In a couple of years, the world could well be speaking of a decade of conflict in Syria in which regional and external powers were involved either directly or through proxies.
The Islamic State remains a threat. Thousands and thousands of jihadist fighters not only from those directly involved but also from distant countries traveled to Syria to take part in the fighting. Their return home has now become a security challenge. Specialist monitors at the UN have warned that a recent pause in international terrorist violence may soon end, with the possibility of a new wave of attacks before the end of the year. What this portends for the clash or dialogue of civilizations remains to be seen.
Migration has now become a most divisive issue for receiving countries. The emphasis is not on the tragedies on the seas but on how to deal with those who have managed to arrive at their destination.
Regional countries who were allies at the beginning of the conflict are now implacable adversaries.
Some in the West have raised the possibility of redrawing of Middle East borders.
The Arab spring has proved a disappointment. Authoritarianism, nepotism, corruption, lack of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms continue to be the hallmarks of the Middle East. Peoples are holding their breath to see Tunisia to write a success story.
The Western intervention in Libya under an overzealous interpretation of UN Security Council resolution 1973 has proved a disaster.
The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen has turned into a humanitarian catastrophe. Gulf dynasties may have the money, but in the absence of a regional security architecture they remain dependent on Washington for their security.
Saudi Arabia has recently announced that it would allow adult women to obtain passports, travel and work without securing the permission of a male relative. The decision no doubt aims at improving the Kingdom’s international image tarnished by the Yemen war and the Khashoggi murder, but it will take decades for the so-called “guardianship” system to be eliminated.
Turkish women’s rights to vote and run for office was recognized on December 5, 1934 under the enlightened rule of Ataturk, leader of Turkey’s War of Independence and the founder of the Republic.
The fate of Afghan women under Taliban rule is likely to prove yet another tragedy.
Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, its efforts to isolate Tehran with an anti-Iran block bringing together Israel and some Gulf states have already led to further divisions not only at regional level but within the West as well.
Gulf tensions have reached the Mediterranean through tanker seizures.
Improvement in ties between Israel and the Gulf states is a positive development. However, confronting Iran should not be their principal rallying point. They need to remember that the settlement of Palestinian question will not only pave the way for lasting Middle East peace but deal much more than a battlefield blow to the ideology of radical extremism.
Finally, tensions over hydrocarbon resources in eastern Mediterranean are rising independently of Iran related problems.
The performance of Middle East leaders in the face of such immense challenges has been dismal to say the least. Have they made a genuine effort to end regional fratricide? When was the last time two Middle East leaders met to seriously address their bilateral problems? When was the last time they all gathered around a table not to settle but at least talk about their differences? The world is undergoing change and why are they only spectators?
Why not change the name of the OIC to Organization for Islamic Conflict?
Middle East leaders’ inability to show the courage to address the root causes of regional failure has only paved the ground for external interventions. This enables them to continue playing blame games and attribute their failures to dark schemes and conspiracies by hardly ever spelled out external centers of evil. They are always the righteous, the virtuous and the benevolent. But history will judge them harshly.
This couldn’t possibly be the destiny of the Middle East. Or is it?
Ali Tuygan, Ambassador (Ret’d) and former Undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The article is also published on his blog.