PISM Spotlight: After the Middle East Conference in Warsaw
18 FEB 2019 Spotlight
The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, convened by the U.S. and Poland on 13–14 February in Warsaw, created space for presenting regional threat assessments. The U.S. and the majority of countries in the Middle East consider Iranian policy to be the principal threat. The significance of the process initiated in Warsaw will be limited if it does not embrace other important regional players, including Turkey and, ultimately, Iran.
Patrycja Sasnal Bartosz Wiśniewski

The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, convened by the U.S. and Poland on 13–14 February in Warsaw, created space for presenting regional threat assessments. The U.S. and the majority of countries in the Middle East consider Iranian policy to be the principal threat. The significance of the process initiated in Warsaw will be limited if it does not embrace other important regional players, including Turkey and, ultimately, Iran.

What factors were highlighted as priorities for regional security?

The U.S., the majority of Arab countries gathered in Warsaw, as well as Israel, agreed that Iran is the principal threat to the region’s security. U.S. Vice President Michael Pence called on the EU to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA) and expand sanctions on the country. Pence conditioned good relations with the U.S. upon supporting its policy. The Arab states prioritise tightening the alliance with the U.S. and cooperation with Israel. They do not trust the effectiveness of the policy of the EU or key member states towards the region. Poland underlined the advantages of JCPOA and the special purpose vehicle (INSTEX) that allows bypassing the American sanctions in sectors important for the wellbeing of Iranians.

What conclusions can be drawn for the Middle East?

The ministerial could be considered a breakthrough in bringing together Israel and countries that do not have diplomatic relations with it—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen. Familiarising Arab societies with the perspective of Arab-Israeli cooperation can be a positive result of the conference, especially if the process continues.

What did the U.S. announce about the peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians?

The U.S. diplomats avoided presenting details about the peace plan, confirming that the rollout should not be expected until after the parliamentary elections in Israel. Palestinians turned down a late invitation to Warsaw, but their absence will not adversely affect the U.S. proposal. The conference demonstrated that the Arab states are ready to cooperate with Israel to curb Iran’s influence in the region, regardless of the progress of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. That cooperation may be considered a successful outcome for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that Arab leaders would cooperate with Israel despite the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

What next for the “Warsaw process”?

The co-chairs’ statement announced the creation of seven working groups, tasked with finding solutions for Middle East problems in four domains: counterterrorism and illicit finance, missile development and weapons proliferation, cyber and energy security, and humanitarian issues and human rights. The results of these groups’ work are to be presented at the next international conference. If the “Warsaw process” is to aid the creation of a regional security architecture, it should involve Turkey, the Palestinians, as well as Iran. At the same time, the key condition for a lasting peace in the region will be progress in U.S.-Iran relations.