Category Archives: Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s new look

A new dawn? The irresistible rise of Mohammad bin Salman

If Thomas Jefferson were able to look over the last forty years of Gulf politics, he may wish to add a third concept to his old adage; ‘only three things are certain: death, taxes, and the rule of the House of Saud’. In the most tumultuous region of the world, Saudi Arabia has stood alone as a paragon of stability and continuity.

The extent of this certainty relative to its neighbours merits some attention. A quick glance across the Red Sea to Egypt reveals a country that has experienced over the last century (deep breath): freedom from British colonial rule, the 1952 coup d’état and revolution, the Suez Crisis, a union with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, the dissolution of that union, the Six Day War with Israel, the assassination of a sitting president, the 2011 revolution and counter-revolution in 2013. Each of these events threatened to profoundly alter the nature of the Egyptian state, and this is one of the more stable, successful countries in the region. Meanwhile in that same century, Saudi Arabia has been lead by members of just one family, the House of Saud, and with minimal changes in style throughout the period.

What we mustn’t forget here, of course, is the astonishing effect of oil. It has transformed the country from a mostly uninhabited desert to perhaps the most important geopolitical players in the region, able to exert control not just over its well-paid citizens but also the wider Muslim world, most strikingly through its funding of mosques, schools and imams sent to preach the Saudi brand of Islam to the world.

It comes as quite a shock, then, that the country is undergoing its most tumultuous internal period in decades. Women, it has been announced, will soon be allowed to drive, and then can already attend football matches for the first time. Cinemas have been opened for the first time in Saudi history. A fund of $64 billion is to be provided for the development of the Saudi entertainment industry (a contradiction-in-terms if ever I saw one). And perhaps most shockingly the arrest of dozens of Saudi royals under charges of corruption, held against their will in the palatial Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.

All of these developments can be laid squarely at the feet of one man: Mohammad bin Salman. Shortened quite unpoetically to MBS in the West, bin Salman has in the space of a few short years gone from being a rather minor royal to the new Crown Prince, a title he took from his uncle, and thereby the next in line to lead the country. He has helped shape much of Saudi Arabia’s new social policy, including the aforementioned changes for women and the arts, as well as curbing the powers of the religious police. His social reforms are matched by his plans for the Saudi economy, after announcing his ‘Vision 2030’ plan to diversify and privatise much of the country’s assets. And over the last year, there have glimpses of what the new foreign policy for the regime could look like, with the united front against Qatar and intervention in Yemen hinting at a more active role for the Saudi state itself, rather than simple funding of interests in the region.

This doesn’t quite cover what is causing all the fuss, though. The Saudi state is predicated upon an agreement between the ruling House of Saud and the Wahhabi religious clerics. In exchange for religious legitimacy and their continued allegiance, the House of Saud provides the clerics with religious and cultural control over Saudi society, and enormous levels of funding, to push its Islamist agenda abroad. This relationship has been in place in one form or another since the establishment of the first Saudi state in 1744, and in real terms it is difficult to argue with its effectiveness (not to excuse the torture, the stonings, the murder committed as a direct result of it).

It is this relationship, upon which Saudi Arabia has been built up to this point, that bin Salman threatens to undermine with his sweeping reforms. There are fears, both in his own country and elsewhere, that as one of the only royal family members not to be educated abroad, with minimal political experience and aged just 32, that MBS doesn’t know what he’s doing. Let’s hope for the sake of the region that he does.


Syria: Putin’s Proxy War

In December, President Putin made a surprise visit to the Russian military base in Syria and announced the withdrawal of Russian forces from the country. The BBC reported that Putin’s visit was to bring the word of victory to the front line. Russia troops could now return to their families, knowing that they had defeated ISIS and defended the Assad Regime.[1] But what has Putin really achieved in Syria?

Understanding Russia’s achievements is Syria requires an understanding of the Kremlin’s motivation. Russia has supported the Al-Assad regime since 2011, providing diplomatic support by vetoing UN resolutions.[2] In 2015, Russia increased its support by embarking on a campaign of airstrikes against groups that the Kremlin defined as ‘terrorist’.[3]

The timing of this extended commitment is significant to understanding why Russia has become so involved in the Syrian conflict. In September of that year, world leaders met at the 70th UN General Assembly to discuss global affairs. During the assembly Presidents Putin and Obama met privately to discuss the crisis in Syria.

At the time, the Western World strongly called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The United State even went as far as to publicly lay the Syrian conflict at the feet of Assad’s regime. “Assad reacted to peaceful protest by escalating repression and killing and in turn created the environment for the current strife.”[4]

Russia’s support for Assad, therefore, became a big bargaining chip, one which Putin intended to use during the 70th UN General Assembly. Putin was prepared to withdraw support from the Assad Regime in return for NATO support being withdrawn from the Ukrainian conflict, a conflict which interfered much closer with the Russian sphere of interest.

The meeting between Obama and Putin orchestrated to be a trade-off, Syria for Ukraine. However, this never happened. Following the meeting both leaders came out publicly blaming one another for escalating the crisis in Syria.[5]

Despite the Kremlin’s gamble not paying off, Russia has still been able to gain from the Syrian conflict. The conflict is testimony to the re-establishment of Russia’s global status. Putin has taken a step towards the ‘superpower’ title previously held by the Soviet Union.

Russian has demonstrated its ability to rival the U.S. by rejuvenating its relations with Iran. Just months before the 2015 air-strikes, Iran brokered a nuclear deal with the U.S., limiting Russian influence in Tehran. The U.S. has admitted to being unable to break the relationship between Russia and Iran. The Syrian conflict has been an opportunity for the two nations to work closely on military operations. The cooperation in Syria has become a symbol of the Russian-Iranian relationship.[6]

Putin has been diplomatically victorious in maintaining his alliance with Iran, despite U.S. intervention. This alone is an example of how far Russia has come in terms of global power status. Additionally, Moscow has reshaped the frontlines of the Syrian conflict. With Russian support, Assad has major areas such as; Palmyra, Raqqa and Aleppo.[7] The conflict is evidence that Russia is now capable of effectively performing military operations outside of its own borders.

