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. .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Eastern interventionism galore: Neither US nor Chinese policies alleviate
A recent analysis of Middle Eastern states’ interventionist policies suggests that misguided big power approaches have fueled a vicious cycle of interference and instability over the last decade.
Those approaches are abetted, if not encouraged by US and Chinese strategies that are similar, if not essentially the same, just labelled differently. The United States has long opted for regime stability in the Middle East rather than political reform, an approach China adopts under the mum of non-interference in the internal affairs of others.
As a result, both the United States and China de facto signal autocrats that they will not be held accountable for their actions. This week’s US response and Chinese silence about the suspension of democracy in Tunisia illustrates the point.
The policies of the two powers diverge, however, on one key approach: The US, unlike China, frequently identifies one or more regimes, most notably Iran, as a threat to regional security. In doing so, US policy is often shaped by the narrow lens of a frequently demonized ‘enemy’ or hostile power.
The problem with that approach is that it encourages policies that are based on a distorted picture of reality. The Obama administration’s negotiation of a 2015 international nuclear agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program proved that amending those policies constitutes a gargantuan task, albeit one that is gaining traction with more critical trends emerging in both the Democratic Party and among Evangelists.
The recent study, ‘No Clean Hands: The Interventions of Middle Eastern Powers, 2010-2020,’ published by the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, suggests by implication that China has at the vey least allowed instability to fester in the Middle East that is fueled as much by destabilizing Iranian interventions as by similar actions of various US allies.
The study was authored by researcher Matthew Petti and Trita Parsi, the Institute’s co-founder and executive vice president and founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council.
To be sure China may not have been able to influence all interventionist decisions, including the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but potentially could have at times tempered the interventionist inklings of regional players with a more assertive approach rather than remaining aloof and focusing exclusively on economic opportunity.
China demonstrated its willingness and ability to ensure that regional players dance to its tune when it made certain that Middle Eastern and Muslim-majority countries refrained from criticizing Beijing’s brutal attempt to alter the ethnic and religious identity of its Turkic Muslim population in the north-western province of Xinjiang.
Taking Syria as an example, Li Shaoxian, a former vice president at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, articulated China’s approach in 2016 as Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his first visit to the Middle East. “China doesn’t really care who takes the presidency…in the future—as long as that person could stabilize and develop the country, we would agree,” Mr. Li said.
To be fair, the Quincy Institute study focuses on the interventionist policies of Middle Eastern states and recommendations for US policy rather than on China even if the report by implication has consequences for China too.
A key conclusion of the study is that the fallacy of US policy was not only to continue to attempt to batter Iran into submission despite evidence that pressure was not persuading the Islamic republic to buckle under.
It was also a failure to acknowledge that Middle Eastern instability was fueled by interventionist policies of not just one state, Iran, but of six states, five of which are US allies: Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The US allies, with the exception of Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar, are perceived as supporters of the regional status quo.
On the other hand, the United States and its allies have long held that Iran’s use of militant proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen; its intervention in Syria and support of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip; and its armament policies, including its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, destabilize the Middle East and pose the greatest threat to regional security.
They assert that Iran continues to want to export its revolution. It is an argument that is supported by Iran’s own rhetoric and need to maintain a revolutionary façade.
Middle East scholar Danny Postel challenges the argument in a second paper published this month by the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies that seems to bolster the Quincy Institute’s analysis.
“The view of Iran as a ‘revolutionary’ state has been dead for quite some time yet somehow stumbles along and blinds us to what is actually happening on the ground in the Middle East. A brief look at the role Iran has played over the last decade in three countries — Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria — reveals a very different picture: not one of a revolutionary but rather of a counter-revolutionary force,” Mr. Postel argues.
The scholar noted that Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed militia in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian armed groups in Iraq responded in similar ways to mass anti-government protests in 2019 and 2020 in Lebanese and Iraqi cities that transcended sectarian divisions and identified the Iran-aligned factions with widespread corruption that was dragging their countries down.
