Speculating on the outcome of the past and prospects for the coming year in the Middle East, 'Arab spring' can be taken as the triumph of democracy, which, according to most Western experts, should lead the region in a state close to the European standards. Judgments of this kind are not based on an objective assessment of the situation, but rather on faith and like any faith this doesn't need any proof.
The Russian Federation, fortunately, has every chance to stay away from regional conflicts
The aim of this paper is a brief description of the situation on the theater of the Middle East in the present and future. Political scientists tend to try to fit reality to their own theories. Politicians depend on the judgment of the public and the media. Diplomats are limited in their assessment protocol. Not being a political scientist, politician and diplomat, the author prefers to rely on the facts presented and analyzed by experts from the Middle East Institute, for which the author works.
The strategy of 'Wahhabi axis'
By the end of 2011 mass riots that engulfed the Middle East, spread to its Central Asian periphery. The overthrow of the ruling regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya led to power liberal circles, and representatives of political Islam,building upon the example of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, where parliamentary democracy is only Islamic.
However, the success of the 'moderate' Islamists - the Turkish Justice and Development Party, Tunisian An-Nahda, the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, the Palestinian Hamas and similar parties and movements, leads the way towards extremist groups. The latter was clearly demonstrated in Libya, where the Salafis now are one of the most influential military and political factions vying for power.
Political, media, financial, organizational and military support for the Islamists during their rise to power in the states covered by the 'Arab spring', was provided by 'Wahhabi axis' - Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In particular, Egypt received financial investments (according to experts, about four billion dollars), as well as television propaganda by Doha and Riyadh have led to an explosive increase in the number of voters for the Salafis.
The Saudi kingdom and emirate of Qatar has played a key role in the involvement of Libyan civil strife in Paris, London and Washington that supported the local separatist revolt in Cyrenaica. The result was the physical destruction of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's destabilizing similar to Afghanistan-Somali scenario, its removal from the political scene in Africa and Middle East, resulted in a sharp decline in oil production and exports which is a significant benefit to the monarchies of the Cooperation Council of Arab Gulf States (GCC).
Now there is every reason to speak of dominance in the League of Arab States, around which is formed 'holy alliance of Sunni monarchies.' The inclusion of Jordan and Morocco, in this group has greatly increased its military component. Invitation for Egypt forms the basis of the future 'Arab Club' that can solve problems that exceed the scope of the suppression of Shiites riots in Bahrain (the collective efforts of the GCC), or in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (its own army and National Guard of the kingdom).
Here are the main trends that can be noted in this strategy:
- fight against the Shiites in the Arab world and beyond;
- sequential elimination of secular authoritarian Arab regimes and careful probing possibilities of revival of monarch dynasties
- widespread promotion of the power of the Arab world by Islamist parties and movements;
- formation of lasting economic and military-political alliance with the West;
- Bid to strengthen the influence of radicals and extremists outside the Arabian Peninsula (including the same West) and the suppression of them within the 'Island of the Arabs';
- readiness for confrontation with Iran;
- undermining the position of Israel in the West and international organizations.
Forewarned - forearmed
Diplomatic attempts by the Russian Federation diplomatic prevent the catastrophic scenario of regime change in Libya, supported by Arab League and NATO (GCC-controlled) with the actual support of the UN, the rigid opposition to Moscow's repetition of similar operations in Syria, were regarded by Arab monarchies (especially by fur coated Riyadh) as an open Russian support for Shiites against Sunnis. In addition, in terms of the same monarchy, Moscow actually sided with rival Iran, which requires an adequate response by Arab lovers. It is a signal of readiness that led to incident of beating of the Russian ambassador in the emirate of Qatar by airport security staff.
The presence of the Gulf States treaties for the protection of their safety with a number of countries - NATO members (U.S., UK and France), support the efforts of the GCC to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, Turkey is believed to be Arabian monarchy, a sufficient guarantee of their invulnerability to any Russia's decision. It is also possible that the further consequences of diplomatic assistance from Moscow to Damascus and Tehran, and military-technical cooperation of Russia with Syria and Iran will be the revival of large-scale financing of terrorist groups in the North Caucasus and the Islamist underground in the large cities of our country, the organizers of the suspended anti-Russian Jihad, which began in between the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The fact that in the 2000s there was a shift of focus with 9/11. However, the resumption of generous monetary feeding of extremists in Russia is only a question of time and the corresponding political decision.
