President Hassan Rouhani’s West Asia peace plan will be dissected, discussed
and digested because it is essential to stabilise a hugely disrupted region. Of
course, any idea from one side of an arbitrarily drawn Shia-Sunni faultline
will possibly cause Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to throw a
ginger fit, but after recent setbacks he is something of a wounded stag and may
be amenable to reason.
on Aramco, claimed by the Houthis, is a wound, of course, but so is the wasted
four-year-long war in Yemen. It is now turning upon him. The sight of his
buddy, Benjamin Netanyahu, hanging from the precipice is not reassuring either.
Mr Netanyahu may well clamber on again, or he may fall without a trace, the
chances of him being a durable figure in Israeli public life are at a discount.
The picture must cause despair in Riyadh and Tel Aviv now that there is no John
Bolton, holding a top secret folder to his chest and muttering: “I shall do
such things, what they are I know not but they shall be the terrors of the
up-and-down in Iran’s image in Washington is frequent. An unforgettable image
is the Oped page of the New York Times of March 20, 2005: Columnist Thomas L.
Friedman had recommended Ayatollah Sistani for the Nobel Prize. Paul Bremer, US
representative in Baghdad, had written a note to Ayatollah Sistani, seeking an
interview. Sistani’s response was cryptic: “Neither you nor I belong to Iraq:
Let Iraqis settle their affairs.”
belong to the same culture. Any observer of Iran would have anticipated the
essence of President Rouhani’s message: “Let the region settle its affairs.”
attack by the Houthis on Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil facility in Buqyaq was
devastating for the Saudis, of course. But it was much more worrying for the
American military-industrial complex. The question uppermost in the minds of
the Saudi ruling elite will be “if the trillions of dollars of Western arms
which we have bought over the years cannot protect our crown jewels?” and the
US arms market may take a profound hit worldwide, which will not be a happy
development at a time when President Donald Trump is looking for deep pockets
to clean out the Chinese in the trade war.
Netanyahu is not a very “likeable” person in Tehran, as elsewhere. This was one
of the ingredients in the anti-Semitism sweeping through the Western world. The
persistent lobbying by the Israeli leader to demonise Iran has not worked.
Indeed, it has boomeranged. In fact, he himself has had egg on his face as, for
instance, at the high-powered conference in Warsaw last February with the known
purpose of isolating Iran. Russia slammed the planned meeting at the very
outset as “counterproductive” because of its obsession with Iran.
conference collapsed after Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz had crossed all
the possible diplomatic red lines. “Poles suckled anti-Semitism from their
mother’s milk”, he told his hosts, leaving the conference in tatters. A meeting
scheduled in Jerusalem to carry forward the ideas from Warsaw was cancelled.
Can you blame the Poles for hating him? The Law on Restitution of Jewish
Property was passed by the Poles because the Jews, as Holocaust victims, were
successfully laying claim to property with the help of the Jewish clout
globally. The US state department sent out instructions to all its missions to
keep an eye on Jewish property cases. This behaviour comes across as
high-handed to most sovereign states.
Here is an
opportunity for the leader of Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, to make Israel
not just feared, but also loved. I have in years past travelled around the
length and breadth of the Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with my dear
friend, the late Eric Silver. Israel then was never a harsh, forbidding place
it appeared to be in the Netanyahu years.
Donald Trump became President, two grand old men and leaders of the strategic
community, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, turned up in Oslo as guests
of the Nobel Foundation. I could distil the point which had great urgency. The
Arab-Israeli faultline was losing saliency to the Shia-Sunni faultline. There
was an assumption that the Sunnis, being numerically superior, would in the end
prevail. And with US and Israeli support, they could ask for the moon.
To get the
calculations right, one must set aside Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim
country, and Malaysia, both Sunni but different from the Arab world. In
Indonesia, particularly, there is a quaint co-existence of Islam and Hindu
culture. Even though Islam is the religion of an overwhelming majority, the
Mahabharat and Ramayan define the nation’s culture.
Cooperation Council put its heads together largely in response to the Iranian
revolution of 1979. But it is far from a Wahabi-Salafi dominated homogenous
group. In Bahrain, the conflict is unique — an 80 per cent majority Shia
population is treated by the Wahabi ruling sheikhs as the only opposition. In
2011, when the Arab Spring was in the air, US diplomat Jeffrey Feltman had very
nearly worked out a power-sharing arrangement between the ruling sheikh and the
main Opposition. The arrangement was scuttled by the late King Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia, who saw any arrangement with the Shias as a compact with Iran,
and therefore the devil. He saw Iran as “the head of a snake which had to be
approach worked for the Saudis? They are sitting on a heap of rubble in Yemen,
in Aramco and in Syria. Iran, meanwhile, has consolidated itself with the
Hezbollah in Beirut, the Hashd al-Shaabi (in Iraq) and the Houthis in Yemen.
Saeed Naqvi is a senior journalist and
commentator based in New Delhi
Headline: Saudi-Iran tussle always goes Tehran’s way at UN
Source: The Asian Age