x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Russia is back in the Middle East

Syria and Turkey seek Moscow's help especially since Israel would not dare target a peaceful energy programme that is supervised and run by Russian experts.

In reaction to the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's recent tour which included Syria and Turkey, the Pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi declared that it seems that Russia is returning to the Middle East region with more power than ever. Mr Medvedev expressed a desire to help both countries build nuclear programmes for peaceful ends, which piqued US anger and prompted it to question Syria's intentions.

"This is typical of American distorted reasoning. Any country is allowed to sign agreements to build nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes as long as it is an ally of the US and not Russia." Syria is a signatory of the international treaty on nuclear non-proliferation. It is clear that Syria decided to seek Moscow's help in the matter, especially since Israel would not dare target a peaceful energy programme that is supervised and run by Russian experts as it did previously when it bombed a nuclear plant that was under construction in Syria.

It appears that the bullying that Israel has been practising for over 60 years is nearing its end in the face of changing equations, namely the recent alliance between Syria, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Syria and Turkey have the right to develop their nuclear expertise as long as Israel possesses more than 200 nuclear warheads that it uses to terrorise the region.  

An editorial in the UAE daily Al Bayan shed light on the closing statement of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum that was held in Tianjin earlier this week. The statement is promising. It reflects the extent of evolution in the relationship between both sides. More importantly, it indicates the vast extent of open capabilities to achieve more rapprochement. China has gained increased weight on the international scene and it can exert pressure even on Washington, which needs Beijing on more than one issue. China has veto power at the Security Council. Its exports are the second highest in the world. Its economic relationships have made great leaps with the Arab world and the Middle East in general as well as in Africa. Arab ministerial participation in the forum was the best evidence of mutual openness and readiness to expand China-Arab relations.

The Tianjin forum's closing statement was comprehensive in that it contained a clause about strategic co-operation between China and the Arab countries. It covered domains of common development and  dialogue. It made reference to the importance of promoting solidarity that would result in a new and just political and economic system that supports worldwide peace and development. The support of Beijing may prove to be a great tool in the balance of power in the region.

"A number of Jewish intellectuals in Europe have recently met and written a letter highlighting the continuing settlement activities undertaken by Israel," wrote Bassam al Dhaw in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. They stressed the fact that settlement expansion may feed an unacceptable loss of legitimacy that Israel currently faces abroad, which ultimately would threaten its security in the future.

The call to stop construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem not only appears to condemn Israeli expansionist policies, but also supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The appeal has been widely seen by Arab media and by some intellectuals as a Jewish voice against the Israeli government, yet there are conflicting points. First, the letter did not explicitly object to the settlements in principle. It was only opposed their expansion at a time when public opinion in Europe was rising against Israeli provocative policies. Second, when the statement mentioned the Palestinian state, it did not stem from a deep conviction of the Palestinians' right to establish their own entity. It rather did so in fear of the future existence for Israel itself. Last, the letter did not include any statement of condemnation of Israeli racist policies, nor any mention of aggression against the Palestinians.

There is no evidence so far that Iran is about to respond to the western pressure over its nuclear programme, wrote Mazen Hammad in a comment article for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor. Rather, Iran is still challenging the international calls by insisting that its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful goals and within the limits of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Lately, Iran has produced more machinery for uranium enrichment destined for medical use. Such a move could increase Iran's ability to produce highly enriched uranium in the future, according to diplomats from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The increasing atomic ability of Iran puts more pressure on the international community to seek a solution that would avoid a potential confrontation.

This has motivated the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to mediate diplomatic efforts with the aim of striking a nuclear deal with Tehran and avoiding lengthy debate in the UN Security Council that might lead to imposing news sanctions. Encouraged by the divisions in international attitudes regarding punitive measures, Iran seems to be less ready to give concessions and more determined to continue expanding its nuclear infrastructure. * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae