Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circle 35

Wednesday May 19th, 2021

10am EST, 2pm GMT, 6pm Abu Dhabi, 5pm Beirut

Click on the image above to watch the entire session on YouTube.

On Wednesday, May 19th, 2021 Beirut Institute hosted e-Policy Circle 35 with HE David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2018 until April 30, 2021, State Department official and Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and former US Ambassador to Pakistan and Lebanon, HE Andrei Baklanov, Deputy Head of the Association of Russian Diplomats, Head of the Middle East & North Africa at the National Research Center, Professor at the Higher School for Economics, member of the Council of the Russian Ecological society, and former Russian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, HE Michel Moawad, resigned Lebanese Member of Parliament, founder and President of the Independence Movement, Executive Director of the René Moawad Foundation, and founder and president of FORAS: Fostering Entrepreneurship and Employment in North Lebanon, and  Norman Roule, CEO of Pharos Strategic Consulting, business consultant on Middle East political, security, economic, and energy issues with an emphasis on the GCC states and Iran, and former CIA official managing significant programs relating to the Middle East.

This 35th episode of the e-Policy Circles is part of the run-up program to the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi Edition IV, under the theme Stability Redefined-Who Authors the Future?

This global geopolitical conversation resulted in excellent points around the following issues, including:

On the current Israeli-Palestinian developments:

David Hale: What do we say about Iranian intentions for the region. It seems to me that this is a really heartless exploitation of tension in Jerusalem in order to escalate wildly. We’ve seen this pattern before. There will be a ceasefire but when and under what conditions is obviously unclear. But I think it underscores the danger that Iran poses and will pose if it had a nuclear weapon and therefore I think it is all the more imperative that we explore in Vienna what’s possible.

David Hale: What I would say is that we need to focus on what we can do. One is working on, you know, bringing an end to this spiral, looking at the underlying causes which include the tunnels and the insecure environment in Gaza, the armaments, and the political problems while we also engage Iran to see if we can return to the JCPOA so that threat out there of a potentially nuclear-armed Iran is dealt with.

Andrei Baklanov: It seems to me that Israelis well they are happy with Hamas because Hamas policy is giving opportunity to the radicals to feel strong in Israel society.

On the Vienna talks and the JCPOA:

David Hale: It’s a polarizing issue in our country whether to re-enter the JCPOA or not, there are hard choices, there are pros and cons, and they’re fiercely debated. I think it’s important to understand that I don’t think this is going to be rapid resolution of the negotiations and I don’t expect any change in policy toward the region when it comes to Iran.

David Hale: Now we know that the previous [Trump] administration had a different approach, they withdrew from the JCPOA, and they had a maximum pressure strategy. We didn’t have sufficient time to prove the case as to which approach works. So we’ll just have to give this time and serious effort to see if we can achieve all that this administration wants to achieve.

Norman Roule: It’s my view that Iran remains committed to achieving a nuclear deal but the urgency of that deal is no foremost in its mind. A longer set of negotiations will benefit Iran as it seeks to wear down international objections while at the same time it builds up a list of nuclear violations it can leverage against clause extensions and other demands […] any nuclear deal will allow Iran to increase the amount of resources that go to Hamas the Palestine Islamic Jihad and other elements.

Michel Moawad: I think that just negotiating the nuclear part of the agreement with Iran and giving them money on the basis of the JCPOA will only enhance and embolden Iran to put more money in the Quds force that will be more destabilizing in the region.

Andrei Baklanov: Let’s better control Iran with agreements, with dealing with them, it’s better than pushing in the corner and making them alone and exploit all kinds of opportunities including clandestine, paramilitary activities.

On the political and economic crisis in Lebanon:

Michel Moawad: I am deeply worried. I am worried as an Arab, as a citizen of this region, as a Lebanese. I am feeling that Lebanon is slipping away, and we’re a few weeks or months away from total collapse.

On positive change in the region:

Norman Roule: The successful economic drivers of the region all appear to be tied to states that focus on social change, countries with strong state structure, especially the military that can push back against the creation of militias, and places where Iranian militias influence is weakest. We also have a rising generation of new leaders who I think have yet to figure out how to work with each other and we’re going to watch that dynamic in the coming years […] Economic success and political stability in the region seem to require a very specific mix of embracing new technology, social change, interfaith dialogue, distancing from sectarianism, ousting of traditions that have dominated politics.

On possible Saudi-Syrian talks

Norman Roule: My understanding is that there have been no discussions between the Saudis and the Syrians as described in I believe the British press, they refuted this. Moreover within the Gulf in general there is a recognition that some sort of engagement with Syria would be useful or potentially useful in pushing back against Iran. At the same time Bashar Al Assad, and I’ve spoken to multiple [people in] leadership recently, he’s a war criminal who dropped chemical weapons and barrel bombs on Arabs.

On Saudi-Iranian talks

Norman Roule: I do not expect the talks to be positive but they will encourage Europe and the US to reduce some pressure on the Saudis for their willingness to engage.

You can access the full video on this link.

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