[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] O [/yt_dropcap]bviously, Israel has tasted its first ever bitter pill from UNSC when it voted on December 23 to end the illegally built settlements, meant to oust the Palestinians and confiscate their lands. With the vote, time is indeed running out for Israeli regime to mend ways and try to become a normal nation by allowing the much delayed Palestine state to come into being. Israel needs to shed provocative terror schemes targeting Palestine and other Arab nations, and eventually become a democracy.
The US’ shocking and momentous abstention during a vote at the UN Security Council on Friday enabled the adoption of the first UN resolution 2334 on the December 23 since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy by a 14-0 vote. Israel has accused the Obama government of playing a part in formulating and pushing through the landmark measure.
Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu have played out their games but ultimately the former has the final say. Both have, since 2009, contributed to a chronic deterioration in US-Israel relations and the wider Middle East meltdown and Israel’s usual stubbornness has let to USA refusing to use its veto to shield their crimes this time. The process of polarization and mutual alienation culminated last Friday with Obama’s active connivance in the passing of a landmark UN Security Council resolution. The resolution condemned all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory as a flagrant violation of international law that imperiled a future two-state peace.
US-Israeli relations have reached their lowest point in decades. The government of the Israeli and PM Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Washington of conspiring against it when the UN Security Council vote on Friday the 23rd December demanded an end to settlement building in the West Bank.
USA pushes ahead with the resolution vote
The landmark vote came despite intense lobbying efforts by Israel and calls from US President-elect Donald Trump to block the text. Unhappy with Obama, Netanyahu is believed to be attempting to “recruit” to the incoming Trump team but the brakes on an attempted bid by the outgoing government to have the Security Council approve principles for a Palestinian state.. “They are spitting at us,” Netanyahu told colleagues, according to Channel 2. “We will respond forcefully.”
Netanyahu rejected the UNSC resolution as a “shameful blow against Israel,” repeated the Israeli claim that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were behind the resolution. Netanyahu told the media that Israel has “ironclad information” of the US government’s involvement in the resolution and even Trump is behind it. .
Clearly, America is struggling to reset its Israeli policy which has hitherto been decided by Israeli government. Possibly encouraged by President elect Trumps’ assertion for a new approach to resolve the Israeli-Palestine conflict and achieve two state solution by establishing the much delayed Palestine state to exist side by side with Israel as a legal entity, President Obama, by asking the US ambassador to UNSC to abstain from voting, supported the UNSC resolution to end illegal settlements inside Palestine.
Apparently, US Secretary of State John Kerry, following the UNSC vote, is preparing a document which will form the basis for final negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to be presented next month before President Barack Obama leaves office on 20th January. John Kerry is laying out a US framework for an Palestinian-Israeli agreement as the Obama government and its international allies scramble to protect what is left of the peace process before Donald Trump takes office. The document will outline the establishment of a future Palestinian state according to the internationally recognized 1967 borders (Arab Peace pan 2002) , with land-swaps leaving approximately 75 to 80 percent of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank under the sovereignty of Israel- a proposition that won’t be accepted by the Palestinians. The principles will probably set out requirements for US recognition of Palestine and Israeli recognition of Palestine and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, and Israel’s required recognition of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The Kerry speech at the state department is expected to restate the Obama government’s continued faith in a two-state solution to the chronic impasse. It is a parting shot after eight years in office, during which there has been a dearth of diplomatic progress. It is not expected to lead to any new initiative but rather lay down a marker on a longstanding US and international approach to the region before the US president-elect, whose commitment to such a solution is in doubt, assumes office. “What secretary Kerry will be doing is he will give a speech in which he lays out a comprehensive vision for how we see the conflict being resolved – where we see things in 2016 as we unfortunately conclude our term in office without there being significant progress toward peace, the deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told Israel’s Channel 2 television. On the same day as the Kerry speech, Jerusalem authorities are expected to discuss the issue of more than 600 building permits for settlements in historically Palestinian east Jerusalem and have raised the possibility of issuing about 5,000 more.
The parameters outlined by Kerry are expected to draw international endorsement at a meeting of foreign ministers on 15 January, just five days before Trump moves into the White House. The meeting is supposed to reinforce a strategy of isolating Netanyahu in the hope it will push him towards reviving stalled negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has said his government will not attend.
