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New Approaches to Old Problems – a Conversation on the Middle East

Written by Amb. (ret.) Doru Costea, Ph.D

 

This paper develops remarks made by H.E. Amb. Doru Costea at the 3rd edition of the Atlantic – Black Sea Security Forum that was organized by Aspen Institute Romania and the Bucharest Office of the German Marshall Fund in Bucharest, Romania, on June 1, 2021.

 

Executive summary: The common and deeply entrenched perception of the Middle East reads that it is the most dynamic and challenging region in terms of security and stability. Consequential changes occurred that have moved the center of gravity of their causes from interference of foreign powers to the domestic/regional dimension and the interaction between the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ is intensifying. Known problems sprout new issues, while attempts at addressing them linger in the conflict-management stage, instead of resolutely aiming to finding and implementing durable solutions. New players (China), join traditional actors in the region, even as the performance of traditional forces (Russia, USA) is also changing, and regional powers (Saudi Arabia, EAU, Turkey, Iran) turn more assertive. Romania’s strategic interests are integrated with EU and NATO objectives and can be supported by its intellectual assets and diplomatic knowledge of the region.

PART 1

CHANGES AND “MEGA-CHANGES” IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The end of the second decade of the 21st century witnessed several developments that made analysts and decision-makers think a century back at what had caused World War I and its consequences, not least because some of them reverberate to the present days. The Middle East, be it understood in its ‘traditional’ dimensions, or new, expanded ones – a.k.a. ‘The Greater Middle East’ – came to the fore as a particularly appropriate area for this examination, the landmines hidden along this way of thinking notwithstanding, as ominous parallel trends fueled by revisionist thinking and imperial nostalgia could be noticed that deal with treaties like the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Trianon Treaty.

However, there is no need to return that far in time in order to observe occurring changes that might prove almost equally consequential, or, at least, highly significant, for a region that has been for ever at the center of concerns and interests of a wide range of actors, both local and global – with a visible predominance of the later, because of well-known geopolitical and geo-economic reasons. The New Middle East is not only the title of best-sellers[1]; it is a reality that has been in the making ever since the ‘old’ Cold War came to an end and opened a new stage in front of the local forces, as they found themselves without the previous familiar choice between opposite developmental and political models, mainly in terms of managing increasingly complex domestic challenges.

One change is a shift in the center of gravity of factors that would trigger processes aiming at shaping the realities on the ground: foreign actors that had seen the area as an ideological, and more often than not, military playground through proxies came to face more serious challenges issuing from within the area itself[2].

To put it otherwise, the balance shifted so that developments inside national borders turned into more significant causes of reactions from the outside, which changed the old pattern of foreign interferences from countering other foreign actions to dealing with troubling local developments.

Another shift concerns the so-called ‘main problem’ of the Middle East, as the region is perceived sometimes as riven less by an Israeli-Arab divide than by a Sunni-Shi’a one[3]; along the same lines of deeper fractures within the societal environment across the region, the opposition among radical, even extremist trends based on religious rather than ideological and political narratives is on the rise, as well as acts of discrimination and increasing inequality originating from different ethnic roots and religious beliefs. These developments compound the existing pressures on the social fabric of Middle Eastern societies and extend the inventory of problems, some of them century-old indeed, like state- and nation-building, while others impede the normal functioning of governments; the four successive and inconclusive elections in Israel in the last two years provided an example in this respect. An unexpected, yet explainable development along the same lines is the link that has recently been made between the status of the Palestinians’ rights and ‘Black Lives Matter’.

Two other shifts may be added to this list of changes: one is the emergence of non-state actors, mostly of the violent, militant and ideologically extremist kind, some of which are under influences other than home-grown forces; the second would be the expansion of the very boundaries of the region – hence ‘the Greater Middle East’ image, which goes beyond the entire Arab Peninsula and rightly include Turkey, Iran and, perhaps only naturally, the latter’s neighbors, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Caucasus.

Actors old and new

The new dimensions of the region have been accompanied by changes in the roles of various actors, both local/regional and from the outside. Some of these changes are mere continuations of ‘old’ developments: Iran’s stances towards its Arab Gulf neighbors have run the whole gamut between normal relationships and outright war, besides military conflicts through proxies in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, while its footprint on Iraqi internal politics has become unmistakable and disquietingly unavoidable.

