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The New Challenges of the Middle East

m.zahrani

There is no order and military balance in the region. The region is not in a good shape. The region does not have stable relations with the international system. We are having a lot of refugees and people without border. There is a population movement within. Seculars do not accept Islamists and vice versa. These facts represent a characteristic of our region, full of conflicts, civil war and fear of each other's intentions. Military effectiveness is not possible in the region in the current way of conducting the war. Military culture and military programs and the military context determine the future of MENA (Middle East and North Africa). The most important is the context that shows that in the traditional way of fighting, the great powers do have not enough means for sustainable solutions. We need to resolve conflicts by political means. We also witnessed a power shift. At this moment we have a new president in the US - we all know him, his thinking, his personality and his team, very much immature in politics and inexperienced, in particular with regards to the Middle East region. Talking war is not the right language for the region. This administration can only talk about war, especially when it comes to changing regimes. It should not use this type of language. No one notices a clear strategy of this administration. We only notice see a great shift towards Syria, Saudi Arabia, to despotic regimes. In the presidential campaign he emphasized we must avoid the war, but today the trend is a different tone from Washington. Saudis have a new government-a new generation that has evolved in the last three-four years. A young leader has all the power in hand. Without the necessary means, without precise purposes, it is dangerous to have an immature president in the US and a young man as the so-called leader in Saudi Arabia, representing an unprecedented situation. You need an educational process in Saudi Arabia and for the Trump administration. A similar thing occurs in the Emirates.

In MENA, the Iranian presidential election also took place. I am proud to be part of this people; these elections are a model for a region full of uncertainties, as more than 75% of the population came to the ballot and expressed their choice through elections. The sad news that in those days the US president went to Saudi Arabia and created problems and pushed more sanctions against the Iranian people (not against the elite). This is the meaning of democracy for USA. At this point, we need to have a plan for the five types of governments in the region: a) 20% of the states of the region are failed states, b) we have authoritarian and subversive states that create problems in order to remain in power, c) states in the midst of civil war (Libya and Syria), and d) states that can transfer power through peaceful means - not that many, and e) we have different non-governmental groups trying to be once again at the head of a state, a state which they have lost and groups that are supported by other states and the groups that want to get back to power because they have been in power in the past (Houthi and Kurdish factions). There are three branches of Islamism, but for us the most important is the one that comes out after a vote - Islamism may be the expression of the authoritarian, radical and revolutionary authority (Daesh, Nusra) or one that follows a vote. It is very important that we have a paradigm vacuum in the region. It's a struggle between ideas: Non-Islamic vs. Islamist, Shia vs Sunni, Nationalism vs. Islam. None provide proper answers to the problems in the region. What would be the paradigm for the region? Could democracy be a good one?

Who killed the democracy in the region? Is democratization a good paradigm for our region? Should we single it out?

It is an important point to be debated.

Many problems in the region have begun with Iraq. Iran and Europe must work for peace, security and prosperity and for Iraq's territorial integrity. Saudi Arabia has the role of supporting terrorism, and intervention is a somehow new- a patented phenomenon since 2003. Russia as a second power attempts to play a military role in the international system. Maybe Syria and Iraq will change the nature of rivalries in the region (regional powers vs great powers). The GCC fracture that has emerged after decades is a new phenomenon and we do not think it will be overcome soon. The main rivalry in the region will take place in the future between Russia and China. Our expectation from Europe is important. Some believe in the alliance/ rivalry formed between Russia-Iran and Iran-US rivalry, amid events in Syria and Iraq. Some in Europe want to create divergences between Iran and Russia as an instrument for control. It is important for Europe to have a political solution for the region, with the help of Iran and possibly Russia. Some believe they can turn Syria into a quagmire for Iran. I believe this is a wrong policy. Reconstruction of Iraq and Syria after Daesh is very important. We should not wait something like Daesh, i.e Nusra, to come to power. America believes that after Daesh they can rebalance Iran through the Iraq-Saudi Arabia-Emirates coalition. As far as I am concerned, it will not work. Let us think of Iran as a force of stability against terrorism, as a genuine force against terrorism. We have proven this in recent years. We have paid a hard price, both human and material, however a necessary price to fight Daesh. We were ourselves victims of terrorism. The first suicide killings in the contemporary era have begun in the streets of Iran. Those terrorists groups have sanctuaries in the European capitals and Washington and have contributed to the spread of terror in Iran before Daesh started suicide killings. The problem with Daesh started ulterior.

Democracy through international institutions that can build domestic institutions can be a solution. Also, the inter-dependent economy can be a solution for the region. Those who think about zero-sum games as a solution for our region must remember that it is not constructive. Cooperation vs. balancing is a good solution for the region, especially when it comes to military balance, which does not work. JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) remains a good instrument in shaping our region security-wise. Unfortunately, because of the American domestic policy, JCPOA has not become a real treaty. The US President could do more. An unpredictable president makes JCPOA unpredictable. Iran has fulfilled its share of obligations and everybody agrees with that. But Washington (USA) did not do its job, especially when it comes to lifting sanctions. The Iranians voted Rouhani with the expectation of doing the right thing- stabilizing the region, engaging with the international system, working with the international community. Iranians are still waiting for the same thing from the US. There are four different ways Trump can behave in the case of JCPOA - with the nature of his personality in mind, all four different things can happen - including the destruction of the JCPOA, but in a way that Iran does not have a legal excuse to be against this. The JCPOA was fulfilled due to the important role of the EU in finalizing the agreement. Maintaining it is important. Keeping the will is very important. Some voices in Iran are against it from the very first day, just like the hawks sitting in Washington.

The role of the EU is important for the future. The EU is not negatively perceived by Iranians. It is seen positively.

To put aside Iran in Syria (the aim of Washington) is quite difficult to achieve, the debate about the change of the regime does not work anymore. To push back Iran from Iraq or Syria or Yemen is not working.

I have worked for a while on a project called Diplomacy in the post-globalized world.

There are some issues debated: Terrorism, violence and diplomacy in the era of globalization. But let us talk about the post-globalization era. We can find new solutions. There is room for cooperation between Iran and Europe, directly and indirectly. Europe's role is to educate the immature leaders in the region and in Washington.

Note: This paper was presented during the International Conference “Evolutions in Fighting Terrorism and the New Challenges of the Middle East”, held in Bucharest on the 5th of July 2017.

 

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