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Traditional Rivalry or Regional Design in the Middle East?

The repercussions of the Arab Spring and new polarization between Iran, Israel and the Gulf States means the Middle East faces multiple rivalries and conflicts. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the United States seem to have reached an agreement on certain issues in an attempt to redesign a fractured regional order. This vision is yet to be realized on the ground given the uncertainty around Washington’s global role. In assessing regional stakeholders and their potential capabilities as well as several scenes of regional conflict, the paper argues Turkey plays a traditional role in balancing tensions between Iran, the Gulf and Israel. While Turkey does not have a silver bullet, it provides ‘balancing’ support to the region, preserving neutral, middle ground.

Traditional Rivalry or Regional Design in the Middle East

Introduction

For the past seven years, the Middle East has been preoccupied with the repercussions of the process known as the Arab Spring. Today, the region lies at the crossroads of multiple rivalries and conflicts. With the notable exception of Tunisia’s relatively uncomplicated transition to democracy, the Arab revolts unleashed a wave of violence and tensions in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria, whose effects the entire region continues to experience. During this period, Libya set the stage for a bloody civil war and became a theater of regional competition. Egypt’s democratic progress has been reversed by a military coup d’état. Yemen, which suffers from a major humanitarian crisis fueled by civil war and military intervention by Saudi Arabia, also experiences additional tensions due to Iran’s growing influence. Meanwhile, Syria became the source of bloody proxy wars and region-wide trauma. By contrast, Iraq, which triggered regional fault lines for twenty years, was not directly affected by the Arab Spring. In the wake of the 2003 U.S. occupation, however, the country became a ‘failed state’ due to instability, sectarian policies and terrorism. The country continues its efforts to recover from these crises to this day.

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