Turkey, which has a special place in the history of the region, has arguably taken the most visible steps on assuming a new role with its military return to parts of Syria and Iraq, only to expand them to Libya; likewise, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have enhanced their regional footprint, and so did Qatar, particularly in areas ravaged by conflicts in attempts to assert their positions beyond the purview of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

There is little doubt that the most spectacular transformation in the roles played by foreign actors is to be found in the actions of the United States and Russia. It became a commonplace to note that the American ‘retreat’ from the Middle East is replaced by Russia’s coming back in full force, military basis and all – yet, less so in economic terms. At the same time, more careful examination of this change would be in order: like Schumpeter said, nothing is so treacherous as the obvious’.  Indeed, the extent of the American ‘retreat’ from the Middle East deserves a separate reading, which is hardly appropriate here and now; suffice is to recall steps taken by the Trump Administration that would be rather at odds with the perception of an American declining interest in Middle Eastern matters, for good or for bad. A short list of related moments reads the January 2017 visit to the region, which was an unprecedented destination for the first foreign trip of an American President; ‘the Deal of the Century’, which came as an iconoclastic and highly questionable peace-plan for the Israeli-Palestinian file; and the ‘Abraham Accords’, which doubled the number of Arab states establishing relations with Israel.. A succinct, yet significant and quite well-known characterization of the US approach to the area includes the shift from political thinking to transactional initiatives, with a considerable share of military deals[4].

 

PART 2

RUSSIA & CHINA ON MIDDLE EAST

As for Russia’s Middle East record, the situation could not differ more now from what it used to be not very long time ago. For more than a decade after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia had been all but absent from the region, with the notable exceptions of its political involvement in the Barcelona and Oslo processes and, later on, in the Iranian nuclear file. The dramatic change occurred with the outburst of the Syrian war, with Russia’s expanding use of the Tartous naval facility (est. 1971) and the opening of the Khmeimim Air Base (est. 2015), to mention just ‘boots-on-the-ground’ aspects; add to that the presence and performance of military personal, including private contractors, in combat operations in various areas of the country. Moreover, unlike American stances, Russia embarked upon opening and maintaining channels of communication with all local and regional players, both state- and non-state actors, and introduced various initiatives to address regional security and stability challenges – including a ‘new process of bilateral and multilateral consultations between key stakeholders, including the UN Security Council, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation[5].

Against the background of continuous convulsions in the region, another actor has quietly and steadily made its presence felt that used to be less visible for decades: China[6]. As the Cold War had barely started when the People’s Republic was proclaimed, at the beginning China’s involvement in the Middle East was marked by the ‘Bandung Spirit’ in the 1950s, to be followed by the isolationist trend a decade later, the Three Worlds Diplomacy in the 1970s and by DENG Xiaoping’s teaching of ‘keeping a low profile’ in the 1980s. The 1990s witnessed China countering the US , then the country’s ‘peaceful rise’ in a ‘harmonious world’ at the beginning of the 20th century and Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese Dream’ – and all these loosely labeled stages include various ways and means that China resorted to as far as developments in the Middle East are concerned[7]. To put it in a nutshell, China’s general outlook of its interests in the region shifted from ideological argumentation to pragmatic initiatives, devoid of political considerations and strongly focused on meeting those interests, particularly in the economic fields and, as situations demanded, on securing cooperation of regional partners in fighting religion-based terrorism and extremism. The overall picture of China’s Middle Eastern policy shows 13 bilateral strategic partnerships and the country’s first place in the region’s trade since 2016. Moreover, in dealing with some of regional states, like Iran and Egypt, China frequently refers to similarities among its partners’ ancient and contemporary history as they used to be, in turn, ‘major powers’ and targets of disruptive foreign interferences.

‘The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, is at the heart of this approach. BRI reaches the Middle East by land and sea segments alike, from the North-East and South, respectively, with a particular focus on the both banks of the Red Sea. The Djibouti-based military base is a first in China’s sea strategy, while multi-billion US dollar-projects are under various stages of negotiation and implementation in the countries of the region. In 2016, a formal Chinese Arab Policy Paper was adopted, ‘establishing a “1+2+3” cooperation pattern (to take energy cooperation as the core, infrastructure construction and trade and investment facilitation as the two wings, and three high and new tech fields of nuclear energy, space satellite and new energy as the three breakthroughs), and industrial capacity cooperation[8].

