Tom Arms’ World Review

Middle East

A quick round-up on Gaza, Israel, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, America and everywhere else that is affected by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

President Biden’s “outrage” following the killings of World Central Kitchen aid workers resulted in an apology and two new aid routes: The Erez Crossing and the port of Ashdod in southern Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that as a result 400 aid trucks went through to Gaza immediately after the presidential fury. UN officials said the figure was actually 223.

Disenchanted State Department officials – of which there are a growing number – say that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) – backed by the government – are continuing allow only the minimum to go through their blockade.

Talks between Hamas and Israel have resumed in Egypt, this time brokered by CIA director William Burns. They are still deadlocked. Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire. The US is proposing six weeks. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir says that if Netanyahu does not order an immediate attack on Rafah he will “destroy” the Israeli prime minister.

Meanwhile US intelligence is reporting that Iran is about to launch a major attack on Israel in retaliation for the attack on its consulate in Damascus. In response to this threat, President Biden has declared that America’s support for the continued existence of Israel is “ironclad.” This in turn raises questions about the impact the Gaza situation is having on American cladding.

Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz warned that any attack by Iran on Israel would result in “an attack on Iran.” If America’s military commitment is indeed “ironclad” then the military balance would appear very one-sided. Therefore the most likely Iranian response would be through its Lebanese-based Hezbollah forces. They are armed with hundreds of thousands of rockets and missiles capable of reaching targets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

On the other side of the world, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, said this week that the Australian government is considering recognising a Palestinian state as the first step towards achieving the two-state solution. She stressed that Australia would not recognise a Palestinian government that included Hamas. This follows on from a similar suggestion from British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron and a move at the United Nations to change the Palestinians’ status from observer to “member state.”

As of Friday 12 April at 1230 GMT, the Palestine Ministry of Health reported 33,694 Gazans have died since 7 October. These include more than 12,000 children and 8,400 women. A total of 76,214 Gazans have been injured and 8,000 are missing. On the West Bank, since 7 October, 460 Palestinians have been killed, including 117 children. A total of 4,750 have been injured.

South Korea

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol lost big time this week. It was election time for the National Assembly and the Liberal Opposition parties won 161 out of the 254 seats. This is just short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the presidential veto and constitutional amendments, but more than enough to give President Yoon a very hard time.

Like so many other political leaders, Yoon’s Achilles heel was the economy. South Korea is suffering the global post-covid and Ukraine-inspired inflation as almost everywhere else. A single apple in an upmarket South Korean grocers now costs $7.

Mind you, Yoon was not a popular choice from the start. When he was elected two years ago his margin of victory was only 0.7 percent. His current approval rating is 30-40 percent and he has never risen above 50 percent.

To make matters worse, Yoon and his wife have become embroiled in a storm in a handbag. The First Lady was given a Dior bag. She failed to report the gift. When the slip-up was reported in the South Korean press, neither the president nor his wife would accept that she acted improperly. The First Lady has not been seen in public for four months.

But there is a possible upside to President Yoon’s problems. His term has another three years to run. Because of his parliamentary problems he will be unable to have much impact on domestic affairs. Foreign policy is another matter. The president retains statutory authority over foreign affairs. This makes it likely that President Yoon will be focusing more on relations with North Korea, Japan, China and the US.

President Yoon has shown himself to be an accomplished diplomat. Since he took office relations between South Korea and Japan (historically terrible) have blossomed. Yoon has also developed a good relationship with President Biden while maintaining economic links with China. If he can concentrate on building on those foundations his electoral defeat could have a long-term benefit.

Morocco

The Al Massira Dam created the second largest reservoir in Morocco. At least it was. Six years of drought have shrunk by 97 percent the reservoir the dam created. A massive lake is now little more than a puddle.

Al Massira Dam was central to Morocco’s agricultural industry which produces 12 percent of the country’s GDP. Situated halfway between Casablanca and Marrakesh, it also provided drinking water for two of the country’s biggest cities.

Morocco is one of many of Africa’s drought-stricken climate change victims. The list includes: Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Madagascar, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger and Chad. Millions have been displaced by a merciless sun and the creeping sands of the Sahara.  The economic problems created by climate change have in turn exacerbated political difficulties as tribal factions fight for diminishing resources.

Morocco Is trying to solve its climate change problems with desalination plants—dozens of them planted on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines. But desalination plants have their own problems. For a start they require large amounts of energy – usually fossil fuels – to power.

Then there is the pollution they create. Desalination plants create a thick brine as a by-product. This is dumped in the sea where it damages plankton and phyto-plankton which are the base food product for all marine life.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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8 Comments

  • nigel hunter 14th Apr '24 - 10:36am

    I recently bought some Mackerel from a supermarket that were extremely salty. Whilst I do not know where they came from. they were not appetising. If desalination can cause problems it bodes bad for the food chain and becomes another climate change affect.

  • Netanyahu’s aim of widening the conflict to involve major powers has worked…Iran’s attempt to save face after their consulate was destroyed has drawn the US and UK into militarily defending Israel; Netanyahu has gone from pariah to valued friend and ally overnight..

    Any leverage the west had over Gaza has been lost; now, for Netanyahu, it’s ‘business as usual’..

  • Expats, you are right about Netanyahu and The UK and US governments have got themselves into a bad place. This is because both governments did not condemn Israel’s attack on the Iranian Embassy. Most countries consider an attack on their embassies to be an attack on their land. It is also because both US and UK governments have refused to back up their words with the stopping of arms sales to Israel. Iran is evil in its support for those who wish to destroy Israel, but UK and US governments have now lost the moral stand they try to hold. Israel’s disproportionate actions should not have been supported, no matter how much support it has from the people of Israel. Evil is evil, even if committed by a democracy.

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Apr '24 - 1:57pm

    Is this the same Iran that is more less allied with Russia, supplying them with drones etc? Could it possibly be that they are working with Russia to keep the “West” preoccupied with the Gaza alleged-genocide and potential wider Middle East war, with potential for problems with oil supply, and therefore distracted from the Ukraine war allowing Putin to make progress there? Just in time for the late spring/summer drying out of the ground to allow armoured vehicle movement….

  • ………..Could it possibly be that they are working with Russia to keep the “West” preoccupied with the Gaza alleged-genocide and potential wider Middle East war……….

    Prior to Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate the world was focussed on Gaza and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause..Now that focus has shifted and Israel is the ‘victim’ once again..
    Hardly a gain for Iran, or Russia..

  • Peter Hirst 19th Apr '24 - 3:42pm

    America was wrong to veto the security council resolution to recognise the Palestinian state as a full member of NATO. Without this recognition its people will struggle for a voice once the violence has ceased. I don’t understand why this was not part of the pact that created Israel in the first place. It is not too late for the USA to remedy this error and at the right time put forward such a resolution, preferably with Israel’s backing.

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