Hicham Hamdan Ph.D.*
The Security Council failed to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.*1 The United Nations General Assembly, under Resolution 377 "Uniting for Peace" of 1950, convened to discuss this issue. It adopted a resolution described by some as historic, "deploring" the Russian Federation in the strongest terms and calling for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.*2 The Article does not discuss the legal aspects of this resolution; it analysis carefully the positions undertaken by various countries in the Middle East and the expected implications of the war on Lebanon. The article focuses on the position of the Government of Lebanon, and its main factions as Lebanon is the only country in that region where the Government does not reflect a free national position but rather a factional one.
Everything that happened since 1991 has had a profound impact, both on Lebanon and the entire Middle East region. However, what will emerge from the current developments will profoundly impact Lebanon's future and hopefully for the better. If Iran weakens due to these developments, its military arm in Lebanon, Hezbollah, will weaken. Lebanon could retain its freedom to adopt changes to end today's catastrophic situation.
- Prominent positions of the main actors in the Middle East region
The Arab countries, in general, refrained from taking a hostile stance against the Russian Federation when Russia launched its ground and air offensive against Ukraine. Kuwait and Qatar have refrained from directly criticizing Moscow and have only condemned the violence, while Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain did not comment. The UAE abstained from voting in the Security Council (along with India and China), condemning the Russian military operation in Ukraine. As for Lebanon, it issued a statement condemning that operation.*3
The United Nations General Assembly met in an extraordinary session under Resolution 377 of the Union for Peace to discuss the situation in Ukraine. For two days, the members of the Assembly discussed a draft resolution submitted by the European Union in coordination with the Government of Ukraine under the title "Aggression against Ukraine." It adopted resolution ES-11/1 by 141 votes to five, with 35 abstentions. Syria opposed the resolution, while Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Comoros, Mauritania, Somalia, Oman, and Lebanon voted in favor. Algeria, Iraq, and Sudan abstained from voting, and Morocco was absent from the voting session.*4
The representative of Lebanon affirmed her country's belief in the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, especially the non-threatening or use of force in international relations. She continued, “We have experienced the invasions, the occupation, the interference in our internal affairs, and the loss and suffering that we still witness to this day. We do not wish anyone to live what we lived in Lebanon." She said that Lebanon enjoys good relations with the two parties to the conflict, Russia and Ukraine, and called on both sides to return to the logic of peace, noting that it is time for diplomacy, dialogue, and a peaceful settlement of this conflict.”
The delegate of Lebanon borrowed the words of the French writer Albert Camus upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 when he said that every generation considers itself responsible for rebuilding the world. However, she said our generation knows that it will not rebuild the world; its task is to keep the world from destroying itself. She concluded that this is the same responsibility that we ought to undertake under the Charter to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
Turkey and Israel are comfortable with Russia's apparent position in restricting Iran's role in Syria and agree with the Gulf in confronting Iranian influence; however, they are also keen not to harm their relations with Washington. On the contrary, Turkey seeks to improve its relationship with Washington and hopes Israel may help. Turkey and Israel opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supported the resolution in the General Assembly but quickly offered to mediate between the two sides.*5
Turkey and Israel have strong ties with both the Russian and Ukrainian countries. However, they also have their regional calculations. The long friendly relations between Israel and Turkey deteriorated severely after Prime Minister Erdogan took power and shifted Turkey's stance towards the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Turkey, the leader of Moslem Brothers in the region, sided with Hamas in Gaza. The Russian Ukrainian war helped change this situation. Turkey prioritizes its indifferences with Iran and aligns itself with the Gulf and Israel. Turkey noted the depth of the positive transformation in the relations of Arab countries with Israel.*6
Iran abstained from voting on the resolution, stressing the need to fully respect all countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity while ensuring the security and safety of all civilians. Nevertheless, Iran also called to confront the root causes of the crisis, considering that it was exacerbated by "provocative actions of the United States and NATO." Iran stressed the need to respect Russia's concerns and called for dialogue to confront the crisis and reach long-term results. It also called on the United Nations to "abandon double standards, especially when it comes to maintaining international peace and security. It is unfortunate that the United Nations, and specifically the Security Council, sometimes turns a blind eye to these principles, which undermines the credibility of this organization."*7
Iran prioritizes signing the nuclear agreement because it secures Iran, a significant regional power. Iran sought not to confront America but without allowing deterioration of its already misty relations with Russia, which knows the importance of its role to cover its presence in Syria and Lebanon. Iran does not have much to maneuver. They know that Russia is in agreement with Israel on attacking Iran basis in Syria, and they are aware of Turkey's goal to limit its influence in Syria and Iraq. Iran realizes that this war will inevitably affect the region's future.
- A diplomatic reading of the Lebanese approach to the war
Apparently, the voting of Lebanon to strongly deplore an action undertaken directly by a superpower constituted a principled and historical position that responded to the traditional Lebanese role that contributed in 1945 to establishing the United Nations and formulating its charter. Lebanon rejects the use of force in international relations. Military action is resorted to, for self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter, following the conditions stipulated in this Article.
Lebanese diplomacy's reliance on principled positions is traditional and serves Lebanon. It also serves all the small and weak states vis-à-vis the major powers, including the United States and Europe. However, Lebanon used to coordinate its positions on such critical resolutions with the positions of the member states of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab Group. Nevertheless, since Minister Gibran Bessil took over the ministry of foreign Affairs and his father-in-law General Michel Aoun was elected President, they distanced Lebanon from the Arab countries. They directed Lebanon's foreign policy to please Hezbollah and its allies.
Early before the voting at the General Assembly, The Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the Russian invasion. The statement was surprising and, above all, because Russia is a close ally to Iran and its subordinate in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and the Syrian Government.*8
The author considered that the said position did not emerge as a principled position but rather a position for purposeful and service reasons. The author arranged for a public and diplomatic discussion of that statement. Some diplomats mentioned that Lebanon was under pressure from the USA.