China’s plans in the area are comprehensive in terms of domains, yet they do not necessarily amount to a coherent regional strategy per se, even if there are discourses and messages that allude to such an approach. In March 2021, China’s minister of Foreign Affairs toured six Middle Eastern countries[9] and summed up his country’s principles of addressing its relationship with the area in what he called a ‘Five-Point Initiative’ on achieving stability and security in the Middle East: advocating mutual respect; upholding equity and justice; achieving non-proliferation; fostering collective security; accelerating development cooperation. Said principles were detailed to refer to challenges specific to the region, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear file[10]; however, their contents are equally valid for other areas as well, due to the generality of the wording, which, at the end of the day, is a trademark of China’s diplomacy.

Local reception of China’s actions has been rather welcoming, for a number of reasons that range from lucrative trading in energy sources, to financial and Chinese investments and, last, but not least, military equipment – Saudi Arabia is known to have used Chinese drones in the conflict in Yemen and Chinse surveillance equipment is increasingly present in various countries in the area. All in all, ‘China’s regional influence is growing, and over time, willingness for Beijing to offer and Gulf states to welcome a range of strategic initiatives is likely to increase.’[11]

China’s relations to Israel and Iran make for outstanding landmarks in the country’s Middle Eastern policy, albeit with easily discernable differences. A common denominator of China’s actions is the careful, yet consistent approach of these two states as it keeps an attentive eye on possible reactions from the US that would harm its projects, or hinder their implementation. The Chinese concern proved right in more than one instance in connection to plans of investing in Israeli harbors and the well-known anti-Huawei calls; however, these apprehensions did not prevent the China from signing of a ‘Strategic Cooperation Agreement’ with Iran on March 26, 2021, which reveals the joint readiness to expand the bilateral relationship for the next 25 years, based on Chinese investments worth over US$ 400 billion, including in military-related fields[12]. In this latter respect, it is worth mentioning that China’s share in Iranian military imports reached 24% between 2010-2019, as per SIPRI data[13]; likewise, one would recall the joint Chinese-Russian-Iranian military exercise of December 2019 – a first and reportedly worrying occurrence[14].

 

PART 3

The impact of Iranian policy

Iran’s role and impact on the Middle East defy attempts at encapsulating them in the size of this paper, lest merely stating its continuous destabilizing interferences on already fragile situations.  An inspiring interpretation of Iran’s strategic behavior sees the country as a ‘“center of the periphery” [that] can be defined as those geopolitically excluded from the region. These are groups that are disaffected by the Middle Eastern political and security order that was created as a consequence of the post-World War I period and the Sykes-Picot agreement […]. The second part of the center of the periphery is the issue of Shi’ism. Shi’ism is generally understood as the periphery of predominant Sunni Islam. So, Iran is the center of the periphery today, both for the excluded of the region and as a protector, or a power, for Shi’a Muslims.’[15]

As mentioned in a previous footnote, the Islamic revolution was one of the epoch-making events that marked the growing part of domestic developments in the shaping of foreign relations and policies even beyond the Middle East, after having been a part of President Nixon’s ‘Twin Pillars’ strategy, together with Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Iran’s case is a text-book example of the ever-tighter interaction between domestic and foreign factors in devising policies, particularly in this region, as the clear danger of nuclear proliferation is strongly supported by the deeply entrenched mistrust in the strategic goals of the authorities, which are rather visibly supported by concrete actions and inflammatory discourses targeting other countries in the area.

For the purpose of this paper, a change in Iran’s place on the canvas of the Middle East might be labeled as both predictable and unknown. On one hand, realities within Iran’s society have greatly evolved with the emerging of post-revolutionary generations, which have known solely the questionable performance of the religious authorities’ governance in implementing generally beneficial policies. In previously hard-to-imagine protests against the government following the controversial presidential elections in 2009 (‘the Green Movement’) the youth, which some called ‘the children of the Islamic revolution’, were the overwhelming majority. Under present-day circumstances resulting from the continuous sanctions, which also severely affected measures against the Covid-19 pandemic, the prospects of economic recovery are rather dim and favor further social unrest.

On the other hand, the decision of the new US Administration to revive the implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), albeit with updated contents, might be a step in the direction of defusing both internal and regional tensions.

