Monday 23 July 2018 ,
Monday 23 July 2018 ,
Latest News
  • Dispose Khaleda’s bail plea by July 26: HC
  • Charges pressed against 8 in Holey café attack case
  • Attack on Mahmudur made to kill him: Fakhrul
  • Missing NSU student found dead in Munshiganj
  • DC conference begins Tuesday
4 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Print

2018 may be a momentous year

Is Russia’s hard play for a permanent foot in Syria and expanded influence in the region a strategic masterstroke or will it bog it down in unintended conflicts?
David Rothkopf
2018 may be a momentous year

2017 produced more questions than it answered. The answers the year ahead provides will determine whether or not the region is entering a year of hope or a descent into unprecedented chaos. In honour of 2018, let’s look at some looming questions.

Can Iran’s winning streak continue? As 2017 drew to a close, Iran’s influence extended across the entire arc of the northern Middle East. The nuclear deal won influence and significant financial resources. Its allies were divided and weakened by internal challenges. Iran seemed to be on a roll, or has Iran’s winning streak actually been that or have the costs been too high, the victories too tenuous, the allies chosen too flawed? Or maybe not. Bashar Al Assad and Vladimir Putin are uncertain allies. America may bolt from the nuclear deal and things are unsettled at home. Are Iran’s internal challenges greater than those it faces from beyond its borders? Whether these recent protests produce major change or whether they produce more repression will be perhaps the most important issue confronting the region in the year ahead.

What will the Saudi government be known for this year? Mohammed bin Salman has pushed through change and targeted corruption. He is popular at home and a source of cautious optimism for observers, but he has also got Saudi involved in intrigue and complex mega-projects. Are they masterstrokes?

Can there be any victories in Yemen? Choices made in 2018 may not determine winners but they are likely to reveal who will suffer greater losses.

Is Russia’s hard play for a permanent foot in Syria and expanded influence in the region a strategic masterstroke or will it bog it down in unintended conflicts? Russia has been winning as America has retreated. But what costs will come with maintaining ties to the Al Assad regime and seeking to expand Moscow’s regional role?

Will the Middle Euphrates Valley remain a “deconfliction” line or will it become a new frontier in a US-Russia confrontation that even the Russia-loving US president is clueless about?

Quietly, without much fanfair, a new rump Syria seems to be emerging as a quasi-US protectorate. US-Russia tensions seem certain to grow along the line.

Which extremist sect will succeed ISIL? Terror groups do not disappear, they evolve, so who will take the place of a weakened ISIL?

Will the marginalisation of Egypt be short term or is it the new normal? Egypt was once a pillar of the region, can it resume a leadership role in the foreseeable future? Iran and Saudi Arabia’s struggle for regional influence will however remain a primary driver of regional developments. Direct and indirect Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region is a significant driver of this concern for Gulf states, which have responded in kind to exert hard and soft power from Yemen to Lebanon. This rivalry will continue to play out indirectly, not face-to-face. Look for that simmering, rather than boiling, animosity in almost all the other regional flashpoints. Prominent among them are Lebanon, Iraq and Oman. Israel and Lebanon are the focal point of the anti-Iran alliance in the region. Lebanon’s Shia Hizbullah movement – backed by Iran – and Israel have long viewed each other as mortal enemies, and tensions are rising. Hizbullah has begun to build weapons factories in Lebanon’s south, producing munitions that would allow it to carry out strikes well within Israeli territory. While Israel has not hesitated to conduct airstrikes on Hizbullah weapons convoys in Syria, it knows a similar pre-emptive manoeuvre in Lebanon would almost certainly spark retaliatory attacks by the Shia movement.

For the moment, Hizbullah is focused primarily on its engagement in Syria. While that continues, the situation with Israel could carry on at a stalemate – with Israel keeping a close eye on the developing factories. But Hizbullah’s influence in Lebanon has grown on the back of successful operations to drive Islamic State (IS) out of the country, something the Lebanese government couldn’t do. As the conflict in Syria winds down, Hizbullah will turn its financial and military resources back toward its homeland. Increased finances and manpower in Lebanon mean increased risk of a confrontation with Israel, at least in part because Israel views the movement as an agent of its arch-enemy, Iran.

The convergence of anti-Iran sentiment in defence of Israel and its interests is considerable, and manifesting in increasing interference in Lebanese politics. Of late, the most recent source of that interference was Saudi Arabia, from where Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned in November 2017 only to rescind his resignation one month later. The kingdom appears to have withdrawn its support for Hariri in an effort to strip Hizbullah of the veneer of legitimacy provided by the prime minister and engineer the movement’s ouster from the government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu, meanwhile, will feel emboldened by the clear anti-Iran sentiment stemming from the US and President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But sources of anti-Iran hostility aren’t just in Washington. Increasing evidence suggests that mutual concern over Iran has sparked closed-door conversations between Israel and the Gulf states, enabling them to coordinate manoeuvres against Hizbullah. Look to Lebanon as the focal point for regional anti-Iranian antagonism.

Despite the mounting hostility all around, Hizbullah enjoys significant support in Lebanon – in no small part because it has kept the conflict in neighbouring Syria at bay. Any confrontation between Hizbullah and Israel could quickly escalate into a war. While it would likely remain contained to a relatively small geographic area, it would almost certainly damage infrastructure in Lebanon and Israel – not to mention dampen investor confidence across the region.

Will the corruption and political scandals swirling around the Netanyahu government lead them to take even more extreme and inflammatory actions regarding the Palestinians? The bribery scandal has rattled Bibi Netanyahu, exacerbating his already strong tendency to be confrontational. Can matters get any worse in 2018 for him? For tensions between Israel and Palestine, the two are linked.

    The National

 

Comments

Poll
Today's Question »
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the next election will be held as per the constitution and there is no need of holding any dialogues. Do you agree?
 Yes
 No
 No Comment
Yes 1.4%
No 97.9%
No Comment 0.7%
Most Viewed
Digital Edition
Archive
SunMonTueWedThuFri Sat
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031
More Editorial stories
Strengthen blue economy to fight coastal poverty
The term blue economy is still relatively new in Bangladesh and while experts and the educated class understand that using ocean resources can help ease pressure on land based ones, the idea is still…

Copyright © All right reserved.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Disclaimer & Privacy Policy
....................................................
About Us
....................................................
Contact Us
....................................................
Advertisement
....................................................
Subscription

Powered by : Frog Hosting