Thursday, June 17, 2021

OPED: After Israel-Hamas Conflict, It Is Clear That China, Russia Will ‘Call The Shots’ In Middle East

It would be naive to expect that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas will last long. Israel already has spurned the truce by storming Al Aqsa after the Friday prayers on May 21.

The 11-day bloody conflict ended with 232 Palestinian casualties, including 65 children and 1900 wounded, while 12 died in Israel along with hundreds injured, according to Reuters. The ceasefire was mediated by Egypt, but the bad omens are already visible and could escalate into a truly global conflict.

It may be mentioned that the primary objective of Israel is to establish the ‘Third Temple’ after demolishing the Al Aqsa mosque, where the Jews believe their messiah would come to mark their supremacy in the world.

In the latest conflagration, as for the Muslim world, there is just a spineless surrender as no state would come forward to stop Israel in its ranks, and the Muslim elite has been quite rummaged that Al Aqsa would fall and later again won by Muslims!

If that was the sole case, then why would Salahuddin Ayyubi win it in 1187? He could have also sat in his cozy environs, as the Arab rulers comfortably sit today.

What happened in Gaza was all in-store and only a small slice of recent events can help recollect this building scenario. On August 4, 2020, there was a devastating blast in Lebanon, which was triggered by a series of manmade miniature earthquakes orchestrated by Israel. Eminent blogger Richard Silverstein on that very day had written ‘Israel bombed Beirut’. 

The Arab states were struck by further ‘shock and awe’ as they have been ‘done to’ for two decades. Only 10 days later the UAE, at the green signal from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), allowed the opening of the Israeli embassy as a complementary gesture to Pakistan on its independence day.

Bahrain and Sudan followed suit. Israel was to soon start with its new intelligence base on Socotra Island gifted by the UAE.

For Israel, the Arab states are peanuts, owing to the US’ sprawling influence but formalization with Pakistan, a nuclear state is what matters the most, as Pakistan was supposed to be a stumbling block particularly when it was distancing itself from the US after Washington was to finally withdraw after its defeat from Afghanistan.

OIC Did Not Play Active Role

Pakistan wanted to steer clear of KSA’s influence and wanted to forge an alternative Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with Malaysia, Turkey, Iran with the help of Russia and China, but the alternative is still elusive.

OIC’s role has been far from satisfactory as it did not proactively intervene in the latest hostilities between Israel and Palestinians.

How KSA was to react to the ‘Israeli invasion’ of Al Aqsa was quite predictable but what Israel wanted to score was that Pakistan PM Imran Khan, be given a purple carpet welcome, and be present in KSA while Al Aqsa was to be raided!

This could have been a big embarrassment for Imran Khan as he could not have anticipated such a thing from a friendly KSA.

KSA crown prince MbS, it may be known, is battling his alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and is ready to go to any extent to please US President Joseph Biden.

His predecessor, Donald Trump, was believed to have shielded him against a CIA probe, which reportedly found credible evidence of MbS’s alleged involvement in the murder case.

It is a foregone conclusion that once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, all the 22 Arab states are to make a beeline to embrace Israel with the exception of Iran. Pakistan and Qatar are in their respective catch-22 positions.

In the recent conflict, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, most of them Israel neutralized by its Iron Dome technology, yet for 11 days the populace inside Israel was on tenterhooks as sirens blazed all over the country and people took to bomb shelters.

The pride of Israel Shin Bet, responsible for internal security, was totally caught on nerves as riots broke out inside Israel and there was a civil war lurking inside the whole nation.

The entire 1.5 million Arabs out of 9 million Israelis were ready for the street battle. Moreover, Muslims from Jordan and Lebanon thronged the Israel borders for the safeguard of Al Aqsa. Here, Mossad, the external intelligence agency of Israel, was caught off-guard.

How come Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who was crying to continue the war for ‘as long as necessary’ became an overnight lame duck? And, US President who had pledged the supply of $735 million worth of weapons to Israel cried for a ceasefire?

The answer lies in one of the toughest stands taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin who called Israel ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi to Moscow on a firing-line and warned of a single more civilian death as it was Russia which had already toppled the US applecart in next-door Syria to make Bassar Al Asad continue at the helm.

Syria too had fired three rockets on Israel and four were fired from Lebanon. Both Syria and Lebanon as well as Hamas have a strong Iran’s backing. Russia and Iran have been long-time partners.

What was Pakistan doing? And why was Turkey in the huddle? It was Malaysia, despite Mahatir Muhammed not being present, which announced to send its forces to defend Al Aqsa.

Turkey’s President Erdogan, who roared like a lion after reclaiming Hagia Sophia with the retort to recover Al Aqsa could not even put a squeamish response. He had been in a dress rehearsal to become the ‘Caliph’ after 100 years of the end of the Caliphate.

He had put a brave front to Greece, to France, and even to Russia in the latest Azerbaijan-Armenia war but this time around he was in sheer rhetoric. The skeptics even likened him to be nominated for the best actor award at the next Oscars.

