This is an interesting factor in the eruption of potentially crisis-creating maneuvers at the end of Barack Obama’s term. There will be no aircraft carrier in the Middle East, either in CENTCOM (east of the Suez Canal) or EUCOM (the Eastern Mediterranean).
I will have time for only the most general notes on this today. But the timing of all the “major muscle movement” factors seems remarkable enough to highlight briefly.
To summarize where we are right now, there is credible evidence that the Obama administration coordinated with the Palestinian Arabs the UN resolution, UNSCR 2334, on which a vote was forced on 23 December. The resolution’s official sponsor, Egypt, pulled back from the earlier-scheduled Security Council vote at the last minute, on 21 December. But a group of four other Security Council members – New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela, and Malaysia – pushed to hold the vote anyway, and it took place on Friday, 23 December. The U.S. abstained from the vote, and the measure passed 14-0.
Yesterday (Wednesday 28 December), John Kerry gave a major Middle East policy speech in which he departed rhetorically in multiple, significant ways from longstanding U.S. policy. As Omri Ceren outlines at Politico, Kerry also departed significantly from sheer reality. (Omri hopes to downplay the impact of Kerry’s speech, I think, a praiseworthy goal whose effectiveness I don’t want to prejudge.)
The MSM are obediently saying the Kerry speech did not depart from U.S. policy. But for the reasons outlined at the links above, it clearly did.
Kerry’s speech served effectively to confirm that the United States abstained from the vote on UNSCR 2334 because Obama agrees with 2334. Israel’s settlements, according to 2334, are “the” obstacle to peace. And it is Israel that must give way and accept a disadvantageous “solution” – one that would enshrine losses for Israel that have never been assumed in any previous negotiation – in order to secure “peace.”
Obama/Kerry unpredictable at this point
Under these circumstances, it is by no means far-fetched to give credence to reports that Kerry is preparing another UN resolution to be introduced in January. (For a balanced, non-specific perspective on the opportunities the week of 15 January, see here.)
This reporting is unsubstantiated, and I stress must be treated as such. But it isn’t far-fetched, under current conditions. Reportedly, Kerry is preparing a resolution that would outline a “two-state solution,” and in essence, have the UN vote to recognize a Palestinian state.
France will host a conference on Middle East policy on 15 January, at which Kerry is scheduled to deliver a speech. The speculation is that he could preview the UN resolution in that speech, and then have it introduced in the UN between 16 and 20 January, when the UN is back in session and Obama is still in office.
There is also, of course, speculation that Obama may unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state on behalf of the United States, as Sweden has already done. Jimmy Carter advised Obama most earnestly to do that, just after Thanksgiving.
Carter’s language at the time was interesting:
The former President also called for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution “laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict.”
“It should reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders, while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications,” he said.
I myself am not convinced one way or the other as to what Obama and Kerry will do. It would irresponsible at this point to assume – with what one can only call a foolish complacence – that they will not do anything abrupt and disruptive in January.
I hope they will think better of any incendiary plans. But keep in mind, Obama and Kerry may not even need to do anything further. Allowing UNSCR 2334 to be adopted, and punctuating that policy reversal with this week’s Kerry speech, is enough to set wheels in motion in international bodies that would be hard for President-Elect Trump to interdict. Multiple crisis situations are now likely, and could build quickly.
(There is some good news in this regard, although nothing can be taken as decisive at this point. Kerry called on the peace process Quartet to adopt the “six principles” outlined in his speech on Wednesday, but Russia has reportedly rejected Kerry on that head.)
In light of where we are now, there are a couple of very interesting factors. One is the point I started with: that there will be no carrier in the Middle East…