On September 15, 2020, leaders from Israel, UAE and Bahrain assembled in the White House where US President Trump announced formal establishment of ‘normal’ relations between the Zionist state of Israel and Kingdoms of UAE and Bahrain. Earlier, on August 13, UAE had announced an agreement with Israel and USA to normalize relations with Israel. Kingdom of Bahrain had followed suit with similar declaration on September 11. Last year Bahrain had hosted a Conference in its capital Manama where a plan for Palestine by Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jaryd Kushner was adopted.
From this declaration two things are obvious- first, alliance between Zionist state Israel and Gulf monarchies has been made open and second, support to national rights of Palestinians has been even formally given up by the gulf monarchies. These dependencies of western imperialist powers, first of Great Britain and then of USA, had never been really opposed to the imperialist sponsored and executed Zionist project of establishing a Jewish state on Arab land. Calling this as peace accord is hilarious as these two kingdoms had never been at war with Israel nor share any border with Israel. With these agreements, UAE and Bahrain have become third and fourth Arab state to have normalized relations with Israel after the establishment of diplomatic relations with Zionist Israel by the military rulers of Egypt in 1979 and King of Jordan in 1994.
Middle-East has been witnessing these developments due to several factors. Main among them have been decline of US imperialism in the region particularly its willingness and ability to deploy armed forces to protect monarchies and dictatorships in Arab countries. Second has been growing disaffection among the people and their rising anger against decline in their living conditions on top of absence of democratic rights. These two factors are keeping the cauldron of Middle-East boiling.
Gulf monarchies had been set up by the colonial powers during last two hundred years, many of them over the last hundred years. These are set up, sustained and protected by colonial powers mainly Britain to control the oil wealth of the region after commercial refining of crude oil was developed. It was then that dominant colonial powers, Britain and France and colluded and collided to control the region and brought these tribal chiefs and local leaders to power along with carving out a ‘national home’ for Jews living since long in European countries. These twin projects were put into motion in the course of victory of Entente in First World War, specifically in the context of defeat of Turkey which had been the major power in the region. However, before the advent of commercial refining of crude oil, colonial powers had set up bases in the Gulf region as ports for the supply to and protection of their colonial possessions in Far East especially India.
This brief recapitulation is only to emphasize that these Gulf monarchies have since inception been serving the interests of colonial powers. US imperialism became their main protector after Second World War, having emerged as the dominant imperialist power in the world. Israel and Gulf monarchies have been the twin pillars on which western imperialist influence rested though dictators were propped and toppled depending on their attitude towards and utility to the western imperialist powers. The cards of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ on the one hand, and of ‘peace’ and ‘stability’ on the other were displayed as the imperialist interests of these powers demanded. There has never been and there is no conflict of interest between Zionist Israel and Gulf monarchies as both were propped up by same powers and for the same reason. That the monarchies sometimes chose to flaunt their support for the cause of Palestinians was dictated by the need to maintain support of the masses, especially in the context of challenge from other world powers. And it was done with the permission of their imperialist masters. US President Donald Trump was not wide off the mark, for a change, in stating that Saudi monarchy will last only weeks without US military support. These monarchies have been and are the vassals of imperialist powers for the share in loot and plunder of the resources of these regions. In the post Second World War period with the decline of several imperialist powers, people’s struggle for liberation got immensely intensified in colonial and semi-colonial countries. Some countries fought for their independence, some bargained their independence and some had independence thrust upon them, to paraphrase the famous bard. UAE has been a particular case in point. After British Govt. signified its inability to continue military protection, these Sheikhdoms had requested British Govt. to continue their military presence even offering to bear the entire expenses. When British anyway withdrew, Sheikhdoms went under the military protection of US imperialism which set up military bases in these countries. Most of these Sheikhdoms united to form UAE, while Bahrain and Qatar became separate states.
These Sheikhdoms have not only been brought into power and sustained in power by imperialists, they continue to be dependent on them for their survival. These have been and continue to be mainly the instruments of suppressing their Arab citizens. The struggles in these countries are further compounded by the fact that a good majority of working people are immigrant workers mainly from other Asian countries, mostly non-Arabs. The Sheikhdoms need imperialist troops to protect them not from other countries but from their own people whom they do not trust, hence do not arm for defense. Their conjuring of foreign threats is therefore mainly to justify presence of imperialist troops and bases and further strengthen the security apparatus to control their people, suppress any dissent against their rule. With people having little democratic rights, people’s anger takes the course of outbursts.
