April 12, 2013

Perspectives for the Middle East in 2013

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Corneliu PIVARIU

President&CEO of INGEPO Consulting.

Maj Gen — (ret.)

Member of International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London (2006), Friends of Europe Think Tank — Brussels, alumni of Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education and  member of The Academy of Political Science — New York.

At the end of 2006 He founded His own consulting company, named INGEPO Consulting. Beside the specific activity of consultancy, INGEPO are issuing, starting with March 2007, the bimonthly Bulletin „Geostrategic Pulse” (on Romanian and English language), accessed lately in about 100 countries and over 40 cities in Romania, with several media partners worldwide.

He wrote books on current geopolitical issues, Intelligence and Terrorism. It is author of many articles concerning intelligence and geopolitical subjects. He had several apparitions on national TV stations and Radio on subjects of national and international concern, and participating in international workshops and conferences.

Languages: English, French

GEOSTRATEGIC PULSE

First issued in March 2007, “Geostrategic Pulse” offers analyses in various domains of international and national security, objective and unbiased information on the latest international and regional geopolitical events, also considering their perspectives.

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Perspectivesfor the Middle East in 2013

The geostrategic importance of the Middle East, induced by the geographic position and by the energy resources of the region (according to the latest estimations, oil and natural gas re- main the main energy resources in the next 30 years), will be maintained. The geopolitical developments, at least for the next year, are not very likely to reduce the importance of the region, even though, according to the most recent evaluations made by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the USA is likely to become the biggest global producer of oil by 2020 and the first global producer of energy by 2030. At the same time, in the next decade, approximately 75% of the oil imported by China will originate from the Middle East.

The early parliamentary elections from Israel – 22 January, Jordan – 23 January, Lebanon and the presidential elections from Iran (the first round is scheduled for 14 June) are not very likely to cause significant changes in the developments that characterize this region.

The developments in Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian territories are of significant domestic importance. Iran’s situation, particularly related to the nuclear program, is another major coordinate for 2013. The progress of relations between Turkey and Egypt is also important at a regional level. Last, but not least, Israel continues to be a major element in this set-up, which also includes the USA, China, Russia and the European Union.

There will be two years in March since the beginning of the “Arab spring” in Syria. For this “anniversary”, Bashar al Assad may very well still indwell the presidential palace on Mount Qasioun – Damascus. Although there are opinions according to which the Syrian leader man- ages to maintain its presidency (without mentioning the size of the Syrian territory under his control) until 2014, we consider that, one way or another, Bashar al-Assad will give up the leader- ship of his country in 2013. Domestic stability is still questionable; the Islamist movements (the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists) along with their radical elements will try to assert them- selves to other less powerful laic elements.

Jordan was characterized by fewer problems in 2011-2012 if we compare it to its neighbors, Syria and Egypt. However, it failed to identify the best solutions for the popular demands. King Abdullah II of Jordan was content with the changes of prime-ministers and the dis- solutions of the Parliament, but these measures will be insufficient in 2013. The financial and economic resources of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan reduce even more the options of the King, who was 51 years old on 30 January. He will probably have to agree with new political liberties and even accept a significant abridgement of his royal prerogatives.

Iran continues to be an important issue for regional and global security. Regardless of the results of the presidential elections in Iran, the country carries on with its rhetoric against Israel and with the support offered to the Palestinians, especially the Hamas, while trying to avoid a military conflict with Israel and the USA. At the same time, Iran continues to develop a strategic relationship with Iraq, but there will be no close alliance between the two countries – pursued by the Iranian leaders – due to the international pressures.

The situation in Egypt remains uneasy. Economic difficulties are a constant parameter in the country’s social life (12% unemployment rate, 25% youth unemployment rate; 20% of the population live under poverty standards, though the GDP is estimated to grow from 3.6% to 4.6% in 2013 and 2014). The Islamist movements will prevail in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood will be the most important domestic political structure in 2013. Secularism will be more reduced than in Turkey and the Turkish-Egyptian relations will be dictated by the competition for regional influence, especially in what concerns Syria. Turkey might outweigh, even though the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has close relations with both Ankara and Cairo.

If it succeeds to gain influence in Syria, Turkey’s position in the region will change. Its economic situation and the NATO membership are two factors that support this change. There are many common interests in the Turkish-Egyptians relations, like the situation in Gaza or the views on Iran.  Premier Erdogan’s visit to Cairo, 17-18 November (accompanied by a delegation of 10 ministers and approximately 200 businessmen that signed 27 official agreements and offered a credit of 2 billion dollars) is the most recent proof of the statement above.

There will be no major events in the Gulf, even if there might be political turmoil in Bahrain and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia maintains its authoritarian regime, in spite of the fact that King Abdullah is almost 90 years old and Prince Salman, almost 80 years old, also has a fragile health. The price of oil, which will maintain a level higher than 100 dollars/ barrel (unlikely to rise more than

20% over this level), will not support any surprising political developments.

The United States will spin around the Middle East and Asia, even if its first strategic option is Asia.