[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] U [/yt_dropcap]S President Donald Trump who is touring Middle east region and has arrived in Palestine after visiting Saudi Arabia and Israel, has said he will “do everything” to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace. This is the last day of the US president’s shuttle diplomatic effort visit to the Middle East.
Israel and the Palestinians have not held peace talks for three years and Trump acknowledges it would be “one of the toughest deals of all” to broker. At talks with Mahmoud Abbas, he spoke of being gratified that the Palestinian leader had committed to taking necessary steps to peace.
Abbas welcomed Trump’s “noble and possible mission”. “I would like to reiterate our commitment to co-operate with you in order to make peace and forge an historic peace deal with the Israelis,” he said.
Feeling satisfied with his maiden trip to Mideast, Trump said: “I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians…And I intend to do everything I can to help achieve that goal. He added the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas had assured him he was “ready to work towards that goal in good faith”, and that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had promised the same.
President Obama, the recipient of Nobel Peace Award on his assuming power at the White House did nothing valuable to bring the Israeli leadership to agree for a final settlement so that Palestinians could establish their own state, Palestine, with dignity and full sovereignty.
Trump said he had come to Bethlehem, where the meeting with Mr Abbas was held on Tuesday morning, “in a spirit of hope”. In both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, some Palestinians have held protests against the trip and in support of a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Hundreds of stone-throwing youths clashed with Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
In fact, Palestinians do not trust US leaders much because they always support Israeli regime and military and order the supply of terror goods to Israel for killing the Palestinians. At least one Palestinian was injured at the Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem. In the Gaza Strip, other Palestinians trampled photos of the US leader. Hundreds of jailed Palestinians have been on hunger strike since 17 April. Activists were hoping to hold up protest banners in Bethlehem on Tuesday to make Trump aware of the action.
Speaking in Jerusalem on Monday, Trump played political music for the criminal minded Jews who want to kill all Palestinians and take away their lands as well by saying that Iran would never have nuclear weapons and accused it of supporting “terrorists”. “Iran will never have nuclear weapons, that I can tell you,” Trump told fanatic Netanyahu. . In return, Netanyahu extolled the US president’s leadership.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played down Trump’s strong criticism of Iran at a summit in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, saying: “Who can say regional stability can be restored without Iran?”
Speaking to Netanyahu on Monday, Trump sought to dispel suggestions that he had passed on sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian diplomats at a recent meeting, saying he had not mentioned the word “Israel” at the meeting.
However, many Palestinians on both sides look forward to Trump’s promote action to make Israel listen to reason and promptly deliver justice to them.
On Monday, Trump said he had come to “reaffirm the unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel and that there was a “rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace” to the region.
President Trump flew to Tel Aviv direct from Saudi Arabia, where at a summit on Sunday he urged Arab and Muslim leaders to work together to “drive out” terrorist extremists.
Trump also said that he was “gratified” that PLO leader Abbas had attended the summit in Riyadh and “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology”. “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” he added, apparently referring to payments made by the PA to the families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict with Israel.
Israel had been pestering Trump to visit Israeli Holocaust memorial and so later on Tuesday Trump returned to Jerusalem, visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. And in a speech later at the Israel Museum, he reaffirmed that his administration would always stand with Israel.
Trump said his trip was “focused on bringing nations together”, adding that the Palestinians were “ready to reach for peace”.
President Trump sees himself as a great dealmaker, with the personality to cut through the difficulties that have defeated lesser people. The only credible ideas still require the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel. The reality is that the Israelis and Palestinians are way apart on the main issues – the future of east Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the borders of an independent Palestine. The two sets of leaders also do not trust each other. Israeli fanaticism and mischief have always derailed the peace talks so far.
The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House was greeted by the Israeli right with enthusiasm. They believe that it heralds a new era of settlement expansion in the occupied territories. The Israeli government appeared to think so too, welcoming Trump’s victory with the announcement of permits for new housing units in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank, thereby further complicating any peace deal with Palestine. .
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has been occupied by Israel for 50 years. Some of the most influential members of the Israeli government believe the land is a Jewish possession, given by God as a free gift for their crimes in past and future. . .
The Palestinians are deeply divided, with Fatah in charge in the West Bank and in Gaza the Islamists of Hamas, who have been condemned by President Trump in the last few days as terrorists.
It is highly unlikely that even President Trump’s outsized personality will be enough, on its own, to end a conflict that has lasted more than a century. Making this deal is not about fixing a price – it is about reconciling enemies with radically different world views.
