The chaos that has been ruining the region for the past few years is strengthening people’s will to create and strengthen states that will guarantee a transition from violence to security.
The Middle East on fire
The possibility of a transition from violence to security in the Middle East can be only discussed on the basis of a substantive analysis of all factors pertaining to the ongoing confrontation in this strategic part of the world. We must objectively assess regional developments, in particular over the past few years, to be able to determine a diagnosis. Moreover, while doing this we should take into account the region’s history, which has influenced its current borders and has made it a seat of war and never-ending international conflict.
The current developments in the Middle East are rooted in the past. The region has faithfully responded to global developments since the beginning of the 20th century. After the end of the First World War and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the region was divided between Britain and France under the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which shaped the region and defined the current borders in the region. Another major document that influenced the region was the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and ultimately led to the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict. This conflict cannot be settled without the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital city, as is stipulated in UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
The Middle East was a battlefield in the two global camps’ war for the spheres of influence and in the Cold War. In the late 20th century and the early 21st century, the West advanced the geopolitical projects for a Greater and New Middle East, in addition to ongoing globalization and the re-division of everything that had been split and divided before. All these plans were implemented through weak nation states.
Paradoxically, oil turned from the region’s strong side into a factor of its weakness. Instead of strengthening the well-being and prosperity of people in many regional countries, oil revenues were spent on weapons that cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Eventually, these countries lost control over these weapons after the rise of such organizations as al-Qaeda. The situation has come to a head with the appearance of ISIS and its extremist offshoots and the struggle against them by various international “coalitions.”
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 marked the watershed in a situation that existed in the regions for decades. It signified the Americans’ irrepressible desire to forcefully create a new Middle East reality. But that design did not materialize. The United States could not offer a democratic model worthy of emulation in the region.
The digital revolution and the spread of information led to the events that were later named the Arab Spring in certain Arab countries, wherein republican governments existed. That “spring” began in Tunis and later spread to Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and other countries. But due to many internal and external factors, both objective and subjective, those spring flowers have not blossomed but in most cases have turned into thorns that have only wounded these countries’ people.
A hundred years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the region is again being re-carved based on these ongoing and overlapping events. This makes one wonder whether the region’s new borders will be marked in the blood of its people, and whether this will lead to the appearance of small tribal quasi-states that will fight each other in the absence of a nation state.
It is obvious that the creation of new states based solely on regional, ethnic or community factors will not make the Middle East a more modern or secure region, but instead will increase the amount of violence and terror. The West is now complaining about the inflow of migrants. But it may soon be complaining about a never-ending war against the backdrop of anarchy, which can only be called to order by the mechanisms of nation states ruled by law and constitution.
The chaos that has been ruining the region for the past few years is strengthening people’s will to create and strengthen states that will guarantee a transition from violence to security. The nation state, which is essentially a national state combining numerous identities, is the backbone supporting a normal way of life and guaranteeing the interests of all social classes.
The development of this type of community fully corresponds to the prevailing trend for the rallying of countries and nations in economic, political, military and security unions and blocs at a time when the Arab world is being torn apart by dangerous schisms and conflicts.
The region’s future hinges on the fate of nation states
The Middle East is a strategic region due to its huge energy resources and waterways that are crucial for global trade.
Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Somalia are being dragged down by military confrontation and conflicts, which can only be settled through dialogue and a strategy of all-round development. In this context, nation states that comprise all social classes and groups can assume responsibility for addressing the above tasks if they are authorized to do so by the people and enjoy domestic and international assistance.
If the material and financial resources that are being depleted by wars had been redirected towards economic progress and social development, the situation in the region would have been quite different. We must realize that security is the shared interest of both the governments and those whom they govern, and that development is no longer a public demand but an indispensable requisite of regional and global security.
This article is based on the speech delivered by the author for the participants of the Valdai Discussion Club conference "The Middle East: From Violence to Security" on February 25-26, 2016.