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

The year 2021 marks many anniversaries of the Middle East wars and conflicts.

10 years have passed since the “Arab Spring” which invigorated the Arab world and threw it into a prolonged multifaceted turmoil which continues to reverberate today. Civil wars and conflicts continue, with great and regional power interventions, and the rise of non-state actors.

Another decade back, in 2001, the September 11 attacks occurred. The George W. Bush administration launched the global war on terror right after the event. The entire world since then was part of it and living with it, whether we like it or not, either with the US or against the US.

It was the time when the global hegemony of the US was at its peak. The Iraq War in 2003 and the turmoil after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime has clouded the shine of US hegemony.

The Biden administration is attempting to, once and for all, withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, this year, marking the 20 years anniversary.

If we look back another 10 years, we find the Gulf War of 1991 as a starting point of the contemporary international politics when the Soviet Union was on its deathbed disintegrating into numerous republics and never exerted influence on the crisis and war in the Gulf.

The then President George Bush the called together wide range of countries in and out of the Middle East and formed a multinational force to fight the Gulf War and expelled Iraq out of Kuwait but stop short of dislodging Saddam Hussain, paving the way for the son George W.’s aspiration and decision to invade Iraq to finally throw Saddam out of the palace.

The three decades after the end of Cold War have been dominated by Middle East wars and conflicts. It might even be called an “Age of Middle East Wars” in the textbook of the world history. It can be characterized as an interregnum period between two Cold Wars, after the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and before another Cold War between China and the United States.

The pandemic which emanated from China early 2020 and engulfed the entire world may be remembered as an ominous sign of the point of no return when the shift of world’s center of gravity toward Asia was accelerated, making the US-China confrontation inevitable.