The Iran nuclear deal has the potential to become a game changer in the Middle East by providing the opportunity for rapprochement between Iran, the preeminent power in the Gulf, and the United States, the preeminent global power, thus reducing the strategic importance of both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Israel’s virulent opposition to the deal has also demonstrated that it has become a strategic liability for the United States.
This essay is an attempt to revisit Samuel Huntington’s controversial thesis about a clash of civilizations. Though the author has been an early critique of Huntington, he finds substantial evidence that corroborates Huntington’s central thesis when he analyzes the American policy toward the Middle East through the prism of the clash of civilizations paradigm. He suggests that the pattern of double standards that are witnessed in American foreign policy toward the Middle East is an integral part of a world where supposedly immutable differences based on civilizations form the primary source of conflict. In order to support his argument the author draws on examples from several cases, such as the American policies toward the Israel-Palestine issue, America’s position on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, American reaction to the Israeli raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, as well as Turkey’s long-standing candidacy for membership in the European Union. In all, he finds startling double standards that fit Huntington’s paradigm, for as he pointed out double standards are an integral part of a mindset that sees conflict in terms of clashing civilizations.
It is unlikely that the Egyptian revolution will have a major impact on the political and strategic landscape in the Middle East in the short and medium terms. Egypt, the Arab state with the greatest capacity to act regionally, will be tied down for a considerable period of time in getting its house in order and sorting out the relationship between the civilian and military components of the new political order. This means that the shift in the center of political gravity
in the region from the Arab heartland comprising Egypt and the Fertile Crescent to what was once considered the non-Arab periphery – Turkey and Iran – which was becoming clearly discernible before the recent upheavals in the Arab world will continue. The shift in the strategic and political balance in the Middle East in favor of Turkey and Iran is the result of a combination of factors, some domestic, some regional and some global.