Monday, 30 June 2014 19:08

Interview with Irina Zvyagelskaya: From the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Russia's return back to the Middle East.

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M.D.: Israel and Palestine are being tossed around: from escalations to more or less successful negotiations. What do you think will be the result of the latest negotiations breakdown and aggravation of situation between Israel and Palestine? 

Irina Zviagelskaya: You know, that the kidnapping of there Israeli teenagers caused this situation. As the security services failed to locate them, Israel resorted to the military actions and arrested dozens of Palestinians who were already released according to the previous agreements. Now there is an ongoing tightening of Israeli position. Israel has accused Hamas of the abduction. But many experts believe, it was not necessarily Hamas to kidnap them. There are many other organizations that act among Palestinians and practically uncontrolled, so they could do it deliberately in order to turn Israeli’s anger against Hamas. Moreover, many people in Israel are disturbed by the creation of Palestinian government of the national unity, though it is a technical one. There are many reasons that have caused the regular escalation of the situation and they are unlikely to be eliminated. In any case, I am very pessimistic concerning the peace talks. As we know, the promises of State Secretary Kerry that the Americans would swiftly achieve a breakthrough turned out to be unrealistic.  The issues to resolve in order to achieve peace are far too complicated.  Moreover, I believe that violent and bloody processes taking place in the region are completely unlikely to encourage compromise in Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 

M.D.: How do you think the US overtures with Iran and its potential exit from isolation will influence on the situation in the Middle East and on Arab-Israeli conflict in particular?

I.Z. : As far as the US policy towards Iran is concerned it can hardly be called overtures.  The question is to make Iran renounce its nuclear program. And this corresponds to the interests of everybody; Russia is among the members of the negotiations. Another issue is whether Iran is interested itself to exit the isolation, dispose of all sanctions and reintegrate into the world politics and economy. Not surprisingly, Mr Rouhani, well known for his balanced view, has become President of Iran. Meantime, several experts have voiced their fears that Washington will get the increase of oil production and decrease of oil prices as a result of removal of sanctions and US-Iranian approach. I find this logic doubtful, and taking into consideration the situation in Iraq, oil prices decline is just impossible.

The exit of Iran from isolation can be very positive.  Iran could especially take active part in the settlement in Syria, were it plays a significant role, as we all know. The second moment is of course the situation in Iraq, where Iran has its own interests and where its role is very important.

The current situation in Iraq is very dangerous. There is a crisis of US policy of state transformation by military interventions. As soon as the Americans left in the end of 2011, everything collapsed. It has collapsed because they had created a confessional regime. Relying on Shia majority they have dismissed the army, where the majority was Sunni, they managed to close BAAS party, which was also mainly supported by Sunni. And thus they have not only created a huge resentful mass of Sunni, but also have set a course towards the creation of regime excluding different ethnic and confessional groups.

We now see the results of what has happened. The struggle against extremist Sunni groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Levant is top priority now. If they manage to gain a number of military victories and shift the balance of power to their side, that will mean the most grave crisis in the Middle East.

 

M.D. I just wanted to ask about Iraq in particular. Now Washington officially states that the US has no responsibility of the crisis in Iraq. And actually it implies that it is not going to intervene in the crisis. How much should the situation heat to make the politicians take real actions, as Bagdad demands now?

I.Z. : Well, firstly, besides the official statements there are enough expert estimations that directly show, that the US has invested too much in Iraq in due time. We can say that the current administration is not to blame. Of course, it is not Obama’s administration that launched military actions in 2003. It was Bush’es Jr administration. And for sure it is not the administration to be responsible for the regime building in Iraq and the kind of help that was offered to Iraq. However 4,5 thousand US soldiers have died. The military operation and attempts to reform Iraq have cost great money. And everybody knows about it. What has happened in Iraq just indicates the impossibility to transform a society, which is not ready for it by the means of external intervention. This is a crisis of American strategy in the Middle East as well.

Will the US intervene? I had opportunity to read the declarations of the American President who said, “I do not exclude anything”. In general, everything depends on the future course of actions. If the extremists are allowed to win, it will create a great danger not only for Iraq, but for the whole Middle East. Violence and extremist ideas easily overcome the borders. I believe it is very dangerous for Russia, which has its own Islamic extremists, where we face terrorist, where there are examples of Russian soldiers of fortune who fight for the opposition Syria, quite possibly among the insurgents twisted in the same way. Crisis in Iraq should be taken with all the seriousness.

 

M.D.:  Is it possible that the US are just interested in strengthening of ISIS, as once powerful, it could give a final blow to Bashar Assad’s forces, after which the US can strike the Islamists?

I.Z. : It is impossible to predict who will these people strike. The paradox is that Bashar Assad, unacceptable for the US, is currently carrying tasks, which correspond to their interests. He fights the ISIS and other extremists.

Russia is actively returning to the Middle East now. A new, particular era of relations with Saudi Arabia has begun; we are developing the relations with the UAE. The relations with Egypt, with president Al Sisi, are promising. But I would not agree that Russia expels the US from there. Somewhere Russia and the USA keep competing. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian crisis has increased our rivalry including in the Middle East. But in the meantime we have very important field for cooperation there. It is the Syrian crisis settlement, struggle against terrorism and extremism; it is the desire not to let Iran possess nuclear weapons.

 

M.D.: Maybe my question was not completely correct. Is it possible to say, that the Middle East countries have a growing interest to the relations with Russia themselves?

I.Z.: Yes, it is true. Speaking about the social level, the Arabs are generally tired of the Americans. They were enthusiastic about the inclusion of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia. Because, from their point of view, it has shown the US that not everybody is ready to play by its rules. Furthermore,  many countries in the region always wished to have Russia as a counterbalance in the Middle East.

 

Interviewed by Maria Dubovikova

Read 8494 times Last modified on Sunday, 15 March 2015 14:32
Irina Zvyagelskaya

Irina Zviagelskaya is a Chief Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.