Benjamin Netanyahu’s Visit to Oman Was a Good Thing, but Don’t Overestimate Its Importance

Commenting on the Israeli prime minister’s recent visit to Oman, where he was warmly received by the sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, and other signs of improving relations between Israel and the Arab world, Nicole Salter and David May write:

News of Netanyahu’s visit to Oman has stoked hopes that the Gulf sultanate could serve as a regional broker for Israeli-Palestinian peace as part of President Trump’s anticipated “deal of the century.” . . . This visit came amid other potential signs of Arab-Israeli normalization. . . .

It is, [however], unclear whether the average Omani is ready to get behind Qaboos’s effort. Already, the Omani writer Zakaria al-Muharrami tweeted that while he appreciates the sultan’s efforts, “this does not mean that Netanyahu, the killer of children, becomes a friend. He is an enemy of all humanity.” In fact, variations of the hashtag #Omani_Against_Normalization have appeared in tens of thousands of tweets recently. Other prominent Omani commentators were more cautiously critical of the Netanyahu visit.

Moreover, it is uncertain if Oman, a relatively poor country with fewer than five million residents, has the strength and influence to serve as a regional peace custodian. . . . Netanyahu’s visit must be viewed now as a potentially positive step for peace in the Middle East. But it is unclear how much Oman has to offer.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Oman, Peace Process

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey