by Saurabh Dubey

West Asia never ceases to amaze with its ever-evolving covert and at times overt geo-political manoeuvrings. A region rich in culture and mineral resources, yet a pauper when it comes to ushering in abiding peace and stability. But seemingly, not all of them are cut from the same cloth of ideologically driven and politically riven mindset, at least not overtly.

Case In Point The UAE

The brightest shining star of West Asia when it comes to socio-economic stability and a role model in the Arab world to admire and emulate. In 2019, from welcoming Pope Francis to hosting the World Tolerance Summit in the same year, the UAE showed the world that its pragmatic initiatives can be a catalyst in an attempt to foster a more accommodating ideological narrative for itself that encourages religious tolerance over religious dominance, the opposite of which is practiced by other countries in the region. Abu Dhabi has even provided land for the construction a grand Hindu Temple. With a stature of being a robust global financial centre, a leader in adopting advances of AI driven technologies, a regional pioneer in assimilating renewable sources of energy, even aiming for nuclear power generation and launching a satellite in space, the UAE is in a league of its own.

Having stated the above achievements, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the UAE announced its rapprochement with Israel, following another instance of geo-political maturity shown by other Arab nations before it, namely Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. There were tell-tale signs of this impending strategic embrace between the UAE and Israel, most pertinently, in some of their recent interactions between 2018 and 2019.

Israeli athletes had accompanied the Israeli Minister for Sports and Culture Miri Regev to Abu Dhabi in 2018 and more strikingly in July 2019, military officials from UAE travelled to Israel in order to take a closer look at some US-made F-35 jets. Their collective unease about Iranian ambitions and intentions has percolated down to intelligence gathering as well, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the UAE bought two intelligence-gathering aircraft from an Israeli businessman for surveillance purposes. There were even plans for inviting Israel to take part in the Expo 2020 Dubai which has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, a Palestine bound; UAE aircraft loaded with coronavirus supplies landed at the Ben Gurion Airport. One 25th June PM Netanyahu declared that Israel and UAE will collaborate in their fight against coronavirus.

Israel, on its part has been engaging with some other Arab States as well. In 2018, PM Netanyahu visited Oman and met with the then Sultan Qaboos (PBUH). Last year, Bahrain hosted the first meeting under Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ in which neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were invited to participate. Bahrain went even further by stating its intention to normalize ties with Israel. In a first Saudi Arabia allowed Air India to fly over its airspace to Tel Aviv. Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and even allowed Israeli Haj pilgrims and businessmen to visit the Kingdom. However, the Saudis and Qataris have been silent on the peace deal between the UAE and Israel. Silence is also a form of communication, even when it comes to geo-politics.

The Palestinian predicament is getting exceedingly complex by every passing day and with more such peace deals on the anvil between Israel and possibly some other GCC States, the ‘Two State’ solution may be severely compromised to Palestine’s disadvantage. Predictably, Ankara and Tehran have been vociferous in voicing their disdain for the growing proximity and the possibility of further d├ętente between Israel and other GCC States. The two non-Arab nations have been projecting themselves as champions of the Palestine cause and their means to champion that cause is shrinking steadily. The regimes in both these countries seek to create their own arch of influence over the Muslim Ummah, but realistically speaking they lack the economic and military heft. What the two lack in economic and social influence, they try and compensate it with their proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah and Muslim Brotherhood, much like India’s decrepit western neighbour. Who knows apart from the protracted proxy conflicts of Syria, Libya, Yemen and more recently the sordid state of affairs in Lebanon, some other untoward ‘incident’ could end up being the last straw that breaks the West Asian camel’s back. With the string of ‘unexplained’ explosions which targeted many strategic locations in Iran and with Turkey eyeing hydrocarbons near Greek territorial waters, the two separate water bodies, Strait of Hormuz and the Mediterranean Sea could be the next tinderbox waiting to be set alight. One mischief may lead to miscalculation, which may lead to an all-out confrontation.

Will the wise moves of some be undone by the vices of others? Only time will tell. The time period between the months of October and November this year could perhaps provide the answer, as Uncle Sam prepares for a rather eventful Presidential election.

Saurabh Dubey tracks military and aerospace issues closely. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN