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Quo Vadis to Jerusalem? Taking the Road Pointed out by Trump?

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On December 6 Trump came up with a sensational program speech that became one of the most significant political events of the passing year. He stated that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the USA is moving its embassy there.

Trump’s assurances that the decision will bring peace to the 70-year-glittering Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and that Jerusalem will increasingly prosper as the democratic center of three religions has caused a genuine storm throughout the region.

The UN Security Council special session, with just one vote for, voted against that decision. Foreign Ministers of the Arab League States (ALS) assembled in Cairo demanding Israel to liberate the lands occupied from Palestinians and Arabs in 1967. The resolution, however, was snippy. Arabs proved once more to be unable to act jointly under a force majeure conditions.

Besides, the situation has changed. Vast majority of Palestinians don’t want to fight and suffice with simply crowded demonstrations, setting tires and Trump’s pictures to fire. As to the Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas’s accusations addressed to Trump that “he opened gates of hell” and other threats, they are nothing more than rhetoric aphorisms.

The thing is that the militant Palestinian group Hamas is losing its sponsors. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is not just unwilling to fight Israel, moreover, it is reconciling with the latter against Iran. Egypt is not pleased with the third intifada, either. However, the biggest loss for Hamas is abstraction by Iran. Tehran’s cooling attitude towards the movement is explained by the latter’s flirt with Iran’s enemy Gulf countries and, namely, with Riyadh. The Sassanids never forget such things and never do they forgive.

As to Europe, it doesn’t welcome military actions of Hamas, either. France and other countries did criticize Trump’s decision, however, they are sick and tired of terror acts so that they will defend only Palestinians’ soft power actions, and that’s all.

On the background of these political developments, as to be expected, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears on the stage. He appears to play a diplomatic farce, behind which his pink ambitions are outlined: to become the leader of the Great Middle East. Or perhaps a new caliph and then the leader of the third world? Who knows?

Erdoğan is trying to fasten Russia to his plans. (When Erdoğan lavishes “спасибо” (thanks) in Putin’s address and boasts his friendship, Yerevan of the 1960s come to one’s mind when during street fights the parties invited people with “certain authority” to make a psychological influence on the rivals and to win in case of a fight. That practice was called “to get guys”.)

Making a speech in Istanbul, at the special summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) formed at his initiative, Erdoğan puts Israel and the USA to pillroy for “violating international law”, pressing and terrorizing the Palestinian people. Then Erdoğan demands Jerusalem to be granted the status of Palestine’s capital, absolutely “forgetting” that it is actually a violation of international law and UN resolutions.

Two days later, moving further forward he states, “We have already declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.” “… Soon Turkey is going to open its embassy in Jerusalem.” This was the last nail hammered by Ankara into the coffin of its relations with Israel.

And when during the Istanbul Endspiel Erdoğan snaps his fingers at Washington he reminds of the famous little character from Krylov’s fable who “raises a great rumpus” at the elephant. (I. A. Krylov, Elephant and Pug.)

Indeed, some really interesting scenes were played in Istanbul where Aliyev’s diplomatic salto mortale stands out when, being one of Israel’s closest partners, he appeared in the vanguard of those denouncing the latter. (I would give much just miraculously to be present at Netanyahu-Aliyev encounter and to see the latter’s expression at that moment.)

… Coming back to trump’s statement, it should be noted that some experts assume his decision was the result of lack of the President’s political experience, his impulsive and indiscriminate temperament which borders on adventurism, emotional outbursts and affection, and so on.

Not contesting such an analysis of the American President’s moral features, it should be noted that the comments on his decision are simplistic and encompass neither deep political motives of the issue at stake, nor core strategic aspects of American diplomacy.

Donald Trump’s decision is actually a well-balanced program deliberated over and approved by Washington brain centers.

Let us try to view the issue from two positions.

Internal politics

After presidential elections US President’s position and rating began to fall catastrophically because of objective and subjective reasons threatening with an impeachment and making him take up urgent steps.

Thus, the main target of Trump’s “Jerusalem game” was aimed at pleasing the large Orthodox Jewish-American Republican electorate for whom seeing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an “idée fixe”, an absolute religious category. Trump had promised them to make that “donation” and kept his promise which found a positive response in various layers of the American society. (Whenever the country’s president keeps a pre-election promise is highly appreciated.)

Foreign politics

In this field Trump is also trying to keep his pre-electoral promise: “America first”. It must be noted that by the end of the Syrian Odyssey Russia, headed by Putin, assumes a dominant role. Meanwhile Washington is losing its position and influence in the Arab world. It is not fond of the behavior of the alliance Russia-Turkey-Iran so much that the White House seems even not to notice certain serious disagreements within this alliance. It is most important under these conditions to push Moscow aside. Having that in mind Trump visited Saudi Arabia in May and, to the music of “al-arda (traditional male-only) sword dance”, created a “mini” or “Arabic” NATO aimed against Iran. That didn’t work. Currently a new game is being played on the big Middle East chess board planned by the USA, with new pieces, new combinations. Trump’s December statement was preceded by the royal coup according to the scenario of his son-in-law and advisor Kushner, developed at Israeli think-tanks and Mossad bunkers. Result? A new, incredible union is born that analysts couldn’t even imagine in the pre-Trump period. It is the Saudi Arabia-Israel military-political alliance whose aim is to augment geopolitical position of Washington and Israel and to realize their plans, namely struggle against Iran in the Middle East. Time will show how successful it is.

Conclusion

  1. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy there has insulated new additional tensions throughout the region thus creating a new situation in global processes and promoting reorganization of balance of power.
  2. Unless, owing to some or other circumstances and variations in the political situation, the US relinquishes the idea to move its embassy to Jerusalem other states will follow the suit in due time. That scenario is not very likely in case of Arab countries. Only Jordan and Egypt have diplomatic relations with Israel, but even they will abstain until the issue is resolved.
  3. Trump’s decision has driven Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations into a deadlock, which will hardly be broken shortly.
  4. The first reaction of Arab countries in response to Washington’s move didn’t receive a wide coverage and development, didn’t turn into a mass anti-American campaign, and didn’t become a Bickford’s cord connecting countries. So, it is likely that the volatile situation will gradually calm down. However, there is high probability of terror acts in all core countries, specifically after bringing large-scale military actions in Syria to an end, although the key radical Islamist force – Daesh – has notably weakened.
  5. Israel-Iran confrontation will not turn into a war affair. But clashes between the Saudi Arabia-Israel alliance and Hezbollah shouldn’t be discounted that can be disastrous for Lebanon and local Armenian community.
  6. The alterations in the situation around Israel can’t become an obstacle in the process of regulating and developing Armenian-Israeli relations begun earlier this year (perhaps at the approval of Moscow and Washington).
  7. On the contrary, within defining the status of Jerusalem and its borders, it is vital to take speedy and urgent measures at the level of the RA Government, the MFA, worldwide Diaspora (if possible, also the Pope) to secure the physical safety of our fellow countrymen in Israel, as well as inviolability of the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem founded in the first century, churches and other historical-cultural treasures.
  8. Azerbaijan’s active involvement in the anti-Israeli policy should be broadly manipulated through all pan-Armenian state and non-state means to drive a wedge in the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations and to discredit the Azerbaijani administration throughout the Christian world.
  9. Recently Israeli parties Yesh Atid and Meretz are going to submit to Knesset the proposal to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The circle of this process can widen. Nevertheless, at this point it would be unwise to condition regulation of Armenian-Israeli relations by the recognition of the Genocide. Besides, we should be weary that Israel doesn’t make it into ”a bargaining chip” in its relations with Turkey.
  10. Exchange of embassies is the main element of normalizing relations. It is possible that the Israeli side might put forward before Yerevan a condition – to open the embassy in Jerusalem; in that case the Armenian side could offer to open the embassy of Israel residing in Yerevan. This is a common practice in diplomatic relations and can’t hamper the activities of an embassy, unless, of course, it is staffed with professional diplomats.
  11. The RA voted in favor of the UN resolution condemning the US decision at the General Assembly. We believe it would have been preferable for Armenia to abstain or not to take part in the vote for the following reasons: a) the position of the Armenian side will not promote any progress in the Armenian-Israeli relations in stagnation for more than quarter of a century; b) rejection of the decision doesn’t guarantee that from now on Arab-Muslim countries will change their anti-Armenian position in international relations, taking into account the decisive role played in their policy by Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan plus Saudi Arabia that have not recognized Armenia so far; c) the noticeable progress in the Armenian-American relations under current Washington administration falls under doubt; d) it seems improbable that the Armenian issues in Jerusalem will find a positive, for us, solution within the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as they have come to a stalemate amid current political chaos.

As to the UN General Assembly resolutions, they are not legally binding, thus often remain a voice crying in the wilderness.