It seems that in such a scenario Russia have to deal with national separatist movements. Characteristic from the Soviet Union re-evaluation of the regional role to counter US and NATO, in particular, the underestimation of the local players, the tendency to regard them as potential allies in the confrontation with the West allow the Islamists of various stripes to strengthen its position in the Russian province. This is usually facilitated by corrupt local elites and performed under the auspices of religious organizations and charities, overseen by Turkey, Iran and Persian Gulf countries.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the loss of U.S. control over Afghanistan, the actual breakup of Pakistan and the United States in the field of counter-terrorist allow Sunni radicals great possibilities for the anti-Russian activity. By what precisely steps Russia can neutralize this activity - the question, which relates to the scope of military-political management of Russian Federation. Forewarned - forearmed...
Questions, questions, questions ...
Of particular interest are the likely scenarios for the development of adverse events. What exactly can and should, in addition to general statements of peacekeeping and diplomatic steps (such as mandatory for Russia as a member of the UN Security Council) Moscow will take in the event of civil war in Syria, which is likely to end with the collapse of this country? If war breaks out between the Arab monarchies (with their 'support group') and Iran, which could cause another round of confrontation between the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen? Iranian-Israeli conflict, no matter who unleashed? Strike on Iran by the Western bloc led by the United States, more and more is possible, no matter what Barack Obama said, as we approach the next presidential election in America? Developments in Egypt, similar to Iranian Islamic Revolution (in the Sunni version), the inevitable consequences will break the Camp David agreement, entering of the Egyptian army in Sinai, and it will suffer almost assured destruction in battles by Israeli troops similar to the Iranian Shah's army which was destroyed in the war with Iraq?
What Russia will do after the onset of the Iranian nuclear bomb, or the collapse of Pakistan, with its roughly 110 nuclear warheads in wrong hands? Transfer of Pakistani nuclear complex to Saudi Arabia - in whole or in part, as almost openly says former curator of the Al-Qaeda, Prince Turki bin Faisal, whose statements on this subject, American politicians and security officials studiously ignore? Collapse of the nonproliferation regime? The collapse of Iraq and an autonomous Kurdish state - with the corresponding reaction of Ankara?
Turkish aggression against Syria or Turkey clashes with Israel and Cyprus from the Mediterranean offshore gas? The fall of the dynasty or a change in monarch in Jordan? The final collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian 'peace process' with the subsequent annexation of Jerusalem, the West Bank or its parts? Collapse of the UN, all the less adequately responding to regional challenges? Further disintegration of Sudan? Transformation into a new Somalia, Yemen, with a possible appearance of Yemeni pirates in the Indian Ocean or civil war in Saudi Arabia and Oman? Expansion of military-terrorist activities of Islamists from the Horn of Africa to the whole 'Black Africa' - from Kenya and Nigeria to South Africa? Departure from the political arena of President Bouteflika in Algiers and Sultan Qaboos of Oman, because of the inevitable ripe old age of these very successful, but not immortal national leaders?
Is Afghanistan destined to the authority of Taliban, no matter where they come from, example of which - the civil war in Tajikistan, the Islamic insurgency in Uzbekistan, the color revolutions and Uzbek pogroms in Kyrgyzstan, not to mention the December riots in a dynamic and stable Kazakhstan?
What to do with Afghan drug flow that accrues to the Russian Federation with Western coalition forces, paying no heed? How to solve the problems of migrants, including the growing religious and political activity of immigrants from the former Soviet republics? To what extent and in what ways it makes sense to cooperate in solving regional problems with the West, China or India? What are the interests of Beijing and New Delhi with relation to Moscow? And as in the case of a conflict of interest in defending their own positions, will it endanger Russian economy? How to combine cooperation with Israel (in the modernization and military-technical cooperation) with the support for Palestinian people? What are the challenges Russia has to face with the weakening of 'world police' i.e NATO?
