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Limbo of threats and responses

Feb 02,2019 - Last updated at Feb 02,2019

Israel and Iran pose serious threats to regional security from the Arab public opinion’s perspective. While the second spot used to be occupied by the US, it has now been replaced by Iran. However, competing threats to regional security are not limited to Israeli and Iranian policies and actions. Turkey is a competing force with these two players and it will not sit idle if, and when, its interests are threatened. Global actors, such as the US, Russia, China, the EU and India are also competing for more influence in the region, and this is not going to go down without troubles to mark territorial influence. Some powers are going to be pushed aside and they will have to defend their positions. The new serious comers are Russia, China and Germany. They have to carve out spaces from, or in collaboration with, the US, the UK and France.

This global play is being manifested in the Israel-Iran rivalry. Iran differs from Israel in that it does not have a solid international patron equivalent to the support the US lends to Israel. The EU initiative to secure exchange with Iran without going through international financial systems remains too weak compared with Israel’s global access. Therefore, Iran has to juggle many balls simultaneously and this brings its ability to achieve its priorities to daunting challenges. Though Israel can rely on systemic and systematic solid American and European support, while continuing to illegally occupy and demoralise Palestinians, Iran has to cling to its asymmetrical tools of influence of sub-state actors, sectarian policies and illegal interventions in neighbouring countries.

The power play is imbalanced. Iran acts as a spoiler without reliable international backing, while Israel spoils without serious international challenge. Israel’s approach to confronting Iran was built on the rise of Iran’s threat perception among Arabs, and now Arab Gulf states find themselves in an alliance of convenience with their, otherwise, historical arch enemy. This alliance of convenience is being promoted by the US and influential NATO members as a new regional order. Its chances of success are not without serious challenges, especially with the majority of Arabs rejecting the recognition of Israel. This can be understood also as a rejection of its involvement in an “Arab alliance”.

The approaches of Russia and China to relations with Iran are not solid enough to the point of reliance, where Iran can act with strong backing from international patrons. India’s relationship with all global and regional powers, who have some sort of interest and possibly influence on Iran’s regional politics, is stronger than India’s relationship with Iran. For example, India has more interests with the US and Israel than with Iran, measured by trade volume.

The Warsaw conference, to be held in a few days about the Middle East, is essentially about cornering Iran. Diplomatic language indicates that the US is on the march to reassert its role and rule as the conductor of global and regional orders. This endeavour will not go without serious challenges, especially for Arab states. Jordan’s diplomacy, while engaging rival forces tactfully, will do its best to preserve its interests in this limbo of power rivalries.


The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions.
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