The potential dark side of the militarization of Gulf societies
The coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout calls into question Gulf states’ ability to fund a brewing, costly regional arms race. That in turn could not only reshape their geopolitical posture but also efforts to make the military a pillar of a new national identity at a time that they are forced to renegotiate outdated social contracts.
A significant drop in revenues, as a result of the collapse of oil and gas prices and vastly reduced global demand, raises the question whether countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, can maintain huge military expenditures that rank them among the world’s foremost arms buyers.
Saudi and UAE expenditure was driven by a perceived need to counter Iranian advances in the development of ballistic missiles and drones as well as a potential nuclear military capability and Iranian-backed Arab proxies. Qatar joined the race more recently in response to the three-year-old, Saudi-UAE-led economic and diplomatic boycott of the Gulf state.
The expenditure positioned the military as a driver of an identity grounded in nationalism rather than religion or tribal heritage and was intended to help lay the groundwork for eventual, potentially painful, transitions to more diversified and streamlined post-oil economies.
Male conscription introduced in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait and a Saudi decision to open volunteering for military service to women over the last decade served that purpose as well as government efforts to expand citizen participation in the workforce at the expense of migrant and expatriate labour, including in the armed forces.
The moves constituted a break with a past in which Arab rulers largely distrusted their militaries and employed multiple ways to shield themselves against feared military-backed attempts to remove them from power.
Saudi and Emirati rulers expected that their military intervention in Yemen and the UAE’s involvement in the Libyan war would boost the military’s prestige with quick and decisive victories.
Five years later, the ill-conceived intervention in Yemen has produced at best mixed results. So has the more recent effort to topple the internationally recognized, Islamist Libyan Government of National Accord.
The UAE, dubbed Little Sparta by former US defense secretary Jim Mattis, withdrew partially from Yemen in a bid to cut its losses. UAE forces, moreover, suffered the deaths of tens of Emirati citizens, a high number for a population of only 1.4 million nationals. As a result, the UAE relies increasingly on proxies and mercenaries.
Nonetheless, the UAE may have fared better than the Saudi military whose image, at least internationally, has been severely tarnished.
Recently, the kingdom appears to implicitly acknowledge that it cannot win the Yemen war militarily. Media reports suggested that the Saudi government was cutting back on funding of the internationally recognized, largely Saudi-based Yemeni government headed by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Saudi conduct of the war has involved multiple attacks on civilian targets, devastated the country’s economic and civilian infrastructure and turned it into one of the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophes.
Similarly, UAE-backed Libyan rebels led by self-appointed Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar have suffered a similar fate. Mr. Haftar’s promise more than a year ago to launch a blitz conquest of the Libyan capital Tripoli has not only proven to be an illusion. Turkish-backed government troops have put his rebels on the defensive.
Saudi and UAE rulers are betting that their emphasis on values associated with nationalism and armed forces such as patriotism, sacrifice, discipline, duty and concepts of heroic model citizens will reinforce public appreciation of the military despite its chequered track record. For now, that appears to be a winning bet.
Saudi Arabia has successfully garnered popular support for the armed forces and the Yemen war, despite widespread international criticism, by eulogizing patriotic sacrifices of Saudi military casualties, generously compensating families of permanently disabled or fallen soldiers and creating multiple institutions to ensure veterans’ rights. The UAE has institutionalized the honouring of military martyrs.
Ultimately, however, the Saudi and UAE military’s mixed track record raises questions about the degree to which they can be unqualified standard bearers of new national identities.
It also begs the question whether populations in countries such as Saudi Arabia that were forced to introduce painful social spending cutbacks with no indication that elites are sharing the burden will continue to endorse massive military expenditure at a time of austerity.
If social media are anything to go by, many Saudis praise the government for ensuring the return to the kingdom of Saudi nationals abroad at the beginning of the pandemic, funding their quarantining to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, and subsidizing private sector salaries impacted by a lockdown for up to 60 percent.
A fair number, however, expressed concern that the middle and lower classes would shoulder the brunt of the economic fallout of the pandemic and questioned continued investment in trophies like English soccer club Newcastle United by the Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund. Military expenditure has so far not been called into question.
Potentially complicating issues is the fact that a majority of Emirati and Saudi casualties in Yemen hailed from less privileged emirates in the UAE and provinces in the kingdom, some of which are home to religious minorities with a history of feeling disadvantaged, As a result, it remains to be seen whether military service will ultimately narrow or broaden social gaps.
