Experts warn that the Accord is motivated by a desire to secure a united front against Iran for a potential future war — a conflict that would likely make Iraq and Afghanistan look mild by comparison.
On paper at least, last month’s U.S.-sponsored agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were all about peace. But behind the headlines, a darker, much more worrying picture of regional alliances, weapons deals, destabilization campaigns, and messianic prophecies emerge.
The Abraham Accord, as it is known, is likely to expand the power of Gulf dictatorships and increase the number of devastating high-tech weapons in the Middle East, fueling further instability and bloodshed, a welcome prospect for neoconservative hawks and religious zealots who see the deal as fulfilling ancient prophecies about the end of the world. Above all, the deal can be seen as an attempt to present a united front against Iran for any potential future war — a conflict that would likely make Iraq and Afghanistan look mild by comparison.
But across corporate media, the accord was almost universally hailed as a “peace deal” — and a potentially massive breakthrough. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board presented Trump as a master dealmaker, breaking the mold of “failed conventional wisdom” on the Middle East, and claiming that he deserved far more praise from the media for his breakthrough, suggesting he was not getting it because of their anti-Trump bias. Yet even MSNBC, not a network known for praising the president, found it difficult to find an angle that did not paint him as a great peacemaker. Trump has subsequently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is among the favorites to win it, according to bookmakers.
While it is Trump gaining the plaudits, in reality, the man organizing operations is his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner has spent his entire adult life organizing for zionist groups and making contacts with the Israeli right, his family’s charitable organization has donated thousands to the IDF and to illegal Jewish-only settlements. Kushner has been leaning heavily on Saudi Arabia to join the new alliance, promising them state of the art new weaponry and a host of economic benefits. A cult-like hero in much of Israel, he has time and again shown his disgust for Palestinian life, claiming they have “done nothing right in their sad, pathetic lives” and own a “perfect track record of missing opportunities,” presenting his so-called “Deal of the Century” was an opportunity for them to finally stop playing the victim. Many on the religious right in Israel talk of Kushner in almost reverential tones, seeing him as completing a divine mission.
Trump campaigned on a platform of “draining the swamp” — i.e. removing the corrupt warhawks from the White House. Yet he has surrounded himself with many of the Bush-era “crazies” and “even craziers,” including the likes of Michael Flynn and John Bolton, who was considered too much of a loose cannon for Bush to handle. Kushner has been “the neocons’ backdoor” back into the White House, where, not with their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has become the number one target.
The Abraham Accord appears to have been deeply unpopular with the people of the UAE and Bahrain, who risked serious consequences by protesting the decision on social media. Nevertheless, their governments justified it by claiming they had guaranteed that Israel would not annex the Jordan Valley as it announced it would in the summer. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later made clear that the plans were merely now “delayed” and that they remain on the table.
A strange “peace” deal
Yet a number of experts who spoke to MintPress questioned the entire framing of the Abraham Accord as a peace deal, claiming instead that this was far less about peace than about war, particularly with Iran.
Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: a Primer,” which is now in its seventh edition, said of the deal:
The notion that this was somehow a peace deal implies that somehow until this ‘fabulous deal’ Israel the UAE and Bahrain were somehow not at peace, but at war. And that is simply not true; they had very good ties, they had commercial, trade and security ties that go back decades in the case of the UAE. But they were always very quiet because the official position of the Arab League and the actual position of Arab populations across the region were strongly opposed to normalization with Israel as long as the oppression of the Palestinians continued.”
For such a “peace deal,” negotiations certainly seemed to revolve quite heavily around weapons transfers. Much of the accord focussed on American plans to sell the UAE and Bahrain high tech armaments, including the costly Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, Boeing’s EA-18G Growler jets, and General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drones, previously off-limits to anyone in the region except the Israelis. Thus, it is difficult to see how flooding the world’s most war-torn region with even more advanced weaponry, especially to nations currently involved in the bombing campaigns against Yemen, will secure peace.
“The UAE and Bahrain are key customers for the U.S. arms trade,” Bennis explained,
They are very eager to buy more. So they get brownie points from the Trump administration. They get promises of being able to buy more and better military gear, and Israel will get even more weapons to maintain its congressionally-guaranteed ‘qualitative military edge.’ They give up nothing because they already have these relations with Israel, who had already suspended its threatened annexation. It is now just a matter of making it public. So everybody gains except the Palestinians.”
Almost immediately after the accord was announced, the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, traveled to the UAE to meet with Emirati security officials to discuss “cooperation in the fields of security,” as well as regional issues, Al-Jazeera reported. Thus, as Greg Shupak of the University of Guelph, Ontario, and author of “The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media,” argued, “peace deal” is a misleading framing of what looks more like the beginnings of a military alliance. “In the language of countries with egregious human rights records like Israel and the UAE, ‘security’ is a euphemism for violent repression,” he added.
Iran in the crosshairs
From being a key ally of the United States under the Shah, since the 1979 revolution, Iran has become an obsession for planners in Washington. The U.S. is currently waging an all-out economic war against Tehran, hoping to foment an anti-government movement. U.S. sanctions have decimated the value of the Iranian rial and sent the prices of consumer goods soaring. Personal savings have been wiped out and lives have been stunted. Many have lost out on opportunities to study abroad or even get married due to economic pressure. More seriously, the U.S. has also made it extremely difficult to import life-saving medicines, leading to countless deaths.
