Connect with us

Middle East

Peace Deal in the Middle East and addressing the Iranian factor

Published

on

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

On August of 13th 2020, the world applauded a wonderful initiative of the United States of America, Israel, and UAE to bring stability in the region by signing what is now called  Abraham Accord which made UAE be the third country after Egypt and Jordan to normalize the relationship with Israel. The peace process didn’t just stop with Abraham accord, the United States of America initiated another peace agreement on 11th September 2020 which put Bahrain and Israel on a peace table with the signing of what they officially called Abraham Accords: Declaration of peace, cooperation, and constructive diplomatic and friendly relations.  Now the question arises is Abraham peace accord enough to stabilize or bring peace in the middle east with rising of Iranian insecurity?

The process of peace is nothing new in the middle east, especially with the Israelis. This is not the first time that Israel and Arab nations had signed a peace agreement or went for peace in the region. The Arab – Israel peace process can be traced back to the year of 1948 when Folke Bernadotte was sent by the United Nations to break a truce between the Arabs and the Israeli, however, the proposal didn’t turn out to be a great success among the Jewish citizens, as according to the plan Palestine was supposed to become a union between the Jewish and the Arabs, the plan leads to a huge outcry among the Israeli population and this anger leads to the assassination of Folke Bernadotte by an Israeli underground group Stern Gang. The Folke Bernadotte plan was a just a proposal, Israel and neighboring Arabs (Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon) in 1949 signed an Armistice agreement which kind of put a temporary cessation to the hostility between the parties however it was a temporary arrangement between the groups till they come up with a proper peace process. However, the peace and ceasefire didn’t last long as both Arabs and Israeli’s went for a bloody war in 1967 which put both the parties in a deadlock and to break the deadlock another attempt was made by the American Secretary of State William Rogers whose plan was later known as the Roger plan however this plan was also not a great success in the middle east. Despite all animosity between the Arabs and Israelis, they both were able to come up in peace term maybe not unitedly but with individual agreements and it started with Egypt and Israel extending their friendship hands by signing the famous Camp David Accord of 1978 under the US president Jimmy Carter which make Egypt be the first country with Arab identity to sign a peace with Israelis which put an end to a thirty-one year of hostility between the two, this memorable agreement sets up a mark for the Arab world as Jordan in 1994 followed the same path to end the hostility and signed what was known as the Treaty of Peace between the State of Israel and The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and this peace has a lot to do with the infamous 1993 Oslo Accords which put the Israelis and the PLOs on the peace table. Despite small border issues so far it is almost forty Years now that Israel and neighboring Arabs had fought against each other. This shows history can be put back and new relations can be created, however, the difficulty arises when your enemy is insecure about your presence and also lacks a proper ally in the region for survival.

Iran factor

In the current geopolitical scenario, it is very hard to deny the importance of Iran in bringing an overall peace in the region. As Iran controls many strategic locations or rather can be called as major chokepoints one of the examples is the Strait of Hormuz, the strait that controls world’s most important oil transit route which almost allows world 20 % of the oil ship transit and secondly due to its insecurity and Ayatollahs dream of becoming the leader in the middle east has made their presence in the majority of the conflicts by using its proxies and thirdly the insecurity between the Israel and Iran due to the nuclear arsenal is another important issue to address.

Due to Israel’s strategic position, Iran finds it tough to attack Israel directly however, for long now Iran is having been providing weapons, arms, and money to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah who in turns with their proxy war troubles Israel. The creation of Hezbollah itself was an example of how Iran wanted to trouble Israel. Hezbollah is notorious for attacking many Israeli places one of the examples is the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Not only this Hezbollah is believed to have a huge arsenal of rockets which they use against Israelis from the Lebanese border and interestingly all these weapons were provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran as per the report provided by Missile Threat, CSIS Missile Defence Project. Hezbollah also holds near about 7000- 8000 107 mm Katyush rockets and Iran is the primary supplier of this Soviet-era rockets to the Hezbollah. To destabilize Israel Iran as Matthew Levitt in his policy Analysis Hezbollah Finance he mentioned that Iran provides at least $100 million a year to Hezbollah and with time the amount is increasing.

Hezbollah and Iran also massively supports the Palestinian groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hamas and Iran ties can be dated back to 1992 when during a conference in Tehran, Iranian decided to support Hamas with finance and in the same year, the relation between the two became stronger as Israel deported as many as hundreds of Palestinians to Marj Al- Zahour Lebanon. Out of those few deportees belong to the Hamas faction and this gave an advantage to Iranian to train this faction and run a proxy against the Israeli’s.  It was estimated that Hezbollah receives an addition of $22 million form the Iranian intelligence to support Palestinian terror organizations. As Hamas is getting dried up due to the peace between Israelis and the Arabs with Egypt destroying the smuggling tunnels and Qatar providing conditional financial support Hamas continuous relies upon Iranian money and Iran as Iran also getting dried up due to Sanctions and continuous rise of Iranian insecurity in the region it is right time to create a truce and put a fulltime hold on the Hamas and Hezbollah issue as well set middle east for temporary peace.

