Shehab Al Makahleh

Shehab Al Makahleh

Вторник, 14 Август 2018 21:08

Is the world ready for eco-refugee waves?

The upshots of ecological changes may cause the movement of more than 25-30 million people in the coming decade. How can this be handled?

It is known that ecology‐correlated security challenges are intercontinental in form, driving many countries to progressively hinge on international organizations and corporations for a solution. However, this rings the alarm bell as climate is changing drastically and more natural disasters are projected due to extreme heat variations.

The significant matter is that climate security-related issues should be addressed at the highest levels as this is a transnational issue which affects the stability of the world. How can the international community respond to this new challenge?

The concerned entities and apparatuses should prepare recommendations for world leaders to extend people’s understanding on how to address such challenges which, due to climate changes, would cause instability to some countries unless crafted effective global solutions to these challenges are implemented to control any further exacerbation of eco-refugees who escape disastrous areas in their countries, seeking refuge in other states.

Thus, such structural disparities should be mainstreamed into ecological adaptation processes in order to enhance inclusion and inhibit vehemence. This requires considering two major dynamics into the process. First, structural disproportion and conflict-wise tactic as both methodologies entail customisation and inclusion of refugees in the new community.

Climate change connection

However, the more natural disasters we have due to climate change, the more eco-refugees host states will have. The issue that would rise later on is their adaptation and inclusion in their new communities where many people would be coming from various regions and countries. This will promote ethnic and race heterogeneity, increase insecurity and produce more anarchy and clashes among those groups with the citizens of host nations.

Therefore, buttressing a constructive synergy between these migrants, fashioning a unified structure, and upholding upright governance, considering interlinkages and correlations between climate alteration, exodus and security should be the next top topics at any United Nations conference or meeting because every country is expected to face these challenges which will be a real contest and trail for world cooperation and coordination to tackle such topics.

The more natural disasters we have due to climate change, the more eco-refugees host states will have. 

– Shehab Al-Makahleh

With some countries pulling out of the climate agreement, this would be another trigger not to be able to address such challenges as they don’t want to be involved at the international level to handle these predicted movements due to climate changes.

If we collectively fail to put an end to climate changes, this would drive millions of people to escape their homelands seeking shelter in safe havens in other countries. In other words, this would cause a larger wave of asylum than what man-made disasters trigger which included amongst others the Libyan and Syrian refugees. If so to happen, there is a dire need to cultivate a charter to ensure the required shelter for eco-refugees, who would be a potential risk to their host nations.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is witnessing a severe climate change with the worst drought waves in decades in places like Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. Many farmers who live on cultivation of their lands will suffer from this wave, forcing them to leave their countries due to drought without even waiting for a regional war to break out.

What happened in Syria and Libya due to wars will happen in other places in the MENA, but this time due to drought due to heat waves, millions of eco-refugees will flood Europe due to its proximity to the region. Recent studies showed that even developed nations such as the US is not safe and immune to such natural disasters which would cause huge eco-refuge from some states to others or from the US to Mexico and Canada or from both to the US.

Because of this, the number of eco-refugees will be hiking every year, a prelude to political, social and economic strains. Thus, unless human beings unify against such wave, we will face an existential threat to people’s culture, civilisation and stability.

Europe which is close to Africa and Asia, will be badly affected by migration problems in the near future, mainly from countries in North Africa which is adjacent to Europe. In 2015, a conference was held in Bonn, Germany, regarding climate.

The developed countries decided to insure 400 million migrants from the developing world who are expected to flee their countries to Europe due to climate change. They used for the first time a terminology: Insure-resilience, which aims to secure a shelter for those refugees and to include them in the communities before they turn into a source of risk to hosting nations.

Oxfam has issued a report previously about the waves of displacement due to climate change. The entity expected that the number of eco-refugees recorded during the period of 2008-2006 stood at 21.8 million people. Some of these movements were caused by Fiji Hurricane, volcanos and heat waves.

The recent fires in Greece displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Such eco-refugee influx will pose a social risk as unemployment amongst these would exacerbate the host countries’ security and stability to a great extent due to cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences.

The world should address the climate issues on one hand and should address the eco-refugees predicaments on the other. Thus, addressing them in an integrated way is therefore of utmost importance to secure a sustainable future. Since climate changes are deemed the worst ecological threat, all countries, mainly the developed, should recognise that migration waves from states which are badly affected such transformations as this poses a high national security threat and would be a catalyst to anarchy and a tension multiplier later on.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/08/04/Is-the-world-ready-for-eco-refugee-waves-.html

Вторник, 14 Август 2018 21:05

Syria’s encrypted messages to Jordan

Regional geopolitical requirements, along with internal political and security concerns, have been the main pillars of Jordanian policy vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis.

The management of security concerns associated with the growing terrorism on its northern border had become the main objective of Jordan’s foreign policy. Thus, many Jordanians are upbeat that bilateral relations will be back to normalcy in light of new realities in Syria in the field in pursuance of the tone of the Syrian officials towards Jordan.

Since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, Jordanian diplomacy has been characterized by much mistrust and caution regarding the Syrian conflict unlike other neighbors of Syria. Thus, Jordan has been deeply concerned by instability and violence spreading to its territory.

Naturally, it has been Amman’s priority to adapt to the crisis on its northern border, not the issue of the survival or demise of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as Jordan has consistently sought a political agreement to end the conflict. 

Fresh start

Jordanian politicians and people believe that it is the time to let bygones be bygones and to start afresh as Jordan and Syria should have close ties at all levels regardless of pressure Jordan is undergoing from regional and international powers.

When Jordan kept its embassy open in Damascus that was a positive signal to the Syrian regime that the kingdom keeps the minimum level of communication, which has been a wise and prudent policy at that time due to regional and international pressure.

