What the Gaza Flotilla Tells Us About the Future of the Mideast

Thus my latest in the National:

‘We’re the only ones who believe them,” a US official was quoted as complaining last week in response to Israel’s account of its attack on the Gaza aid flotilla.

The bloodshed on the high seas and the resulting diplomatic fallout is a reminder of just how far US influence has fallen in the region, and the grim prospects for the US president Barack Obama reversing that trend as long as the US continues to accord Israel special status.

Indeed, in a statement that would have evoked howls of protest had it been made on Capitol Hill, the Mossad chief Meir Dagan last week told a Knesset sub-committee that Israel is turning “from an asset to the United States to a burden”.

The drama of last week has forced the US and its European partners to concede that the Israeli blockade on Gaza is untenable, as is its underlying policy – shared by Washington and the Europeans – of refusing to engage with Hamas as an intractable fact of Palestinian political life.

The fact that a group of defiant civil society activists – backed by the Turkish government – has forced that acknowledgement is a sign of how far the balance of power in the Middle East has shifted.

It is a change that will also have implications for how the Iranian nuclear standoff is resolved.

Even before the flotilla debacle forced the US to postpone its attempt to bring a new sanctions resolution to the UN Security Council, the effort to isolate Tehran over its nuclear programme was in trouble.

Sure, the American administration claims to have Russia and China signed on to a new sanctions resolution. But both countries have demanded that any new measures be gutted of the ability to seriously hurt Iran. They insist that Tehran satisfy the transparency concerns reiterated last week by the IAEA, but also maintain that a solution can be achieved only through dialogue.

On the negotiation front, the only game in town right now is the fuel-swap agreement brokered with Iran by Turkey and Brazil. Those countries, both of which are currently on the Security Council, were outraged that the US simply ignored the proposal despite the fact that it largely resembled the deal offered to Iran by Washington last October and that Mr Obama himself had encouraged his Brazilian and Turkish counterparts to pursue the deal.

Sure, the agreement doesn’t halt Iran’s ongoing enrichment of uranium, but the same was true for the deal offered by the US last year.

The former IAEA chief and potential Egyptian presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaradei urged the US and its allies to reconsider. “I was surprised at the reaction that some countries would continue to say that they want to apply sanctions, because if you remove over half of the material that Iran has to Turkey, that is clearly a confidence-building measure. To say that we are going to apply sanctions nonetheless despite this deal, I think would be completely counterproductive.” He added that while “there is a fear about Iran’s future intentions, [it] can only be resolved through negotiations and trust”, for which there’s plenty of time because “nobody is suggesting that Iran is on the brink of developing nuclear weapons.”

There was more bad news for Iran at the conclusion of the month-long Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, which Washington had naively hoped would build support for sanctions.

Instead, the conference called for action on achieving a nuclear-free Middle East, and for Israel to sign the NPT and subject its own nuclear capacity to international scrutiny. The Arab states led that initiative, making clear that while they supported efforts to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, they rejected the principle of Israel maintaining a regional monopoly on nuclear force. The Obama administration had little choice but to back the nuclear-free Middle East principle, but warned that it would not support a process that “singled out” Israel or put its security in question.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly vowed not to sign the NPT, and to boycott a regional summit on the issue two years from now. Far from being “singled out” by others, Israel in fact singles itself out by being the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East – the trump card of its sense of security – and by refusing to sign the NPT. The American nod and wink to Israel’s nuclear status was also a diplomatic victory for Iran, which accuses Washington of applying a double standard.

Pax Americana, it seems, is slowly in decline. Mr Obama’s promising words in his Cairo speech a year ago have delivered no substantial change in US policy in the region, and Ankara seems no longer willing to tolerate the suffering being imposed on Gazans with Washington’s tacit consent. In taking this position, Turkey is channeling regional public opinion, and doing so in a way far more credible and effective than the hollow antics of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And the challenge to the blockade may have succeeded: the blockade’s stated purpose, after all, was to throttle the Gazan economy in the hope that collective punishment would turn the civilian population against Hamas. That’s a policy now being deemed untenable even by the United States – something that would not have happened without the flotilla.

Exposing the failed Gaza policy has also reignited calls for the US and its allies to recognize the futility of trying to conduct an Israeli-Palestinian peace process as if Hamas simply didn’t exist. Pressure is mounting for the West to find ways to try and integrate Hamas into more stable political arrangements.

None of this lets Iran off the hook in terms of its NPT obligations, of course. But the consensus among the key players is that the Iran standoff will be resolved through a negotiated compromise. What the events of last week have taught us is that the global and regional balance of power here is shifting in ways that make it unlikely for conflicts in the Middle East to be resolved on terms set by the US and Israel.

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21 Responses to What the Gaza Flotilla Tells Us About the Future of the Mideast

  1. John Ballard says:

    Thanks for this. I just this afternoon finished a post about “The New Levant” and a link to here fell exactly into place.
    http://bit.ly/cqnHaY

  2. bernard g says:

    “There was more bad news for Iran at the conclusion of the month-long Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference”
    Surely that should read “Israel”, not “Iran”, Tony?

  3. Anthony says:

    Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range

    Guardian Newspaper.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/04/gaza-flotilla-activists-autopsy-results

    Shocking !!!

  4. Warren Metzler says:

    I object to the tacit acceptance of the delusion that Iran can be held as unacceptable when all it has been proven to do is enrich uranium for the purpose of nuclear reactors. And as long as any country has nuclear weapons, there is no rational basis for objecting to Iran having them. These US / Israel directed efforts to demonize Iran needs to once and for all be perceived for what they are: gross propaganda to cover up the sins of the US and Israel, in being responsible for the majority of the violence that occurs in the world. Yes there are other guilty parties, but none come as close as these two in creating violence for huge numbers of people.

    And as far as Hamas is concerned. If the US was willing to have diplomatic relations with USSR under Stalin and China under Mao, who collectively killed over 40 million people, why is not every single US official who claims US government officials can’t talk to Hamas because it is a terrorist organization not laughed off whatever stage he or she is currently on.

    This nonsense of not talking to Hamas is purely and only because US big business, which pays most of the money received by politicians in the US, loves that fact that the Israel / Palestinian lack of resolution continues to add billions to their company coffers every years. Why oh why are most Americans and most American media people so stupid and gullible????!!!!

  5. James K. says:

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/israel-s-greatest-loss-its-moral-imagination-1.295600

    If a people who so recently experienced on its own flesh such unspeakable inhumanities cannot muster the moral imagination to understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions—and even its legitimate security concerns—are inflicting on another people, what hope is there for the rest of us?

  6. Rosinante says:

    “And as long as any country has nuclear weapons, there is no rational basis for objecting to Iran having them.”

    Wrong, completely wrong.
    It isn’t the building of nukes that is the question here. It is the breaching of the NPT. Iran signed the NPT, which allowed it access to the technology needed to practice the peaceful use of nuclear power. In return for that technology, the Iranian’s promised to allow access to their nuclear sites. That is for the purpose of making sure those sites are not used to build weapons.
    If a nation such as Iran wants to build weapons, then they have the right to, That is a sovereign decision. What they don’t have the right to do is steal the technology needed by agreeing to NOT build weapons to get that technology, then building the weapons anyway. So if Iran had wanted to spend the time and money to do their own research, then building a bomb would be their business.
    I’m not sure that waging war against them is the best solution. I would withdraw from the NPT, and inform Russia and China that if they didn’t co-operate with sanctions against Iran, then we would sell nukes to Poland and Taiwan dirt cheap.
    With Russia and China on board, Iran could be shut down. A complete blockade, nothing goes in, nothing comes out. See how much the Mad Dog Mullahs value their nukes.
    Not sure why the West thinks they can trust Iran anyway. Can anyone name a treaty they haven’t broken?
    What is the point of negotiating with those that breach the treaties they sign? I suppose it does keep diplomats out of bars and away from playgrounds.

  7. hi guys i can’t wait for the expendables to come out! Its going to be awsum!

  8. Thanks you for your good article, Tony.

  9. Rob says:

    What a strange item,the headline is about the Gaza flotilla and the future of the ME,but barely mentions the flotilla and says nothing about the future of the ME!The blockade is illegal,collective punishment is a war crime and a crime against humanity,the ongoing occupation,land theft,colonisation,brutal subjugation of the Palestinians are all breaches of the Geneva conventions and are crimes against humanity.It is Israel that should be subjected to a total blockade,suspended from the UN,it’s leaders the subject of international arrest warrants.

