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Peace Deal in the Middle East and addressing the Iranian factor

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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.

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Middle East

UAE schoolbooks earn high marks for cultural tolerance, even if that means praising China

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An Israeli NGO gives the United Arab Emirates high marks for mandating schoolbooks that teach tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and engagement with non-Muslims.

“The Emirati curriculum generally meets international standards for peace and tolerance. Textbooks are free of hate and incitement against others. The curriculum teaches students to value the principle of respect for other cultures and encourages curiosity and dialogue. It praises love, affection, and family ties with non-Muslims,” the 128-page study by The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) concluded.

However, at the same time, the report appeared in its evaluation of Emirati textbooks to hue closely to Israeli policy towards the UAE and, more generally, most states that populate the Middle East.

As a result, the report, like Israel that seemingly sees autocracy rather than greater freedoms as a stabilizing factor in the Middle East, skirts the issue of the weaving of the principle of uncritical obedience to authority into the fabric of Emirati education.

That principle is embedded in the teaching of “patriotism” and “commitment to defending the homeland,” two concepts highlighted in the report. The principle is also central to the notion of leadership, defined in the report as a pillar of national identity.

Ryan Bohl, an American who taught in an Emirati public school a decade ago, could have told Impact-se about the unwritten authoritarian principles embedded in the country’s education system.

There is little reason to believe that much has changed since Mr. Bohl’s experience and every reason to assume that those principles have since been reinforced.

One of a number of Westerners hired by the UAE to replace Arab teachers suspected of sympathising with the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Bohl described in an interview teaching in Emirati classrooms as “following the autocratic method, very similar to the ruler and the ruled.”

It’s in classrooms, Mr. Bohl said, “where those political attitudes get formed, reinforced, enforced in some cases if kids like they do, decide to deviate outside the line. They understand what the consequences are long before they can become a political threat or an activist threat to the regime. It’s all about creating a chill effect.”

Seemingly to avoid discussion of the notion of critical thinking, the IMPACT-se report notes that students “prepare for a highly competitive world; they are taught positive thinking and well-being.”

The report’s failure to discuss the limits of critical thinking and attitudes towards authority that may be embedded in the framing of education rather than in textbooks raises the question of whether textbook analysis is sufficient to evaluate attitudes that education systems groom in their tutoring of successive generations.

It also opens to debate whether notions of peace and cultural tolerance can be isolated from degrees of social and political tolerance and pluriformity.

The report notes positively that the textbooks “offer a realistic approach to peace and security,” a reference to the UAE’s recognition of Israel in 2020, its downplaying of efforts to address Palestinian aspirations, and its visceral opposition to any form of political Islam with debilitating consequences in countries like Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.

It would be hard to argue that intervention by the UAE and others, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France, and Russia, in whatever form contributed to peace and security.

The report notes that “support for the Palestinian cause continues but no longer (is) seen as key to solving the broader range of regional challenges. Radicalism and hate are the chief threat. Iranian expansionism is a threat.”

This is not to suggest that IMPACT-se’s evaluation of textbooks should judge Emirati policies but to argue that rather than uncritically legitimising them, it should explicitly instead of implicitly acknowledge that the country’s next generation is being shaped by a top-down, government-spun version of what the meaning is of lofty principles proclaimed by Emirati leaders.

To its credit, the report implicitly states that Emirati concepts of tolerance are not universal but subject to what the country’s rulers define as its national interests.

As a result, it points out that “the People’s Republic of China is surprisingly described as a tolerant, multicultural society, which respects religions” despite the brutal crackdown on religious and ethnic expressions of Turkic Muslim identity in the north-western province of Xinjiang.

IMPACT-se further notes that the textbooks fail to teach the Middle East’s history of slavery. The report insists that the Holocaust and the history of Jews, particularly in the Middle East, should be taught but makes no similar demand for multiple other minorities, including those accused of being heretics.

The NGO suggests that the UAE could also improve its educational references to Israel. The report takes note that “anti-Israeli material has been moderated” in textbooks that teach “cooperating with allies” and “peacemaking” as priorities.