The effective impact of the Russian military has boosted Russia’s arms industry.[8] Syria is a showcase for Russian military technology, and has been defined as a “perfect commercial for Russian arms producers’”.[9] Going forwards, Russia will be able to expand its arms deals with new parties.

Ultimately, Syria is still a nation torn by war and terror. But the actual conflict has always been secondary to Putin’s goals. What initially began as a bargaining chip has turned into one of Putin’s highest paying investments in recent years. Russia has proven its might in both diplomatic and military terms. As the BBC reported, Putin has been able to “force world leaders to deal with Russia”.[10] In this sense, Russian troops can now return home knowing they have been victorious, even with the war going on in their absence.



[1] YouTube. (2017). Russia’s Putin visits Syria airbase and orders start of pullout – BBC News. [online] Available at:

[2] UN News Service Section. (2017). UN News – Russia and China veto draft Security Council resolution on Syria. [online] Available at:

[3] Shaheen, K., Walker, S. and Black, I. (2017). Bashar al-Assad thanks Putin for Syria strikes as Russia announces US talks. [online] the Guardian. Available at:

[4] Sengupta, G. (2017). Obama and Putin Play Diplomatic Poker Over Syria. [online] Available at:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Washington Post. (2017). Analysis | The Russian and Iranian ties that the U.S. can’t seem to break. [online] Available at:

[7] (2017). Syria: Who controls what?. [online] Available at:

[8] Woody, C. (2017). The US and Russia are dominating the global weapons trade. [online] Business Insider. Available at:

[9] (2017). Syria’s war: A showroom for Russian arms sales. [online] Available at:

[10] YouTube. (2017). BBC News. op.cit.

Is the Oslo Peace Process really, truly dead?

For anyone with an interest in the ebb and flow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, December 2017 has proven to be an extremely intriguing and surprising month.

On 6th December, the world found that, true to his word, President of the United States of America, Donald Trump declared that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (The Independent, 6th December 2017: The Guardian, 7th December 2017). In response, Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas declared in a speech to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, that Jerusalem “is a Palestinian Arab Muslim Christian city, the eternal capital of the state of Palestine. There can be no Palestinian state without the city of Jerusalem as its capital” and that the Palestinians were “no longer committed to any agreement from Oslo until today” (Palestinian News and Info Agency, 13th December 2017; Jewish News Service, December 13th 2017). Furthermore, on Thursday 14th December, Abbas called for the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, a position taken and formally recognised by the OIC (The Guardian, 13th Dec 2017).

Though much has been said about in relation to the impact on the United States position in the Middle East and the world in general, what is the impact on the Oslo Peace Process between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

Have we seen the final, fatal wound to the Oslo Peace Process? Or is this a controversial first step in a fresh and unorthodox approach to revive a stalled peace process?

What is the Oslo Peace Process?

On 13th September 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat, symbolically shook hands on the lawn of the White House, sealing the Oslo I Agreement negotiated between the two parties which offered the possibility of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Booth and Wheeler, 2008, p. 245; Cronin, 2009, p. 50; Tessler, 2009, p. 763). Oslo I was a framework for negotiations rather than a content-based agreement that dealt with final terms (Gelvin, 2005, pp. 234-235).

According to Oslo I, the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians was to be based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. This effectively meant that in theory at least, the border between Israel and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem would follow the 1949 Armistice lines originally drawn up between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. Under UNSC Resolution 242, Israel was to withdraw from territories it occupied in 1967 and UNSC Resolution 338 reinforced the importance of UNSC Resolution 242 and of peace negotiations (Tessler, 2009, p. 761; El-Atrash, 2016, p. 370).  Crucially the Oslo I agreement left the most difficult elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as borders, settlements, the status of Jerusalem, division of water resources and the Palestinian refugee issue until the final status negotiations which were originally to be concluded by May 1999 (Slater, 2001, p. 177).

Between 1993-2000, the Israelis and the Palestinians signed seven major agreements yet the subsequent Camp David Summit, which set out to resolve all final-status issues and result in a comprehensive and permanent settlement between the two sides, failed to bring about an agreement and was followed swiftly by the eruption of the Al-Aqsa Intifada on the 29th September 2000 (Rubenberg, 2003, pp. 61, 81; Tessler, 2009, p. 818). At the heart of much of the contestation has been what to do with Jerusalem.

Why does Jerusalem Matter?

As a result of the 1948 War, Jerusalem was divided into Jewish/Israeli West and Arab/Palestinian East Jerusalem until the 1967 war when the eastern part of the city was captured by Israel and the city was unified (El-Atrash, 2016, p. 370).

The status of Jerusalem is a sensitive issue for both sides due to Israeli and Palestinian desires for it to serve as their national capitals and their connection to holy sites namely the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif which is sacred to Jews as the site of the temple of worship and whilst it is seen as the third most important city in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Indeed, in the 2000 Camp David Summit, Jerusalem was recognised as the “one of the most difficult issues to resolve”. The Second Intifada by the Palestinians against Israel between 2000-2004 was triggered by the visit of Ariel Sharon to the  Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to protest for the right of Jews to pray there (Caplan, 2010, pp. 207-208; Smith, 2017, p. 439).

Because of the connection between Jerusalem and the national identities of both Palestinians and Israelis, it has been at the heart of both the “protracted political conflict”, the peace negotiations and the existing stalemate (El-Atrash, 206, p. 373). Sooner or later, you’ve got to talk about Jerusalem and talk about it in a way that could offer a means to break the stalemate.

The Stalled Process

We have not got much further than that and indeed the current situation has been that the PLO/Palestinian Authorities have focused on a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict through the United Nations. This has been done through the 2009 Palestine 194 Campaign which aimed to make Palestine the 194th state of the UN which resulted in the 2012 passing of General Assembly resolution 6719 which granted Palestine non-member observer status, In addition the Palestinians have looked to the International Criminal Court, through signing the Rome Statute and through other international bodies to put pressure on Israel as well as support from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. There has been a decline in the domestic support and legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas who has served as President of the Palestinian Authority for a decade or so whilst Hamas has continued to maintain control of Gaza Strip and continued its staunch rejection of the existence of Israel. Having won the 2015 Elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to support the continued construction of settlements in East Jerusalem as part of the vision of an “unified indivisible Jerusalem” and asserted that continued control over the Palestinian territory was necessary for Israel’s security given regional instability and Islamic extremism. At the same time there has been the continued growth and spread of Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Scheindlin and Waxman, 2016, p. 84; Turner and Hussein, 2015, pp. 416-417).

