Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Shifting sands in the Middle East

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The Middle East is experiencing massive geopolitical changes, the biggest question is-who will be the net gainer?

Seldom has any region in the geopolitical landscape of the Earth received such attention as the Middle East is doing.

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Historically, the Middle East has been the seat of great power contestation, first between the colonizing powers in the first half of the 20th century and later on for oil in the second half of the same century.

The region has been known for tumultuous nature of social peace allegedly due many reasons.

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These are sectarian infighting, Arab-Israeli conflict and Shia-Sunni rivalry between Iran and the rival Sunni gulf kingdoms.

Winds of change

The changes that is rocking the region is not singular but multifaceted.

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On one hand Syria, which was dismissed as a pariah state by Arab countries following the uprising against Bashar Al Assad and later on the civil war has been welcomed back.

Syria has been readmitted into the Arab League with diplomats of multiple Arab countries wooing Syria.

On the other hand, there is Turkey which is practically a European country by location. Turkey, however, is culturally and historically has been a part of the Middle East for long.

Turkiye, Qatar and Iran

This pertains to Recep Tayip Erdogan who won his third consecutive term in office making an outreach to Israel.

He hosted high level Israeli officials some months back with an aim of rapprochement and to orchestrate a reset in ties which has been marred by several issues principally over Israel’s settler policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Coming now to the issue of Qatar, the country was blockaded by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt back in 2017.

The grounds are Qatar supporting Islamist organizations producing terrorists and the Qatar state news network Al Jazeera promoting terrorism.

Iran is another country which has been in the news.

Recently, Iranian foreign minister meet his Saudi counterpart to reset ties which has been rocked in recent years over a variety of issues.

These include Iran supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza strip respectively. The other issue, and this is perhaps the biggest one is the highly contentious Iranian nuclear program for years and is doing more so in recent years.

Points of conundrum

There are, however, several points of contention.

Firstly, improving ties with Israel, the only Jewish nation-state in the region must remain a priority. But that is easier said than done, this is because of Israel’s controversial settler plans in the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories and Israel’s aggressive approach to its neighbors.

Secondly, Iran and Israel are likely to remain sworn enemies in the near future with possibly zero chances of rapprochement.

This is more so in the light of Iran unveiling its first hypersonic ballistic missile Fattah.

The missile has a range of over 1500kms and can strike deep inside Israel and other regional countries.

Israel will remain antagonized thanks to this as well as attempts to revive JCPOA.

Conclusion

For peace to maintain a permanent hold in the region, what is imperative is a rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

This interaction with the possibility of the latter recognizing the former will bury (potentially) centuries of Jewish-Muslim conflict.

Plus, it will spell the death knell for the Palestinian statehood cause, something which has already happened with the Abraham Accords signed in 2020 between Israel and Arab states Morocco, UAE, Sudan and Bahrain.

It will truly be a case for God as Karen Armstrong mentioned in her book by the same name.

 

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