Bringing you a step closer to the various facets of the region
News Roundup: 10th February – 16th February
A Pledge to Help Rebuild Iraq
After successfully defeating ISIS, Iraq is now embarking on its reconstruction. At the fundraising conference held in Kuwait, the World Bank estimated that Iraq would need $88 billion dollars over 5 years. $30 billion dollars in pledges have been issues to Iraq thus far, with majority of the donors come from the Persian Gulf, “with the Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis and Qataris all pledging around $1 billion each”.
The United States did not pledge any contributions for Iraq’s reconstruction, although they did agree to provide “over $3 billion in loans and financing to American firms wanting to invest in Iraq”. Senior Research Fellow Fanar Haddad notes that the conference was not solely organised for the purpose of raising funds for Iraqi reconstruction:
“More than attracting donors, the conference was primarily aimed at attracting investment. There were 157 projects announced for foreign investors (private and sovereign) as part of a broader 5 years strategy designed by the Iraqi government, the World Bank and the UN. The figure of $88 billion is what the World Bank estimate Iraqi reconstruction will cost over 5 years. In other words, the conference was not aimed at raising 88 billion but at attracting more long term investment. So far about $30 billion has been pledged – about half of that is from sovereign loans and half is from non-soverign credit and investment.
Special Feature on the Jerusalem Question
Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has far-reaching consequences in the Middle East and beyond. Senior Research Fellow Victor Kattan explores them in his working paper as we provide a summary of his key takeaways.
1. Trump’s decision has heightened tensions in the Middle East and created more regional instability. “While the United States will remain the dominant power in the Middle East, its recognition of Jerusalem risks unravelling the very alliance that Israel seeks with Arab states to confront Iran”. At the same time, it has also increased the possibility of a Third Lebanon War. Israel has already threatened Lebanon with “destructive war”, in light of Israeli intelligence’s findings that Hamas and Hezbollah have joined forces to confront Israel. Should that happen, the conflict might spill over to recently-liberated Syria, which houses not only US forces but those of their key rivals – Russia, Iran and Turkey.
2. The United States’ decision has also signaled the death of the peace process. Tensions flared up on both sides following the announcement. “The Likud Central Committee has called on Israel’s government to annex the West Bank”, while “The PLO’s Central Council has called on the Palestinian leadership to withdraw its recognition of Israel”. Though Netanyahu and Abbas are unlikely to accede to such demands, it reflects dispirited sentiments towards a peaceful, two-state solution. “Unless intermediate steps are taken to coax Israelis and Palestinians back into negotiations, the most likely scenario is the continued steady, slow, decline and death of the peace process”. The absence of a neutral mediator also edges us closer to this conclusion.
3. Furthermore, this new development has also placed Jordan in a bind. “King Abdullah II’s legitimacy rests on his claim to be custodian of al-Haram ash-Sharif”, which is an ancient temple important to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and more importantly, located in Jerusalem itself. King Abdullah II’s legitimacy has been “undermined by President Trump’s statement, which made no mention of Jordan”. The Jordanian leadership has to consider two competing objectives. First, it has to appeal to its domestic audience, since it has a large Palestinian population. Yet, it cannot afford to show much opposition to Trump’s decision as it is “dependent on the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia for its very survival”. Jordan has to appease its domestic audiences while maintaining good relations with these countries.
4. Lastly, these developments also affect Singapore. President Abbas has called on EU states to recognise the state of Palestine. “It is likely that individual European states will extend recognition to the State of Palestine in the coming weeks and months to offset Trump’s declaration”. Kattan argues that this puts “regional and domestic pressure” on Singapore to recognise Palestinian as well. Just like Jordan, Singapore faces constraints from two sides. It does not want to anger its domestic audience, but it also does not want to complicate it’s good relations with the US and Israel.
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