These steps are being misleadingly and mischievously projected as steps in the direction of peace in the Middle-East and for protection of rights of Palestinians. UAE official communication mentioned these, taking credit for the halt on ‘new’ annexation of Palestinian land in West Bank. These are not at all true. Zionist Israel’s most jingoist ruler Netanyahu was forced to stay new annexations in the period of Corona even before this. Further Netanyahu has made it clear that halt to constructions is only temporary and is no part of any agreement with any other country. Prime Minister Netanyahu said there was “no change” to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank adding they were on temporary hold. Secondly, this can be no harbinger or even contributor to peace in the region. Openly going over to the main threat to peace in the region, Zionist Israel, cannot be considered to be a step in the direction of peace.
Roots of the current spree of ‘normalization of relations’, establishing diplomatic relations and developing commercial intercourse should be seen in the threats perceived to these Sheikhdoms by Sheikhs as well as their imperialist protectors. First of these factors pertain to the emergence of multi-polar world and unwillingness and inability of US imperialist rulers to deploy troops in defense of these Sheikhdoms. This aspect is reflected in emergence (or re-emergence) of Russia as a Middle East power. Its military intervention in defence of Bashir Assad led Bath regime and US inability to pursue regime change in Syria through military means have brought changes in the military balance in the region. US imperialism has for the time being confined itself to militarily support Kurd forces and control the oil rich areas of North-eastern Syria. This military rebalancing has made Russia a very important factor in Middle-East. Reactionary rulers of Russia led by Putin have emerged the ‘go to power’ for the dictators of the region. Russia is playing a nuanced military game and trying to befriend the rulers of different persuasions to cement its prominent role in the region. While its relations with Iran regime were well known, Zionist ruler Netanyahu pays regular visits to Moscow. In exchange Israel is allowed to attack targets in Syria though Syrian air space is controlled by Russia. Russia has built on its historic relations with military rulers of Egypt and is with them in supporting forces backing Hiftar in Libya. UAE Sheikhs have also improved relations with Russia, taking part in Libyan operations and not supporting anti-Assad forces in Syria. Russia even maintains relations with Saudi rulers though there is much mistrust there.
While Russia has increased its military role, China has deepened its economic relations with countries in the region, and of late, has even embarked on increasing its military engagement in the region. China maintains a military base in Djibouti to the west of Gulf countries and is preparing to sign a long term deal with Iran worth US$ 400 billion investments. This deal has wide economic ramifications and strong military component. With CPEC (with Pakistan) it represents a vast area dominated by China. China is the biggest buyer of Gulf oil with demand in US declining and Europe getting supplies mainly from Russia. Gulf monarchies also face growing dependence on China for its trade.
Decline of US and assertion by Russia has had another fall out for the region. That is Turkey trying to increase its influence in the region. Turkish designs are not limited to Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq but these extend to areas under the control of Ottoman empire. In this consolidation of power by ruling AKP, formed by adherents of Muslim Brotherhood (MB), has played an important role along with changes in balance of power among imperialist countries in the region. MB ascendency has meant increasing attacks on workers and other toiling sections, and suppression of democratic rights. While problems of the people are increasing, MB led Govt. is seeking to evoke great power euphoria. MB led Turkey is trying to emerge as the leader of Muslim world. Increasingly open alliance of Gulf monarchies and dictators of the region with Israel under the umbrella of US imperialism, is helping MB utilize anger on the Arab street. MB is an important force in Arab countries including Gulf countries opposing monarchies. Thousands of MB activists are languishing in jails in Saudi Arabia and UAE while Qatar Emir has aligned with Turkey and MB. It may be recalled how Turkey leader Erdogan had claimed in post-Arab Spring Tunisia and Egypt that Arab countries should follow Turkish model.