Palestine has achieved nationhood from UN but without voting power and it is going to get that too shortly. Towards the end of his presidency Obama supported the cause of Palestinians indirectly.
Trump is expected to pursue the cause further so that Palestine comes into existence sooner than later. .
Trump has now flown to Rome ahead of a meeting with Pope Francis. On Wednesday he will continue to Brussels to see NATO leaders. On Friday, he will return to Italy to meet other world leaders at a G7 summit in the Sicilian town of Taormina, where climate change is expected to be discussed.
Now the ball is in Trump’s court. One can only watch with fingers crossed as to what exactly Trump would do to achieve peace in Mideast.
Can Trump make Israel become a normal state to able to successfully negotiate peace deals?
Meanwhile, it is indeed gratifying that President Trump has sworn to achieve peace in Mideast by helping with the establishment of Palestine which is being delayed by Israel and USA for too long, meanwhile the Zionist military keeps killing the Palestinians, including children.
A Middle Eastern Westphalia
This book, Towards a Westphalia for the Middle East, is a product of many conferences and seminars between government officials, policy wonks, academics, international organization officials, experts from Europe, and the Middle East; in addition to a host of think tanks. The authors, Brendan Simms, Michael Axworthy, and Patrick Milton “have summarized the results” of the “discussions, provided a detailed account of the most important elements of the Peace of Westphalia, and outlined elements of a possible framework for peace in the Middle East.”
The Westphalia project started with the observation of the parallels between the current situation in the Middle East and the Thirty Year War that ended up with the Westphalia Treaty (1648) to put paid to the “war of all wars.” The German Körber Foundation and the Policy Planning Unit of the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with Cambridge University launched the project to see if there were lessons to be drawn from the European conflict in the first half of the 17th century and the subsequent peace treaty to shed lights on the current crisis in Syria. The authors are well aware that parallels do not mean similar. “The analogy between the Thirty Years War and the war in Syria informing the present work thus ought to be employed as an analytical framework, and the Peace of Westphalia ought not to be used as a blueprint.”
There are models to regional peace and security other than Westphalia. The authors see Westphalia as the aptest for two reasons. One is structural: the current Middle Eastern crisis comprises a set of interlocking political and religious struggles at the local and the regional levels.” The second is the religious factor: although in both cases, religion cannot be entirely blamed, however, “sectarian tension has tended to merge and interact with other levels of conflict.”
From the outset, the authors debunk two main myths about Westphalia. One is that Westphalia had established sovereign states. Two, Westphalia reduced religious order in favor of a secular one. “Sovereign states existed well before 1648, and interventions in the domestic affairs of other states (and other Imperial Estates) continued well after 1648.” Further, although Westphalia foregrounded secular laws over ecclesiastical laws, “Westphalia was explicitly a Christian peace”. The Treaty reorganized confessional balance into constitutional laws “and regulated relations between Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists in a highly detailed set of confessional laws.”
Turning to the Middle East, the authors see three interconnected factors that influence the dynamics of the conflict. The lack of state legitimacy, according to the authors, harks back a century, i.e., to the inception of these states as a result of Sykes-Picot. The reason is arguably attributed to being contrived by colonial states. After all, it was a colonial power, namely Britain that reneged on its promises to deliver a unified Arab state from Syria to Yemen.
Political Islam cannot solely be ascribed to “secular Arab autocracy and against the failure of Arab nationalism to achieve its aims”, as the authors claim. Islamic revivalism predates secular Arab regimes and had started in the nineteenth century. Moreover, Hassan al-Banna launched his Muslim Brotherhood in 1928; more than two decades before Nasser assumed power in Egypt: It was the defeat of these regimes in the 1967 war, however, that gave political Islam prominence as an alternative ideology to secular nationalism.
The second factor pertains to what the authors call Saudi-Iran dualism and great power rivalry. The geopolitical competition between Riyadh and Tehran has fueled the fire in the region. Various hot spots have seen both countries on opposing sides. The Syrian civil strife witnessed Iran’s direct involvement in support of Assad’s regime and Saudi backing of some opposition groups. Likewise, Yemen has seen both actors and allies supporting the warring sides in that internecine conflict.
