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Bucharest
February 3, 2023
EDITORIAL

Conundrums in the Mideast

The Mideast, perhaps the hottest area of the planet since WWII as far as security and stability are concerned, is also an endless source of surprises. During the Cold War, it was the region where the two Grand Powers had challenged one another through proxies for several decades, in episodes that even involved nuclear alerts. In the era that followed the Cold War, it continued to be highly challenging from the perspective of international stability. It is enough to mention recent episodes, caused by the appearance, in 2010, of the phenomenon known as “Arab Spring”, the prove the accuracy of this description of the region. Replacing dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2010 – 2011, the civil war started in Syria, in 2011, which still continues at this time, the instability in Yemen, which is still on the daily agenda, the recent intervention of Saudi Arabia with terrestrial forces in a never ending civil war are just a few landmarks. Another significant aspect is the Iranian nuclear file, as the international community has applied efficient international sanctions to Iran in order to make them give up producing their own nuclear weapons, that would have drastically worsened the situation of security in the region. Yet, the landmark that is most important for Europe is, these days, the occurrence of the massive wave of migration from the conflict area of the Middle East (or, better to say, the Greater Middle East) that has the old continent struggling for a few months with the most terrible crisis since the Cold War. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the conflict areas of Libya, Nigeria , Afghanistan, etc., are actually assaulting Europe after crossing the Mediterranean Sea – thousands of victims were already registered in shipwrecks, and causing a great distress to Southern states of the EU, especially Italy and Greece. The procedure is well-known since spring: traffickers overload – intendedly or not? – thousands of immigrants headed North in ports located in the South of the Mediterranean Sea and then, leave them to the guards on the Italian or Greek coast. It resembles a clustered immigration that follows a precise purpose and we do not have to hesitate in drawing the logical conclusion: it is meant to exhaust the accommodation possibilities provided by target countries on a wider scale of Europe, precisely the European Union. Simultaneously, from Syria, almost two million refugees entered Turkey and, as following a signal, they headed to Greece all at once. And Greece conducted them to Macedonia, from where they were led to Serbia and Hungary. The target was explicitly declared, mostly Germany and Sweden, which also diminished the efforts of transit countries. The rush of immigrants from the South and East of the Mediterranean Sea has forced the EU into one of the toughest exams since it was founded. Voices rose demanding the reestablishing of customs patrols at borders (Austria already installed them under various pretexts) and, as far as the future of immigrants was concerned, there are already two trends, divided politically and by public opinion. One of them supports the integration of immigrants, based on the principial duty to support the victims of human rights violations and to find solutions based on the principle of European solidarity, and the other promotes forcing the newcomers to return to their home countries, in order to preserve European identity that might be altered by unexpected contact of civilisation. At the time being, neither of these actions can be identified as applied one way or the other, and the EU still writhes in sheer distress.
Yet, besides of these landmarks of the situation in the region – we will revisit the last of them as soon as possible, as there are many theories being circulated, many of them utter samples of conspirationism, and the matter must be granted a believable answer – there are obvious mutations that changed or are about to change the political geography of the Middle East.
The first such change is the one related to the relation of Saudi Arabia and Russia. Moscow’s stubbornness in supporting the Assad determined a pronounced hostility of Riyadh, which responded by lowering the price of oil, which, on its turn, substantially affected the Russian budget based on the income of the “gas station”. Russia was the first country approached by Riyadh – it is obvious why – to counterbalance the consequences of the agreement of the international community with Iran in the nuclear field. The Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister visited Moscow by the middle of last month and demanded an agreement with Moscow to solve the Syrian file. It was rejected. The reason: the fate of the Assad regime. Russia wants Assad to be part of a solution negotiated in Syria – otherwise, it would plead for the dissolution of this state – and Riyadh considers that the leader in Baghdad should leave.
“Russia is pushing for a coalition to fight Islamic State insurgents — who have seized swathes of northern and eastern Syria — that would involve Assad, a longtime ally of Moscow. But, speaking after talks in Moscow, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reiterated Riyadh’s stance that Assad must go.”- “Moscow Times” wrote following the visit of the Head of Saudi diplomacy to Moscow on August 12. “A key reason behind the emergence of Islamic State was the actions of Assad who directed his arms at his nation, not Islamic State”, Jubeir declared, and went on to say that “Assad is part of the problem, not part of the solution to the Syrian crisis … There is no place for Assad in the future of Syria”. The divorce from Russia is sealed (is this the reason why the price of oil dramatically decreased on the international market?) Rejected in Moscow, in his attempt to gain a confortable position in Mideast against Teheran – which does not necessarily mean that Russia supports it, but that Moscow seeks to discuss such matters with partners of adequate status (the United States), Riyadh, in geopolitical logic, may now approach Israel. This option of the Saudis would have seemed unbelievable a decade ago. Yet, in the Mideast, everything is possible.
The observers of the geopolitical stage of the Mideast have noticed lately that a connection between Riyadh and Jerusalem is highly likely. Moreover, it was pointed out that both states have initiated contacts in this direction and that they need to reveal their relations in public. An American magazine ran an article recently (on August 31), saying that “Should Israeli and Saudi intelligence agencies and militaries begin sharing information to develop coordinated contingency plans – as well as how to counter the Islamic Republic’s regional encroachment – Iran won’t be able to compete anywhere in the region.” (http://ciceromagazine.com/opinion/going-public-the-new-importance-of-saudi-israeli-rapprochement/). In other words, obviously, both states, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are afraid that the agreement with Iran in the nuclear field is one that favours Teheran in the ascension to the domination of the Mideast, which would push both Riyadh and Israel to a close cooperation. This connection of the two states “isn’t meant to lead to embassy openings, it is meant as a realpolitik measure to ensure their own respective places in the balance of power, and the public needs to be sold.”
Mideast is preparing surprises due to be revealed soon.

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