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Middle East: 2018 does not bode well

An Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is steeply falling in an inward spiral after Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, the military defeat of the Islamic State, the increasing chances of Assad’s victory in the Syrian civil war, the restored Russian influence in the Middle-Eastern region, the anti-Iranian convergence of Israel and Saudi Arabia guided by the US: these are but some of the main issues that 2017 passes down to the history of this tormented region. “The future does not bode well”, said Riccardo Redaelli, Geopolitics Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of “Cattolica University” in Milan

2017 had begun marking the 50th year of Israeli military occupation of Palestinian Territories resulting from the Six Day War (June 5-10 1967). The year ends with no progress in the negotiations. In fact Trump’s announcement seems to have put a lid on the peace process and perhaps also on the overall pacification of the region.

The peace process has been dead for years.

Israel has no intention to make concessions, said Riccardo Redaelli . The Palestinians are divided and weak. Israel has profited from the division of the Arab world – also in strategic terms  – siding with the right-winged closure towards the Palestinians and continuing its settlement policy.

On top of this, Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem was all that was needed. This cold-minded decision exemplifies the US President’s intention to appease the most extreme members of his constituency, and thus the pro-Israeli lobby and radical Evangelicals.

Moreover, in my opinion, by paradox this move could ultimately harm the Jewish State as it advantaged the radical opposition against Israel, from Iran to Turkey, putting a major regional ally like Saudi Arabia in a difficult position.

The Istanbul meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), hastily convened by Erdogan, recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of occupied Palestine… The summit convened by Erdogan was instrumental to distracting public opinion from the internal difficulties of the Sultan. It was a shrewd expedient to reassure his voters and reaffirm his role as the defender of the Palestinian people in the eyes of the Islamic world, at a time when Turkey registered one regional failure after the next, as happened in Syria.

 2017 leaves in its wake the military defeat of the Islamic State, but not the defeat of its underlying Jidahist terroristic ideology …
Daesh turned out to be militarily weaker than expected. When it was decided to combat it, it was defeated. Iranians and Russians efficiently inflicted a hard blow in Iraq and Syria and mobilised voluntary Shiite forces, as the US did with the Kurds in Raqqa.

The defeat brings Daesh back at the roots of global Jihadism.

The developments in the Sinai peninsula, in Egypt, where Islamic State fighters took shelter, ought to be viewed against this backdrop. Massacres of civilians and attacks on regular military forces have been ongoing for years in this stretch of land that is hard to control owing to objective territorial difficulties. These tensions are bound to continue, along with similar ones broken out in Mali, south-Algeria, Libya and Somalia. Now we face the danger of a return of foreign fighters to their respective Countries, veritable loose canons for international security.

President Assad is taking the victory in Syria thanks to its Russian and Iranian. Are there prospects of peace in the Country? Assad won the war thanks to Russian and Iranian support. It was lost by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US. However

Assad cannot propose himself as the person who will initiate Syria’s reconstruction.

An international plan is what is lacking. The best option would be a piloted succession with another Alawite, acceptable by Iranians and Russians, to make the regime less unacceptable.

Even Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah militia are fighting in Syria. Lebanon was reconfirmed as an important – albeit weak – player in the Middle-Eastern scenario. Could the land of the Cedars become the umpteenth crisis point in the Region?

Lebanon risks becoming the new front of instability in the Region. If this should happen it would be dramatic for the entire Middle East.

The victory in Syria strengthens the Shiite arch that stretches from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad, without forgetting Yemen. The aim to weaken Hezbollah, as Israel and Saudi Arabia are intent on doing, also means bringing down Lebanon. The Saudi strategic coarseness, as seen in the case of the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, could lead to yet another flop after Riyadh, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Yemen, a war that is rarely spoken of… 
The Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Houthi Iran-aligned rebels in the Country located on the furthest point of the Arab peninsula of the Gulf. The Saudis thought it would take them just a few weeks to win, but in fact they led Iran to increase support to the Houthi. Civilians,hospitals, refugee camps are being bombarded before the utter, shameful, silence of the UN. In the light of the above, it appears evident that the Middle East will witness a escalating clash between the Russia-Iran front and the one that comprises US-Saudi-Arabia and Israel.

What should we expect for the future of the area? Huge tensions, for sure.

The most dangerous aspect comes from Trump’s administration that returned to demonize Iran, coupled by indiscriminate, a-critical support to Israel and Saudi Arabia. This is bound to cause huge problems, also since Iran could have been assuaged through the nuclear deal.

Instead, this demonization policy is likely to spark off major frictions, ultimately supporting the worst faction of the Iranian government. The government of Hassan Rohani is effectively ousted. The Pasdaran, the guardians of the revolution, are in charge of regional and security issues.

Could the Palestinians constitute the spark of a further escalation of tensions? No. But the Israeli decision to keep the Occupied Territories and make no concessions on Jerusalem, signalling its intention not to reach an agreement, will weigh in. Time works for Israel.

Nobody cares about the Palestinians anymore.

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