December 14, 2018

The Middle East – quo vadis?

Corneliu Pivariu. Photographer: Ionus Paraschiv.

By Corneliu Pivariu.

The so-called “Arab spring” has thrown the Middle East and North Africa in a mess which evolutions in perspecive are difficult to anticipate, especially as a result of the global geopolitical situation that does not allow yet to contemplate what the coming world order will be.

Today’s main conflicted situation in the Middle East is the one between Iran and Israel. Whether since the emergence of the State of Israel it succeeded in winning all the wars with its Arab neighbours and to sign peace treaties, too, towards the end of the last century with Egypt and then with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the relations with Iran did not evolve at all towards normalization but, on the contrary, new tense and dangerous elements emerged for Israel and for the the peace in the Middle East. The breaking out in 2011 of the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria seemed to solve the last threat from the close vicinity of Israel by eliminating one of the last dictatorship regimes in the Middle East, the one in Damascus. Turning those protests into a civil war led to escalations and contrary evolutions of which the most important were the Russian intervention in Syria and Tehran’s regime direct military involvement for backing Bashar al-Assad, the Tehran’s ally ever since the ten-year war between Iran and Iraq.

The situation in Syria got complicated, too, as a result of the mistaken foreign policy pursued by the Obama Administration, of the increased differends between Saudi Arabia and countries in the Gulf (first of all Qatar), of the weakness of the regime in Cairo, the situation in Iraq and the developments in Turkey.

The ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran exploited these situations to its own interests for expanding and strenghtening their influence towards the east on the Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut line but also in the Gulf by developing the relations with Qatar and the involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The support they granted to the Palestinian movement Hamas especially in Gaza represents another element through which Tehran achieves its foreign policy in the Middle East.

President’s Trump withdrawal from the nuclear accord with Tehran and his hardening the sanctions against Iran, the military strikes carried out by Israel against some Iranian military objectives in Syria as well as Tehran’s maintaining its unyelding position in what concern Israel are the main evolutions that made the likelihood of a new military conflict in the Middle East breaking out increase.

We consider now that there is an important likelihood, close to 50%, that the USA gets involved in a conflict for overthrowing the regime in Tehran alongside its main allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. A direct military conflict with the involvement of the American military forces is less probable but not impossible and it depends not only on the Iranian position but also on the relations among Washington, Moscow and Ankara as well as on the domestic position of president Donald Trump.

An assessment such as that the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran is unshakable represents an exaggeration and history proved several times the weaknesses of the regimes that considered themselves immutable and then vanished as a result of not being able to adapt themselves to the geopolitical shifts and to the evolutions of the human society. Or, the weakness of the regime in Tehran comes exactly from inside, from the lack of will for reforming.

The developments in the Middle East will be influenced by the situation in Turkey, too, where two years exactly passed since the so-called failed coup attempt (more than 70,000 people arrested and over 110,000 people dismissed from the state administration) and after president Erdogan won a new presidential mandate with increased constitutional powers.

So, the Palestinian issue remains on the background of the concerns in the Middle East and a new peace, vaguely durable in this area, will mean that globally, too, things move towards a new world order which architecture is still difficult to anticipate.

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About the author:

Corneliu Pivariu, former first deputy for military intelligence (two stars general) in the Romanian MoD, retired 2003. Member of IISS – London, alumni of Harvard – Kennedy School Executive Education and others international organizations. Founder of INGEPO Consulting, and bimonthly Bulletin, Geostrategic Pulse”. Main areas of expertise – geopolitics, intelligence and security.

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Corneliu Pivariu Ingepo Consulting. Photographer Ionus Paraschiv

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