There is no doubt that Jordan’s concern about the growing extremism on its northern border has been a severe blow for armed opposition factions

– Shehab Al-Makahleh

There is no doubt that Jordan’s concern about the growing extremism on its northern border has been a severe blow for the armed opposition factions at a time the kingdom maintained close contact with the Kremlin even before Russia launched its air campaign end of September 2015.

This has helped Jordan pursue political realism through its rapprochement with Moscow, which led to the demise and decline of armed opposition forces. As Moscow plays the role of “decision maker” in Syria, things seem to be heading towards restoring the regime control over crossings points between Jordan and Syria not only Naseeb-Jaber but also Ramtha-Dera’a with Russian help.

Terms to open borders

After the liberation of Naseeb crossing, Jordanian politicians close to the Syrian government had been informed by Damascus that the border point will not be opened before a comprehensive strategic understanding with Jordan is reached, not only for economic purposes but also for strategic and security considerations.

This entails that Syrian and Jordanian officials would be paying mutual visits in the coming era, a gesture to start or restore official relations.

Despite Jordan’s official statements that Amman’s relations with Damascus are ongoing at military and diplomatic levels with the Syrian side, the Syrian regime’s intention in the aftermath of recovering Nasseb crossing to have full relations with Jordan reflect otherwise. This entails the exchange of ambassadors first before any talk about economic, security and political ties.

In May 2018, Amman received many positive messages from Damascus to re-establish contacts related to border arrangements between the two countries. Such Syrian messages have been decrypted by Jordan, some of which demonstrated the Syrian government’s willingness to overcome the old political differences to start economic activities in the reconstruction process of Syria with the Jordanian private sector.

This explains the visit of the chairman of Jordanian Chambers of Industry to Syria last May, accompanied by a number of businessmen. Some of these messages have also included assurances that the Syrian government understands Jordan’s atmospherics and pressure exerted on the country since 2011.

However, communications through Jordanian security and military channels have been active, and political and diplomatic channels remained open. Before March 2011, Jordan and Syria have largely formulated their economic and political affairs based on a sprouting sequence of strategic partnerships.

A breakthrough?

When Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in an interview with Jordan News Agency, Petra, that he is “deeply concerned” about the situation in southern Syria and that his country’s border with Syria would only reopen “when the right security conditions materialize on the ground,” this is the condition that Jordan has for the Syrian government.

And with the recovery of the borders with Jordan, this condition is met and Jordan is looking forward to reopening the crossing point to jump-start trade activities. However, this is not what Syria wants at present.

In spite of all differences that marred Jordanian-Syrian ties for eight years, bilateral relations are moving in an increasingly positive direction. The coming months may prove to be pivotal ones in their relations, bringing temperature to their pre-2011 era. Since August 2017, al-Assad has been sending positive messages to Jordan.

The remarks of the Syrian president and his interviews with foreign TV channels reveal that Damascus does not attach great importance to the opening of the border with Jordan soon, but attaches importance to a comprehensive security, political, military and economic deal that will help reach a kind of rapprochement and a détente between both governments. It is a full package deal or nothing.

Damascus has been sending messages to Jordan through Germany which is deemed an honest broker and a source of confidence for the Syrian government. These messages focused on the readiness of the Syrian regime to trade the Iranian presence on the Jordanian border with disarming the opposition and the Free Syrian Army factions.

The Naseeb crossing is one of the Middle East’s busiest trade routes as it connects Europe to the Middle East. Before the closure of borders, Jordan’s customs handled $1.5 billion-worth of goods a year. Now that amount is zero. Before the Syrian uprising in 2011, more than 5,000 trucks used to cross the border each month.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/07/20/Syria-s-encrypted-messages-to-Jordan-.html

Вторник, 14 Август 2018 21:01

The cost of Middle East wars, $11 trillion and rising

Military conflicts have caused huge death toll and enormous economic, military, environmental, social and political losses for Arabs since 1948.

With more than 2 million death toll, Arab economies, mainly Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan and North Africa countries have lost up to $11 trillion since 1948. The first losses were a result of Arab-Israeli wars, the second was the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and the third was the Arab Spring.

Such conflicts have affected not only the countries per se but rather they have extended to neighboring countries, turning the entire region into a flaming ball, destructing trade, industry, tourism, and investment. This has led to massive exodus of citizens from rural areas to cities, resulting in ecological predicaments, desertification and drought.

For many years, the Middle East has been the scene of conflict, the worst conflicts in the world. This has been accompanied by arms race to purchase weapons.

That has been the case with the Middle East, where many countries sought to acquire the state-of-the art weaponry. Some recent studies estimated military spending in the Middle East for 2017 at $120 billion, an increase of 6 percent over 2016. Such papers indicate that the region accounts for an increase in the volume of military spending by 6 percent.

Balance of power

The balance of power in international politics is a highly complex and multifaceted concept, but there is an agreement on the broad lines theoretically and practically in the course of events. At present, the world has generally complex or multipolar balances; simple or binary poises.

The composite balance depends on multiple poles in each party, including states and blocs as it is dominated by the logic of competition and deterrence, and often avoids war, leading to stagnation and stability.

The current international conflict, although oriented toward a bilateral balance, is flexible due to absence of argumentative ideological factors

– Shehab Al-Makahleh

The simple balance is the most precarious as the blocs and alliances clash sharply leading to war and the period of stability is an impermanent period, which is the preparation for war and a test of how powerful such an alliance is.

Since the conflict is between two main blocs, each of which is controlled by a major nucleus state that makes the conflict look like an encounter between two major states. The same applies to regional balances but a regional power plays a dual role: an internal in the region and an external in international conflicts, where international engagements and developments depend on regional wars and balances.

Regional conflict for international wars

Given the gravity of major world wars because of nuclear deterrence, regional confrontations are the direct alternative, with each bloc supporting its allies in the region to gain a foothold and increase balance internationally.

