Tom Arms’ World Review

Surprise, Surprise, Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to the two-state solution.

The Israeli Prime Minister has never made any secret that he believes that the only guarantee of Israeli security is Israeli control of Palestinian security. On Thursday he reiterated his position.

Any Palestinian state, Netanyahu argues, would be dedicated to the overthrow of the Israeli state. And even if they publicly committed themselves to peace, Netanyahu wouldn’t believe them.

The primary responsibility of every country is defence. Ipso facto, there can be no Palestinian state—according to Netanyahu.

Most of the rest of the world believes that there are basically three possible outcomes to the Arab-Israeli Crisis: The Israelis wipe out the Palestinians. The Palestinians wipe out the Israelis. Or the two sides somehow work out a modus operandi that allows the two groups to live side by side in peace.

The Biden Administration was hopeful that the experience of Gaza would show that the only long-term opportunity for peace is a political solution which involves a Palestinian state.

But Netanyahu appears unfazed by Gaza. He told a press conference this week that Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan, which would include the territory of any future Palestinian state.

This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What to do? I tell this truth to our American friends, and I also told them to stop the attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel’s security.

John Kirby, the US National Security Adviser, replied: “Israel and the US see things differently.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, sees the Middle East very much through Bibi eyes. His Abraham Accords were designed to circumvent the Palestinians and the two-state solution. Netanyahu’s continued intransigence could—at least in part—reflect his hope for a Trump victory in the November presidential elections.

A Trump Landslide?

Iowa was a Trump landslide. Or was it? Only 15 percent of the state’s 718,000 registered Republicans voted—the lowest turnout in years.

Why? There is no certain answer but here are a few possibles, starting with the MAGA camp: The weather was atrocious. Nobody in their right mind would risk leaving home to caucus in the sub-Arctic temperatures.

Also, the media named Trump the big margin winner before the caucusing started. Why bother risking frostbite to vote for one of the losers or even for the winner? Best stay warm.

Now, for the non-MAGA Republican perspective: We don’t want Trump, but none of the others can win, so why risk hypothermia for a wasted vote?

Everyone is an individual, even in Iowa. So chances are that there are 69,000 reasons why 85 percent of the state’s Republicans failed to caucus. But if that figure is extrapolated across America—then Trump is in trouble come the general election.

As any seasoned campaigner will tell you. The key to winning elections is to persuade as many as possible of your registered voters to get out and vote. Apathy can result in political disaster.


Conspicuous by its near silence in the aftermath of the Taiwanese elections is the voice of Chinese President Xi-jingping.

To briefly re-cap, the Chinese leader was loud in his election support for the Kuomintang but and condemnation for the incumbent Democratic People’s Party. This is because the KMT favoured closer relations with Mainland China based on the 1992 “one country two systems” concept. The DPP, on the other hand, is moving Taiwan closer to a quasi-sovereign independent state.

The DPP’s William Lai won the presidency, although the party has lost its majority in  parliament.

The US is in two-minds about the result. They want Taiwan in the democratic capitalist camp. But not necessarily as a sovereign Taiwan. This could provoke Beijing into a military solution which would drag in America’s Pacific-based Seventh Fleet.

So the State Department issued a rather anodyne statement which welcomed the fact that Taiwan held democratic elections, without focusing on the possible repercussions. Statements from Japan, the EU and NATO countries followed suit.

Beijing was, if anything, more anodyne, it has said virtually nothing about the election result itself. Instead it focused on the statements from the Western countries and basically said they had no right to make any comment because Taiwan is part of China. The diplomatic conversation then ended.

There could be lots of reasons for the Chinese not to take the argument further. There is no point. Xi is busy purging his military and party structures. The Chinese economy is sluggish. Or, he could be waiting for a Trump victory in November.

Is honour now satisfied in the Iran-Pakistan tit for tat missile exchanges?

The first blow was delivered by Iran against an Iranian terrorist group near Panjgur Baluchostan called Jaish-al-Adi. Two children and a number others were seriously injured. Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran was recalled and the Iranian ambassador, who was visiting Tehran, was told not to return.

A few days later Pakistan retaliated with a strike against an anti-Pakistan terrorist group which they called Sarmachas. Nine people died. The Pakistanis claimed that the attack was designed to deter “a large-scale terrorist attack” from Iran.

There is a long 565-mile border between the two countries. Some of the inhospitable terrain on other side is used as bases for attacks both countries. The difficulties involved in policing the region provides a reasonably safe haven for terrorist groups.

Iranian-Pakistan relations have see-sawed over the years, but the biggest bones of contention have been attitudes towards Afghanistan and religious divisions. Pakistan has supported the Sunni Taliban while Iran backs Afghanistan’s Shia tribes.

The situation is complicated by a Balochistan Liberation Army which wants to hive off bits of Iran, Pakistan and southern Afghanistan to form their own state. They end up fighting everyone, including Jaish al-Adi.

There is the additional problem that both Iran and Pakistan have enough security problems elsewhere. Pakistan has tricky situations in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and of course in its relations with India. Iran is deeply embroiled in the wider Middle East problems with its support for the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah. Neither needs another security headache.

Which could explain why Pakistan followed its missile attack with an olive branch. The foreign ministry said: “Pakistan fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iran. The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan’s own security and national interest which is paramount and cannot be compromised.”

