Is Russia trying to replace UN with Sochi talks after the USA tried for years to make UN an integral part of CIA? Not exactly and on the contrarily!
Russia seeks genuine results of Syria talks to end the long war there began as part of Arab Spring.
The claims that the Sochi talks were some kind of a rouge operation to knock the UN talks out of the box were a complete hoax, mainly because Russia was coordinating Sochi with the UN, publicly stating they were no attempt so replace the UN. But the problem with UN is its all efforts to keep the talks going nowhere by constantly demanding pre-conditions.
In fact the UN talks had been bogged down by the Saudi High Negotiation Committee’s (HNC). When the UN is helpless, Sochi was designed to get around that roadblock. Sochi meant against the small group of deal killers like the HNC, that the majority would not be held hostage to their demands.
The opposition’s strategy can clearly be seen as an attempt to stall the political talks to give the US coalition time to crank up some new chaos in Syria to have them die of crib death. But it seems that the Turkish military entry as a part of US invasion of Syria (and larger West Asia perspective) invasion is one finger of that ploy.
Of course, Russia cannot solve all problems in Middle East since USA has planned very meticulously to destabilize the region minus Israel. Thus the whole purpose of Sochi was not to solve all the problems, but get the process jump started and quite visibly so towards finding an end first and then move on to the UN. The concluding twelve point statement was a home run in that regard, and the cherry on top was to move the next step in the process back to Geneva where some of the key issues could be solved.
All this can in no way be claimed as excluding the UN from the process, and the 1600 participants established a large and diverse representation of those wanting to move forward.
Moscow also believes Syrian puzzle cannot be fully resolved without freeing Afghanistan from the clutches of foreign forces and nations that invaded, devastated and destabilized that South Asian nation on the pretext of Sept-11. The critical focus now for a successful resolution to the Syrian crisis is to maintain momentum with the political process.
Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been organizing peace talks for Syria in the Kazakh capital of Astana since January 2017. Together, the three countries have been acting as guarantor states for the peace process. They continue their sincere efforts despite the US-Israeli interferences to disrupt the peace process as they did in Mideast peace process where Israel regulates for disaster the US sponsored bogus talks with the besieged Palestinians. .
Capitalizing on the achievements of Astana, Russia on January 29-30 convened a high-profile meeting on Syria — the Syrian Congress of National Dialog — in Sochi. President Puitn sponsored it.
One Syrian opposition faction, directly controlled by USA, boycotted the meeting, and some non-political groups opposed to Damascus later accused the UN of “rewarding” Russia “upfront” by dispatching Special Envoy de Mistura to the event before securing concessions from Russia and the Syrian government.
West Asia is in the process of geopolitical change and USA is likely to b lose its any importance it thinks it has had in the region. In fact, USA is not welcome in West Asia but America doesn’t want to let Russia occupy its space in the region. Russia and Iran are Syrian government allies and USA opposes them.
In fact, Saudi’s now “alliance” with Israel is only a tactic move to isolate Iran in the region which looks impossible mainly because Tehran has already gone board with its sectarian policy arming and promoting the Shiia forces. As USA and Israel continue to target Islam and promote its divisions, the sectarian attitudes cannot simply vanish from the scene all together.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who also took part in Sochi dialogue, has rejected criticism of the world body’s participation at Syrian peace talks in the Russian resort city of Sochi, praising the outcome of the discussions. Speaking at a press conference at the UN headquarters New York, Guterres said the presence of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Misturain in Sochi was based on a common understanding between the UN and the Russian Federation on the nature and outcome of the meeting and its contribution to the UN-mediated Geneva process.
Absentees and disagreements
With the USA having proven to be a fake mediator in regional conflicts, Russia has taken the lead. The Sochi summit revealed the impotence of Russia as the main arbiter of the Syrian conflict. The Turk-Russian alliance that led the Astana process did not complement Geneva but in a way was aimed to replace it.
With Russia that has become a formidable rival to the USA in the Syrian theater, with Turkey outraged by Washington’s support for the adversarial Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), and with Iran seen as a hostile element by the Trump regime, Geneva is becoming increasingly irrelevant to resolving the Syrian conflict.
Before the Sochi conclave, Russian President Putin had a telephonic conversation with the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The leaders stressed the importance of implementing the reached agreements aimed at the effective promotion of the Syrian political settlement process on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. Putin and Erdogan also discussed Russia-Turkey coordination to ensure stable operation of de-escalation zones in Syria and interaction in the Astana format.
There have been disagreements among the participants of the summit as well. For example, 83 delegates from the Syrian opposition unexpectedly refused to sit down for talks under the official Syrian flag. They kept 1,511 other participants waiting for several hours on Jan. 30 and finally boarded the plane and flew back to Turkey.
The Syrian Kurds, outraged by Turkey’s Afrin operation, boycotted the meeting. Not only was the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) absent from Sochi, but also absent was its main rival, the Kurdish National Council — a pro-Massoud Barzani alliance recognized by Turkey. More interestingly, Abdel Basset Sieda, the former chairman of the Syrian National Council that Turkey formed and supported, not only refused to go to Sochi but also resigned from the Turkey-backed Syrian group. In sum, there was no real Syrian Kurdish representation in Sochi. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls a sizable swath of Syrian territory, was not in Sochi either.