However, the presidential elections scheduled for 18 June 2021 seem to be rather ominous as far as the result may be, if one were to consider the candidates running for this position; at the same time, analysts highlight Iran’s strategic and long-term interest in agreeing on a ‘JCPOA 2.0’ that would have lifting of sanctions as the main result – and would consequently diminish the country’s dependence on Russian and Chinese economies[16]. The whole picture is further complicated by the apprehension, if not outright opposition, of regional players, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, concerning the efficiency of the implementation of any agreement in this matter.

New old problems…

International conflicts, similarly to domestic ones, develop on quite well-defined trajectories: some would be settled, while others would be managed lest they lead to more violent, even catastrophic consequences, without heading towards a durable solution; and there are the notorious cases of mistakenly-called ‘frozen conflicts’, which are anything but, since they merely actually aggravate crises, political, societal and security wise. The Middle East has provided a long list of conflicts that fall somehow in a category or another; besides, said conflicts easily cross the ‘demarcation lines’ between those categories, and may trigger changes, sometimes radical, or at least far-reaching, in their course.

The most relevant case in point is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, besides being chronic, also meets the ‘criteria’ to be examined as an embodiment of the ‘shape- and contents-shifting’ example of conflict, as apparently proved by the recent HAMAS-Israel ’11‑days war’.

While air-attacks from Gaza are not new in the record of the armed conflicts, the latest ones stand apart because of several factors that were noticed by observers in the area and abroad[17]. Some of these factors include the average of 500 missiles a day that were fired against Israel in the first week, bringing the total to some 4,300 missiles, as against around 4,500 that were fired during the 7-weeks long conflict in 2014; their range was longer, reaching Tel Aviv; many were ‘local-products’, while others were made in Iran; their accuracy was enhanced and the sheer number and frequency of launches (‘swarms’) put the Iron Dome under unprecedented pressure.

Besides these novelties in the quantifiable range, there were several developments that cast a new light on the overall picture: the inter-communal clashes between Israelis and Arabs living in Israel proper, while there were not West Bank-based operations, nor significant attacks originating from Hizballah-controlled territories in Lebanon. An Israeli analysis noted the wider context of the attacks as marked by ‘The Deal of the Century’; annexation intentions announced by the Israeli government; the Abraham Accords; and the health and economic crisis aggravated by the pandemic.

Another category of factors pertain to internal political developments in both sides: the outbreak coincided with the increasing probability of an Arab Israeli party joining an alliance to support a new government – hence, the probability of improving the quality of life of the Arab constituency and lessening somewhat HAMAS relevance; and the so-called the so-called ‘never ending 4-year term’ of President Abbas (elected in 2005), which raised the internal disputes to new levels after the latest cancellation of Palestinian elections.

Israeli assessments converge on finding that HAMAS lost many assets following the campaign, but it is the big winner to the “Arab street, which allegedly means that whatever progress it would had wanted to achieve in those cancelled elections, it succeeded in attaining in its recent aggression; going further on this line of thought, the question is whether the Palestinian Authority could even regain its status as leader of the Palestinian issue and in what ways.

…and old new approaches

There is hardly any other major conflict that has ever been subject to as many attempts to find a durable solution as the one between Israelis and Palestinians and the literature on the subject is immense, thus matching its very complexity. Another considerably important point is the impact history has on this matter: in William Faulkner’s words, ‘the past is never dead – it’s not even past’, as Aaron David Miller, a well-known Middle East expert, told Jared Kushner[18].

The ’11-days war’ brutally brought this conflict back to the limelight, although previous initiatives had been put forward in the recent past – again, ‘The Deal of the Century’ comes to mind. Russia tries to resuscitate the Middle East Quartet and might claim to contribute to the settling of intra-Palestinian tensions, since it hosted intra-Palestinian conferences of major factions in 2011, 2017 and 2019, and in October 2020. It also proposed a 4+4+2+1 mechanism, which would include the Quartet; the four Arab countries that normalized their relations with Israel; Israel and Palestine; and Saudi Arabia, the author of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. As mentioned before, China put forward a Five-Point Initiative and, similarly to Russia, voiced its readiness to host Israeli and Palestinian representatives for direct talks.