They attacked the protesters in an attempt to salvage a failed system that served their purpose and suppress what amounted to popular uprisings.
“Do they really think that we would hand over a state, an economy, one that we have built over 15 years? That they can just casually come and take it? Impossible! This is a state that was built with blood,” said an Iraqi official with links to the pro-Iranian militias. A Hezbollah official speaking about Lebanon probably could not have said it better.
Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal suppression of a popular revolt is no less counter-revolutionary and illustrative of the length to which Iran is willing to go to protect its interests.
“Indeed, for all the talk of Iran’s ‘disruptive’ role in the region, what the cases of Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon reveal is instead an Islamic Republic hell-bent on keeping entrenched political establishments and ruling classes in power while helping them quell popular movements for social justice, democratic rights, and human dignity,” Mr. Postel concludes.
“The idea that Iran is a revolutionary power while Saudi Arabia is a counter-revolutionary power in the region is a stale binary. Both the Islamic Republic and the Saudi Kingdom play counter-revolutionary roles in the Middle East. They are competing counter-revolutionary powers, each pursuing its counter-revolutionary agenda in its respective sphere of influence within the region,” Mr. Postel goes on to say.
Counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt appeared to contradict Mr. Postel in a paper published this week that asserted that Hezbollah remained a revolutionary pro-Iranian force in its regional posture beyond Lebanon.
“Hezbollah’s regional adventurism is most pronounced in its expeditionary forces deployed in Syria and elsewhere in the region, but no less important are the group’s advanced training regimen for other Shi’a militias aligned with Iran, its expansive illicit financing activities across the region, and its procurement, intelligence, cyber, and disinformation activities,” Mr. Levitt said.
Mr. Postel’s analysis in various ways bolsters the Quincy Institute report’s observation that tactics employed by Iran are not uniquely Iranian but have been adopted at various times by all interventionist players in the Middle East.
The Quincy Institute study suggests further that a significant number of instances in the last decade in which Middle Eastern states projected military power beyond their borders involved Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar on battlefields that were as much related to competition for regional influence among US allies or the countering of popular movements as they were to rivalry with Iran.
“Iran is highly interventionist, but not an outlier. The other major powers in the region are often as interventionist as the Islamic Republic – and at times even more so. Indeed, the UAE and Turkey have surpassed in recent years,” the report said.
The report’s publication coincided with the indictment of billionaire Thomas J. Barrack, a one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the UAE, widely seen as another case and form of intervention by a Middle Eastern state.
By implication, the study raises the question whether compartmentalizing security issues like the nuclear question and framing them exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than discussing them in relation to diverging security concerns of all regional players, including Iran, will lead to a sustainable regional security architecture.
There is little indication that thinking in Washington is paying heed to the Quincy Institute study or Mr. Postel’s analysis even though their publication came at an inflection point in negotiations with Iran suspended until President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in mid-August.
That was evident in a proposal put forward this month by former US Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross on how to respond to Iran’s refusal to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support of armed proxies as well as Mr. Al-Assad as part of the nuclear negotiation. Mr. Ross suggested that the United States sell to Israel the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound mountain-buster capable of destroying hardened underground nuclear facilities.
Members of Congress last year offered legislation that would authorize the sale as a way to maintain Israel’s military edge as the United States moves to reward the UAE for its establishment of diplomatic reltions with Israel by selling it top-of-the-line F-35 fighter jets.
The administration is expected to move ahead with the sale of the jets after putting it on hold for review when Joe Biden took office In January.
The Quincy Institute and Mr. Postel’s calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about the Middle East and/or Iran take on added significance in the light of debates about the sustainability of the Iranian clerical regime.
Contrary to suggestions that the regime is teetering on the brink of collapse as the result of sanctions and domestic discontent, most recently evidenced in this month’s protests sparked by water shortages, widely respected Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour argues that the Iranian regime could have a shelf life of at least another generation.
