Trump hints approval of Israeli occupation of Golan Heights
On 21 March the U.S. President Trump announced on Twitter his intention to acknowledge Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights. Along with the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran deal it is Trump’s third distinctively pro-Israel move.
Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967 after the Six-Day War with Syria and has been holding them since. The UN has declared the annexation, announced by Israel in 1981, as an illegal occupation under international law. Trump’s decision has been denounced by the expected opponents – Syria and its allies Iran and Russia. However, the EU, Egypt, and Turkey have also opposed the recognition.
Critics especially point out the unilateralism of U.S. decision-making. Washington has condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and is now acknowledging an annexation which, according to the UN, is also against international law. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained the decision as recognising „the reality on the ground and the security situation necessary for the protection of the Israeli state“. Similar arguments were used by the Russian president Vladimir Putin in the case of Crimea.
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2019
Trump‘s statement could also have an effect on other disputed areas. If the U.S. and Russia can decide about the sovereignty of a territory based “only” on a claim of regional stability and security, why should Armenians not seize Nagorno Karabakh, Pakistanis Kashmir or Turkey the rest of Cyprus?
The recognition could also influence the upcoming Israel elections. Such a decision can be perceived by the Israeli electorate as a success of a foreign policy of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and thereby help him to get more votes. Netanyahu is currently facing not only tough re-election but also charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
Kazakhstan’s president resigns after almost 30 years in office
Kazakhstan’s longtime president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, made a surprise resignation announcement on 19 March with immediate effect. Nazarbayev ruled the country for nearly thirty years since he became the first president of independent Kazakhstan after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
It is believed that Nazarbayev intends to secure a peaceful transition of power. The leader announced the establishment of an interim leadership temporarily represented by the speaker of the upper parliament chamber, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. He will be the ‘executive leader’ until the next presidential election which will be held next year.
In honour of the long-term president, Kazakhstan capital, Astana, was renamed to ‘Nursultan’ on Saturday.
Kazakhstan developed significantly during Nazarbayev’s rule, from the formerly poor Soviet Republic used for nuclear experiments it became an upper-middle income nation with gleaming metropolises. Considering macroeconomic indicators, Kazakhstan performed well compared to other post-Soviet republics. Nazarbayev is also praised for finding the political balance between the U.S., China, and Russia.
Nonetheless, his leadership was more often put under criticism. The regime failed to diversify Kazakhstan’s economy and ensure the principles of liberal democracy. The era of high commodity prices – oil especially – lies behind the country’s economic development. Economies which are highly dependent on oil prices are vulnerable to external forces, lacking long-term resilience. Nazarbayev held on power thanks to a series of rigged elections, being repeatedly elected with close to 100 percent of the vote. The country also lacks an independent judicatory and political opposition is repressed.
Despite his resignation, Nazarbayev still holds a great amount of power in the country. He remains the head of the ruling party Nur Otan and keeps his lifetime post as chairman of the Security Council. His current successor, Tokayev, is his close confidant and his daughter, Dariga Nazarbayev, is considered as the potential winner in the 2020 election.
Germany might start shipping weapons to the Saudis again
Germany’s ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which is in place until the end of March, has not been renewed at the security council meeting on Wednesday. The council has agreed to discuss the issue again. Germany is under pressure from France, which is worried about the joint arms industry ventures. German Social Democratic Party is supposedly willing to lift the ban under the condition that the arms contain no more than 20% German-made components.
The Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) and #GermanArms journalists have been reporting on Western weapons in hands of Saudi-led coalition troops in the Yemen war including the US, UK, Germany, Austria and Belgium-made arms. These weapons are supposed to be protected from further distribution by the end-user agreements and the European countries’ governments including Germany claim that they are not aware of any violations. Despite these claims, last year Germany finally banned arms exports to ‘countries directly involved in Yemen war’, basically admitting it covered up the issue, after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia is considered a ‘strategic partner’ and an ‘anchor of stability’ in the region by Germany and is also one of the top arms industry partners. At the same time, the West is criticizing the trial and torture of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha
Authors: Jan Slánský, Matyas Bajer & Daniel Kikić
The text has not undergone language revision.