The greater part of the world and seasoned foreign policy ‘experts’ experienced a mike drop moment when President Trump announced he had successfully brokered the complete normalization of ties between UAE and Israel. This is undeniably a major coup for President Trump who is up for re-election in November this year considering his Iran and North Korea policy is yet to reap dividends and a reset with China is not as easy as it appears. Nevertheless, this is incredible though expected for us at Asian Warrior as history is nothing but a set of patterns that repeat and once you can identify the patterns, the rest becomes easy.
With UAE agreeing to normalization, smaller GCC countries will follow and, likely, Saudi Arabia will also follow suit. It is foolhardy for anyone to believe that UAE would take such a huge step independently so this certainly makes for interesting times ahead. With Qatar effectively becoming persona non grata in MENA considering its backing of Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban and ties with Iran; and Saudi Arabia embarking on a modernization spree. MENA is in store for a roller coaster.
As part of the agreement, Israel has agreed to currently suspend/delay but ‘keep on the table’ plans to annex Judea and Samaria territories on the West Bank and work with UAE to develop a coronavirus vaccine and build a working relationship in many other fields. Naturally, such an agreement would weaken the teeth of Palestinian liberation organizations that have for long used children and suicide bombers as tools of terror for their cause. Their response to this development has been of UAE committing “treason”. Its fair no one likes to become irrelevant in geopolitics and their run was anyway way past its due date.
Interestingly, President Bill Clinton had attempted to broker a truce between Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat and Israel at Camp David and failed. The above development in light of upcoming elections and the Democratic Party’s strong Islamic vote bank vs Republican Party’s rich Jewish lobby should also make for some interesting optics.
While only initial reactions have emerged thus far and other details, consequences will emerge in the days to come; most experts are reconciling the agreement with a stronger Iran and the centuries old Sunni-Shia conflict to maintain supremacy in MENA. While this is true, considering this as representative of the complete story would be myopic.
In foreign policy, a country is only as strong as its soft and hard power. All tough countries boast of a strong Military-Industrial Complex. For the complex to remain relevant, chaos is necessary. When we come to Israel-Palestine-GCC; the reality is these are new countries that emerged from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire by the colonial powers and their borders were deliberately carved out by Sykes-Picot to ensure warring tribes stayed hostile. This meant that even post-colonial exit, the infant countries would never be at peace creating a vacuum for interference ensuring the relevance of the erstwhile colonial masters. The hostile tribes following different faiths of Sunni-Shia only made the chaos stronger and ensured MENA was always hot.
Now as the Ottoman Empire is on a rekindling spree and Iran is gaining strength; the interests of Sunni monarchies are getting threatened on multiple counts. With the Oil era slowly coming to an end, the days of welfare are waning and the fear of the terrorism that they spawned coming home to roost is becoming real. Of course, the depravity of the GCC ruling families and their lavish lifestyles has undoubtedly played a rule in the rise of Political Islam under Muslim Brotherhood that Turkey, a fellow Sunni power is employing for its Ottoman rekindling. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey each sees itself as the rightful leader of MENA.
To make matters worse, the Chinese created Corona Virus has severely impacted oil revenues of GCC nations and recovery is not imminent. The US under President Trump is changing the way it engages with the world and is unwilling to foot the bill for other countries unconditionally. China-Turkey are consolidating their relationship with China strengthening its footprints in Iran. For GCC, the age of tax-free income is over and it needs new friends and trade associates to stay relevant. GCC’s growing ties with India, its silence on issues that are pro-Pakistan in OIC were clear indicators of the turning tide for those that watched carefully.
Israel considers Iran its greatest foe and has built a formidable defense system and technological capabilities as it is surrounded by hostility on all sides. Considering this and all of the above, greater UAE and Israel ties seem both necessary and natural and are a win-win for both sides. As we slowly ingress into The New Global Order, a lot of seemingly impossible things will transpire. A big thank you must be extended to China and Chairman Xi for his unleashing of the virus on the global community has worked as a catalyst and set the ball rolling for events that would have otherwise taken longer.
For India, the renewal of ties between Israel-UAE is welcome as it enjoys great relations with both and opens up other possibilities for greater engagement. One can almost say that as far as Prime Minister Modi and President Trump are concerned, China’s Covid-19 is ironically the gift that will keep giving!
We all know that history repeats and it is important to learn from it. The world is currently experiencing an interesting mix of nationalism, co-dependence, and isolation. Due to the transition in the global order, countries that were have-nots are fighting for their seat at the high table whilst many traditional powers are losing their importance. Everyone wants to rewrite history from their perspective but no can agree on the cutoff date and therein lies the problem. 2020 is clearly the year when anything can happen and nothing is impossible.