Mr. Sadjadpour draws a comparison to the Soviet Union. “Post-Soviet Russia… didn’t transition from the Soviet Union to a democratic Russia, but it essentially became a new form of authoritarianism which took Communism and replaced it with grievance driven Russia nationalism—led by someone from the ancient regime and a product of the KGB, Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Sadjadpour argues.
“Likewise, if I had to make a prediction in Iran, I think that the next prominent leader is less likely to be an aging cleric—like an Ayatollah Khamenei or Ibrahim Raisi—and more likely to be someone who is a product of either the Revolutionary Guards or Iran’s intelligence services. Instead of espousing Shiite nationalism, they will substitute that with Iranian nationalism—or Persian nationalism,” he goes on to say.
An Iranian nationalist regime potentially could contribute to regional stability. It would likely remove the threats of Iranian meddling in the domestic affairs of various Arab countries by empowering Shiite Muslim groups as well as support for political Islam. Iranian nationalism would turn aid to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen into a liability rather than an asset.
Mr. Sadjadpour’s prognosis coupled with the Quincy Institute report suggests that the Biden administration has an opportunity to reframe its Middle East policy in the long-term interests of the United States as well as the region and the international community.
The nuclear talks are one potential entry point to what would amount to the equivalent of turning a supertanker around in the Suez Canal – a gradual process at best rather than an overnight change. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan may be another.
Concern in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran about the fallout of the withdrawal suggests that stabilizing the greater Middle East in ways that conflicts can be sustainably managed if not resolved creates grounds for China, Russia and the United States to cooperate on what should be a common interest: securing the free flow of oil and gas as well as trade.
China, Russia, and Iran may be bracing themselves for worst case scenarios as the Taliban advance militarily, but the potential for some form of big power cooperation remains.
China scholars Haiyun Ma and I-wei Jennifer Chang note that in the case of Afghanistan “despite the Taliban’s advancement on the ground and its call for Chinese investment, the current military situation and the political process have not yet manifested a power vacuum created by the US retreat, which makes Chinese entry and gains…largely symbolic in nature.”
The Russian bear in Lebanon
It turned out that the Biden-Putin summit on May 16 has established a wider effect than anyone would expect.
It exceeded by far political analysis, especially in Lebanon. The summit almost coincided with the Russian economic delegation’s visit to Beirut on the 18th of the same month and the announcement of its study results to initiate investments projects in Lebanon.
The results revealed the Russian delegation’s future plans in rebuilding the oil refineries in Zahrani and Tripoli and rehabilitating the latter’s port. Regardless of the projects, the Russian companies intend to deal with, if they are approved and encouraged by good signs changes can be relied upon. It means that Lebanon has taken an important leap in its economic policies by gradually moving towards the East.
Naturally, Lebanon’s orientation towards the East “if it happens” will not be absolute and definitive, but rather principled and partial. This is an important matter by itself. It is marked as a qualitative leap that may minimize the private companies’ monopolization of energy imports, which will be directly reflected, firstly, in electricity production in Lebanon, and secondly in facilitating the provision of petroleum products in Lebanon. Such projects became a necessity, in particular, after the collapse of the Lebanese lira against the American dollar.
Logically, changing the reality of the production of electricity will reveal immediate results. It will be reflected in the change in the rehabilitation of the economic infrastructure fields in Lebanon. It will also positively reflect in other vital areas, such as determining the prices of food commodities, which became outrageously high.
Accordingly, one of the most important reasons for the obscene rise in food prices is related to the high costs of transportation in the last month alone. It is almost above the purchasing power of the Lebanese. For example, the prices of vegetables and fruits, a non-imported commodity, which is not supervised by government support, remained within reasonable prices; however, once the diesel prices started rising, it directly affected the prices of the seasonal vegetables and fruits.
In addition, there are unseen accomplishments that will go with the entry of Russian companies, which is creating new job opportunities in Lebanon. Lately, it was reported that unemployment in Lebanon will reach 41.4% this year. It is a huge rate, which the Lebanese media, in general, use to provoke people against the current resigned government. However, it neglects to shed the light on the importance of the Russian investment in creating new job opportunities, which will affect all social groups, whether they were transporters, building workers, porters, cleaners, or university graduates.
