Dark winter, not spring

Dark winter, not spring

Life is getting difficult for the organizers of the New Middle East. In all troubled spots further trouble is guaranteed, while prospects of improvement appear dimmer than ever.

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu - Avidor Lieberman duo on one hand, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political Islam clan on the other, have mastered the worst crisis in relations between the two key allies of the West in the region. Repeated discreet and public efforts for a patch-up between the two countries have so far all failed as the crisis indeed is one of acute lack of confidence, far deeper than the murder of nine Turkish nationals on the Mavi Marmara ship carrying humanitarian aid for the besieged Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of the latest Gaza flare up, matchmakers are apparently engaged in fresh efforts for a rapprochement between the two countries. Alas, such efforts do not take into account the political aspirations of Erdoğan and what priceless reaps bashing Israel – an almost cost-free exercise – offers in Turkish domestic politics. Similarly, unless an award is guaranteed, why should Netanyahu walk the painful road of apology knowing how insincere Erdoğan’s rapprochement gesture might be?

The Syrian situation cannot change for the better unless there is change in Russian and Iranian attitudes vis-a-vis the Bashar al-Assad regime. The continued moral and material support of Tehran and Moscow’s firm allied support on the Security Council guarantees, for now, the survival of Assad and his Baathist regime. Israel and the United States would prefer Assad go, but on-the-ground actions of the two underline that at the end of the day they want to see no regime change in Damascus. Why? A Muslim Brotherhood-dominated governance in Syria would be a grave security risk for Israel. Thus, the Syrian quagmire has no prospect of a quick fix.

The already “wild east” of this geography, Iraq, is becoming wilder than ever with Nouri al-Maliki aspiring to become a neo-Saddam ordering the Iraqi army to proceed towards the autonomous Kurdistan region. The problem, unfortunately, is how to share the oil wealth of the country. Besides, there is the Kirkuk problem that has beyond-the-border importance due to the Arab, Kurdish and, of course, Turkish identities of the city. News that northern Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has threatened to send his tanks on the Iraqi army underlines the gravity of the situation.

The “democratic” revolution in Egypt replaced the army-sponsored Hosni Mobarak regime with a Muslim Brotherhood or Ihvan-sponsored new regime. With Turkish and Qatari support, new President Mohammad Morsi was instrumental in mediating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but an attempt to acquire pharaoh-like powers demonstrated Morsi’s “democratic mindset at work” and provoked massive Tahrir Square demonstrations.

Strangely enough, in Ankara, the sultan-in-making made efforts to convince Turks of what he described as a “Turkish-style presidential system.”