image of jerusalem 2018

From Iran to Jerusalem: A Disorientating Nexus!
It was quite clear to me that President Donald J Trump was going to pull the USA out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) that is better known as the P5+1 Iran Nuclear Deal. Watching President Emmanuel Macron cosying up to the US President in an attempt to change his mind was as much amusing in some ways as it was pathetic in others.

15 May   |   2018   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also visited the White House and deployed her formidable but unrequited persuasive powers albeit in a more restrained manner. And finally, our UK Foreign Minister even strove to cajole President Trump by stroking his ego and talking up the possibility of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, second-track discussions were taking place amongst mandarins, and there was a moment when a breakthrough could well have been imminent. However, the sunset clause in the JCPOA was the spoiler, and those combined high-profile efforts to keep the agreement afloat crashed and we are now in an alarming black hole.

I would argue that the deal should not have been abrogated by the US Administration. In fact, I suspect that President Trump was not truthful when he rubbished the deal since it was delivering what it had been crafted for and all other considerations - legitimate though they are - were not part of the document that bore the signature of seven political leaders. Not only that, but by reneging on the deal and imposing such extreme sanctions without even giving the EU the ability to tweak the document, undermined global confidence in US commitments, alienated European allies in a major way, strengthened Iranian hawks at the expense of President Rouhani, and gave North Korea more reason to keep its nukes in the forthcoming summit meeting. How is all this amenable with global security?

It might well be that Israel, three GCC countries and some American politicos are happy with the outcome, but this decision will complicate international relations and expose the future with more unpredictable vagaries.

Fast forward from Washington and Tehran to Washington and Jerusalem!

The US embassy has moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a decision by President Trump that ran contrary to International law and placed another big nail in the coffin of any Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Just like the JCPOA deal, I was fairly confident that President Trump would go for it. It might also be that three GCC countries as well as a sprinkling of other countries were delighted with this decision. But is this the fulcrum upon which the US Administration plans its strategic moves? Or is it that President Trump is himself cosying up to the “natural” constituency that elected him in the first place? Is it also about keeping his Vice President Mike Pence and a large swathe of US Evangelical Christians happy that their prophesies are being fulfilled and that Israel will be converted by a president whose own biblical exegesis is at best porous?

To paraphrase and admittedly edit the late Abba Eban, I agree that Palestinians are at times their own worst enemies. Look at the divisions between Hamas and Fatah and the fact that there are two virtual Palestines in Gaza and Ramallah. The ordinary Palestinians do not wish for these divisions, but Palestinian leaders are not immune to self-interest and corruption either. Or look at the gerontology that defines the Palestinian leadership today. Or else cast your eye on the radicalisation that is taking across Palestinian lands. As a Palestinian good friend of mine who has emigrated to the USA said to me over a Skype conversation only last week, Palestinians in the 70’s, 80’s and even the early 90’s used to speak of Palestine - period! Now Palestine is no longer about the struggle against the vestiges of post-colonial interests or even nationalism, but about a disarray of ethnicities, religions and allegiances, and a sense of frustration and despair that define Palestinian realities on the ground and render Palestinians angrier.

It does not behove well that the political narcissism of two leaders - a US President and an Israeli Prime Minister, in addition to a coterie of Arab toadies - should expose the region to further unnecessary and expendable vagaries.

When I look at the MENA and Gulf regions, I realise we have embarked upon a new phase where rational diplomacy is obsolescent today. It is all about grabbing power, grabbing money, grabbing land, and leaving a trail of misery across the region - with the exception of a few men (and I am being gender-specific) who benefit from those grabs.

There was a time when I would have hoped that Europeans would provide a counterweight to this trail of human misery and political degradation. However, with the EU chasing its own tail, and with the USA run by a man whose unpredictability is as mercurial as his tweets, I am not optimistic - I am unsure if I am even a pessoptimist anymore! From Tehran to Jerusalem via Washington, the political nexus I espy today is one of sheer disorientation!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2018   |   15 May


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