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A new international Conference on Libya

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The current situation in Libya is far from simple.

 In April 2019, Khalifa Haftar received from the new Russian envoy, Lev Dengov, the polite order not to reach Tripoli, which – however – is already surrounded from the South by the forces of the Benghazi General.

 The conquest of Tripoli would not be the beginning of the unification of the two parts of the old unitary Libya of Gaddafi (and of Italo Balbo, who delayed – as much as possible – the implementation of racial laws in the Tripoli Governorate).

 Tripoli’s Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Al-Sarraj, is still the only one recognized by the UN and it has already budgeted 2 billion dinars, equivalent to 1.43 billion US dollars, to fund the war against Benghazi for the renewed control of the capital city by the GNA forces.

 Funds to be provided without resorting to foreign loans, as Tripoli made it clear.

 The funding for Tripoli’s government stemsabove all from the oil sale – currently 928,000 barrels a day – with 1.87 billion US dollars of net revenue, according to the latest data of April 2019.

 Furthermore, Al-Sarraj acquires other funds from zero-interest loans from local banks to the Central Bankand finally from a 183% tax on foreign transactions made at official rates, namely 1.4 dinars on the US dollar.

 The centralized collection of taxes, however, is decreasing ever more every day, even in the oil sector, and the leaders of the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) constantly complain about thefts and numerous unlawful acts.

 As Hobbes used to say, if there is no fear, the “universal and legitimate condition of equality between men”, the clash between individuals leads to mutual aggression and results in bellum omnium contra omnes.

 Hence the need for a pact between “subjects” that puts an end to the war of everybody against everybody else.

 Indeed, we must apply Hobbes’ thinking to Libya.

 As well as Machiavelli’s, when he reminds us that “ruling means to make people believe” and that “there is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of others”. Hence we need to immediately find a Libyan leader who – unlike Gaddafi, who discovered the Italian intelligence services in a meeting in Abano Terme – can reunite the country by “taking advantage of the beast and the man”, just to put it again in Machiavelli’s words.

 This is the law of every “failed State”, due to the implosion of its central authority, which generates a crisis of confidence among all participants in the imaginative and yet real agreement to end the war of everybody against everybody else – which is exactly what is happening in Libya.

 The unitary Libyan State failed not for its territorial extension, but for its lack – or illegitimacy for its subjects – of recourse to the use of force. In Gaddafi’s case, the use of force was materially prevented by Westerners, who wanted to get rid of him, after having squeezed him like a lemon of the many trees in Tripoli’s promenade.

 As clearly stated in the Resolutions of the UN Security Council, however, General Haftar cannot sell the oil extracted from the territory under his control – although some trafficking has already taken place.

  As the Security Council itself has recently decided, these Resolutions will be extended until 2020, albeit with the abstention of Russia and China.

 General Haftar failed to conquer Tripoli, but instead hired a US political lobbying firm, Linden Government Solutions, for as many as 120,000 US dollars.

 The firm has already spoken to President Trump, who is very careful about this type of advisory services.

 General Haftar had already drafted an advisory contract with a Montreal-based consulting firm, Dickens & Madison, led by Ari Ben Menashe, a former Israeli military intelligence officer.

 Hence, considering that General Haftar cannot use his oil proceeds on his own, he must operate with an account opened with the Central Bank of Libya long time ago, but both NOC and the Central Bank are obviously linked to  Al-Sarraj’s government.

 General Haftar’s attempts to sell oil on his own were partly blocked directly by the United States.

 The conquest – albeit temporary – of the Fezzan tribes by Tobruk’s General and his rapid advance towards the areas of Al-Sarraj’s government were funded mainly by the dinars printed in Russia.

 As is well-known, the Central Bank in Al-Bayda, namely General Haftar’s monetary entity of reference, split from the Central Bank of Tripoli in 2014.

  As stated by Governor Al-Hibri, currently reserves amount to 800 million dinars, 60 million euros and 80 million US dollars.

 The dinars printed in Russia – those with Muammar al- Gaddafi’s profile – even with the consent of the House of Representatives- amounted to 9.7 billion over a period of three years.

 They amounted to 4 billion in 2016, 4 in 2017 and 1.7 in 2018.

For General Haftar, this money is mainly used to buy the Southern tribes and the mercenaries, from various parts of Africa and the Arab world, they use to fight GNA.

 On Al-Sarraj side, however, the resources are equally drained by the need to pay his own mercenaries, who act both as internal security forces and as military groups against General Haftar.

