The Middle East is one of the most relevant geopolitical and geostrategic regions of the world. To better understand its developments, it is necessary to know various factors and components, including the great powers’ goals, policies, and strategies. The Middle East is receptive to crises and issues with comprehensive international reactions, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, energy security, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, the Iraq crisis, and Iran’s nuclear deal. Some developments in the Middle East have made the region very important for the EU Member States and the EU’s standard foreign and security policy.
Dialogue seems to be very common these days in the Middle East. We can mention here, the process of recent negotiations in the Middle East, including the Iran-US talks in Vienna, the meeting of Iranian and Saudi security officials in Baghdad, and UN-led efforts to defuse and end the war in Yemen. Although all of this still seems fragile, these negotiations represent an essential opportunity to engage in broader regional dialogue to reduce tensions through the opening of new communication channels. There is no magical and straightforward solution to end decades of mistrust, tensions, and conflict in the Middle East. Dialogues in the region should be based on recent de-escalation and relief efforts and the reckoning of the Biden administration. To succeed, conflict prevention and resolution must be made in multiple parallel paths to make progress in different, independent paths and lead to the same, yet unattainable, goal. A comprehensive regional security agreement in which all countries regardless of size, military power, coalitions, and political structure, feel secure and prosperous. The best way to start this process could be sending special envoys from a group of key European countries, with the support of the United Nations and the European Union, to the region for a wise agreement with the 6+2 (Six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Iran and Iraq) and other stakeholders, including foreign actors such as the United States, Russia, and China.
As the Middle East becomes the subject of rivalry and bargaining between the great powers, especially the United States, Russia, China, and the European Union, many future developments in world relations will occur in the region. The EU presence in the Middle East is seen as an attempt to present the EU’s active role in the political and economic reconstruction of the Middle East as one of the critical regions in the world. Representatives of the United Nations and the European Union are exploring opportunities for dialogue and assessing obstacles to progress to prepare the ground for regional dialogue. The guarantee of some assistance from the Biden government could be the key to the success of the UN and EU Delegations to the Middle East. It is momentous, thus, to build trust. The first step for all parties is to stop hostile rhetoric and propaganda in their state-run media to end the insults and mutual democratization that have plagued friendly relations. After that, the European-led regional dialogue must seek agreement on a principled statement. This statement may include commitments to refrain from using force against each other or to threaten the other party; affirmation and emphasis on mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all relevant countries; and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
The regional dialogue should also address the need for a mechanism to resolve military conflicts between neighbors in the Persian Gulf. The current inability of the parties to the conflict to communicate with each other immediately in the event of an army incident sets the stage for ill-assessments and, consequently, tensions. Establishing a communication channel for emergencies between the navy consisting of representatives of key actors and a UN observer based in a neutral country such as Oman or Kuwait can help ease tensions before the conflict escalates. Next, it can be focused on de-escalation methods through common security mechanisms, such as prior information on troop movements and military exercises. Simultaneously, in this regional dialogue, ways to expand relations between nations and cooperate in matters of insecurity and common interests must also be addressed. These include public health, education exchanges, communication between female entrepreneurs, environmental protection, and the fight against drugs. Such actions will help strengthen regional dialogue in order to build trust.
In summary, none of the tensions in the Middle East region will be resolved quickly. Political stability, peace, and efforts to strengthen the institutions that lead to the possible strengthening of democracy in the Middle East. Efforts to end the Yemeni war and manage regional competition in countries such as Iraq and Lebanon must continue alongside this regional dialogue; progress in the Persian Gulf talks may also contribute to the progress of these efforts. The recent transfer of power in Washington is also a new opportunity to reduce the risk and de-escalate. Dialogue and the opening of new channels of communication can, at the very least, prevent regional events from happening.
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About the author:
Amin BAGHERI is an Iranian research fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran, Iran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, political science, and conflicts in the Middle East. You can see more of his work on Twitter @bghr_amin.