The ghoulish murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi has set into motion a new dynamic in the Syrian, Yemeni, Palestinian and other incipient conflicts in West Asia. Popular perception globally has traced the macabre plot to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, even though the Saudi propaganda machine is deflecting guilt.
That Qatar has relations with Iran is disliked in Riyadh, ofcourse, but what causes much deeper anxieties is the material and moral support Qatar can provide to Muslim Brotherhood which represents all the tendencies that the Otaybi rebellion in 1979 represented.
I have always maintained that Americans, protected by the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, will continue to enhance their dependence on what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.
Israeli Defence minister Moshe Ya’alon spent the evening persuading his listeners that all the world’s problems emanate not from ISIS or Al Qaeda but from that fount of all evil, Iran. This when there are rumours galore that a nuclear deal with Tehran is on the cards.
I commend to my Israeli friends that they read Shibley Telhami’s opinion poll on shifting ideas in the US about Israel, something even Thomas Friedman is worried about. There may be a shaft of light.
It would be useful for Sushma Swaraj to recall the goings on in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s cabinet. L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh had agreed to send Indian troops to govern the Kurdish North of Iraq, exactly the region the Americans have now returned to in military formation.
Sushma Swaraj’s statement on Palestine in the Rajya Sabha so pleased Jerusalem that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman thanked her that evening over the telephone. But the goodwill thus generated was fading when New Delhi, having changed its mind, voted with the resolution at the UN “condemning Israel for disproportionate use of force in Gaza”.
The expanding Shia-Sunni conflict in the Muslim world is exposing vast gaps in popular understanding of the schism. For example when Zaine El Abedine Ben Ali, the Tunisian strongman was ousted, people thought a Shia dictator had fallen. From this they extrapolated that the Arab Spring was an anti-Shia plot.
Riyadh and Jerusalem, hand in hand, are imploring Washington to go slow on Iran and certainly not to invite Iran to the Conference on Syria, Geneva II. Kerry is walking around the minefields with great skill. “Iran has not been invited” says he, or words to that effect. And he is not telling a lie. Iran has not been invited, “not yet”.
It will be different situation when the nuclear deal with Iran is set into operation on Monday. Kerry has made it clear on several occasions that he accords a higher priority to the nuclear deal than to Iran’s stand on Syria.