Iran is not alone in picking sides in the Middle Eastern confrontations. More recently, Turkey has been playing a significant role in regional maelstroms. The Arab Spring and the ascendancy of political Islam have enticed Turkey to play a larger role in the Arab World. Turkey is involved in several areas of contention. Turkey’s interest in containing the Kurds and fear of irredentist claims led to its involvement in northern Syria. Geoeconomic and geopolitical imperatives, as well as ideological competition, dictated Ankara’s propping up the Government of National Accord in Tripoli; and showing its fangs to the Europeans in the East of the Mediterranean, to boot.
Last, sectarianism is the third factor that influences the regional dynamics. The historical rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites contributed to the current situation. The authors are quite cognizant of the role played by confessional enmity; however, they do not assign a deterministic power to such a factor. Many legitimate demands have nonetheless “descended into sectarianised conflict in many quarters”.
The conflict-ridden region of the Middle East is in a dire need for regional peace. The question is what the Thirty Year War offers in terms of lessons for the Middle East. The European geopolitical scene, according to the authors, was dominated by the rivalry between France and the Habsburg powers. “It is the equivalent of the Saudi–Iranian rivalry in the Middle East, the chief difference being that France and the Habsburgs were not divided by religion (they were both Catholic) and that they often engaged in direct full-scale war.”
The rise of Calvinism in the 1560s has thrown the delicate balance into chaos. Few leading princes had converted to the proscribed creed and had caused a clash with the Lutherans. The Calvinists had upped the ante and resisted the banning of their faith, “and were determined to confessionalise disputes and thereby paralyse the system”.
As with the conflict in the Middle East, the Thirty Year War cannot be characterized as a religious conflict. The polarization was not clearly on confessional lines, and intra-confessional wars had their share of the pervasive conflict. However, religion had colored the threat perception among the warring countries, and faith and geopolitics had interplayed in a very pernicious manner. Similarly, the Middle East in this century has mirrored Europe in the seventeenth century: “the quest for security has become increasingly sectarianised, as it was and is assumed that one will find automatic allies among co-religionists.”
Naturally, one can find similarities and analogies between varieties of conflicts. The question remains how conceptually these conflicts are analogous to warrant the comparison under discussion. The authors found a few structural parallels between Europe in the seventieth century and today’s Middle East.
The authors outline five structural analogies between the two cases. The conflicts then and now tend to be complex and of a variety of types: “state-on-state wars; internal rebellions; civil wars; proxy wars; [and] external interventions in civil wars”. The second parallel is conflict over sovereignty and civil war. Thirdly, the growth of rebellious conflicts into full-fledged wars. Another similarity is great power competition and interventions. Finally, in both situations, no war is declared and wars resulting from the process of state formation.
The authors provide ample examples of such parallels and analogies within these categories. However, the context seems to be glaringly different. For example, one cannot draw a parallel between a secessionist movement in seventeenth-century Bohemia and the rebel forces like ISIS as state-building wars; alternatively, one cannot compare the geopolitical competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran to dynastic squabbles in early modern Europe.
The authors seem to be more well-grounded in European history than Middle Eastern current affairs, which presents a skewed view of the entire comparison. The idea that “Arab–Israeli problem has been less prominent in regional geopolitics,” shows less perspicacity of the current strategic realignment in the region, and flies in the face of the most recent developments. Israel and oil have been the most important strategic concern for the US in the Middle East. Without both Washington would’ve slept better.
Examples of useful lessons from Westphalia for the Middle East abound. A normative consensus had been a fulcrum of the Westphalia Peace. The authors find in religion, culture, language, and legal tradition, without specification, serve as the basis for normative consensus in the Middle Eastern region.
Other lessons that could be drawn from Westphalia are the establishment of trust, inclusivity, the role of diplomacy and negotiations, mediations, security guarantors, and de-sectarianization of the conflict among others.
There is also the question of why Westphalia and not other regional orders! Can one be selective and draw lessons from, say, Concert of Europe, for example. Alternatively, are there other examples from Africa and Asia that one can look at and select bits and pieces that might work for a new Middle Eastern order?
The problem with the Westphalian order for the Middle East is the diachronic comparison. At the time of Westphalia the world system and had not congealed to what is today. Globalization and great powers rivalry has allowed extra-regional powers to play a bigger role, and not always in the interest of the region.
The book, hopefully, would spark a discussion that is very important for a new security structure in the Middle East. One wishes translations of the book in Middle Eastern languages would appear to allow access to a wider audience in the region.
