The Middle East: A Prognosis for 2018
Predictions for the Middle East for 2018 (the results and main events of 2017 can be read about here).
The situation in 2018 will be similarly crucial. If now Russia, Iran, and Turkey along with the countries orienting themselves towards them are acting as beneficiaries of the wider geopolitical balance, this state of affairs could be challenged by Washington and the globalists. While Trump is in a state of fierce internal battle with representatives of the previous administration he cannot focus US capabilities in the region; what is more, he will not be able to act directly and with confidence. However, the US can try to change the lost situation to its liking. All the more so if they see a direct threat to Israel, someone from the multipolar coalition crosses a forbidden line, or Trump decides to execute a plan to escalate relations with Iran, which would risk challenging the whole region and Russia above all, which would be reckless. In any case, the Atlanticists will most definitely be testing the strength of the established model.
In this case, the US and globalist fifth columns in the countries of the Middle East and the ‘sleepers’ in Russia will be the most vulnerable points. They will definitely be activated to both destabilise the situation and destroy the Middle Eastern paradigm which is appearing before our eyes in the form of the ‘Three Empires’ and the appearance of a new Sunni Islam, separate from the Salafi and Saudi project.
This is why 2018 will be deciding. If the triangle Moscow-Ankara-Teheran manages to hold, the end of the unipolar world will be irreversible, and that means that the current state of affairs is not just a ‘multipolar moment’, but the building of a multipolar world of full value. But this is not guaranteed, and the balance of power and superiority of the Triangle over its enemies are still fairly fragile while internal tensions between the three elements (Orthodox Russia, Shia Iran, and Sunni Turkey) remain. What is more, from now on the Arab countries will be playing a significant role in the configuration although the full liquidation of Salafism will take more than one year.
In Syria it will be necessary to reinforce the military victory by decisively defeating the Islamists. The matter of a political decision and new ideology of state will become more urgent. It is fully clear, that a return to the pre-war status quo is not an option. Syria must re-establish the state again and an ideology is necessary to accomplish this. The search for paths to a political and ideological solution to the Syrian situation is one of the most important challenges for 2018, both for Syria and the Triangle.
The continuing confrontation between the US and Russia in Syria is creating a great number of problems and will inevitably be reflected in the next steps of reaching a settlement in the country. A settlement is possible only on one condition: when the US stops openly supporting dissident groups and secretly helping terrorists. However, the prognosis is positive, with chances for a political settlement, the strengthening of central power, and keeping Bashar Al-Assad as the country’s president.
The ’Three Empires’
In 2018 the Triangle, too, will be tested on its strength. Moscow, Ankara, and Teheran will be asked to keep their alliance, but also propose their own plan for the Middle East that is conditionally ‘Eurasian’. The Triangle’s victory is clear, but it is now necessary to show a future horizon to all Islamic nations as the destruction of Islamism will only provide half of the answer. If the peoples of the Middle East know exactly what they don’t want (an American presence and radical Salafist Islam of the ISIS type), then the situation of the positive part of the programme is not so clear.
Turkey just like Syria has to show a chance for the future of the country. Erdogan now has full power, but during the last shocks the Turkish political regime was fragmented. Turkish society is in an ideological crisis and the cooling of relations with the West is placing the Turks in a very possible economic crisis, up to and including the introduction of sanctions. This process can only be braked, but not stopped. The situation is the same as far as Turkey leaving NATO is concerned. This is what everything is leading up to, and in 2018 we have all the chances to either hear of it as a mature project (and this means a continuation of the rapprochement with Russia on military partnership) or to see the first steps in that direction.
Iran is in a fairly stable situation, and its position is strengthened by the successes of the alliance with Russia. Nearly all the requirements for the creation of a Shiite big space are present. In contrast with Turkey and other Sunni countries, Shiite ideology is fully formed and has an immense revolutionary potential by being on the rise, while the alternative Salafi ideology is in decline. Nonetheless, in 2018 Iran will have to activate the revolutionary dimension of Khomeini’s teachings, which will be a kind of return to the country’s Shia roots. This will require a more active role in regional politics. Relations with the US and Israel will worsen, but a direct conflict is in our view unlikely, as it would immediately draw Russia into the war which would be the equivalent of World War Three which no one in the West is ready for and Trump least of all.
