15.11.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Middle East diplomacy is so multifaceted…

Middle East diplomacy is so multifaceted

In connection with the beginning of the current Palestinian-Israeli war in the Gaza Strip, the diplomatic departments of the Middle East countries have intensified their activities for objective reasons. Approximately identical issues are being discussed, because a ceasefire and the restoration of lasting peace in the region remain relevant for everyone. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between the approaches of the countries of the region, because the peace is seen differently from different capitals (otherwise there would not be such a long-lasting conflict).

First of all, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stands for the complete destruction of Hamas and calls it a terrorist organization and, respectively, supports the line of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in favor of a ground operation by the Israel Defence Forces in the Gaza Strip. Israel has high hopes for the United States and Great Britain, and along with them, for the rest of the Western coalition countries in terms of continuing pretentious policies and suppressing any pockets of Palestinian resistance. At the same time, the mass destruction of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip using all combinations of military strikes from the air, sea and land, the restriction of humanitarian aid from outside, the shutdown of the supply of electricity, communications, water and fuel, contrary to the norms of all morality and numerous international conventions, appears justified for Eli Cohen’s ministry.

Another group of Middle Eastern countries belonging to the Arab East, both in the past and now, demonstrate traditional inconsistency and incoherence with regard to Palestine and the present conflict, in particular. The wealthy representatives of the Arab world, in particularSaudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait have not yet demonstrated high consolidation in providing military, political and financial assistance to Hamas. Riyadh has only suspended negotiations with Tel Aviv concerning reaching an agreement on security and economic cooperation. American military bases stationed in these countries continue to operate and support their ally Israel in the war against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

For example, Saudi Arabia has agreed to deploy American surface-to-air missile systems on its own territory, which can be used for air defense of Israel and the destruction of missiles launched from the territory of Yemen.

In some of these countries, attempts are being made to hold mass anti-Israeli actions, but they are often suppressed by the law enforcement. These rallies are obviously allowed in order to exclude “color revolutions” against the ruling regime. The ministries of foreign affairs of these states, as a rule, limit themselves to declarative statements about a ceasefire, not supported by more effective measures. It is obvious that for the wealthy oil countries, the priority is their own well-being and the high dependence of their stability on the policies of the countries of the “golden billion”, that is, Israel’s Western allies.

The third category of Middle Eastern diplomacy is determined by the course of such countries of the Arab East as Egypt and Jordan. It cannot be said that these countries are indifferent to the problems of the Palestinians, because they are connected not only by ethnic kinship, but also by geographical proximity. Accordingly, issues of border security and unwillingness to sustain strikes by Israel and its Western allies dictate the cautious and clumsy diplomacy of Cairo and Amman.

Jordan only announced the withdrawal of its diplomats from Israel, but not the severance of relations with Tel Aviv. Moreover, it was on the territory of Jordan that the US Patriot surface-to-air missile system intercepted Yemeni Houthi missiles launched in response to the start of Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt provides a platform for holding important conferences and meetings, but their Foreign Ministry does not comment on the strange position of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi regarding the ban on accepting mass migration of Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry does not go beyond calls for a cease-fire and end of violent clashes between the parties to the conflict. However, such calls and warnings about the risk of spillover of this conflict are unlikely to have an impact on Israel’s position, because words not backed by force will not help the cause of a quick peace. It is obvious that the Egyptian authorities are afraid of the accumulation of a critical mass of hundreds of thousands of refugees and new internal upheavals.

The fourth group of countries in the region, represented by the Arab republics of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, has a more definite position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. All of them are allies of Iran and opponents of the Zionist regime in Israel.

At the same time, Lebanon and Syria are neighboring states bordering Israel, and they feel the echo of the war in the Gaza Strip quite substantially, taking into account periodic Israeli airstrikes on strategic and military facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Beirut. The Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah organization directly threatens Israel with the expansion of the resistance front if the ground operation against Hamas continues. Syria, despite its forces being undermined by the civil war and external intervention, still does not exclude military support for Palestine against Israel, and depending on the situation, the return of the part of the Golan Heights occupied by the Israelis.

Iraq, weakened by the fact of the American occupation and torn apart by internal division, nevertheless represents a force capable of entering into conflict on the side of Hamas against Israel.

Yemen is, in fact, the only country in the Middle East that has declared war on Israel and has launched a number of sensitive strikes with the use of ballistic missiles. The Houthis accused the authorities of Saudi Arabia and Jordan of aiding Israel for refusing to allow the Yemeni army to pass through their territory to Israel.

The fifth category of Middle Eastern diplomacy in relation to the military conflict between Hamas and Israel is the regional tandem of Turkey and Qatar. In fact, Ankara and Doha have supported the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip for a long time, provided them with financial and military support, and now publicly express solidarity with their liberation mission against the discriminatory policy of Tel Aviv.

