Hopes for peace breakthrough in the Middle East

Published December 5, 2020, 11:29 PM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

The killing last of week of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in the country’s capital Tehran has added fuel to the fire of tensions in the already precarious situation in the Middle East.

We hope Iran, Israel, which is allegedly accused by Tehran as behind Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, and other concerned parties will exercise restraint to avoid a conflagration in the Middle East, which would be catastrophic not just in the region but in the world, especially at a time when the global community is still struggling with the coronavirus.

The flashpoint in the Persian (Arab) Gulf has to an extent quieted down for sometime now but the crisis remains. The slaying of Fakhrizadeh, Tehran’s reported key figure in the Iranian weapons program, has escalated the volatile situation in the West Asian region.

The continuing threat of a military confrontation threatens more than 50% of the world’s petroleum supply, including the bulk of Philippine oil imports.

More importantly, on the part of the Philippines, we have millions of workers in the Middle East whose life and livelihood are at risk because of the ongoing tensions. Imagine what will happen to millions of our countrymen if war breaks out in the region.

Truly, peace and stability in the Gulf have been elusive and very difficult, but not impossible to achieve.

We hope and pray for the convening of serious negotiations for a final Iran-Arab settlement that could perhaps lead to at least a hundred years of peace in the Middle East.

A crucial first step is for Iran and the Arab countries to agree on a long-term geopolitical settlement backed by the United Nations, the US, Russia, China, Japan, and the European Union.

Perhaps two representatives each from the UN, US, EU, Russia, China, and Japan shout sit down with Iran and the Arabs to work out an interim solution pending a more difficult, final long-term settlement.

On a related note, we share the hopes of many in the international community that the election of former US Vice President Joe Biden as president will usher in a renewed engagement with Iran.

The flashpoint of conflict between the US and Iran has been a mounting concern for Europe and Asia, indeed the global community, since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 after years of negotiations with the Europeans and the US then led by President Barrack Obama, with Biden as then vice president.

It will be recalled that in May, 2018, Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, which was reached between Iran and six world powers – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany. Except for Germany, the five signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran are permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The nuclear pact was a result of two years of intense, long drawn-out negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s capability to develop nuclear weapons, in exchange for lifting the crippling economic sanctions imposed on the Persian Gulf country.

Succeeding events in the Persian Gulf since Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal have drawn Washington and Tehran closer to a military confrontation, which has become a continuing, ever-increasing anxiety in the Middle East and the international community.

We know that the US-Iran engagement would not immediately put an end to the decades-long mistrust and hostility between the two countries, but it would at the very least be a major first step towards a settlement that hopefully would lead to a prolonged absence of constant tension and threat of war, and indeed towards peace, security and development in the tension-filled Middle East, with both sides having muscular allies in the East-West divide.