Alea iacta est! The remake of the Middle Eastern political geography.

Posted in Broader Middle East | 08-Jan-07 | Author: Ioannis Michaletos

The current situation in the Middle East is one that can best be described as violent and turbulent one. The continuing crises such as in Iraq, Palestine, Iran-West relations and the ever present terrorist threat have cast a shadow over the region.

It has to be noted first of all that a large number of the existing Middle Eastern states were constructed after WW1 due to the then political aspirations and planning of the colonial powers, namely Britain and France.

Iraq presents an excellent model of the above. It is a country where three major ethnic-religious groups reside and actually fight a bitter civil war between them. The Kurds 20% of the population are hoping that the American intervention will finally lead to their independence or at least into a wide autonomy. The Shiites which represent 60% of the Iraqi people are also striving for their autonomy in the southern parts of the country. Lastly the Sunni minority of 20%, once the ruling party in Iraq; for the time being refuses any change because they are the losing side in any case. Should the Kurds and the Shiites achieve autonomy they would be left with the central part of the country that lacks any oil or geostrategic importance. On the other hand their position is perilous under the current administration because they feel threatened by the majority of the other two groups.

Moreover any redraw of the current Iraqi status causes severe strains in Turkey that would not like to witness the emergence of a Kurdish state, in relation to its continuous conflicts with the Kurdish minority in the Eastern parts of the country. Moreover, autonomy for the Shiites will most certainly benefit Iran and currently USA is not willing to assist one of its greatest rivals in the world. The whole Iraqi framework seems in a deadlock. If the situation remains as it is, the USA will not have a realistic plan of withdrawing its military forces, in light of the 2008 elections. In case America pushes onward a disintegration of Iraq, it risks creating a major instability in the region and actually aiding forces against its interests.

The Jordanian factor

The population of Jordan is mainly compromised by Sunni Muslims that maintain strong links with their brethren in Iraq. On a first glance the unification of these two groups into a single enlarged Jordan would be an ideal case. Of course one should take into consideration the response of Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians that would be mostly negative for a development that would enlarge the influence of the Hashemite Dynasty in the Arab world.

A synoptic historical note will most surely enlighten the complexities of the region, and how history could provide a guide for the better understanding of Middle Easter balance of powers.

The leader of the Arab revolution against the Ottoman Empire in WW1 was Hussein Al Hashemi the Emir of Hezaz. His dynasty was responsible for the safety of the two sacred Muslim cities Mecca and Medina, since the early 13th century. According to Arab historiography this is a holy family claiming descendent right from Prophet Mohammed.

Hussein Al Hashem managed –With the help of the Brits- to oust the Ottoman troops but soon faced the antagonism from another powerful and historic Arab family; the one of Saudis the creators of modern day Saudi Arabia. The latter were members of the Wahhabism strain of Islam since the 17th century that quite recently has claimed worldwide fame due to its suspected connections with terrorism indoctrination. The Saudi Dynasty managed to win the Hashemite in 1926 and claim themselves as the new protectors of the Holy Cities. It is interesting to note at this point, that since the early 1920’s the Saudis were assisted by the USA, whilst the Hashemite were bonded with Britain in most respects.

The heirs of Hussein Al Hashim were given the newly constructed states of Iraq and Jordan to govern –Jordan was then called “Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan”-. The planning made by the United Kingdom was to have two cooperating Sunni Kingdoms in order to counterbalance the Shiite Persia and the newly emerged and dynamic Saudi Arabia.

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 clearly changed radically the balance of powers in the Middle East, as it had been achieved since the early 20’s. Transjordan renamed itself to Jordan after acquiring land in both sides of the Jordan River, while in 1958 the Hashemite Dynasty was overthrown in Iraq after a Baath coup d’etat and the King Feysal was assassinated.

The Jordanian Hashemite Dynasty managed to survive –Amid multiple assassination attempts- by the ingenious lead of late King Hussein , who ruled from 1953 to 1999 one of the longest ruling Heads of State in the post war era.

Nowadays the Hashemite Dynasty has managed to integrate itself more in tune with the developments of the world and has played a vital role in supporting peace related initiatives in the region. On the contrary, the West often accuses Saudi Arabia as a backward society that has influenced either by fault or in purpose; the various extremist elements of Islam, in a worldwide basis.

Furthermore, the issue of the Palestinian conflict could not be achieved without the creation of a viable state. Therefore parts of Jordan East of the River would have to be handed out to the Palestinian authority, thus creating the most excellent condition for a long-lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Jordan in return could unite with the Sunni element in Iraq, thus providing safety for the population there and at the same time enlarging its regional status and act as an Iranian counterweight.

Continuing the creation of a Kurdish state will certainly help to withhold the Iranian influence and act as a factor of balance for Syria. That leaves the Shiite Southern part that would ultimately come under Iranian influence without altering though the regional balance. The enlarged Jordanian state and the Kurdish one along with Western assistance could help towards that goal.

Who is to disagree in those changes?

By resolving four of the most explosive Middle Eastern problems –Palestinian, Iraqi, Kurdish and the containment of Iran- future might seem bright for everyone. Nevertheless other actors will most certainly disagree, by seeing their influence waning in light of this grand reschedule of the Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Firstly Turkey would react in the creation of the Kurdish state, because they view such a move as a direct threat to the stability of their own country.

The Iranians even though they would gain an indirect influence in the oil rich southern part of Iran, ultimately they would lack any probability in pushing their claims further into the Arab world.

The Saudis would be discontented by the expansion of the Hashemite power that might lead to claims by the latter of their historical role as protectors of the Holy Cities of Islam.

Lastly, hardcore Palestinians and Israelis that view politics under a theocratic and metaphysical point of view would be hesitant to agree, since the destruction of their adversaries is more relevant that a historical compromise between them.

Who is to agree in those changes?

The first and foremost would be the Jordanians that will see their status high elevated in the Muslim world, and would have important territorial gains as a consequence.

The Kurds will finally achieve a 1000 year old claim of having their own land, and continue their support towards the Western forces.

The majority of the current Iraqi population –Either Sunni or Shiite- would have much to gain by incorporating in wider state units or having their own self governed region.

The realist thinking Israelis and Palestinians would finally achieve an end to 60 years bloodshed and become interest in the benefits of peace and prosperity and not inclined to war preparedness and pointless massacres.

Future trends

The Middle Eastern mayhem is a world concern, since this area is the most vital in the world. It is the birth land of the three world religions, the most rich oil periphery and the natural geopolitical bridge between Eurasia and Africa. Other important factors would include the presence of heavily militarized nations, the spread of terrorism and the existence of some of the most affluent entities in the globe.

Therefore the perpetuation of a state of war and fear could not lead to anything n the future apart from terrible disasters and more bloodshed. As Julius Caesar proclaimed in 49 BC “Alea iacta est”. The historical moment is being reached, where the colonial borders of post WW1 Middle East should be redraw for the benefit of its people and the stability of the world.

The rewards of such a grand move will be great for all humanity in the 21st Century, otherwise the future might seem “Brutish and short” for the M. East in the coming decades.