No doubt, that the US orchestrated an international response to the Russian attack; nevertheless, such an official position could not be issued if it does not satisfy Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the leading supporter of the Government and the political regime of President Aoun. Hezbollah is the main enemy of the USA in Lebanon. So how could Lebanon take such an extraordinary position and specifically against Russia?
Lebanon could issue a statement similar to statements issued by other Arab countries, which are close friends to the US, and also Iran, explaining its rejection of the Russian invasion and calling on peaceful settlement of the dispute, and vote like Iraq and Algeria did. Iraq suffered as Lebanon did. However, Iraq and Algeria abstained. Whoever reads the justification presented by the delegates of Iraq and Algeria will understand the importance of equilibrating between national interest and principled positions. The author, a former ambassador, had hoped that Lebanon would not deviate from its delicate handling of relations with the great powers. All these forces have a significant influence on its interests.
Experts considered the Lebanese position primarily intended to open doors to better the relationship between the US Lebanese political leaders allied with Hezbollah. The President, his son-in-law, and Hezbollah hoped that the US might ease its stance and procedures undertaken against them if they accept to condemn the Russian war against Ukraine. They noted that they went even far in pleasing the US by accepting the American negotiator's proposal of the point of entry to the negotiations process between Lebanon and Israel regarding the demarcation of the maritime borders between them.*9
Lebanese legal experts refused the proposal because it ignores the internationally recognized borders between Lebanon and Israel as agreed on by both sides in the Armistice Agreement decided by the Security Council to halt the war between the two sides in 1949. The point of entry to the negotiation proposed by the American negotiator would strip Lebanon of a large part of its territorial waters, which would deprive it of an enormous oil and gas wealth.*10
They consider that Lebanon should maintain positions based on international law and international legality rules. Therefore, they challenged the Government and the President demanding the adherence to the armistice line and the demarcation of the land borders that followed, with the approval of Israel and the United Nations. From this line, the maritime boundary between the two sides begins. A dispute may arise between them, as happened with the Taba issue between Egypt and Israel. However, such disagreement may be referred to the relevant international courts, especially the Court of the Law of the Sea, for a peaceful settlement.
Lebanese political writers considered the passive approach of Hezbollah regarding the Government position as a required stance by the Iranian Government. They believe that Iran wanted to send a positive message to the US by helping negotiations between Lebanon and Israel go forward within the framework proposed by the US mediator. Thus, the US, and Israel ease their stance in the negotiations on Iran's nuclear programs in Vienna.
Distinguished Diplomats supporting the position of the Lebanese Foreign Minister recalled that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was carried out under the pretext that Ukraine is not an independent country. They recalled President Putin's speech on the eve of the invasion who claimed that Ukraine is part of Russia, and that it was the presidents of the Soviet Union who gave it its independence. They considered his speech very dangerous because it may set a precedent for many other countries to claim sovereignty over other countries. Turkey, for example, may demand the restoration of Syria and Lebanon, as they were part of the Ottoman Empire.*11
Everyone agrees that the Russian president's statement is unacceptable. Unfortunately, neither the Minister nor the permanent representative of Lebanon criticized such wordings. No one worldwide bought these wordings. These are statements made for local consumption. Of course, President Putin took advantage of Ukraine's push toward NATO to perpetuate its occupation of the Crimea region and the independence of the Donbas region of East Ukraine. Nevertheless, this was not a legal justification for the invasion of Ukraine. Russia's real reason for the invasion is Ukraine seeking membership in NATO.
Russia's fear of nuclear missiles may not be the worrying factor for the alliance's expansion into Ukraine. The Russian Federation has coexisted with the accession of the Baltic States, which share the Baltic Sea, to NATO. Russian concerns for Ukraine may be due to economic factors. Nevertheless, Ukraine's alliance with NATO constituted a threat to its security and, therefore, international peace and security.
Experts also believe that politicians ought to remember the vital Russian minority living in eastern Ukraine. Ignoring the ethnic and historical ties and emotions of minorities leads to national instability and security. A country like Ukraine, which lives on the borders of the Russian Federation, which is a great power, and has a sizeable Russian minority, ought to reconsider its foreign policy and think seriously about a neutral status similar to that granted to Austria after the world war two.*12
We are in an international, pivotal, and historical phase that Middle Eastern people, including Lebanon, are supposed to be aware of. The people of Lebanon and most Arabs are overwhelmed with their national concerns. Lebanese are driven heavily by the issue of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Politicians are leading Campaigns to convince their corresponding minorities that the results of the elections will decide their fate.
The campaigns are a blunt example of public opinion's manipulation in that country. People of the area that have suffered long ethnical wars became very responsive to such campaigns. Such campaigns are vivid examples that drove Lebanese people away from International concerns for the past forty-five years. Elections during war times do not manifest free choice nor reflect true sentiments existing among the people. Political leaders use the same technique to recruit mercenaries.
The opposing Lebanese groups resort to technological and social means as the only available free means, to keep people aware of the truth about the ongoing international war. They lack access to the media as they do not earn enough resources to buy spaces in the media. Principles are no more a driving factor for the press. They are oriented chiefly commercially. Corruption brought by war corrupted national ethics.
The opposing groups also lack international support. International agencies and Governments consider ethnic inclination an internal issue though it proved that once it changes into fanatics, it could become a threatening factor for international peace and security.
- Why do Ideologists in Lebanon and other Arab countries favor Russia?
A Finnish blogger praised the "Russian Federation" for the "Soviet Union" role during the twentieth century. The blogger enumerated the "Russian" role in achieving many European countries' current national reality. He concluded that half the world owes "Russia" for life, which is why everyone is guilty before this great country. He said: "I am sending this file in the memory of those killed in World War II."