“Militarization bolsters regime security, thereby serving national security twice over… However, rising nationalist feelings are likely to enhance regional polarization,” warned Gulf scholar Eleonora Ardemagni.
Ms. Ardemagni’s caution focused on the risk of militarization entrenching differences among Gulf states. The question is whether militarization’s so far successful boosting of domestic cohesion could have a flip side that in more dire circumstances polarizes rather than unites.
China’s Saudi Iranian mediation spotlights flawed regional security policies
A Chinese-mediated Saudi-Iranian reconciliation potentially casts a spotlight on fundamentally flawed security policies of regional powers, including not only the kingdom and Iran but also the United Arab Emirates.
While much of the discussion in recent years has focused on Iran’s strategy of creating a defense line far beyond its borders by nurturing and/or supporting aligned militias in various Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, and, even more so, the UAE, have adopted similar approaches.
To be sure, Iran has itself to blame for being the focal point of the debate.
Its nurturing and/or support of militias-cum-political organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and in Syria, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, has been one driver of US and Arab efforts to contain the Islamic republic.
Even so, the Saudi-Iranian agreement could bring into sharp relief the challenges posed by what scholar Andreas Krieg has termed ‘surrogate warfare’ not only to the short-term resolution of conflicts like the Yemen war but also the long-term rejiggering of the Gulf’s overall security architecture.
Support for militias “empowers complex networks of surrogates…that…become increasingly actors in their own right who disrupt post-conflict resolution and state building… Security assistance to non-state actors…does not contribute to building institutions in recipient states but exacerbates conflict polarization and division,” Mr. Krieg said in a just-published study of UAE policy in Yemen and Libya.
It’s an approach that reduces conflicts to a zero-sum game and exploits weak institutions and governance rather than seeking to empower the state by building strong foundations and transparent and accountable authorities.
It also allows supporters of non-state actors to evade responsibility under the guise of plausible deniability.
Shielded by public relations and public diplomacy mastery, the UAE has long been able to keep out of the public eye the downside of its regional security strategy that shapes its defense, foreign, and soft power policies, including its militant opposition to political Islam and the quest to be the dominant power in defining what constitutes moderate Islam.
Much like what happened in Libya where the UAE, together with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others, support renegade Libyan Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar against the country’s internationally recognised government in debilitating civil strife, Emirati support for secessionist groups in Yemen could complicate if not thwart efforts to end its war.
In a sign of what could happen in Yemen, Mr. Haftar’s Libyan National Army has refused to relinquish control of oil-rich swathes of eastern and southern Libya. Mr. Haftar has threatened to renew fighting if the country’s political stalemate persists.
Policymakers and analysts see an end to the Saudi-military intervention in Yemen as the litmus test of the recently Chinese-mediated agreement between the kingdom and Iran.
The UAE withdrew the bulk of its troops from Yemen in 2019 but continues to support the Southern Transitional Council (STC) that demands independence for South Yemen in what would be a return to two separate Yemeni states as they existed before unification in 1990.
In a first response, the Council welcomed the China-mediated agreement “as an embodiment of our keenness to strengthen relations between the peoples and countries of our region.”
The Council controls southern Yemen’s strategic ports and waterways, the UNESCO-protected Socotra archipelago, and the volcanic Mayun Island in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
The UAE is operating Socotra as if it were Emirati rather than Yemeni territory with infrastructure projects that link it to the Gulf state and Emirati immigration and social service policies.
The UAE strategy resembles Iran’s support for Arab non-state actors.
That may be one reason why the UAE was stepping ahead of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states such as Bahrain in rebuilding relations with Iran,. This included returning its ambassador to Tehran in 2022.
The UAE downgraded its diplomatic representation in Iran in 2016, but, unlike Saudi Arabia, did not break off relations in the wake of the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic outposts in the Iranian capital and the shrine city of Mashhad.
The missions were attacked by crowds protesting the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.
Moreover, the UAE sent Emirati coast guard commanders in 2019 to Tehran for discussions with their Iranian counterparts on maritime cooperation in the Strait of Hormuz.
To be sure, mounting uncertainty about the reliability of US pledges to guarantee Gulf security was the most immediate driver of Emirati outreach to Iran.
Uncertainty is also what governs the UAE’s engagement in surrogate warfare in a bid to project power and influence.
In that sense, the drivers of surrogate warfare are equally valid for Iran, which sees itself as encircled by hostile US-backed powers with varying degrees of security ties to Israel, and Saudi Arabia which views Iranian-supported non-state actors and Iran’s weapons programs as existential threats.