Despite all this we haven’t actually seen the complete demise of the Oslo Peace Process. It survives though effectively in a political coma; alive but not functioning yet it could pass away at any time or come back to life either as it was before or return changed with a new outlook, ideas and actors. What has been missing has a shift in the status quo to kick-start the process back into life and pull it out of its comatose state.

Could the recent US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital provide an opportunity?

If anyone was going to challenge the status quo it was only to be a wild-card individual new to the international political arena and it would be fair to say that US President Donald Trump is definitely a wild-card individual to use non-colourful language.

In his statement, President Trump argued that his declaration was “the beginning of a new approach” in which he sought to give “recognition of reality” that in practical terms, the city of Jerusalem was the de facto capital of Israel as the seat of its government saying;

It is the home of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court.  It is the location of the official residence of the Prime Minister and the President.  It is the headquarters of many government ministries

Trump argued that in recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the US was not “taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders” (Whitehouse Press Release, 6th December 2017).  In a way Trump have point given that for the two-state solution to work Jerusalem (part of it) would have to be the capital of Israel at least.

Now I am a bit of an optimist but also I am acutely aware that in politics as in life, things are not always quite what they appear and that there is always something going on behind-the-scenes. Taking Trump’s two points together (and assuming that there is a coherent policy somewhere under pinning this) I believe the US administration may well be seeking to solidify support for Israel’s retention of West Jerusalem, captured in 1949 and declared by David Ben-Gurion as the capital of Israel and is the site of the Knesset, Yad Vashem (the memorial-museum to the Holocaust), the Israel Museum and its Shrine of the Book (which hold the Dead Sea scrolls) as well as important neighbourhoods like Rechavia and German Colony, without actually endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision of a “unified indivisible Jerusalem” (Turner and Hussein, 2015, p. 416; Sasley and Sucharow, 2011, p. 1008).

By doing so, the US administration could be trying to move the debate regarding the status of Jerusalem towards a division of the city, West and East, in which the city could serve as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Indeed the basis of the two-state solution which Trump stated the US “would support…if agreed to by both sides” is based on the establishment of a independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with agreed mutual land exchanges and removal of settlements and with Jerusalem as some sort of shared capital for both Israel and an independent Palestine (White House Press Release, 6th December 2017: Bland, 2014, p. 183). It is a stretch I know and it assumes that behind recent US actions there is a rational and coherent political policy but only time will tell where this sits within the as of yet unrevealed Trump Middle East Peace Plan – the deal of the century or so he would no doubt hope.

As El-Atrash stated “the two-state solution is acknowledged as a political compromise…that basically does not require substantial changes to the situation on the ground” (2016, p. 375). Given that Trump has already claimed to be taking a pragmatic approach in recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel it seems fair to assume that he may also take a “recognition of reality” view to the establishment of two separate areas of the city, West and East Jerusalem, under Israelis and Palestinian control respectively or some model in between (White House Press Release, December 6th 2017). Trump did not state how much of Jerusalem would be considered part of Israel nor did he state that East Jerusalem could not be the capital of a future Palestinian state and he did not rule out a division of the city into parts (The Guardian, Thursday 7th December 2017). Though Israel has claimed the whole of Jerusalem, the Palestinians have been prepared to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as seen in the Beilin-Abu Mazen Accord of October 1995 whilst the Palestinian state capital would be on the outskirts of the municipal boundary of Jerusalem (Shlaim, 2015, p. 576).

The division of the city is seen as the most likely outcome to establish separate Israeli and Palestinian authorities due to the unacceptability of placing the whole city under the control of one of the conflict parties as well as the complexities of overlapping claims to religious sites and the presence of different identity groups (Hunter and Jones, 2004, p. 208).

It remains to be seen whether the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the first step in a yet unrevealed scheme to provoke the renewal of the Oslo Peace Process by challenging the status quo regarding Jerusalem or a single political act of a controversial US president. We will have to wait and see as it is still unclear what the Israelis offered in return and why this move was made before a return to substantial Israeli-Palestinian talks (The Guardian, 7th December 2017).

In my opinion I don’t think the Oslo Peace Process is dead nor do I think that Trump’s recent move has inflicted a fatal wound rather it is a controversial first step in a fresh and unorthodox approach which could revive the stalled peace process by radically challenging the status quo. It was provocative and broke with long-standing international approaches to resolving the process, and in doing so has provoked a reaction from all sides. The question remains where this sits within the as yet unrevealed US Middle East Peace Plan and I hope (optimistically) that it isn’t a one off domestic political move but part of a broader (and unorthodox) plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only time will tell if I was naïve but I going to keep my eyes peeled and I encourage the reader to do the same!


Booth, Ken and Wheeler, Nicholas, J., (2008), The Security Dilemma: Fear Cooperation and Trust in World Politics (Palgrave Macmillan: London)

Byron Bland (2014), “Searching for Mandela: Finding a way beyond the Israeli–Palestinian impasse”, Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, 7:2-3, pp. 183-197.

Caplan, N, (2010) The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contesting Histories (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester).

Cronin, Audrey Kurth (2009), “Negotiations: Transition Toward a Legitimate Political Process” in How Terrorism End: Understanding the Decline of Terrorist Campaigns, (Princeton University Press: Princeton), pp. 35-72.

El-Atrash, Ahmad, (2016) “Implications of the Segregation Wall on the Two-state Solution”, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 31:3, pp. 365-380.

Fraser, T. G, (2004), The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Studies in Contemporary History, (Second Edition; Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke)

Gelvin, James, L. (2005), “The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Accord” in Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War (Cambridge University Press: New York), pp. 228-251.

Hunter, Robert and Jones, Seth. (2004), “An independent Palestine: the security dimension”, International Affairs, 80: 2, pp. 204-219.

Jewish News Service, [Online], “Abbas announces withdrawal from all peace agreements with Israel since Oslo” , available at [Accessed 1st January 2018]

Palestinian News and Information Agency, [Online] “Abbas at the OIC: Israel’s violations absolve us from our commitments”, available at: [Accessed 1st January 2018]

Rubenberg, Cheryl A. (2003), The Palestinians: In Search of a Just Peace (Lynne Reinner Publishers: Boulder, Colarado).