The blogger repeated a common miscalculation among various political writers and thinkers, including in Lebanon and the Middle East. There is much confusion between the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation in the blogger's article. The geographical distinction between the two unions is not the issue. However, it is impressive how political thought in Lebanon and elsewhere has not yet understood that there is a new philosophical thought, a new political mind stream, and a new ideological vision in the Russian Federation, which are different from what prevailed in the era of the Soviet Union. If some might think, even for a moment, that President Putin wants to revive Marxist-Leninist thought again; he is delusional and lives in a dream far from reality.*13
Nobody denies the role of the Soviet Union in ending Nazi rule in Europe and its role in the establishment of the United Nations. However, it was the Soviet Union that imposed the "right" of veto in the Security Council during negotiations between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill at the Tehran and the Dumbarton Oaks conferences on the United Nations. The "right" of the veto has strengthened the control of the great powers over international politics and weakened the role of the United Nations. The Soviet Union's concern was to consolidate its control over the countries that fell under the control of its forces during World War II, especially in Eastern Europe. *14
The world experienced deep transformations and developments that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war era. With the collapse of communism in Russia, Russia reconsidered its foreign relations. They base their relations on economic interests and not ideological beliefs.*15
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led the Security Council to convene in 1992 at a summit level. A path of cooperation has begun between the various formations of the international community. The United States and its allies quickly accepted that the Russian Federation should succeed the Soviet Union as a permanent member of the Security Council, and participate along with China, on equal footing and partner in decision-making in all world affairs, including security and politics.
They were also open to increasing permanent members to encompass Brazil and India. Being members of the Security Council would give all these countries equal footing with the US, Britain, and France in leading world political affairs.*16
The concept of predominance in international decision-making has fallen, and the concept of consensus regarding such decisions has emerged. This transformation included all aspects of international relations. The International Community arranged many international conferences and adopted several decisions on security, political, economic, social, and legal issues in a friendly atmosphere.
The Russian Federation, China, and all non-aligned countries interacted positively with Western countries to achieve an international agreement to establish the World Trade Organization. With the establishment of this organization, the capitalist triangle (the World Bank, the International Monetary Organization, and the World Trade Organization), upon which the thought of the economists formulated the Breton Woods system of 1944, was completed.*17
Nevertheless, these changes came at a low profile since the end of the cold war was very pacific. The international press treated these changes very marginally, so world public opinion did not follow those changes closely. Public opinion was attracted basically to their home interests as said earlier. Lebanese political mind of the responsible citizen and the ordinary citizen was, and still is, governed by these ongoing tragic circumstances. It is clear that the continuation of the political and intellectual generation that lived through the Cold War, including in Lebanon, is still basing its thought on the ideological struggle, which dominated international political thought during the cold war era.
- Ukraine is a part of the Russian-American rivalry for global leadership.
The capitalist countries and the Breton Woods financial bodies offered provocative ideas to engage other countries in strengthening the globalization system. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation, China, and other predominantly medium-sized economic countries wanted to sit alongside the United States in leading the world economically. Global dominance today is not only for weapons but for the economy. With this hypothesis in mind, how is this dispute is proceeding? Isn’t the war in Ukraine a part of it?*18
Russia and China went to create their capitalist mechanisms. They rushed to weaken American control over the international financial-economic system. Between 2000 and 2009, two organizations emerged that greatly influenced American political and economic thought. In 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization emerged, including China, Russia, the Central Asian countries, India, and Pakistan. Then, in 2008, the BRICS Organization emerged, including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS organization announced at its first summit in Russia in 2009 the "establishment of a bipolar world order."
The financial crash 0f 2007-2008, led to Group 20 replacing Group 8. Formed in 1999, the G-20 promotes global economic growth, international trade, and regulation of financial markets. After its inaugural leaders' summit in 2008, the leaders of the G-20 announced that the group would replace the G-8 as the main economic council of nations."*19
The world entered into a bitter economic rivalry. Each side sought to use its political and military advantages to impose its interests. As early as 2013 US press revealed plans that the US administration intends to go to Asia with the idea to confront China in its court. North Korea started that year by threatening the US with Nuclear Arms. President Obama interfered to halt military tension with China. Russia was finally admitted to the WTO after 18 years of hard negotiations. Washington opened doors with Mexico and upheld deep structural reforms the then Pena Nieto Government undertook.
It convinced allies to establish an organization corresponding to the BRICS organization, the MICTA organization led by Mexico. Mexico was developing rapidly and moved steadily to be a new China in the 21 century. President Obama signed the nuclear agreement with Iran, believing that this agreement might calm down the Iranian inclination towards China and Russia.
Washington opened the door for the Chinese Yuan to join the US dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen, and the pound sterling in the SDR basket of currencies as of October 1, 2016. The American Administration spearheaded 2016 a Pan Pacific Trade Agreement with 11 countries to create a Western-led alliance to balance China's economic power in the Pacific region. President Barack Obama said in 2016 that the United States, not China, should write regional trade terms.*20
The US administration considers Russia the second military power globally concerning its nuclear arsenal, military proliferation, and political influence on issues and conflicts extending across different continents. Ukraine was always a hot spot for their relations. When Biden was elected Vice President by former President Barack Obama in 2008, he took over work on essential files in foreign policy, such as China, Iraq, and Ukraine, with the authorization of his President. In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine, since 1954.
This occupation seemed to have created a shock in international relations. Egyptian Ambassador Osama Tawfiq Badr, former Egyptian ambassador to Ukraine (2012-2017), blamed Ukraine and the US for the Russian move in Crimea. Ukraine soon emerged as vital for both powers in their bitter economic rivalry.*21
- ISIS: A key pretext for Russian military intervention in the Middle East crisis
The Ukraine crisis took place at a time when the Middle East was witnessing a severe intertwining between the great powers that were also seeking to lay their hands on its wealth, especially from gas and oil. Russia and China, two permanent members of the Security Council, blocked several attempts by the West to adopt harsh resolutions against the Assad regime. Russia has strategic interests in Syria. Russia, a close ally of Israel, has only Syria as a foothold in the Middle East. Dealing with Russia should have taken all of that into account.
