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December 23, 2013 2:00 am

Looking at 2013 Across the Middle East

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

As the year 2013 comes to a close, we take with us to 2014 the shame of the horrifying tragedy in Syria, the deep trepidations and fear of Israel and the Gulf Arab states over Iran potentially acquiring nuclear weapons, the ongoing turmoil in Egypt and Libya, the horrific sectarian war in Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that have eluded both sides for more than six decades.

Below, I selected a few short paragraphs from some of my 2013 articles depicting a few observations about the above sad development of events. Many of us knew during 2013 what was wrong; we must still never lose hope as we greet 2014, chart a new course, and keep the human spirit alive that will inevitably prevail.

Egypt Facebook post-February 4th 2013 “¨”When the military stepped aside and allowed a nominal transition to civilian rule, the generals did it knowing that the MB would not be able to rise to the occasion and meet public demands. Moreover, beset by internal conflicts and a restive public, the generals operate on the assumption that the MB may well collapse under its own weight.

With the warning of Egyptian General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that the latest unrest could lead to the “collapse of the state,” the military may be eyeing an opportunity to resume power; this will, however, set off a dangerous and vicious cycle, as the people may welcome the exit of the MB but will surely detest the resumption of military rule.”

Iran Time for U.S.-Iran Talks-August 7, 2013 “¨”A peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear program can be found. Bilateral U.S.-Iranian negotiations may well be the only means by which to achieve such an outcome. Both sides know that a failure in these negotiations could lead to disastrous consequences and it must be avoided. The circumstances are ripe, the opportunity is there, and it must not be missed.”

The Nuclear Deal: Netanyahu vs. Obama-November 25, 2013″¨”Regardless of the present discord between Netanyahu and Obama, the two leaders must begin to cultivate anew mutual trust and develop a much closer working relationship on Iran’s portfolio. There must be no daylight between the two because the stakes are too high and mistakes and miscalculations would have calamitous consequences.”

Iran Will Become A Nuclear Power, Unless…-December 10, 2013 “¨”For the Ayatollahs, the acquisition of nuclear weapons under the aegis of an Islamic Shiite regime would solidify, strengthen and allay the still-vulnerable national identity through direct association with the awesome power and prestige of having nuclear weapons.”

Syria Humanitarian Disaster And Political Illusion-May 21, 2013 “¨”The risks of denying or further delaying the delivery of weapons the rebels need has and continues to prolong the fighting, increasing the number of casualties by tens of thousands, and will almost certainly lead to the complete disintegration of Syria along sectarian lines.”

Contrasting Strategies, Same Results-June 20, 2013 “¨”Syria is on the verge of disintegration, but perhaps there still time for Obama to try to turn the tide and rescue the Syrian people from Assad’s killing machine while redeeming America’s credibility, which remains central to the region’s security and future stability.”

The Absence of Strategic Vision-August 27, 2013 “¨”America’s standing and what is left of its credibility in the eyes of the international community is on the line. The burden falls squarely on President Obama’s shoulders to act to save lives (in Syria) rather than preach the gospel of human rights, as there is no time left to spare.”

The Source of Assad’s Staying Power-November 6, 2013 “¨”Like it or not, the United States remains the anchor of global stability and when any American administration demonstrates a lack of vision and the strategy to stem major conflicts before they spin out of control, they are bound to lead to dire consequences.”

Arab Spring Premature Elections Invite Political Instability-NOTE: July 9, 2012 “¨”As a consequence of the sweeping transformative effects of the Arab Spring, countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia have been pushed both from within and from outside to hold premature elections, regardless of the prevailing political environments that existed prior to the revolutions. As a result, dozens of political parties were abruptly formed… This mushrooming of political parties not only confuses the public but also prevents national consensus on any major foreign or domestic issues or programs.”

Perils of a Quick Transition to Democracy-August 22, 2013 “¨”No one can suggest that [the transition to democracy] is an easy path free of hurdles and can easily be realized. But the US must have a consistent message and avoid being seen as hypocritical in dealing with the inevitable continuing upheavals engulfing various Arab states.”

Obama’s Syria Debacle-September 13, 2013 “As witnessed in Libya, Egypt and now in Syria, the Arab Spring will be a long and cruel winter. Every Arab state will be affected by it. It has permanently changed the political landscape in the Middle East where the US has huge economic, military and national security interests.”

Turkey Turkey: Opportunities And Risks Ahead-May 9, 2013 “¨”Turkey can and in fact should play a constructive role, provided that the Erdogan government takes a hard look at what the opportunities are to contribute to building a structure of peace and stability. The Erdogan government, however, should also consider the risks entailed should it remain stuck in grandiose old thinking.”

“Turkey’s current rise to prominence was possible because of its promise and implementation of many political, economic and social reforms. These initial successes, however, are not self-perpetuating and must continuously be nurtured.

Only then will Turkey live up to the promise of being the leading Islamic democracy it has set out to be, or it will lose a historic chance to become that kind of a model, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring.”

Libya Premature Elections Invite Political Instability-NOTE: July 9, 2012″¨ “This has turned the electoral processes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya into horse races of national councils, transitional authorities and military commanders. The various types of democratic rule that can be implemented should reject quick elections, as the diverse sectarian societies found in the Middle East need to be reconciled with elementary premises of political and human freedoms.

The tribal nature of Libya, for example, had engendered a debate between adopting federalism over decentralization, the latter clearly favoring tribal communities and a preferred option in Libya as a federalist system could exacerbate tense pre-existing ethnic and tribal conflicts.”

Israel-Palestine Earning the Nobel Peace Prize—January 31, 2013 “¨”…the President must carry with him a general framework for peace based on a prior understanding negotiated between the two sides, especially those achieved in 2000 (at Camp David between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak) and 2007-2008 (between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas). In both sets of comprehensive negotiations, the two sides had been able to resolve the vast majority of the conflicting issues… The US must use all means available at its disposal, including political, economic, and coercive measures to exact the necessary concessions from both sides to reach an agreement.”

Show the Leaders the Road to Peace-July 31, 2013″¨ “The aspiration of Israelis and Palestinians for peace is real and realizable. Their leaders have been deaf and failed time and again to answer the public’s call. It is now the responsibility of the public to take charge and show the leaders the road to peace.”

Israel’s National Security: Delegitimizing the Legitimate-October 28, 2013 “¨”Although given its military might Israel’s sense of insecurity may seem exaggerated, the Palestinians should not dismiss this central concern which is deeply embedded in the psyche of every Israeli. That said, neither military might nor the annexation of any Palestinian land in the West Bank will guarantee Israel’s national security, short of a comprehensive peace.”

“It is now…up to Israel to change the dynamic of the conflict; the vast majority of Palestinians have resigned themselves to co-exist with Israel because they know that Israel is and will remain a formidable power and is here to stay.

Israel’s legitimate national security concerns can be met, but not by an insatiable thirst for more land in the West Bank. It is this very policy that delegitimizes Israel’s legitimate national security requirements.”

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