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This is not a war but a series of surgical strikes to go on both sides’ nerves

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The killing – or as some call it, the execution – of General Qassem Soleimani will bring about great uncertainty in the world. This is not limited only to the region. We are not talking only about security in the Middle East, as some commentators put it. The US military presence is global and now Iran will not shy away from hitting American forces globally. Iran’s response won’t be limited only to direct attacks on the US presence in the region, which began late on 7 January, after Iran hit the US presence in Iraq trying to get the US out of the country. No casualties have been reported. The message in this is that Iran could easily strike at the US. Iran could’ve easily hit at American soldiers, if it wanted to, but it chose not to because it doesn’t intend to spark a war with the United States. Iranian foreign minister Zarif said that the US should be making informed policy choices and not listen to “clowns”, urging Europe to talk sense into the US.

President Trump delivered an address in response, but no war escalation news came out of it, as expected. Trump emphasized ISIS as a common enemy to both Iran and the United States, in search for common ground. The US President’s speech was mild, announcing only tightening of the economic sanctions on Iran. 

The big loser from Trump’s actions in Soleimani’s elimination is really everyone. Now Iran’s nuclear program will be reactivated. The Iran nuclear deal which marked such a progress and was the fruit of the multiyear effort by the Obama administration, the EU and the moderate politicians in Iran, was finally undone by Trump. I was at the UN in Geneva, when Kerry and Zarif met and fought many times just 200m up from the UN building in one of the rooms of hotel Intercontinental, so I remember how long and how much this deal cost. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump the megalomaniac has been trying to get rid of the deal only because it is a part of Obama’s legacy. The deal was also at the center of European efforts, so now we are all back at square one. That is bad news for all. Congratulations, Mr. Trump.

As a revenge for the death of general Soleimani, we will witness a series of surgical strikes to go on both sides’ nerves in various parts of the world. More strikes will be traded on Iraqi territory but this is not the beginning of a war between the US and Iran. We should not be apocalyptic.

That of course does not change the fact that the Soleimani assassination is yet another example of Mr. Trump’s irresponsible foreign policy. There will be clear but unpredictable consequences for the United States in the form of loss of American lives around the world. This will not be only limited to American lives but the lives of Iraqis, for example.

When it comes to the legitimacy and legality of Soleimani’s murder, the evidence for direct threat against the US and preemptive strike in self-defense is very, very thin and maybe doesn’t even exist. Rather, the murder of Soleimani coincides with Trump’s impeachment trial. Here we are really talking about the oldest trick in the book on how to divert attention from your impeachment through the rallying effect during times of military action abroad. Trump is not the first president to make use of this.

The threats against the US in the talk by Soleimani’s daughter is a natural reaction by someone who lost a family member in that way. This kind of reaction is normal. But we shouldn’t forget that Soleimani was the puppet master behind much of the death in the ten-year conflict in Syria, helping the Assad regime to kill its own population. Soleimani was a dangerous man and the world is a better place without him. It is clear that the family’s reaction would be strong, calling for a merciless revenge and for all Iranians coming together, who ironically – just weeks ago – were protesting against the government. Now, Iranian people have come together against the US, which testifies to the recklessness of this Trump move. 

The decision by Iraq’s parliament for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq gives a clear signal that Iraq wants the US out. Most countries in the Middle East share the same viewpoint, scandalized by Soleimani’s execution. The US will have to leave after this. The curious episode around the US Department of Defense letter that seemingly accepted the request for US withdrawal which was announced later as a mistake and just a draft, shows that the complete withdrawal from Iraq is a real option for the United States. Contrary to this, US Secretary of Defense Esper said yesterday that the US will be staying in Iraq to compete the mission against ISIS, which clearly will suffer as a result of Trump’s decision to eliminate Soleimani.

The US withdrawal from Iraq will be loudly applauded across the region, but it won’t sit well with Israel. Every time the US commits aggression in the region, the conversation automatically gets directed towards Israel and “Zionism”. We saw this in Soleimani’s daughter’s speech. There is a danger that Israel will be left isolated as a result of the US actions. It is natural to have a level of uneasiness in Israel. When it comes to Soleimani’s death, that is good news for Israel, although other than Bibi no one else would allow themselves to express content publicly. General Soleimani had nothing good in store for Israel.

Iran already made its intentions clear – the main goal in the revenge for the deceased general will be the end of the US military presence not only in Iraq but in the Middle East as a whole. Iran will try to roll back the US and last night’s strikes are just the beginning. Strikes of that nature won’t be limited only to the Middle East. We shouldn’t be surprised if American forces are hit in Asia, and not right away. Iran will press on US’s sore spots and will tighten the screw. We are speaking of a country that finances terrorism across the region and controls loose network paramilitary forces, so Iran has options when it comes to where and how. Attacks on American diplomats and high level officials are also not excluded, but we are probably not looking at attacks against the highest level of the US government.

Iveta Cherneva is an Amazon best-selling author, political commentator and human rights activist. Her latest book is “Trump, European security and Turkey”. Cherneva’s career includes Congress and the UN; she was a top finalist for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech in 2020. Iveta’s opinions appear in Euronews, New York Times, Salon, The Guardian, Jurist, Washington Examiner, Modern Diplomacy, Emerging Europe, EurActiv, The Fletcher Forum, LSE, Daily Express. She comments on TV and radio for Euronews, DW, Voice of America and others.

