Lebanon was stunned on Nov. 4 and its still in shock when its prime minister, Saad Hariri, speaking from Saudi Arabia, delivered a halting resignation speech. Mr. Hariri said he left Beirut because he feared assassination. He placed the blame for his long-distance resignation on Iran and its main ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
(Russia, United States, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar & Saudi Arabia)
In 2012, as part of a phenomena known as the ‘Arab Spring’, anti-government protests escalated into civil war in Syria. The combination of the Arab uprisings that ousted long-time pro-Western autocrats in Tunis, Cairo, and Yemen coupled with the ongoing civil wars raging in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen signal the dawn of a new era in the Middle East likely to be characterized by tremendous uncertainties – uncertainties that will make any balance-of-power calculations tenuous and transient at best.
The modern order in the Middle East and the emergence of non-state actors in the region can be traced back to the Sykes-Picot Agreement signed by Britain and France 100 years ago to divide the Ottoman Empire. The agreement officially established a vertical ruling order by the West to divide and rule in the Middle East. This not only profoundly transformed the geopolitical landscape in the region, but also started the history of the separation and parallel evolution of regimes and societies in the region.
The balance of power theory in international relations suggests that national security is enhanced when military capability is distributed so that no one state is strong enough to dominate all others. If one state becomes much stronger than others, the theory predicts that it will take advantage of its strength and attack weaker neighbors, thereby providing an incentive for those threatened to unite in a defensive coalition. Some realists maintain that this would be more stable as aggression would appear unattractive and would be averted if there was equilibrium of power between the rival coalitions.
The result has been a shift in the balance of powers in the region with new powers emerging. Unfortunately, this uncertaintly predominates today in Syria and Iraq , where we find a battleground of the proxies of different states and non-states. To a lesser extent, focus is also on Yemen and Egypt, but with the same level of concern as ‘Arab Spring’ sentiments of democracy and a high influx of radicalism persist.
Geopolitics changes extremely slowly because geography itself does not change. What changes is the political dimension of this geography. Most of the catastrophic mistakes made by policymakers emanate from their lack of awareness of this difference between the stability of geography and the changing elements of politics.