 Al-Bayda’s Libyan East sold its government bonds for a total amount of 35 billion dinars, but outside the official financial channels, considering that the Bank of Tripoli funds – in the East – only the wage bill of those who were civil servants before 2014.

 Conversely, the Tripoli government spends an annual amount of 48.6 billion dinars, especially for the public sector’s wages and the subsidies for gasoline purchase.

 The debt-to-GDP ratio of the GNA government in Tripoli is equal to 143%, with 70% of public spending going exactly on wages and salaries.

 With specific reference to the two Libyan Central Banks, it should also be recalled that the establishment of the Central Bank in Al-Bayda in 2014 caused the interruption of the automatic clearing system with the Central Bank of Tripoli, namely the Real Time Gross Settlement. Later, apart from a few money transfers from Tripoli, in the East they sustained themselves by simply printing banknotes – as in the Weimar Republic -to the tune of 7 billion US dollars, equivalent to 10 billion dinars.

 Does the global oil market need a producer like Libya undergoing an uncontrollable inflationary crisis? What would happen to OPEC and the other oil producers?

 Hence the need for a Dawes-style plan, like the one for Weimar’s Germany, rescuing us from the Libyan contagion. How? Taking the formal value of wells into account? Calculating the nominal value of current or future concessions and licenses?

 Certainly we could not draw up a budget by calculating the value of locomotives, as Dawes did for Weimar’s Germany.

 The debt allocated in securities by the East-Libyan government, issued between 2015 and 2018, is currently worth 35 billion dinars, equivalent to 25 billion US dollars- a50% of which is still used to fund General Haftar’s forces.

 Since 2017 the Tripoli government’s revenue deficit, concerning above all the fall in oil price and extraction, has reached approximately 15 billion US dollars a year.

 Hence, considering expenses and lost revenue, currently the Tripoli government’s deficit is supposed to be 62 billion dinars, equivalent to 44 billion US dollars.

 The Libyan East, however, signs checks from standard current accounts for its employees, that are changed and paid by the private banks where the employees have their own accounts.

 Hence a system has been created parallel to the RTGS system, which applies to the official relations with Tripoli, and another one, which links the Benghazi-Tobruk government to all the Libyan private banks, including those in the West.

 Hence the banks held their first guarantee system with the Central Bank of Tripoli and accumulated reserves and credits to support the operations ordered by the Central Bank in Al-Bayda.

 The problem lies in the fact that the international financial institutions recognize Tripoli’s debt, but not Al-Bayda’s.

 Currently commercial banks have 21 billion dinars of credits with East Benghazi banks, equivalent to 15 billion US dollars. This obviously leads to the fall in deposits.

 In mid-March 2019, bank deposits in the Central Bank of  Tripoli ranged between one and two billion dinars, but in the East they amounted to six billion.

 A trade war disguised as a banking war.

 This is certainly one of the reasons underlying the acceleration of war throughout Libya.

  No defense and no advance can be maintained with these internal economies.

 Nevertheless, if Haftar or Al-Sarraj fall, the funding of the two wars will take place completely “off the books”, as is still the case for the support of the jihad.

 The latest polls show that 37% of Libyans want safety and security, in particular.

 Whoever guarantees to put an end to the bloodshed in the streets wins the hearts of all Libyans. As would happen everywhere.

 “Forgiveness” and “justice”, which are certainly not synonymous, rank second for Libyans (25%). This is a sign that, however, the sectarian tension and the war between factions have reached their psychological limit, which is also a limit to everyday recruitment and political bias and partisanship.

 “Restorative” justice, in a context like the Libyan one, is favoured compared to “criminal or punitive justice”.

In other words, both in the East and in the West, the Libyan people want the return of what has been removed, the restitution of property – maybe even incomplete –  in exchange for the undeterred, undaunted and useless continuation of the clash, or the dream of future reintegration at the end of the fight.

  A metaphysical term, which is not used by chance.

 40% of the Libyans interviewed by various Western research centers – and we consider a weighted average of data – answered that all belligerents should be forgiven, even those who perpetrated crimes. Clearly people cannot stand it anymore.

 Libya and the Libyan people only want to live in peace, at last.

 50% of the Libyans interviewed by Western research centers think that the Libyan diaspora should play a role in the peace process, while 43% do not believe so.

 Said 43% do not want all those who made money in a “grey” way and ran away in time to still operate in Libya.