Israel responded furiously to the UN Security Council resolution passed on Friday that demanded an end to settlement building, threatening diplomatic reprisals against the countries that voted in favor. Israel feels now fully exposed and isolated internationally. The Israeli government is reportedly fearful that any guidelines agreed in Paris would be turned into another UN resolution before Trump’s inauguration, and it has ratcheted up its rhetoric, presenting itself as the victim of an international conspiracy. Meanwhile, Israel’s military minister, a prominent illegal settler leader in the government Avigdor Lieberman, portrayed the Paris conference as a new “Dreyfus trial”, referring to an outburst of French anti-Semitism more than a century ago, and urged French Jews to move to Israel.
A French official denied there was any intention to pass a new Security Council resolution on the basis of the Paris conference. A foreign ministry spokesperson said the meeting would “give the participants an opportunity to present a comprehensive incentive package to encourage the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Only they will be able to conclude a peace deal directly.”
In excessive expectation of a more supportive government in Washington next month, Netanyahu has reacted to the diplomatic maneuvering in the last weeks of Obama’s term with defiance. Netanyahu has vowed to resist a peace framework imposed on his government, and observers warn that a threatened Israeli backlash in the form of thousands of new settler homes in east Jerusalem, combined with Trump’s plan to move the US embassy to the disputed city, could trigger a fresh wave of violence.
Netanyahu claimed to have “ironclad evidence” that the Obama government had plotted behind the scenes to promote the UN resolution. Israel has said it will present evidence against the Obama government to the incoming Trump team and ask Trump to just abide by the mutual understanding in terror operations and help Israel retain all illegal settlements in Palestine.
Egyptian media published a document purporting to be a transcript of a meeting in which Kerry and the US national security adviser, Susan Rice, discussed the UN resolution and US proposals with Palestinian officials, who agreed to give the Kerry framework immediate support.
In order to appease the Jewish community in USA and Israel, Trump criticised Friday’s UN resolution, saying it would make it harder to negotiate a peace agreement. He described the UN as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” but has not dwelt about how the UN as well as US veto has been misused by USA and Israel all these years. Trump’s designated ambassador to Israel, his own bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, has actively supported settlement building.
If the highly emotive issue of Jerusalem’s status became the focal point of Israeli-Palestinian friction once more, then the prospects for a serious, significant confrontation are high. Trump knows it.
The US withdrawal from Iraq left a political vacuum in Baghdad that Iran and its Shia allies filled. Then, in partial reaction, came the Sunni jihadists of Islamic State which ensured the US support . The Arab spring revolts of 2011 left Washington nonplussed. In Egypt it fretted over the toppling of Hosni Mubarak and welcomed his eventual replacement by another pro-American military dictator. In Syria, Obama prematurely anticipated the demise of Bashar al-Assad, only to back away when the going got tough, letting in the Russians and the Iranians (again) and squandering US leverage.
The UN resolution could save the government from itself by bringing closer an end to forceful and illegal settlement construction inside Palestine. The passage of the resolution won’t result in the immediate dismantling of any West Bank settlements, but the world is beginning to come to the rescue and try to save Palestinians from Israel military and Israel from itself.
What makes this particular resolution important?
Palestinian leaders hope the UN resolution 2334 and the Paris conference will offer some degree of international protection against the encroachment of settlements in the Trump era. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said he hoped the Paris meeting would establish an international mechanism to end Israeli settlement building once for all and start the work on the promised Palestine state.
It is the first decisive and clear condemnation of Israel by the UN Security Council in nearly eight years — almost the entirety of President Barack Obama’s terms in office. The vote was cast despite extraordinary Israeli pressure on the current US administration, on the forthcoming administration of Donald Trump and successful pressure on Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Al Sisi.
For the first time in history, the USA neither vetoed the resolution nor threatened to use its veto power; nor did it even seriously lobby among the world powers, big and small, as it often does, to defeat the resolution. In fact, Egypt delayed the vote, which was scheduled a day earlier, so New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela stepped up and put the resolution to a vote, a day later.