On this matter, the most relevant change is the increasing lack of clarity of what the result of the negotiations would look like – and the statement is less outrageous than it might seem: an opinion poll carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in March 2021, found that support for the concept of the two-state solution stands at 40% (in 2016, the score was 51%) and opposition stands at 57%; further, ‘a majority of 55% believes that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements, while 38% believe that the solution remains practical. Moreover, 77% believe that the chances for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel in the next five years are slim or nonexistence while 20% believe the chances to be medium or high’[19]. Under these circumstances, there seems to be no vision on either side – and that leads to the putatively impossible option of the one-state solution, with some Israelis and Palestinians talking of a ‘confederation that would split the difference; both communities could fulfil their national aspirations, but with shared institutions’ and a sort of an EU-like porous border[20].

This conundrum might lead to a reconsideration of the whole process in terms of changing the approach, so that realities on the ground favour visible improvements in the lives of Palestinians – mainly economic and social– and Israelis – from the security point of view; a term that would cover this process is called ‘deoccupation’ and relates basically to some 650,000 settlers living on the West Bank[21].

Another approach to solving this conflict is seen to be re-including it in a wider regional pattern, through which ‘a resolution […] may be reached, but it will be one that is imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by regional states and accepted by a new Palestinian leadership supported by those same states’. This option supposes that settling the conflict ‘rather than starting with a top-down process, […] can only be arrived at through mutual commitment to participation in an incremental process driven by regional actors themselves. Breaking apart regional conflicts, with the focused, multilateral participation of relevant actors, can build trust from the ground up and promote smaller-scale solutions.[22]

Addressing the entire inventory of the ‘old-new’ problems of the Middle East in such a complex enterprise seems a daunting task – but definitely not as frightening as the consequences of renewed, upscaled and expanded armed conflicts and despair would cause in the region and beyond. Responsibilities are shared among local, regional and global actors alike, in both government and non-government segments for embarking on sustained and meaningful dialogues with a view to overcoming the temptation of clinging to conflict-management only, in order to reach the conflict-settlement stage.

 

PART 4

ROMANIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

An obvious question in this conversation is what Romania’s interests are as far as the Middle East developments are concerned. For the Romanian public, the issue is quite familiar, following the legacy of diplomatic, economic and human relationships with the area; at the same time, it is equally known that the priorities of Romania’s foreign policy have been reoriented toward the European and Euro-Atlantic integration for the last decades, which has taken a toll on dedicated actions and/or diplomatic initiatives in the region.

And it is probably here that an important part of the answer to the above-mentioned question lies: being a Member State of the European Union and a staunch Ally in NATO, both of which do have Middle Eastern issues on their agendas is supposed and, even more, obliged, to contribute to debates and decision-making processes pertaining to these problems. The very debate on the Future of Europe and the goal of enhancing EU’s global role beyond its economic might would be an auspicious opportunity to re-focusing intellectual and diplomatic resources on this chapter of the CFSP. Likewise, the security dimension that defines NATO’s mission and shall be minutely examined in the NATO 2030 endeavor brings the focus on the Middle East among the top priorities of the Alliance. Both processes are most relevant through the close interaction between developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Black Sea, thus substantiating Romania’s strategic interests in the stability and security of these regions.

Romania holds useful cards in this exercise by virtue of its accumulated knowledge of the area, which is further enriched by the performance of its diplomats, from the responsibility of representing the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to successively heading EU Delegations in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.

Another reason, closer to home, is the sizeable dimension of Romanian communities living and working in the area, as well as of Israeli citizens of Romanian descent – reportedly, some 400,000, which maintain an active relationship with their country of origin. Moreover, the Romanian economy has rather important partners in the area, both in terms of trading, particularly agricultural products, and cooperation in various domains, including hi-tech and investments.

 

Bibliography

[1] The phrase is considered to have been coined by Shimon Peres after the Oslo Agreements. He authored a book with the same title, together with Arye Naor, in 1993, reportedly before these agreements. Another book was published more than two decades later: Paul Danahar, The New Middle Eastthe world after the Arab Spring, Bloomsbury, 2015.

[2] In this sense, moments like (in chronological order) the Mossadegh case in Iran (1953), the nationalization of the Suez Canal and/or the Islamic revolution in Iran may be considered as early warning events; however, their consequences, while relevant, were somehow less dramatic than the aftermath of the Arab Spring. A necessary caveat is the acknowledgement of the interwoven influences of domestic/regional causes and factors originating from outside the area.