The Turkey-Russia Angle

The political players, NATO, the US, and Israel want a Turkish-Russian war, but in fact, Russia has risen out to be a winner as it did not react when its ambassador was shot in Turkey.

It did not let the temperatures rise even as the Nagorno-Karabakh war was underway and acted as a supercop to forge a ceasefire.

Russia has even given its most powerful S-400 to Turkey much to the consternation of the US and NATO. Russia even ascribed to Turkey and Muslim sentiments when it banned Prophet of Islam cartoons inside Russia in the wake of this controversy erupting out of France in October last.

The doomsayers are prophesying a war between Russia and Turkey but Russia has been instead acting like a big brother.

But, Turkey perhaps developed cold feet as Arab states are all aligned with Israel. It wasn’t that late when the UAE had sent F-16s to help Greece fight Turkey while France had given its Rafaels to Greece for free. Then, too, Russia came to the rescue of Turkey with its naval exercises around Cyprus in the East Mediterranean sea.

It may, therefore, cannot be discounted that this time too, Russia came to help Turkey as the latter was engaged only in tongue-wagging against Israel. But, Iran an ally of Russia, came out openly behind Hamas and Hezbollah to meet the Israeli challenge.

Pakistan, the always rentier state, yet again proved that it is a sick-baby of KSA as it hasn’t been that late when PM Imran Khan acted a chauffeur to MbS on the latter’s visit to Pakistan slightly after Khashoggi’s murder.

This time around too he has been dangled with some carrots. The grand Islamic Military Alliance Chief Rahil Sharif is sure to have got his “deep pockets” filled by making Imran dance to KSA tunes while Palestinians were to be roasted in their furnace.

The American Game-Plan

The US power is waning. It has to wane. Russia is rising and with it China too. China is looking for Arab states as ‘market’ and is set to invest $400 billion in Iran’s ‘military and market’ which has rankled Israel, the US and India alike.

Israel is exporting its technology to India to counter China and China is smarting from the way Israel ‘kicked it out’ from its desalination water project worth $1.5 billion after Mike Pompeo intervened in 2020.

There may now be a new strategy to create tensions like China with the US and allies in the South China Sea; Turkey with Greece, India with Pakistan, Yemen and KSA, KSA with Iran and more turmoil in Afghanistan.

Despite such speculations, the US-Israel plan seems to have boomeranged. During the 11 days of the armed conflict, Biden called Netanyahu eight times and the last was with a warning to stop and bid for ceasefire in 24 hours!

But, why was Biden, the self-professed Zionist, so desperate? Perhaps, the answer lies that Russian forces were almost ready to attack Israel and which was to spiral into a major confrontation. This made Netanyahu numb in his knees.

Russia has developed a fantastic strategy and according to some conservative estimates, Russia has around 40% Muslims in its military and before it embarked on Syria, Vladimir Putin called Islamic scholars who opined that Khawarij were fighting in Syria and were to be eliminated.

Here, too Russia was expected to send its Muslims to safeguard Al Aqsa. The US had to bite the dust. Of late Russia has nailed the US in every part of the world as it did in the latest context. But interestingly, before the war could end Iran gifted its drones named ‘Gaza’ to Hamas.

Israel thought that Hamas was to soon exhaust its ammunition but the latter instead announced to fight for the next six years.

Russia, China Emerging As Major Players 

Russia and China, in the wake of this new situation, want the theater of conflict to change from the South China Sea where the US and its allies are engaged with China, to the Middle East, where Russia and China want to build a task force involving Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia, etc to save Al Aqsa from any further attack by Israel despite Kashgar on the boil inside China.

This move is likely to be thwarted by the US and Israel with their all might. It can be anyone’s guess that Arab states would side with the US, which is Israel by extension. Pakistan will again be in its existential crisis as it will never be able to resist kickbacks from KSA!

Back home, in the melee of the Israel-Hamas conflict, China took the chance to build a 67-km road close to Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls its South Tibet.

India has been taken aback as there has been quite a lot of India-China acrimony in the recent past. Now, India with BECA signed with the US might be ready to provide its military bases to the US ‘for some specific missions’ like keeping an eye on China and particularly on Gwadar where China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is to tail-end.

India might also provide its naval bases in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region. Bangladesh, out of US pressure, could join QUAD, to the much discomfiture of China and has just removed the ‘Israel exception’ from its passport for traveling purposes.

This welcome gesture came from PM Sheikh Hasina just after Eid-ul-Fitr, informed WeeklyBlitz of Bangladesh on May 22, all the while when Israel was raining fire, death, and destruction on Palestine!

A small trigger at this juncture could trigger a major global conflict, if not a third world war, but Israel would never be completely done until its objective of making the Third Temple on the site of Al Aqsa is completed.

Meanwhile, it is to be seen as to how long Netanyahu is to continue as protests against him have again broken out for dragging Israel into a pointless war, something of the same kind, which happened on August 2, 2020, when thousands protested outside his residence over his involvement in corruption and two days later Lebanon was bombed!

The writer is a former Information Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh, India, and a political analyst. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the editorial policy of the EurAsian Times

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