With Yemen as a litmus test, the Chinese-mediated Saudi-Iranian rapprochement offers an opportunity to reduce regional tensions more structurally by positioning surrogate warfare as a threat to long-term stability and security rather than a partisan issue that puts Iran but not others in the hot seat.
“One of the most concerning drawbacks of security assistance being provided to non-state actors that do not cooperate but compete with government authority is that it creates new fault lines in already polarized conflicts,” Mr. Krieg said.
He went on to say, regarding Libya and Yemen, that “rather than offering avenues for the integration of conflicting parties into an inclusive national framework that could assist with reconciliation,” support for non-state militias adds “additional layers of conflict to already conflict-torn countries.”
That is as true for Iranian and Emirate surrogate warfare and degrees of Saudi support for non-state actors as it is for direct Saudi military intervention in Yemen or Iranian involvement in Syria.
To be sure, dialling down the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is in the interest of all parties.
So are inclusive security approaches that consider the concerns of all and strengthen institutions and governance rather than mitigate against reconciliation and reconstruction.
The ultimate valuation of the Chinese mediation will depend on the degree to which it contributes to sustainable conflict management, if not conflict resolution.
What is certain is that in the words of analyst Raffaello Pantucci “people will look at China’s proposals and its attempts at mediation as evidence of Beijing offering something new which, while not perfect, is at least not simply stoking the flames of conflict.”
Potentially, that is what offers an opening for a rethink of security strategies and the development of approaches that that could help create a more sustainable security environment.
A common vision for China with the Egyptian General Intelligence Service
China relies a lot on the Egyptian role and the role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service as an active and original party in resolving the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and China is following very carefully the meetings that took place in the Palestinian Gaza Strip between Major General Abbas Kamel, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence, with the various factions, parties and rival Palestinian forces. Here, China is trying to enter as an active and acceptable party to all concerned parties in the Middle East region through full cooperation and coordination with the official Egyptian side and the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, as it is the most prominent responsible for the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the mediation and reconciliation efforts between the Palestinian factions and the Fatah and Hamas movements. And this is within the framework of China’s endeavor to solve the problematic of the Palestinian-Israeli issue with the help, understanding and full support of the Egyptian side and its Egyptian General Intelligence Service, considering the Palestinian issue for the Chinese as the core and heart of the thorny problems in the region. Hence, the Chinese depended a lot on the Egyptian role, represented by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its chief, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, to keep the dialogue open through Egyptian mediation efforts with all Palestinian factions continuously. China is also trying to benefit from the Egyptian experience represented in its intelligence apparatus, and the experience of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in dealing with the Palestinian issue and all its parties in the Middle East region to be a new battleground for the Chinese competition with Washington, and in my belief that Israel has been involved in This burning conflict between China and the United States of America, as a Chinese way to harm Washington’s image in the international community, and China’s move to play more effectively in the Palestinian issue with the help of the Egyptian and Jordanian General Intelligence Services, as a new Chinese approach away from the old Chinese approach as a wall guard only regarding the issues of the region, especially the issue Palestinian.
The Chinese statements in confronting the United States of America regarding Israeli violations and provocations against the Palestinians also emerged as a Chinese attempt in the first place to undermine regional and international confidence in the United States of America. Therefore, China tried to put pressure in international forums to obtain greater global influence in confronting Washington within the United Nations, as a kind of challenge to the traditional leadership of the United States, and to display Chinese multilateral power within other international organizations on the other hand. Here, China appears keen to present itself as an alternative peace mediator, taking advantage of the failures or unwillingness of the (Biden administration) to resolve conflicts in the Middle East. Therefore, China is trying to benefit from the experience and the Egyptian intelligence experience, through its Egyptian intelligence apparatus and its chief, “Abbas Kamel”, to enter into the heart of the game of mediation and arbitration in order to reach a binding political settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and then between the disputing Palestinian factions on the other side. In my opinion, China’s entry as a political player in the Middle East region, its proximity to the Egyptian side qualifies it to learn from its experience, to lead mediation efforts regionally to solve the thorny issues between Palestine and Israel, and then between Fatah and Hamas on the other hand.