 Nevertheless, there is still a vast Libyan diaspora of intellectuals, technicians, professionals, entrepreneurs and  traders, who will inevitably be called back to their duties, when there is a credible peace project.

 The pacification process must be led by Libyans, in a new national government and with the planned support of the powers interested in the stabilization (and unification) of Libya.

 The splitting of Libya is just a silly memory of the peripheral vilayet(district) of the Ottoman Empire.

 Certainly, as some agencies supporting populations at war or in a period of serious political crisis suggest, it will also be necessary to create new nation-binding initiatives between the various Libyan groups – possibly non-artificial – so as to eliminate the animosity, tension and hatred, which have naturally spread.

 But “hate is a tiring exercise”, as Jean Rostand used to say.

 Moreover, there will be the need for a reparation mechanism, organized by a Trust including European and Middle East banks appointed by their governments among the warring factions.

 Paying means reigning, as Madame De Girardin maintained.

 Hence stopping immediately – or in a reasonably short lapse of time – the endless discussions on the damage caused to shops, or even on the children murdered, or possibly on the unlawful damages received by banks.

 Forgiving them their debts will be essential for genuine peace to materialize, without the anger and resentment of those who are or believe to have been damaged.

 This is the reason why a Trust would be needed, funded  with a share on the price of oil sold by Libya, plus a friendly, gracious and obviously anonymous contribution from the Libyan diaspora.

 Clearly, women and young people shall be involved in a process of national reconstruction very similar to Gaddafi’s old “committees”.

 The tradition of Gaddafism is still strong. Women are not excluded from social processes and civic participation, not even in areas with a very strong presence of radical Islamism.

 Furthermore, neither of the two governments is fully trusted by Libyans: 63% of them reject Tripoli’s GNA and 71% reject Tobruk’s government.

 The Libyans interviewed by the international organizations perceive the local units – that are parties to the conflict in all respects – as completely unreliable: only 28% of Libyans deem them effective.

 Therefore, it will obviously be necessary to re-establish the local units, in agreement (only) with the Libyan central government, but with a different territorial design, avoiding tribal or sectarian localization and allowing the administrations’ military and social control.

 Libya is large and the desire to still play the game of localist secession can be strong, especially in the presence of strong “natural” sources of income: oil, minerals, even water.

 Hence a Parliament shall be created – albeit not similar to European national Parliaments, but rather a large Assembly appointed by the tribes, in their own ways (obviously, it is useless to democratize Fezzan) -as well as a national government, answerable both to the Assembly of the tribes, that cannot be eliminated, and to an elective assembly according to the  traditional Western representation criteria.

 The government shall have the vote of both bodies.

 Rationally-designed areas of influence shall be created, with a view to resolving the OPEC Sunni countries’ struggle for Libyan oil, which emerged immediately after the silly war to bring “democracy” to Libya and to assassinate the “tyrant”, who was supported by all EU countries.

 Needless to send Turkey away from the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar from Al-Sarraj’s GNA region.

 We will never make it. The West is an old arthritic.

It will be a matter of regulating – by means of an international treaty – the relations of Turkey with Libya, as well as of Egypt, which has direct interests in Cyrenaica, or of Saudi Arabia or even France, which is now useless, considering the diplomatic relations broken off with Al-Sarraj and the friendly request to General Haftar to stop the Libyan National Army’s attack on Tripoli. The classic end of the too sly people or countries.

 It will also be necessary for the United States, the European States, namely all the EU Member States, Great Britain and even Israel, to participate in the Libyan reconstruction, which will certainly be a long process.

 Israel could guarantee remote security and the Libyan oil market’s future integration with the Lebanon-Cyprus-Turkey axis, which will be among the most important ones in the future.

 A bank trust, an ad hoc agency, will ensure the sale of unitary Libya’s debt securities – with the set limits and some guarantees – by absorbing part of those still in circulation and possibly creating an international sales desk.

 The Armed Forces will be rebuilt with the typical national criteria, but with a chain of command in which the Clausewitzian power of the political leader with respect to the military hierarchy will be very clear. There should also be a clear and innovative funding for the struggle against the illegal trafficking of migrants, starting from Fezzan and spreading to the other regions. All European countries will pay for it and will be very happy to do so.

 We still need a great guardian in North Africa, but we also need to show that the Western madness of the “Arab springs” has been put to an end, thus stabilizing the other governments and starting to invest throughout North Africa, with the guarantees of a stable local government.

 Otherwise, sooner or later, the sea of migration will engulf us, thus destabilizing the entire EU economy and our welfare State.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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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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