The crisis also came at a time when ISIS was preoccupying the world with the atrocities it was installed in Iraq and Syria. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) took control over Fallujah in Iraq, in December 2013, despite all the military forces spread in the area. The Security Council considered the role of ISIS. It contented itself with "urging all states, on cooperating in efforts to find and bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of terrorist acts." That resolution was an open invitation to those who wished to intervene in this situation.*22
Russia took ISIS as a pretext for military intervention in the region. At that time, an information center was formed in Baghdad, with the participation of Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).
On September 30, 2015, Russia decided to enter the war in Syria claiming that "thousands of citizens of European countries, Russia, and the former Soviet Union have joined terrorist organizations."Russia declared that one does not need to be an expert in security affairs to know that if they win in Syria, they will return to their country and Russia." Russia practically occupied part of Syria. West coalition confined its intervention to Iraq and certain Syria areas away from Russia. This intervention supported the Syrian regime which was on the brink to collapse and needed external support. Iran and its Lebanese subordinate, Hezbollah, did not help Assad much; Russia had to interfere.
Iran’s relations with the Syrian regime have a long history. Since the Islamic revolution took power in Iran in 1979, Iran led an Islamic euphoria against the US and Israel. It built strong relations with the Syrian Regime of President Hafez Assad. Assad allowed Iran to expand its relations in Palestine and Lebanon. Iran supported Palestinian and Lebanese factions and other pressure groups of their civil societies, allied with the Assad regime. Assad helped Iran in its war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
He also helped ease their relations with the Soviet Union and the Gulf States. He also helped Iran create Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran used religious shrines and places to increase its cultural presence in Syria and Iraq. They started Promoting the Shiite sect, taking advantage of the fact that Hafez al-Assad is an Alawi Shiite. They also reverted to bribing citizens commercially, educationally, and financially.
Their strong presence in Syria increased during President Bashar's regime. President Bashar broke with the Arab Gulf countries and entirely sided with Iran, opening the doors for its deep involvement in Arab countries. They almost captured every decision-making in Syria. In a short time, Iran became a dominant political actor in the Area. When Syria withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, Iran replaced it through its strong subordinate militia, Hezbollah, and other allies from outside the Shi’a community.*23
The Iranian Khamenei regime built a military Forster in Syria and Lebanon backed by well-trained Shi'a militias. King Abdullah of Jordan warned from a Shi'a crescent in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Iran served strongly to create religious euphoria in the Area. The regime raised slogans against America and Israel but fought literary against Sunni Moslems mainly in the Gulf region, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. Iran served indirectly to create profound social changes that paved the way for fanatics who have planned to divide the Arab world on a religious basis for a long time. However, Iran has its national interests. Iran wants to be an equal partner in shaping the Middle East's future. It soon became a destabilizing power in the region. Its subordinate fought in 2006 a devastating war in Lebanon against Israel. They also created posts in many other countries in Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Lebanon went under Iran's indirect occupation.*23
Iran helped divide people deeply on a sectarian basis; however, it could not divide the countries. Terrorism opened the door for ethnic cleansing and massive demographic changes within the same country. When the regime of President Bashar al-Assad raised this accusation against the civil revolution, he brought all kinds of external interference and destruction to his country. The chaos in Syria precisely happened.
Iran's role in the region and its support of Assad did not alarm Israel. Israel repeatedly expressed that they favor the Assad regime because it kept the front between their two countries calm and peaceful. Assad fights verbally against Israel but not militarily. Since 1974, Syria has refrained from any military activities against Israel. Iran also refrained since 2006, from any direct hostile activity against Israel. The Iranian role in the area was very fruitful in certain aspects for Israel.
Iran has benefited from Israel condoning its role in the region, strengthened its ties with Russia and China to circumvent western sanctions, and sided with the Assad regime when Syria's 2011 civil revolution occurred. Its subordinate militia in Lebanon interfered heavily in favor of Assad and mobilized its military power to service Iran and expands its dominance in the region. It used its military might to pressure Israel by threatening to revert to arms if Israel hinders Iran's role in the region.
- The nuclear agreement with Iran: Heavy burden for the region and Lebanon
In July 2015, Obama signed the nuclear agreement with Iran, ignoring the strong objection expressed by the Israeli Government and the Arab Gulf States and their destructive role in some Arab countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya. The American and the European thought that the nuclear agreement could help them change Iran's attitudes and lower their needs for Russian gas and oil, thus freeing them from Russian extortion. They and the Russians found this agreement a common dominator thinking it may ease Israel's worries without jeopardizing American and Russian counter positions regarding general international policies;
The nuclear agreement followed sharp differences that lasted for more than ten years. However, it damaged the long American relations with Israel and the Gulf countries. A poor relationship dominated between Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and President Obama, Which undoubtedly impacted the Israeli friends in the United States, whether within or outside the Democratic party. There were no clear reasons why President Obama turned his back on the Gulf and Israel. Writers who referred to his memoir deduced that he hated the Arabs and favored the Persians.*24
Iran's nuclear project was very alarming. Israel and the other Gulf States would not allow it to happen, whatever it may cost them. However, Hezbollah leaders kept threatening Israel if it takes any move against Iran. Israel counter statements kept threatening Lebanon to pay a high price. These counter threats kept the Area tense. The tense situation in South Lebanon was very alarming, mainly to Europe. Europe was worried about an influx of refugees if the situation in Lebanon deteriorated. The large influx of refugees in Lebanon, which numbered more than a million within a few months, could find their way to Europe quickly once Lebanon turns into a chaotic battlefield similar to the situation in Syria. Such a situation helps also expand the forces of terrorism, ISIS, and others, to establish bases in Lebanon and infiltrate toward Europe.*25
Israel restrained itself from activities that escalated the situation in Lebanon and deliberately limited its military attacks on targets within Syria. The United Nations refrained from adopting harsh decisions to implement SC Resolution 1701 and disarm Hezbollah. Nevertheless, Israel warned everyone that it would not tolerate Iran's nuclear program. Israel also demanded to control Iran in Syria. Since Russian military intervention in Syria, foreign observers noted the quick tacit emergence of Russian Iran's rivalry over Syria's politics and future. The Russian proved to be able to contain Iran mighty in the region. Russia cares about Israel's security. However, the Americans kept skeptical of Russia’s future economic developments that could threaten seriously American economic supremacy at the world level.
