​Middle East agenda in 2019 - ZEKERIYA KURŞUN

​Middle East agenda in 2019

The New World Order that was established after the old one wore out and frayed within a century. As a matter of fact, it became useless. This reality was realized in early 2018 not only by condemned and oppressed communities, but also by the powerful and semi-powerful. Hence, it was considered that 2018 might be a year of change. However, the anticipated did not happen.

In an article I wrote as 2018 started, I had explained that this would not be easy in the following words:

"The world is on a quest for a more just and humane order. Surely, this process will not be pain-free. The old sovereigns, regional structures taking advantage of the old order, and those whose minds are not open to the search for a new order in particular will unite and create "new chaos" in the name of continuing their order. The center of this chaos will once again largely be the Middle East and the Muslim world, partially Africa, China and India's areas of influence."

2018 failed to meet expectations

Followers of the 2018 world agenda will have seen the developments take place in this direction. The Syrian civil war ongoing in our region did not end, but it entered a new stage. New balances in which Turkey has a more active role have been established; and the U.S. made a change in its tactic in the region, but contrary to claims, it developed new strategies for a more effective settlement in the region at less cost.

Even though a cease-fire was achieved in the last months of 2018 in the Yemen war, which is one of the most important problems of the Middle East, the war could not be stopped. Just as the damage and destruction caused by this war has taken Yemen's next century entirely hostage, it has also already shaped the future regional policies of the Middle East and North Africa. This has led to new groups such as those who have already taken sides in this war, those who have not, those who are supporting it, those bandaging wounds and those preventing it.

Looking at it from this aspect, it is clear that the results of 2019 regional policies are not going to be better than the previous year. Because the alliance of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, Jordan's efforts to assume a role, and Israel's support to these five countries will further drag the region into chaos.

Meanwhile, with the alliance consisting of Iran, Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and partially Iraq that continued in 2018, and the Arab League encouraging the reopening of embassies in Syria, the evolvement of a new era is likely.

What should Turkey do?

Turkey's efforts in the second half of 2018 to re-establish regional balances with Iran and Russia have become open to negotiation with the last U.S. move. The U.S. is aware that it cannot stop Iran by losing Turkey. Turkey putting forth its determination with respect to the east of the Euphrates has paved the way to new negotiations. The U.S. tactic to withdraw troops in order to strengthen its hand in these negotiations disturbed the non-state actors and terrorist groups in the region, as well as Israel and its allies in the Gulf.

In this period, the U.S. will convince its allies in the Gulf that it has stopped Iran, and continue to arm the region implying that Turkey is the real threat. Thus, certain gathering-places that have already been activated in this regard are preparing the public in this direction. In this way, the U.S. is going to keep its allies in the Gulf, while trying to ruin the coalition between Turkey, Iran and Russia through cooperation with Ankara. As a matter of fact, there is going to be efforts to return to the policy in former U.S. President Barack Obama's last period to create new U.S.-controlled actors in the Middle East.

The region's underbelly is two regions which Turkey is also sensitive about. One is Jerusalem, and the other is Qatar. The U.S., which declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel at the end of 2017, is going to continue its insistence on this decision and work on partners supporting this decision to move their embassies here. It is obvious that U.S. President Donald Trump will not back down from this campaign, which is his biggest investment for the upcoming elections. It is thus going to make new attempts to divide the Muslim world which has largely been able to act in union regarding Jerusalem to date. The four states jointly continuing the blockade on Qatar are going to be expected to make new concessions in Jerusalem in exchange for the support for their blockade. There is no doubt that the negative position Turkey will naturally take against this situation will strengthen the covert message the U.S. wants to give its allies in the region.

These are not conspiracy theories, they are inferences made from what has happened in the region until today. It is possible to make these inferences by following the changes that took place in the region in December 2018. In the face of these developments, Turkey needs to clarify its Syria policy independent of relations with Iran, Russia and the U.S., further progress its good relations with Iraq, and balance the quad coalition with the strategic cooperation it will establish with Kuwait and Oman in the Gulf.

In summary, 2019's Middle East agenda will largely be determined by Turkey's determination in east of the Euphrates and Jerusalem and Qatar.

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