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What Does the War in the Middle East Change? - Ihor Petrenko

The war in the Middle East is a new field of clash between the interests of two camps: democratic countries and autocratic ones. Ihor Petrenko, an expert at the United Ukraine Analytical Center, writes about this in his article for The Gaze. The text of the article can be found below.

Hamas's war against Israel can still become a "black swan" for both the region and the broader geopolitical landscape. In fact, two conditional camps have emerged. One: The United States, Saudi Arabia, the EU, and some other countries in the region are interested in regional stability. The second: Russia, Iran and their proxies have interests in expanding the conflict and destabilizing the region. In general, Hamas's attack on Israel has confused many cards in the Middle East, particularly in terms of normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, for which the United States has made considerable efforts. Some experts even suggest that this attack was carried out precisely to stop the movement toward an agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This agreement could be a historic event for both the region and Washington.

An agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Firstly, it would normalize relations between the two countries, Israel would be recognized by Saudi Arabia, and the latter would be able to move forward with economic diversification, reducing dependence on oil exports by expanding cooperation with Israel in the innovation sector and beyond. Secondly, it would improve relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, making the latter an important component of the American security system in the region. Thirdly, it would have reaffirmed Israel's commitment to the Palestinian issue, which could have been the basis for progress in Palestine's status and improved relations with other Arab states.

However, the large number of casualties on both sides and the threat of conflict expansion at least put the agreement on hold. And Saudi Arabia is in a difficult position. Domestic pressure (public opinion and some influence groups) on Riyadh to support the Palestinians more is growing. But the US and EU are calling on the Saudis to become a leader in post-Hamas Gaza. However, Saudi Arabia is actually inclined to remain neutral: On the one hand, it does not commit to supporting or rebuilding Gaza, and on the other hand, it does not put pressure on the United States and Israel to stop oppressing Palestinians.

In this way, Riyadh does not close the possibility of concluding an agreement with Israel, since only a stable Middle East and stable relations with the United States will allow Saudi Arabia's ambitious economic plans to be realized.

But they also do not want to spend enormous resources on maintaining the Gaza Strip. However, in the context of Palestine, the Saudis have demands on Israel. For example, they demand tangible steps to improve the prospects of the Palestinian Authority, with the potential to negotiate a two-state solution.

They also have a clear interest in the United States - assistance in building Saudi civilian nuclear infrastructure. With certain caveats, but in general, the positions of all parties could have been achievable. However, in the current situation, the agreement will not succeed, and preconditions must be created for it again, first of all, an acceptable answer to the question: "what will happen to the Gaza Strip after Israel's ground operation?" So far, no one has such an answer. In any case, Saudi Arabia sees its role in this process as limited, for example, in the form of financial support for the UN transitional administration, which will be aimed at granting control over the territory to the Palestinian Authority.

In general, all three parties continue to have strong preferences regarding the potential possibility of concluding an agreement. The current events in Gaza will have a direct impact on the possibility of its conclusion, and everyone is ready for flexible terms in interpreting the events there, as something much more than just the fate of the Gaza Strip, no matter how cynical it may sound, is in the balance.

Impact on Other Events in the World and Ukraine

The war in the Middle East also has an impact on other events in the world, including Russia's war against Ukraine, or rather the assistance the White House wants to provide to the Ukrainian people. Realizing the importance of support for Israel from both Democrats and Republicans, Joe Biden is seeking to combine aid to the two countries into one package to significantly narrow the field of maneuver for Trumpists.

So far, both sides are playing a game of chicken: Trumpist House Speaker Johnson is putting the bill to a vote without Ukraine, while the Democratic-controlled Senate is blocking it. It's hard to say how this game will end, but despite the battles over Ukraine, the United States cannot afford to cut off aid, because the security of Americans begins with the security of their allies and partners. And these are not just words - it is what is written in their security strategy. And if the Americans do not want their soldiers to fight in defense of NATO countries, they need to continue to help Ukraine.

In this context, the words of Biden are important, as he stated: "Hamas and Putin pose different threats, but they have something in common: they both want to completely destroy a neighboring democracy." In effect, Biden equated Hamas terrorists with dictator Putin. The same comparison was made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his address. Now it is important that the American establishment unite around these words and finally stop discussions about helping Ukraine and unblock aid to Israel.

The war in the Middle East is more than just a confrontation between Israel and Hamas, it is a new field of clash between the interests of two camps: democratic countries and autocratic ones. Just like in Ukraine, persuasion and appeasement of the aggressors will not do, we must act decisively and firmly in support of those who are fighting evil.

Source: "The Gaze"

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