The agreement allowed Russia and Iran to strengthen their policies, especially in Syria and other countries in the Middle East, including Lebanon. Europe ensured a good relationship with Iran, thus escaping possible terrorist threats by its subordinates. They also ensured a calm situation in Lebanon, thus freeing them from the refugee issue. The fever of "creative chaos" would not spread to Lebanon. Europe has also found an alternative route through Turkey to keep Russian gas flowing to their countries. The bleak interruption of the flow of Russian gas to Europe created by the Crimea occupation found a solution. An agreement between Turkey, a member of NATO, and Russia during the 2016 energy summit in Istanbul, guaranteed "the energy security of the European Union."*26
The Istanbul agreement paved the way for Turkey for military intervention in Syria. Turkey launched a military operation under the name “Euphrates Shield” to expel ISIS from the border areas, ensure the security of its borders and establish a safe area that protects its citizens from its rockets, and stop the flow of more refugees to its lands. Since then, Turkey strengthened its position on the Syrian file and changed into a dominant factor in any resolution to that war.*27
However, Lebanon paid dearly. Whatever could be the rationality behind the US support of the agreement, the Nuclear Agreement paved the way for Iran and its subordinate in Lebanon to dominate decision-making in Lebanon's future. Iran did not hesitate to concede most of its role in Syria to the Russians. However, it kept its strongholds to allow it to influence the situation in Syria and assist Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The French, Americans, and Russians pressured their subordinates Lebanon's leaders to change their long stand against General Aoun's candidacy for president of Lebanon and finish the impasse forced for more than two years by Hezbollah over an electing session of the Parliament presidency. General Aoun was elected president. Such a stance brought disaster to the Lebanese people. It shaped a coalition among warlords, Hezbollah, and business people, which created a rare opportunity to dominate Lebanon's wealth. They divided the State mechanism and redefined democracy to ensure their continued participation in the decision-making apparatus, especially the cabinet. Hezbollah's directed its concern on keeping the arm flowing from Iran and increasing its military might. They won an upper hand in deciding Lebanon's foreign policies. They dominated the country's security apparatus and put their hand over the main facilities overlooking security and foreign access to the country, including the airport, and the seaport.
Saad Hariri, the son of assailant Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, put aside his claims for justice for his father's assassination and presided over a government with Hezbollah as a dominant player. Corruption has reached its peak, and the economy collapsed; 82% of the population became poor.*28
Iran and its subordinate, Hezbollah, preponderance over Lebanon alarmed Arabic countries and Israel. Hezbollah increased its role in mobilizing groups to destabilize Gulf countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE. Iran also increased its military arsenal complementing it with more sophisticated weaponry, including ballistic rockets.
Israel and the Gulf's worries regarding Iran's growing role in the region created a hot issue inside and outside the US. Iran's predominance in the Area and its growing destabilizing role in the region were convenient elements to ensure President Trump's victory over Mrs. Clinton.
- President Trump Era: The new Middle East is born, and a catastrophic decline worldwide in the US Economic lead.
There were many accusations about Russian interference in the elections in favor of Trump; however, it remains confident that coordination between the US administration, Russia, and Israel advanced during President Trump's rule. The US and Russia worked simultaneously to strengthen Israel's position in the region and reduce Iran's role in Syria, and Lebanon. Trump announced unprecedented positions to serve Israel, which Russia did not oppose.
In May 2018, Trump announced his country's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Trump described the agreement as "catastrophic" and announced the reinstatement of sanctions against Iran, accusing Iran of "lying" about its nuclear file. Trump added that his country's withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran prevented it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, considering that "the repressive regime" in Tehran rejects peace and is one of the first supporters of terrorism.*29
Trump said Iran poses a "threat to international peace and security and pledged to tighten sanctions on Iran “as long as it continues its aggressive behavior, considering that the Iranian regime has sought to enhance its violence to escape the sanctions by attacking vital facilities in Saudi Arabia.” The US also enlisted Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group.
The decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement met with significant opposition from the European Union countries, which they consider historical. They said that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which carries out inspections in Iran, regularly confirms Tehran's commitment to the terms of the agreement to ensure the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.
A meeting was also held in Jerusalem in June 2019 between national security top officials in Russia, the United States, and Israel. They agreed as information revealed, to end the Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon. Thus, we began to see Israeli military strikes against Iranian targets in Syria without the intervention of Russia.*30
On September 24, 2019, President Trump called upon Middle Eastern countries to establish "full relations" with Israel, noting an "increasing recognition" in the Middle East about fighting terrorism and promoting economic opportunities. On September 15, 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed a normalization agreement with Israel at the White House under the auspices of President Trump. On October 23, 2020, President Trump announced that Sudan and Israel have agreed to normalize their relations in a significant new step towards peace in the Middle East. And on December 10, 2020, The President announced that Morocco and Israel have reached an agreement to establish full diplomatic relations between the two countries. The President recognized the Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara.*31
President Trump's stance on the Middle East deterred Iran and crippled its devastating extending role. Iran felt the heavy burdens. Lebanon transformed into battlefield ground in the war against Hezbollah. On October 17th, 2019, a revolution occurred in Lebanon but did not direct itself against that militia. On August 4, 2020, a blast destroyed the Beirut seaport which was a key routing for Iranian Arms to Hezbollah. Iran lost momentum by prioritizing corruption over national sovereignty. A few months later, the revolution went un-oriented.
- President Biden era: Could the Russian Ukraine war change Biden’s preliminary politics in the Middle East. The future of the world depends on his new strategy.