The characteristics and nature of equilibrium are divided into rigid and elastic, where the rigid expresses a balance between heterogeneous and contradictory blocs while the flexible expresses a balance between relatively homogenous clusters of civilization, culture and ideology.

This explains why the Middle East and poor countries are witnessing non-stop wars since early 20th century. Given the current international and regional situation, one can say that since the collapse of the Berlin Wall as a sign of the end of the Cold War and the transformation of the world into unipolarity, balances have been constantly being shaped to counterbalance this imbalanced status. International and regional alliances have been formed to counter the Western bloc led by the US.

Due to multiple factors, coalitions have until recently formed balances of pluralistic, flexible and resilient types. Despite US President Donald Trump’s policies against many countries, including his allies in the West, power balance is flexible because Russia tends to be a nucleus power as well at the international level within its own bloc, using regional allies.

The source of flexibility is that the ideological factors are no longer the same as before, and a war like the Second World War which broke out in 1939 was to counter Nazism-Fascism ideologies. The demise of the Soviet Union and the offense against the USSR have broken out because of communist ideologies.

Bilateral balance

Thus, the current international conflict, although oriented toward a bilateral balance, is flexible due to absence of argumentative ideological factors. The two camps: Russia and its orbit on one hand and the US and its orbit on the other are pragmatic, and this will avert the two blocs from getting involved in another world war. Thus, a regional war is much more likely to happen.

However, the risks for the Middle East region are quite vibrant. Unlike the international community which is pragmatic, the Mideast regional balance comes from furthering ideological cognitive calculations into existential, which would lead to war anytime where each of the two blocs tests its policies, diplomacy and weaponry.

For Israel to launch a war, this is impossible to target any country except Syria, Lebanon and Iran. However, this necessitates that Tel Aviv seizes a rare regional moment that the whole region is undergoing to act. This cannot be achieved without a political and media cover. Right now, we are witnessing these two covers for Israel more than before.

Any future war could sweep through the entire region and undermine regional and international interests for years to come. Besides, countless implications on the people of the Middle East are projected. However, the Mideast is still an area where the major international blocs are testing their policies and state-of-the-art weaponry regardless of any Middle Easterners’ reaps that meet their aspirations and ambitions.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/07/27/The-cost-of-Middle-East-wars-11-trillion-and-rising.html

On August 2, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters: “From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule.” This is rather noteworthy at this time that the Syrian front will be calmer. In other words, Israel prefers to see Syria return to pre-war status when the central government in Damascus was in full control before March 2011.

Such a statement is not void and is of utmost importance as it demonstrates that the plans or schemes to divide Syria into various provinces or federal states had gone with the wind. What Lieberman said and the Jordanian armed forces’ assistance to the Syrian Army in the Yarmouk Basin against Khaled bin Al-Walid, an ISIS affiliate, reveal a fact that both Jordan and Israel are back to pre-Syrian war era in terms of cooperation with the Syrian government regarding securing borders. However, the issue at stake is Idlib, a predicament to the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and China on one hand and Turkey and the militants in Idlib province on the other.

Turkey is hostile to the Syrian regime. Ankara has ethnic and regional aspirations in Syria. At present, the Turkish government is at odds with the West. The Turks have never forgotten that once they were part of the Byzantine Empire, the first Christian State, and the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the coming era for Turkey will be an existential war. Therefore, the clash of the Turkish civilization with others is in parity with existentialism which is inevitable. This justifies why Ankara is pragmatic, depending on situational contradictions in Syria on one hand and American-Western interests on the other.

The formation of the “National Liberation Front” in Idlib, a group of opposition factions, formed by the Free Syrian Army backed by Turkey, aimed to fortify the Turkish stance because the number of fighters reached 100,000. This figure would create a major dilemma for the Syrian Army and its allies to free Idlib as plans have been set up to start the operation in September. Thus, the battle of Idlib will be the last in the Syrian conflict that determines the future not only for Syria, but also for Turkey as a new ally will join the battle: China, which has Uyghur fighters amongst those militants in Idlib.

The Chinese ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, told a Syrian Arabic daily, few days ago that China will allegedly assist the Syrian Army in their upcoming battle in southwestern Idlib, and that the Chinese military is prepared to somehow take part in the upcoming Idlib offensive, especially because of the large presence of Uyghur fighters near Jisr Al-Shughour.

The Chinese ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, told a Syrian Arabic daily, few days ago that China will allegedly assist the Syrian Army in their upcoming battle in southwestern Idlib, and that the Chinese military is prepared to somehow take part in the upcoming Idlib offensive, especially because of the large presence of Uyghur fighters near Jisr Al-Shughour

Shehab Al Makahleh

The ambassador elucidated: “The Chinese military has played an imperative role in protecting sovereignty, security and stability of China. At the same time, it (China) is seeking to take part in peacekeeping operations later on. At present, there is ongoing cooperation between Syria and China in combating terrorism. We also know that the war on terror is not only for the benefit of the Syrian people, but also for the Chinese people and the people of the world.”

That is an indication on the coming battle of Idlib where the Chinese army will be involved as China will not allow them back to their homeland as they are a high risk to Chinese national security.  

Chinese presence in Mideast via Syria  

The vigorous military interposition of the Chinese forces in Syria would be a major step forward towards a more ample participation of China in the Middle East and the world as a whole. China has refrained from taking part in military operations beyond its borders. Therefore, a military operation in Syria could open the door to more Chinese military engagements around the world. What Beijing fears most is the return of those Uyghur militants, members of the Turkestan Islamic Party, who are now in Idlib province to China where they can launch attacks against the Chinese government, seeking an independent state.