Attempts to conduct a Soros-esque colour revolution will continue, and Trump and the swamp's plans coincide on this subject. In the future, it is unlikely that it has any chance of succeeding, but Iran must complete a conservative revolution in the spirit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the liberals and the corrupt and reformist sixth column.
They will be the centre of attention in 2018, as the coherency of the Triangle and the fate of four states (Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran) depends on the solution to the Kurd problem. The Kurds have to be seen as partners in the new ‘Eurasian’ project and as subjects of the reorganisation of the Middle Eastern strategic space, and not just as objects. And if the US will ease its pressure on the Kurds and the chance to create a national state moves away again, Moscow-Ankara-Teheran and Bagdad and Damascus as well will have to intensify their dialogue with the Kurds while trying to find an acceptable solution with them. The Kurds are a factor that is only gaining strength, which we have particularly seen in Syria, where they managed to gain control of nearly a third of the country’s territory. Relations with the Kurds are an exam that will have to be passed by all powers that are engaged with the Middle Eastern situation.
The situation in Iraq will become problematic in 2018. On the one hand, Sunni radicals have been substantially weakened and are ready for a dialogue with Bagdad, but on the other hand the Iraqi leadership will have to think up a new ideology to secure the state, just like Turkey and Syria. In addition, Baathism (of the Saddam era), other forms of Arab nationalism, Salafism, and Islamism are excluded, to say nothing of liberal democracy, which has no chance of settling down in Iraq. This is why Iraq as a state need a new foundation, which casts doubt on the country’s future. In addition, Shia Bagdad will need to find a place for the Sunnis as well as the Kurds, which is not that simple. What is more, the Iraqi project must be included in the strategic lines of the Triangle, as Iraq’s influence and partially Turkey’s influence on Iraq is significant and sometimes decisive, and what is more, the whole structure of the new world order (multipolarity) depends on Moscow’s position. This is why in 2018 the Iraqi government (and neighbouring countries as well) will have to pass the sovereignty exam. American troops will probably start to leave the territory of Iraq, as there are no reasons why they should remain.
Qatar can return to a policy of Pan-Islamic soft power, which it did before it took up a position in support of Salafism and Islamic fundamentalism following Saudi Arabia. The country can play an important role in informational and partially economic support of the Triangle’s (Three Empires) strategy. A direct conflict with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates when Qatar has Russian (and also Iranian-Turkish) support is unlikely. And even if it is possible, it will only hasten the Saudis’ decline.
Saudi Arabia began 2017 in a period of decline, which will continue in 2018. It is hard to imagine a turn of events that will radically change its situation. Saudi Arabia belongs to the losers of the failed ‘Greater Middle East’ plan. But where Erdogan has left the losers’ camp fairly abruptly, the Saudis held on longer than most, for which they will have to pay as early as 2018. Coups and military confrontations with Iran are not impossible; however, they won’t boil over into a full-scale war, as that isn’t of any use to any of the big players. However, if everything will go the same wat it did in 2017 in 2018, then we cannot exclude that the end of Saudi statehood will come very shortly.
It is likely that Russia will actively take part in deciding the fate of Libya by virtue of it being inspired by its successes in Syria. What is more, this would be a symbolic success to recuperate from the damage done to Russian foreign politics by president Medvedev, who made Libya’s collapse as a state and the genocide of the Libyan people possible. A general strategy for Libya’s future will be necessary. Khaddaffi’s son Saif Al-Islam, who Russia is trying to build an alliance around of other players looking for contact (mainly general Khaftar), will probably take centre stage. It is not impossible that Russia will enter its troops into the country at the request of one of the political players, in order to strengthen its presence in the Middle East.
