By Camelia Entekhabifard
September 17, 2020
The US presidential election is approaching and it is opined that President Trump’s efforts to broker the signing of the Abraham Accord between the United Arab Emirates and Israel might impact the outcome of the election, which no doubt it will.
The countries of the region, however, were more concerned with their own national interests than Mr. Trump’s votes and his election campaign, or Mr. Netanyahu’s popularity at home.
Best to say that the UAE and Bahrain saw the situation rife for signing the agreement. Among the UAE’s conditions for signing the accord – the suspension of the expansion of Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories – was seen as the first important and valuable step to stop Israel’s activities in the West Bank (while this accord is not about Palestine and Palestinian issues).
Most importantly, the “Salam Accord” (as known in the region) and peace with Israel is fundamentally a demonstration of the loss of hope on the part of the region for any positive change in Iran’s behavior towards its neighbors – for friendship and good relations.
Only 50 and 49 years have passed since Bahrain and the UAE gained their independence respectively. Yet four decades of their political life and those of the whole region were spent with disconcertion about Iran’s fickle friendship and enmity.
It should be noted that Iran’s revolution, the problems the people of Iran faced in the wake of the dominance of a religious regime and what followed, gave a good lesson to its neighbors to instead pursue the path of security and prosperity for their citizens.
Last year when the protesters against high prices and grim economic situation in the city of Mashhad (northeastern Iran) were punished in public with foot whipping, the UAE sent its first astronaut to the Space Station. At the beginning of summer, the Hope orbiter started its mission to Mars, a huge achievement for a small and new country.
Still, reaching the point where the Emirati Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stood next to the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, was far more difficult and momentous than sending a spacecraft to Mars.
In his address to the small gathering of people who witnessed this historic moment on the grounds of the White House, The FM said: “Peace requires courage, shaping the future requires knowledge.”
The Abraham Accord is the result of the loss of hope by countries of the region for normal relations with Iran after 40 years of trying, and their disappointment in any change in the nature of the regime.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, a day before the signing of the Abraham Accord, the Emirati Foreign Minister indirectly pointed to Iran and its proxy’s threats as a strong driving force in normalizing its country’s relations with Israel.
He wrote: “(Some) non-Arab countries and a mob of non-state actors exist in a warped axis of perpetual resistance. They advocate one brand or another of extremism. They are nostalgic over lost empires or obsess over a new caliphate. They (constantly) bash America, Israel and the UAE.”
In the past two decades, well-meaning journalists and Arab politicians kept asking me what steps the new governments of Iran would take to deescalate tensions in relations with its neighbors and if so, what the signs of those policies were.
From Mr. Khatami to Dr. Ahmadinejad to Rouhani’s presidencies, the hope of the Arab intellectuals and neighboring countries were pinned on a change in Iran’s regional policies and relations with them.
It seems that Iran’s neighbors have achieved the Abraham Accord during the course of the past four years when Iran was busy plotting in Syria and suppressing Assad’s opponents and then its own people in Iran’s streets and bazars. In the meantime, the Gulf countries gave up hope and left.
They became disappointed in any possible change in Iran’s attitude only a year after the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the Western powers. They witnessed that there was indeed no difference between a conservative and a moderate president and that the power is in fact in the hands of the IRGC (Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps) and the supreme leader who decide the country’s foreign policy where detente in the form of non-intervention, peace and security has no place. They made today’s decision in silence.
It has been some years since Iran’s neighbors have been considering today’s “Salam Accord”, but the Houthi missiles, attacks against oil tankers and constant threats turned their doubts into certainty.
On Tuesday, on the grounds of the White House, it became a reality that Iran’s neighbors no longer care if the Islamic Republic intends to normalize its relations with them or any relations with them for that matter. They go their way and leave Iran to its own devices which means more isolation for the country.
On the other side of the region is a country that wants to exist and live in peace and security. Israel, too, needs this peace agreement. Seventy years after its creation, Israel’s concerns over its security have not been removed and the country has no relations with its neighbors.
Israel, too, had to pay the price for this friendship. A halt in building Jewish settlements in the occupied lands is the first step. Perhaps the creation of an independent state of Palestine would come as future steps.
Living among 300 million Arab Muslims is difficult if they see you as your enemy. Israel’s reliance on the US and the West support is not perpetual either. What is perpetual is neighbors who should accept you, and accept you as a friend to help everybody enjoy a peaceful life.