2019 Global Outlook: The Fertile Crescent
The single most important development in the Middle East has been the end of Syria’s civil war, which was unequivocally won by the Baath regime. Even the hammer blows of a determined religious opposition could not destroy the post-World War I system that created Syria, Iraq and Jordan as Arab states. But with the announced U.S. withdrawal from Syria and the victory of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian sponsors, the way could be cleared for an explosive confrontation with Israel.
The U.S. and Canada: chilly relations won’t sever the ties that bind
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have a contentious relationship. Yet the economic, security and administrative ties that bind the United States and Canada together are far stronger than any hostility between the two countries’ leaders. Though differences in defense policy will exacerbate tensions over the next few years, trade will strengthen their bonds.
Withdrawal from Syria: George Washington’s warning revisited
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria was neither a bolt from the blue nor a departure from his predecessor’s strategy. Even so, the announcement allowed a new and perhaps more stable configuration to emerge in the Middle East. While the short-term winner appears to be Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the longer-term advantage may be with the United States.
Tajikistan: A Sino-Russian flashpoint?
The drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan and Chinese persecution of the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang could turn Central Asia into a hotbed of jihadist terrorism. One country that is particularly vulnerable to such a resurgence is Tajikistan. It is also the area where Russian and Chinese security interests could most easily come into conflict.
Gaza and the Hamas problem
Cut off by their neighbors, the people of the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip suffer from high unemployment, low investment and only sporadic electricity. With Hamas having proven itself dangerous to Egypt, Israel and the Ramallah-based Palestinian government, it is not difficult to see why the sanctions continue. Qatari aid may give temporary respite, but Gaza’s fate remains sealed by the terrorist organization’s determination to destroy Israel.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 2)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s to-do list reads like Mission Impossible. Staff his cabinet with honest officials; rebuild war-torn Sunni areas in the north; placate an angry Shia south that is desperately short of water and power; deal with Kurdish demands; reintegrate Iranian-backed militias into civilian life; balance carefully between Iran and the U.S. He must do all this without a secure parliamentary majority or even a solid support base. Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s position as an honest broker gives him great strength, but if he fails, Iraq could become Libya.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)
Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was reportedly hand-picked at meeting in Beirut by the leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah. Yet the man they chose is far from a radical. Close examination of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s career shows him to be an experienced, honest and gutsy politician, friendly to the U.S. and hardly in Tehran’s pocket. The task he faces is gargantuan, but Mr. Abdul Mahdi has hidden strengths.
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, Iran and the potential for peace in Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a summit in Ankara with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on April 4. The focus of the meeting was Syria. The move showed how Turkey is renewing efforts to overcome past rivalries and improve relations with its neighbors to solve one of the biggest threats to its interests. If these three regional powers can manage to use realpolitik, there may be hope for a resolution to the Syria conflict – at least in the short term.
VIDEO: 2018 Global Outlook: Four dangerous dynamics in the Middle East | GIS: Global Trends Video Reports
Early 2018 finds the Middle East at a singular moment in its history. At a time when regional political and security structures are crumbling new, transactional alliances are emerging, which creates a formidable dynamic for armed conflict.