[3] For a comprehensive analysis of this trend see Dilip Hiro, Cold War in the Islamic War – Saudi Arabia, Iran and the struggle for supremacy, C.Hurst and Co., London, 2018.

[4] See ***Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, updated November 23, 2020, http://crsreports.congress.gov .

[5]We should try and launch a process akin to the Helsinki Process and accomplish something similar in the region in the hope that, unlike the pan-European Helsinki Process, we could achieve better results’. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions during a special session of the Valdai International Discussion Club on the Middle East, Moscow, March 31, 2021, https://www.mid.ru/en/web/guest/foreign_policy/international_safety/conflicts/-/asset_publisher/xIEMTQ3OvzcA/content/id/4660109 .

[6] The last decade has seen a substantial growth of the literature dealing with China’s performance in the Middle East: between 2016 and 2019, at least 8 books were published on this topic. See Guy Burton, China and Middle East ConflictsResponding to war and rivalry from the Cold War to the present, Routledge, 2020,.

[7] Based on an instructive image of this evolution in Guy Burton, op. cit., p. 218.

[8] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, China’s Arab Policy Paper, January 2016, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/t1331683.shtml

[9] Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

[10] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Transcript of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Exclusive Interview with Al Arabiya, 2021/03/26, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/t1864531.shtml

[11] Almost 45% of China’s imported crude oil originates from nine Middle Eastern countries, with Saudi Arabia on the top of the suppliers’ list. Qatar supplies around 30% of China’s natural gas needs. See Christian Le Miere, Increasing mutual dependence in Sino-Gulf relations is changing the strategic landscape, Atlantic Council, 11 May 2020, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/energysource/increasing-mutual-dependence-in-sino-gulf-relations-is-changing-the-strategic-landscape/

[12] Assessments of this document vary from being the birth certificate of a ‘new Axis of Evil’, to downplaying it as Iran’s new hot-air weapon. See, for instance, W. Figueroa, China-Iran Relations: The Myth of Massive Investment, The Diplomat, 6 April 2021; https://thediplomat.com/2021/04/china-iran-relations-the-myth-of-massive-investment/.

[13] Quoted in Hiddai Segev, China and Iran: Resurging Defense Cooperation?, The Institute for National Security Studies,Tel-Aviv, 10 May 2021, https://www.inss.org.il/publication/china-iran/?INSS&utm_source=activetrail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Special%20Publication%20|%20China%20and%20Iran:%20Resurging%20Defense%20Cooperation?

[14] Iran called this drill ‘a new triangle of power’, while China referred to it as ‘normal military cooperation. Quoted in Jonathan Fulton, China’s response to the Soleimani killing, Atlantic Council, 6 January 2020, https://atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/chinas-response-to-the-soleimani-killing/

[15] Payam Mohseni, Engaging Sectarian De-Escalation, proceedings of the Symposium on Islam and Sectarian De-Escalation at Harvard Kennedy School, The Iran Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, August 2019, p. 33, www.belfercenter.org

[16] Jamsheed K. Choksy, Carol E. B. Choksy, Iran Needs the Nuclear Deal to Keep Russia and China at Bay, Foreign Affairs, 25 May 2021, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2021-05-25/iran-needs-nuclear-deal-keep-russia-and-china-bay

[17] Various sources published, inter alia, by The Institute for National Security Studies, Tel-Aviv; The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies; The Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies (in Arabic); The Economist; Foreign Affairs; European Council on Foreign Relations; the American Enterprise Institute.

[18] Aaron David Miller, What I Told Jared Kushner About His Middle East Peace Plan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 7 February 2020,  https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/02/07/what-i-told-jared-kushner-about-his-middle-east-peace-plan-pub-81010

[19] Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Public Opinion Poll No. 79, 31 March 2021, http://pcpsr.org/en/node/839.

[20] *** A process in pieces: How the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is failing The Economist, 29 May 2021, https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2021/05/27/how-the-israeli-palestinian-peace-process-is-failing. Zack Beauchamp, In defense of the two-state solution, Vox, 21 May 2021, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22442052/israel-palestine-two-state-solution-gaza-hamas-one

[21] Zack Beauchamp, op. cit.

[22] Sanam Vakil, Neil Quilliam, Steps to enable a Middle East regional security process, Research paper, Chatham House, 14 April 2021, https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/04/steps-enable-middle-east-regional-security-process/10-recommendations-way-forward

Photo source: Daily Advent

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