In November 1942, after the climactic victory at the Battle of El Alamein, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
The end of the beginning to the Arab-Israeli conflict occurred in 2015, when the Iran deal simultaneously endangered the security of Israel and most of the Sunni Arab states in the Middle East.
This forced former enemies to cooperate in private, and now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have finally made public a relationship that has been improving in private for years.
The normalization of Israel's relations with the UAE and Bahrain is perhaps also the end of the beginning in the broader war on terrorism. Nineteen years ago, it seemed reasonable to expect that the ensuing war on terror would last for many decades, much like the Cold War.
Recent events provide the strongest signal since the occurrence of 9/11 that the war on terror will be much shorter than the Cold War. While the recent normalization of relations with Israel is certainly good for Israel, it is also good for America. And as more Arab and Muslim states make peace with Israel, the more bridges will be burned between Islamic terrorists and their financial benefactors.
United Arab Emirates
In 2002, former FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before Congress about the role of the UAE in financing the 9/11 attacks:
In the aftermath of these attacks and the ensuing investigation, we have developed considerable information with respect to how this operation was funded. Specifically, the funding mechanism behind the conspiracy appears to center around Marwan al-Shehhi and individuals providing financial support primarily from the UAE.
Marwan al-Shehhi was one of the 19 hijackers and piloted United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Al-Shehhi was from the UAE, and was among the majority of 9/11 hijackers that entered the United States from flights out of Dubai International Airport. In fact, 17 of the nineteen hijackers flew through Dubai in the months preceding the 9/11 attacks.
For years, front companies from the UAE and wealthy Emiratis have provided funding to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In the last 19 years, the UAE went from one of the three countries recognizing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to just one of the four Arab nations that have normalized relations with Israel.
In 1981, the Ayatollah Khomeini attempted to spread the Iranian Revolution to Bahrain. The royal family of Bahrain is Sunni while more than 60% of the population are Shi'ites.
From 1994 to 1996, the Shia revolted again. Iran provided assistance to the revolt through a splinter group of Hezbollah known as Hezbollah al-Hejaz. This was the same group that killed 19 Americans at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. From 2011 to 2013, the Kingdom of Bahrain had to suppress another Shia revolt that Iran had supported.
Bahrain's capital, Manama, is one of the strongest financial centers in the Arab world. With the UAE and Bahrain making peace with Israel, it will be easier for the United States and its allies to significantly cut off the financing for Islamic terrorism.
Both the UAE and Bahrain share Israel's concern that the Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat to the countries in the region. As of September 11, 2020, 163 out of the world's 193 countries recognize Israel. Most of the 30 holdout nations are either members of the Arab League or Muslim-majority countries.
In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote a memo on the role of wealthy Saudis in financing Sunni jihadists groups. "More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," wrote Clinton.
If Saudi Arabia could be among the next countries to normalize relations with Israel, it really would be the beginning of the end for both the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the war on terrorism.
Even if the Trump administration cannot secure normalization agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the near future, it should at least demand more cooperation on cutting off the funding to terrorist groups.
Even before COVID-19, youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa averaged between 25% and 30% according to the IMF. These countries should focus on investing in their own people and not funding terrorists.
The Arab World
In 2020, 9 million Israelis would like to live in peace with the 420 million people in the 22 Arab states. The four Arab states that already recognize Israel make up 126 million Arabs.
Just this week, Ahmed Majdalani, Social Affairs Minister for the Palestinian Authority, reported that Oman, Sudan, the Comoros, Djibouti and Mauritania are in normalization talks. These five countries combined have a population of 56 million Arabs.
Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have clearly demonstrated that they want to make peace. If progress with Bahrain and the UAE can be followed by normalization of relations with other Arab states, that may finally put enough pressure on Palestinian leaders to actually accept a two-state solution in both words and actions.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. For several years Robert worked closely with Peter Hannaford, a senior aide to Ronald Reagan, as the primary researcher on four books and numerous columns. Robert has also worked on multiple presidential, national and statewide campaigns, including as a field office staffer for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Due to his own Russian-Jewish heritage, Robert has a keen interest in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations. In 2017 he was the co-organizer of an effort that erected commemorative statue of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Robert graduated with a major in Political Science from the University at Buffalo, and received his Master's in Public Administration, with a focus in healthcare, from the State University of New York College at Brockport. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in Rochester, New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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