Though the UN resolution remains rather symbolic as long as there are no practical mechanisms to ensure the enforcement of international law, the vote is historic and a major step towards the freedom and independent state.
Not only Israel does not respect the United Nations’ will, it is, in fact, already accelerating its settlement activities in the Jerusalem area, in defiance of that will. The Jerusalem Municipality announced that 300 housing units will be built in the illegal settlements of Ramat Shlomo, Ramot and Bit Hanina, while the Security Council members were preparing for the vote on the “legal invalidity” of the Jewish settlements. Obviously for the Palestine, the vote is a major achievement
The UN resolution was, indeed, keen on ensuring that the Palestine state comes into being as part of the two-state illusion is further perpetuated, which is all that the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas needs to continue to push for an unattainable mirage. With all this in mind, there is a lesson, and a valuable one, that must be registered at this moment: without US backing, Israel, with all its might, is quite vulnerable and isolated in the international arena.
The outcome of the vote was quite telling: 14 Security Council members voted yes, while the US abstained, making vote possible. The vote was followed by a rare scene at such meetings: sustained applause, with countries that hardly agree on much agreeing wholeheartedly with the justness of Palestinian aspirations and the rejection of Israeli practices.
The relentless efforts by Israel and the US to intimidate coerce and as usual bribe UN members, so as to sideline the international community from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has failed utterly. All it took was a mere US abstention from the vote to expose the still solid international consensus regarding Israel’s illegal actions in Palestine.
In an emblematic sign of hope, the vote brings to a close the year 2016, which has been harsh for Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians, mainly civilians and children, were killed during this year in clashes in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; hundreds of houses were partly or wholly demolished and damaged; thousands of hectares of land were confiscated by Israel, and countless olive trees cut.
The next year could promise the Palestinians new horizons in their struggle for freedom and sovereignty, depending on humanitarian concerns of the new US administration under Trump though his language is confused to suggest that the US support of Israel will remain steadfast. The appointment of pro-settlement hardliner David Friedman as the new US ambassador to Israel carries with it terrifying prospects. One is not sure if Trump is indeed an insane Zionist like Madam Hillary Clinton has been. Friedman and his ilk have no regard for international law and no respect for US current foreign policy regarding the Israeli occupation and the illegality of the settlements (considered an “obstacle to peace” under various administrations), and is eager to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
All of this is quite ominous, and the freshly passed resolution should not advance the illusion that things are changing. Of course things can change only if follow-up actions are forthcoming form UNSC and ICC. Criminals cannot be given choices to change the world, they should only be punished for their crimes against humanity.
Nonetheless, there is hope. The resolution is a further affirmation that the international community is unconditionally on the side of Palestinians and, despite all the failures of the past, still advocates respect for international law. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is moving from strength to strength, galvanizing civil societies, campuses and trade unions all over the world to take a stance against the Israeli occupation.
In 2009, Netanyahu, newly re-elected, described his “vision” of a historic peace, “of two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence”. Although he appeared to renege during last year’s election campaign, Netanyahu still claims to support a two-state solution. Now the international community’s message is unequivocal: you were right in 2009. So stop undermining the prospect of peace. Honor your promise.
Palestinians, now unite!
As the UNSC is making strenuous efforts to punish Israel for its crimes against humanity and for the proliferation of illegal settlements in Palestine, there has been world cry requesting US President Obama to recognize Palestine before he goes out of office. For different but related reasons, Jimmy Carter made a similar plea last month.
Israel can be blamed for much of problems the Palestinians face, but Palestinians deserve much of the blame, too, for their disunity, infighting and corruption. They must not expect their efforts, however sincere, to yield freedom and liberation when they are incapable of forming a united front. This should be done by overhauling the Palestine Liberation Organization and bringing all Palestinian factions under one single platform that caters to the aspirations of all Palestinians, at home and in Diaspora.
The Palestinian leadership needs to understand that the age of ineffectual American leadership is over. No more lip service to peace and handouts to the PA, while bankrolling the Israeli military and backing Israel politically. The next administration is pro-Israel, absolutely. This may be the clarity Palestinians need to understand that pleading for American compassion will not suffice. If a united Palestinian leadership does not seize the opportunity and regain the initiative in 2017, all Palestinians will suffer. It is time to move away from Washington and embrace the rest of the world.
