Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Demise of the "Peace Process"

Alastair Crooke (Conflicts Forum) has posted to Middle East Channel a superb essay on the demise of the "peace process."  Among his observations and reflections . . .

The peace process solution-phantasm has not only divided the Palestinians; but also shaped the political structure for the region for the last decades: polarizing the region -- on the false premise -- between those who were 'opposed' to peace and those who 'supported' peace. Many of those who were termed opposed to peace in reality were opposed more to Israel's self-referencing security-led paradigm -- than to a peaceful solution per se. . . .

Disdain and repudiation of the West's 'solutions' qua solution on Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iran has already shifted the balance of power away from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, towards an emerging northern tier -- Syria, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Qatar and now probably Iraq -- loosely termed the resistance axis. In addition to Turkey, we can expect other new players to enter the regional political arena, such as Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.  These new faces will loosen-up and further erode existing political structures, and dilute the influence of Arab states who have adhered strictly to the US and European line, in the coming more pluralist and fluid era.  

What is key here is a growing popular belief that neither Europe nor the US has -- within themselves -- the potential, the energy, to change tack and find new ways of approaching these tensions. Western solutions have taken on a dated appearance that is dissonant with the contemporary political fabric of the Middle East. Increasingly, solutions are sought from within the region. Hopes for a solution to the current crisis in Lebanon, for example, are not vested the West. They rest on internal solutions brokered across the old peace process divide, by Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

The WikiLeaks cables will reinforce this dynamic of disdain. For a Middle East already disillusioned with the western discourse, the mass leaking of documents will have its effect in the region: it does not matter whether the leaks are gossipy, related to long-suspected US ambitions, comprise wishful-thinking or are nothing new. The lack of a major revelation is not the point. What is significant is the sheer breadth and quantity -- the tsunami of leaks -- that speaks, not of grand missions or fine intentions, but of unrelenting petty cynicism and manipulation. This may not be new to its élite practitioners, but laying it out so plainly, and in full view, will undeceive profoundly the narrative of a western superior mission. . . .

The future of Iran occupies a central position in the region. Iran is, to a lesser or greater extent, an actor at all the main political fault lines of the Middle East. It is the future of Iran that has become the new pole. It is around the Iranian pole that, on the one hand, the so-called resistance axis is now grouped; and it is around the same pole, on other hand, that stand the ranks of the opposition. This regional re-shaping is displacing the poles of the erstwhile peace process as the defining component or signifier of regional politics. 

The reflection in the American looking glass therefore is, and will be, Iran. But the Iran of the looking glass is no more than the refracted image of the emergence of a new Middle East order; with newly self-confident states and movements emerging to global stature. Iran is also the reflected symbolic image, representing the wider political stirrings, symbolizing the fear of the gene of 1979 transposed into a new era; and of the end to the old era of deference.  

It is these evolutions that lie at the focus of both the Israeli and the US fears for their own futures in the region. It is these fears, refracted back at them, that they see in their diplomatic looking glass -- changes that supersede for these two states the peace process in terms of importance, or threat. Thus the iconic Israeli-Palestinian clash has become subsumed as a part of this impending collision of opposing dynamics between Iran and US/Israel -- a 'pièce de theâtre' within a bigger setting: its diminution a reflection of the new dynamics emerging here. This is a subordination that implies that the Palestinian issue is now contingent on what happens in the wider regional dynamics, rather than regional politics being contingent on the Palestinian issue. This is a significant inversion in politics.

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