The companies coming to Lebanon are directly supported by the Russian state. However, they are private companies, a fact that has its advantages. They are familiarized with dealing with other Western international companies. Russian companies have previously coordinated with French and Italian companies in Lebanon, through contracts concluded for the extraction of gas in Lebanese fields and in other fields outside Lebanon. Russian- European coordination process is also recognized in rebuilding Beirut’s harbor. A German company will rebuild the docks, while the French will rebuild the containers or depots, and the Russian companies will rebuild the wheat silos.
It seems that the process is closely related to the future of Lebanon and the future of the Chinese project, the New Silk Road, [One Road, and One Belt]. However, it is not clear yet whether the Russian companies will be investing in Tripoli’s refinery and in regenerating and expanding its port or it will be invested by the Chinese companies. If this achievement is accomplished, then Tripoli will restore its navigating glorious history. Tripoli was one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean. Additionally, there is a need for the Russian and the Chinese to expand on the warm shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Secondly, the project will boost Tripoli and its surroundings from the current low economic situation to a prosperous economic one, if the real intentions are there. The results in Tripoli will be read as soon as the projects set foot in the city. Of course, this will establish another Sino-Russian victory in the world of economy and trade, if not in politics as well.
The entry of the Russians and the Chinese into the Lebanese field of commerce has international implications. It will come within international and global agreements or understanding. Nevertheless, it is a sign that the Americans are actually losing their grip on Lebanon. This entry will stop the imposition of a limited number of European-oriented Lebanese monopolizing companies, which have dominated the major Lebanese trade of oil and its products. Dominance is protected with the “illusion” of meaningless international resolution. It is true that the Americans are still maneuvering in several places; however, this is evident to the arbitrariness of decisions making in the U.S. today. It is the confusion resulting from ramifications of the “Sword of Jerusalem” operation in Palestine; it seems that they do not have a clear plan towards policies in the region, other than supporting “Israel”.
If the above is put into action, and the Russian companies start working within a guarantee agreement with the Lebanese state. This means a set of important issues on the international and regional levels. And it also means that the Americans would certainly prefer the Russians to any Chinese or Iranian economic direct cooperation in Lebanon.
Firstly, it is clear that in their meeting Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin reached a kind of consent to activate stability in the region. Two years ago, the Americans had a different plan. According to an established source, the Americans actually intended to strike internal stability in Lebanon and ignite another civil war round, before finalizing stability in Syria. This assertion tunes with David Hale’s, an American envoy to Lebanon, a declaration about the American anger over the $10 billion spent in Lebanon to change the political reality and overthrow Hezbollah from the government. Consequently, the American project is behind us now. Russia and China need to invest in the stability of Lebanon, in order to secure their investments in the process of rebuilding Syria.
Secondly, the Lebanese state guarantee, which the Russians require, is directly related to the lack of confidence in the Lebanese banking policies, which have lost their powers as a guarantor for investments after the role they played since November 17, 2019 till today. It proved the inefficiency of the financial policies of the Lebanese banks, which was based on the principle of usury since the nineties of the last century. In addition, a state guarantee will enable the Russian companies to surpass the American sanctions.
The state guarantee increases the value and importance of the Lebanese state as an entity in the region, and this can be understood from Macron’s statements after the explosion of Beirut port last August when he said that Lebanon’s role in the region as we know it must change.
Thirdly, if we consider the history of international unions in the world, including the European Union, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and others, they started as economic alliances before they end as political alliances. Therefore, at this historical stage and in order to work on the economic recovery of Lebanon, which needs more investments instead of falling under the burden of more debts. Lebanon needs to head East towards economic unity with Syria. In cooperating with two superpowers, Lebanon and Syria can form an economic bloc on the Mediterranean shores, a bloc that can get Lebanon out of the vortex of Western absurdity and expand its alliances and horizons to be a real economic and cultural forum where the East and the West can meet.