One of the arguments often heard is that Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state if it annexes all of the West Bank, since it will ultimately acquire 4 million Palestinians (West Bank & Gaza residents) as citizens in that case.
Israel does not have a Jewish majority even by accelerated births as Hindus in India have been busy doing.
The USA in 1789 was mostly British and had a population of 4 million. Now it is 8 times as big, and has large Italian, Latino, German, African, Muslims three million Jewish and Irish populations. All those groups have brought gifts to enrich the nation. In an age of globalization, trying artificially to maintain one ethnic group as a majority is probably a fool’s errand, anyway. Israel is importing Thai agricultural workers and initially was welcoming African refugees..
So what is called a “one-state” solution is a farce but as long as all the citizens of that one state has equal rights and it was a genuine democracy people would be happy. .
It would be fairly easy to set up two states, Palestine and Israel, since the basic framework of the two states already exists. It is entirely possible that the Israeli squatters on Palestinian land, as their usual practice in the West Bank will at some point engineer a civil war, and try to expel the Palestinians, making them stateless refugees all over again.
What is wrong with the present arrangement is that the Palestinians do not have citizenship in a real state. Israel state controls the water, air and land of Palestine territory. The Palestine Authority controls none of those things. In fact nothing, not even the taxes. A state needs a judicial system that can protect the basic property and human rights of a citizen. Palestine has none of those things. Important cases are kicked to the Israeli judiciary, which, like police stations and military units, tends to rule in favor of Israelis. And, a lot of decisions are made for Palestinians by the Israeli army or by colonial administrators.
People, who are stateless, in the phrase of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, do not have the right to have rights. It is unacceptable that millions of Palestinians should be kept stateless at the insistence of Israel. PM B. Netanyahu has even vowed that he will not allow a Palestinian state as long as he is in power or alive (a violation of the Oslo Peace Accords).
The reason that all these decades of negotiations have proved fruitless is that the Palestinians, as stateless, don’t really have standing to negotiate. You can renege on agreements with stateless people at will, as Netanyahu has repeatedly done, without fearing any consequences and without the stateless having recourse. So you can’t start with negotiations. You have to start by addressing Palestinians’ lack of citizenship.
The government in Germany stripped the Jews of their citizenship, in preparation for committing a Holocaust against them or driving them out of their homes as refugees. Jews are doing the same with Palestinians now. The Nazis understood very well that you can do with Stateless people what you will, and that no one will effectively so much as object. For the Zionist right wing, Israel comes as a solution to the problem that Jews are always in danger of losing their citizenship rights when they are citizens of other states. Moreover, in a nuclear-armed world, the idea that a state can protect you from another holocaust is a false messiah; ask the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In any case, solving the artificially created problem of Jewish statelessness cannot come at the price of creating Palestinian statelessness.
The chair of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, said that the Palestinian leadership was invigorated by the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank. As a result, it would redouble its efforts to achieve full membership in the UN for the State of Palestine. The Palestinians would take their case to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, charging Israeli officials with various crimes against the international law of occupation, chief among them flooding their own citizens as colonizers into the Occupied Territory. Erekat recognizes that the Palestinian cause will go nowhere until Palestine has some of the perquisites of a state, such as UN membership and ability to take cases to the International Criminal Court.
Just as he established diplomatic relations with Cuba, so President Obama could do the same with regard to Palestine. It would be one step toward resolving the decades-old problem of Palestinian statelessness.
Observation: welcome sovereign Palestine!
The historic US abstention from voting on ending illegal settlements from Palestine territories and UN vote are not lacking in significance. But Netanyahu’s smug suggestion that he need only wait for the advent of a Donald Trump presidency is misleading. It is likely Trump may give him a sympathetic hearing. But he already committed himself to peaceful solution to the vexed issue in and establishes Palestine state to exist along with Israel. He may not even move the US embassy to Jerusalem as that would be a gratuitously inflammatory gesture. US Jews still hopes they can arm-twist Trump as well.
This was the world telling Netanyahu, with one voice, that the expanded settlement policy he has encouraged and justified is wrong – wrong legally, wrong morally, wrong politically, and wrong in terms of Israel’s future peace and security. The odd thing is, he knows this.