The Chinese ambassador’s statement demonstrates that China is paving the ground to send Chinese special operations forces (SOF) to actively take part in the forthcoming battle of Idlib to liquidate the Uyghur fighters amongst others. This Chinese bid will be of due concern to Turkey as the Turkish army cannot counter pressure from both Russia and China which both have huge economic and business transactions with Ankara. The Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan cannot lose them for a number of militants.
The Middle East has become the new playground for China strategically. With SOF arrival to the port of Tartous on the Syrian coast in order to participate in the coming battle in Idlib, such Chinese participation in Syria could lead to more competition between Washington and Beijing. The reason is that China has been deeply concerned about the large number of Chinese-born militants known as the “Turkmen” or “Uyghurs” movement who have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Today, with the arrival of two units of the Chinese (SOF), known as the Siberian and the Night Tigers, to fight the terrorist factions in the province, which is adjacent to Turkey, Beijing is seeking to fight those outside its territory for fear of their return to the region which is located in the territory known as Xinjiang as those pose an existential threat to the territorial integrity of China.

The number of Chinese militants fighting alongside terrorist groups in Syria is estimated at 5,000. Therefore, China’s participation in military operations against these militants is due to China’s own interests in Syria, not to mention the economic, political and security interests. The return of these Chinese fighters from Syria to China with their extremist and terrorist ideology means a great security and military threat to the Chinese economy and society. Moreover, China’s participation in the coming campaign against terrorists aims to protect its economic interests in Syria as China has invested more than $40 million in Syria’s infrastructure.

Few days ago, Ankara has prepared a document to discuss with the Russians and Chinese regarding the future of Idlib without going to war, fearing the spillover and the refugee influx to Turkey. The terms were not satisfactory to both Moscow and Beijing. This is conducive to the scenario of war which would end the dreams of Erdogan in Syria.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/08/10/The-new-Syria-amidst-conflicting-regional-international-interests.html

Четверг, 26 Июль 2018 22:02

Jordan’s fragile stability is under threat

The West needs to understand the present connection between Jordan’s economy and its politics.
Since 2011, Jordan has been facing a wide range of pressures — political, economic, demographic, security and military — due mainly to the continuing anarchy in neighboring Iraq and Syria that has driven hundreds of thousands of refugees to seek shelter in the Hashemite Kingdom. The poor economic conditions in Jordan threaten to create a magnet for jihadists, extremists and terrorists, with the Jordanian government warning that it cannot accommodate more Syrian refugees, seeking means to avert a new calamity. An urgent monetary bailout is needed to avert a deeper security crisis by addressing the dearth of natural resources and providing facilities to improve the living conditions for Jordanians who have lost confidence that a government reshuffle can save the country.

The West needs to understand the present connection between Jordan’s economy and its politics. Jordan’s total public debt stood at $39 billion end of April, with official figures showing that the kingdom’s public debt increased to 96% of the country’s GDP, with unemployment at 18%. Widespread protests over the government’s economic policy forced the resignation of Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki in June and the appointment by King Abdullah II of a liberal successor, Omar Razzaz, who has been tasked with carrying out an urgent financial austerity plan to cut public expenditure.

With political and economic unrest widespread, Jordan appears fragile and prone to higher security threats, which could be exacerbated by the Syrian government forces preparing for a major assault to recover Deraa, al-Suwaida and al-Quneitra from the armed opposition. Since July 2017, Russia, the US and Jordan have reached an agreement to set up de-escalation zones in Syria, including southern parts of the country near the Jordanian border. At present, Syrian and Russian preparations are in progress to liberate the three provinces. Helicopters dropped flyers over Deraa in June asking rebels to put down their arms, resolve their dispute with the Syrian government and not waste their lives by facing sure death.

At the end of June, fears have doubled due to a breakout of fighting between Syrian troops (backed by Russian airstrikes) with rebels in the southwest of Syria. The Israeli government has warned the Syrian army and its allies that Israel “could attack Damascus’ forces if they try to deploy in a demilitarized border zone while advancing against rebels in the region.” This entails that the Syrian army should not deploy troops in al-Quneitra province. As for Jordan, the troubled areas in southwest Syria, mainly in Deraa province, border Jordanian villages, raising fears of intrusion by militants into Jordan.

Moscow says that it has already arranged an agreement with Amman and Washington to force Iranian troops and the militias fighting under its supervision to redeploy 60 kilometers from the Israeli frontiers and 25 kilometers from the Jordanian borders to ensure that there would be no military threat to both countries. With this, Jordan could stem the inflow of both Syrian militants and refugees into the kingdom.

On July 6, the Syrian rebels agreed to hand over their heavy weapons to the Russian troops who brokered a ceasefire deal between the Syrian regime and the rebels in southern Syria. This is deemed a major victory for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose troops managed to recover the Nassib border crossing with Jordan, which was held by the opposition forces for more than three years.

The decision to start the battle in south Syria has been taken at the highest levels in Damascus and Moscow, with some attempts at reconciliation between the rebels and the Syrian army. The American administration informed the rebels in southern Syria that they would not receive any American support. This has encouraged the Russians to launch airstrikes in the south to pave the way for the Syrian armed forces to start their offensive, with the Syrian regime reinforcing its sites in Deraa and entering new villages and outskirts.

Amman has said earlier that the situation in south Syria is critical, calling on both Moscow and Washington to consider Jordanian concerns. The kingdom is a vital regional ally for the United States, starting from cooperation in the war on terror to the issues of housing refugees. The consequences of the war in Syria, the influx of refugees and the burden borne by the Jordanian economy have been on King Abdullah’s agenda during recent talks with US President Donald Trump. The monarch informed the American leadership that the cost of the war in south Syria would lead to a catastrophe not only for the Jordanian economy but its society as a whole.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Jordan in June and his meeting with the king has not focused only on the so-called “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also on the offensive in south Syria near the borders of Israel and Jordan. This is confirmed by the fact that the chief of Israeli intelligence, Yossi Cohen, accompanied Netanyahu on his visit. Both countries are concerned about the presence of Iranian militias and troops near their borders and fear that if the Syrian army starts operations, the vacuum would be filled by these militias rather than by Syrian government forces.

Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Moscow on July 11 will try to diffuse tensions between the Syrian and Israeli armies near the Golan Heights. The Israeli prime minister is looking for the deployment of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force immediately to the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel. Such movements by Israelis and Jordanians demonstrate the level of concern for both government vis-à-vis the recent developments in south Syria.

It is hard to think of a stable Jordan without considering its northern borders with Syria. Amman wholly rejects any military adventure in the south of Syria as it would be a time bomb set against the stability of the kingdom. King Abdullah is trying to resolve these eventualities with the Americans, the Russians and other regional powers to avert another catastrophe that could impair Jordan’s economy and pose high security threats to the country’s stability.

Article published in Fair Observer: https://www.fairobserver.com/region/middle_east_north_africa/jordan-protests-instability-refugees-syria-russia-israel-middle-east-news-00997/

Photo credit Leonid Andronov

Понедельник, 28 Май 2018 17:31

Reasons behind US-EU rift over Iran nuclear deal

US President Donald Trump’s pullout declaration from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran is tantamount to a declaration of war in the Middle East, which would lead to the change of the regime in Tehran. However, the EU-American rift over the deal would weaken the sanctions on Iran if imposed.

But why are American allies in the EU opposing deal pulling? It can be attributed to changing political alignments in the Middle East region after the 2011 Arab Spring, and the Western drive to reach a deal that serves EU interests as many of the European states have been undergoing rigid economic conditions. These factors prompted the EU to sign the deal alongside China and Russia in 2015.

However, the agreement has not changed Iran’s behavior and that former US President Barrack Obama’s administration was pathetic in signing such a deal along with the UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany.

The Americans have sought to ignite fire under Iranian feet by pushing the government into new negotiations with new rules and conditions while Europeans have sought to keep the agreement and to add some amendments to the deal. The EU has repeatedly declared support for the deal, rejecting American pugnaciousness and confrontational attitude.

The EU advocacy for the deal stems from economic and commercial factors as Europeans fear unexpected hindrances and obstacles to affect their penetration to the Iranian market. Thus, the EU states give priority to economic interests in the Iranian market to secure more commercial contracts. However, political, security and human rights files, are less important to them compared to Americans.

If there is no win-win formula for the EU, it is not expected that the EU would ever accept any amendments to the deal

– Shehab Al-Makahleh

Geopolitical factor

While Washington focuses on keeping the geopolitical factor in the Middle East unchanged, rejecting Iranian expansionist policies, opposing Iranian hiking influence in the region which threatens stability of the Middle East, and countering Tehran’s support for armed movements and militias in Arab countries, the EU turns deaf ear to this risk.

Thus, Trump’s administration calls on Tehran to set aside its expansionist agendas before talking about any economic openness. At the same time, the US urges the EU to follow the American approach when opening dialogue with the Iranian government; in other words, not to prioritise their economic and commercial requirements to political and military ones.

The EU sounds not interested in the Middle East issues and concerns are only restricted to economic regardless of the repercussions and ramifications to the Middle East region.

To date, Trump seems to have achieved a partial victory; however, this can be a double edge weapon that can backfire against American interests any moment. He has been able to move the European rhetoric machine against Iran at some point vis-à-vis Tehran’s political and military interventions in the Middle East and with regard to Iranian ballistic missiles.

The question remains whether American pullout of the nuclear agreement cause rift between the US and the EU? It has been clear that since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation of documents related to Iranian nuclear program about Tehran’s breach of the nuclear agreement, Trump and his hawkish administration have taken their decision to cancel the deal and started to discuss scenarios of imposing sanctions on Iran.

Some experts believe that Trump has given a precious gift to the Supreme Leader of Iran and the hawks of the Iranian government because he ended the power of the reformers and the Iranian opposition. Both the hawks and the hardliners in Iran have been awarded a golden opportunity and would have in the near future the upper hand to Hassan Rouhani and his reformist wing.

Trump’s decision was not a surprise as he previously announced that the multilateral deal was an unmitigated disaster which has not taken into consideration the Iranian ballistic missile and its other military capabilities.

The rift between the EU and the US over the deal is that any sanctions on the Iranian economy will harm the European markets, which have won many contracts in Iran after the 2015 deal. Thus, Trump's declaration could harm investor’s confidence in Iran and freak out larger businesses to get out of Iranian volatile market.

Apparently, Tehran and Washington have no economic or commercial ties at present; however, this is not the case with the European partners as they seek to maintain Iranian economy vibrant and buoyant. 

Why the EU, China and Russia support the deal?

Trump has pulled out of the deal leaving the EU, Russia, China and the UK at stake to negotiate a new deal that better serves their interests in Iran. Statistics show that trade exchange between the EU and Iran reached $9.5 billion in 2015, hiked to $17 billion in 2016. In 2017, trade exchange recorded $25 billion.

The major companies benefitting from Iran are French, Dutch and German including Total, Airbus, Renault and Shell amongst others. China, on the other hand, is deemed the largest trade partner to Iran. In 2017, trade turnover between Iran and China stood at US$38 billion, accounting 23 per cent of Iran’s total trade. Russian Iranian total trade amounted to US$1.8 billion in 2017.

If there is no win-win formula for the EU, it is not expected that the EU would ever accept any amendments to the deal.

However, China and Russia will gain more from the pullout of the Americans from the multilateral nuclear deal as this will give both Moscow and Beijing diplomatic leverage over Washington’s as both capitals would present themselves as the credible mediator to fill the vacuum of the US in the Middle East.

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/05/25/Reasons-behind-US-EU-rift-over-Iran-nuclear-deal.html

Среда, 23 Май 2018 23:23

A Game of Thrones for the Palestinian Authority

President Mahmoud Abbas seems to be on his way out as the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Who will take his place? 