Shaping Palestinian politics: The UAE has a leg up on Turkey
The United Arab Emirates may have the upper hand in its competition with Turkey in efforts to shape Palestinian politics. Similarly, the UAE’s recognition of the Jewish state gives it a leg up in ensuring that its voice is heard in Israel and Washington irrespective of who wins the November US election.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t miss a beat during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, insisting that he, unlike the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, would not accept a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is not endorsed by the Palestinians.
Mr. Erdogan’s solemn pledge may earn him brownie points with large segments of Middle Eastern and Muslim public opinion critical of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the two Gulf states but does not strengthen his weak hand.
The UAE, with whom Mr. Erdogan is at loggerheads over Libya, Syria, and the future of political Islam, may have less clout than it thinks in bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, but has, for now, more cards to play.
What those cards are worth will only emerge over time.
The UAE is betting that a combination of soft power garnered through recognition of Israel and close security, economic and technological cooperation will enable it to convince the Israeli government that an independent Palestinian state is in Israel’s interest.
While there is little reason to believe that the UAE will succeed where others have failed in recent decades, Emirati leaders, in contrast to Turkey, potentially could in cooperation with Israel also try to impose an unpopular Palestinian figure who has close ties to the US, Emirati and Israeli leadership.
The move would be designed to install a leader who would be more conducive to engaging in peace talks on terms that hold out little hope of meeting long-standing Palestinian aspirations.
It is a scenario that 84-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be taking seriously and appears to be trying to pre-empt.
The Democratic Reform Bloc, a political group headed by Mohammed Dahlan, a controversial Abu Dhabi-based former Palestinian security chief believed to be close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE’s de facto ruler, said dozens of his supporters had been arrested or summoned for questioning by Palestinian security forces in recent days.
Mr. Dahlan appeared to be walking a fine line when he recently denied any role in mediating relations between the UAE and Israel.
Mr. Abbas’ suspicions stem from an unsuccessful effort last year by the UAE to engineer a deal in which Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, would share power with Mr. Dahlan.
Mr. Dahlan went into exile in the UAE in 2007 after Hamas defeated his US-backed efforts to thwart the group’s control of Gaza. US President George W. Bush described Mr. Dahlan at the time as “our boy.”
He has since been indicted by Mr. Abbas’ Palestine Authority on corruption charges.
UAE recognition of Israel constituted an acknowledgment that the 18-year old Arab peace plan that offered Israel diplomatic relations in exchange for land and a Palestinian state had produced naught.
In its rivalry with Turkey, whose assertive support for the Palestinian cause has likewise failed to produce results so far, the UAE is banking on the expectation that it has the upper hand in getting not only Israeli but also the attention of Washington that under US President Donald J. Trump has disregarded Palestinian rights.
The UAE assumes that it will be able to capitalize on the fact that Emirati recognition of Israel has further complicated Turkey’s relations with its NATO ally, the United States.
Turkey’s relations with the US are already troubled by US support for Syrian Kurds; Turkish military backing of the Libyan government in Tripoli; tensions between Turkey and Greece, another NATO ally, in the Eastern Mediterranean; and Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-missile defense system.
The Trump administration hopes to finalize by December the sale of F-35 fighter planes to the UAE in the wake of the deal with Israel. Earlier, it cancelled Turkey’s acquisition of the same plane in response to the country’s S-400 deal with Russia.
For now, Turkey can look at appreciation by important segments of Arab and Muslim public opinion as an upside of its strident support for the Palestinians.
Seeking to capitalize on its Palestinian goodwill, Turkey has been attempting to end the rift between Mr. Abbas’ Al Fatah movement and Hamas in a bid to get the Palestinians to agree on elections and the formation of a joint government.
The two groups, agreed during talks in Istanbul this week to work together and hold long overdue elections in the next six months.
The joker in Turkish-Emirati differences over Israel and Palestine is the upcoming US presidential election in November.
Irrespective of who wins, Turkey has lost to the UAE the beneficial mantle of being Israel’s best Muslim friend.
Nonetheless, an electoral victory by Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who is expected to be more critical of arms purchases by the UAE and other Gulf states and take them to task on human rights issues, could put both Turkey and the Emirates on the back foot.
A Biden victory would be for Turkey a lost opportunity. The very issues that are at the core of its strained relations with the UAE are likely to complicate its relations with a Democratic administration.
Recent media reports reminded Mr. Erdogan that Mr. Biden had described him in a conversation with The New York Times early this year as an “autocrat.” The Democratic candidate suggested that the US. should “embolden” his opponents to defeat him in elections.