  10. Rob says:

    an aside:the US cotinued to recognize the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate representatives of Cambodia after Viet Nam ousted them and despite the KR having murdered fully 1 third of the population,so talking to Hamas- a legitimate resistance movement should present no problems.

  11. milkla says:

    Iranian’s promised to allow access to their nuclear sites. That is for the purpose of making sure those sites are not used to build weapons.

  12. Tony says:

    Who Spam comment this web again I will report your website to google to be Deindex.

    Tony Karon.

  13. Viet Nam ousted them and despite the KR having murdered fully 1 third of the population,so talking to Hamas

  14. The blockade is illegal,collective punishment is a war crime and a crime against humanity,the ongoing occupation,land theft,colonisation,brutal subjugation of the Palestinians are all breaches of the Geneva conventions and are crimes against humanity.

  15. Delivered after an interval of 5 years of Hamas to Israel soldier Gilad Shalit, said malnutrition due to falls from power.

    Tel Nof air force base on the helicopter when bringing Gilad deteriorating Sait, passed a comprehensive health check-up. Malnutrition due to falling power Shalit’s condition was better than expected were recorded.

    Shalit is expected to reach the house today.

  16. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “the autocratic regime of Muammar Gaddafi, and the fate of which lasted more than forty years” of change and democratic transformation that took place in the region in terms of movements that should be taken into consideration all aspects, “constitutes a painful lesson,” said.

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement, Muammar Gaddafi is a historic turning point of his death, indicating that this development was emphasized in Libya began a new era.

    The statement said as follows:

    “Mr. Prime Minister, a meeting with the Libyan National Transition Council Chairman Mustafa Abdülcelil carried out and the people of Libya, freedom, justice and democracy from the justified struggle for the sake of satisfaction that we have reported a definite fact that resulted in victory. Abdülcelil, primarily, in our country because of the condolences expressed to the terrorist attacks, also offered his gratitude for the support he gave to the people of Turkey in Libya.

    Turkey, Libya, Gaddafi’s relatives in order to prevent further blood loss and expects to be brought to justice as soon as possible members of the ousted regime. “

  17. Russia, Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi’s killing of the former, is a violation of the Geneva Convention, said.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in an interview broadcast over the radio about the murder of Gaddafi, realities and the need to comply with international law, stating the Geneva Convention, international humanitarian rules of armed conflict should apply in writing reminded me of that.

    Lavrov, according to these rules, prisoners of war under any circumstances, öldürülmemesi and this person should be treated a certain way by expressing, Gaddafi called for the killing of an international investigation.

    -Safiya Gaddafi, he requested that the UN investigation-

    Gaddafi in Gaddafi’s wife, Safiya, about the murder of his wife requested that the UN investigation.

    Safiya Gaddafi, “6 months during the 40 countries that oppose aggression Gaddafi for his courage and was proud of his sons,” he said.

    Safiya and Muammar Gaddafi’s three children, Helen, Hannibal, and Muhammad took refuge in Algeria, the other the son of Gaddafi Saadi’nin a shelter was noted in the Niger.

  18. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, wanted to take stronger measures against the EU countries with excessive debt.

    Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party general chairman (CDU), the youth arm of the “Junge Union” s (Young Union) today organized by the city of Braunschweig in Germany in his speech at a meeting at Day, in case of a violation of the country in question for years, the Stability and Growth Pact about the country in the European Court of Justice said the case should be opened.

    EU Commission, which indicates that there ever such an authority Merkel, more stringent measures are taken if the competitiveness of the EU countries could never and will never equal a common currency in the future would fail to have noted.

  19. Mark Bower says:

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in an interview broadcast over the radio about the murder of Gaddafi, realities and the need to comply with international law, stating the Geneva Convention, international humanitarian rules of armed conflict should apply in writing reminded me of that.

    Lavrov, according to these rules, prisoners of war under any circumstances, öldürülmemesi and this person should be treated a certain way by expressing, Gaddafi called for the killing of an international investigation.

  20. /video.php?id= “???????????”

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