There is no doubt that the UN Security Council condemnation of Israel on December 23 was an important and noteworthy event as it readily paved the way for the creation of Palestine after a long struggle. True, the United Nations’ main chambers (the Security Council and the General Assembly) and its various institutions, ranging from the International Court of Justice to the UN cultural agency UNESCO, have repeatedly condemned the Israeli occupation, illegal Jewish settlements and mistreatment of Palestinians.
Today there are at least 430,000 Jewish settlers currently living in the West Bank or the 200,000 in east Jerusalem which would be the capital of Palestine. .But Israel feels upbeat that Resolution 2334 is unenforceable and cannot dismantle the structures or evict the criminal Jews form Palestine territories and this can be done only with NATO help. Israel says nobody can force Israel to embrace John Kerry’s recycled ideas about a two-state solution, although the US secretary of state is expected to spell them out one more time before he leaves office next month.
Resolution 2334 joins UN resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) in the theoretical, consistently bypassed legal canon of the Israel-Palestine issue. It says what should happen. It does not say how.
There are up to 196 illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, in addition to hundreds of settler outposts. These settlements house up to 600,000 Jewish settlers who were moved there in violation of international law and, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel must respect the opinion of international community in favor of establishing the much delayed Palestine state as they voted to end the settlements in Palestine. Israel needs to accept the pro-peace option now available for it to save its spoiled face and come forward for final peace talks and accept the Arab Peace plan to resolve the conflict once for all.
Unlike the December 23 UNSC Resolution 2334, past UN condemnations were far stronger; some resolutions did not ask just for an immediate halt of illegal settlement construction, but for the removal of existing settlements as well.
Arabs will assure Israel of not attack Israel or force Jews to resettle themselves in Europe or convert to Islam or Christianity for that matter. Palestinians will ensure that no more toy missiles would be fired into vacant spaces in Israel.
Israel now being isolated by its close ally USA, must recognize International Law and dismantle all illegal structures inside Palestine.
Although insecurity, aggression and paranoia are their shared characteristic, Trump would like to make decisions independent of Israel or US Jewish community that hitherto decided the policies of USA. Moreover, Trump administration cannot simply reverse the stated will of the UN Security Council – backed in this case by permanent members China, Russia, France and Britain; not will unilaterally scrap last year’s multinational nuclear deal with Iran. These are policy decisions of USA and not Israel
The resolution 2334 will accelerate existing moves to prosecute Israel at the international criminal court. The UN vote has highlighted the extraordinary extent of Israel’s international isolation under Netanyahu. Even he cannot persuasively dismiss the unanimous opinion of countries as diverse as Japan, Ukraine, Malaysia, Venezuela, Angola and Spain. It takes a lot to make an enemy of New Zealand, but Netanyahu has managed it.
Obama has not been much help. He, too, made a big speech in 2009, shortly after taking office, pledging a “new beginning” for the Middle East. But he could not do anything as his foreign minister Hillary Clinton supported Israeli regime and its criminal operations and his actions led to ME regional disintegration and growing American detachment.
Israel is annoyed, nervous and feels isolated for its arrogant posture on Palestine. But as usual Israeli leadership wants to put up a brave face. “We will do all it takes so Israel emerges unscathed from this shameful decision,” Netanyahu said. Now many in Israel also talk about “betrayal” by USA and many Jews feel USA should not have propped up a fascist regime in the first place with full military backing from the Western powers. Interestingly, Israel receives huge sums from abroad as aid but now it cuts aid to small countries. Not only Israel barked at USA, but Israel has also withdrawn its ambassadors from two of the countries that supported the resolution, New Zealand and Senegal, and cut aid assistance to the latter. Planned diplomatic exchanges have been cancelled, future Israeli cooperation with UN agencies placed under urgent review, and civilian coordination with the Palestinian Authority suspended.
