2017: A year of unusual predicaments

The Kushner/Netanyahu collaboration has begun with the acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The year 2017 is gradually slipping into a coma. There must be few people across the globe who will mourn its subsidence.

Certainly not almost a million Yemeni innocents. They are dying of cholera because Nero-ic Saudi Arabia wishes to demonstrate its superior might against a puny neighbour. Certainly not the overrich, under-armed state of Qatar. They have discovered that being part of a pack is no protection against cannibalism.

Certainly not the beleaguered Syrians. Hundreds of thousands of them have been decimated so that their lanky leader Bashar al-Assad can survive.

Certainly not the European Union. It is losing the UK and can already feel the new tooth of Spanish Catalonia wriggling to occupy the vacant space.

Certainly not the Congress Party in India. Like some ageing amnesiac chameleon, it is attempting to relearn how to change colour, from the safe camouflage of Nehruvian secularism to a provocative Hindutva saffron.

Certainly not the PML(N) in Pakistan. It may have lost its head Nawaz Sharif but, like the British monarchy after Charles I’s beheading, it can expect to draw upon a succession of Stuart/Sharif pretenders to his throne.

Opening a portal into 2018 for a moment, should one expect to see a change or an improvement in the international scene? That seems unlikely. The cardinal points on the world map in 2018 have already been locked into place. Key leaders in the US, China, India, Germany and France have until 2020 and beyond then before they need to face national polls. The elections in Russia next year will give Vladimir Putin a legal extension which Josef Stalin would have envied. The world’s leaders and their policies are known; their alliances have been forged. They have time to perfect them.

Two mavericks though are a cause of concern: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud. Both are less than 35 years old. Both are volatile and unpredictable and both will not rest until they have satiated the itch to dominate their respective regions.

Kim Jong-un is a snarling pet kept on a short leash by his handlers. He is permitted to growl, to gnash his teeth, but he is not allowed to bite. They know that the consequence of firing a nuclear catapult will not be a South Korean US-based heaven or a second North Korean hell but the annihilation of all Koreans.

In Saudi Arabia, given King Salman’s age and fragile health, it is possible that his impatient crown price Mohammed bin Salman could become the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques before end 2018. Until heaven commands, Mohammed bin Salman appears content frittering his wealth by ordering lethal toys. Some might argue, what use is his money if he cannot buy the world’s most expensive painting in the world? Others might wonder how a Wahabi, who eschews representation of the human figure, could justify spending $450 million on a portrait of Christ as Salvator Mundi.

The year 2017 has seen two nations — the US and Saudi Arabia — go solo. Trump’s slogan “America First” has been adapted by the Saudis to mean “Others Last”. Trump gave notice of withdrawal to his side of the Atlantic. The Saudis walked away from the Gulf Cooperation Council with an obedient UAE in tow. Trump has announced the relocation of the US embassy in Jerusalem. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation retaliated by declaring “East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine, and invited all countries to recognise the state of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital”. Palestine is to become another Cyprus — divided, and ruled separately.

Was the move to Jerusalem part of the royal banquet banter in May 2017 between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s access through Kushner to the Oval Office is not dissimilar to the confidence placed in 1971 in President Yahya Khan by then President Richard Nixon. It had fatal consequences.

The Kushner/Netanyahu collaboration has begun with the acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The next step assuredly must be recognition of Israel by first proxies of Saudi Arabia. Has anyone in Islamabad determined what Pakistan’s strategy should be? Or are they waiting for instructions in 2018 from their handlers?

By arrangement with Dawn

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