In recent years, (mediation diplomacy according to the principle of Chinese President “Xi Jinping” known as: the common destiny of mankind) has emerged as one of the main pillars of Chinese foreign policy goals and practices, with Beijing deliberately positioning itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East region. Since Chinese President “Xi Jinping” assumed power in 2013, China has played an active and remarkable role in proposing various plans and visions for peace, supporting the Palestinian right to self-determination, and supporting the two-state solution. Therefore, Beijing hosted (a symposium for advocates of peace between the Palestinian and Israeli sides) in December 2017. The directions of Chinese foreign policy emerged from the political settlement process binding on the Israelis, coinciding with the approach of the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, to the United Nations and international forums, and to obtain the support of the Chinese internationally, then Egypt, Jordan and the rest of the Arab countries regionally in the face of Israel’s provocations until the support of Egypt and Jordan for five meetings that included the United States of America, Palestine and Israel in the Jordanian city of Aqaba in February 2023, and then other five-party meetings in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh in March 2023, as part of a broader regional solution led by Egypt and Jordan and their leaders represented by King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein of Jordan and Egyptian President “Abdel Fattah El-Sisi”.
The activity of Chinese mediation diplomacy in the affairs of the region comes amid growing expectations among the regional powers of a gradual decline in the role of the United States in confronting Israel and establishing binding settlements for the Palestinian issue, amid China’s aspirations for this leading role in mediating in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by relying on the experience of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its head, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, in addition to the great Jordanian experience of King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, considering Jordan responsible for the guardianship and international protection of religious sanctities in Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories. Therefore, China needs to benefit from the Egyptian and Jordanian experience in order to obtain great influence and significant mediation experience in managing the Palestinian issue file in a balanced and binding manner between all its parties.
Here, we can monitor the developments of Chinese foreign policy and its repercussions on the Palestinian cause, to follow up on the impact of that policy on the Palestinian cause, to reach a set of results that agree with all the countries of the region, Egypt and Jordan as current sponsors of the Palestinian-Israeli mediation efforts according to a five meetings plan that includes Washington, Palestine and Israel with them, and from The most important of which: Chinese policy is distinguished by adopting positions of support and support for the struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation, with a strong official Chinese condemnation of Israeli policies and practices on the other hand. The most important Chinese criticism of supporting the Palestinians in confronting the Israelis emerged, through:
– The strong Chinese criticism of the policy of aggression and expansion of the Israelis.
– China’s official condemnation of the establishment of Israeli colonies and settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
– As it becomes clear by looking at the official Chinese position, which we find confirming its support for the Palestinian cause, that the region will not enjoy permanent and comprehensive peace except by establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state and restoring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
– The Chinese also demanded the need for concerted efforts by the international community to strengthen Palestinian-Chinese relations so that China would be of assistance to the Palestinians in extracting their legitimate rights in the face of Israel.
– In addition to exploiting the Chinese positions in support of the Palestinian right to put pressure on the various parties in order to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause.
– Recently, the role of the Palestinian community and other Arab communities in China has emerged, to highlight more efforts in order to explain the Palestinian cause and the extent of its justice to Chinese public opinion, and to clarify the extent of the justice of their cause in the face of the continuous Israeli policies of aggression and escalation.
– It is possible to summarize and understand the Chinese position towards the Palestinian issue in general and its positions between the Palestinians and the Israelis, through the comment of the prominent Chinese researcher in Middle East affairs, “Sun Degang”, that:
Beijing’s position is “moral superiority” with Palestine, and “cooperation superiority” with Israel.
Accordingly, Chinese President “Xi Jinping” affirmed that: “The Palestinian issue is the core of Middle East issues, and a comprehensive and just settlement affects regional peace and stability”. This was during the congratulatory message that Chinese President “Xi” sent to the United Nations meeting, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just causes against the Israelis. During the message of Chinese President “Xi Jinping” to the Palestinians before the international community, the full Chinese emphasis on:
– China’s commitment to consolidating the authority of the Palestinian National Authority and promoting unity among all parties in Palestine.
– China calls for Palestine and Israel to resume peace talks as soon as possible in order to push the Middle East peace process to the right track.
– Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assertion that China will provide humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian side, and will support building its capacities, in addition to helping Palestine develop its economy and improve the livelihood of its people.
President “Xi Jinping” was also keen to present China as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and as a responsible major country in the international community, that it will continue to work with the international community to make positive contributions to lasting peace, comprehensive security and common prosperity in the Middle East region.
Here, perhaps one of the most prominent phrases that stopped me regarding China’s support for the Palestinian cause in recent years was the phrase ”Zhang Jun”, the permanent Chinese representative to the United Nations, in his statements during a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Palestine and to reduce the Israeli escalation against the Palestinians by emphasizing the importance of adhering to integrity and justice to solve the Palestinian issue. His candid statement is that:
“What is lacking in resolving the Palestinian issue is not a grand plan, but rather a living conscience to establish justice. The fulfillment of the Security Council’s responsibilities does not depend on loud slogans, but on concrete actions against the Palestinians”
The Chinese-Israeli relations to solve the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict are deep and thorny, and range from rapprochement to coldness or ignoring, and examples of this are numerous and perhaps absent from the minds of many. We find the official Chinese refusal to receive the Israeli Prime Minister “Benjamin Netanyahu” in China in 2013, until the Israeli pressure on the American side to drop a case filed in New York City against China’s “Bank of China”, claiming that there are American accusations that this Chinese bank is laundering Funds to pass Iranian money to Palestinian groups, specifically to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Islamic Jihad Movement, and indeed the case was dropped in favor of China with the help of Israel. On a personal level, what stopped me the most in the whole issue was that Israeli disregard and silence mixed with coldness and silence at other times on China’s continuous vote at the United Nations headquarters in support of Palestinian rights and the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and the permanent Chinese demand to stop building Israeli settlements, while the Israelis do not stand idly by. Thus, they remain silent in the event of this act by other countries, including countries from Europe, Africa and others around the world. This raises a big question mark in me, to wonder about the reasons for this Israeli silence in confronting the Chinese compared to others regarding the same positions and issues related to Palestinian rights, stopping settlement construction, respecting sanctities, border issues, and others.
These developments related to China’s own policy towards the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict coincided with the launch of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, with the change of the Palestinian strategy itself several years ago from armed struggle against Israel, to peaceful political negotiations accompanied by popular resistance through peaceful means with the Israeli side. And this coincided with global changes that took place, with a state of continuous international polarization occurring among all its parties, especially between the Chinese, Russian, and American sides and their allies, and reliance revolved around the exchange of interests and development, as a way to resolve international differences, and the common destiny of mankind according to the principle of the Chinese President, “Xi Jinping” after launching his well-known Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese commitment to support the (Palestinian state-building program) came as part of a Chinese vision supporting the two-state solution, which included building a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967.
Here, the incident of strained relations between Beijing and Tel Aviv evokes me, following the objection of the Israeli embassy in Beijing to some statements issued by the presenter of one of the media programs on the official Chinese government channel “CGTN”, run by the Chinese state on May 18, 2021, which the Israelis considered She is an anti-Semite, during a discussion of US support for Israel in the UN Security Council and the United Nations. The Chinese presenter’s statements came by accusing the powerful pressure groups of the Jews in the United States of America, as being responsible for influencing and shaping Washington’s position regarding the Middle East and Palestine crisis, and that the Jews dominate the financial, media and Internet sectors in Washington. Here, the Israeli embassy in Beijing responded, in a series of tweets via the Twitter social networking site, that Israel was “appalled to see blatant anti-Semitism being expressed in an official Chinese media for the first time”. On the other hand, however, some Israeli pens appeared, trying to mitigate the deteriorating situation between Beijing and Tel Aviv, by emphasizing that these anti-Semitic comments issued by an official Chinese media are more likely to relate to defaming the United States of America in the context of its competition with China than Israel.
Here, it becomes clear that the new Chinese strategy, after Chinese President “Xi Jinping” launched the Belt and Road Initiative to solve the problem of outstanding issues around the world, on top of which is the Arab-Israeli conflict, lies in the economy and development as a top priority of Chinese foreign policy priorities, and this largely governs its position to solve All the conflicts burning around the world, including issues such as Palestine and Israel. China’s peaceful efforts, even with its support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, are inseparable from several broader economic perceptions of China, according to the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, “Liu Ji” during a meeting with him in June 2018, by stressing that China sees both the Palestinians and the Israelis, As important partners for China in the strategy of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Middle East region. This official Chinese statement coincided with the increase in Chinese financial and development allocations directed to the Palestinians, through the training of thousands of Palestinian human cadres inside China, and the operation and opening of hundreds of projects in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by China, with the increase in Chinese financial allocations and grants provided by the Chinese side to the United Nations Relief and works with the Palestinian refugees Agency (UNRWA).
Accordingly, the perceived Chinese reference for resolving the problem of the protracted dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis has become centered on the necessity of continuing bilateral negotiations, negotiated settlements, economic development, institution-building and high-quality economic development, as the only and sound solution to the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, with the faltering of the political process, and the continued Israeli procrastination to reach a real settlement based on the principle of the two-state solution, and the decisions and provisions of international law. The Palestinian side has officially begun to call on the world to intervene, led by China as a pole opposed to Washington in the region and the world, to implement international law in the face of the Israelis. It has also become necessary for us to understand the determinants of the Chinese position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue, which is summarized through a long legacy of Chinese support based on liberal foundations that completely reject colonialism. The issue of Chinese support for the Palestinian national liberation movement is long and well known, and even documented, through the close relations between the leaders of the Palestinian liberation movement, known as the “Fatah Movement” and the Chinese side.
Accordingly, China considers the great role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the great role they play in reducing escalation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, in a way that paves the way for creating an appropriate atmosphere that contributes to the resumption of the comprehensive peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis with the Chinese appreciating the Egyptian and Jordanian mediation efforts through the Egyptian invitation to hold the five-way meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, as a continuation of the meeting that was held on February 26, 2023 in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, with American mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and it was the first of its kind since many years ago, mainly with Egyptian and Jordanian mediation efforts. Here, the concerned Chinese departments analyzed the reasons for the failure of the last Aqaba meeting in February to stop the raging cycle of violence between the Palestinian and Israeli sides on the ground, despite the existence of Israeli and Palestinian pledges to reduce escalation between them, which did not happen in reality. Therefore, the great Chinese interest in the outcomes of the second meeting in the city of Sharm el-Sheikh came to try to push the Palestinian and Israeli sides to calm down through mainly Egyptian-Jordanian mediation efforts, with a great Chinese focus on the efforts and role of Major General “Abbas Kamel”, the head of Egyptian General Intelligence, to learn and benefit from his experience in managing this thorny file for calm and mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
According to my reading of the scene, China has paid great attention, through the Department of West Asia and North Africa in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the Egyptian and Jordanian roles and the role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, to put an end to the raging conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians as a pivotal and influential role after Sharm El-Sheikh hosted the five-way meeting with Washington in the presence of the two Palestinian delegations. And the Israeli side in particular, with the attempt of the Egyptian side, represented by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its chief, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, to reconcile the Palestinian and Israeli sides in a number of thorny and outstanding issues between the two parties. Beijing believes that Cairo’s management of this dialogue through its Egyptian intelligence service and its head, Major General “Abbas Kamel”, is primarily in the interest of achieving stability and security in the region, especially due to the problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict, through the success of the Egyptian side represented by Major General “Abbas Kamel”, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, in developing a vision General to prevent the renewal of the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, through:
– The Chinese agreement on the success of the Egyptian intelligence delegation, led by Major General “Abbas Kamel”, in converging views between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in order to develop a mechanism to limit and address violence, incitement, statements and moves that may cause the situation to flare up. This mechanism will submit reports to the leaders of the five countries by next April 2023, when the activities of the meeting session in Sharm El-Sheikh are resumed again.
– China’s desire to play a role with the Egyptian side and with it the Jordanian side in the future within the framework of mediation efforts regionally and internationally by entering China as an active and acceptable party with the Palestinian and Israeli delegations, to agree on establishing a mechanism to take the necessary steps to improve the economic conditions of the Palestinian people in accordance with previous agreements made with the Egyptian side and its intelligence apparatus, which greatly contributes to strengthening the financial position of the Palestinian Authority, which is what China strongly desires by offering a number of development initiatives for the benefit of the Palestinians. This is what was agreed upon in the Sharm El-Sheikh meetings in March 2023, by agreement on this mechanism, provided that reports are submitted to the leaders of the five countries participating in the meeting during the next meeting agreed upon in April, when the activities of the next meeting session in Sharm El-Sheikh resume.
And the most important thing remains, is the admiration of the Chinese for the role of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service in settling the file of the conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and its attempt to oblige all parties once again to commit not to prejudice the existing historical status of the holy places in the city of Jerusalem, while renewing the emphasis on the importance of the Hashemite guardianship over the holy places in order to prevent the ignition situation, through the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in this context.
In my opinion – as is the opinion of the concerned authorities in Beijing – that Israel is not as serious this time as the previous times in developing a binding solution to the Palestinian issue, and this is the same confirmed by the Israeli reports issued immediately after the end of the meeting, emphasizing that there are no new decisions from the meeting issued in Sharm El-Sheikh, except to confirm what the participants had reached in the previous Aqaba meeting, which was held at the end of February 2023 with the Israelis, on the other hand, emphasizing the importance of continuing what was agreed upon.
The Israelis are also afraid of the lack of real guarantees to ensure that the safety of their citizens will not be compromised according to the same Israeli analyzes, and what we mean here is the shooting attack in the (Palestinian Hawara Town in the West Bank), located in the Nablus Governorate, through the threat issued at the moment of the five-party meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh by the Israeli Prime Minister, “Benjamin Netanyahu”, that: “Those who try to harm the citizens of Israel have their blood spilled, and it is more severe at the hands of the security forces in the field”. With the presence of Israeli calls by members of the Israeli Knesset during the moments of the five-party meeting in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh calling for erasing (Hawara Town) in the West Bank of Palestine from existence now without apology and without stuttering, according to statements made by a number of Israeli officials themselves.
There are also fears that the Israelis will not adhere to what was agreed upon in the Sharm El-Sheikh meetings, as was the case in the meetings in the Jordanian city of Aqaba in February 2023, for not extracting real guarantees and pledges from the participating Israeli delegation and its procrastination in making an accurate Israeli commitment to restraint in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the release of Palestinian prisoners in return for reducing the ongoing Palestinian operations. The refusal of the Hamas movement itself to participate in any meetings with the Israeli side came as a question mark, especially with the Hamas movement itself denouncing the participation of the Palestinian Authority in the meeting, by asserting that meeting with Israeli officials means giving them the opportunity and cover to commit more crimes and violations against the Palestinian people and sanctities religious.
Nor did the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting address the political issues circulating between Palestine and Israel, foremost of which is the existence and continuation of the Israeli occupation, the apartheid regime and the continued construction of Israeli settlements imposed by the Israeli occupation, in addition to the massacres it commits against the Palestinian people themselves.
Also, the formula of the final statement that was agreed mainly upon in Sharm El-Sheikh talked about stopping talking about establishing settlement units for the next four months, which implicitly means turning a blind eye to the 13 second Israeli settlements, in addition to turning a blind eye to the 10,000 settlement units that it approved. Israel recently. This raises concerns about the Israeli lack of commitment to any real outputs to resolve the crisis, mainly with the Palestinian side.
The same Palestinian refusal also revolves around the part of talking about the need to put in place mechanisms to put an end to violence, which means, from the Palestinian point of view, their equality in this regard with the Israelis who use violence the most. Therefore, the main fear remains that the Israelis will try to drag the Palestinians to stop the resistance without real Israeli and American guarantees to the Palestinian side, while at the same time trying to lure the Palestinian side by Israel into an internal conflict, at a time when the Palestinians are subjected to violence and physical liquidation by the Israeli occupation forces and its settlers. These are all points of great importance in confronting the Israelis, and the Israeli side did not undertake to develop a final and binding solution to them.
Hence, China is trying to study and benefit from all the accumulated Egyptian experiences through its intelligence apparatus and its chief, Major General “Abbas Kamel” to present itself as an acceptable alternative and as a guarantor to advance the peace process in the region. Accordingly, we find that the consensus of visions between the Chinese and the Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian sides to resolve the outstanding issues with the Israelis is that the solution to the issue must be based on the principle of long-term solutions to solve all the outstanding problems in proposing a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, such as the issues of refugees, Israeli settlements and the protection of religious and Islamic sanctities in The city of Jerusalem, the cessation of escalation and violence, and other issues, which must be based on the principle of the two-state solution, according to an international and Chinese consensus and a basic line of integrity and justice led by Egypt and Jordan regionally, to ensure firm adherence to them, especially by the Israelis. Here, the West Asia and North Africa Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for following up, analyzing and evaluating all Middle East issues, affirms that the concerned parties must be able to translate political will into constructive policies and procedures, and make tangible efforts through the Egyptian intelligence mediation efforts of Major General “Abbas Kamel” and the Jordanian side, then as a desire A future Chinese to engage with them as an active and acceptable party to mediation and settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, to achieve a two-state solution on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative, and other well-known international consensuses and standards, with which China is compatible with the Egyptian General Intelligence Service and its head. Major General “Abbas Kamel” and the Jordanians.
Iranian Strategic Patience: Israel and the Soft Wars
Unfortunately, by tracking the pattern of strategies of many countries based on exaggerated interest in human rights, women’s and democracy issues in Iran (such as the case of the death of the Iranian girl Mahsa Amini), it is no longer possible to ignore the extent of the political, security and cultural exploitation that is taking place. This pattern was adopted previously in Syria, which led to its entry into the quagmire of war since 2011. Therefore, based on the presence of Iran in the same political direction, the same pattern was followed, as the issue is linked primarily to confronting Iran’s rising power.