Under these conditions, a third variant is being developed in Libya: the rebirth of the monarchy getting a family member of former king Idris I Senussi (originally from Benghazi) to take power. Preliminary contacts with him have recently been established in Cairo with the participation of representatives of Sarraj and the parliament. In such a way, the monarchy cancels the elections and destroys Khaftar and Seif’s claims of political leadership. The initiative is reserved for the parliament and a mediator of the UN general secretary, Ghassan Salamé.
The king of Jordan (as his father once was) is friendly to Russia and understands her role in regulating the Middle East and deciding the Palestinian question. We can anticipate, that our ties to the Jordanian leadership will prove to be strong.
The danger that is haunting Jordan is the implementation of a plan to decide the Palestinian question which Donald Trump spoke of during his election campaign. He declared, that he does not only support the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, but that Israel has the right to create a unitary government whose borders cross the Jordan river. That is to say, he practically crossed out all UN decisions and Russo-American treaties. This can create a serious threat for Jordan: if the Israelis try to create a unitary state, the entire Arab population will be forced out.
Recently, information has come to light that a concentration of Saudi military formations has been taking place on the Jordanian-Saudi border.
The threat to Jordan will remain, but not because of the country’s domestic and foreign policy, but because of alternatives to solve the Palestinian question.
The situation in Libya is of direct concern to Egypt, which has been fated to play an important role in the regulation of the situation and the building of a new political model. If Egypt takes a leading role in 2018, it will do so in the Libyan situation, which (like Sudan) has traditionally been an Egyptian responsibility. Along with Turkey, the country can lay claim to the role of the centre of Sunni Islam in its Sufi version, which will necessarily be used after the final abolition of Salafism.
In 2018, Israel will have to struggle through tough times. This is another country which was a most important part of the ‘Greater Middle East’ project and should theoretically have to suffer after its failure. But the ingenuity of Israeli diplomacy and the massive influence of the Israeli lobby in the US are partially hedging geopolitical risks. In addition, we should remember, that Israel is an eschatological project, and that it places religious horizons higher than political realism. This is the most fragile point of Israeli politics which is losing its messianic glow with every passing year. But the loss of the living expectation of the Mashiach is inevitably leading to a sharp degradation of Israeli society: the fall from inspired messianism to cynical realist pragmatism is threatening to tear apart the ideological basis of Zionism.
This is why the Israelis can only keep existing in the spirit of general Oded Yinon by projecting chaos in neighbouring Arabic states. All these measures are seen as temporal ones on the eve of the eschatological Event. The more it is delayed, the vaguer such a policy looks. And if the timing of the eschatology is drawn out at a critical moment (and we can notice the signs of this in 2018), we cannot exclude the direct collapse of Israel. On the contrary, an increase in messianic feeling is also fraught with an escalation of conflict: either in a new Intifada, a confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon, or an attempt to begin a new war with Iran.
A critical moment must take place in Yemen. It is now clear that the Houthis can’t lose the civil war and the Saudis can’t win. The Yemeni are a warlike people that can defend itself beginning from childhood. This is a society that can’t be conquered the military way.
This is why it is likely that we can expect a division of Yemen in Shia and Sunni halves, and the Sunni subdivision won’t even be oriented towards Riyad. Russia will be involved alongside Teheran and Turkey, as the tension in Syria decreases, and the fall of Saudi Arabia and the weakening of the US in the region will open new opportunities.
In 2018, Lebanon will transition directly to the beginning of a war with Israel, but if a war will actually happen or not cannot be said with certainty. If a new conflict flares up in the region, it will be in Lebanon. The Triangle will be very interested in avoiding the conflict, as it can’t bring any positive results even theoretically. As the US will act on the side of Israel, it will be impossible to seriously harm the Israelis, which isn’t the Triangle’s main task (maybe with the exception of Iran). But it will also be impossible to achieve a final victory over Hezbollah. This is why a concern about peace in Lebanon will become one of Russia’s main tasks in the Middle East.
Translated from the Russian by V.A.V.