On October 8, 2020, Joe Biden was elected President of the United States of America. On January 1, 2021, he took office. He signed several decisions in which he rescinded seventeen decisions taken by his predecessor President Trump, the most important of which were related to immigration. On January 21, 2021, President Biden signed off on returning the United States to the World Health Organization. On April 30, 2021, the Pentagon announced that it had canceled all plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico initially funded. On November 29, Iran and a group of major world powers met in Vienna in an attempt to revive the Iran nuclear deal.*32
Israeli officials have long warned him against returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran, considering it an existential threat to Israel. But President Biden stresses that diplomacy is the first option despite the pressures he is facing from Israel, the closest ally of the United States in the Middle East. President Biden has a long history of friendly relations with Israel. He has repeatedly declared his unconditional support for Israel and said in 2007, "You do not need to be a Jew to be a Zionist." His administration recently expected a deeper rapprochement with Israel under the Bennett government. They believe that Bennett may be convinced of the possibility of giving American diplomacy a chance, provided Biden activates Israel's military and defense capabilities and supports coordination with the Gulf states in confronting Tehran.*33
As for the Arab countries, especially the Gulf States, the President's concerns have always been based on considering these countries as obedient vassals to America.
In April 2021, negotiations began aimed at returning to the nuclear agreement, from which the United States withdrew in 2018, and Iran has mainly become non-compliant. Washington participated in it indirectly. Iran confirmed no return to the agreement without implementing its conditions, especially the abolition of sanctions. The European Union stressed that the Vienna meeting will determine the sanctions lifted from Tehran and the nuclear commitments enforced".
For her part, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “I have no expectations how long diplomacy will take to revive the nuclear agreement, but we are focused on the core issues, which are the emphasis on the nuclear steps that Iran must take under its commitments, and also the steps that the United States must take so that the agreement can be returned.*34
A dark cloud began to intensify in the sky of Russian-American relations. Ukraine and the Crimea issue surfaced back. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attacked Russia, calling on it to end the aggression on the Crimea region and stop destabilizing the Black Sea region and the borders of Ukraine.
President Biden's relationship with Ukraine is old. He knows that the challenges before him include China with its strong economy and grand ambitions, Russia with its military and political strength, and Iran with its nuclear file and regional influence. But the way to meet those challenges has become different.*35
Trump’s opponents have long accused him of being soft and weak in front of Russia. Therefore, Biden made sure to appear solid and clear in his conversations with Putin. He did not appear with him in any joint press conference after meeting at a summit in Geneva, Switzerland, but each appeared in a separate interview with journalists. Biden stressed that he put the constants of the American position clear to Putin. Ukraine was the most significant point of confrontation between Biden and Putin. The conflict between them is not easy. Biden has allocated a video summit with the Russian President to stress his warning that America will impose severe economic sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.*36
On February 22, 2022, the Russians invaded Ukraine. The world entered into a very gloom page of its history. The West quickly imposed sanctions on Russia. With the advance of Russian forces, military aid to Ukraine doubled, and sanctions against Russia increased. The successive developments have proven that the retreat of any party means a strategic loss that will impact the fate of its leadership role in the entire global system.*37
Moscow sought to obstruct the revival of the Iranian nuclear agreement, which is ready after long negotiations between Western powers and Iran in Vienna. The French newspaper Le Point said that Moscow, which remained the West's ally against Iran, suddenly turned the table and now demands guarantees that sanctions will not affect its cooperation with Iran. Subsequently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran visited Moscow.
There is no doubt that the visit aimed at reassuring the Russian Federation that Iran will keep its markets open to commercial cooperation with Russia and that Moscow's signing of the agreement will not alter that commitment. The United States also confirmed that the sanctions currently imposed on Moscow will not include nuclear cooperation with Iran, including Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility.*38
The preliminary attitudes of the Gulf countries towards the Russian attack on Ukraine raised concerns both in the United States and in Europe. A chill has clouded US relations with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE since the Biden administration came to power in January 2021.
President Biden's harsh stances against the Saudi Crown Prince and his permission to publish an American intelligence summary holding him responsible for ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi created an alarming signal of the new US politics in the Area. In addition, the United States removed the Houthis from the list of terrorism and withdrew military support for Saudi Arabia in its war against the Houthis in Yemen.
Moreover, the US administration intended to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from the list of terrorism, in the event of an agreement to revive the nuclear agreement with Iran, despite its destabilizing policies in the region. Iran provides its allies in the region, including the Houthis, with drones and long-range missiles to bomb strategic targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.*39
For his part, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid considered that the nuclear draft agreement ready to be signed in Vienna was bad and ineffective. Israel considers itself not bound by it and reserves the freedom to act against the Iranian nuclear program. He stressed that Israel is continuing its efforts to prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear state. He said, "Israel's security takes precedence over all interests." He added, “The war in Ukraine, and the nuclear talks in Vienna, are two events that will change the face of the world as we know it”.
Minister Lapid alluded to the continuous support Israel provided to Ukraine since the first day of the Russian invasion. However, he said that Israel would do everything in its power to stop the war in Ukraine. He said, “Israel is committed to the safety and security of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Israelis in Russia and Ukraine and is making mediation efforts at the highest levels between them.” He clarified that his country's role is in full coordination with the United States, which is Israel's greatest and closest ally.
Russia's friends in Lebanon and the area are betting on an American turn by signing the nuclear agreement with Iran. They wish Hezbollah may remain a robust local and regional player so they can remain in power. Otherwise, they have deemed losers and will pay a heavy price. Hezbollah gives them strength. Therefore, everyone is anxious to know if President Biden will sign an agreement that Israel says is bad and ineffective?
Europe and the United States considered signing the nuclear agreement and lifting sanctions on Iranian oil to allow the flow of this oil and ease the existing energy international crisis. However, despite the Russian willingness to sign the agreement, the agreement was not signed. Why? The reason is due to two related issues: The Gulf and Israel's hard stance, and the position of the US Senate opposing the agreement.