Palestinian politics today is undergoing a change as President Mahmoud Abbas’ health condition deteriorates. With no clear heir to ensure a landslide victory, the question over who will replace Abbas remains unanswered. The possible successors are a source of argument among the Palestinians and the international community. Currently, speculation centers around four names.

Among them is Mahmoud al-Aloul, the first vice president of Fatah. Abbas himself supports Aloul to be his successor to lead the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, Aloul is not a welcome choice for some Arab countries because he is hawkish and opposes the two-state solution. Sources have stated that Fatah’s General Councildecided in March to change the party’s internal constitution in order to appoint Aloul as the acting leader for three months if Abbas’ health affects his ability to rule. Israel is also concerned about the succession, as a PA power vacuum could lead to further violence.

The second candidate in the race is Jibril Rajoub, a former West Bank security chief and a senior Fatah figure. He served as head of the Preventive Security Force in the West Bank until 2002, after which then-PA President Yasser Arafat appointed Rajoub as his national security adviser in 2003. Rajoub believes he is the most suitable candidate to lead the PA after Abbas.

The third candidate is Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security mastermind who was forced to flee Ramallah in 2011 following allegations of corruption and an attempted coup against Abbas. It is said that Elliot Abrams, a National Security Council adviser during the George W. Bush administration, nominated Dahlan to lead the PA mission against Hamas in Gaza in 2007, which earned him the warlord moniker. While in exile in the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan was accused of sending money to some Fatah members in Gaza to undermine Abbas’ authority in Ramallah, the headquarters of the PA. Dahlan had always opposed Islamist movements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, and is waiting for the right moment to return to the West Bank as president.

The fourth candidate is Nasser al-Kidwa, the nephew of Yasser Arafat and senior Fatah official. Kidwa has served as the Palestinian foreign minister and envoy to the United Nations. He is the most likely candidate to win the presidential race as he is supported by the Arab Quartet that includes Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Possible Scenarios

There are three possible scenarios in the coming months to replace the aging Abbas, as per NPR. The first option, if Abbas is no longer able to uphold his office, is that the speaker of the Palestinian National Council, Aziz Dweik (who is a member of Hamas but is based in the West Bank) would replace Abbas for 60 days until elections are held. The second is for Abbas himself to select a temporary replacement until the elections. The third is to set a date for elections where the four candidates would nominate themselves, unless a tectonic change takes place at the very last moment, such as a new intifada in Gaza and the West Bank.

The first option is unlikely to happen because Dweik is a member of Hamas. Abbas will not cede power to a rival organization due to internal and regional complications and ramifications. Thus, Dweik could not take over the Palestinian leadership unless the US, Israel and other regional powers suddenly back Hamas, which Washington, Tel Aviv and the European Union classify as a terrorist organization.

As for the second alternative, Abbas would select a person close to the PA leadership to rule for a transition period before the election date is set. The selected leader will also have a chance to nominate himself as leader of the PA in the presidential elections. This would be Arafat’s nephew, as he was backed by regional and international powers, including the US and Israel, when he served as foreign minister. This can lead to the third scenario in which the temporary president of the PA could become a candidate and winner in the presidential elections.

Since 2016, Arab leaders have looked for an alternative to Abbas. That same year, they spoke to Abbas personally on his 81st birthday when they congratulated him and wished him good health. At the time, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi were in charge of an Arab initiative to seek out a successor. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, had sent their representatives to Ramallah to discuss the issue directly with Abbas, as the leaders of both nations did not want to see a power vacuum in the political arena of the PA.

Critical Time

In December 2017, after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Kidwa said that any protests by Palestinians should be conducted “in a peaceful and an unarmed, sustainable way, so that would lead to serving the Palestinian national cause in this regard.” His moderate stance toward the American decision is one reason why he is favored by many countries, unlike his rivals who call for escalation.

The move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14 is deemed critical to the coming Palestinian leadership, whoever the candidate will be. However, the tough rivalry among the candidates, mainly between Rajoub and Dahlan, will only increase in the coming months, preventing both from heading the PA.

With the start of Ramadan, it is expected that Palestinians will try to raise the question of Jerusalem as a core issue not only for them, but for Muslims and Christians as well. Thus, we might witness a kick-off of a new uprising in Gaza and the West Bank, of which the violence against Palestinian protesters on the border with Gaza on May 14 could become a tragic preview. This could lead to either Aloul or Kidwa winning the race for the PA presidency based on their wide national support.

The PA presidential race is critical. The next president will be accountable for establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, while ensuring its peoples’ right to self-determination. The president will be working with Arab and Muslim leaders to secure the status of the holy shrines in East Jerusalem as part of the capital of an independent Palestinian state, without offending Jewish holy sites in the city. That is why the best solution for the issue of Jerusalem is to divide it into West and East capitals, for Israel and Palestine respectively, to avoid any future regional war.

Article published in Fair Observer: https://www.fairobserver.com/politics/palestinian-authority-succession-fatah-mahmoud-abbas-gaza-west-bank-middle-east-news-76251/

Понедельник, 14 Май 2018 22:27

Disputes over Iraq and Syria: Strategies and ramifications

Disputes in the Middle East cannot be resolved unilaterally. They can only be tackled collectively, through integrated regional and international cooperation. This applies to challenges such as the Palestinian cause, terrorism, Arab-Iranian conflict and other lesser predicaments.

Some political observers believe that the Arab-Iranian dispute should be addressed even before the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Since 1967, the Middle East has been a hub for the worst military conflicts and wars.

About 22 percent of world’s conflicts have been concentrated in the region during the past three decades. When the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian went on from 1980 to 1988, both countries lost more than 2 million soldiers.

UN statistics reveal that about 40 percent of the total number of those killed in armed conflicts have fallen in the Middle East since 1980 until the end of 2017. Such conflicts have complicated the political scene and have led to further chaos when the Arab Spring erupted in some Arab republics.

Up to 72 percent of world war toll and military conflict fatalities have been reported in the Middle East. Moreover, the Middle East has the highest levels of terrorist attacks since 2003. Incidents of terrorism increased by 50 percent, leaving many countries behind owing to their impact on economies.

Iran and Arab states are heading toward direct regional conflict that would drive Israel to intervene by targeting some strategic sites in Iran to turn balance of power

– Shehab Al-Makahleh

Balance of power

Many states harbor a strong belief that their main enemy is Iran as it tampers with the stability of Arab countries. This started with Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria. Since no conflict can take place without the pretext, if the root cause is to be resolved then changing the balance of power and the regime in Iran are a must.

As Iran was eying Iraq since 1980s, after regime had changed in Tehran in 1979, a conflict broke out which saw in the Iranian expansionist policies a strategy to rule over the whole region.

The first Iranian step was to control Iraq after American pullout because Iraq is in the north of the Gulf and Iran is located to the east of the Gulf States. 

This is likely to pose a major threat to Gulf states as Iraq is geographically and strategically located between three major powers: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Turkey and Iran.

Iranians have sought to play the Iraq card first before moving to play other cards which include sectarianism, the cards of Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran believes that an Arab-Iranian model can be created through the Iraqi gate, with the support of others – such as Russia, Syria – without reaching a compromise between Arabs and Iranians in such a conflict.

There is a firm belief that the Iranian regime should be changed in order for the country’s policies to be changed accordingly. Hence, changing the regime of the Vilayat al-Faqih may be considered a regional and international necessity before the possibility of confluence of Iraq and the other Gulf states in the form of an alliance or to form a new regional system.

No peace deal

But why all previous wars have ended with no peace deal or surrender agreement? The Iran-Iraqi war ended on August 8, 1988 with a truce but without a peace or surrender agreement being signed. The same applies to the two wars against Iraq.

Thus, the answer is simply tacit which bears the seeds of a war that would erupt any moment. Should this happen, Iran will be forced to leave Iraq and Syria to protect its borders.

Iran looks at Arabs, whether Sunni or Shiite, from a heritage perspective. It considers the GCC a springboard backed by the West to besiege Iranian revolution.

On the other hand, Gulf Arabs regard the Iranian revolution as an existential threat. This was exemplified by Khomeini who called on Arabs in the Gulf to stir up revolution.

Iran and Arab states are heading toward direct regional conflict that would drive Israel to intervene by targeting some strategic sites in Iran to turn balance of power. The month of May is very critical where the future of the Middle East region will be at stake. 

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/05/11/Disputes-over-Iraq-and-Syria-Strategies-and-ramifications.html

Пятница, 06 Апрель 2018 01:28

The impact of Pyongyang-Washington talks on Tehran

From March 25 to 28, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paid a sudden visit which surprised the world; however, some world leaders and heads of states have lauded the visit as a step towards defusing tension between North Korea and the US. The United Nations hailed the trip: “The latest positive developments are the beginning of a longer process of sincere dialogue, leading to sustainable peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, while the White House said: “We’re going to be cautiously optimistic, but we feel like things are moving in the right direction.”

Whether the trip was a signal to the Americans or not, the coming few weeks will reveal that North Korea will not talk about its ballistic capabilities and nuclear powers at a time Washington imposes new taxes on China. The talks are mere political to give the US a signal not to tamper with the current trade status between Washington and Beijing as the key to Kim is in China and not in the US. The general picture of Chinese-North Korean leaders’ talks have left no qualm that Beijing has mediated between Pyongyang and Washington.

 Signals of Kim-Xi meeting

Observers do believe that the talks between Kim and the Chinese President People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping aimed to give Washington a signal that only Beijing’s efforts can bring peace to the Korean Peninsula as China has the upper hand for the projected meetings with the leaders of South Korea (end of April) and the US (in May).

Regardless of the North Korean desire for denuclearization, the Chinese have benefitted from the timing of the visit to give various messages to the US and to the West that only China can have an influence on Kim and that whoever seeks to negotiate with him should first talk to China. The visit has helped China to have a leverage in a sense on the North Korean issue. This is clear when Xi proposed talks about some points during his meeting with Kim to settle the issue on the Korean Peninsula.

The first point which was proposed by Xi was that diplomacy is the breakthrough of the American-North Korean conflict. Beijing has been insisting to bring all talks under the United Nations Security Council’s umbrella and to bring the parties concerned to the negotiations table. As both considered this option, the pivotal role China is playing regarding the denuclearisation is based on what Kim has pledged if the Americans and South Koreans respond positively to his initiative with good will.

The second is that China and North Korea agreed to resume their long-time traditional relationship, including state-to-state and party-to-party ties, giving American side that the Chinese can proceed further to cement their ties with the North Korean if the US fails to accept the Chinese proposal to settle the issue peacefully. To improve the Sino-U.S. relations, Beijing finds a way to solve the issue between Washington and Pyongyang in peaceful means and to disarm North Korea from its nuclear technology.

Though the Americans did not copiously appreciate what the Chinese are doing as they don’t like others to twist their arm, especially Beijing which attributes to itself the laurels of convincing Kim to reconsider peace talks with South Korea and with the Americans to avoid any nuclear escalation in the region, the Chinese are cautiously addressing means to exercise excessive pressure on North Korea, which Beijing uses as a card against Washington, Japan and other enemies in the region.

The visit of the North Korean leader comes at a time the American President Donald Trump reshuffled some leading positions at his administration which included the appointments of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton to reinforce the hawkish stance against China and Russia. The Xi-Kim meeting demonstrates that China is forming stronger ties with North Korea, demonstrating that any meeting between Trump and Kim will be a meeting with a North Korean president backed by China.

