GIS Dossier: Syria, Round 2
As Islamic State and jihadist rebels head for defeat in Syria’s civil war, the conflict is becoming more internationalized. Turkey has intervened military in the north against the Kurds, the U.S. has bombed Russian military contractors, and a rocket-propelled chess game between Israel on one side and Iran and Hezbollah on the other is heating up. If the key players aren’t careful, Round 2 in Syria could be a regional conflagration.
Turkey and the West – distant yet inseparable
Turkey’s growing estrangement from the West stems from its domestic and regional ambitions, as well as from a feeling of being unwanted in the European Union. There is also a deeper undercurrent, present since the founding of the Turkish Republic, that questions the Kemalist strategy of a radical alignment with Europe. Even so, a total break with its Western partners is not on the cards.
War in the North? Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iran
Israel is girding for another war in southern Lebanon. But this time Hezbollah can pound northern and central Israel with up to 1,500 missiles a day – 10 times as many as it launched in the entire 2006 Lebanon war. And the conflict could well spread to Syria and Gaza, and perhaps even to Iraq and the Mediterranean offshore gas fields. As Iran supplies Hezbollah with ever more advanced missile technologies, the window for a preemptive strike by the Israeli Defense Forces is closing.
Syria heads toward renewed conflict
Daesh’s imminent defeat in Syria has brought new tensions to the fore. Iran now has proxies and allies right next door to Israel, while the U.S. has committed to a long-term military presence. Russia’s main objective continues to be securing its Syrian bases, and Turkey is becoming more isolated over its insistence on keeping Kurdish groups from controlling any territory. These factors form a volatile mix that makes it difficult to foresee anything but renewed conflict in the already war-torn country.
2018 Global Outlook: Four dangerous dynamics in the Middle East
Early 2018 finds the Middle East at a singular moment in its history. It is hard to recall a period when so many fundamental geopolitical shifts have occurred just as societies, states and alliances in the region were all starting to fall apart. Four disruptive trends can be identified, any one of which would have sufficed to produce regional instability in the not-too-distant past. Today, their combination creates a formidable dynamic for armed conflict.
Opinion: A combustible pentagon in the Middle East
For security in the Middle East, the real Pentagon is not a building on the Potomac but the potential for a five-sided conflict involving Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia and Israel. To these forces on the ground, one can add two players by remote control: the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The danger is not subsiding with Islamic State’s defeat and the reassertion of control by Syrian government forces. In some ways, it is getting stronger.
UN peace conference for Syria: too late
Europe and the United States took a moralistic stand on Syria’s civil war, demanding that Bashar al-Assad must go. This created an opening for Russia: because of its military intervention, the dictator remains firmly in place, the humanitarian tragedy is deepening and chances for a negotiated settlement seem largely lost.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
Erdogan’s ‘new Turkey’ resembles an old stereotype
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now unleashed, having consolidated full power over Turkey’s ruling party, parliament and the judiciary. After sweeping away the remnants of democracy and the Kemalist state, he has reached the point of no return. Which raises a simple question: what happened to the “new Turkey” – the assertive, prosperous Islamic powerhouse – that he promised?
America edges back into the Middle East
The United States is cautiously reengaging in the Middle East. To deal with an explosive situation that threatens world peace, President Donald Trump must first tackle the legacy of the Obama years, which left Russia and Iran well entrenched in some of the region's Arab countries. Forcing them out may not be possible, but the U.S. could restore some equilibrium.