Obama realized that pressurizing the risk-averse Netanyahu into peace talks with the Palestinians is useless, especially when Israel’s Arab neighbors fell prey to civil disorder and Islamist insurrection supported by USA, Israel and EU. Obama did not push nearly hard enough for peace in both terms when the regional climate might have allowed it. In 2011, he vetoed a similar UN resolution, arguing US-brokered talks would find a way forward. Cautious to the end, even Obama’s UN demarche on Friday was half-hearted. If he really believes settlements are undermining peace, why abstain? Why not go the whole hog and vote to condemn them?
Obama’s Middle East legacy is not one to be proud of. But his final axe on ending Israeli illegal settlements at UNSC has earned him the name he missed for 2 terms. Only now Obama knew how criminal minded Israeli leadership is and the defeat of his Democratic candidate Hillary has eye opened him to realize his presidential duties towards humanity. .
Future of Palestinians looks promising as the UNSC can impose sanctions on Israel if it refuses to respect the resolutions to end Israeli expanding settlements on occupied land and possibly annexations, as mooted by Netanyahu’s rightwing allies.
President Obama has to make all recent decisions on Palestine tenable in future so that the Neocons and other promoters of Israeli fanatic fascism won’t be able to arm-twist politically novice Trump.
While the rights of Palestinians do not register in the slightest in the radar of US foreign policy interest (which sees its alliance with strong Israel as far more important than the needs of disjointed and confused capitalist Arab countries), Palestinians can still forge a new strategy that is predicated.
Has Assad succeeded in overcoming the Syrian crisis?
A series of revolutions swept through the Arab region. The first torch was from Tunisia when protester Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself in opposition to the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This wave of revolts led to the overthrow of many Arab regimes and leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries. There has been a state of destruction, displacement and economic collapse in the countries affected by the revolutions, a lot of killing, torture and political division, as well as the penetration of terrorist groups in the Arab world.
The revolution began in the form of peaceful protests, but soon developed using violence between the Syrian army and opposition groups. Over time, the Syrian opposition was divided into a peaceful opposition aimed at overthrowing the Assad regime through diplomatic means and the armed opposition, which was divided into several factions: the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, as well as other armed factions.
This difficult situation brought the Syrian regime into a stage of internal popular and military pressure, which led to a request for military assistance from Russia. Russia responded to Assad’s request and defended the Syrian regime in earnest. Russia, which had good relations with the Libyan regime, did not veto the UN Security Council in favor of the Gaddafi regime. In the Syrian crisis, however, Russia and China have vetoed the UN Security Council in favor of the Assad regime, and they defended the Syrian regime in international forums.
Russia, which has historical ties with the Syrian regime, regards Syria as an extension of its strategic interests in the Middle East. Evidence of this is the presence of Russia’s military base in Syria, which is Russia’s only military base in the Middle East. Iran also stood by the Syrian regime in its war, and there was constant coordination between the Syrian and Iranian leaderships. On the other hand, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down and replace the existing regime with a new regime. The United States has repeatedly threatened military intervention to strike the Syrian regime, but the American threat has always been matched by a Russian willingness to retaliate, creating a balance of power on the Syrian battlefield.
Russia’s active support of the Syrian regime and its allies’ support led to Assad’s steadfastness, despite widespread international dissatisfaction with this outcome. Syria’s political position has not yet changed, but the Syrian-Russian-Chinese-Iranian alliance has been strengthened. Many military analysts believe that what happened in Syria cannot be repeated with other countries. The most important reason is Syria’s strategic geographic position and the need for a regime like Assad to govern Syria for the time being.
The Assad regime has not collapsed, but there has been an internal and international resentment that did not exist in the past. This is expected to happen because of the nature of the Syrian regime’s alliances and the division of the region between an eastern and a Western axis. But the Assad regime has been able to withstand and maintain its position in the face of the severe crisis in Syria.
The Syrian regime must work hard to involve the Syrian opposition in government and form a government that includes all strata of Syrian society so as not to feel a large segment of the Syrian people injustice, and must increase the margin of freedom in the country. These steps should change the perception that prevailed towards the Syrian regime, and lead to its acceptance internally and internationally in the next stage.
Landing in Riyadh: Geopolitics work in Putin’s favour
When Russian President Vladimir Putin lands in Riyadh this week for the second time in 12 years, his call for endorsement of his proposal to replace the US defense umbrella in the Gulf with a multilateral security architecture is likely to rank high on his agenda.
