A few days ago, US President Donald Trump announced from the White House the signing of a historic peace agreement between the State of Israel on the one hand and the countries of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the other.
Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates)
This agreement was presented by the American and Israeli media as well as the two Arab countries, as the most important of the last decades. But as Middle East observers, we are facing a difficult test on how to present it and analyse what follows, given that this peace deal was made between countries that are not in a real state of conflict or war. Therefore, in order to see what impact it will have and what it will add to the general course of the Middle East, we must look at its details and lay out various assumptions.
Examining in depth Israeli newspapers in recent years, we can clearly see that Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi have been in contact and coordination in many areas for over two decades. This communication took the form of an exchange of intelligence, as in the case of the assassination of Mahmoud al-Bahbouh, a very important leader of the Al-Qassem Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian militia Hamas, in the United Arab Emirates by Mossad in early 2010. The event was an important turning point for the cooperation between the two parties and its evolution from the low level of communication of the intelligence services to the high level of cooperation in security. As far as Bahrain is concerned, communication with Tel Aviv was mediated by Abu Dhabi.
With the expansion of the Arab Spring and the increase in military violence in Syria since 2011, the Syrian file has become a new communication pole between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi through the M.O.C. (Military Operations Command) room, a military operation centre in Jordan, led by Washington, in which the most important active countries are Israel and the UAE. Due to the Syrian file, cooperation between the two countries has expanded from the security sector to the higher level of military coordination. However, the most important point in the development of relations between Israel and the UAE was the Egyptian file after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi and the rise of General Sisi, through financial and media support from the UAE, in direct coordination with Tel Aviv, to turn Egypt into the ideal ground for convergence of views between the two parties until the presentation of the Abraham agreement signed in Washington a few days ago as only a protocol, nothing more.
As for the international level, the Iranian file was another important point of coordination between the two countries through their lobby in Washington. The Israeli and UAE diplomatic missions in Washington worked closely to bring Trump in the White House to push him to live up to his promises and pull out of the nuclear deal with Tehran. Therefore, as confirmed by many press reports, American territory was the most suitable for a direct agreement that attracted high-ranking officials of the Emirates and Israel.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (UAE), President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Thus, we can say with confidence that this agreement did not end a war and will not add anything new to the relations between these countries politically, militarily, security and intelligence wise, but rather seals the pre-existing convergence of views of their leaders in all the Middle East files, starting from Iran to Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, and to the Arab Spring. Here we need to look at the stance of both countries on these issues.
On the issue of revolutions and the Arab Spring, the views of Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv converge almost completely. The two governments see the Arab Spring as a threat to their influence and stability in the region. The UAE is trying to give the picture of internal stability and good economic situation, but this picture is not complete. There is an aspect that the UAE media never mention, as their leadership is constantly persecuting members of the Emirati opposition Islah Party associated with the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Fears of the party's dominance sparked Emirati hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood internationally and explains Abu Dhabi 's stance against the Arab Spring revolutions, of which the Muslim Brotherhood benefited the most. On the other hand, Israel sees that the transformation of the Arab countries into a democracy will lead to a state of instability that with each new election could lead to strong and hostile governments, while dictatorial regimes are an ideal choice that can work with them and communicate under or over the table, making Israel more stable.
On the other hand, the two countries are not friendly to the current Turkish government, a rising power in the region that is working hard to increase its military and economic influence in the Middle East and North Africa, which brings it into direct conflict with Abu Dhabi, whose influence in Egypt and Libya is also growing. Furthermore, Turkey is in conflict with Israel mainly because of its relationship with Hamas. Finally, the Iranian file between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv is the most complex and important for all parties, so we must present it from both sides.
Initially, the views of many Middle East experts are divided on the relationship between Tehran on the one hand and Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv on the other. Some see the two countries as opposed to Tehran's growing influence in the region, while others believe there is direct or indirect cooperation between them to pursue their interests. Based on this, I will try to present my personal view on the results of the Abraham peace agreement in the Middle East, which may differ from the above.
In fact, relations between Iran and Israel and the UAE are particularly complex and interconnected. Despite great efforts by the Emirates lobby in Washington to support Trump's arrival to the White House and the termination of the nuclear deal with Tehran, Abu Dhabi is the Iranian regime's most important way out to avoid US sanctions. According to 2019 statistics, trade between the two countries was about $ 13.9 billion. Abu Dhabi also plays an important role in supporting the Assad regime, Tehran's hand in Syria, financially and diplomatically. Therefore the effects of the Abraham agreement on relations between the two countries are not yet clear, as Tehran needs Abu Dhabi economically, but it is more likely that it will gradually redefine the level of this economic cooperation until the Abu Dhabi's intentions towards it in the future become clear.
As for Tel Aviv, despite the apparent image of hostility, this does not mean that it wants a war with Tehran. Indeed, reality confirms that the Israeli government is currently setting two key conditions for opening a new page with Tehran. The first is the ending of any Iranian military nuclear project and the second is the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syrian territory and the Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani militias backed by them. In general, however, Israel is not oriented towards changing the Iranian regime and is receptive to the Iranian presence in Iraq and Yemen.
Regarding Bahrain, the scene may be more affected by the results of the Abraham Agreement. Iran will consider this agreement a gateway for Israel to reach the Arabian Gulf via Bahrain territories and from there to the Iranian coast. This fear will push Iran to reassess the situation in the Gulf. In this context, Tehran could step up cooperation with the Bahraini opposition and move towards creating a military arm, similar to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon or the Houthis in Yemen.
In conclusion, this agreement will not bring about any fundamental change in the region as a whole. The Palestinians are still at enmity with Israel, and the Hamas and Jihad rockets remain a constant threat to its interior. Hezbollah, on the other hand, continues to heat the northern Israeli front, putting it in a state of constant emergency, and Tehran is deeply rooted in Syria. The essence of this agreement, then, is how it personally favours Trump in the run-up to the US presidential election and Netanyahu who will present himself to Israel as a man who makes history.
That is, much ado about nothing.