Much has changed in the Middle East since the eruption of the Syrian Conflict. A late bloomer to the Arab Spring, Syria has gone beyond the narrative of dictator vs. the people and become a major proxy war with the potential to consume the entire region. In the past two years, age old strategic alliances have collapsed while strange and questionable partnerships have been formed. One of the more interesting breakdowns involves the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey, most recently evident by Turkey exploring the option of reducing oil imports from Iran.
Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category
Tags: Civil War, Erdogan, Periphery doctrine, Regional hegemony, Regionalism, Syria
by Bilal Hamade
On the 19th of October 2012, a car bomb explosion in East Beirut killed Police Information Branch Chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan with 2 other people. The assassination came as a surprise to many. The person in charge of the most powerful security apparatus in Lebanon is dead, who else is safe?
In the deeply divided country, accusations following every assassination are always ready. March 14 Alliance accuses Syria; while March 8 alliance accuses Israel, and the latter accuses Hezbollah. In this particular assassination however, pointing fingers is not as easy due to Al-Hassan’s enigmatic personality. The only absentee on the day of Rafiq Hariri’s assassination and the mastermind behind many successful security operations, al-Hassan has earned the title of Lebanon’s most skilled security official.
Tags: AK Parti, Cyprus, Erdogan, Periphery doctrine, Strategic Alliance
Featured on Al Jazeera World, filmmakers Mariam Shahin and George Azar chart the deterioration of the Israeli-Turkish relationship. Once part of the United States’ strategic alliance in the Middle East, new realities within the region are forcing these competing powers to clearly define and prioritize their self-interests from their mutual interests. The documentary also looks into the impact of recently discovered gas deposits on the future of this once key strategic alliance.
To read more of about the history of Israeli-Turkish relations and their loose grouping under the periphery policy, click here.
Tags: East Bankers, Hashemite, Jordan, Palestinians, Refugees, Syria
In the midst of the chaos that defines Middle Eastern politics to the outside world, Jordan seems to be strange anomaly. Since its post-World War II establishment, the principality has gone through little change and comparatively lacked the tumultuous turns and revolutions that have forged their neighbors. However, in a region where every bomb blast and rocket fired causes a ripple effect, Jordan has not been immune to the pressures outside their borders. Today, the state is bearing the brunt of a refugee crisis stemming from the conflict in Syria, a role it has grown accustomed to playing since its’ inception.
Tags: Arab Spring, Assad, Civil War, Middle East, Politics, Regionalism, S, Shiite, Shiite Crescent, Sunni, Syria
By Frazier Fathers
This past week’s decapitating strike by Syrian opposition forces resulted in the deaths of Defense Minister Dawood Rajiha, his “deputy” Asef Shawkat (Assad’s brother-in law), Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani and Hisham Ikhtiar (Syria’s National Security Chief). The brazen bombing showed that the situation in Syria has recently deteriorated much quicker than many expected; the ability of the ever emboldened opposition to strike at the higher echelons of the Syrian regime is becoming a potential game changer. As the situation continues to spiral out of control, reports of ethnic cleansing of neighbourhoods and villages to the driving out of Iraqi refuges are raising sectarian tensions.
With pundits all agreeing that it is not a matter of “if” the Assad regime will fall but rather “when,” attention needs to be paid to what the aftermath of his fall might be. Syria is a divided nation in a divided region, where the majority Sunni population has been repressed at the hands of the Alawites (Shiites). Meanwhile the Kurds of Syria much like Kurds in Iraq and Turkey has suffered years of repression that has led to various nationalistic movements within the group. Smattered between these major groups are enclaves of Druze and Christians who are positioned to be potential targets of reprisal for their years of supporting the Assad regime.
Popular political scientist John Mearsheimer and former Pentagon official Dov Zakheim argue about the merits and risks of Iran possessing nuclear weapons and its influence on Middle Eastern stability. The debate over the purpose of nuclear weapons has been reignited in recent weeks by Kenneth Waltz’s piece on the Foreign Policy Magazine, where he argues that Iranian nuclear weapons would bring stability to the region. Waltz’s article can be found here.
In 1984, a Canadian director and an Austrian strong-man created a film franchise based on an intelligent computer system that turns on its creators and wages war on mankind. The Terminator series went onto spawned many sequels, a TV series and even a horrible Nintendo game. Yet be not alarmed, there is no impending robot apocalypse. However, our rapid progress and deeper reliance on technology might be leading us in to a new era of war; adding new layers to an age-old human ritual that has constantly been streamlined and perfected. What does this evolution mean for the nation-state and its concept of war and security? How will these advances impact the century succeeding the bloodiest hundred years in human history?
Tags: Diplomacy, EU, International Relations, Iran, Israel, Negotiations, Nuclear program, P5+1, Politics, United Nations
By Uri Marantz
The latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and the West has once again failed to deliver concrete results, resolutions (of even the most minimally binding nature) or serious agreement of any kind; besides of course, agreeing to reschedule previously scheduled meetings for a future-but-as-of-yet-undefined date in time. The West in this case refers to the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Germany (or the EU3+3, named after another Iranian negotiating bloc in the mid-2000s).
This patently predictable turn of events, this lack of progress on a potentially globally destabilizing hot-button political issue, has not surprised a single analyst or political expert on Iranian nuclear affairs. Western-Iranian nuclear negotiations have become almost as endlessly protracted and hopelessly intractable as Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations; to paraphrase the Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, these nuclear negotiations have become the only continuation of politics by other means.
Tags: Alawite, Assad, International Relations, Lebanon, Politics, Proxy War, Regionalism, Shiite, Sunni, Syria
It is hard to believe that the violence in Syria has gone unabated for over a year. When the Arab Spring first took hold of the Maghreb and parts of the Gulf, Syria was a late arrival. Former President Hafez Al-Assad had laid down a brutal precedent by crushing the 1982 revolt in Hama that some analysts predicted against a Syrian uprising in the birth place of Arab nationalism. However, with the fall of Egyptian stalwart Hosni Mubarak, Syrians came onto the streets, not chanting for revolution but reform. Unfortunately, Hafez’ son, Bashar Al-Assad, took a page from his father’s handbook; the chants were met with bullets and country has been descending down the path of civil war since. Diplomatic efforts at every level – state, regional and international – have failed to string together periods of peace, let alone halt the violence and there is real danger that Syria’s boundaries will be unable to contain the conflict.
Tags: Iranian Nuclear Program, Israel, Kadima, Lebanon, Likud, Mahmoud Abbas, Mofaz, Netanyahu, Palestine, Politics, Preventive War
Last week, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu pulled off either the most despicable or brilliant political manoeuvre in the nation’s 64 year history. A day after having called for new elections that many expected him to win, Bibi, as he is affectionately called, did a U-turn and formed a new coalition with the Centrist Kadima party. It became a media sensation, causing wonderment, shock and anger while raising plenty of questions. Why did the Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz become bed fellows with the man (the “liar”) he vowed to oppose in the upcoming elections? Why did Bibi and Likud change their stance on new elections a day after the announcement? Moreover, what does this deal mean for Israel? Iran? The Peace process?