So is Mr. Putin’s push for Saudi Arabia to finalize the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defense system in the wake of the failure of US weaponry to intercept drones and missiles that last month struck key Saudi oil installations.
“We are ready to help Saudi Arabia protect their people. They need to make clever decisions…by deciding to buy the most advanced S-400 air-defence systems. These kinds of systems are capable of defending any kind of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia from any kind of attack,” Mr. Putin said immediately after the attacks.
Mr Putin’s push for a multilateral security approach is helped by changing realities in the Gulf as a result of President Donald J. Trump’s repeated recent demonstrations of his unreliability as an ally.
Doubts about Mr. Trump have been fuelled by his reluctance to respond more forcefully to perceived Iranian provocations, including the downing of a US drone in June and the September attacks on the Saudi facilities as well as his distancing himself from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu following last month’s elections, and most recently, the president’s leaving the Kurds to their own devices as they confront a Turkish invasion in Syria.
Framed in transactional terms in which Saudi Arabia pays for a service, Mr. Trump’s decision this week to send up to 3,000 troops and additional air defences to the kingdom is likely to do little to enhance confidence in his reliability.
By comparison, Mr. Putin, with the backing of Chinese president Xi Jinping, seems a much more reliable partner even if Riyadh differs with Moscow and Beijing on key issues, including Iran, Syria and Turkey.
“While Russia is a reliable ally, the US is not. Many in the Middle East may not approve of Moscow supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but they respect Vladimir Putin for sticking by Russia’s beleaguered ally in Syria,” said Middle East scholar and commentator Mark N. Katz.
In a twist of irony, Mr. Trump’s unreliability coupled with an Iran’s strategy of gradual escalation in response to the president’s imposition of harsh economic sanctions in a bid to force the Islamic republic to the negotiating table appear to have moderated what was perceived as a largely disastrous assertive and robust go-it alone Saudi foreign and defense policy posture in recent years.
While everyone would benefit from a dialling down of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Mr. Trump’s overall performance as the guarantor of security in the Gulf could in the longer term pave the way for a more multilateral approach to the region’s security architecture.
In the latest sign of Saudi willingness to step back from the brink, Saudi Arabia is holding back channel talks for the first time in two years with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The talks began after both sides declared partial ceasefires in the more than four year-long Yemeni war.
The talks potentially open the door to a broader Russian-sponsored deal in the context of some understanding about non-aggression between the kingdom and Iran, in which Saudi Arabia would re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria in exchange for the Islamic republic dropping its support for the Houthis.
Restoring diplomatic relations and reversing the Arab League’s suspension of Syrian membership because of the civil war would constitute a victory for Mr. Al-Assad’s main backers, Russia and Iran. It would grant greater legitimacy to a leader viewed by significant segments of the international community as a pariah.
A Saudi-Iranian swap of Syria for Yemen could also facilitate Saudi financial contributions to the reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria. Saudi Arabia was conspicuously absent at last month’s Rebuild Syria Expo in Damascus.
Mr. Putin is likely to further leverage his enhanced credibility as well as Saudi-Russian cooperation in curtailing oil production to boost prices to persuade Saudi Arabia to follow through on promises to invest in Russia.
Saudi Arabia had agreed to take a stake in Russia’s Novatek Arctic-2 liquefied natural gas complex, acquire Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical facility, and invest an additional US$6 billion in future projects.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak predicted that “about 30 agreements and contracts will be signed during President Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia. We are working on it. These are investment projects, and the sum in question is billions of dollars.”
In anticipation of Mr. Putin’s visit, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said it was opening its first overseas office in Riyadh.
RDIF and the kingdom’s counterpart, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), are believed to be looking at some US$2.5 billion in investment in technology, medicine, infrastructure, transport and industrial production.
The Russian fund is also discussing with Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, US$3 billion in investments in oil services and oil and gas conversion projects.
Saudi interest in economic cooperation with Russia goes beyond economics. Ensuring that world powers have an increasing stake in the kingdom’s security is one pillar of a more multilateral regional approach
Said Russian Middle East expert Alexey Khlebnikov: “Clearly, the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities have changed many security calculations throughout the region.”