In the meantime, China, the only country which has close relations with both Iran and Pakistan has offered to mediate, thus giving Beijing an opportunity to widen its Middle East footprint.


Individual European countries refuse to give up on Ukraine. American Republicans are holding up $61 billion in aid and Hungary’s Viktor Orban is blocking European Commission help worth $76 billion.

But Orban’s veto does not stop individual European countries from acting independently.

The Baltic States are in the frontline both literally and financially. Tiny Estonia has just pledged $1.3 billion in aid and increased its defence budget to three percent of GDP.

Britain’s Rishi Sunak recently flew into Kyiv to pledge another $3.2 billion and to offer help in beefing up Ukraine’s drone production industry.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to visit Ukraine month with a pledge to provide long-range French SCALP missiles. Germany is doubling its aid to $9 billion.

In the meantime, the situation on the ground is stalemate. Russia appears to have replaced the soldiers it lost last year with 426,000 fresh conscripts. But there is no sign that either the Russians or Ukrainians are making a serious dent into the complex network of defences that separate the Russian-held Donbas Region from the rest of Ukraine.

Both sides appear to preparing for the long term, and so is Europe. Thierry Breton, said this week that he would in February propose a $100 billion defence investment programme. The aim would be to expand European defence industries to enable them to produce the weapons that Ukraine needs.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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  • This quotation from “A Persian Half Century” by Anthony Smith (1979) provides a bit more context with regard to British exploitation of Iran’s resources.

    “Throughout the whole of the First World War the royalties were only slightly more than £1 million pounds. By 1950 this direct figure had risen to £16 million. There was also indirect revenue – taxes, local purchases, a subsidised petroleum service within the country – and this, in that year of 1950, is thought to have been slightly higher than the royalty figure, making the total income due to oil about £35 million. Not until 1956, following nationalisation and a rearrangement of the royalties, did Persia receive that some again from its principal resource. By 1960 the annual oil income reached £100 million, by 1965 it was nudging £200 million, by 1970 it was £400 million, and by 1975, following a general rise in oil prices, it was over £10,000 million. Small wonder then, following a three-hundred-fold rise in revenue from 1950, that the people of Kerman had changed in prosperity.”

  • It seems habitual that when Iran comes up for debate, someone invariably mentions the 1953 coup, as if that somehow justifies Iran’s behaviour today. It doesn’t. Instigating that coup was of course awful, but 1953 was 71 years ago! To hold enmity against a country for an event so long ago is absurd – comparable, for example, to someone in the UK holding resentment against Germany because of WWII (which is almost the same timescale)!

    The Iranian regime is appalling. The Iranian Government ruthlessly persecutes many of their own people, exports arms to Russia for use against Ukrainian civilians, and extensively sponsors terrorism in neighbouring countries in pursuit of an autocratic Islamist agenda. The only people who are to blame for that behaviour are the Iranian Government. Using an event 71 years ago as an attempt to blame the West is a pointless exercise.

    It’s also worth pointing out that a detailed read of the wikipedia article @John Waller links to shows that Mosaddegh wasn’t the kind of squeaky-clean democrat that many in the West like to paint him as – it appears he went along with at least one prominent political murder, and also readily aligned himself with Islamists. (Although I’d grant he may have led a Government that was less bad than what followed after the 1953 coup).

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Jan '24 - 9:10am

    “that coup was of course awful, but 1953 was 71 years ago!”
    A mere nothing. The Palestinian hatred of Israel (and the UK) is caused by what happened in 1947-9 – the “Nakba”
    There are Irish resentments of the behaviour of Cromwell and King William (King Billy)
    Greeks resent the behaviour of Ali Pasha and the Ottoman sultanate.
    both of those examples from hundreds of years ago.
    History is ever present, and you ignore it at your peril.

  • Well said, Jenny Barnes, above at 9.10: “History is ever present, and [we] ignore it at [our] peril”

  • @Jenny. I’m not sure the Nakba is directly comparable because that’s not purely historical, but was rather part of an ongoing process of discrimination against Palestinian Arabs and forcing them out of their homes etc. which shamefully continues to this day.

    You’re correct that it’s important to be aware of history, and also that some people do harbour resentments based on historical events. The thing I’m taking issue with is that we shouldn’t be using events from so long ago as an excuse to gratuitously blame Western countries for actions that are actually the sole responsibility of the appalling Iranian regime.

  • Peter Martin 25th Jan '24 - 8:27am

    “…….. Netanyahu is opposed to the two-state solution.”

    Of course. This has been apparent for at least the last couple of decades but it isn’t just Netanyahu who personally directs Israeli policy.

    The Israeli ruling class has consistently opposed any sort of solution, be it single or multi-state.

  • Jenny Barnes 25th Jan '24 - 9:49am

    And closer to home, every year we celebrate the defeat of the Catholic plot to blow up parliament on the 5th November 1605.

  • Peter Hirst 26th Jan '24 - 2:02pm

    Someone needs to inform Benjamin Netanyahu that any alternatve to a two state solutions requires trust, something in short supply in the Middle East. At some stage Israel and Palestine will need to start talking. Perhaps when they both become fed up with killing each other we will get the start of a negotiated settlement. For that to happen the two sides will need to closer to each other in terms of bargaining power.

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