International mediation rarely works, but the important question is why does it fail? These days, the media are covering a number of reconciliation attempts being undertaken by some countries, such as Kuwait for example, between an Arab and non-Arab country, such as Egypt and Turkey on one hand and Saudi Arabia and Iran on the other.
The main objective of mediation of course is to contain conflicts and alleviate tension in the Middle East. It is well known that such steps rarely succeed to end raging disputes between states. Again, we keep wondering why we would seek reconciliation? What are the implications of the possible continuation of differences and strife? Who pays the price? And who wins?
The Middle East these days is in a deplorable situation at all fronts. The security, financial, social and political levels are all under pressure, and the continuation of this situation means that we are embarking on humanitarian disasters that will claim the lives of millions of people here.
In a previous article, I wrote about the possibility of a new world war, and I remember some of the comments that I received about exaggerating the threat. But today we are seeing some signs of a humanitarian war. In fact, the continued decline in oil prices will have serious implications economically, socially and thus security-wise and politically for Gulf states. For example, states that had been supplying several Middle Eastern countries with generous donations from oil money may now no longer be able to continue doing so, because they have their own expenses, like paying salaries to citizens. Moreover, the Gulf states are consumer countries and not agricultural or industrial states.
Let’s not disregard the fact that Gulf states are also partners in the war in Yemen, which is expensive and may continue for years. All Arab countries are facing the threat of terrorist militias like IS and sectarian extremism at home, keeping them in a state of anticipation, stress and anxiety. So it is like being in an open war on several fronts, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq and all the way to Libya. This imposes tension and fear of the future. It is normal for Gulf states to worry and call for peace.
Mediation between Arab countries these days seems impossible not because the parties involved do not want peace and security, but because peace in some cases will entail certain concessions or terms that cannot be accepted at all. For example, when some call for mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, they ignore the fact that this is not the first time relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been severed. It happened before in 1941 and 1987.
Today, the sectarian dimension is becoming dominant and the conflict has transferred from the official level to the public one without logic and considerations of international agreements of non-interference and respect for the affairs of other sovereign states. The same applies to the Egypt-Turkey situation. This is why I think international mediation rarely works.
I believe that only international reconciliation can be accepted or worthy, because regional conflicts cannot be negotiated. I can understand totally the Saudi position as well as Egypt’s, and don’t accept Iran or Turkey interfering in the affairs of Arab neighbors. These interventions divide the people and citizens on a sectarian basis and spread hatred between members of one nation.
We must be aware that blatant intervention in the private affairs of states and the lack of respect for their sovereignty is dangerous. It requires us, as journalists and peace activists, to call for awareness and support conditional mediation but without concessions to protect our countries and ourselves from sectarian extremism that may drag us into a global war and humanitarian disaster.
By Muna Al-Fuzai