However, UAE recognition of Israel does not mean that a map of Israel is included in the teaching of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

To be fair, Israel may not yet feature on Emirati maps, but Jewish life is increasingly part of public life in the UAE. Kosher restaurants are open for business, as is a Jewish cultural center. Large menorahs were lit in city squares to celebrate the Jewish feast of Hanukkah in December, and a government-funded synagogue is scheduled to open later this year.

Meanwhile, Arab Jews who once fled to Israel and the West are settling in the UAE, partly attracted by financial incentives.

Striking a mildly critical note, IMPACT-se research director Eldad J. Pardo suggested that Emirati students, who were well served by the curriculum’s “pursuit of peace and tolerance,” would benefit from courses that are “equally unrelenting” in providing “students with unbiased information in all fields.”

Mr. Pardo was referring to not only to China but also the curriculum’s endorsement of traditional gender roles even if it anticipates the integration of women into the economy and public life, and what the report described as an “unbalanced” depiction of the history of the Ottoman Empire.

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Iraq: Three Years of Drastic Changes (2019-2022)

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When the wave of the protests broke out at the beginning of October 2019 in Iraq, the Iraqi politicians did not realize the size of the gap between the demands of the protesters which were accumulated more than seventeen years, and the isolation of the politicians from the needs of the people. The waves of the protests began in a small range of different areas in Iraq. Rapidly, it expanded as if it were a rolling snowball in many regions of Iraqi governorates. Moreover, the platforms of social media and the influencers had a great impact on unifying the people against the government and enhancing the protest movement.

Al Tarir Square was the region where most protesters and demonstrators were based there. At that time, they stayed all day in this region and set up their tents to protest and demonstrate against the public situation of their life.

The protesters demanded their looted rights and asked for making economic reforms, finding job opportunities, changing the authority, and toppling the government presided by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The protest stayed between ebb and tide, pressuring the political authority in Iraq.

A new period began in the history of Iraq where clashes between the protesters and the riot forces broke out in Al Tahrir Square and many governorates in the south of Iraq. Tear gas and ductile bullets were used against the protesters to compel them to retreat and disperse them. But the protesters insisted on continuing their demands. Many protesters were killed and wounded due to the intensive violence against them. The strong pressure with falling many martyrs gave its fruit when the Iraqi representatives of the Parliament endeavored to achieve the protesters’ demands by changing the election law into a new one. On 24 December 2019, the Iraqi Parliament approved of changing the unfair Saint Leigo election law into the open districts. The new law divided Iraq into 83 electoral districts.

Moreover, this violent protest led to the collapse of the Iraqi government presided by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. He was compelled to resign by the end of 2019. Many political names were nominated by the Iraqi politicians but the protesters refused them all because they were connected with different political parties.

Finally, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who worked in the Iraqi Intelligence Service and had no party, was nominated by the politicians to be the new Prime Minister. He was well-known for ambiguity and far from the lights of media.

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has become the Prime Minister in March 2020. The protests were over at the beginning of April 2020. With the taking of responsibility of helping Iraq, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi promised the protesters, who were called “Octoberians”, to hold a premature election, and the election was fixed on 10 June 2020.

Many politicians tried to postpone or cancel the premature election. Under their pressure, the premature election was postponed and fixed on 10 October 2020. During Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s period as a Prime Minister, he opened new channels with the Arab states to enhance the cooperation and held many summits to support Iraq in the next stage.

Attempts to postpone the premature election by the Iraqi politicians were on equal foot, but all these attempts failed and the election occurred on the due time.

Before the election, many Octoberians and influencers encouraged the people not to participate in the election. On the day of the election, it witnessed low participation, and people were convinced of not happening any change. These calls gave their fruits in the process of elections in Iraq where the election witnessed very low participation, and most Iraqis refused to participate and vote to the nominees even though there was a new election law. When the elections were over, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq announced that the results would be within two days. After announcing the results of the election partially and defeating many political factions in the Iraqi arena, many convictions were directed to the commission, and it was convicted by fraud and manipulation with the results. This aspect affected the activity of the Commission and led to put great pressure on it. After two weeks of pressure and convictions, the final results of the elections were announced and many political elite Iraqi leaders were defeated gravely.

The results of the election gave a new start through new leaders who were supporting the October revolution that happened in 2019. And most names of these winning movements and alliances were inspired by the October Movement. Those, who represented October Revolution, were also convicted by other Octoberians that Octoberian winners in the election deviated from the aims of the October Revolution.