Sasley, Brent. E and Sucharov, Mira, (2011) “Resetting of West Bank Settlers”, International Journal, pp. 999-1017.

Scheindlin Dahlia & Waxman Dov, (2016) “Confederalism: A Third Way for Israel–Palestine,” The Washington Quarterly, 39:1, pp. 83-94.

Slater, Jerome, (2001), “What went wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process” Political Science Quarterly, 116: 2, pp. 171-199.

Tessler, Mark, (2009), “The Oslo Peace Process” in A History of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict (2nd Edition, Indiana University Press: Bloomington), pp. 755-818.

The Guardian [Online], “Defiant Donald Trump Confirms US will recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel” (7th December, 2017) available at: [Accessed on 1st January 2018]

The Guardian [Online], “Palestinians no longer accept US as mediator, Abbas tells summit”, (13th December 2017), available at:  [Accessed on 1st January 2018]

The Independent [Online], “Donald Trump official recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite threats of violence across Middle East”  (6th December, 2017), available at: [Accessed on 1st January 2018]

Turner, Mandy and Hussein, Cherine (2015) “Israel-Palestine after Oslo: mapping transformations and alternatives in a time of deepening crisis”, Conflict, Security & Development, 15:5, pp. 415-424.

Whitehouse Press Release [Online], “Statement by President Trump on Jerusalem” (6th December 2017), available at: [Accessed on 1st January 2018]

Mediation or Facilitation? What next for the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

On Wednesday 13th December, in response to United States President Donald Trump recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that he and the Palestinians would no longer accept the US playing the role of third-party mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process. This was followed by an statement from the Organisation of Islamic States calling the move as a declaration of the “US administration’s withdrawal from its role as sponsor of peace” (The Guardian, 13th December 2017).

Despite being a shock to many, is the potential exodus of the US from its role as mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian process truly a bad thing or could it offer an opportunity for a different style of third-party invention to breath life into a peace process which has largely become stalled.

Is the US being removed from mediation a bad thing?

If one thinks about the last major breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, that of the Oslo Talks of 1993, the answer would be a definitive no.

Following the 1991 Gulf War, the United States organised the Madrid Summit in October of that year to attempt to open new phases of negotiation to bring about a conclusion to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, kick starting almost three-years of negotiation which resulted in the 1993 Oslo Agreement (Maoz, 2004, p. 565; Cronin, 2009, p. 50: Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 2, 32). As part of the Madrid Summit and negotiations it established, the Palestinians had no formal representation and were only part of the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation though they were able to act with a level of independence (Rabinovich, 2004, p. 35; Tessler, 2009, p. 756).

Bilateral contact between the Israeli and Palestinian representatives as part of the Madrid Summit took place for the first time on 30th October 1991, breaking a long-held “taboo” that neither side would ever appear “in the same room or at the same negotiating table” (Caplan, 2010, p. 202).  Yet in following years the negotiations seemed to get no where under US mediation as the First Intifada continued to rage, having broken out in 1987 and despite the revival of the process in February 1993 by Yitzhak Rabin and the close coordination and personal relationship between the US and Israel, the talks failed to produce any results. The breakthrough, when it came in August 1993, was not through US-sponsored negotiations but from the “unorthodox methods” of secret bilateral negotiations in Norway (Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 49-51; Tessler, 2009, p. 757).

The Norwegian Way

The 1993 Oslo I Agreement, which kick-started the Oslo Peace Process was reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians on “their own without any help” with Norwegian Foreign Minister Holst, his wife Marianne Heiberg, and social scientist Terge Larson and his wife, Mona Juul, acting as “generous hosts and facilitators” and “midwifed the entire process” (Shlaim, 2014, pp. 531, 534; Tessler, 2009, p. 758; Rogers, 2016). The Oslo talks were significant because they involved direct face-to-face negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians which set the future direction of talks by establishing that the “fate of the peace process lay in the hands of the protagonists rather than in the hands of the intermediaries” (Gelvin, 2005, p. 228; Shlaim, 2014, p. 534).

The secrecy of the talks in Norway were crucial for their fruitfulness as it allowed the Israelis and Palestinians to discuss highly sensitive issues in a manner that was not possible in Washington (Fraser, 2004, pp. 138).

Is the loss of US mediation actually an opportunity in disguise?

One of the biggest problems with recent attempts to kick-start the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, I believe has been that the process has moved away from being centred on the protagonists towards being focused on intermediaries particularly the US. In my opinion, third party mediation like that of the US brings its own troubles and complications such as making a two-way relationship a three-way relationship in which the conflict parties can become more concerned about their relationship with the third-party mediator than with each other.

For example a summit held in Washington in October 1996 by US President Bill Clinton’s administration between Yasser Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu to revive the peace negotiations and defuse the crisis caused by the Hasmonean tunnel opening had failed to produce any agreement with Netanyahu largely agreeing to the summit to tactically avoid a diplomatic crisis with the US rather than to resolve the crisis with the Palestinians (Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 99-101; Rubenberg, 2003, pp. 71-72; Shlaim, 2014, pp. 598-599). Likewise, when negotiating the Hebron Protocol of 1998, Arafat’s main motivation was to cultivate a relationship with Clinton (Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 109-110).

Third-party mediators can also bring their own interest into play which can be detrimental for peace negotiations. From 1996, the US increasingly took over the role of intermediary not merely facilitating but acting as “mediator” and “guarantor” in both the Hebron Protocol and Wye I Agreement and continued to be involved in Camp David 2000 upon which Clinton staked his own personal desire to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement as part of his presidential legacy (Gelvin, 2005, p. 238; Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 101-105; Tessler, 2009, pp. 789, 800-803; Swisher, 2004, pp. 147-148).

