying: ‘We hear that you have these connections and if that is true we need to part ways.’ The man put his hand on his heart and denied the allegation. As far as the Saudis were concerned the issue was settled until the man later in court testimony described how easy it had been to fool the Saudis.

The measure of success of the Saudi campaign is not exclusively the degree to which it was able to embed religious ultra-conservatism in communities across the globe. From the perspective of the government and the family, far more important was ultra-conservatism’s geopolitical component, its anti-Shiite and resulting anti-Iranian attitude.

The man who was until a couple of years ago deputy head of Indonesian intelligence and deputy head of Nahdlatul Ulema, one of the world’s largest Islamic movements that professes to be anti-Wahhabi, symbolizes the campaign’s success in those terms. He is a fluent Arabic speaker. He spent 12 years in the Middle East representing Indonesian intelligence, eight of those in Saudi Arabia. He professes in the same breath his dislike of the Wahhabis and at the same time warns that Shiites, who constitute 1.2 percent of the Indonesian population and that includes the estimated 2 million Sunni converts over the last 40 years, are one of the foremost domestic threats to Indonesian national security. This man is not instinctively anti-Shiite but sees Shiites as an Iranian fifth wheel.

The result of all of this is that four decades of funding has created an ultra-conservative world that lives its own life, in many ways is independent of Saudi Arabia, and parts of which have turned on its original benefactor. A study of Pakistani madrassas published earlier this year concluded that foreign funding accounted for only seven percent of the finances of the country’s thousands of religious seminaries.

The fact that ultra-conservatives are no longer wholly dependent on Saudi funding is a testimony to the campaign’s success. This realization comes at a crucial moment. Post 9/11 and even more so in the wake of Al Qaeda attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia in 2003/2004, Saudi Arabia has introduced strict controls on charitable donations to ensure that funds do not flow to jihadist groups.

There is moreover no doubt that Saudi funding in the era of Mohammed bin Salman is unlikely to revert to what it once was. The Saudi-funded Bangladeshi plan to build moderate mosques, the relinquishing of control of the Grand Mosque in Brussels, and the World Muslim League’s newly found propagation of tolerance and inter-faith dialogue as well as its effort to reach out to Jewish communities would suggest that Saudi money may be invested in attempting to curb the impact of the kingdom’s decades-long funding of ultra-conservatism.

Yet, there are also indications that Mohammed bin Salman is not averse to funding militants when it suits his geopolitical purpose. The US Treasury last year designated Maulana Ali Muhammad Abu Turab as a specially designated terrorist on the very day that he was in the kingdom to raise funds. Abu Turab is a prominent Pakistani Islamic scholar of Afghan descent who serves on a government-appointed religious board, maintains close ties to Saudi Arabia, runs a string of madrassas attended by thousands of students along Balochistan’s border with Iran and Afghanistan and is a major fund raiser for militant groups.

Abu Turab’s visit to the kingdom came at a time that Saudi and UAE nationals of Baloch heritage were funnelling large amounts to militant anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian Islamic scholars in Balochistan. It is unclear whether the funds were being donated with Mohammed bin Salman’s tacit blessing.

What is clear, however, is that the funding and Abu Turab’s visit coincided with the drafting of plans to destabilize Iran by exploiting grievances and stirring unrest among Iran’s ethnic minorities, including the Baloch. Those plans have not left the drawing board and may never do so. The funding nevertheless raises the question how clean a break with support of ultra-conservatism Mohammed bin Salman is contemplating.

Edited remarks at The Middle East and the Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University and the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington DC 18-19 April 2018

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Middle East

Where will the proxy war in the Middle East last?

Sajad Abedi

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A direct US strike on one of the Syrian Army bases is a new development in the terrorist war that began six years ago against Syria. The attack, which took place after accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in the region of Khan Sheikhon in the Syrian Arab Republic, raised several questions, among which are the most prominent:

What are the realities and purposes of using chemical weapons in the current situation? Why did the Western countries accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons without any documents and opposed the Russian request to form a neutral truth-clarifying committee to clarify the facts? Why the US government headed by Donald Trump did does not pay attention to Russia’s request for unilateral action to ignore international law and interference in other domestic affairs? What does it mean to handle this attack? What are the likely outcomes and consequences of this attack?

