Russia has new allies in Iraq, UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Israel - but its Syria intervention will be a magnet for Sunni militants. What could go wrong?
The reaction to Aylan Kurdi has been one giant selfie, a portrait of ourselves taken by people who remain conflicted about their identity
Russia is working to expand its footprint in the Middle East, pursuing both diplomatic and commercial advantages. What Moscow is also aiming at is the diversification of relations beyond long-standing partners such as Iran and the Syrian regime. Building up its military presence in Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad, it has also reached out to the Gulf countries. The Middle East is key to Russia’s bid to gain recognition as one of the pillars of a new multi-polar order, balance the US and assert power in its neighborhood. But such ambitions are still a long way from attainment, while risks originating from the region, from the rise of jihadist militancy to collapsing oil prices, are all too real.
After more than a decade since the United States-led invasion, Iraq still struggles to be a functioning state. Political, economic and social problems have beset the country. Failures in the functioning of the state have led to widespread protests in several cities over the last couple of weeks. In order to answer the demands of the protestors and overcome challenges within the state apparatus, Prime Minister Abadi introduced sweeping reforms in administrative, economic and financial issues along with efforts to combat corruption. The success of these reforms remains to be seen. However, if successful, they will empower Abadi against his political opponents as well.
In the 7 June 2015 general elections in Turkey, nearly all components of Kurdish nationalism supported the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP). Particularly noticeable among them were Kurdish Islamist nationalists from such religio-political formations as Med-Zehra, Nubihar, Öze Dönüş Platform and Azadi. For the first time in republican history, Kurdish Islamists acquired publicity as the Islamist segment of the Kurdish national movement and created an Islamic political discourse that severely criticized the notion of Islamic fraternity as the Islamist mask of assimilationism. The emergence of Kurdish Islamism, its Islamic narrative, its secession from the ruling AK Party and its crystallization as the Islamist wing of the Kurdish national/ist movement have produced new challenges for Kurdish as well as Turkish politics.
The Syrian Civil war presents a challenge to conventional theories and practices of statecraft in the region. The resolution of the civil war requires a radical re-thinking of what was previously considered to be permanent features of the region. A re-imagining of a regional order is necessary. The two countries best equipped to carry out such a re-imagining are Turkey and Iran. Such a project would require building of sustained deep bilateral relations that lead to a convergence of interests. The obstacles to such a bilateral co-ordination are many, but not insurmountable. The region needs a new vision of the future.
Since the July 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s first-ever freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s military-backed government has cracked down on political opposition, and, in the process, committed numerous transgressions against basic human rights. Egypt’s recent rights record is, by nearly all measures, poor. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights Monitor, the International Federation for Human Rights, Freedom House, and other regional and international rights groups, as well as numerous independent academic experts and foreign governments, have condemned what they consider to be a series of gross human rights violations committed by the Egyptian government. The list of violations includes the banning of political opposition parties, the shutting down of opposition media and charities, mass killings, mass arrests, widespread torture, forced disappearances, and the largest mass death sentences in modern world history, among other listed transgressions. Human Rights Watch has written that Egypt’s current human rights crisis is “the most serious in the country’s modern history.