During the Camp David Summit of 2000, Clinton had invited Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat to attempt to break an impasse reached in the Oslo Peace Process. Arafat had believed that the summit in July 2000 was too early for an agreement, and looked to September or November 2000, preferring discreet negotiations such as those at Oslo, which could produce a “joint document leaving only a few open issues for the leaders’ decision” which could then be dealt with in a series of summits. Arafat had requested a series of summits to enable support to be gathered amongst both the Palestinian political elites and the population however this was not accepted by Israel or the US in the lead-up to Camp David (Cronin, 2009, p. 54: Gelvin, 2005, pp. 239-240; Pundak, 2001, pp. 41-42). One of Arafat’s main fears was that he or the Palestinians would be blamed for the failure of the summit, yet Clinton managed to persuade Arafat to attend on the understanding neither he nor the Palestinians would be blamed, only to go back on this promise when the summit failed.  As the end to Bill Clinton’s second term in office as US president was approaching in July 2000 with US election preparations due to start properly in November, his aspirations for the agreement to be part of his legacy were dashed (Shlaim, 2014, p. 676-687; Swisher, 2004, pp. 225-226; Tessler, 2009, p. 800; Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 145-146).

In comparison during the talks which led to Oslo I, Norwegian Foreign Minister Holst and social scientist Larson had acted as facilitators to enable the Israelis and Palestinians to create a bilateral agreement on their own (Shlaim, 2014, pp. 531, 534). Throughout the fourteen sessions held during the secret Oslo talks, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations resided in close proximity to one another with meetings often taking place in informal settings enabling the building of confidence between the Israelis and Palestinians with the isolated and intensive nature of their discussion enabling the breakthrough that had been possible during the public negotiations at Washington (Morag, 2002, p. 205; Tessler, 2009, p. 758).

In my opinion, the questioning of the US role as a third-party mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process could actually provide an opportunity to alter the way the peace process has been governed in recent years, namely the role of third-party mediators. In the absence of trust and the presence of distrust, conflict parties such as the Israelis and Palestinians have looked to third-party mediation to overcome their distrust (Saari, 2011, pp. 220-221). However, I believe, trust in a third-party mediator can become an easy replacement for the more challenging task of overcoming distrust and building trust with your opponent and can result in the loss of opportunities to build personal relationships which can enable both sides to develop mutually beneficial agreements which actors have ownership over as they developed them together.

This can be seen in the Oslo talks where, facilitated by Holst and Larsen, Israel’s representatives Dr. Yair Hirschfeld and Dr. Ron Pundak and the PLO, represented by Abu Ala and two advisers, Hassan Asfour and Maher el-Kurd met and were able recognise that there existed a closeness between the Palestinian and Israeli position on economic co-operation and joint industries in the work of Abu Ala, Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin, as well as the shared gains that could be secured by an agreement between the two sides. Though talks were initially focused on economic cooperation it developed into dialogue about a joint declaration of principles for wider Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (Shlaim, 2014, p. 531; Behrendt, 2007, pp. 47-49).

As both sides developed a “mutual interest in making the Oslo channel a success”, the Oslo talks moved an unofficial to an official channel (Behrendt, 2007, pp. 50-53, 57-59) In formalising the Oslo talks, Israel had recognised Abu Ala to be a “trustworthy negotiating partner” and sent Foreign Minister Uri Savir as well as Joel Singer, a retired lawyer with the IDF, to continue to work alongside the PLO delegation including Abu Ala and Abu Mazen. Crucial for success of the talks and the subsequent Oslo I agreement which would provide the basis for subsequent agreements between the Israelis and Palestinians, was the “warm, trusting personal relationship” between Abu Alaa and Uri Savir (Behrendt, 2007, pp. 2-3, 57-61; Rubenberg, 2003, pp. 51-52. 86; Shulz, 2004, p. 93; Rabinovich, 2004, pp. 52-53).

With the US’s position as a third-party mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in question if not gone, perhaps now is an opportune time to awaken the original spirit of Oslo 1993 and encourage both sides to return to intimate, direct face-to-face in secret provided by simple hotels rather than the high-pressure contexts of summits in which outsiders, whether the UN or nation-states who like Norway, act merely as facilitators, allowing both sides to work through and develop answers to the sensitive issues that stand before them.



Behrendt, Sven, (2007), The Secret Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations in Oslo: Their success and why the process ultimately failed (Routledge: Abington).

Caplan, Neil. (2010), The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contesting Histories (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester).

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Gelvin, James, L. (2005), “The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Accord” in Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War (Cambridge University Press: New York), pp. 228-251.

Maoz, Ifat, (2004), “Peace building in Violent Conflict: Israel-Palestinian Post-Oslo People-to-People Activities”, International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 17:3, pp. 563-574.

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Rabinovich, Itamar. (2004), Waging Peace: Israel and the Arabs 1948-2003, (Princeton University Press: Princeton

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Saari, Sinikukka. (2011), “Managing distrust in the wider Black Sea Region”, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 11:3, pp. 215-225.

Schulz, Helena Lindholm. (2004), “The Politics of Fear and the Collapse of the Mideast Peace Process”, International Journal of Peace Studies, 9:1, pp. 85-105.

Shlaim, Avi. (2014), The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, (Updated and Expanded: W.W Norton and Company: New York).

Smith, Charles. D. (2017), Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents (9th Edition; Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston)

Swisher, Clayton E. (2004), The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story About the Collapse of The Middle East Peace Process, (Nation Books: New York).

Tessler, Mark. (2009), “The Oslo Peace Process” in A History of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict (2nd Edition, Indiana University Press: Bloomington), pp. 755-818.

The Guardian (13th December 2017), “Palestinians No Longer Accept US as Mediator, Abbas Tells Summit”, available at:  [Accessed on 6th January 2018]


Growth of Shiite Iran Leads Israel To Embrace Unexpected Allies

Growth of Shiite Iran Leads Israel To Embrace Unexpected Allies

The emerging alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia against their common enemy – Iran came to light since Israel’s IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eizenkot gave few interviews to the independent Saudi newspaper Elaph last month (Jerusalem Post, 2 Dec 2017; Jerusalem Post, 16 Nov 2017). In the middle of November, he stated that there are many shared interests between the two countries and admitted that Israel has offered to share intelligence about Iran with Riyadh and other moderate Arab states:

“We are ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence information to confront Iran. … There are many shared interests between us and Saudi Arabia.” (As cited in Jerusalem Post, 16 Nov 2017).

