The current approach to the Middle East explained

People are buying food in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel, the home of Abrahamic religions, according to the  Bible. 

There needs to be a more realistic geopolitical approach to the Middle East, writes Ahmad Abdul-Rahman. He explains how different approaches in the region have affected the Arab world and what should be done to ensure a better outcome.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Arab world was dominated by the "politics of axes". The Middle East region and its geographical neighborhood are plagued by this which meant that regional dynamics were affected by the existing differences between alliances of states of various kinds. With the end of the effects of the American peace (Pax Americana) in the Middle East, the region began to return to a familiar and more stable situation.

Pax Americana is a term applied to the concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the world after the end of World War II in 1945, when the US became the world's dominant economic and military power.

Today, Arab states find themselves in the midst of three broad alliances ranging from formal military agreements to looser relations of cooperation.These alliances are listed below.

First, the Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian alliance stands out. It took on an important new dimension when the Arabian Gulf States reached an agreement with Israel based on the Abraham Accords in August 2020.

Second, a Tehran-led alliance has emerged between countries or organisations that include Iran, Syria, and Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, albeit in a less visible way.

The third alliance, brings together Turkey and Qatar, but it seems that it is witnessing changes in the wake of the recent reconciliation between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Doha.

This set of relations is not a duplicate of the old axes policy, as it includes three non-Arab countries (Israel, Iran and Turkey) that have an influential role in Arab politics. In addition, these alliances do not seem as cohesive as previous alliances in the 50s and 60s. At that time, Arab alliances were affected by ideological divisions between the US and the former Soviet Union.

Today, ideology is very far from the thinking of the region's rulers. Relations are based primarily on flexibility and cold calculations in an effort to gain influence and achieve gains in the region amid a political climate in which Washington has left a huge void that everyone is trying to fill. Gulf states do not claim to adhere to the most important principles to justify their actions, but rather that they achieve their national interest to justify their choices, and, in many cases, this explains their sudden fluctuations. These fluctuations ranged between these countries' adherence to their principles and the achievement of the national interest.

This principle applies to Iran and other parties, although the leadership in Tehran always uses religious and sectarian reasons to explain its behaviour. However, this conceals a deeper Iranian nationalism fueled by implicit ambitions to dominate the region. But Iran is not the only country reviving its old hegemony to gain influence. Turkey, has recalled its Ottoman past, which has added a new dimension to its contemporary policies.

For a long time, Iran was convinced of its ability to expand its influence in the troubled Arab countries, but the limits of this strategy became clear, as Tehran participated in maintaining the Assad regime in Syria, for example. This happened in exchange for the destruction and permanent destabilization of Syria and the launch of Israeli military responses..

Similar to Lebanon, Iraq, or Yemen, the experience in Syria has demonstrated that being within Iran's sphere of influence creates a one-way relationship with Tehran. The expansion of Iranian influence in these countries has led to the spread of manifestations of destruction, collapse and corruption, and this situation is in Tehran's interest. Since this model is not tempting for Arab societies, Iran's power may gradually weaken over time unless it changes its current course.

To re-establish a new, stable order in the Middle East, regional alliance alignments must demonstrate the ability to draw borders for adversaries while introducing soft power incentives to increase their attractiveness to allies. Given the fragility of military agendas par excellence, methods of persuasion will likely become more important than intimidation in determining the outcomes. This factor cannot be underestimated in light of the major problems looming on the horizon in the Arab world

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Saturday, 28 May 2022