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.
Global Outlook 2017: Israel and its neighbors
Concerns about Israel focus on President Donald Trump's explosive proposal to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which could set off another Intifada in the Occupied Territories. But the bigger danger lies in Syria, especially if President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah decide to strike south. That would put Israel eyeball-to-eyeball with Iran on the Golan Heights, and trigger a wider regional war.
Hezbollah’s role in Syria
Iran established Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s to fight Israel and subvert Sunni regimes in the Middle East. Now, it is doing Tehran’s bidding in the Syrian civil war, supporting President Bashar al-Assad. The experience has given Hezbollah fighters the military skill necessary to strike again at Israel. The coming conflict could be much worse than the previous round of fighting in 2006.
Don’t blame Sykes-Picot
May 2016 marked 100 years since the signing of the controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided up spheres of influence in the Middle East between France and the United Kingdom. Some argue that the colonial powers duped a helpless and naive Arab world, leading to the region’s chronic instability. However, over the past century Arab countries have constantly been torn between nationalism and Islamism – something that has made it difficult for them to become modern democratic states.
Saudi Arabia-Russia partnership takes shape
Saudi Arabia is losing trust in its old ally, the United States, whose posture in the Middle East has markedly changed. This provides an opening for partnership with Russia. Although the two countries stand on opposite sides of several important issues – especially the conflict in Syria and how to manage low oil prices – there are signs that cooperation is increasing.
Turkey: an awkward partner
As Turkey’s unstable internal politics have lurched toward repression, its foreign policy appears to have lost direction. The escalating war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has pushed resolution of the Kurdish question into the distant future, while terrorist strikes and a conflict with Russia have dragged Ankara deeper into the Syrian quagmire. Meanwhile, the suppression of voices critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised doubts about just how far the rule of law applies. Where is Turkey headed? This question is being asked in Brussels, Berlin and Washington. Since 2011, Turkish politics have been unpredictable.The answer matters because Turkey has a key role to play in any effort to resolve the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. In Western capitals, it is expected that Ankara will take a clear stance in the fight against Daesh, also known as Islamic State.