October 18, 2019

Middle East: Stable Instability

In the near future, we should expect reformatting of the centers of power throughout the Middle East


Vadym Volokhov

With the election of Donald Trump as president, the United States' foreign policy has become somewhat unpredictable, and this is entirely true for the Middle East region.

Considering the geopolitical processes observed today in the Persian Gulf, one can conclude that the Gulf is the centre of some key trends of today. Thus, Washington is trying to block the Gulf as a free economic region through imposing economic sanctions on both, Iran and the states that trade with it. The Persian Gulf clearly tracks the USA's plan to dismantle not only the “North-South” project, but also individual logistics routes of China's new “Silk Road” project.

Today, despite systemic pressure from the United States and its allies, Tehran continues to adhere to the policy of expansion of Shi'ite Islam (the so-called policy of export of the Islamic Revolution) and continues to actively compete for regional leadership.

It is clear that the end of the war in Syria requires adoption of a new constitution. And under these conditions, the Kurds and the systemic Syrian opposition will insist on the autonomy and federalization of the country, as they have repeatedly stated. If this happens, implementation of another American project — “Free Kurdistan” — will begin, which will change the borders and territories of almost the entire Middle East with the actual USA's outlet to the Black Sea. The likelihood of this scenario is low, but it should not be ruled out.

Ankara, which seeks to gain access to the oil fields in the northeastern Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria, disagrees with these plans.

In the narrow sense of the current situation in the Gulf, it can be said that the countries of the region have broken into groups according to their “interests and geopolitical ambitions”, and this has led to the emergence of previously virtually impossible alliances, such as the Ankara-Tehran alliance, which is extremely negatively perceived by the “impossible”, albeit temporary and situational, alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The situational alliance of Turkey, Russia, and Iran (as we have repeatedly mentioned) makes it impossible for Washington to achieve the regional isolation of Iran. Iran's alliance with Qatar and Turkey (two Sunni Muslim states, Iran — a Shiite country) does not allow Saudi Arabia to position itself as a fighter with religious fanatics.

Qatar's alliance with Iran has an impact on the energy carriers market, as they (together with Russia) have about 55 % of proven gas reserves. Iran is now actively developing its relations with Qatar in different spheres, including the military one.

Qatar, which does not recognize Saudi Arabia as a Sunni leader, and with which it has rather serious disagreements, when Washington's position in the Middle East has recently weakened, has got effective support from Iran and Turkey and is becoming an increasingly active player. Turkey's support for Qatar is driven by political and economic interests.

Turkey's relations with other Gulf countries (first of all with the KSA) are expected to deteriorate in the future because of its alliance with Iran and Qatar. Politically, Turkey considers Russia a temporary and situational ally. As long as Qatar supplies gas to Turkey at preferential prices, it will not rush to meet Russia's demands for gas supplies and implement the notorious “Turkish Stream” project.

So, taking into consideration the further development of the situation in Syria, in the near future we should expect reformatting of the centers of power throughout the Middle East and, undoubtedly, the main participants of these processes will be Turkey, Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United States, and probably Russia.

The article is available in Ukrainian