What is in store if Turkey set out plans to transform the 'new Ottoman Empire', including the issue of pipelines and the Straits, where the interests of Ankara and Moscow are diametrically opposed? Gain in the regional stance by China and its transformation in 2030 into a world superpower?
How to effectively resist the attempts of the Islamic world and the Western bloc, an alliance which will use weaponry in the Russian territory, with the open support of the 'international community' to destabilize the mechanisms of government as is done during the 'Arab spring'?
Each of these questions deserve detailed consideration and the list of issues and challenges facing Russia in relation to Middle East, are by no means minor.
What happens and what to do
Attempts to solve these problems and find answers to the challenges relying on someone as a regional ally, are doomed to failure: the allies in the Middle East are all but temporary alliances. And this applies not only to West but also as an ally to Russia.
Of course there are more or less constant interests, in many respects and defining the arrangement of powers; however, in the total regional balance it is not worthwhile to overestimate today's possibilities and potential of the Russian Federation, as one ought to develop about Soviet Union , its influence on Middle East was based on the well-known local players, willingness to throw money into the region, supplying arms and providing military forces, not for the strategic or tactical benefit, but for ideological reasons, prestige, institutional interests and voluntarism leadership. For decades, the Middle East 'socialist-oriented regimes,' played Soviet Union for this willingness or should we say weakness and some of their direct heirs are trying to play this game with Russia, more and more successfully.
It seems that 2012 will provide answers to some of the questions posed above and substantially deepen the crisis in the Middle East. Imminent bankruptcy of some EU countries, the euro and the Schengen problems will significantly worsen the prospects for a painless transformation of a number of Middle East modes, traditionally oriented to the European commodity and financial markets. In turn, Islamization of the EU, the growth of proselytism has already spread among European Muslims. Their provoking of radical ideas has empowered European nationalist right-wing parties, the results of which will be tightening of immigration laws, reduction of benefits and the ultimate collapse of the policy of multiculturalism, from which virtually all the European leaders are now distancing themselves .
The reduction or complete cessation of refugees and displaced persons, means the growth potential for conflict associated with illegal immigration in Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Spain and Portugal. If the 2011 migration flows for each of these areas totaled tens of thousands of people, then in 2012 their number could increase by an order. Notable in this regard are the fourfold increase in the last quarter of 2011 the number of illegal immigrants who have infiltrated through the Sinai into Israel, the problem of the Italian island of Lampedusa, and the construction of barriers along European-Turkish border which will become impassable barrier to the immigrants from Asia.
Another important development is the policy shift of the international organizations, which have now ceased to fix refugee problems in various countries. For the first time this practice was adopted in Iraq and then in Tunisia and Libya. In striking contrast Turkey intended to focus on the political establishment for the refugees and displaced persons from Syria. The latter emphasizes that the typical double standards of Middle East on this issue continue to operate. It is on this basis that Palestinians have become detriment and are looked upon as 'first class beggars'.
As stated above, the 2012 has a good chance to make history with series of large-scale wars and conflicts, the most significant of which Arab League's possible collision with their opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but also the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The Israelis in turn, is preparing active defense for its perimeter boundaries and will be less inclined to listen to the theoretical recommendation of sponsors of the peace process, not excluding the United States, as evidenced by the decision of the country's massive construction outside the 'Green Line'.
Conference on the Middle East in Moscow, announced in the spring of 2012, may well take place, but the folding of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue on all fronts - will ultimately result n a dispute. This unfortunately is the result of not achieving any form of consensus between Russia and the other power players, as demonstrated by current practice, due to differences on much more fundamental issues, including the European missile defense system and the future of Syria.
In any case, Russia has all chances to stay away from regional conflicts, and minimize their own consequences, and attempts to put a rigid barrier to protect its own territory, using inevitable hike in hydrocarbon prices to fill its budget...
Yevgeny Satanovsky ,
President of the Institute for Middle East