Is truce possible between the two?

Unlike Arabs, Iran and Israel did have a great friendship in the 1950s when David Ben Gurion under his Periphery doctrine decided to bring Iran on a friendship table however everything changed after the Iranian revolution of 1979 when Ayatollah declared USA as “The Great Satan” and Israel the “Little Satan” and till date no proper efforts have been put to normalize the Israel and Iran relationship and with continuous rise of insecurity between the two because of their nuclear arsenal and Ayatollah’s continuous fear from Israel ” it is hard to say that any diplomatic relations will be establishing in the near future however the only possibility of making or at least appeal for the truce is through soft power and people to people connection as already the common citizens of Iran are demanding a change in the regime as world saw during the latest 2020 Iranian protest so Israel can actually tap this opportunity and through common citizens and cultural exchange they can actually come on common ground for a larger peace as recently a group of Jerusalem artist opened first unofficial Iranian ‘Embassy of Culture’.

Conclusion

Well with the rising tension in the middle east because of Iran, the peace initiative of US, Israel, UAE, and Bahrain cannot be overlooked, however, it is not the Arabs anymore who threaten Israel’s existence in the region rather it is the Ayatollah’s Iran that threatens the existence and peace in the region and for a larger peace it should have been Iran on the peace table as Iran not just only has an animosity and conflict with the Arabs it does have a conflict and insecurity with  Israel and to destabilize Israel, Iran is funding, training and promoting anti-Israeli forces like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

With Israel and Arabs moving towards peace by forgetting their past it is high time that both Israel and Iran should also do the same. As of now due to Iranian insecurity, Iran is sponsoring a lot of proxies in the region and by extending the hand of peace Israel can put an end to the conflict of the middle east as Israel did with Jordan and Egypt.  Iran should also agree to put back its past and come for a peace dialogue so that an overall peace can be secure in the region for further development.

Author is a Postgraduate in International Studies from Christ (Deemed to be University). His research Interest includes South Asia, Middle East, Security, and Terrorism.

Continue Reading
Comments

Middle East

Saudi Arabia and Iran cold war

Published

on

After almost seven decades, the cold war has reached the middle east, turning into a religious war of words and diplomacy. As Winston Churchill says that “diplomacy is an art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they ask for the direction”. So, both the regional powers are trying to pursue a policy of subduing the adversary in a diplomatic manner. The root of the conflict lies in the 1979, Iranian revolution, which saw the toppling of the pro-western monarch shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi and replaced by the so-called supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. From a Yemini missile attack to the assassination of the supreme commander QassimSoleimani, the political, ideological and religious differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia are taking the path of confrontation. The perennial rivalry between the two dominant Shiite and Sunni power house ins an ideological and religious one rather than being geo strategic or geo political. Back to the time when Saudi Arabia supported Saddam Hussain against the united states of Americathe decline of Saddam and his authoritarian regime was made inevitable and with this, Iran and Saudi Arabia rosed as the powerful, strategic and dominant political forces in the middle east.it was from here that the quest for supremacy to be the prepotent and commanding political powercommenced. The tensions escalated or in other words almost tended to turn into scuffles when in 2016, the Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy as a demonstration of the killing of a Shia cleric. The diplomatic ties were broken and chaos and uncertainty prevailed.

This cold war also resembles the original one., because it is also fueled by a blend of ideological conviction and brute power politics but at the same time unlike the original cold war, the middle eastern cold war is multi-dimensional and is more likely to escalate .it is more volatile and thus more prone to transformation. This followed by several incidents with each trying to isolate the other in international relations. The Saudis and Iranians have been waging proxy wars for regional dominance for decades. Yemen and Syria are the two battlegrounds, fueling the Iran-Saudi tensions. Iran has been accused of providing military assistance to the rebel Houthis, which targets the Saudi territory. It is also accused of attacking the world naval ships in the strait of Hormoz, something Iran strongly denies.  This rivalry has dragged the region into chaos and ignited Shia-Sunni conflict across the middle east. The violence in the middle east due to this perennial hostility has also dire consequences for the economy of the war-torn nations. In the midst of the global pandemic, when all the economic activities are at halt, the tensions between the two arch rivals will prove hazardous and will yield catastrophic results. The blockade of the shipping and navigation in the Gulf, attacks on international ships, and the rising concerns of the western powers regarding this issue has left Iran as an isolated country with only Russia supporting her.

