Middle East Countries Must Determine Their Own Future
InterContinental Hotel, 22 Tverskaya st., Moscow
List of speakers

In the Middle East, under the influence of various factors there is fragmentation, disintegration of statehood and a growing number of disagreements between states and ethno-confessional groups. The participants in the final session of the Valdai Club Middle East Conference, titled “The Future of One Region,” tried to answer the question how to reverse this trend and launch the process to unite the region into something coherent and collaborative.

Sergey Karaganov, Dean of the School of World Economics and International Relations at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, presented the global context where the Middle East region is developing. According to him, there has recently been a breakdown of all governance systems in the world, except the UN. This was the result of the catastrophically rapid fall of Western influence and, accordingly, the cessation of Western domination at the global level. The liberal world order was also undermined and a new technological revolution is unfolding, whose consequences are unknown to anyone. The nominal center of the world economy is steadily shifting to the East: if 30 years ago such center was in Ireland, now it is in the region of Turkey, and in 10 years will be in India and China. According to Karaganov, this opens certain opportunities for the Middle Eastern countries in terms of maneuver and development.

The participants agreed that the main problem of the Middle East is disintegration. The disintegration of statehood occurs at various levels, the region is slipping into religious and interethnic contradictions. Restoration of statehood is the only way of development, stressed Mohamed Elbadri, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt. However, this does not mean that states do not need reforms or democracy. But the reforms should not occur at the expense of destruction of existing institutions, the politician said.

The issue of combating terrorism occupied an important place in the discussion about the future of the region. According to Mohamed Bechari, Secretary General of the Islamic European Conference (IEC), the victory over ISIS (banned in the Russian Federation) does not mean destroying the organization itself and destroying its ideology. The radical groups will continue to exist, use political Islam for their own purposes and pose a threat to the region. They are supported, including financially, by external actors. Elbadri is confident that it is only possible to defeat terrorism by joint efforts. A key role in this struggle is the strengthening of statehood, which will allow to reinforce armies that oppose the armed groups.

The paradigm of interaction between the states of the region and external forces was another subject of the discussion. It is impossible to provide control in the region using the model of guardianship. The region should create its own dynamics and be governed by those who live in the Middle East, albeit with consideration of the external forces interests.

Speaking about the policy of global and regional players, Taha Ozhan, Member of Grand National Assembly of Turkey, noted that we observe criminalization of geopolitics: it becomes a victim of unilateral actions by various players. The use of force and its maximization seem attractive to them. According to the Turkish politician, the maximization of power gives hope to get a result by concessions from opponents, but it kills the future. According to Fyodor Lukyanov, research director of the Valdai Discussion Club, such philosophy is likely to dominate the world, at least as long as the US adheres to the “America First” principle.