With oil prices declining due to economic stagnation and shrinkage in several large economies, and consequent decline in incomes from oil revenue, attempts by the monarchies to cut the expenditure on social sector and consequent rise in anger among the people in these countries, MB poses an existential danger to the Gulf monarchies. One may just recall the Mecca siege of 1979, the year Iran had seen overthrow of Shah monarchy, two separate developments which have shaped the response of Gulf monarchies and their imperialist patrons. And it is the former led by MB which is perceived as greater threat to the survival of these monarchies. On the other hand, increase in Iran’s influence challenges their influence in the region and also emboldens their Shia minority, its rise only emboldens the forces fighting for change while MB poses a direct internal challenge. Not for nothing had ruling Sheikhs of Gulf (with the exception of Qatar) pumped in money in support of military coup in Egypt overthrowing elected President Morsi of MB. This support to MB, was also the real reason behind blockade of Qatar though couched in many apparently inconsequential issues.
With rising anger of the people and inability of US imperialism to commit more forces to the region, Gulf monarchies have been increasingly looking forward to Israel, the most potent military force in the region, for support. As US imperialism under Trump Admn. has maintained relations with AKP ruled Turkey which had been a very important member of US led camp in Middle-east, the opposition has been couched in anti-Iran rhetoric. But the reality is that gulf monarchies are openly courting Israel as a bulwark against MB and Turkey. For opposing Iran, Gulf monarchies would not have made their alliance with Israel which had becoming increasingly overt during the last years. It is the step monarchies, at the prodding of US imperialism, have taken in face of twin dangers but mainly from their own people. Trump Admn. is laying down the framework for the management of its interests in Middle-East and using anxieties of Gulf ruling Sheikhs to bring the alliance between two pillars of its influence in Middle-east openly together. This development is obviously against the national aspirations of Palestinian people but it also brings portents of forging the unity of Arab people who are true friends of Palestinian cause. The anger expressed in Bahrain and UAE against these treacherous deals though generally ignored in the mainstream media, offers that portent.
Saudi rulers have offered cautious support to these deals by UAE and Bahrain but they are very much part of this. Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the Saudi foreign minister, described the normalization deal as a potential contribution to peace in the region saying “Any efforts that promote peace in the region and that result in the holding back the threat of annexation could be viewed as positive.” Cautious nature of their reaction is attributable to managing its domestic fallout as well as its position among the world Muslims. Turkey and Iran have already come together to challenge that. The contention between these countries for influence over the Muslim countries is going to get further sharpened.
The development has put the rulers of Pakistan in a difficult position of balancing its economic dependence on Saudi Arabia and Gulf states and their growing ties with Indian Govt. under the auspices of US Admn. Pakistan’s cautious reaction was evident when it termed the controversial deal between the UAE and Israel to normalize ties as a development with “far-reaching implications.”
These developments in the middle-east are also intimately connected to the growing contradictions among the imperialist powers in the world. US imperialism is facing increasing challenge from Chinese social imperialism, Russian imperialism and also differences with European imperialist powers. These growing inter-imperialist contradictions are impacting the developments in vast regions in the world particularly in Asia. US imperialism is trying to forge military alliance to take on China and Indian rulers have been part of it. RSS-BJP led govt. has little qualms in justifying its open alliance with US and its allies hoping to counter growing Chinese influence in the region as well as hoping to attract big companies from US and its allies away from China. However, Indian Govt. is trying to continue its relations with Russian imperialism which is coming under increasing strain due to intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions and RSS-BJP Govt.’s open alliance with US imperialism and with its close allies like Israel.
Indian Govt. had welcomed the deal between Israel and UAE mediated by US calling both Israel and UAE “key strategic partners”. RSS-BJP Govt. has been forging and flaunting its relations with Gulf monarchies e.g. Saudi Arabia and UAE. They too have expressed support to India on disputes between India and Pakistan.
The development has been condemned unanimously by Palestinians. Fatah accused the UAE of “flouting its national, religious and humanitarian duties” towards the Palestinian people, while Hamas said it was a “treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinian people”. Palestinians have demonstrated in all parts of the world against the deal between Israel, UAE, Bahrain mediated by US Admn.
This development increases already serious challenges faced by the struggle of Palestinian people for realizing their national aspirations. This adds to an existential danger to their justified aspirations. Whether end of the lip-service by the Arab monarchs and dictators may be a blessing in disguise will be determined by the reaction of Arab people. It has already helped bridge differences between various organizations of Palestinians bringing them on one platform.
The national struggle of Palestinians continues, braving assaults and attacks by one of the most barbaric regimes which kills old and young with impunity, tramples over international law without compunction. They continue their brave struggle with saga of sacrifice. Democratic and progressive people the world over support their struggle and honour the great sacrifices being made by them.
(From ND October 2020)