The opening ceremony has been untypically chaotic for a meeting organized by Russia. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech was interrupted several times by members of the audience shouting slogans. Thus, the Sochi meeting was crippled from the very beginning because of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin and the alienation of the Kurds.
Nonetheless, Russia pushed forward — at the end of deliberations, a communique that the Russian media titled “Syrian Congress in Sochi brings war-torn country closer to constitutional reform” was adopted.
UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which envisaged a “Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition in order to end the conflict in Syria,” is to be realized in 18 months, but is long overdue. Indeed, the last part of the Sochi communique was a display of this helplessness. The communique said: “We agreed to form a constitutional committee comprising the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic delegation along with a wide-represented opposition delegation for the drafting of a constitutional reform as a contribution to the political settlement under the UN auspices in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254. … We appeal to the UN secretary-general to assign the Special Envoy for Syria for the assistance of the Constitutional Committee work in Geneva”.
If Turkey’s Afrin operation drags on with high civilian casualties that can’t be concealed from the attention of the international public for long, the endorsement of Ankara could turn out to be a liability rather than an asset for those actors in the Syrian theater. “We continue to monitor the developments in northern Syria, which are a matter of grave concern,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, in an apparent change of tone that might be an indication of Russia’s position shift.
Sochi, by the last paragraphs of its communique, passes the ball to Geneva and implicitly declares the limitations of Russia in Syria. Indeed, Turkey, seeking genuine peace n the region, was quick to endorse the outcome of Sochi and link it to Geneva. In fact, Turkey has acted in a constructive manner about the Russian Federation’s Syrian National Dialogue Congress initiative from the beginning.
Observation: light the other end of tunnel?
The Sochi summit, ignored by USA and Israel that took place at the end of January, was designed to underline the successful achievements of Russia’s involvement in Syria and to consolidate the partnership among Russia, Turkey and Iran. However, the summit revealed the limitations of Russia’s Syria policy instead of Moscow’s growing influence across the Middle East.
The Sochi conference took place just days after the ninth round of UN-led Syria talks failed to achieve tangible results. That round was exceptionally held in the Austrian capital, Vienna, instead of its usual venue of Geneva. Around 1,600 delegates representing a wide range of Syrian political factions attended the Sochi talks. The event was boycotted by the High Negotiations Committee, which is based in and guided by Saudi Arabia.
The most important outcome of the congress was the call for the establishment of a Constitutional Committee and the selection of a pool of 150 candidates for this committee. The Turkish delegation, which was given the mandate to represent opposition groups that didn’t attend the congress, submitted a list of 50 candidates in consultation with the opposition.
The establishment process of the Constitutional Committee will be closely monitored by Turkey as the guarantor of the opposition.” Having decided on forming a constitutional committee comprising the regime in Damascus and an undefined but widely represented opposition delegation is only going back to square one: Geneva.
Syria welcomed the results of the event and stressed that its final statement affirmed that political progress in Syria cannot begin except under the Syrian leadership and without any foreign interference.
Turkey, seeking to remove Assad, is an ally of the Syrian opposition led by USA and backed by Israel. The collective efforts of the three countries – Russia, Turkey and Iran have significantly reduced fighting in Syria, have made an impact on the ground in the Arab country.
Thanks to its control over the Syrian opposition, Turkey definitely will have leverage in shaping the future steps of the resolution process. However, its military operation in Afrin and its ever-widening chasm with Washington are making Ankara more reliant on Moscow. The latest standoff in Idlib revealed this. The Idlib rift also implies how difficult it would be for Moscow to reconcile the differences among its partners in Syria.
While there is no visible opposition protests worldwide to US intervention in Syria- the real cause of war in Syria and West Asia- criticism is leveled against Turkish intervention in Syria to target the Kurds. That is to say USA and Israel can do any devilish nonsense and cause more serious problems, but Turkey cannot do that. US-Israeli fascist duo arranges protests against Turkey.
In contrast, a peace process held under the auspices of the UN — that in Geneva — has achieved little and hence the importance of Sochi. That has angered some Western and Arab governments opposed to the Syrian government and some groups of Syrian opposition backed by those governments. They insist that the Geneva process be given more importance despite its failure so far to make meaningful achievements.
Saudi Arabia, like Israel and USA, thinks it owns and controls the region and does not take any interest in solving the regional problems and it does not allow any other power to try that.
Guterres appreciated Russia’s engagement with the UN regarding the Syria talks. He highlighted the key subjects of the 12-point final Sochi statement, saying that the document embraced a vision of Syria for all its citizens and underlined the need for the formation of a Constitutional Committee under UN auspices.
Syria is likely to return to normalcy without or with Assad in power that, in order for his own survival, got thousands killed by the invading foreign forces, by the Opposition forces and by his own forces. Unlike President Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, Sunni leaders whom USA murdered mercilessly, Assad is lucky to survive the US led attacks mainly because the CIA does not target his life but destabilization of Syria.
Meanwhile, President Putin is getting ready for the March elections, and Erdogan could call for early elections this coming summer. The partnership between the two men and the seemingly converging interests of the two countries constitute a strong connection to the domestic political calculations of both strongmen. Iran stands to benefit from both.
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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