Middle East Developments: Geopolitical Changes

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hossein Kebriaeizadeh
Master’s Degree in International Relations

Depending on type of geographical region and the force of developments, there is always possibility of changes in political, strategic and security equations. For example, when a region is too dependent due to its strategic position on political and security equations of the world or when economic conditions and circumstances in regional countries call, the least political development in one regional country may lead to grave geopolitical changes in the whole region. On the other hand, another region which is not susceptible to security and economic conditions of international system may undergo a lot of developments without witnessing the aforesaid changes.

The present paper looks into geopolitical changes in the Middle East as a result of recent political developments. This region accounts for more than 60 percent of global oil and has been home to fundamentalism and the most intransigent political crisis in contemporary world; that is, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In political terms, it is made up of various kinds of political systems as well as the most diverse collection of cultures and subcultures.

The ongoing developments have been so powerful that they have practically engulfed more than half of the regional states either directly or indirectly. They have been sweeping through Egypt and Bahrain. The former is one of the most influential countries of the Middle East from a cultural viewpoint and home to the world’s biggest Islamist group; that is, the Muslim Brotherhood, which has branches in all Muslim countries. Bahrain, on the other hand, is a Shiite nation run by a Sunni minority. It is also situated close to one of the most important strategic straits of the world; that is, Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world’s oil flow passes.

Given the above facts, it is clear that this region is especially prone to geopolitical change. The ongoing political developments are also very powerful.

What kind of changes should one expect in view of the current developments?

A change in balance of powers is perhaps the most probable change to be expected. Two power blocs have governed the Middle East in the past few decades. Iran in addition to Syria, Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah make one side of the power equation while, on the other hand, there are all pro-west countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen and littoral states of the Persian Gulf.

Since most countries involved in current protests are the west’s allies, if the current uprisings achieved their final goal, some of the existing rulers will be unseated. This will also change the power balance in another way. The first outcome of this development will be increased vulnerability of Israel’s national interests and security. Reopening of Rafah border crossing in recent months and explosion of the pipeline which takes Egypt’s gas to the occupied lands have been early signs of that threat.
Given the dominant Islamic nature of recent uprisings, drastic changes in regional political systems is another possibility. This is sure to further strengthen the model of Islamic rule in the world. In addition to security outcomes of these developments, there are also cultural consequences. The method of governance and its political philosophy, which has mostly been a liberal democratic one up to the present time, will be hit hard. The current political trend will introduce a new political discourse to post-modern humanity which insists that politics should be based on ethics and spirituality.

Another important change to be seen in the near future is disorder in the Arab world. At present, the united Arab world, which used to take unified stances on regional and international issues, no longer exists. The present Arab world is one whose countries can be put in three groups: The Arab East (Iraq, Yemen, and littoral states of the Persian Gulf), the Arab Center (Palestine and neighboring states), and the Arab West (North African states). Political analysts maintain that even this grouping does not mean that countries in every group will be following similar approaches to domestic or international issues as they did in the past.

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