1- Syria after the use of chemical weapons in arid groups in the East Hemisphere region in 2013 and tensions in the area after the threat of a massive attack on Syria by former US President Barack Obama by mediating Russia he agreed to destroy his chemical weapons in order to prevent any excuse and accusations from the United States and Western countries. As a result, the United Nations Monitoring Committee (UNSC) announced that it was carrying out its mission in full cooperation with the Syrian government, under the supervision of the United Nations, the Syrian Chemical Weapons Depot.

The purpose of the Syrian disarmament was to prevent Syria from attacking bases of armed groups in the eastern submersion. The goal was also to create space for Syria, and to intervene in the United States to shift the balance of power in favor of armed groups. The Zionist regime, the Zionist lobby in the United States, the warlords and anti-Syrian states, were pushing for such an approach to force Obama to engage in a frantic war in Syria.

Now under the conditions of the Jabhat al-Nusra in Khan Sheikhon region, a chemical strike has taken place that the Syrian army has managed to defeat the attacking armed groups in the suburbs of Hamma and remove the areas under the control of this group. The army also plans to continue fighting in other areas of armed groups and to launch attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra bases in the province of Idlib. With the support of the allied army on all fronts and the achievements of many, as well as the removal by the White House, the Department of State and the United States Mission to the United Nations, that the US government’s priority is the defeat of ISIS, Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian people should determine the fate of Assad. These issues have led to the outrage of the terrorist armed groups and their supporting countries and the American warlords. Hence, they have taken measures to use chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhon and have accused the Syrian army of using this type of weapon to achieve the following objectives.

They are struggling against the Syrian government by accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons that were sacrificed by a number of citizens. They demanded that they undermine the status of the Syrian government in international circles and any negotiation.

They are also pushing for the Syrian government to squeeze on the military front to force the army to attack terrorists at various fronts to prevent the terrorists from defeating and collapsing. The goal is to give the terrorists fresh breath and to rebuild their queues once again.

The warlords have called on Trump’s positions to change their position on Assad and the fight against terrorism to attack Syrian military bases, especially military airports. This is a topic that the Washington Research Center has been reporting on. French Foreign Minister Marc Ayro said the chemical test was a testament to the new US administration after its position on Assad’s fate.

2- Accordingly, Western countries quickly accused Assad of using chemical weapons and opposed Russia’s request for a neutral truth-clarification committee to determine the facts. They tried to achieve the stated goals and mislead public opinion and cover the realities and exonerate the Nusra Front. They also demanded that chemical weapons remain in the hands of the terrorist groups if they continue to use it and continue their erosion wars in Syria.

3- The US government’s move to launch a missile attack on the Syrian airspace appears to be in contrast to the Tramp position. He has surrendered to warlords. He wants to align with the warlords, in order to reduce the opposition that the supporters of the supporters of the terrorist groups inside Syria have taken to take action. He also wants to show off with Obama, who hesitated to attack Syria in 2013.

But the US invasion showed that Washington is attacking the government, the Syrian people and the Syrian army with the help of the terrorists, and that the terrorists are instrumental in serving US plans to occupy Syria. America is the largest terrorist country in the world and a terrorist organization. It does not fail to ignore international law and the sovereignty of other countries, and always plays the role of police in the implementation of forest law. It has a right to charge, convict and enforce justice.

4.Consequences of probability

Indeed, the US invasion of Syria has shown that America is directly involved in the terrorist war against Syria. The move came after the West realized that the terrorists were on the brink of destruction, and that the victory of the Syrian national government and the axis of resistance were decisive. The role of the United States will prove this to the people of Syria, the Arab countries and the world’s public opinion that what is happening in Syria is the plan of America, the West, Zionism and the reactionary Arab state aimed at destroying Syria and destroying its national system.  This has led the Syrian people to support more than their leader, and his legitimacy and his unique role in confronting colonial forces, terrorism and Western-affiliated institutions are strengthened.

The US attack on Syria has led Russia to end its air coordination with the United States in the Syrian heavens. This is a practical measure against the ignorance of international law by the United States and its neglect of Russia’s position. Russia emphasized that the Syrian army did not carry out a chemical attack, and the army had no chemical weapons, and these were terrorist groups that possessed chemical weapons. Hence, it is better not to accuse the Syrian government of any reason and evidence. There is no doubt that Russia’s reaction to the developments in Syria will be great. This does not allow US fighters to cover the Russian missile defense coverage. In addition, it is likely that Moscow will provide advanced weapons to the Syrian army to defend against any attack on missiles and fighter jets. It is not possible for Russia to neglect this attack that ignores Russian red lines in the Syrian territories. This is particularly the case when US attacks on Syria and its attempt to rid the terrorists of failure to Russia’s strategic goals of sending its troops to Syria.