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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Iran unveils new negotiation strategy

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Image source: Tehran Times

While the West is pressuring Iran for a return to the Vienna nuclear talks, the top Iranian diplomat unveiled a new strategy on the talks that could reset the whole negotiation process. 

The Iranian parliament held a closed meeting on Sunday at which Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian briefed the lawmakers on a variety of pressing issues including the situation around the stalled nuclear talks between Iran and world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Iranian foreign ministry didn’t give any details about the session, but some lawmakers offered an important glimpse into the assessment Abdollahian gave to the parliament.

According to these lawmakers, the Iranian foreign ministry addressed many issues ranging from tensions with Azerbaijan to the latest developments in Iranian-Western relations especially with regard to the JCPOA. 

On Azerbaijan, Abdollahian has warned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev against falling into the trap set by Israel, according to Alireza Salimi, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s presiding board who attended the meeting. Salimi also said that the Iranian foreign minister urged Aliyev to not implicate himself in the “Americans’ complexed scheme.”

In addition to Azerbaijan, Abdollahian also addressed the current state of play between Iran and the West regarding the JCPOA.

“Regarding the nuclear talks, the foreign minister explicitly stated that the policy of the Islamic Republic is action for action, and that the Americans must show goodwill and honesty,” Salimi told Fars News on Sunday.

The remarks were in line with Iran’s oft-repeated stance on the JCPOA negotiations. What’s new is that the foreign minister determined Iran’s agenda for talks after they resume. 

Salimi quoted Abdollahian as underlining that the United States “must certainly take serious action before the negotiations.”

In addition, the Iranian foreign minister said that Tehran intends to negotiate over what happened since former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA, not other issues. 

By expanding the scope of negotiations, Abdollahian is highly likely to strike a raw nerve in the West. His emphasis on the need to address the developments ensuing the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 could signal that the new government of President Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi is not going to pick up where the previous government left. 

This has been a major concern in European diplomatic circles in the wake of the change of administrations in Iran. In fact, the Europeans and the Biden administration have been, and continue to be, worried about two things in the aftermath of Ayatollah Raisi taking the reins in Tehran; one is he refusing to accept the progress made during six rounds of talks under his predecessor Hassan Rouhani. Second, the possibility that the new government of Ayatollah Raisi would refuse to return to Vienna within a certain period of time. 

With Abdollahian speaking of negotiation over developments since Trump’s withdrawal, it seems that the Europeans will have to pray that their concerns would not come true. 

Of course, the Iranian foreign ministry has not yet announced that how it would deal with a resumed negotiation. But the European are obviously concerned. Before his recent visit to Tehran to encourage it into returning to Vienna, Deputy Director of the EU Action Service Enrique Mora underlined the need to prick up talks where they left in June, when the last round of nuclear talks was concluded with no agreement. 

“Travelling to Tehran where I will meet my counterpart at a critical point in time. As coordinator of the JCPOA, I will raise the urgency to resume #JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work,” Mora said on Twitter. 

Mora failed to obtain a solid commitment from his interlocutors in Tehran on a specific date to resume the Vienna talk, though Iran told him that it will continue talks with the European Union in the next two weeks. 

Source: Tehran Times

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Shaping US Middle East policy amidst failing states, failed democratization and increased activism

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The future of US engagement in the Middle East hangs in the balance.

Two decades of forever war in Afghanistan and continued military engagement in Iraq and elsewhere in the region have prompted debate about what constitutes a US interest in the Middle East. China, and to a lesser degree Russia, loom large in the debate as America’s foremost strategic and geopolitical challenges.

Questions about US interests have also sparked discussion about whether the United States can best achieve its objectives by continued focus on security and military options or whether a greater emphasis on political, diplomatic, economic, and civil society tools may be a more productive approach.

The debate is coloured by a pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other. President Joe Biden has disavowed the notion of nation-building that increasingly framed the United States’ post-9/11 intervention in Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that the top-down nation-building approach in Afghanistan was not the way to go about things. It rested on policymaking that was informed by misleading and deceitful reporting by US military and political authorities and enabled a corrupt environment for both Afghans and Americans.

The lesson from Afghanistan may be that nation-building (to use a term that has become tainted for lack of a better word) has to be a process that is owned by the beneficiaries themselves while supported by external players from afar.

Potentially adopting that posture could help the Biden administration narrow the gap between its human rights rhetoric and its hard-nosed, less values-driven definition of US interests and foreign policy.

