In the increasingly chaotic Middle East, certain crises get most of the attention: the Egyptian economic meltdown; the anarchy in the Sinai Peninsula; the Iranian nuclear threat, and the Syrian civil war. But there are a large number of other developments in the region which deserve our close attention also.
The disintegration of Lebanon and Hezbollah. Lebanon has become a failed state. The writ of the central government covers parts of Beirut and that's almost all. Hezbollah controls the south and Christian and Druze militias the north. In the center the Sunni try to get along. The Lebanese army is no match for Hezbollah and control of smuggling, included drug trafficking, has disappeared. A total breakdown would obviously create a dangerous situation for Israel and perhaps require military action.
Kurdistan in northern Iraq is increasingly independent in all but name. The Kurds of Syria now control the north-east of the country and have managed to keep it largely out of the fighting. The Turkish government is trying to reach an accord with its Kurdish rebels to end the insurgency and may or may not succeed. An independent Kurdistan, de facto or de jure, is an obvious temptation for the entire Kurdish nation, which however, has the misfortune to be landlocked and therefore dependent on routes of egress controlled by others, mostly hostile.
Iran increasingly controls most of central and southern Iraq through the Shi'a-dominated government of prime minister al-Maliki. The tens of billions of dollars and the thousands of lives spent by the United States in Iraq has resulted in this, which leads to the next item:
The only entities the Sunni and Shi'a Arabs hate more than Israel and The United States, are each other.
Already a civil war is raging in Syria on that basis and is in its incipient stages in Iraq. Lebanon is divided as we have seen. The substantial Shi'a populations of the Arab side of the Gulf are in turmoil, as represented by the uprising in Bahrain, contained only due to intervention by Saudi Arabia. This hydra-headed monster is that much more difficult to combat than a more centralized terrorist organization, such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad or Hamas.
Persecution of the Coptic Christians in Egypt could lead to a refugee problem in Israel.
The Middle East a few years from now is likely to look very little like it does now. But what the new picture will be like is impossible to determine or even guess. Stay tuned.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 25, 2013
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013