The new geopolitical landscape in the Middle East

St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, Moscow
Ahmed Abdul-Rahman writes exclusively for LDC about the new geopolitical landscape in the Middle East and how the region might look.

In the past year, the Middle East has witnessed a further escalation of conflicts and there continues to be an attempt to change maps by way of power struggles and energy disputes. The year 2021 will likely witness other changes in light of a new US administration, which will enable the geopolitical landscape to be redrawn, The Arab-Israeli normalisation agreements are one such example.

It is also possible to monitor the extent of Iran's success in preserving its regional gains, and to measure Turkish penetrations from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus. The 2020 panorama demonstrates how continued Arab uprisings, ideological changes and destructive chaos have moulded the political landscape.

The restructuring of the Middle East, Egypt's undeclared goal since 2003, is being realized and awaits its final touches. The most important thing is that some Arab countries, such as Lebanon, do not pay the price and become a victim of major deals struck between other regional powers.

The year 2020 began with Iranian-American tensions in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) increasing. It also began with Turkey's moves in the eastern Mediterranean and its agreement with the Tripoli government and its intervention in Libya. Since late September, the Turkish expansion has reached the southern Caucasus.

Normalisation between Israel and the major Arab countries, including the UAE and Bahrain, was the most important event in the Middle East in 2020. By observing the development of situations and conflicts from the end of the Cold War, it is clear that the stakes and strategic calculations are interconnected. They also surpass the mini-Middle East in the form of the Mashreq or the Middle East, to the Greater Middle East extending towards Turkey, Iran, North Africa and Pakistan, the formula set by Washington during the Iraq war in 2003.

The planned Greater Middle East also includes Islamic republics that were subject to control by the Soviet Union whether if be in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. There is no doubt that the Greater Middle East will remain one of the most prominent areas of influence amid regional and international conflicts. Moreover, despite the American retreat since the Obama era, it is clear that the United States is not thinking of leaving the region, whose stability constitutes vital self-interest as well as the security and stability of its allies and partners.

As for Russia, which has returned through the Syrian gate and is stationed in Tartus and Qamishli, its attention now extends to Libya. Strikingly strategic, Russia signed with Sudan, during the presidency of Omar al-Bashir, a 25-year agreement to establish a maritime logistics and maintenance centre in Port Sudan.

Thus, Russia will have, for the first time in decades, a military presence on the Red Sea and in East Africa .As for China, which has established in Djibouti the first Chinese naval military base overseas, it continues, through soft power means, to consolidate its economic expansion through the New Silk Road, which considers China one of its most vital countries .

In the international context, European interest continues, especially on the part of France, which urges its allies not to lose sites and interests from the eastern Mediterranean to the African continent. It is clear that ongoing conflicts, involving Turkey, Russia, Iran and Israel, have accelerated.

The pace of change in recent years has accelerated in order to fill the void of Washington's withdrawal as well as for these countries above to reconsider their policies. The imperial projects of these four countries and their historical glories, from the heirs of the tsars to the heirs of the Ottomans and the Persians, to Israel's endeavour to employ its transformation from a small and encircled state to a balanced state according to the criteria of scientific, technological and military progress, have shaped the region.

All of this comes as Arab countries have become more concerned about the existential danger of Turkish and Iranian expansionism in the region at the expense of the Arab countries and their national security. Within the bargaining between the non-Arab regional parties in force since 2003, the fear of weak links such as the project of a viable Palestinian state, or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which almost lost its geopolitical function during the Trump administration, is confirmed, as well as Lebanon, a state similar to the sinking "Titanic" without an orchestra and without Captain in light of the denial of his controlling system and linking it to an Iranian axis that kept it away from its Arab setting and isolated it internationally.

In this respect, it is known that the strong Iranian influence in Lebanon, and the considerable support that Tehran provides to the Lebanese Hezbollah, has prompted the United States to include Hezbollah in the list of terrorist groups. Thishas led to an increase in the international isolation of Lebanon.

.This overlapping of conflicts, and the large number of players, does not make it easy to change regional boundaries whether it is from Libya to Yemen. In light of this, it is difficult to determine the winners and losers in the 2020 confrontations. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the repercussions worse.

The year 2020 was difficult and bloody in the Greater Middle East, in which the pangs of the birth of a new regional order was not easily evident due to the changing balance of power, the type of new wars, and the diversity of challenges and stakes facing the different partie. The year 2021 will affirm the continuation of this order and the beginning of the end of the era of Iranian expansion. The year 2021 will also be more difficult for Erdogan's ambitions since America and Europe are placing pressure on him.

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Thursday, 13 May 2021