The war in Ukraine required a slowdown. It does not seem possible to separate this file from that war. Instead, President Biden is retreating from a march that distanced his party from Israel and the Arab Gulf states. It also allows him to tighten pressure on Iran to hand over its ballistic missiles, thus responding to a request of the majority of US senators, especially after Iran bombed Erbil in Iraq.
The Kurdistan authorities and the US administration said the bombing targeted the US consulate, residential areas, and a satellite channel. The United States cannot ignore this incident or Iran's role in aiding Russia, mainly by mobilizing Arab mercenaries (Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and Houthis) to fight alongside Russia. Iran and its subordinates did not hesitate to turn Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and Yemen into arenas for sending messages, whether aggressive or good, always at the expense of the future and fate of their peoples. Once the message is aggressive, Lebanon pays dearly, and when it is positive, Hezbollah gains the reward.*40
Russia is not worried about sanctions. Sanctions will not affect Russia's relations with countries members of BRICS or the Shanghai alliance. So, where could the West add more pressure on Moscow? Indeed, through its outposts and its foreign relations. China is the main target. The best opportunity to deal with Russia and China remains in the Middle East. What makes a difference is compromising Russia and China’s role in the Middle East. Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf countries will not join any effort to keep Russia away as long as Iran remains a dominant factor in the region. The US has to decide.
The move to reign over the Middle East and its wealth seems much more accessible than before. The main obstacle was removed, with many Arab countries now recognizing Israel and exchanging diplomatic relations.
The Gulf countries no longer fear hostile Israeli actions against them and no longer needs Western support to regulate their relations with Israel. They have other concerns, especially about Iran's nuclear program. Saudi Arabia warned that it would follow suit if Iran got its nuclear arms. Their concerns coincided with the Israelis. The war in Ukraine constituted the first model for Arab positions on major international issues of such magnitude; The Arab side does not pay attention to the Israeli positions in Palestine to adopt its positions in this war.
Turkey is showing signals that it will give up its unequivocal support to Moslem Brothers in Syria, allowing the Arabs to find a settlement for the crisis according to the Geneva agreement of 2012. Prime Minister Erdogan's visit to UAE was an opening. Turkey is showing a shift in its relations with Israel. Turkey and Israel are coordinating efforts to bring a settlement to the Ukraine war. They are also working close to ending Iran's destabilizing role in the area. Turkey is seriously pleading for an agreement with Israel to build a direct gas pipeline from Israel to Europe to substitute the Russian gas.*41
Russia is busy with its war and cannot fight on two fronts. Neither Israel nor Russia is willing to enter into a confrontation with each other. So far, we have not seen an American or Israeli response to Iran's ballistic attack on Erbil, knowing that the attack on Erbil was under the pretext of the Israeli bombing in Syria, which led to the killing of Iranian elements.
The Lebanese front seems calm. However, the situation deeply depends on the situation in Syria. The news of Russia and Hezbollah's efforts to recruit Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and other mercenaries to fight in Ukraine did not surprise world opinion. Warriors always used mercenaries during their fighting. However, for Lebanese and other Arabs joining Russia they do not consider themselves mercenaries. They are freedom fighters supporting an ally.
The international grave climate alarmed the US. The United States has found a real threat to its control of the international economy. The war in Ukraine reminds us of the beginnings of World War II.
US endeavors in the Middle East require a deep change in the pattern of relations with Arab Countries. The US seeks to reduce the size of its military presence in the region and devote itself to confronting the Sino-Russian threats to its international economic position. Better relations with the Arab States seem a must. The Israeli-Arab conflict is no longer an obstacle. The accelerated progress in their social and economic reforms and human rights issues are audible and applaudable. The West should help to change the stereotypical view of the Arabs.
The meeting in Al-Negev last March represents a step forward. The US joined a joint meeting of the six ministers of Foreign Affairs of the US, Israel, Egypt, UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain in Al-Negev to discuss the Arab-Israeli worries about Iran's role. The meeting may not signal a shift in the American approach toward reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran; however, it will stiffen the American conditions and open the door for a joint alliance between Arabs and Israel under American auspices.*42
Iran was outrageous at that meeting and described the participating Arab countries as traitors to the Palestinian cause. Iran is losing momentum regarding the nuclear agreement. Iran's economy would be highly compromised if Saudi Arabia increases oil exports. The alarming Iranian message of using insurgency in Yemen to attack oil fields in Saudi Arabia created a setback to the smooth course of negotiations on the nuclear agreement in Vienna. However, Iran has two options: either retreat from its hostile policies in the region, join efforts to stabilize the Middle East, or face an unpredictable future that is undoubtedly very bleak.*43
Ukraine's neutrality has become an essential topic in the international dialogue to get that country out of its predicament. The Ukrainians had to remember that Austria was not liberated from Soviet occupation after World War II, just as Finland and Sweden did not escape Stalin's curse, except by their neutrality. The Baltic States, in turn, have begun to feel anxious after the events of Ukraine and fear that they will be affected again by the curse of Stalin.
Lebanese ought, at this stage, to read these facts carefully. People made up of several minorities should not go too far in their emotional impulses towards the events in Ukraine. The Ukraine war may turn into additional friction and distance between them. Lebanon's neutrality is necessary to get Lebanon out of the ongoing wars on in its land. Lebanon still suffers from the wars that destroyed the country fifty years ago. The Lebanese enthusiasm to involve themselves in the wars of others like the Palestinians brought disaster to their home country.
Lebanon's role is not to become an arena for other's wars but rather to serve peace between the conflicting parties by supporting and advancing the mechanism of international law and the United Nations system.
The author and other experts expressed concern and wondered when will Lebanese understand this reality and look different from how they deal with their problems? So far, the war in Ukraine looks cold. However, its course indicates that it might turn into a hot war.
