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The Middle East will still go forward with heavy burdens in “post-Daash"

CIIS Time:12 26, 2017 Writer:Li Zixin Editor:Wang Jiapei

 

 

 

The year of 2017 is unusual for the Middle East. Unfortunately, the bad news was still more than good ones. There is no doubt that the best achievement is the declaration that the "Daash" (so-called as “Islamic State”) has been successfully exterminated by many nations and that the Middle East has entered an era of "post-Daash". However, the geopolitical wrestling has been choppy; the latest dispute over Jerusalem has further complicated the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict; the vigorous internal reforms in Saudi Arabia with the succession of the monarchical power and the economic and social reforms taking place in parallel, and the uncertainty of the situation in the future has increased. In general, the Middle East in the "post-Dassh" may not be able to enter into a new era of political integrity and living and working in peace.

 

The Iran nuclear agreement reached in 2015, despite of the dissatisfactions by several regional countries, has generally stabilized the situation in the region and reduced the uncertainty of the development. However, in the last two years, the hope has been turning into disappointment. The geopolitical contests become more complicated.

 

First of all, Saudi Arabia and Israel are deeply disturbed in the face of the growing regional influence and military projection of Iran. A series of attacks against the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen undoubtedly points to the Iranian regime. Despite the common contradictions between the Saudi Arabia and Israel, the two countries share high consistent interests on the issue of fighting against Iran. Besides, the United States, as a common ally of these two countries, is always supporting for this under the rule of President Trump.

 

Since his inception, Trump´s "America first" foreign policy required that the United States shall be in a contractionary position in the global strategy and that "paternalism" had been unable to sustain under the current diplomatic guiding ideology. The Off-shore balancing is the method to continue protecting the interests and the influence of the U.S.. Through the Iran nuclear Issue and the dispute on Jerusalem, the United States has firmly locked each other among the three most important countries in the region (Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel), and thus helps itself withdraw from the concrete quagmire.

 

As for Iran, the JCPOA is an important opportunity to break the blockade and to reintegrate into the international community. Anyone who wants to tear up the agreement or impose new sanctions on Iran will inevitably face the fiercest opposition from Iran. In the last two years, Iran has developed close economic and political ties with Europe. And for Europe, the enormous economic interest in expanding commercial cooperation with Iran spurs on a high degree of subjective aspirations and objective demands for maintaining the existing agreement. The EU has become an important stabilizer for balancing the U.S. policy toward Iran and for maintaining the JCPOA.

The most capricious attempt - Reforms in Saudi Arabia

 

For the Middle-East countries, the core issue at present is how to consolidate its own power. Since the influence of the "Arab Spring" in 2011 has not yet been settled, the reigning leaders of those countries still feel a strong sense of unease. In this context, the contradictions between religious aspects have become a good chance for relieving internal pressure. Meanwhile, to obtain the support by main powers outside the region has also become a priority for the development of foreign policies of such countries. The Saudi royal family, which is in the midst of an intergenerational succession, has been particularly prominent in this respect. It is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia's policies show that it is looking for a new diplomatic solution besides the United States.

 

The new policy implemented by Saudi Arabia does not mean that Saudi will abandon its alliance with the United States. The foundation for Saudi Arabia's alliance with the United States remains solid since the common interests of both sides - against Iran - have never changed. On the basis of stabilizing the United States, the search for a breakthrough in diplomacy and the reform of the internal affairs have become the highest priorities of Saudi Arabia at this moment. The United States is not 100% satisfied with the "big move" of Saudi Arabia in terms of internal and foreign affairs. However, the stability of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important regional interests of the United States so that its support to the royal family is difficult to be adjusted. Such strategic interests have been fully seen and made good use by Saudi Arabia. Therefore, despite its capricious policy, Saudi Arabia still receives tolerance and support from U.S..

 

The most pessimistic expectation - Fight against Terrorism

 

There are two main reasons for this: First, the annihilation of the "regime of Daash" does not mean the demise of its fighting forces. Daash is degenerated from "state" to “guerrilla”. Terrorists either continue to be entrenched in their original activity areas and adopt more covert forms of liaison to plan new attacks, or, they are flowing to other areas where the anti-terrorist forces are weak, which will lead to the spillover of terrorism from the core area to the rest of the world.

 

Second, although the armed combat has achieved a phased victory, the soil for the breeding of terrorism has not been eliminated. One increasingly worrying trend in the Middle East seems that most parties have abandoned the basic principles of international law and morality in order to achieve their goals and maximize their own interests. Such arbitrariness leaves the extremists an excellent excuse to recruitment.

 

Taking the recognition of U.S. on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as an example, this policy will undoubtedly increase the dependence of regional countries on the United States, which means the situation in the region will depend more on the changes of U.S.’ policies, and the "off-shore balancing" will play a greater effect. Notwithstanding, the hatred released by Pandora's Box will further promote the spread of extreme ideological trends in the region.

 

The situation in the Middle East will not be fundamentally changed by the weakness of one terrorist group. The geopolitical contest and conflicts between religious aspects will probably continue to dominate the situation in the region. The Middle-East politics embodies the "brutal and unbearable" side of international relations. However, the Middle East has its own way to survive and the good hope might be brought to the general public in the new year.

 

 

 

 

Li Zixin is a Research Fellow associated with China Institute of International Studies.

 

 

Source: Asia Pacific Daily, December 19, 2017.

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