Riyadh has not publicly confided in the mending diplomatic fences though. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told Egypt’s CBC television:

“There are no relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. There is the Arab peace initiative, which shows the road map to reach peace and establish normal [ties] between Israel and Arab states.” (Jerusalem Post, 2 Dec 2017).

Despite this denial, there are few reasons to suggest that Saudi Arabia is interested in the alliance not less than Israel.

Growing Power of Iran

The war against the Islamic state in Syria and Iraq strengthened Iran’s positions. The alliance of predominantly Shiite Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian forces together with Russia defeated IS Sunnites. Iranian military advisers successfully commanded some units of the Iraqi Shiite army and effectively influenced the outcome of the war. This brought a powerful position in the region to Iran. As of today, Iran allies with Assad’s regime in Iraq and Syria. In Yemen – a neighborough country with Saudi Arabia, Iran supports the Shiite Houthi rebels. And in Lebanon, it backs the Shiite Hezbollah (GPF, 29 Nov 2017).

All three: Assad’s regime, Houthis and Hezbollah are enemies to both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Why is the new geopolitical situation insecure for Israel and Saudi Arabia?

According to the analytical magazine Geopolitical Futures, Israel was fairly safe while radical Sunnite and Shiite forces were fighting with each other in Syria. However, they may now turn their focus on Israel again (GPF, 1 Dec 2017). Though, from the two options, Assad is less evil for Israel than ISIS but still an enemy. Take also into account that ISIS forces are dispersed but not completely defeated. What is worse for Israelis and Saudis is that Hezbollah, backed by both Iran and Assad, has strengthened its positions. (GPF, 1 Dec 2017).

In this context, warming relations of Israel with Saudi Arabia look very well-minded. However, yet the situation in the region is not as insecure for Israel as it may seem. Hezbollah is an enemy but Israel used to deal with Hezbollah for many years. Iran’s military achievements threaten Israel more than during the war in Syria. Nevertheless, it is not to Tehran’s benefit to confronting with Israel right now because this would lead to the renewal of sanctions imposed on Iran by the West (GPF 1 Dec 2017).

When it comes to Saudi Arabia, the relations between Sunni Saudis and Shiite Iranians have been hostile since the Iranian revolution (GPF 1 Dec 2017). Now, the struggle for the regional power between Riyadh and Tehran has intensified (Jerusalem Post 29 Nov 2017). Saudi Arabia is Iran’s regional rival but the decline of oil price has weakened the economic and political stability of Riyadh. And hence, the ability to protect itself from Iran (GPF 1 Dec 2017).

Thus, Saudi Arabia reckons on getting a strong player in the region to stand up Shiites. Therefore, it needs Israel in confronting growing power of Iran.

However, the alliance is beneficial for Israel as well. By establishing a dialogue with Arabic countries, Israel is legitimising its legal status in the Arab world.

It is not for nothing that Israel has recently changed its attitude to some former adversaries, stating that there is no more Arab coalition against Israel but those who are for and against peace.

For example, in June 2017, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated that

“We and the Arabs, the same Arabs who organized in a coalition in the Six-Day War to try to destroy the Jewish state, today find themselves in the same boat with us … The Sunni Arab countries, apart from Qatar, are largely in the same boat with us since we all see a nuclear Iran as the number one threat against all of us.” (Jewish Press 5 June 2017)

In the new geopolitical context, Israel is trying to get partners among non-extremist states, even though they are former adversaries. Just because Israel regards that former discords are less endangering than current extremism.

Israel could stand alone day-to-day terrorist attacks and few wars with neighbours in the past. However, may a broad-scale terrorism or a marginal aggression from a coalition of adversaries happen, Israel needs allies. This became especially relevant with a possibility of an escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Third Intifada) following Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

The question is how much can both Saudi Arabia and Israel, busy with their own problems, help each other, may the conflict either with Iran or other their adversaries happen? They need to look for more allies. However, U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital has narrowed down the choice of prospective candidates.


Geopolitical Futures [online], Iran Reshapes the Middle East (29 November 2017), available at: [accessed: 03/12/2017]

Geopolitical Futures [online], A Complex Dynamic Between Israel and Iran (1 December 2017), available at: [accessed: 04/12/2017]

Jerusalem Post [online], IDF Chief of Staff: Israel willing to share intelligence with Saudis by Anna Anronheim (16 November, 2017), available at: [accessed: 03/12/2017]

Jerusalem Post [online], Saudi Arabia vs Iran (29 November, 2017), available at: [accessed: 04/12/2017]

Jerusalem Post [online], Inside The Prospective Israel-Saudi Arabia Rapprochement (2 December 2017), available at: [accessed: 03/12/2017]

Jewish Post [online], Ya’alon: No More Arab Coalition Against Us, Also Containment Is Victory (5 June 2017), available at: [accessed: 05/12/2017]

Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Wednesday this week, after much speculation President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Additionally, the President signaled his intention to move the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, although the President did sign a waiver delaying this move for six months.

This announcement has caused a flaring of violence between Israeli and Palestinian forces. Clashes have erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed. The policy shift from the President has been welcomed by Israel, but has been condemned by the Arab world and also Western allies of the United States.

Officially this has been the position of the United States since the 1995 Jerusalem Act which states “Jerusalem should be recognised as the capital of Israel.” The law also required the U.S. to move its embassy to Jerusalem, but conceded the move could be put off for six months at a time as long as the President  informed Congress that such a suspension would be necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States. Every six months since 1995 successive Presidents have opted against moving its embassy, until now.

So why is this decision so controversial? Jerusalem is a place of great religious and historical significance. Firstly, it holds a special status for each of the three Abrahamic religions of the world. Therefore any policy decision about Jerusalem will cause a reaction amongst each of these three religions. Secondly, both Israel and Palestine recognise Jerusalem as their capital. This will be seen as moving a step closer to cementing Israeli sovereignty over the city. Lastly, when in July 1980, Israel passed a law declaring Jerusalem as its united capital following the Six-Day War in 1967 this was condemned by the United Nations Security Council. There are complex religious, regional and diplomatic issues to be considered.

Undoubtedly this will make any peace deal between Israel and Palestine significantly harder and thus further reduce the prospect for peace in the region. The decision will also enhance tensions in the region. Next week Jordan and Turkey will lead a meeting discussing the Arab-Islamic response to the Jerusalem decision. Hamas have also called for a Palestinian uprising and a ‘day of rage’ to highlight the anger that exists and in Indonesia and Malaysia, Muslims have also protested outside US embassies.