A cursory glance at recent headlines tells a tale of failed governance and policies, hollowed-out democracies that were fragile to begin with, legitimisation of brutality, fabrics of society being ripped apart, and an international community that grapples with how to pick up the pieces.

Boiled down to its essence, the story is the same whether it’s how to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan without recognising or empowering the Taliban or efforts to halt Lebanon’s economic and social collapse and descent into renewed chaos and civil war without throwing a lifeline to a discredited and corrupt elite.

Attempts to tackle immediate problems in Lebanon and Afghanistan by working through NGOs might be a viable bottom-up approach to the discredited top-down method.

If successful, it could provide a way of strengthening the voice of recent mass protests in Lebanon and Iraq that transcended the sectarianism that underlies their failed and flawed political structures. It would also give them ownership of efforts to build more open, pluralistic, and cohesive societies, a demand that framed the protests. Finally, it could also allow democracy to regain ground lost by failing to provide tangible progress.

This week’s sectarian fighting along the Green Line that separated Christian East from the Muslim West in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war highlighted the risk of those voices being drowned out.

Yet, they reverberated loud and clear in the results of recent Iraqi parliamentary elections, even if a majority of eligible voters refrained from going to the polls.

We never got the democracy we were promised, and were instead left with a grossly incompetent, highly corrupt and hyper-violent monster masquerading as a democracy and traumatising a generation,” commented Iraqi Middle East counterterrorism and security scholar Tallha Abdulrazaq who voted only once in his life in Iraq. That was in the first election held in 2005 after the 2003 US invasion. “I have not voted in another Iraqi election since.”

Mr. Abdulrazaq’s disappointment is part and parcel of the larger issues of nation-building, democracy promotion and provision of humanitarian aid that inevitably will shape the future US role in the Middle East in a world that is likely to be bi-or multi-polar.

Former US National Security Council and State Department official Martin Indyk argued in a recent essay adapted from a forthcoming book on Henry Kissinger’s Middle East diplomacy that the US policy should aim “to shape an American-supported regional order in which the United States is no longer the dominant player, even as it remains the most influential.”

Mr. Indyk reasoned that support for Israel and America’s Sunni Arab allies would be at the core of that policy. While in a world of realpolitik the United States may have few alternatives, the question is how alignment with autocracies and illiberal democracies would enable the United States to support a bottom-up process of social and political transition that goes beyond lip service.

That question is particularly relevant given that the Middle East is entering its second decade of defiance and dissent that demands answers to grievances that were not expressed in Mr. Kissinger’s time, at least not forcefully.

Mr. Kissinger was focused on regional balances of power and the legitimisation of a US-dominated order. “It was order, not peace, that Kissinger pursued because he believed that peace was neither an achievable nor even a desirable objective in the Middle East,” Mr. Indyk said, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Indyk noted that in Mr. Kissinger’s mind the rules of a US-dominated order “would be respected only if they provided a sufficient sense of justice to a sufficient number of states. It did not require the satisfaction of all grievances… ‘just an absence of the grievances that would motivate an effort to overthrow the order’.”

The popular Arab revolts of 2011 that toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen, even if their achievements were subsequently rolled back, and the mass protests of 2019 and 2020 that forced leaders of Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon to resign, but failed to fundamentally alter political and economic structures, are evidence that there is today a will to overthrow the order.

In his essay, Mr. Indyk acknowledges the fact that “across the region, people are crying out for accountable governments” but argues that “the United States cannot hope to meet those demands” even if “it cannot ignore them, either.”

Mr. Indyk may be right. Yet, the United States, with Middle East policy at an inflexion point, cannot ignore the fact that the failure to address popular grievances contributed significantly to the rise of violent Islamic militancy and ever more repressive and illiberal states in a region with a significant youth bulge that is no longer willing to remain passive and /or silent.

Pointing to the 600 Iraqi protesters that have been killed by security forces and pro-Iranian militias, Mr. Abdulrazaq noted in an earlier Al Jazeera op-ed that protesters were “adopting novel means of keeping their identities away from the prying eyes of security forces and powerful Shia militias” such as blockchain technology and decentralised virtual private networks.

“Unless they shoot down…internet-providing satellites, they will never be able to silence our hopes for democracy and accountability again. That is our dream,” Mr. Abdulrazzaq quoted Srinivas Baride, the chief technology officer of a decentralised virtual network favoured by Iraqi protesters, as saying.

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