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Middle East

Process to draft Syria constitution begins this week

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The process of drafting a new constitution for Syria will begin this week, the UN Special Envoy for the country, Geir Pedersen, said on Sunday at a press conference in Geneva.

Mr. Pedersen was speaking following a meeting with the government and opposition co-chairs of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, who have agreed to start the process for constitutional reform.

The members of its so-called “small body”, tasked with preparing and drafting the Constitution, are in the Swiss city for their sixth round of talks in two years, which begin on Monday. 

Their last meeting, held in January, ended without progress, and the UN envoy has been negotiating between the parties on a way forward.

“The two Co-Chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting for constitutional reform,” Mr. Pedersen told journalists.

“So, the new thing this week is that we will actually be starting a drafting process for constitutional reform in Syria.”

The UN continues to support efforts towards a Syrian-owned and led political solution to end more than a decade of war that has killed upwards of 350,000 people and left 13 million in need of humanitarian aid.

An important contribution

The Syrian Constitutional Committee was formed in 2019, comprising 150 men and women, with the Government, the opposition and civil society each nominating 50 people.

This larger group established the 45-member small body, which consists of 15 representatives from each of the three sectors.

For the first time ever, committee co-chairs Ahmad Kuzbari, the Syrian government representative, and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition side, met together with Mr. Pedersen on Sunday morning. 

He described it as “a substantial and frank discussion on how we are to proceed with the constitutional reform and indeed in detail how we are planning for the week ahead of us.”

Mr. Pedersen told journalists that while the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process, “the committee in itself will not be able to solve the Syrian crisis, so we need to come together, with serious work, on the Constitutional Committee, but also address the other aspects of the Syrian crisis.”

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North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?

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In a series of shocking and unintelligible decisions, the Algerian Government closed its airspace to Moroccan military and civilian aircraft on September 22, 2021, banned French military planes from using its airspace on October 3rd, and decided not to renew the contract relative to the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which goes through Morocco and has been up and running since 1996–a contract that comes to end on October 31.

In the case of Morocco, Algeria advanced ‘provocations and hostile’ actions as a reason to shut airspace and end the pipeline contract, a claim that has yet to be substantiated with evidence. Whereas in the case of France, Algeria got angry regarding visa restrictions and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on the Algerian military grip on power and whether the North African country was a nation prior to French colonization in 1830.

Tensions for decades

Algeria has had continued tensions with Morocco for decades, over border issues and over the Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco as part of its historical territorial unity, but contested by Algeria which supports an alleged liberation movement that desperately fights for independence since the 1970s.

With France, the relation is even more complex and plagued with memories of colonial exactions and liberation and post-colonial traumas, passions and injuries. France and Algeria have therefore developed, over the post-independence decades, a love-hate attitude that quite often mars otherwise strong economic and social relations.

Algeria has often reacted to the two countries’ alleged ‘misbehavior’ by closing borders –as is the case with Morocco since 1994—or calling its ambassadors for consultations, or even cutting diplomatic relations, as just happened in August when it cut ties with its western neighbor.

But it is the first-time Algeria resorts to the weaponization of energy and airspace. “Weaponization” is a term used in geostrategy to mean the use of goods and commodities, that are mainly destined for civilian use and are beneficial for international trade and the welfare of nations, for geostrategic, political and even military gains. As such “weaponization” is contrary to the spirit of free trade, open borders, and solidarity among nations, values that are at the core of common international action and positive globalization.

What happened?

Some observers advance continued domestic political and social unrest in Algeria, whereby thousands of Algerians have been taking to the streets for years to demand regime-change and profound political and economic reforms. Instead of positively responding to the demands of Algerians, the government is probably looking for desperate ways to divert attention and cerate foreign enemies as sources of domestic woes. Morocco and France qualify perfectly for the role of national scapegoats.

It may be true also that in the case of Morocco, Algeria is getting nervous at its seeing its Western neighbor become a main trade and investment partner in Africa, a role it can levy to develop diplomatic clout regarding the Western Sahara issue. Algeria has been looking for ways to curb Morocco’s growing influence in Africa for years. A pro-Algerian German expert, by the name of Isabelle Werenfels, a senior fellow in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, even recommended to the EU to put a halt to Morocco’s pace and economic clout so that Algeria could catch up. Weaponization may be a desperate attempt to hurt the Moroccan economy and curb its dynamism, especially in Africa.

The impact of Algeria’s weaponization of energy and airspace on the Moroccan economy is minimal and on French military presence in Mali is close to insignificant; however, it shows how far a country that has failed to administer the right reforms and to transfer power to democratically elected civilians can go.

In a region, that is beleaguered by threats and challenges of terrorism, organized crime, youth bulge, illegal migration and climate change, you would expect countries like Algeria, with its geographic extension and oil wealth, to be a beacon of peace and cooperation. Weaponization in international relations is inacceptable as it reminds us of an age when bullying and blackmail between nations, was the norm. The people of the two countries, which share the same history, language and ethnic fabric, will need natural gas and unrestricted travel to prosper and grow and overcome adversity; using energy and airspace as weapons is at odds with the dreams of millions of young people in Algeria and Morocco that aspire for a brighter future in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape. Please don’t shatter those dreams!

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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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