In a region plagued by violence and war, this is a diplomatically foolish decision. The aim of the United States should be to secure peace in the region. This move will not help this aim. Without question, the issue of Jerusalem is one of the hardest in modern diplomacy. This, however is not the correct answer.

The Middle Eastern cold war

In the last year, Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with religious realism has already caused the most pressing humanitarian disaster in world affairs, now it threatens to destabilise Lebanon.

Lebanon is a country defined by religious and political instability. It seemed these issues were going to be allayed with the accession of Michel Aoun as President.

Saudi Arabia continues to mount high profile proxy wars to strengthen its influence over other Arabic nations. It is locked in a cold war with Iran. One where polarised religious interpretation influences political decision making. Covert operations and surreptitious support for either Sunni or Shi’a paramilitaries are how the conflict has perpetuated for many decades. But recently it has reached a dogmatic fever-pitch.

The Shia paramilitary, Hezbollah, has been a fracture point in this battle for dominance for many years. It has provided opposition to Maronite Christian militias, it has fought Israel during the Lebanese civil war and it has given aid to Bashar Al Assad’s government in Syria.

Lebanon is what is known as a transitional democracy. Against all the odds it had finally attained some stability.

But the political machinations of Saudi Arabia have rudely disrupted this short-lived serenity. Lebanon’s state sovereignty has once again been breached.

The country’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, along with Yemen’s President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, have been detained in Riyadh under mysterious circumstances.

What is clear, is that Lebanon’s old foes present a very tangible threat once more. Saudi Arabia has issued a travel ban and advised that its citizens leave Lebanon as a so-called proclamation of war has been predicted. This has prompted widespread concerns about armed conflict within Lebanon – but also between Iran and Saudi Arabia- and between Hezbollah and Israel.

It is speculated that Saudi Arabia blames Iran and Hezbollah for a rocket strike from Yemen that was aimed at Riyadh airport. It is more likely the Saudi’s are disappointed by Hariri’s perceived tolerance of Hezbollah.

Of course, the role of Iran cannot be underplayed here, however,  its direct role is still unclear. Its allegiance with Hezbollah has troubled Saudi Arabia and Israel for many decades.

One factor in the escalating conflict that won’t be so widely discussed is the complicity of the West. Its unmistakable allegiance to Israel seems to be a motive in its appeasement of Saudi Arabia. It has actively supported Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. In fact, the war has been waged using US and UK arms, security and tactics – leaving millions of Yemeni people enduring famine and a cholera outbreak.

The pessimists in the region will wince at the alliance of Trump and Kushner’s US with Israel and Saudi Arabia, especially as Trump backs Mohammed Bin Salman’s efforts to strengthen his grip on the house of Saud.

The Middle Eastern heavyweights are engaging in a cold war. They are inviting a battle of destabilisation. Attentive Western powers have designs to scavenge on the political carrion. With transparency in intention becoming harder to decipher, a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is becoming an increasing possibility. The blame game is intensifying as Middle Eastern nations meddle in each other’s affairs, exacerbating perennial religious tensions. It is states resembling Yemen and Lebanon, that standby to be left in the wreckage of religious realism.

A cycle of mutual reinforcement – The Israel-Palestine conflict and omens for the future

As with all violent conflicts, a process of othering and a gradual dehumanisation of the opposition becomes an instrument of justification for those on both sides of the crossfire. The insidious combination of fear, racism and stigmatisation can distort a society’s view of other humans to the extent that systematic acts of violence can be committed without empathy and without remorse. Often, this combination is administered by one side so effectively that despite, for example, a comparative contrast in military might, a disparity in social standing or economic development, or perhaps using some of these realities as further justification, violence descends into a cycle of mutual reinforcement. On the other side of the conflict is often an enfeebled, comparatively weaker state, that resorts to symbolic forms of violence to deliver a message about the perceived injustice they face. Only then to be labelled subversives or terrorists in the process. This cycle is one of the most powerful catalysts for conflict taking place on both national and international scales.

The most pertinent example of a conflict locked in a cycle of mutual reinforcement is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Importantly, the cycle itself is perpetuated not just by physical and military violence, but also by cultural violence (Galtung,1990). Israel and Palestine remain separate entities. The Israeli’s, a powerful advanced economy with state of the art military technology. The Palestinian’s, an unrecognised entity living under occupation in the West Bank or under military control on the Gaza strip. Furthermore, the Palestinians remain separated from Israel by a wall and a series of military blockades. The power of this divide is the physical manifestation of the process of othering (Said,1978). The symbolic significance is that it is very rare for an ordinary Israeli to encounter a Palestinian – or an ‘Arab’, as they are almost exclusively referred to by Israeli’s (Peled-Elhanan,2012). The historical significance of this divide is that both Israeli and Palestinian education systems teach alternate and contrasting histories of the region. Not only contrasting histories, but the media depicts two contrasting versions of the present and the future, that only cross when violence has been committed by one side to the other (Deprez & Raeymaeckers, 2010). Thus, the social development of Israelis and Palestinians are mutually constituted by a belief that the ‘other’ is the enemy.

Israel is depicted in Palestine and by the Arab nations as an American agent of destabilisation, the product of colonial pursuits and a heavily militarised denier of Palestine’s collective history and social existence. Palestine is barely depicted by Israel at all. The unacknowledged occupants of a ‘land without a people, for a people without a land’ (Muir,2008). When they are depicted, it is in inflammatory terms. Even for many in the West, particularly in the US, Palestinians are synonymous with terrorism, a lack of development, resistance to democracy and rampant anti-Semitism. It is these carefully cultivated caricatures that allow the cycle of reinforcement to take place. When a terrorist attack happens, it is blamed on Palestinian resistance to the state of Israel and an instinct for violence and anti-Semitism. When Israel responds excessively, with the full force of its indoctrinated and vastly superior armed forces, it is because Palestinian’s are viewed as sub-human terrorists.