A new struggle has begun between the losers in the election and the new winners who will have the right to be in the next term of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Representatives. Moreover, many independent individuals won in the election, and the conflict would deepen the scope of dissidence between the losers and winners. Finally, all raised claims of election fraud have not changed the political situation.

The final results of the election had been announced, and the date of holding the first session of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives was fixed to nominate and elect the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives.  The Shiite Sadrist movement, which represents 73 seats, has wiped out its competitors. This aspect has compelled the losing Shiite competitors to establish an alliance called “Coordination Framework” to face the Sadrist movement, represented by the cleric Sayyed Muqtada al-Sader. On the other hand, Al-Takadum Movement (Progress Party), represented by the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives, Mohamed Al-Halbousi, has taken the second rank with 37 seats.

The final results of the election had been announced, and the date of holding the first session of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives was fixed to nominate and elect the spokesman of the Iraqi Parliament of Representatives.

Finally, the first session of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Council was held. Mohamed Al-Halbousi has been elected as the spokesman of the Iraqi Council Parliament of Council. During the next fifteen days, the president of the republic will be elected.

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Middle East

China-US and the Iran nuclear deal

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian that Beijing would firmly support a resumption of negotiations on a nuclear pact [China Media Group-CCTV via Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with  Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on Friday, January 14, 2022 in the city of Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province.  Both of them discussed a gamut of issues pertaining to the Iran-China relationship, as well as the security situation in the Middle East.

A summary of the meeting published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the point, that Foreign Ministers of Iran and China agreed on the need for  strengthening bilateral cooperation in a number of areas under the umbrella of the 25 year Agreement known as ‘Comprehensive Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China’. This agreement had been signed between both countries in March 2021 during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani, but the Iranian Foreign Minister announced the launch of the agreement on January 14, 2022.

During the meeting between Wang Yi and Hossein Amir Abdollahian there was a realization of the fact, that cooperation between both countries needed to be enhanced not only in areas like energy and infrastructure (the focus of the 25 year comprehensive cooperation was on infrastructure and energy), but also in other spheres like education, people to people contacts, medicine and agriculture. Iran also praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and said that it firmly supported the One China policy.

The timing of this visit is interesting, Iran is in talks with other signatories (including China) to the JCPOA/Iran nuclear deal 2015 for the revival of the 2015 agreement. While Iran has asked for removal of economic sanctions which were imposed by the US after it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, the US has said that time is running out, and it is important for Iran to return to full compliance to the 2015 agreement.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview said

‘Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon’

The US Secretary of State also indicated, that if the negotiations were not successful, then US would explore other options along with other allies.

During the course of the meeting on January 14, 2022 Wang Yi is supposed to have told his Chinese counterpart, that while China supported negotiations for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal 2015, the onus for revival was on the US since it had withdrawn in 2018.

The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to China was also significant, because Foreign Ministers of four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — and Secretary General of GCC,  Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf were in China from January 10-14, 2022 with the aim of expanding bilateral ties – especially with regard to energy cooperation and trade. According to many analysts, the visit of GCC officials to China was driven not just by economic factors, but also the growing proximity between Iran and Beijing.

In conclusion, China is important for Iran from an economic perspective. Iran has repeatedly stated, that if US does not remove the economic sanctions it had imposed in 2018, it will focus on strengthening economic links with China (significantly, China has been purchasing oil from Iran over the past three years in spite of the sanctions imposed by the US. The Ebrahim Raisi administration has repeatedly referred to an ‘Asia centric’ policy which prioritises ties with China.

Beijing is seeking to enhance its clout in the Middle East as US ties with certain members of the GCC, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a clear downward spiral in recent months (US has been uncomfortable with the use of China’s 5G technology by UAE and the growing security linkages between Beijing and Saudi Arabia). One of the major economic reasons for the GCC gravitating towards China is Washington’s thrust on reducing its dependence upon GCC for fulfilling its oil needs. Beijing can utilize its good ties with Iran and GCC and play a role in improving links between both.

The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is likely to become more complex, and while there is not an iota of doubt, that the US influence in the Middle East is likely to remain intact, China is fast catching up.

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