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Coups, Solutions and Guarantees

Coups, Solutions and Guarantees

Monday, 14 December, 2020 - 10:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The Middle East is a land of coups and coup attempts. Surprises and disturbances are part of the daily life. Many of its inhabitants believe in force and the fait accompli. The countries of the region rarely have institutions that make well-studied decisions and provide them with the means for success. There are also matters that should not be raised as they stir emotions and fires - topics that are almost sacred and do not allow for reconsideration or questions.


The Arab-Israeli issue was at the forefront of these topics. Some people considered that prudence required leaving this explosive matter in the custody of time. This bet is fraught with dangers, because the time that heals wounds may also lead to infection.


A river of data flows in the memory of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The 1973 war was an attempt to overthrow the facts that the year 1967 tried to impose and perpetuate. The invasion of Beirut in 1982 was an Israeli attempt to overturn the Arab recognition of the Palestinian resistance’s right to reside on the Arab-Israeli line of contact, and its use of missiles to object to the proposed or imposed peace conceptions.


One cannot talk about coups without remembering the picture of President Anwar Sadat giving his famous speech in the Israeli Knesset and later his photos with Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter at Camp David. In the context of major coups, also falls the image of Yasser Arafat, with his keffiyeh, shaking hands with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in the White House lawn following the Oslo process. The image was preceded by coup attempts that facilitated or made it a fait accompli.


Saddam Hussein carried out a suicidal coup attempt by invading Kuwait, believing that the world only respects the powerful and would hasten to negotiate and deal with the new victorious forces following a long war with Iran.


Moreover, we cannot forget that Iran, over the past four decades, performed a series of coups and attempts to overthrow the balance of power in the region with the aim of reducing the US presence and isolating several countries. These coups are evident in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as in the Houthi missiles and drones.


The common point between coups and coup attempts in the Middle East is their link to the Palestinian cause or the effort of the revolutionaries to use this cause as a cover up to achieve other goals.


The region spoke different and sometimes contradictory languages. It was moving at different paces. The language was often the result of each group’s stability and security calculations. However, protests and verbal campaigns did not succeed, neither in writing off what Egypt had done, nor the path that Jordan adopted, after the PLO itself chose the door of negotiation and reconciliation. The Arab Peace Initiative, which was approved by the Arab Summit in Beirut in 2002, was the fruit of all those coups and changes that stormed the Middle East and its relations with the great powers, particularly the United States.


The initiative stressed the need for comprehensive peace that includes the two-state solution, in addition to the recognition, normalization and trade exchange. It also took into consideration the conditions of the Middle East after the invasion of Kuwait, its possible situations after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the difficulty of continuing to build policies on the basis of the “No’s of Khartoum.”


Two factors played an important role in changing the attitudes. The first is the American power that entered a new phase after the suicide of the Soviet Union and the Israeli ingenuity in dealing with the international scene that matured after the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Despite all that has been said about the US withdrawal from the Middle East and the decline of its interests in the region, we are currently witnessing successive developments in Israel’s relationship with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.


If we put these successive developments within the context of coups, we can say that they constitute a kind of revolt against Iran’s regional policy, after it hijacked the Palestinian cause in the early 1980s and used it to infiltrate Lebanon, Syria and other regions.


The fears that were raised as a result of the Iranian coup prompted a number of countries in the region to adhere to the US guarantee and to reflect on the balance of power in the region in the event that the United States turn away from it to deal with China.


It is quite clear that Arab countries are moving at different speeds on the issue of relations with Israel, based on different dictionaries and vocabularies. This is confirmed as we read Algeria’s reaction to Morocco’s decision to establish full relations with Israel. The move had its impact in light of Morocco’s weight and its regional and international reputation as a state that respects the values of coexistence and pluralism.


Despite the previous relations between Morocco and Israel, the new step provoked Algeria because it coincided with President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara. This means that the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, can demand is autonomy.


Much has been written about Trump’s surprises in the region and the world. The scenes in the Middle East, even with Trump’s exit from the White House, never suggest that America is weak. The countries, which have recently established relations with Israel, have also done so because this relationship with the Jewish state deepens the ties with America.


Many countries in the region believe that the US is still the only power capable of launching and thwarting coups, as well as distributing solutions and guarantees. It is clear that Russia has a limited ability in the Middle East in terms of providing solutions or guarantees, especially since Iran insists on sharing the right of residence on the Syrian map.


The Middle East languages are divergent. Some countries prefer to deepen their relations with America as a means to further engage in the world, while others await US-Iranian developments after cards have turned in the hand of the Iranian coup.


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