Diplomacy Now – Edition 12 – April 2024 ‘Global Diplomacy Under Scrutiny’

April was a month of upheaval, with the US’ role in global diplomacy being called into question both domestically and internationally. Thousands of American university students have demonstrated against the war on Gaza and the US’ support for Israel and hundreds have been arrested, in a movement that is being likened to the anti-Vietnam and the anti-apartheid rallies that shook up the system in the 1960s and 1980s. Images of students and professors being rounded up and arrested by riot police have circulated on social media in the global south and created further damage to the US’ professed values for human rights and freedom of speech. With the presidential polls nearing, the generational division between the American political establishment and younger voters is widening. 

As the US vetoed the vote on a Palestinian bid for UN membership in the United Nations Security Council, America’s role in continuing to back Israel in a conflict that has killed 35,000 civilians is in the spotlight not just among students, but in international public opinion at large. The US’s repeated vetoing of a ceasefire in the Security Council, has again underlined the need to reset the archaic rules that allow the UN to be held hostage to any one of the Permanent Five members. The conflict continues to draw into sharp focus the political crisis within the body that was tasked with maintaining global peace and security in the aftermath of World War II.

After seven months of carnage, there is still no end in sight for Gaza. Despite the shift in US public opinion against the war on Gaza, the Biden administration continues to provide weapons to Israel and push Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Tel Aviv. Will the Biden administration finally draw the line if Israel’s widely criticized planned ground offensive on Rafah goes ahead?

In this month’s edition of Diplomacy Now our authors explore the ways in which the conflict in Gaza has called into question US and UN diplomacy, and the ways in which it is causing citizens to question governments from Washington to Morocco. We also turn to West Africa, where Senegal registered a victory for democracy in a region where coups have been the order of the day, and to Niger, where US military cooperation has been rejected in favor of support from the Russian Africa Corps, the new iteration of Wagner Group. We then turn to Iran, where the nation launched its first direct strike on Israel in retaliation for a strike on its embassy in Syria, a move that is unlikely to lead to a direct conflict, but has illustrated that tensions are on the rise in the Middle East and the possibility of a regional conflict extending beyond Israel and Palestine is always present. 

As with every edition the views expressed by these authors are not all necessarily our own. However, ICDI remains committed to the ethos and philosophy that open debate, dialogue, diplomacy, and mediation, rather than armed conflict and war, offer the way forward to resolving any conflict.

Thank you for following Diplomacy Now. We hope you will continue to follow our leading analysis on mediation in 2024 and welcome your feedback at diplomacynow@dialogueinitiatives.org.

Jamal Benomar
Chair of ICDI

Is the UN Failing in Gaza?

Journalist Dawn Clancy explores the UN’s political failures at both the level of the Secretary General and the Security Council. “While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to invade Rafah, a battered city in southern Gaza where over a million Palestinians are trapped, the United Nations, has been widely criticized for its paralysis and inability to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians and preserve international peace and security,” she writes.

“But, even as negotiations between Hamas and Israel, to end the conflict continue to grind on – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently in the region to support talks – there’s one question that still begs to be answered: could the UN, including the Secretary-General, the Security Council and the General Assembly, be doing more to bring an end to the conflict in Gaza?”

Clancy delves into the multiple US vetoes against a ceasefire and speaks to analysts who claim Guterres has failed to call a spade a spade, regarding claims of genocide and forced starvation being committed by Israel, along with his failures to condemn Israel for the killing of staff from UN agencies. Clancy also questions what mechanisms the UN could use to compel Israel to the negotiating table, in a war that seems to have no end in sight.

Risk of War Looms Between Iran and Israel, But It Is Being Averted For Now

Iran expert Banafsheh Keynoush explores Israel’s strike against the Iranian embassy and Iran’s counter strike, which was the first direct strike against Israel it has made. Despite the escalation, Keynoush argues that both nations have no interest in heading into direct combat at this point in time.  

“April’s military escalation between Iran and Israel drew international headlines, with both countries launching offensive strikes against one another. But there are still good reasons, such as a flurry of diplomatic initiatives, for the two nations to avert direct combat. More importantly, as the only non-Arab countries of the Middle East along with Turkey, Iran and Israel continue to express little broader interest in escalating a conflict that could have dire regional repercussions,” Keynoush writes. 

But the escalation points to ongoing tensions in the Middle East that are extending beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The two countries are unlikely to go to war for now, although the shadow of war still looms, despite the recent diplomatic overdrive to mitigate tensions,” she concludes.

Will the War in Gaza and ‘Normalization’ Spell Trouble in Morocco?

Historian and human rights defender Professor Maati Monjib explores the ways in which an Islamist movement named Al Adl wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity, in English), who has played a leading role in demonstrations against Morocco’s normalization of ties with Israel, has been challenging the regime through calling for democratization. “Why would AWI’s political and ideological about-face cause so much concern among the monarchy’s backroom strategists?” asks Monjib. 

“The answer is twofold: first, the organization’s pivot opens up the possibility of a lasting alliance with the left and, more generally, the entire opposition camp, both secular and modern, including conservative elements; second, the AWI is a mobilizing force behind the pro-Palestinian protestors, who also have a natural affinity with the left, broadly speaking. The manifesto could thus bring these elements together in a more sustainable and structured political coalition, he writes.

“Simply put, they could form an opposition front, which is precisely what the Monarchy has feared most, especially since the Arab Spring.”

Russia Gains Ground in Niger, Leaving the West on the Backfoot

Ulf Laessing explores Russia’s recent military and diplomatic gains in Niger, once a safe United States and French ally in the Sahel and the ongoing questioning of the role of the West in the region. 

“In recent weeks another Russian military plane landed in the Sahel, this time in Niger’s capital Niamey. Members of Africa Corps, the rebranded Wagner group, touched down on the tarmac along with heavy equipment such as anti-aircraft guns. Ilyushin planes landing in the middle of the night have become a familiar sight as Russia boosts ties with Mali, Burkina Faso and now also Niger. Europe and Western countries are now on the backfoot,” he writes. 

“For decades Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso had close ties with Western countries, especially the former colonial power France. European countries and the United States remain by far the biggest donors of humanitarian and development aid for the Sahel and in West Africa, at large. But on the political and economic level, the West is fast losing influence in the region, a fact many European diplomats are struggling to adjust to. How did this happen?” he asks.

Senegal’s Presidential Election, A Victory for Democracy in Africa

Said Djinnit, former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa, explores the recent positive democratic outcome in Senegal’s recent tense presidential elections. 

“The election, preceded by weeks of political tension marked by demonstrations and incidents of violence, resulted in a victory for opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who had been released from prison shortly beforehand as part of an amnesty deal offered by outgoing president Macky Sall. Faye and his allies were thus able, by peaceful and democratic means, to garner the popular support needed to advance their promise of a “rupture” from the status quo. Once again, Senegal managed to emerge from a tense pre-electoral scenario and preserve its reputation as a country deeply committed to democracy and to resolving differences peacefully,” he writes. 

But democracy is about more than just elections, he warns. “It is high time, in my opinion, that we take stock of the structures we have in place to promote peace, security and governance,” throughout the continent, he adds

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Nelson Mandela

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