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Conflicts Forum Director Alastair Crooke recently wrote a strikingly original article in The Washington Quarterly on the Middle East’s shifting strategic landscape.
In the article, “The Shifting Sands of State Power in the Middle East“, Crooke argues that the Middle East’s “northern tier” – which includes Turkey along with Iran, Qatar, Syria, and possibly Iraq and Lebanon – represents the nascent ‘axis of influence’ for the coming regional era, barring war.”
Behind the northern tier’s ascendancy in regional politics lies the perception that Syria and its allies have read the Middle Eastern ground better than the United States and its allies, especially since they Iran, Syria, and Turkey judged the Iraq war correctly from the perspective of the region, even though Washington viewed Syrian and Turkish opposition to the invasion as an unhelpful stance. Syria and Iran are also seen to be standing in a pivotal position to shape the future of Iraq. More importantly, all three are seen to have read the prospects for a Palestinian state more accurately than others. Hence, they are in a better position, especially due to their links with Hamas and other Palestinian groups, to be able to craft a comprehensive regional solution and change the present circumstances for the better.
Iran, Syria, and Turkey are, therefore, widely seen to be the coming influence in this new regional era.
Crooke’s article shares similar themes with Stephen Kinzer‘s latest book, Reset: Iran, Turkey and America’s Future, which argues that the United States should shift its alliances away from Saudi Arabia and Israel and toward Turkey and Iran. But rather than focusing on Turkey’s and Iran’s democratic traditions, as Kinzer does, Crooke’s analysis centers on the political, economic and strategic trends unfolding throughout the region.
Perhaps the most disheartening of Crooke’s insights relates to the apparent failure of all three pillars of the Olso accords: Israeli acceptance of the concept of land for peace, the belief that Israel’s settlement process is reversible, and the notion that the United States can persuade Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders.
Crooke’s article, which I originally found at The Race for Iran, can be read here.
— Ben Katcher