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America’s Warsaw Conference on the Middle East will not resolve any crises

February 13, 2019 at 2:00 pm

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a speech during a conference devoted to peace and security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland on 12 February 2019 [Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency]

In the days leading up to the Warsaw Conference on the Middle East, the debate continues over the objectives of this American initiative, its seriousness and feasibility. This also includes the question of the motives of several Arab countries intending to participate, as many of their calculations and priorities are contrasting.

Jordan and Egypt to a large extent do not feel embarrassed about attending the conference in the Polish capital, as both countries are linked to Israel by peace treaties, which makes participation in such an event logical, unlike the other Arab countries. For Jordan in particular, the relationship with the United States is increasing steadily to strategic levels, which are becoming deeper and wider. This is reflected in the repeated increases in the amount of US economic, financial, security and military aid to the Hashemite Kingdom. However, the margin of manoeuvrability that Jordanian diplomacy enjoys is limited, especially given the escalation of its economic crisis and the “modest” assistance provided by family and friends.

Despite this, Amman does not share Washington’s view that Iran is the only threat or even the main threat to security and stability in the region. Nor, however, does it disregard the dangerous repercussions of Iran’s policies and actions on the security and stability of some Arab countries and societies. Jordan is at the head of the group of countries which still believe that the international community’s failure to resolve the Palestinian conflict and the intensification of religious and nationalist extremism in Israel, with its inevitable erosion of the chances of an independent and viable Palestinian state, provide the greatest threat to the security of the region and future generations. In this context, the Jordanian “narrative” is supported by other countries in the east and the west, including Arab, African and Asian states.

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Only Israel has an interest in reducing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to “just a detail” in the face of the major conflicts across the region. Unfortunately, this approach is encouraged and promoted by Washington, and it even seeks to re-engineer the maps of priorities, alliances and axes in accordance with that view.

The Warsaw Conference, promoted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton during their tour of the region last month, seems to have lost much of its glamour, with Washington under pressure following declined invitations and reservations about the conference’s main and, in fact, sole aim to confront Iran. Hence, Washington has been forced to expand the agenda and include the Palestinian issue, along with all of the region’s other crises, without any preparation or willingness to provide any real platform to resolve any of them. The conference has become more likely to take the form of a show, the effectiveness of which will end as soon as the delegates leave Warsaw and return to their countries.

Hence, I can understand the Palestinians’ opposition to the conference, despite the US putting them and their cause onto the agenda. The Palestinian leadership is not interested in providing a “Palestinian cover” for targeting Iran and pleasing and serving nobody but Israel. The Palestinians are aware that their cause and legitimate rights will not be considered seriously in Warsaw, but merely mentioned as part of the “deal of the century” in a speech made by President Donald Trump’s envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner. This is completely understood by Amman.

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Washington has invited more than 70 countries to the conference and only about half have responded. However, this should not reduce the risk that Benjamin Netanyahu will try to promote himself as the victor on the path of normalisation with the Arab world. It is true that Israel has recorded significant successes recently in this regard, but it is also true that it is still relatively far from making real breakthroughs. We must beware of Netanyahu returning from Warsaw with more pictures to use in his election campaign that is already marred by investigations into his alleged corruption and other scandals. We must also beware of the collapse and decline of the wall resisting normalisation with Israel, at the very least because of our commitment to the provisions and spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Translated from Addustour, 12 February 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.