In the conversation, Mr. Biden mentioned other issues, including the Kurds, Syria, and tension in the Eastern Mediterranean that do not bode well for US-Turkish relations should the Democrat occupy the White House. Mr. Biden is expected to be also critical of the UAE’s interventions in Yemen and Libya.
Nonetheless, the UAE, despite its own issues with the US, is likely to still find itself in a better place in Washington no matter who emerges victorious from the November election.
Arabs-Israeli Peace must be Well-Anchored, not Neatly Fantasized
Watching a few Emirati and Israeli citizens dance in Chabad House, Dubai to celebrate normalization may give the impression that these nations have realized a genuine peace; a false assumption that disregards the facts that the peace treaty between Israel and two Arab Nations is meant to serve Donald Trump in his upcoming presidential election, values the “ground reality” that clearly favors Israel over United Nations resolutions upholding the “land for peace” principle, and advances western politicians’ view that peace can be imposed top-down, seconded by autocratic Arab rulers.
As an Egyptian, I highly value the peace treaty between my country and Israel that was based on regaining occupied Egyptian land, the Sinai Peninsula. The treaty has helped to alter Egyptians’ views of Israel fundamentally; no longer seen as a permanent enemy, Israel is presently perceived as a “cooperative” neighbor that has offered us millions of tourists and a few sound investments – solid pillars for normalization. Meanwhile, the clear majority of Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims continue to sympathize with the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation – a crisis that can only be resolved by pursuing the same path towards peace as that of Egypt.
For years, the United States has been trying to impose a peace treaty between the Arab nations and Israel based on the concept that Arabs should accept Israeli territorial expansion in return for the injection of substantial U.S. funds to boost the Palestinian economy, a proposition strengthened by Israel’s military power and Arab rulers’ injudicious, hasty attitude towards the crisis. Underneath this reality lurks the further empowerment of the political Islamist proposition that places Israel as a permanent enemy, which could easily drag our region into additional, unpredicted violence.
Arabs societies generally appear to lead a “double life”. On the one hand is the reality that 60% are either poor citizens or citizens who are vulnerable to poverty, an unemployment rate of roughly 11%, the lack of basic freedoms and living under autocratic rule; a sad status that has become even more dramatic with the advent of Covid-19. These factors combined intensify Arab youth’s anger and frustration towards their rulers and towards the United States, seen as a solid supporter of those rulers. Obviously, Palestinians living under Israeli occupation rule have an extra challenge to deal with.
On the other hand is the fantasy life constituted of GDP growth and the implementation of a few mega projects that Arab rulers like to exhibit and that western politicians and scholars tend to recognize as a sign of success – completely overlooking the fact that these projects are often awarded to the rulers’ cronies and that the unequal distribution of wealth will keep large portions of Arabs living in poverty for generations to come, making them more vulnerable to violence. Likewise, expanding trade deals between Arab nations and Israel or receiving economic incentives from the United States have proven to benefit only the same cronies.
Moreover, the present rumour that the United States is building a block of Arab nations and Israel meant to potentially engage in a war with Iran is a catastrophic approach. Should it happen, it will thrust the entire region into a state of intense violence and enduring war that could well lead to the collapse of many of the signed treaties. Furthermore, a peace treaty between Israel and two Arab nations, who are not in conflict with Israel, will not help to resolve either the Palestinian crisis or the Iranian conflict – Bahraini and the Emirati citizens will never validate such a treaty, if it is presented to them fairly.
There is a huge difference between a peace treaty concluded between two mature, democratic nations whose respective governments truly represent their citizens, and an agreement that is imposed on nations whose citizens are – to put it mildly – in disharmony with their rulers. Arab citizens, often accused of engaging in violence and declining to peacefully settle with Israel, are in fact caught between two fires: their autocratic rulers, who deliberately offer them undignified living conditions and Islamic extremists, who promise them eternal salvation as a reward for engaging in violence and terrorism.
Permanent Arab-Israeli peace can only be achieved through a bottom-up approach that is designed to last, which entails keeping away from western pragmatism and enforcement, both of no value to this crisis. Israel is continually working to enhance its security, an absolute necessity for its citizens. It needs to offer Palestinians the opportunity to live a dignified life based, first, on regaining their occupied land and establishing a state of their own, followed by advancing their economic status. Offering the later at the expense of the former will keep us in this vicious circle of violence for decades to come.
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