A year ago, in May 2016, Britain’s House of Lords decided to establish a new International Relations Committee. On 2 May 2017, after six months deliberation, the committee issued its second report: “The Middle East: Time for New Realism”. It is, quite frankly, an astonishing document, imbued with unconcealed hostility towards, and distrust of, US President Donald Trump, with the anti-Brexit rhetoric of much of the British establishment, and with downright naïve recommendations, reflecting the consensus of the politically correct, concerning Saudi Arabia, the Iran nuclear deal, and Palestinian sovereignty.
Author Archive: Neville Teller
US President Donald Trump has one attribute that his greatest friends and most impassioned enemies are agreed on – he is a great deal-maker. Deal-making has been the key to his business success, which has been considerable. And way back in the 1980s he co-authored “The Art of the Deal” which reached number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and stayed there for 13 weeks.
Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, is a fervent Hezbollah supporter; Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, most certainly is not. Hariri’s position is scarcely surprising, since he has every reason to believe that back in 2005 his father, Rafik, was brutally assassinated by Hezbollah operatives, acting on the orders of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
The news from Turkey following the referendum on 16 April is worrying. The coup attempt on 20 July 2016, in which rogue troops commandeered fighter jets and tanks to bomb parliament, led the Turkish cabinet to declare a six-month state of emergency. On 19 January, as the six months drew to a close, the state of emergency was extended for a further three months. Now, following the referendum, the Turkish cabinet has once again added three months to the extraordinary powers permitted the president and his government under the terms of the emergency legislation.
Egypt’s government, under the leadership of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place – on the one hand the danger of economic collapse; on the other simmering popular discontent, which could descend into open revolt, at the steps being taken to relieve the problem.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is such an established feature of today’s Middle East that it comes as something of a surprise to realize that it is less than a hundred years old. It was only in 1932 that Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, after a 30-year political and military struggle against local warlords and the Ottoman Empire, named the area that he had conquered “Saudi Arabia”, and proclaimed himself its first king.
Since mid-July 2016 Turks have been living in a state of emergency, subject to the sweeping powers permitted the president and his ministers in this situation. Triggered by the coup attempt on 20 July, in which 240 soldiers, police and civilians were killed trying to stop rogue troops who had commandeered fighter jets and tanks to bomb parliament, the state of emergency was extended on 19 January 2017 for a further three months.
The life cycle of many enterprises can best be described as a parabola – an arch-like curve, like an object thrown high in the air which falls back to earth. From a slow start they often gain considerable momentum, reach an apogee, and then decline. Is the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement following this pattern? Born in 2005, it grew rapidly in influence, penetrating university campuses across the free world, local governments, trade unions, churches, and even supermarkets and concert halls. It reached what seemed like a high point in 2015, a decade after it began. Since then…
Suddenly the media is awash with reports, rumors and hints about a fresh approach to tackling the perennial Israel-Palestinian stand-off. Cynics, contemplating the history of the Middle East over the past 70 years, might well conclude that every conceivable method of reconciling the conflicting aspirations of the two parties has already been tried and failed. But changing circumstances can reconfigure political opportunities. An initiative impossible in 2007 may have become perfectly viable by 2017.
Back in the glory days of the so-called “Arab Spring”, when Middle Eastern dictators were falling like ninepins, it seemed that the overthrow of Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi of Libya and Saleh of Yemen would inevitably be followed by the downfall of President Bashar Assad of Syria. But, it now seems, providence had reserved a different fate for Assad. A determination to cling to power, however ruthless or inhumane the methods, allied to a favourable concatenation of political circumstances, has enabled Assad to emerge from a long, multi-faceted combat battered, depleted territorially and logistically, but still…