US action on the Syrian army’s attack will not only lead to a conflict with the Syrian army and its allies. But there is also the possibility of a conflict with Russia. This is the issue Moscow and Washington are trying to avoid. Because of this will lead to a world-wide destruction of devastation.

Hence, it is likely that the US invasion would be to reduce domestic opposition that Tramp has faced since coming to power in the United States. He has called for this attack to strengthen his position against his enemies without rejecting his opposition to a new and more costly war than the Iraq war.

Trump has said he wants to get the US economy out of recession and solve the US unemployment crisis, and to repair US infrastructure that needs a trillion dollars.

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Middle East

Forcing Peace: New vs. Old Pathways in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

James J. Rooney, Jr.

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Someone once said that, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the mark of insanity.” I would posit that U.S. policy in the Middle East, specifically that relating to the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement falls squarely into that category. For the last forty plus years, try as it may, the policy of the U.S. has failed, and failed miserably, to produce the desired results. The policy of the U.S. towards this issue must change radically if positive results are expected in the near-term.

Anyone contemplating creating an alternative policy that might change the performance dynamic of the principle parties borders on hubris. The literature on this subject is literally overwhelming. It is difficult to conceive that new ideas and alternative thinking on the subject is even possible; after all, the experts have spoken. But in the growing shadow of failure, something different must be tried. Peace between Israel and Palestine is possible. There are two potential paths forward: one with its roots in the past; and the other with its trajectory dependent on a radical new policy that will act as a non-voluntary force function on both sides.

Path 1:President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrate that they are the right men at the right time in history and can successfully negotiate a lasting peace agreement between Palestine and Israel. History is not in their favor. Both leaders in the past have exhibited heightened levels of nationalism which could cognitively bias their ability to put aside political differences and focus on legitimate compromise that could benefit both sides and create a lasting peace. Of the two, Abbas actually seems the more pliable.

Path 2:The implementation of a U.S.-sponsored, United Nations-implemented policy that essentially removes the Palestinians and the Israelis from the decision-making process. Such a policy has never been successfully attempted on the international level and will require significant support from the U.N. Security Council and the general membership. Given the current state of affairs in the Middle East and the contempt that much of the Arab community feels towards Israel, this might not be as tough a sell as it sounds. After fifty years of intransigence, the world is ready to see this problem solved and therefore might be willing to consider strategies never before considered.

Israel, in an attempt to stay solvent and secure, has been seriously brokering deals with its neighbors since at least 1967 following its success on the battlefield against a formidable Arab alliance that included Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Some of these deals were successful, including the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty signed at Camp David in 1978 and the Israeli- Jordanian peace Treaty signed in the Arava valley of Israel in 1994.Unfortunately, dozens of other deals simply fell into the dustbin of history. Interestingly enough, the successful ones were a byproduct of the interaction between powerful and aggressive leaders on both sides that had the right combination of leadership attributes and communication skills to pull it off, namely Sadat and Begin (1978) and Rabin and King Hussein (1994). Personal chemistry between the parties didn’t hurt and often helped to get through the rough spots; minimal trust between individuals was essential to create a joint vision of a peaceful future that both sides could live with. They might not love each other, but at least they were able to see the advantage of respecting each other for a greater objective.

Key issues on the table:

Though there is a plethora of reasons for these two Semitic cultures to hate each other, there are just as many reasons why a negotiated settlement would benefit both sides. Figure 2 lists just some of the more important issues that need to get hammered out before any settlement agreement is possible. Many of these issues have been on the negotiating table before with little progress. There are two “hot button” issues in particular that can and usually have blown out any possible deal: namely, the status of Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Any final settlement will have to solve this particular conflictual Rubik’s cube.

Over the years, the negotiating teams from both sides were stacked with “big guns” like Begin, Rabin, Peres, and Barak from Israel and Arafat and Abbas from Palestine. Certain personality combinations seemed to work better than others and it was often the case that failure to close the deal was caused by external forces as when Rabin was assassinated in ’95.  His death stopped the forward progress. The ’96 election of the ultra-right-wing Netanyahu ultimately lobotomized that potential deal. Discussions between the two sides dried up for at least the next four years. But once again, in the case of Rabin, we can observe the impact that a strong leader, willing to take on the established and entrenched policies of their own government bureaucracy, can have on the dynamics of supposedly entrenched conflict.

Critique of current policy options:

Since the days of the Carter Administration, the policy of the United States towards the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been one of engagement from a safe distance. The policy constructs of every President from Carter to Obama has had a central tendency to allow, if not to outright push, the two parties to seek a mutually beneficial solution, i.e. “work this out on your own and we’ll be there to help out with the paperwork and take the credit.” When attacks by terrorists in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv happened, as they often did, or additional Israeli settlements were built on the West Bank, as they often were, the U.S. would cajole the offending side to alter its behavior and return to the negotiating table. U.S. dollars were often spread around the table as enticement.

On May 19, 2011 Obama gave a Middle East policy speech in which he described a “new approach” to the age-old issues plaguing the region. This new policy trajectory would focus on “promoting democratic reform, economic development, and peace and security across the region” (Cordesman, 2011, 3). This policy lacks specificity, a method for execution, and a fundamental understanding of the key issues. It also ignores the history of the conflict and the complex nature of relations in the region. This is a pie-in-the-sky policy statement with no teeth: very much the same old platitudes that have defined U.S. policy for the last fifty years toward the conflict.

Trump has seemingly broken with the policies of the last five administrations. He does not embrace the two-state solution, but he does have his favorite team. “Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has shown unfailing support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, distancing himself from the two-state solution and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” (AFP, 2018, 3). Mahmoud Abbas wasted little time in responding and “accused the United States of ‘deplorable and unacceptable measures’ that ‘deliberately undermined all peace efforts” (AFP, 2018, 5). As of this writing, Trump’s regional policies, like his credibility, is crumbling fast throughout the Middle East. “Trump’s apparent intention to abandon the two-state framework, explicitly or implicitly by failing to exert pressure on both parties to accept it, will greatly increase the probability of conflict among Israel, Iran, and the US” (Buonomo, 2017, 2). A byproduct of these actions could involve a serious uptick in the levels of violence directed at both the U.S. and Israel. Thus, Trump’s attempt at new and innovative policies are not helping the situation and may be exacerbating the regional raw feelings that have always been there. With a politically wounded Donald Trump and U.S. involvement possibly marginalized in the process, it becomes even more paramount to understand the nature, character, and psychology of the two key figures at the center of the storm, Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Leadership Profile Model was constructed using qualitative information provided in open sources. Based on the narratives and appraisals offered in the literature, qualitative judgments were made on a scale of 1 to 5 concerning Abbas’ and Netanyahu’s leadership profile. Such a model provides a very high-level view into the characteristics and abilities of both leaders to successfully meet and carry through on a negotiated settlement. From this high-level view, a limited perspective can be formulated.

The most striking differences between Netanyahu and Abbas is in the psychological profile. Netanyahu is clearly more egocentric, does not work that well with others, is somewhat Machiavellian in his approach to politics, is not very transparent, does not easily trust others, can be very aggressive when pursuing a goal, and, in fact, uses others to achieve his goals and then takes the credit for it.At first glance, when comparing the two leaders, this is not a marriage made in heaven. Further psychological studies are required in order to truly assess whether these two men can overcome their obvious differences and work together for the common good.

New policy resolutions or proposals for consideration:

If the overall results of the psychological study above is supremely negative, then the aforementioned extraordinary policy must be executed by the United Nations and supported materially, financially, and operationally by the United States. Such a policy must, by definition, include the fifteen points outlined in Figure 4below. This policy is designed to be equitable: neither side is going to get exactly what it wants, but both sides are going to get exactly what each needs to be sovereign, safe, and free.

It is recognized up front that this policy is extraordinarily harsh and gives the two parties very little wiggle room. But these same parties have had almost fifty years to work out their differences and have essentially achieved nothing in all that time. Some countries are using the dispute for their own leverage and own strategic agendas. This temptation must be permanently removed. Continuing to trust Israel and Palestine to get this done on their own is problematic unless Netanyahu and Abbas can figure a way out of this morass and passed their own negative psychological leadership proclivities. Sticking to old pathways will not achieve this. The need for radical new pathways must be recognized.

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