From our partner Tehran Times
A New Era in US-Jordan Relations
King Abdullah of Jordan is the first Arab leader who met American President Joe Biden at the White House. The visit has reaffirmed the strong and long-standing Jordan-US strategic partnership and reinvigorated the bilateral engagement for working together on security issues, and economic development on the basis of shared values and priorities. The King’s visit to Washington reaffirmed Jordan’s value as a reliable ally who plays a critical role for stability in a highly volatile region.
Jordan’s value is multi-dimensional and ranges from bilateral military cooperation, intelligence sharing and joint global counterterrorism operations including as a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve to deployment of almost three thousand (3,000) American troops to Jordan as part of the ongoing campaign to combat regional terrorism. The US has expanded military footprint to Jordan after Washington’s decision to withdraw forces from Syria and reduce military presence in the Turkish airbase of Incirlik. In addition, the kingdom’s geopolitical position in the heart of the Middle East provides a viable alternative for logistical support to the American military taking into consideration the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and close three bases in Qatar. Notably, the remaining supplies from the three Qatari bases along with the Support Mission have been transferred to Jordan and have become part of the Area Support Group-Jordan that operates as the Base Operations Support Integrator to back contingency operations and military-to-military engagements within the US Army Central Command’s area of responsibility.
Jordan’s value also stems from its critical role in addressing the overwhelming humanitarian needs created by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as well as in hosting almost two million registered Palestinian refugees.
Support of Two-state Solution
The fact that Jordan remains at peace with Israel and is a key interlocutor with the Palestinians adds to the kingdom’s reliability to mediate and advance initiatives that support the two-state solution. This presupposes the resetting of Jordan-Israel relations. Washington is well-placed to offer its good offices and help restore trust between the two neighboring countries. The twenty-seventh year Jordan-Israel peace treaty shows not only the possibilities for coordination and co-existence but also the ceilings to peace with Israel in the absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A “cold peace” and quiet, limited cooperation are currently the maximum possibilities vis-a-vis a “warm peace” that will unlock Jordan-Israel cooperation and potential.
It is nevertheless noteworthy that the last five years have been discerned by the previous American administration’s lack of appreciation of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Trump peace proposal, known as “the Vision”, not only undermined the long-established aim of a two-state solution but also reinforced discussions over alternatives including a one state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; different measures of annexation, such as Israeli annexation of Area C in the West Bank; “exotic options” such as a federation in which Israel and Palestine share certain aspects of sovereignty; potential unilateral Israeli initiatives with most prevailing a Jordanian model, in which Jordan takes control of the West Bank and Palestinians are given Jordanian citizenship; and, reinforcement of the notion that “Jordan is “Palestine””.
Practically, Jordan can serve as honest broker in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but as the late King Hussein stated in an interview with The New York Times in 1991 “Jordan should not be, cannot be, will not be a substitute for the Palestinians themselves as the major aggrieved party on the Arab side in a process that leads to peace”. The cited statement is fully embraced by Jordan’s current leadership.
Acknowledgment of Jordan’s Custodianship
The public acknowledgement by the American President of the kingdom’s special role as custodian of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem is translated into a vote of confidence and a commendation for Jordan’s efficient safeguarding of religious sites for decades. As known, Amman pays the salaries of more than one thousand (1,000) employees of the Jerusalem Waqf Department and its custodianship role is carried out on behalf of all Islamic nations. The kingdom holds the exclusive authority of the Jordanian-appointed council, the Waqf, over the Temple Mount/ Haram Al Sharif and has spent over 1 billion dollars since 1924 for the administration and renovation of Al Aqsa mosque.
Jordan has admittedly served at multiple occasions as credible intermediary for Israel and the Palestinians to suspend tensions in the old city of Jerusalem, particularly at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif and pursues a successful administration of religious funded schools favoring moderate religious education and religious tourism. Jordanian moderation has guaranteed co-existence of the three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem at a time when on the contrary, counties like Turkey funnel millions of dollars in charity projects in Jerusalem promoting the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Overall, Jordan’s custodianship has proved to be successful in maintaining delicate arrangements for the benefit of all religions and parties involved.
