Middle East Geo-Strategy Now

Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo.

Let’s summarize geopolitical and strategic situations in the Middle East.

Russians Coming,

Americans Leaving,

Kurds Down,

Empires Back.

Yes, the Russians are coming, but to what extent? Indeed, Russia is the largest external power in Syria, which is effective as mediator and guarantor. Putin-Erdogan meeting on October 22 and its result clearly showed that Russia is the most influential power in Syria followed by the US as a lesser partner.

But, it’s a local phenomenon in Syria. The Russian influence is not overwhelming throughout the Middle East. Russia is severely restricted in its economic constraints and cannot be a full-fledged superpower.

If the US is playing poker and Iran is playing chess, then Russia is playing Judo. The Middle East policy of Mr. Putin, a well-known Judo player, is basically reflexive action which uses adversaries’ movement to throw the adversaries. Russia intervenes in the Middle East if it can. If it can’t, it stays away and wait for the chance. Russian success has largely gained by seizing the opportunity of the failure of the adversaries’, mostly Americans’.

Yes, the Americans are leaving Syria, but not the entire Middle East. US still keeps the largest and strongest military forces in the Middle East, now more concentrated in the Gulf. Trump’s restructuring of US assets in the Middle East is in progress.

Kurds most dislike the American rearrangement. Kurds are down, but don’t give up. They have shown their unmatched ability to influence the western media and public opinion through its lobbying activities.

Ottoman and Persian Empires may seem to be back, but in very limited area in a narrow strip in the northern Syria and a land bridge from the Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. They are not going to regain the glory of the pre-modern Islamic Empires.

Additionally,

Egyptians Away,

Gulf Nations at Odds.

The age of Pan-Arabism has long been gone and Egypt is preoccupied with its internal affairs and its Africa relationship. Instead, Gulf Kingdoms and Sheikhdoms with their rich oil wealth and mega-projects have taken over the place of Arab leadership, but discontents within brotherly nations hinder the united action against the Turkish and Persian resurgence.

Then lastly,

Israel at a loss.

Israel is in paralysis after two indecisive votes in April and September. But Israeli people has the luck of having excuse for ditching Netanyahu to make way for change in diplomatic courses to adapt itself to the new geo-strategic environment. That is the utility of democracy.