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    Three Middle Eastern models

    The Middle East — the name of a region whose geographic specifications vary according to the background and purposes of whoever uses the title — comes across as a woeful stretch of land in which three powerful states stand out: Israel, Iran and Turkey.

    The first is obsessed with security and demographics. A malicious [pattern of] aggression governs the state under the pretext of fear. It conducts itself as a besieged fortress, building a dividing wall which separates itself from its immediate Palestinian environs. It seeks to subdue the population of those environs; to cut off their water and air; and to reinforce and expand its occupation there, installing more settlements, roadblocks and checkpoints and surveillance in Palestinian territory.
    The second, under its expansionist politics, is looking into building bridges to and making footholds in neighboring states. It has built alliances with sectarian minorities here and there, based first on ideology, petro dollars and nuclear ambition, and secondly on US strategic “naïveté” in its reading of the situation, allowing Iran to be able to spread its influence eastward after the war in Afghanistan and westward after the war in Iraq.
    The third operates out of trust and with sound judgment. It relies upon political and institutional modernity. It is rooted in an imperial past and in a traditional society which possesses remnants of a common history with surrounding societies – which it controlled for centuries – and, as such, is able to perpetuate its deep-rooted connections with those societies.

    As such, the first state, Israel, appears incapable of succeeding in making any inroads, normalizing relations, or developing any form of peaceful coexistence with states in the region or their peoples despite its having benefitted from Western support and Palestinian and Arab weakness. This inability has kept Israel in a constant state of alert and made it into a state that is rooted in war, lacking any bond its neighbors other than one rooted in hatred and violence.
    The second state, Iran, for its part, has been unable to establish firm and reliable relations with its neighbors for a variety of reasons, among which are sectarian differences and also its fear of these neighboring countries’ inclination to control and govern the region in its place. As such, it is a country without any ally on the state level other than Syria. Its remaining “alliances,” as it were, are comprised of organizations and minority groups whereby Iran’s position is more of a sponsor, funder and employer than that of an “ally,” with these groups in many circumstances having concerns regarding their own peoples in their own enclaves.
    However, the third state, Turkey, in contrast to the first two states, on account of the dynamics of its solid diplomatic practices, seems to be influential in and accepted by more of its neighbors, if not all of them. It has fostered some level of reconciliation with a historical enemy and the victim of its former empire: the Armenians. It continues the process of normalizing relations with a tough adversary in Greece (in order to pave the way for acceptance in Europe). And it has continued to profit from its deep-rooted historical, linguistic and religious ties with Central Asia.
    Turkey, in addition to what was mentioned above, and more importantly, is also an ally of Russia and the US, countries whose general ideology Turkey is closer to than that of the major Islamic ideologies present in the region and the world. For years now it has been distancing itself from its previously strong ties to Israel, without this ever coming across as a desire to dissolve its alliance with NATO. As such, Turkey has been able to maintain its relations with the Great Powers and international organizations; it has closed the distance between its own sentiments and mindsets and those of a major portion of the population of countries of geo-political significance to Turkey; and it has even attempted to improve relations with the Kurds, a population that continues to be a victim of Turkish policies (and those of the Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian regimes, as well as themselves!)

    With that, the scene we are watching unfold today in the Middle East has three major actors moving at different paces: Israel, frozen in place; Iran, making moves, albeit at a rather slow pace; Turkey, moving rapidly forward without causing fear or alarm.

    However, the Arabs, until now, have merely been watching from afar and there exists no indication that they will become major actors in the region in the near future as they analyze without adding anything or bringing about any change.

    Ziad MAJED
    NOW Lebanon
    06.11.2009

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