The external relations are getting complicated

Published 24.06.2015 18:04
Updated 24.06.2015 22:53

The situation in the Middle East has gotten totally out of hand and most of the Arab countries' state structures have disappeared or have been very badly damaged. The human tragedy is definitely beyond description, whether we take into consideration Syria, and most parts of Iraq, Yemen or Libya. There are two countries in the region that still have a very solid democratic foundation, Turkey and Israel. There is a third country whose state structure and regime can hardly be defined as "democratic," but it still has a functioning system of statehood and a sense of national appurtenance on the part of its citizens, Iran. Two other countries try to contain the incredible wave of migrants while safeguarding their statehood, Lebanon and Jordan. There is also a last category of countries - oil-rich economies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE, which do not wish to see the current tragedy going on and do not have enough military or diplomatic weight to stop the bloodshed.

Egypt, which used to be the center of gravity in the Arab world, is in total dereliction. The mighty Egyptian army had to accept Hosni Mubarak's demotion from the presidency, but never wanted to abide by democratic rule. They endured legally-elected Morsi's presidency less than a year and staged a coup. Normally, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi would have had a much harder time assessing his legitimacy vis-à-vis Obama administration. However, Israel and its lobbies in Washington have put forward enormous pressure and efforts to persuade the U.S. to continue to support Egypt and its army. However, probably for the first time, the Egyptian army is not at all in a position to wage any major-scale war against insurgents in the Sinai, Yemen or Libya, the presidency and government are very weak and the opposition extremely strong and decided. So only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are in a position to send their air forces to support fighters who resist the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) or the Houthis. Their land forces are not really operational.

Israel tries to remain as distant to the conflicts as it can, but Benjamin Netanyahu's relations with the U.S. and Turkey remain extremely fragile. Within all this turmoil, one single country is able to still have workable relations with all the other countries at the same time, including Iran. This is Turkey, which just completed a vibrant, democratic, participative and transparent election. Unfortunately, Turkish voters have asked for a coalition government to be formed. In the short run, this is not going to help Turkey's external policy to perform better. In the longer run though, there could be a nation-wide consensus to act as a moderator between all these countries, to look for an acceptable solution to end the bloodshed.

There is a very obvious equation: Nobody can really think about winning the game through military means. A second assessment is the fact that very few countries care about the tragedy of the Middle East, so it will be up to the countries of the region to form a platform to debate solutions. A third and striking consequence is the fact that the region cannot survive by not breaking important taboos, to begin with the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state. It is just impossible to watch people being slaughtered and countries disappearing while keeping to centennial "red lines." This is just not sustainable anymore. Turkey has taken a many steps in the direction of cooperation and free trade in the region. It is time to think seriously about all these options.

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