Middle East is in the eye of the storm


Middle East is in the eye of the storm

The Middle East has been going through a period of transition, and the clock will not return to the era before the events of 2011. This means that instability will continue for years to come, and the security dimension will prevail because conflict among great powers with different priorities will exacerbate the challenges facing the region.
In Russia, the aim is to keep insecurity away from its borders, including problems that may come from the Middle East. It is the Russian defense doctrine to nip in the bud any terrorist or security threats. It follows that Russia will make efforts to to avoid any increase in insecurity in the Middle East that would result from factors such as the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the move of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Some political experts view the world as dominated by the policy of the US, with Russia and China as emerging powers. The political and geostrategic power map will change based on the interests of these key players, regardless of physical borders because cross-border influence changes affiliations and alliances — as in the cases of Iraq and Yemen, where some regional powers have an interest in changing the political maps. Once the map of the region is redrawn by regional powers with the support of other states, the next phase will be the development of “moderate Arab countries” with foreign military bases on their territories, such as Russian, Chinese, American and French.
With the end of the crisis in Syria and an expected presidential election, Arab countries will start reconsidering the importance of Iraq and Syria as major regional players. Syria already hosts two Russian military bases and Chinese special forces; both countries have interests not only there but also in the other countries in the region, having used Iraq and Syria as springboards. Since Iraq and Syria have a mosaic of many sects and ethnic groups, they could be used to redraw the political map of the region in a way that would serve the interests of some regional and international powers.
The US president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may create unexpected alliances. For example, Jordan may be closer to Turkey because of its position on the Palestinian issue and for Ankara’s support over Jerusalem. This was clear during the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Istanbul this month, when both countries insisted that Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine and that Jordan had the right of guardianship over the city’s holy sites.

Issues such as youth unemployment must be addressed or there is a danger that the events of 2011 will repeat themselves.

Maria Dubovikova

In order to identify the engines of change in the Middle East and chart its future, we must consider that it will continue to deteriorate in many respects in the coming years, with a state of instability in which some countries that will fuel regional, ethnic and sectarian conflicts.
Marginalization of ethnic groups will lead to regime collapse in some countries, and their disintegration into sub-states. The danger is a popular explosion fueled by economic deterioration, fiscal austerity, high unemployment and political corruption. In short, the Middle East is now in the eye of the storm.
In a number of countries, the youth have become a time bomb that cannot be defused, because of the increase in their numbers and the high level of youth unemployment, rampant inflation and unprecedented fiscal deficits. The low indicators for economic growth, and political and social instability, will push many countries in the region to boiling point. The huge gap between rich and poor could prompt people to revolt, with no clear outcome of the repercussions except chaos and anarchy.
Western research sources suggest several scenarios for the Middle East in the coming years. First, after a crushing defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria and the disappearance of its leaders at the hands of international intelligence services, the terrorist groups move to the desert with their leaders to start new wars. Second, the security, military and economic weaknesses of a number of countries in the region make the coming unrest vulnerable to proliferation, but this time it will be cross-border and without restrictions. This could redraw the geopolitical map because of the internal challenges in many Arab countries, and the fact that their armies have been engaged in street wars with terrorism that have already weakened them.
The future of the Middle East is vague; all that is clear is that the region will endure many political and security conflicts that will lead to further chaos and confusion. Issues such as youth unemployment should be addressed urgently, before the events of 2011 repeat themselves. 
• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme
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