The Middle East is going through a regional shift of relations as two Arab nations signed bilateral agreements with the Zionist state of Israel. The uncharacteristic move by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and the Kingdom of Bahrain is part of United States mediated normalization agreements signed between the countries on September 15 at the White House.
While Israeli officials were busy signing “peace” agreements with the UAE and Bahrain at the White House, their warplanes bombed the Gaza Strip. #FreePalestine#BahrainIsrael #UAEIsrael pic.twitter.com/pfCfUInY9R— Press TV (@PressTV) September 17, 2020
“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” said President Donald Trump at the White House signing on the South Lawn.
The multipoint treaty is dubbed the “Abraham Accords” after the progenitor of the three monotheistic faiths, Islam. Christianity and Judaism. Mr. Trump described the pact as the “Dawn of the New Middle East” that was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign ministers, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Zayed of the UAE and Abdullatif Al Zayani of Bahrain.
Mr. Trump announced he expects more Arab countries—though unnamed—to also sign treaties with Israel, which has been considered a pariah in the Arab world. Individual bilateral agreements were signed a week earlier between Israel and Bahrain and in early August between the U.A.E. and Israel—the first such agreement between Israel and a major Arab country since 1994 with Jordan and the Camp David accords in 1979 with Egypt. At the Washington signing each of the leaders spoke prominently about peace, however absent at the table were the Palestinian leadership, whose struggle for justice has been at the center of regional upset towards Israel. In Palestine, there was weeklong protests following the signing where flags were burned and effigies of Mr. Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain were trampled on. Observers note the agreement is forging a wedge between Arab leaders.
In protest, The Palestinian Authority (PA) has recalled its Ambassadors in Abu Dhabi and Manama over the peace deals with the Zionist state. The Palestinian Authority is threatening to exit the 20 nation Arab League in the face of what they call the leagues “impotence” against member states seeking rapprochement with Israel before justice for Palestinians is achieved.
In statements the Palestinian leadership gave strong denunciations of the pact, declaring it a dark day in the history of the Arab nation and a defeat to the Arab League. The Palestinian Authority reconfirmed that peace and stability in the region will only be achieved by ending Israel’s occupation of all Palestinian and Arab lands—and Palestinian independence in their own sovereign state.
“This day will be added to the Palestinian calendar of pain and Arab calendar of defeats, as it deals the death blow to the Arab Peace Initiative and Arab solidarity,” said Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. He was referring to the 2002 Pan Arab peace plan initiated by Saudi Arabia calling for normalization of relations with Israel upon its withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since June 1967 and a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capitol.
Some observers see the agreement as the latest indicator of a turn in Arab politics from being defined against Israel to being defined against Iran.
Beside the tumultuous issues around the Palestinian question, some Middle East experts said the agreement is neither about peace nor Palestine, but Iran.
“This has nothing to do with peace and nothing to do with Palestine,” said Phyllis Bennis, the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.
“This is about building Trumps pro-war coalition against Iran,” Ms. Bennis told The Final Call.
Neither the UAE nor Bahrain was at war and never enemies of Israel. In fact, both maintained longstanding and all but covert dealings in trade, security, and diplomatic relations for years, Ms. Bennis explained. “This was making public, what has long been the reality on the ground,” she added.
Considering who gets what in the deal, both Arab nations get “brownie points” from Washington and access to advanced weapons. The UAE has been involved in controversial negotiations with Washington on purchasing F-35 fighter jets as well as other advanced weaponry. Bahrain has long been positioned as a significant geopolitical ally because it hosts the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet in its waters.
Israel gets normalization and more access to American arms to maintain its military superiority in the region.
The Trump administration denied the arms deal influenced bringing UAE openly to the table. Critics argue there is a cloud based on decades of U.S. Middle East policy that always protected a “qualitative military edge” for Israel.
The Emirati arms deal was pushed by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and advisor, who was central to negotiating the diplomatic accord between Israel and the Arab nations.
Besides the Arab actors who signed the agreement is also Saudi Arabia who does not have a treaty as such but has aligned with Israel and America against Iran, their mutual foe.
The first official foreign trip of Mr. Trump after his election in 2016 was Riyadh, where he summoned Arab and gulf nations to ostracize and isolate Tehran. Analysts say as the coals for war with Iran were lit then, the U.S. continues to keep the fire burning. Weeks before, the Arab states signed an official commitment with Israel in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to be continuing the groundwork for possible war with Iran by October, before U.S. national elections.
He imposed a 30-day period to snapback UN Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic that will automatically restore sanctions by Sept. 20. Before the move was categorically rejected by the council in a Sept. 18 letter, Mr. Pompeo signaled the U.S. will enforce nonexistent UN sanctions on Iran by confiscating Iranian cargo ships, based on the “snapback provision” in the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world nations.
“Last week, the U.S. triggered the 30-day process to restore virtually all @UN sanctions on Iran after the Security Council failed to uphold its mission to maintain international peace and security,” Mr. Pompeo tweeted on August 27. “These sanctions will snap back at midnight GMT on September 20.”
In an emailed analysis, Trita Parsi, the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute called the tweet “bizarre” because the Security Council had made clear the U.S. has no standing to initiate the snapback rule contained within the Iran nuclear deal since the U.S. no longer was a party to the agreement.
“Enforcement would entail U.S. warships attacking and confiscating Iranian cargo ships in international waters—as well as non-Iranian vessels suspected of carrying Iranian goods,” said Mr. Parsi.
Mr. Parsi reasoned if the Trump administration starts targeting Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf or near the Strait of Hormuz, the risk of a confrontation with Iranian naval forces will significantly increase. A conflict that can escalate all the parties involved.
In a tweet Sept. 18 Mr. Parsi said concerning the pact with Israel and Arab states, the Palestinians were thrown under the bus. “The real peace that is needed, the one that is actually worth celebrating, is if there’s something that can be achieved between the Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
In response to the accords and America repositioning the region and marshalling its forces toward Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that Mr. Trump needed the accord as a perceived win for reelection bid.
“@realDonaldTrump desperately needed a campaign photo. His son-in-law blackmailed their regional clients into giving him one,” Mr. Zarif quipped.
“The only problem: ‘Peace agreements’ being signed are NOT between foes but longstanding allies,” he added, calling it a “diplomatic coup!”
So far Saudi Arabia has been quiet, and Iran’s foreign ministry further called the U.S.-brokered deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.”
“Israel is an enemy and such a point must remain clear to everyone. Such agreements … will not change the historical and geographical facts,” said Ismail Haniyeh, chief of the political bureau of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement in a statement. “Israel is neither part of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor of the region.”