Consideration to geostrategic pulse 269 - The fragility of the Middle East’s alliances as an expression of global geopolitical conflicts

The fragility of the Middle East’s alliances as an expression of global geopolitical conflicts
Corneliu PIVARIU

After the so-called Arab spring of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which is turning gradually into a rather gloomy winter, the alliances existing at the beginning of this century in the region have begun to alter and new elements emerged as a result not only of the regional developments, but also due to the power relations at the world level.

One of the main reasons of the current situation is represented by the absence of any long term plan of the American Administration after the 2003 Iraq’s invasion as well as the mistakes it made in Iraq, Syria and Yemen both during president George W. Bush mandates but also during the president Obama’s mandates (who, wishing to observe his promise of not involving the USA in any  war during his office, missed many opportunities in the Middle East). Such a position increased the non-confidence of the Arab allies in Washington’s capacity and desire of maintaining its position in the region. The new national security strategy of the USA, too, did not manage to define a specific role for the US and their forces in the region or to really respond to Russia’s increasing influence in Syria, to China’s economic influence in the region and all these made the Arab governments and the opinion-makers (research centers and media) question the American position and policy on a medium and long run in the area.

Under such circumstances, the lack of unity of the Arab world – a permanent feature of this world – increased  and one of the most telling examples is the 2017 situation of the relations with Qatar and the recent decision of the government in Doha of quitting OPEC. Some sources mention that  the possibility of the country’s withdrawal from the Gulf Cooperation Council is being very carefully analyzed in Doha.

Since several decades, regional powers – especially Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were involved in a regional competition for maximizing the influence in the area, in a contest or alliance with Great Britain, Russia and USA. At the present time, Iraq has not such a pretention any longer as it is under a strong Iranian influence, Moscow tries to subtly recover its lost positions, Saudi Arabia has its reputation bruised after the disastruous manner it managed the conflict in Yemen and after the Khashoggi affair while Egypt has too complicated a situation, especially in the economic field, for making regional claims.

Taking into account these developments, Turkey appears at least for now and for the immediate future the great winner as it improved its image in the Middle East in comparison with Saudi Arabia. Ankara tries to gamble on both sides of the conflict in Syria in order to maximize its role during future negotiations. It is certain that the success of the American policy in Syria depends to a great extent on Turkey and Washington has to understand Turkey’s regional objectives. At the same time, Iran, Russia and Turkey, involved in the conflict in Syria and which appear to form a cohesive bloc, could try to assume a role transcending the Middle East yet their interests in Syria are diverging enough to prevent that.

Russia is satisfied with what it has achieved in the Middle East and will try to preserve its position and, if it finds opportunities, to improve it.

Even if it keeps a low profile, Israel will further play a decisive role in the Middle East and when the USA will define a coherent long term policy in the area, the said role will become more poignant. The manner in which the conflict in Syria will be solved will foreshadow the future alliances in the Middle East and, why not, the seeds of a new global order.

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back Published in 2018-12-20 Print Download up