American Loan Guarantees
The King’s discussions with the American President also centered on the economic challenges exacerbated by the effect of the pandemic and the enhancement of bilateral economic cooperation. Admittedly, Jordan showed strong leadership and governance with early actions that reduced the coronavirus pandemic pressure on the kingdom’s health system. The Jordanian government imposed a nationwide lockdown and severe social distancing measures at a much earlier stage of the pandemic than other Middle East countries.
Jordan withstood the pandemic’s impact with minimal loss of life but with a significant cost to its economy. As of June 2020, most restrictions on economic activity were lifted turning Jordan into one of the first Arab countries to reopen. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has contracted in 2020 by 3.5 percent after growing 2 percent in 2019 due to losses in state revenues because of fewer remittances and a weakened tourism market.
To cope with the direct negative effects of the pandemic on its state budget, the Kingdom received $396 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The amount of finance has specifically helped address the country’s balance of payments needs and allowed for higher spending on healthcare, and assistance to households and companies most affected by the pandemic. Despite that the IMF provided in March 2020 another multi-year $1.3 billion loan package to Jordan, the pandemic has caused a $1.5 billion shortfall in its balance of payments.
This complex economic reality along with Jordan’s moderation in the Arab world justify continued robust annual American economic assistance to the kingdom in the form of budgetary support (cash transfer), USAID programs in Jordan, and loan guarantees. US cash assistance should increase in the coming years taking into consideration that it is directed to refugee support and to segments of the economy that are mostly affected by the pandemic like foreign debt payments and fuel import costs. Overall, a pledge should be made for Jordan in American congress for the authorization of moreUS sovereign loan guarantees that will help the kingdom weather the pandemic’s adverse medium-to-long-term effects on its economy. US sovereign loan guarantees will allow Jordan to issue debt securities that are fully guaranteed by the American government in capital markets, effectively subsidizing the cost for the Jordanian government to access financing.
It is also noticeable that in a genuine effort to help the kingdom contain the pandemic and safeguard public health, the American administration proceeded with the delivery of over 500 thousand covid-19 vaccines to Jordan highlighting American commitment to international vaccination programs including that of the kingdom.
US-Jordan Defense Partnership
The strategic US-Jordan defense relationship was reflected in the discussions that were conducted between the Jordanian King and the American President. American support for the modernization of Jordan’s F-16 fighter jets has been at the forefront of the agenda with the aim of achieving greater interoperability and effectiveness for the Jordanian Armed Forces. The American President recognized Jordan’s contribution to the successful international campaign to defeat ISIS and honored as an example of heroism the memory of captain Muath al-Kasasbeh who was executed in 2015 by the terrorist organization’s militants.
Jordan has suffered avowedly from terrorism throughout the years and works collectively at regional and international levels to eliminate all its forms. The kingdom lost two prime ministers, Haza’a Al-Majali and Wasfi Al-Tal, as victims of terrorism and experienced a series of terrorist attacks like the simultaneous suicide bombings against three hotels in Amman in November 2005 that led to the loss of life of American, Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian nationals.
In effect, Jordan is the third-largest recipient of annual American foreign aid globally, after Afghanistan and Israel. A Memorandum of Understanding on American foreign assistance to Jordan commits the United States to providing $1.275 billion per year over a five-year period for a total of $6.375 billion (FY2018-FY2022). Renegotiations on the next such agreement for FY2023-FY2027 is estimated that will aim at increasing the American commitment to Jordan, a key ally in the fight against international terrorism whose military should be in position to procure and maintain conventional weapons systems.
On the whole, Jordan is a steadfast security partner of the United States in the Middle East whose moderation and pragmatism helped the kingdom weather regional and world challenges. As 2021 and past years have showed, Jordan’s position as a bridge between the Levant and the Persian Gulf provides it a unique geopolitical standing, in a way that nowadays Amman is granted with a significant security, diplomatic and humanitarian role that signals a new era in US-Jordan relations.
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