quotes Political pragmatism and the Middle East

07 October 2021
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Updated 07 October 2021

Political pragmatism and the Middle East

It seems that history has not moved an inch forward in the Middle East. A region that suffered violent political and ideological ruptures — to the extent that it is believed that the land is cursed — ever since the 1916 British and French Sykes-Picot agreement shaped many of the region’s countries today. The area that has and still oscillates between cases of division and non-partition, war, peace, and development is at a standstill. This may be how it will remain for the foreseeable future if the major countries, led by the US, continue to deal with their files with the same ambiguity and confusion that is present now.

The region suffers from violent tensions, whose current conditions are not in the interest of global security and stability. Most of its issues have not been resolved, either by internal parties or by the international community, headed by the UN Security Council.

The scariest thing about the ongoing issues is how they intersect with people’s livelihoods, a parallel path with cases that lack international seriousness in resolving them, and the inability or unwillingness of some of its parties to carry out the same act of decisiveness. The issues are numerous; disputes in the Nile Basin region, fundamentalist, political and demographic incursions of Iran and Turkey.

What is strange and questionable about the crises of the region’s countries, despite their apparent relative calmness, is that they are destructive and threatening with no unilateral solutions. Different parties are intertwined, which causes any follower to be confused in figuring out which is the main party and which is the real actor capable of solving the issues.

Are they the big countries (who appear as parties), or are there other smaller countries and unknown parties that hold the keys to solutions, whose details have not been announced until now? Perhaps the question was a little too deep in the region’s future outlook, the facts of which, frankly, have not been clarified until today.

Another strange thing that the countries of the Middle East are currently facing is a situation that can be best described as an abhorrent political pragmatism, or as “the silent and confusing agreements” at the same time between parties that have more hostility than interests. I am talking about the Iranian regime with its hostile history since the Safavid state in 1532 and the Turkish government with its hostile history since the Ottoman Empire.

This historical enmity between them melted and fused into one goal; the desire of each party to help the other impose its hegemony, influence, and make decisions in several Arab countries. Which, in turn, is the most significant and most potent component economically, humanly, and even militarily. Their alliance is a form of black comedy or political fantasy as if the two regimes are proceeding in the context of tacit undeclared agreements. They seek to formulate a new reality similar to Sykes-Picot, but this time in their favor.

The first regime appears to move in the context of its blatant interventions in closing and tightening the circle around countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria while the other is working in the same direction in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Tunisia. What is funny is that their common goal is to besiege the Gulf states and Egypt and conspire against them.

Unfortunately, all of this is taking place in light of a state of mutual disregard between them in the context of pragmatism and political fundamentalism that the region has not witnessed before, which lacks clarity of major countries' real visions, led by the US. The confusing duplicity in dealing with such files, relying on the principle of the problem and its opposite, causes chaos that not only affects the political threats to the region’s countries but also goes beyond, causing deliberate distortion of all future visions in the region, significantly affecting the current or future generations.

The international community bears an inherent part in this. By letting the Iranian or Turkish hand prey and tamper in the region or even by leaving fateful files that determine the shape and future of the region, such as Iran’s nuclear file, or the Tehran and Ankara regimes’ support for the militia, or their attempts to impose a new reality with new demographics and sects that are fundamentally incompatible with the history of the countries in which they are present or tampering with. This new reality will inevitably turn with time, even if imposed into bodies and lumps in a worst-case scenario. One day, the region’s body, which will not accept them, will push them away, no matter the sedatives.

• Yasser El-Shazly is an Egyptian journalist and author