12 December 2017
US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem is the capital of Israel has been predictably condemned by the governments of all states, except Israel itself.
Trump’s own statement on the issue what’s more carefully worded than the reaction to the decision would suggest. In typical Trump style, he expressed the United States’ wish for “an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.” He emphasized that the United States” “is not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders.”
Unfortunately for Trump and the United States, those carefully qualified words will simply not be believed. The United States has claimed, at least since the Truman era (1945-48) to be an “honest broker” in the dispute between Israel and Palestine.
It is a testament to the power of western propaganda that this manifest nonsense could be maintained for so long in the face of all evidence to the contrary. For example, the United States has exercised its veto power in the United Nations Security Council more times to the benefit of Israel then on any other single issue.
In United Nations General Assembly votes the United States is often, along with a literal handful of nations, voting with Israel against United Nations General Assembly resolutions condemnatory of the latest outrages perpetrated by the State of Israel.
The power of the Israeli lobby in US politics is well documented (Mearsheimer & Walt “The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy” 2007). Trump’s announcement at least has the virtue of shattering that long-standing canard.
Amidst all the furore however, a more significant point has been obscured, and that is the continuing shift in the balance of power in the wider Middle East region, more accurately termed Southwest Asia.
Israel has invested constable financial, military and political capital in promoting a relationship with Saudi Arabia. It has been established for example, that Israel has supplied Saudi Arabia with military equipment for use in the latter’s wholly illegal war being waged in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has been seduced into this unlikely alliance by Israel’s considerable achievement in convincing Saudi Arabia that Iran was its chief threat to spiritual leadership among the region’s Muslim populations.
From the Israeli point of view, neutralizing Saudi opposition to the annexation of Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing of its inhabitants gave them more of a free hand. They could always count on American support for these activities and Trump’s statement does nothing to alter that reality.
For Israel, enlisting Saudi Arabia’s help in opposing Iran, whom both nations see as an existential threat, was an added bonus. For the reasons discussed below, the likelihood of an Israeli attack upon Iran currently has a diminished probability.
Saudi Arabia for its part has suffered a series of setbacks. Its war on Yemen, aimed primarily at seizing control of Yemen’s substantial and under developed oil and gas resources, has gone badly, both militarily and in arousing, finally, international condemnation of the humanitarian disaster the war has created.
Its support for ISIS and similar terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria has not saved them from defeat, thanks primarily to the military interventions of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
Further, its role as the spiritual guardian of Moslem holy sites in Palestine has been undermined by its alliance with Israel. Various Zionist groups have declared their desire to demolish the Al Aqsa mosque, the third most holy site in the Muslim world.
The winners to emerge from the carnage and chaos in the region are undoubtedly Russia, Iran and Turkey. Russia because of its hugely effective military intervention in Syria, which, unlike that of the United States and it’s so- called coalition allies including Australia, has a sound basis in international law.
The United States, which has long pursued duplicitous goals in the region, as revealed for example in documents such as A Clean Break: a New Strategy for the Realm (1996); the US Department of Defence memorandum R0508392 August 12 released in May 2015; and the disclosure by former General Wesley Clark on 3 October 2007 of Pentagon plans dating from September 2001 to attack and destroy the governments of seven countries in five years. (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) leave one in no doubt as to the United States’ geopolitical ambitions.
The arrogant presumption that the United States could maintain a “military presence” in Syria indefinitely is revealing as to the United States mindset. Iran, Russia and Turkey have all issued clear warnings that’s such a continued presence would neither be welcomed nor tolerated.
Turkey and Iran are also winners quite apart from the kudos they have achieved with their role in Syria, although in Turkey’s case that was with some initial false steps.
On Wednesday 13 December 2017 the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) we’ll meet in Ankara. Turkey is currently the chair of the OIC and the conference is expected to underscore the extent to which power in the region has passed to non-Arab (i.e. Turkey and Iran) hands.
Trump’s announcement will also serve to reinforce Turkey’s move out of the NATO orbit, accelerated since the attempted coup in July 2016. This reorientation is reflected in the recent remarkable cooperation between Turkey and both Russia and Iran. It is not a coincidence they’re all three countries are key components of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Shanghai Corporation organisation, among other economic and strategic groupings.
Regardless of whether Trump’s announcement was a genuine move toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli Palestine conflict (highly improbable) or more probably a pandering to the Saudi and Israeli lobbies and the substantial evangelical elements in the US population, he has further opened the door to a radical realignment of the region’s geopolitics.
On balance that has to be regarded as a plus.
*Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.