This legitimising discourse on both sides necessitates and condones internationally condemned treatment of Palestinians in the form of excessive military responses, widespread displacement and settlement building. Whilst Palestinians continue to fight for nationhood with what little power they possess, usually via demonstration or suicide bombing. This is the reinforcement process, with perceptions carefully conditioned to utilise and distort the narrative of the violence the opposing side has committed. It is unfortunate that this will continue until Israel forces Palestine into submission or Israel contradicts its founding doctrines and recognises a state of Palestine. However, with Benjamin Netanyahu’s and Naftali Bennett’s far-right coalition in power, and the continued settlement expansion into the West Bank, a two-state solution seems impossible (Al Jazeera,2017). And with the Rohingya crisis displaying some similar characteristics to the conflict in Israel, the power of mutual reinforcement continues to threaten international peace (BBC news,2017).


Deprez, A. and Raeymaeckers, K., (2010). Bias in the news? The representation of Palestinians and Israelis in the coverage of the First and Second Intifada. International Communication Gazette, 72(1), pp.91-109.

Galtung, J., (1990). Cultural violence. Journal of peace research, 27(3), pp.291-305

Kibble, D, (2012). A plea for improved education about ‘the Other’ in Israel and Palestine. The Curriculum journal. 23:4, pp.553-566

Muir, D., (2008). A Land without a People for a People without a Land. Middle East Quarterly.

Peled-Elhanan, N., (2012). Palestine in Israeli school books: Ideology and propaganda in education (Vol. 82). IB Tauris.

Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 199.

Al Jazeera [online], UN: Israel settlements big hurdle to two-state solution, (2017), available at: [accessed: 20/09/2017]

BBC news [online], Rohingya crisis: Suu Kyi says ‘fake news helping terrorists’, (2017), available at: [accessed: 20/09/2017]


Anglo-Saudi Relations: A Study in Realist International Theory

As we in the western world wrestle with the cultural theatrics that come with a modern brand of political correctness. From internet trolls to gender and racial tolerance; issues which are a far-cry from the cultural norms of Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of numerous basic human rights abuses and of funding international terrorism. So why does the UK, the birthplace of parliamentary democracy and a self-proclaimed cradle for modern liberal values overtly engage in the sale of arms and support to the Saudi regime. Realism is a theory of international politics which insists that states act in a rational manner and only to further their own self-interests, as opposed to liberal theory; which posits that states ally themselves in accordance to shared values (known as norms).

In a realists’ world, the UK aligns itself with the House of Saud because the relationship is a beneficial one – in the sense that the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia helps to expand the UK economy. The fact that such weapons are being used with complete disregard for Yemeni civilian life, does not seem to be a concern for the British government, as it should be according to subscribers of Liberal Theory (human rights being a supposed UK norm). In its 2016/2017 report, Amnesty International outlines the ways in which the Saudi state has also tightened its restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. It continues to detain, arrest and prosecute writers and online commentators based on vague charges. It also pursues those who attempt to defend human rights within its borders: including founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and the Union for Human Rights (Amnesty International, 2017).

Though there is no conclusive evidence that the ruling class in Saudi Arabia is actively involved in the support of ISIL, there are sources which give credence to such allegations. In the famous leaked Emails which plagued Mrs. Clinton’s 2017 bid for the presidency, John Podesta wrote that the Saudis were “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” (Wikileaks, 2015) Published diplomatic cables from the US State Department serve to reinforce Podesta’s claim: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide” (Wikileaks, 2009).

But all of this is disregarded by our government, because to address it would be counter-productive to the UK’s plans in the region. Which are representative of the West’s grander plan for the Middle-East; with the Saudi trade partnership and the mutual exchange of oil and arms at its centre. Besides the economic benefits of such a partnership, the UK is willing to ignore Saudi funding of ISIL because the alliance provides the West with a somewhat reliable ally in opposition to Iran, the Taliban and other actors the UK deems as a threat to her interests.

So a few people have their rights infringed upon, and some people may lose their lives because of terrorism, or paradoxically find themselves imprisoned on vague anti-terrorist charges. The fact is, in a realist world system, these things clearly don’t count for much.


Amnesty International, “Saudi Arabia 2016/2017” (2017): Accessible: (Accessed 17/09/2017)

WikiLeaks, “Congrats!, John Podesta Email Chain” (2015): Accessible: (Accessed 17/09/2017)

WikiLeaks, “Terrorist Finance: Action Request for Senior Level Engagement on Terrorism Finance” (2009) Accessible: (Accessed 17/09/2017)

Russia’s Very Own Turkish Coup

The move by Russia to normalise its relations with Turkey was unexpected. However, it makes perfect sense when one considers Russia’s foreign policy strategy is focused on outmanoeuvring the US and Europe over the refugee and Syria crises.

The tension that had until recently dogged relations between the two nations had been caused by the downing of a Russian jet near Turkey’s border with Syria on 24th November last year. One of the most significant links between this incident and the normalisation of Russo-Turkish relations is that a repeat is now highly unlikely. The strengthening of ties between the two will allow the Russians additional freedom to conduct airstrikes in Syria. Russia is thus in a considerably stronger position to advance its own aims and those of Bashar al-Assad, something which the US and Europe do not want to see.

The significance of Turkey in the current refugee crisis cannot be ignored either. There are approximately 2.75 million refugees currently in Turkey. Russia, like ISIS, has utilised the crisis to destabilise the domestic and foreign affairs of the US and Europe. The normalisation of ties with Turkey will give the Russians increased influence over the fate of the millions of refugees resident there. This spells bad news for a Europe that is already being strained at a political and societal level by both this crisis and Brexit. The EU’s aim of expanding will also have been set back by the normalisation as Turkey had a significant interest in one day joining the EU. It is now highly doubtful that this will happen anytime in the short or medium term future, and once again shows the ease at which Russia is able to outflank the EU at a diplomatic level.

Normalisation of relations with Turkey was nothing short of a masterstroke from Russia. It shows that they are still a force to be reckoned with on the world stage, whilst decreasing the likelihood of a solution to the refugee and Syrian crises and the instability in the EU being found. Should the isolationist and unstable Donald Trump capture the White House later this year, Russia’s work to ensure that it becomes one of the dominant powers in Eurasia will be frighteningly close to fruition. The need for greater cohesion and purpose within the EU, and for the West in general over the refugee and Syria crises has never been greater.