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Foreign Policy Reactions towards Slap of the Century

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Whenever a foreign policy decision is implemented, there has always been a reaction to it; and that reaction is not only from the concerned states but also from other states. In this case, the foreign policy behavior was the shifting of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the Deal of the century. The major stakeholders involve in this conflict are US, Israel, Palestine, Arab countries and Middle East countries. So, the possible reactions were also expected from these countries.

For Israel, shifting of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a good and positive move and they responded it in a good way. Shifting of embassy of US means that US is recognizing the Jerusalem as an undivided capital of Israel. No country other than US and Guatemala has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. It was recognition and a push for Israel from US that we are with you, do whatever you want to do in order to occupy Palestine. So, Israel welcomed this decision of US. Israel’s PM, Netanyahu, said, “I want to take the opportunity to make it clear that our position has always been, that the U.S. embassy should be here, in Jerusalem.” As for as Palestinians are concerned, they demand East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestine state and it is their right to ask so. In reaction to shifting of embassy, they cut all the political ties with US and both the parties have not sit together since December 2017. However, there were some non-political relations, like, relations between CIA and Palestinian Authority security forces that were continued. A same kind of hard reaction came from Kuwait, when Aziz Rahim was appointed by Emir of Kuwait as the Gulf state’s first ambassador to Palestine. Kuwait increased their support for Palestine and they gave a kick to Israel by cutting ties with Israel. Kuwait also boycotted the economic summit in 2019 as this summit was led by Jared Kushner.

Talking about the Deal of the century, it was not less than a gift for Israel as Israel would keep its control on the settlements it did in West Bank. This deal has shattered the two-state solution. Israel has been doing illegal settlement for the last 50 years, and more than 700,000 Israelis are now present in East Jerusalem and West Bank. No doubt US has changed its policy towards this issue and this deal has pushed and encouraged the Israel to occupy more territories of Palestine but Israel has been doing it for many years with the support of US, though it was unofficial. No one is here to stop them and there is no pressure on them from the international community. Hence, the reaction from Israel and Israeli lobby in US was positive and they welcomed the decision, as everything is in their favor and they are very happy about that fact. Israel’s PM, Netanyahu, said to President Donald Trump, “Thank you for everything you have done for Israel.” For Palestine, it is safe to assume that the plan was nothing more than the slap of the century. According to the deal, Palestine has to take scattered patches of land from different parts with no connectivity at all. Palestine immediately refused to accept the plan and Israel and US were expecting the same response so as to make it a pretext to grab more land and show the world that we are offering them a deal but they themselves are not accepting it so now we have to go with our annexation plan. This decision triggered number of protests in occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. President Mahmood Abbas refused to discuss the plan with Israel and US, not to mention accepting it. Previously, Palestine just had the political relations with US but after the deal, they cut the security ties too. The information, which had formerly been sharing by Palestinian Authority security to CIA, has also been stopped to share.  

If we analyze this whole event, we come to the conclusion that Muslim community and Arab countries which are supposed to be on Palestine side are just paying the lip-service and theoretically they are with Palestine but on ground they have been supporting Israel. Muslim community is divided in the world because of which it is hard to decide the fate of Palestine. Gulf countries see Iran as a threat in Middle East to their hegemony and that’s why they are with Israel to control Iran. Egypt is with Israel because of the presence of ISIS on their joint borders of Sinai. Furthermore, International Criminal Court (ICC) and United Nations also condemned this deal of the century but they can do nothing about this fact despite being a so-called organization for promoting peace and stability in the world. They are toothless to take any step for the betterment of the Palestinians. In this conflict, Pakistan’s position is very clear and Pakistan has always supported two-state solution; Prime Minister Imran Khan also said that we would not accept Israel until they do justice with the Palestinians. There might be a theory in top officials and think tanks that the deal and plan they are imposing on Palestine can be imposed on Pakistan in Kashmir Issue, so Pakistan is always with Palestine. Other than that, EU has also failed to help Palestine in this conflict; though they condemned the Trump’s decision, the EU is divided and fractured and different countries have different views regarding this issue. Some are in favor of this deal and others are not supporting it. Eastern states are pro-Israel while Western countries are not supporting Israel. As EU has to work on consensus and there is no consensus in EU among member states, so it is out of the question that EU would help Palestine. Other countries that opposed the plan and considered it a slap of the century includes, Turkey, Iran, Germany, Bahrain and Jordan. Jordan is worry because of the increasing number of refugees in their country from Palestine. Turkey’s response is also supportive. Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan, said in many speeches that Palestine is not for SALE. He added that “noting the holiness of Jerusalem to Muslims, giving the city to Israel can never be accepted.”

Another important point is that America is offering the investment of 50 billion dollars in Palestine as well as 1 million jobs. US and Israel think that they can solve this issue by throwing dollars on Palestinians. But deep down all the Palestine officials know that Israel is just trying to control Palestinians. President Mahmood Abbas said, “We have been losing lives for this cause and this land is not for sale that you can just purchase with some money.” There has also been a reaction from pro-Palestine lobby in America but they are weak as compared to strong and powerful pro-Israel lobby in US. Money cannot help US and Israel at all and they have to sign a political deal with Palestine if they really don’t want to make this problem worse. But again we cannot expect any good from US leadership. They want to contain Islam and spread their so-called liberal democracy in the world. They hate those who are blacks, brown or people with skins other than white. They hate people with a different religion and Palestinians are just one of those. In short, we can say US “a lawyer of Israel.”

To suggest, it can be said that there is a sheer need of unity and brotherhood among Muslim community which has divided at present. Muslim countries can win the case of Palestine only with the cooperation among themselves. Putting the pressure on Israel and US can stop them to implement this plan which has been delayed for now. International community should play its important role in this conflict because one apple fell and Newton discovered gravity but we see thousands of Muslims are dying and falling in Palestine but no one is discovering humanity. Pakistan and Turkey must take a clear position to save Muslim brothers and to avoid the same plan to be implemented in Kashmir.

Imaz Tanveer Virk, Student of BS International Relations at National Defence University, Islamabad. He demonstrates keen interest in global politics and Pakistan affairs. He is also a blogger and freelance writer for various online portals.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia and Iran cold war

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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.

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Middle East

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

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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

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Middle East

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

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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.

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