A direct military conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran will have dire consequences for the neighboringcountries. A direct military confrontation might not be a planned one, but it will be fueled due to the intervention of the other key partners, who seek to sought and serve their personal and national intrigues. Most importantly middle east cannot afford a conflict as it is a commercial hub for the world. The recent skirmishes in Iraq sparked fears of wider war when Iraq retaliated for killings of QassimSoleimani. If the US president had not extended an olive branch, the situation might have worsened. The OIC, which is a coalition of 57 Muslim countries has also failed in bringing measures to deescalate the growing tensions. The OIC, where the Saudi Arabia enjoys an authoritarian style of dominance has always tried to empower her own ideology while rising the catch cry of being a sacred country to all the Muslims. Taking in account, the high tensions and ideological and the quest for religious dominance, the international communities such as UN and neighboring countries should play a positiveand vital role in deescalating these tensions. Bilateral trade, communications between the two adversaries with a regional power playing the role of mediator and extending an olive branch to each other will yield better results and will prove fruitful in mitigating the conflict if not totally subverting it.

Continue Reading

Middle East

First Aid: How Russia and the West Can Help Syrians in Idlib

Published

on

Authors: Andrey Kortunov and Julien Barnes-Dacey*

The next international showdown on Syria is quickly coming into view. After ten years of conflict, Bashar al-Assad may have won the war, but much is left to be done to win the peace. This is nowhere more so than in the province of Idlib, which is home to nearly 3 million people who now live under the control of extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) with external Turkish protection and humanitarian assistance from the United Nations.

The question of humanitarian access into Idlib is now emerging as a central focus of new international politicking. In so doing, this small province could be pivotal to the future of the larger stalemate that has left the United States, Europe, and Russia locked in an unwinnable status quo.

Russia has said that it plans to veto an extension of cross-border UN aid delivered from Turkey, authorised under UN Security Council resolution 2533, which is up for renewal in July, potentially depriving the population of a vital lifeline amid desperate conditions. Moscow says that all aid should be channelled from Damascus via three new government-controlled crossing points to the northern province. Western governments, to say nothing of the local population, are sceptical, given the Syrian government’s hostility towards the province’s inhabitants. For its part, the UN says that cross-lines aid cannot compensate for a closure of cross-border access.

As ever, the two dominant players—the US and Russia—are talking past each other and are focused on countering each other’s moves—to their mutual failure. It is evident that US condemnation and pressure on Russia will not deliver the necessary aid, and also evident that Russia will not get its wish for the international recognition of the legitimacy of the Syrian government by vetoing cross-border access. While these will only be diplomatic failures for the US and Russia, it is the Syrian people who will, as ever, pay the highest price.

But a mutually beneficial solution to Idlib is still possible. Russia and the US, backed by European states, should agree to a new formula whereby Moscow greenlights a final one-year extension of cross-border aid in exchange for a Western agreement to increase aid flows via Damascus, including through Russia’s proposed cross-lines channels into Idlib. This would meet the interests of both sides, allowing immediate humanitarian needs to be met on the ground as desired by the West, while also paving the way for a transition towards the Damascus-centred international aid operation sought by Moscow.

This imperfect but practical compromise would mean more than a positive change in the humanitarian situation in Idlib. It would demonstrate the ability of Russian and Western actors to work together to reach specific agreements in Syria even if their respective approaches to the wider conflict differ significantly. This could serve to reactivate the UN Security Council mechanism, which has been paralysed and absent from the Syrian track for too long.

To be sure the Syrian government will also need to be incentivised to comply. Western governments will need to be willing to increase humanitarian and early recovery support to other parts of government-controlled Syria even as they channel aid to Idlib. With the country now experiencing a dramatic economic implosion, this could serve as a welcome reprieve to Damascus. It would also meet Western interests in not seeing a full state collapse and worsening humanitarian tragedy.

The underlying condition for this increased aid will need to be transparency and access to ensure that assistance is actually delivered to those in need. The West and Russia will need to work on implementing a viable monitoring mechanism for aid flows channelled via Damascus. This will give Moscow an opportunity to push the Syrian regime harder on matters of corruption and mismanagement.

For its part, the West will need to work with Moscow to exercise pressure on Ankara to use its military presence in Idlib to more comprehensively confront radical Islamists and ensure that aid flows do not empower HTS. A ‘deradicalisation’ of Idlib will need to take the form of a detailed roadmap, including that HTS comply with specific behaviour related to humanitarian deliveries.

Ultimately this proposal will not be wholly satisfactory to either Moscow or the West. The West will not like that it is only a one-year extension and will not like the shift towards Damascus. Russia will not like that it is an extension at all. But for all sides the benefits should outweigh the downsides.

Russia will know that Western actors will respond to failure by unilaterally channelling non-UN legitimised aid into the country via Turkey. Russia will lose the opportunity to slowly move Idlib back into Damascus’s orbit and the country’s de facto partition will be entrenched. This outcome is also likely to lead to increased instability as aid flows decrease, with subsequent tensions between Moscow’s allies, Damascus and Ankara.