“The sanctions deliberately target ordinary Iranians, women and children,” Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran told MintPress. “They are designed to kill hospital patients and to create poverty. They have had partial success.”
Iran was one of the first countries to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, and the U.S. government worked hard to dissuade all nations from selling or even giving the Islamic Republic face masks, medicine, or other equipment. In the end, the World Health Organization stepped in and directly gave the Iranians what it could, a major reason the Trump administration has decided to leave the organization. In 2018, Bolton promised the Iranian exile group the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) that they would soon rule over Iran, essentially guaranteeing regime change for the country of 82 million people. In January of this year, Trump decided to assassinate public figure and statesman Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad while he was attending regional peace talks. Trump donors like Sheldon Adelson want the president to go further and drop a nuclear bomb on the country. Despite pulling out the nuclear deal itself, the Trump administration has recently used Iran’s non-compliance with the same treaty as a reason to trigger even harsher “snapback” sanctions against Tehran.
For Bennis, the Israel-UAE-Bahrain deal was less about peace, and more about setting up a united front in a possible coming war with the Iranians, noting that Trump’s central foreign policy goal for the Middle East is “to build up Israel as the centerpiece of an anti-Iran coalition. That has been underway for years now… what we have here is a consolidation of the U.S.-backed anti-Iran coalition across the region.”
While media aimed at a more mass market hid this fact, elite, insider journals were more frank. Foreign Policy, for example, wrote that the Abraham Accord has made Trump’s, “Maximum pressure’ policy of economic asphyxiation against Tehran more effective and painful than his predecessor’s sanctions campaign.”
Increased Arab collaboration with Israel and the United States has helped the latter obstruct clandestine financial channels and escape valves traditionally used by Iranian authorities and institutions to evade US sanctions.”
What are the consequences for Iran under this new partnership? Shupak warned that those wishing for peace in the region should treat the deal with suspicion, telling MintPress,
The UAE and Bahrain can now openly and comprehensively partner with Israel in the U.S.-led effort to destroy it. Because there is no longer a need to even pretend that Israel is not partners with the UAE and Bahrain, this alliance can work together in full support of one another. That means it’s now possible to have more effective enforcement of the already crushing economic blockade of Iran, collaborative efforts to carry out subversion inside Iran, more intimate sharing of intelligence and perhaps of weapons, as well as greater logistical support and possibly military coordination and integration if a full scale attack on Iran comes to pass.
A tiny island of only 1.5 million people, Bahrain is nonetheless an important strategic state in the Middle East. The nation is home to the United States Fifth Fleet, its primary base for the entire West Asian-Middle East region. The base has proven vital over the decades as a launchpad for American invasions of neighboring states and continues to serve a role as a base of operations for the U.S.
Both Bahrain and the UAE are also partners in the Saudi-led coalition’s aggression in Yemen, not only attacking military targets but striking against medical and water facilities over 200 times since the war began in 2015. The United Nations has called the country “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” estimating that 14 million people — over half its population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. The Abraham Accord is sure to increase the amount of high-tech weaponry available to both Bahrain and the UAE, which will immediately be used in their Yemen campaign.
The destabilization of the country has led the World Food Program to warn of a “famine of biblical proportions” if nothing is done about it. The UAE and Bahrain have continued to justify their involvement in the conflict on the basis of the Houthi militias’ alleged ties to Iran, claiming they need to support the legitimate government as a bulwark against Iranian domination of the region.
“The UAE is one of the central protagonists in the cataclysmic war of aggression against Yemen—alongside key partners such as Saudi Arabia, the U.S., U.K., and Canada—so there is a strong possibility that the UAE will unleash these killing machines on the impoverished Yemeni population that it has already done so much to devastate,” said Shupak. “Likewise, increased intelligence sharing between Israel and the UAE could entail Israel helping the UAE having more, and possibly more advanced, information that it can use to maim and kill Yemenis.”
Palestine: no justice. No peace
Notable by their absence at the negotiations was any Palestinian representation, and according to Shupak, the deal actually lifts international pressure on Israel with regards to Palestine, exactly the opposite of what the UAE and Bahrain have claimed.
What’s most significant for Palestinians about normalization is that it means Israel no longer has to face the political and economic costs of being boycotted by the UAE and Bahrain or any state that chooses to follow them: thus, a mechanism that could have helped play some part in ending Israeli colonialism is no longer available,” he told MintPress.
In fact, Israel did not formally relinquish its claim to the fertile Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, nor did any of its promises to moderate its behavior towards Palestine result in the cessation of bombing Gaza, which it continued to do throughout the talks, let alone lifting blockades against Palestinians or guaranteeing them the right of return to their homes.
Therefore, while some in the media try to spin the deal as a good thing for Palestinians, there will likely be no reduction, let alone an end to their suffering in the near future. This, for Bennis, was the fact that undermined the whole concept of a peace accord:
The definition of peace has to come back to what we learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, which is that peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice. If you are not going to at least talk about justice for the Palestinians then you’re not serious about peace.”
And so while New York Times columnists might describe the news as “a rare triumph in the Middle East,” the question remains, a triumph for whom? Perhaps for Washington war hawks, defense contractors, and undemocratic Middle Eastern rulers, but not for the people of the region. “[The accord] is very bleak if you care about human rights and anything remotely resembling justice,” Bennis added.
Feature photo | Members of the Iranian army take part in the annual Zolphaghar 99 military drill in the Gulf of Oman, September 10, 2020. Photo | WANA
Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.