In other words, the US will not be able to deprive Pyongyang of its most lethal weaponries because both Pyongyang and Beijing will ask for serious guarantees that the Americans will not deceive them. Thus, both will ask for concessions from the American administration first and after that they will consider disarming North Korea from its strategic weapons gradually. Russia, of course, backs China and North Korea in their demands.

The impact of Pyongyang-Washington scenario on Tehran

The North Korean status quo would have also an impact on the Iranian weaponry and ballistic missiles as well. Iran is expecting that Trump will rip up the nuclear deal in May; the North Koreans are also watching closely to see how the Americans are dealing with their deals with other countries and how this would affect any future deal between Pyongyang and Washington to settle the military threat North Korea poses on other countries.

Despite the fact that the Americans are still a key player in the Pacific Ocean, the Chinese are the only ones who can have the big say on Kim to dissuade him from his nuclear ambitions by militarily securing North Korea from external threats. What applies to North Korea applies to Iran. The only guarantor to the security and stability of Iran will be its allies: Russia and China. Thus, the talk about another deal with Iran goes through Moscow and Beijing before it goes to Tehran.

The issue of North Korea is its proximity to the American territory and its Pacific fleet at a time China considers North Korea as one of its provinces. Iran is deemed another threat as it has the North Korean ambitions which are a source of threat to the stability of the Greater Middle East. In both cases, China has a big say.

Article published in Geostrategic media: http://geostrategicmedia.com/2018/04/05/the-impact-of-pyongyang-washington-talks-on-tehran/

Пятница, 06 Апрель 2018 01:15

April Arab Summit decisive and at critical time

The 29th Arab League Summit which will be held in Riyadh on April 15th is taking place at volatile Arab and international atmospheres, amid sharp Arab divisions and disagreements. In the midst of various dangers the Arab countries are facing due to the repercussions of the so-called “Arab Spring” in some Arab countries and political rifts regarding some regional issues, the summit is slated to draw a “road map” for the coming era.

The summit in Riyadh, which will be preceded by several preparatory meetings due as of April 9, would be different as it comes after the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman concludes his visit to the US, where Saudi Arabia is trying to push the American administration to fill the vacuum that was deepened by the failure of its previous pull-out strategy from the region. The Arab summit will be held at very delicate conditions, amid great regional and international challenges, with internal threats of some groups that are supported by foreign countries which would pose a major threat to all Arabs. In the midst of the repercussions of incidents in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt, Arab leaders will have to find a way out to end their schism that hampers the solution of many pending issues.

The most important topic will be the Palestinian issue and the frantic attempts to liquidate it by some foreign powers proposing risky projects, ending the dream of Palestinians of a state with Jerusalem as its capital. This means the abolition of the right of return to Palestinians that would lead to Judaization of Jerusalem with all its religious and spiritual significance to Muslims and Christians.

The performance of the Arab League is on the table of Arab leaders as it has become a must to develop the performance to meet the aspirations of Arabs since the league has mostly failed to solve many Arab issues since its establishment on March 22, 1945.

The timing of the summit is important as it comes in the aftermath of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to the US and his meetings with American officials. Such a summit will pay dividends in regime gaps between Arab countries and USA regarding some regional issues to rally around against Iran.

The delay of the summit from March to April is attributed for two major reasons: Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to the US and the presidential elections in Egypt (March 26-28), 2018. Thus, since Egypt has witnessed presidential elections, it has been important to wait and see the outcome to determine the new regional approach towards many regional issues and conflicts.

After the return of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to Riyadh, many deliberations will start among Arab states, which would be conducive to a proposal of a different creature of the Arab League. The question is: Will there be a unified stand towards some regional issues and conflicts starting from Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? What is the trajectory of the Arab League towards Iran?

It is not expected that Arabs will be united on all issues, especially Syria and Iran, However, the trajectory of the league coalescing around an anti-Iranian platform is growing after American President Donald Trump’s decision to re-address the nuclear deal with Iran by either adding new items that prevent Iran from producing ballistic missiles or by ripping up the deal by May 2018, with proposals to impose new sanctions on Iran for interfering in Arab affairs and posing threats to its neighbors.

The outcome of Riyadh Summit will be a continuum of the previous one held in Amman in March 2018, calling for restarting of stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians on a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, with a focus on the Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Capital of Israel.

The coming summit is critical as the focus will be on means to counter terrorism, and to tackle political, economic, social issues of concern to Arab states. Beyond the veneer of sanguine statements, it is projected that the summit will bring closer the Arab countries at first hand, then bring them closer to the US to proceed with the coming regional transformation process of their societies in a bid to jointly confront extremism and terrorism and Iranians expansionism despite the fact that some Arab states would be conservative when dealing with Iran.

The leaders will advocate regional and international security. They will also focus on the hostile positions of the Iranian regime and the continued interference in Arab internal affairs in flagrant violation of international law and the principles of good-neighborliness, warning of the risk of Iranian ballistic missiles on the stability of the Middle East region. They will be calling for a joint action to protect regional waters and to combat piracy which adversely affect the commercial movement and economic growth of the region, with a call for combatting organised crime and drug smuggling

The Riyadh Summit will be an enhancement of the former Arab-Muslim-American Summit which was held May 21, 2017 in Saudi Arabia to further build a close partnership between Arab and Muslim countries and the US to achieve peace, stability and development regionally and internationally.

Observers here in Washington believe that the summit will draw up a “road map” for the leaders to consolidate relations and joint action on issues of common interest.  The summit will recommend promoting coexistence and constructive tolerance among different nations, religions and cultures, with clear rejection of any attempt to link terrorism with any religion, culture or race.

Will we witness a new form of Arab League to be formed after the coming summit to better serve Arab interests and causes? Will we see a new coalition against Iran supported by the US? These questions are almost the part of the mission of the Saudi Crown Prince in the US.

Article published in Geostrategic Media: http://geostrategicmedia.com/2018/04/03/april-arab-summit-decisive-and-at-critical-time/

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