The West will need to acknowledge that this approach offers the best way of delivering ongoing aid into Idlib and securing greater transparency on wider support across Syria. The alternative—bilateral cross-border support—will not sufficiently meet needs on the ground, will place even greater responsibility on Turkey, and will increase the prospect of Western confrontation with Russia and the Syrian regime.

Importantly, this proposal could also create space for wider political talks on Idlib’s fate. It could lead to a renewed track between Russia, the US, Turkey and Europeans to address the province’s fate in a way that accounts for Syria’s territorial integrity and state sovereignty on the one hand and the needs and security of the local population on the other hand. After ten years of devastating conflict, a humanitarian compromise in Idlib will not represent a huge victory. But a limited agreement could still go a long way to positively changing the momentum in Syria and opening up a pathway for much-needed international cooperation.

* Julien Barnes-Dacey, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Middle East

Iran’s Impunity Will Grow if Evidence of Past Crimes is Fully Destroyed

Published

on

No reasonable person would deny the importance of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. But that issue must not be allowed to continue overshadowing Iran’s responsibility for terrorism and systematic human rights violations. These matters represent a much more imminent threat to human life, as well as longstanding denials of justice for those who have suffered from the Iranian regime’s actions in the past.

The Iranian people have risen multiple times in recent years to call for democratic change. In 2017, major uprisings broke out against the regime’s disastrous policies. Although the ruling clerics suppressed those protests, public unrest soon resumed in November 2019. That uprising was even broader in scope and intensity. The regime responded by opening fire on crowds, murdering at least 1,500. Amnesty International has reported on the torture that is still being meted out to participants in the uprising.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and human rights organizations have continued to repeat longstanding calls for increased attention to some of the worst crimes perpetrated by the regime in previous years.

Last year, Amnesty International praised a “momentous breakthrough” when seven UN human rights experts demanded an end to the ongoing cover-up of a massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988.

The killings were ordered by the regime’s previous supreme leader Khomeini, who declared that opponents of the theocracy were “enemies of God” and thus subject to summary executions. In response, prisons throughout Iran convened “death commissions” that were tasked with interrogating political prisoners over their views. Those who rejected the regime’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam were hanged, often in groups, and their bodies were dumped mostly in mass graves, the locations of which were held secret.

In the end, at least 30,000 political prisoners were massacred. The regime has been trying hard to erase the record of its crimes, including the mass graves. Its cover-up has unfortunately been enabled to some degree by the persistent lack of a coordinated international response to the situation – a failure that was acknowledged in the UN experts’ letter.

The letter noted that although the systematic executions had been referenced in a 1988 UN resolution on Iran’s human rights record, none of the relevant entities within that international body followed up on the case, and the massacre went unpunished and underreported.

For nearly three decades, the regime enforced silence regarding any public discussion of the killings, before this was challenged in 2016 by the leak of an audio recording that featured contemporary officials discussing the 1988 massacre. Regime officials, like then-Minister of Justice Mostafa Pourmohammadi, told state media that they were proud of committing the killings.

Today, the main victims of that massacre, the principal opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), are still targets of terrorist plots on Western soil, instigated by the Iranian regime. The most significant of these in recent years was the plot to bomb a gathering organized near Paris in 2018 by the MEK’s parent coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The Free Iran rally was attended by tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates from throughout the world, as well as hundreds of political dignitaries, and if the attack had not been prevented by law enforcement, it would have no doubt been among the worst terrorist attacks in recent European history.

The mastermind of that attack was a high-ranking Iranian diplomat named Assadollah Assadi. He was convicted in a Belgian court alongside three co-conspirators in February. But serious critics of the Iranian regime have insisted that accountability must not stop here.

If Tehran believes it has gotten away with the 1988 massacre, one of the worst crimes against humanity from the late 20th century, it can also get away with threatening the West and killing protesters by the hundreds. The ongoing destruction of mass graves demonstrates the regime’s understanding that it has not truly gotten away with the massacre as long as evidence remains to be exposed.

The evidence of mass graves has been tentatively identified in at least 36 different cities, but a number of those sites have since been covered by pavement and large structures. There are also signs that this development has accelerated in recent years as awareness of the massacre has gradually expanded. Unfortunately, the destruction currently threatens to outpace the campaign for accountability, and it is up to the United Nations and its leading member states to accelerate that campaign and halt the regime’s destruction of evidence.

If this does not happen and the 1988 massacre is consigned to history before anyone has been brought to justice, it will be difficult to compel Tehran into taking its critics seriously about anything, be it more recent human rights violations, ongoing terrorist threats, or even the nuclear program that authorities have been advancing in spite of the Western conciliation that underlay 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending