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AK Abdul Momen

Western powers never wanted political stability in the Middle East

AK Abdul  Momen

AK Abdul Momen

Tue, 14 May 24

Dr AK Abdul Momen is an economist, diplomat, and politician. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from January 2019 to January 2024. He is a Member of Parliament for Sylhet-1 Constituency of the 12th National Parliament. Currently, he is serving as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr Momen spoke to Views Bangladesh about the role of Western powers in the ongoing Iran-Israel conflict and the impact of the proxy war on Bangladesh. He was Interviewed by M A Khaleque and Girish Goiric.

Views Bangladesh: How do you see the ongoing Iran-Israel conflict?
AK Abdul Momen:
It is very difficult to say anything specific about the Middle East in general as there are Muslims in the Middle East, (but, being a little bit harsh) there are also some Munafiqs (hypocrites) there. Western countries have a fascination with the Middle East because of its wealth and resources. Attracted by those resources, Western powers are always eager to expand their influence in the Middle East. Most importantly, Western countries never wanted political stability in the Middle East. So they have been running one proxy war after another in the region. At the moment, there is a fear of a conventional war in the Middle East centered on the conflict between Iran and Israel. I hope Iran and Israel don't get into a conventional war. If the two countries get into a traditional war, it will be alarming for everyone.

The matter is not like that only Middle Eastern countries would suffer due to the war. However, developed countries will also suffer direct and indirect losses due to war. Developing countries like Bangladesh will be in more danger. Due to the recent Russia-Ukraine war, the world economy has been severely affected. Countries like Bangladesh are facing problems in accelerating their development activities. We are still dealing with the effects of the war in Ukraine. In this situation, if Iran-Israel gets involved in an all-out war, it will not be possible for many countries like ours to handle that situation. The situation can get completely out of control. It is not only countries like Bangladesh that are in trouble because of the Ukraine war, the economies of many European countries have fallen into grave danger. It has been proven that war never brought good and couldn’t solve any problem. War only increases human misery, causing extreme suffering, especially to women, children, and the elderly. That is why we do not want war.

Views Bangladesh: What do you think about the impact on the world economy if the Iran-Israel traditional war starts?
AK Abdul Momen:
The global supply chain could be disrupted if Iran-Israel engages in a conventional war. If the supply chain is disrupted, inflation will rise again in many countries around the world. Common people will suffer. We have yet to recover from the effects of high inflation worldwide caused by supply chain disruptions caused by the Ukraine war. In the meantime, if Iran and Israel get involved in a war, it will be very difficult for an economy like ours to handle that situation. Bangladesh is an import-dependent country. Most of our products have to be imported from abroad. We cannot deal with the situation overnight by increasing production domestically. As a result, the situation will become complicated. Bangladesh cannot produce fuel oil from its sources. We have to meet our entire fuel oil demand through imports. Bangladesh mainly imports fuel from Middle East countries. It is easy to imagine where the situation will be if war breaks out in that situation. If the prices of fuel oil and LNG go up, we will be in a lot of trouble. Because the price of all goods will increase.

View Bangladesh: What kind of impact would our economy suffer due to the war?
AK Abdul Momen:
Our economy faced a major headwind due to the war in Ukraine. We are not able to handle the situation even in two years. So the ongoing Iran-Israel conflict has become a cause of grave concern for us. If war does break out, it will not be limited to Iran and Israel. There will be a global war on a larger scale. Many other countries will be directly or indirectly involved in this war. If something like that happens, the development that we are dreaming of will be hindered. In that situation, it will be a big challenge to survive. Other social tasks, including tackling climate change, may be undermined. As we see, various countries, including the United States, are spending huge amounts of money on war. In this situation, there may be a financing crisis to deal with the effects of climate change. The United States recently approved $95 billion in military aid for the war in Ukraine. The United States will provide more military aid to Israel if the Iran-Israel war breaks out. The people of the country now have to pay more and more income taxes because of the US aid to cover the costs of the war in Ukraine. It will make the life of common people miserable.

The Secretary General of the United Nations said we are not in a position to fight another war. So the war must be stopped at any cost. The world will suffer due to war. One more thing to note is that due to US policy, the popularity and acceptance of the country are decreasing day by day. Several Western countries, including the United States, UK, France, and Germany, want war, not peace. The US in particular always wants war. Without any war, the US economy would have stagnated as the arms trade is a major part of the US economy. US companies sell their manufactured weapons to various countries around the world. A large part of the US GDP comes from the arms trade. So if for some reason their arms sales are stopped globally, the country's economy will face a serious disaster.

Most of the United States senators are financed by arms manufacturers. So in the Senate, they always speak in favor of arms production and sale. The US economy would be crippled if arms production and sales stopped. And if that is the case, the attempt to spread US hegemony worldwide will die in the field. This is essentially why the United States can never seek peace. Peace is suicidal for the United States. France, Germany, Russia, and China are also arms sellers. A significant part of their economy is derived from arms sales. India is a big country. It buys arms from abroad and also sells weapons. Those who manufacture and sell weapons can never seek peace. Because weapons are not used for peace. Weapons are used in war. So the possibility of establishing peace in the conflict that has started in the Middle East is very low. Rather, this conflict may become more widespread in the future. If there is peace on earth, America will be destroyed.

Views Bangladesh: The United States is following two different policies regarding Ukraine and Israel. What is the reason for this?
AK Abdul Momen:
This is what the United States looks like. They always follow dualism. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has made arrests in our country over the past few years for drug dealing and terrorism. Out of this, four people died in the encounter. The United States talks big about it; But in the last few years in their country, the police have killed 39,000 people indiscriminately. They don't brag about it. This is the true face of the United States. The US should be ashamed of its support for the massacre of Israeli forces in Gaza. Israeli forces are killing women and children indiscriminately in Gaza. They are supporting and assisting such inhumane actions of Israel without taking any initiative to prevent it. Without the arms and financial support of the United States, Israel would not have been able to carry out such atrocities. US President Biden is an accomplice of Israeli genocide. The United States has no moral right to speak about the human rights condition of other countries. Human rights, democratic rights, etc. are given special importance in the Constitution of the United States of America; But they are the ones who violate human rights the most. The US administration has strayed far from its constitutional obligations. I think it's time for America to reform itself.

Views Bangladesh: What kind of damage will Bangladesh face if Iran-Israel gets involved in conventional war?
AK Abdul Momen:
Our supply chain will be disrupted. In that situation, the price of each product will increase. In particular, the price of all types of fuel oil may go up a lot. Bangladesh is heavily dependent on imported energy. As a result, it can be said with certainty that the economy of Bangladesh will suffer largely due to the war. Bangladesh exports most of its manufactured goods to the United States and European Union countries. Bangladesh's exports to these countries and regions may decrease if the war starts. Products from Bangladesh are also exported to Middle East countries. That too will be damaged. The second largest foreign exchange earning sector of Bangladesh is the manpower export sector. The manpower export sector mainly depends on the Muslim countries of the Middle East. Manpower exports to the Middle East will surely decrease if war breaks out. If the exports of goods and manpower decrease, the unemployment problem will increase in the domestic market of Bangladesh.

Due to the war, many Bangladeshis working in the Middle East will be forced to return home. Bangladesh's economy is already in dire straits. That suffering will increase when war breaks out. I have suggested Saudi Arabia and some other countries as there is always a kind of political uncertainty in the Middle East so you can come to Bangladesh with investment proposals. If a refinery plant is established in Bangladesh, then the fuel oil can be refined and exported to different countries. Because there are some economic and social problems in Bangladesh, but there is still political stability. Arab countries keep huge amounts of money in Europe and America. If the relations with the countries go bad for some reason, they withhold the money. So they can save their surplus money in Bangladesh if they want. Bangladesh has no will and ability to withhold this money. We have to think seriously about what we will do in the future.

Views Bangladesh: A few days ago, the International Monetary Fund said that the interest rate of bank loans should be based on the market. It also suggests market-based exchange rates for foreign currencies. If the exchange rate of foreign currency is based on the market, what effect do you think it can have on the local economy?
AK Abdul Momen:
Market-based exchange rates of foreign currency can have both positive and negative effects. But I think, bank loan interest rates should be market-based. In economic terms, exports are considered to increase when the local currency depreciates. However, it may not be the case that exports will increase only if the local currency is depreciated. Because we have to see whether we have surplus products to export. It should also be seen how competitive the products produced in Bangladesh can be in the global market. However, if the local currency is devalued, there is a risk that import costs will increase greatly. This may further increase inflation. Controlling the high level of inflation at the moment and bringing it down to a tolerable level is a big challenge.

Bangladesh is increasingly dependent on LNG imports for its energy sector. Bangladesh mainly imports LNG from Qatar. Apart from this, fuel is also imported from the spot market. China's bilateral relations with Bangladesh are very good. So the initiative can be taken to import energy from China. China imports fuel from abroad. It also exports some fuel. So we can start bilateral talks with China on this. There are some difficulties in getting our fuel directly from Russia. Russian fuel oil requires some purification. We can't do that. India imports fuel oil from Russia, refines it, and exports it abroad. Instead of being overly dependent on a single source, we need to find new sources of fuel oil imports.

Views Bangladesh: Thank you for your time
AK Abdul Momen:
Thank you too.

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