In principle, there is a strategy that has become clear and known, it is based on cultural backgrounds whose main goal is to fragment societies from within (soft wars). As many countries (Israel in particular) cannot accept at all the reality of Iran’s presence as a major regional power. Where, despite all the sanctions policies pursued to isolate and marginalize Iran during the past 45 years, Iran was able to build its own strength and consolidate its regional influence.
Consequently, those countries that are hostile to Iran have no choice but to move towards exploiting some controversial issues within Iranian society related to human rights, women and democracy, in order to destabilize and weaken it. Accordingly, these countries moved towards the option of soft war through:
- Cultural penetration within Iranian society to tear apart its political structure.
- Supporting terrorist movements, including trying to reproduce a new ISIS.
In this context, there is a lot of evidence confirming these external interventions aimed at plunging Iran into internal conflicts and wars, including but not limited to:
- Seizing arms shipments coming from abroad, which coincided with the internal riots.
- Dismantling terrorist cells that were planning to assassinate figures of Arab origin and carry out terrorist operations in religious places in order to ignite a civil war.
- Arresting terrorist groups linked to foreign intelligence working to smuggle weapons.
Based on these facts, it seems that the main goal is to destroy the societal structure, exaggerate political polarization, and undermine security stability. So that Iran becomes more fragile and subject to division. Practically, the Iranian Republic is facing a hybrid war, whose political goal is based on confronting Iranian influence, where this influence is based on:
– Sticking to the nuclear program.
– Supporting the resistance movements in their confrontation with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
– Being present in Syria and assisting the Syrian army in its war against terrorist movements.
– Supporting the Houthis in Yemen permanently.
– Consolidate influence in Iraq at all levels.
– Strategic rapprochement with both Russia and China.
Here, it must be recognized that the internal Iranian tensions are a winning card that the United States and Israel have tried to exploit to incite the Iranian people against the regime and clash with it. This new situation or challenge required the Iranian government to adopt a different vision on how to deal with such developments. Where the Iranian government and its security institutions followed a policy of restraint and not taking any provocative step that might lead to a clash. On the contrary, work has been done to:
1- Absorbing the anger of the people and allowing demonstrations.
2- Closely monitoring the security situation and controlling terrorist cells.
3- Revealing to Iranian society the dirty policies of mobilization and media incitement.
4- Evidence that many opposition movements are linked to the agenda of foreign countries.
5- Linking the internal events with the pattern based on the implementation of the Syrian model in Iran.
In this context, and regardless of the extent of the Iranian government’s ability to confront these soft wars, there are very serious political, cultural and internal security challenges that can no longer be ignored, and they require a reconsideration of many policies that were thought to have become axiomatic, including:
– It is no longer possible to pursue a policy that is based on holding Iranian governments accountable and neutralizing the Supreme Leader of the Revolution or the institution of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist(Guardianship of the Faqih), from any responsibility.
– The existence of radical changes linked to security threats, which are no longer confined to the Israeli threat, but have extended to include terrorist movements.
– Increasing the complexities associated with foreign plans that seek to undermine the foundations of the Iranian state.
– Internal crises appear to be the most dangerous, and may lead to making strategic concessions at the level of the nuclear file, the Palestinian cause, and the relationship with Syria and the resistance movements.
In sum, the exaggerated interest in human rights issues comes in the context of the pressures that Iran has been exposed to for decades, to achieve geopolitical goals. However, according to how Iran faced the previous challenges, it seems that it is able to overcome the current difficulties, as the pillars of the state are still solid at all levels.
Furthermore, Iran’s ability to reassess its foreign relations should not be underestimated, based on the equation that Iran’s security is linked to the security of the region. Iran has many options that enhance this equation. There are multidimensional entitlements linked to the Iranian reality, whether in terms of the nuclear program or an increase in the intensity of the collision with Israel or energy security. For example, it is no longer possible to always rely on Iran’s continued restraint in Yemen, the resulting regional and global strategic repercussions, at least on the level of global energy security balances.
Not to mention that if Iran’s strategic patience runs out, it is not at all unlikely that Iran will directly target Israeli interests. Perhaps at some point the confrontation may be direct within occupied Palestine itself. As Iran is fully aware that all attempts to destabilize it cannot be separated at all from the reactions of Israel, which faces an existential danger after losing all its wars with the axis of resistance that is fully and unlimitedly supported by the Iranian Republic.
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