Making Sense of the “Post-American” Middle East amid Normalization
The Arab revolts dragged the Middle Eastern nations into separate camps that aggressively compete with each other. Whereas many countries, including Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq, evolved into weak players in a state of civil war, new axes of polarization emerged among the leading players –the Gulf, Israel, Egypt, Iran, and Türkiye– as a result of that process. As such, the current level of polarization exceeds the level that the United States’ invasion of Iraq introduced to the region in 2003. That chapter entailed the creation of an anti-democratic political domain, which resulted in a crackdown on popular demands, militarized ongoing conflicts by transforming them into civil wars, and caused the dominance of a reverse geopolitical wave that favored the status quo and authoritarian regimes. One of the most striking examples of that trend was Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s bloody coup in Egypt in 2013, which prevented elected governments from forming a new axis in the region.1 Later, the regionwide polarization between the Gulf and Iran, which dates back to 1979, emerged anew in the form of proxy wars. At the same time, polarization arose between the Gulf, Qatar, and Türkiye.