Author: Alberto Cossu – 19/09/2020
Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain signed an agreement a few days ago, which intends to normalize diplomatic relations [Israel, U.A.E. Agree to Establish Formal Diplomatic Ties]. The US administration favored an easy rapprochement and negotiation, which until recently appeared to be out of reach. After Jordan and Egypt, another two Arab countries now join the group who want a normalization of relations with Israel. They hope to find a solution to the endemic problems in the Middle East [UAE and Israel to establish full diplomatic ties]. Israel will suspend the annexation of the Palestinian territories [Il governo Netanyahu-Gantz e il progetto di annessione della Cisgiordania], removing one of the main obstacles to negotiations with the Palestinians. This decision has opened the door to dialogue with the Emirates and most likely with other Arab countries.
It is worth mentioning that annexation under international law lacked legitimacy, which would have created problems for Israel before the international community [Radici e risvolti dell’accordo Israele-Emirati]. The agreement has been named Abraham, a figure that binds the three religions: Jewish, Christian, Muslim. The UN secretary-general, the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and France, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and the security policy Borrell have all given their approval. Appreciations also came from Japan and China [United Nations and major states praise UAE-Israel accord], However, Russia stated that the agreement will not bring stability to the Middle East in the absence of a just settlement to the Palestinian issue [Russia: Normalisation with Israel won’t bring stability without resolving Palestine issue].
The New York Times [A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast] undoubtedly no friend of the current Administration defines the agreement ¬ fully embracing its historical significance ¬ a geopolitical earthquake of great importance [Shifting Dynamics of the Mideast Pushed Israel and U.A.E. Together]. There are, however, those who consider it a provocation that will only increase tension in the Middle East, complicating the situation. This position is advocated by authoritative analysts in the USA and also in the world [Intesa Israele-Emirati: non chiamiamolo accordo di pace; Medio Oriente: l’accordo Israele-Emirati e il ruolo dell’Europa].
This agreement puts the Palestinians with their back against the wall. They immediately declared through the voice of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) that no one can speak on their behalf. And nobody has. Instead, an important message was released. Those who want peace to progress must take some steps forward and drop bias positions that don’t make it easy to reach consensual and peaceful solutions.
An uncompromising attitude does not bear good results. The agreement certainly does not solve the Palestinian problem. However, it at least shows that there are common interests such as advanced technologies, national security, new energy technologies [Tutti i punti sull’economia dell’accordo Israele-Emirati], etc. which can lead to cooperation and open the way to the Middle East eliminating old patterns. The agreement is relevant because it involves two economic and technological leading countries of the Middle East [After Israel-UAE-US deal: gainers and losers, and key takeaways].
They are “complementary” [UAE, Israeli companies sign ‘strategic commercial agreement’ on coronavirus R&D] : Israel is a gateway to the West while the Emirates is a platform to the East.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that India [“Look West”: India’s Outreach to the Middle East under Modi] has built strategic partnership relations with the Emirates and maintains an excellent relationship with Israel in the defense, information technology, security, space, and health sectors. The major Indian economic players operate in Dubai, which in compliance with the plan of the Emirates, also looks towards the African continent. The agreement also opens a corridor to the strategic Indo-Pacific area.
Iran [Iran’s president says UAE made ‘huge mistake’ with Israel deal], a key player in the region, said it did not like the agreement and called it shameful. Instead, Turkey [Iran, Turkey slam UAE over agreement with Israel] competing with the Emirates for leadership in the Sunni world considers it a betrayal of the Palestinian people. Iranian policy in the Middle East is under scrutiny. According to the current American Administration, Iran has built, in recent years, a strategy aimed at conquering positions of power in several countries: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen. That was possible thanks to copious economic resources, coming from the sale of oil after the suspension of the sanctions imposed by President Obama, that in recent years supported groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Shiite militias, etc. The JCPOA deal was used as a fig leaf by Iran, hiding that strategy. The mastermind, according to the US administration [Confronting Iran The Trump Administration’s Strategy], was Quasem Soleimani, the strategic soul behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who, in early January 2020, was killed in an attack led by an American drone in Iraq. The backbone of this strategy is the idea that Israel is the main enemy, which has been denied legitimate existence. Iran must be strategically prepared to build a Shiite corridor that moves towards the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon [Geopolitica e sanzioni contro l’Iran: il caso dell’Oceano indiano occidentale].
The strategy of intransigence does not leave room for dialogue which, makes any path towards peace very difficult.
The agreement splits the Middle East between those who want to let the future bury the past. And those who want to let the past keep burying the future. On the one hand Israel, the Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, and maybe also Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. On the other hand, those who would prefer pursuing a policy based on other priorities. Today Iran seems to be weakened by the severe economic crisis, despite looking towards China for any economic prospect, which still seems uncertain and unlikely [Iran’s Pact With China Is Bad News for the West; China-Iran Deal and its implication for the region; The Iran-China Axis; When China met Iran]
American sanctions, the low price of oil does not guarantee revenue for public budget and which reduces the margins for financing operations of proxies abroad, make Iran increasingly weak in the Middle Eastern scenario.
And yet the recent events in Beirut also reveal the impending responsibilities concerning the stability of a country like Lebanon that is crucial for achieving peace in the Middle East. Considering these events, Europe has taken on a weak role and seems slow in adopting a position and uncertain in understanding who the real partners are.
In the case of the JCPOA, Europe has tried to go against the American policy of disengagement from the treaty, and has created mechanisms to avoid sanctions. All without great success, and therefore, aligning itself almost 100% with the will of the American administration.
The midsummer agreement signed between leading countries in the middle east world stands out as a moderate policy and openness to the outside world and other religions. It is no coincidence that Pope Francesco chose the UAE as a place for interreligious dialogue in February 2019 [Pope wants ‘new page in history’ on first trip to Arabian peninsula; Abu Dhabi. Il Papa: le religioni siano sentinelle di fraternità nel buio dei conflitti; Gli Emirati Arabi Uniti]. The agreement confronts many countries with their responsibilities and, in the first place, Iran who, by pursuing an intransigent policy, certainly does not facilitate peace processes. In this scenario, we hope that Europe and other global players, such as Russia, can play a more assertive role. The world should advocate all the proposals that draw new perspectives for peace.
Alberto Cossu, Senior Analyst at Vision & Global Trends. International Institute for Global Affairs