Qatar has threatened to stop gas supplies to Israel. Turkey went much further in anti-Israeli rhetoric. Starting with “continuous telephone diplomacy”, Ankara rapidly changed tactics, taking an unambiguous pro-Palestinian stance and accusing Tel Aviv of terrorism, “mass slaughter”, “collective killings”, “war crimes”, “crimes against humanity”, “genocide”.

Turkey and Qatar provide active humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip, and often publicly accuse the West, led by the United States, of organizing the massacre of Palestinians. Erdoğan even went so far as to issue warnings about the world jihad of Muslims against the crusade of Christians.

However, in this case, how can the objective and anti-Zionist position of such Christian countries as Russia, Bolivia, Chile, and Venezuela be categorized? And where in the Gaza Strip is the conflict side represented by the Christian world, if the Arabs practice Islam and the Jews Judaism? Is Erdoğan warning the Christian America? Well, then who but the NATO member Turkey provided the USA with its territory for the deployment of military bases and ensured passage to Israel? And will Turkey have enough strength to conduct a military confrontation with the USA and one night, without warning, as Mr. Erdoğan promises, show up to them overseas?

Turkey has made a clear proposal to establish lasting peace in the Middle East by founding the State of Palestine in accordance with UN decisions within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Ankara declares its readiness to become a guarantor of the security of Palestine. Practically no one has a public objection to this idea (even Israel is not formally against the implementation of UN decisions regarding the formation of the Palestinian state). However, the good wishes of Turkish diplomacy remain in the domain of future negotiations, they do not receive support from Israel and its allies in the West, and there is no consensus among the countries of the Arab East.

Turkish diplomacy demonstrates high intensity, but often turns to populism (for example, loud warnings about the impending religious war of the Crescent and the Cross, or verbal accusations of Israel for committing the crime of genocide). At the same time, Ankara’s impulsiveness with demands to expand the membership of the UN Security Council and a hint of its own candidacy suggest that Turkey cares more about changing its own status on the world stage than about military and political support for Hamas and Palestine.

Finally, the sixth system of Middle East diplomacy regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is represented by Iran. Tehran continues the millennia-old tradition of balanced and purposeful diplomacy without external ostentation, populism and impulsiveness. The Iranian authorities have never concealed their negative attitude towards the policies of the Zionist regime, but they have never questioned the right to life of the Jewish state either.

Some media outlets of formally Muslim countries (for example, Azerbaijan, remarkable for its strategic partnership with Israel and the government of B. Netanyahu in particular) are trying to accuse Iran of military and other support in the formation and coming to power of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The reality is somewhat different from the desires of minval.az which distorts the facts. The fact is that Iran has never been in an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, while Hamas is the creation of the latter and has received appropriate assistance from Turkish leader Erdoğan and Qatar.

In principle, today Israel itself recognizes the mistake of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in promoting Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip as opposed to the government of Ramala in the Palestinian Authority. That is why US President Joe Biden considers an early change of government in Israel as inevitable and it is expedient for Netanyahu to think about the mistakes that led to the current conflict with Hamas, and advice on what the future prime minister should not do.

However, Iran initially opposed Netanyahu’s policy in the Gaza Strip, called it unacceptable to conduct a ground operation with the mass destruction of civilians, warned about the expansion of the geography of the anti-Israeli front (including with the participation of pro-Iranian forces in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq), conducted substantive negotiations with the United States on “red lines”.

And now Tehran is sending its Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian to the countries of the Middle East to coordinate joint efforts in the Israeli direction, suggests to discuss the agenda of expanding the resistance front and forming a region-wide (Islamic) coalition, diverts US forces in the countries of the region by launching targeted strikes on military bases and facilities, calls on the countries of the Middle East region to increase the pressure of the masses on their governments because of the latter’s inaction or complicity with the United States and Israel.

Iran believes that the United States is not the country that can tell the states of the Middle East whether they should go to war with Israel or not. Peace in the region, according to the approaches of Iranian diplomacy, can become a reality in the event of the withdrawal of US and British military bases from the Middle East, the withdrawal of direct military support to Israel and the termination of the Zionist course of Tel Aviv (“Israel above all”).

As it can be seen, the position of Iranian diplomacy is strikingly different from its Turkish and Arab counterparts, because the issue will not be resolved by mere words about the formation of the state of Palestine while maintaining US military bases in the region and the Zionist policy of Israel. Otherwise, why have the UN decisions of 1967 not been implemented?

Iran understands and invites the countries of the region not to combat Israel with words, but with real forces to neutralize the offensive potential of the IDF and contain NATO’s external intervention. In this regard, Tehran supports holding a conference of Arab and Islamic countries to discuss the entire agenda of the Middle East conflict and determine collective response measures.

This analysis shows that Iranian diplomacy demonstrates without ostentation clear and determined approaches to resolving the Middle East crisis. Iran does not pursue formal leadership, does not engage in populism and does not call for wars of the Crescent with the Cross or the Star of David. However, it is becoming obvious that without Iran and its responsible approach to the issue of the balance of power, it will be difficult for world players to establish a new order in this strategically important region.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, Doctor in Political Science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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