No peace for Kurds: Rojava still under attack
The Amazon is still on fire. The “lungs of the Earth” are hardly breathing while the flames are threatening people and nature reserves. As long as we do not see with our own eyes the burnt trees, the endangered species and the indigenous tribes fighting to save their dying forest, we seem incapable to understand the actual consequences.
Thousands of miles away from this environmental catastrophe, a different kind of tragedy is waiting to happen. Rojava-Northern Syria Federation — the self-declared autonomous region that Kurdish people managed to carve out in northeastern Syria during the Civil war — is burning again.
On September 24, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a controversial speech to the United Nations General Assembly and proposed to create a “safe zone” in the north of Syria, in order to resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees. He is hoping to establish a peace corridor with a depth of 32 kilometers and a length of 480 kilometers, which would easily turn the area into the world’s largest refugee camp. Despite the seemingly humanitarian purposes, this might represent the umpteenth attempt to destroy the Kurdish dream of an independent democratic enclave.
It is undeniably clear, in fact, how Turkey could take advantage of the situation: Erdoğan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has already claimed that Ankara’s aim is also to clear the borders from “terrorist elements.”
The People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), which — along with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — played a key role in the fought against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are the official army of Rojava but currently designated as terrorist organizations. These armed groups, in fact, are considered as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the far-left militant and political organization founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan and often involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces.
Kurdish people are about to be left alone once again and the recent decisions of the White House trigger alarm in the whole Middle East.
On October 7, president Donald Trump announced that the United States — so far the main financer, trainer and supporter of Kurds — would start pulling troops out of those territories, although it would not constitute a full withdrawal.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the president — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” and that “The US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.”
Mazlum Kobanê, the commander in chief of the SDF, announced that they will protect Syrian’s borders and fight back against Ankara’s army. Since the majority of Kurdish cities are located in this area, it is not difficult to understand how potentially devasting this ongoing operation could be.
Turkish assault is going to begin from the city of Gire Spi/Tell Abyad, once controlled by the so-called Caliphate and captured in 2015 by the YPG during the Tell Abyad offensive. The cities of Qamishli, Derek/Al Malikiya, Tell Tamer and Kobanê/Ayn al Arab are next to become target of air strikes and artillery fire as well.
It is no coincidence that shortly after the siege of Kobanê, Kurdish forces directed their efforts towards Tell Abyad, being such a strategic site for ISIL militias. The city, in fact, was better known in the West as the “Jihadi Highway”, a de-facto corridor for foreign fighters. In the chaos caused by the fighting, jihadists would surely try to regain strength and Turkish move is serving the cause.
At the Al-Hol camp — a huge detention female camp near Al-Hasakah — numerous riots have occurred in the past few weeks, and the managers of the structure believe that the women held in the prison — former jihadi brides — might be the vehicle for renewed forms of radicalization.
In view of the fact that US officials confirmed that they will not intervene nor will they seize control of those prisons, Kurdish forces called Washington’s move “a stab in the back”. Meanwhile in Raqqa, ISIL militants are still carrying out suicide bombing attacks against SDF positions.
Shervan Derwish, official spokesman of the Mambij Military Council, has expressed his concern with a very touching message on Twitter.
The YPG and YPJhave fought in many historical battles and their solitary resistance during the last Turkish Afrin offensive in January 2018 became a symbol of their resilience.
On the other hand, Turkey’s army will be backed by their well-known rebel allies: “The Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly, “wrote Fahrettin Altun — Turkey’s communications director — in a Washington Post column. Numerous military groups are active in the region and, although their nature is still debated, there are evidence of many connections with jihadi-inspired organizations.
Working in cooperation with the SDF, Rojava’s cantons are ready to resist and defend their independence, but Trump’s decision sounds like a betrayal.
If forests are burning, so will be democracy in Syria. The Rojava project is in imminent danger, and this time there will be no mountains for the Kurds to seek refuge in. Here in the West we are blessed not to directly witness the destruction of both tragedies, but it is still up to us whether to look those flames in the eye or remember them as the unique environments they actually were.
In loving memory of Mehmet Aksoy, who dedicated his life to the Kurdish cause.
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