Many researchers believe America has no desire to partner with Iran. However, the truth is that the West and the countries of the Middle East would welcome Iran to be a member of the Middle East Club if it stops its role of exporting the Islamic revolution to other countries and interfering in their internal affairs. Iran could participate as a potential economic power to create a viable Middle Eastern economic market. Nevertheless, Iran has its ambitions, Persian ambitions.
1- Security Council, 8980th meeting, SC/14809, https://www.un.org/press, February 27, 2022.
2- General Assembly resolution demands end to Russian offensive in Ukraine, March 2, 2022, http;//news.un.org, https://www.reuters.com/
3- Op.cit.; see Also, BBC Media Monitoring, “Russia and Ukraine: Controversy over the Arab position on the invasion – Arab newspapers,” March 3, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/arabic;
4- Op. cit. Ref. No. 2.
5- "Revealing the real reason behind Turkey's normalization of relations with Israel," Turkey Now, dated April 5, 2022, https://www.turkeyalaan.net/;
6- Israel-Russia relations, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
7- Op. cit. Ref. No. 2.
8- Lebanon 24 "The Foreign Ministry's statement from the Russian Operation in Ukraine interacts," February 25, 2022, https://lebanon24.com
9- Almarkazia, “Official Lebanon sells positions in the Ukraine market.” Feb.26, 2022, https://www.almarkaziah.com
10- Dr. Hicham Hamdan, “United for justice for Lebanon and its people.” First edition, 2020, distributed by Dar Saer Al Mashreq, Beirut, ISBN 978-9953054797
11- Dr. Hicham Hamdan, “ Ukraine’s war and its impacts on Lebanon.”, Almassira magazine, No. 1727, March 2022. https://www.almassira.com
12- Op. cit. Ref. No. 11
13- “Are there any signs of a Russian-Ukrainian confrontation on the Lebanese scene?” Almarkaziah April 10, 2022, https://www.almarkaziah.com
14- Op. cit. Ref. No.11p; "Iranian-Russian relations," Al Marfa, https://www.almarefa.org
15- Dr. Hisham Hamdan, "The System of Maintaining International Peace and Security during the Cold War, Studies in the International Forces of the United Nations.” Dar Nass, Aramoun, Lebanon, 2000;
16- "Reform of the United Nations Security Council," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
17- Dr. Hicham Hamdan, “Studies in International World Organizations in Geneva," Dar Oweidat International, Beirut-Paris, 1993;
18- Dr. Hicham Hamdan, "The theory of "active diplomacy in a failed state," part one, Dar Saer Al-Mashreq, Beirut, first edition, 2021, ISBN 978-614-451-237-1.
19- Op. cit. Ref. no.18. See also “The Financial crisis of 2007-2008”, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;
20- OP.cit. Ref.18.
21- Ambassador Osama Tawfiq Badr: “Tyrants and Idiots," Basrah Network, March 5, 2022, https://www.albasrah.net/
22- Muhammad Rahim, Donia al-Watan, “The Secret of ISIS's control of Fallujah," January 5, 2014, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, https://www.ncr-iran.org/;
23- Fayez Sarah, “Iran’s deep interference in Syria," Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper of London, April 12, 2021, issue number , https://aawsat.com/home/article/2
24- "The official announcement of a historic agreement on Iran's nuclear program," BBC, July 14, 2015;
25- Alex Rowell, "The Syrian Refugees Problem," https://carnegieendowment.org, July 17, 2014. Rowell examines their demographic, political, economic, and social impact on Lebanon.
26- "Operation Euphrates Shield," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
28- “The Election of Michel Aoun as President of Lebanon," Al Jazeera Net, October 31, 2016;
29- “Trump’s biggest campaign promises: Did he deliver?”, https://www.aljazeera.com/, Published On October 31, 2020;
30- “The Jerusalem Tripartite Meeting: Determining the Iranian Role with a Russian Guarantee,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 25, 2019, https://www.syriahr.com/.
31- "Trump: Middle Eastern countries must establish "full relations" with Israel," September 24, 2019, https://rassd.net/;
32- "The Election of Joe Biden as President of the United States," Telescope News Agency, https://telescopejo.com/;
33- Joe Tabet - Washington, "Under the Bennett government... Biden expects a deeper rapprochement with Israel", June 28, 2021, Sky News Arabia.
34- Karim Shafik, Cairo, “Will the Vienna meeting succeed in reviving the nuclear agreement” dated April 16, 2021, Sky News Arabia.
35- Sky News Arabia: "Ukraine Knocking on NATO's Doors, and Russia Warns NATO of the Dangerous Step," Abu Dhabi, October 22, 2021, http://www.skynewsarabia.com.
36- Rafed Jabouri, "Joe Biden: How was the first year of the American president in the field of Foreign Affairs?”, BBC News Arabic - Washington, December 28, 2021.
37- “British Minister: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has begun," Emirates Al-Youm, February 22, 2022, https://www.emaratalyoum.com
38- "Why is Russia obstructing the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file?” Mideast News, dated March 13, 2022, https://mdeast.news/ar/20;
39- “Hussein Ibich “What might the Joe Biden presidency mean for the Arab Gulf states?” Gulf States Institute Washington, May 27, 2020, https://agsiw.org/ar/wha;
40- “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Adopt the Bombing of Erbil, and Al-Sadr Condemns," Al-Arabiya Net, March 13, 2022, https://www.alarabiya.net
41- The visit of the Israeli president to Turkey: motives, repercussions, and reactions," Al-Share' Al-Siyasi, March 24, 2022, https://politicalstreet.org/
42- Eid al-Qadir al-Zawi, “The Negev Meeting: A Prospective Alliance or a Meeting to Express Concern and Blame?”, Magazine, London, https://arb.majalla.com, April 15, 2022
43- “Iran denounces Al-Negev Summit, any attempts at normalization," Al-Mayadeen Net, March 28, 2022.
* Submitted to https://www.academia.edu/ on April 22, 2022. It was rejected because it is over 1600 words.
* Submitted to the Middle East Journal on April 27, 2022.