Despite not wanting to find himself too deeply involved in the Syrian debacle, Putin has gone too far to retreat gracefully. Either he manages to pull it off to great political kudos, or he will get bogged down in the Levant.
Erdogan is unsettling the entire strategic scenario in the Middle East. He is in conflict with the US, has upset Russia, further divided the Kurds and exacerbated the civil war in Syria.
The protests in Iran asking for reforms and stability are at odds with the ruling theocratic regime of an economically backward country. Yet they are the reaction of a population that feels threatened by the geopolitical ambitions and expensive foreign military engagements of its leaders.
In doubt over whether to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has never really started or abandoning a futile effort, the US President has chosen the latter.
Crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is changing the power structure of Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries in the world. His disruptive force could backfire but perhaps it is the only way to reengineer a country famously avert to change.
With a mix of soft power and diplomatic savoir-faire Macron has outclassed important players in the Middle East. Eroding the roles of Russia and the US he has managed to place France in the pilot seat for future negotiations.
Some would consider Lebanon a sectarian nightmare, but it has managed well in recent years, despite all odds. Now with Hezbollah fresh off a victory in Syria, the balance of power is set to change in their favor.
What for years has been a political game of chicken may now have gotten out of hand. In the name of some imaginary oppression, the Catalans have bluffed themselves into a cul-de-sac. And Madrid’s reaction could spell disaster.
Now that the Islamic State is on the run, the apparent vacuum in the Middle East will be filled by a variety of players – some new, some old. There is, however, one clear winner.
The nuclear deal was supposed to bring Iran back into the fold of cooperative nations. In a sense it has, but Tehran has also interpreted the accord as assent for wielding a free hand in other areas of the region.
Qatar has taken a central role in the staggering upheavals that continue to plague the Middle East. One man in particular is responsible for its extraordinarily high profile.
Fashions come and go in politics, too. After eight years of economic crises and attempts to dial down distant wars, a new cycle in which hard power reigns is now upon us. And the consequences are huge.
Egypt is in trouble. With the country still reeling from revolution and counterrevolution, President Sisi tries to keep it together
by reverting to pharaonic policies that could set it back years, if not centuries.
Turkey has gone from trying to have no problems on its borders to creating problems all around and well beyond. In a frenzy to solidify uncontested power, President Erdogan is resorting to any means he deems necessary.
While it seems as if the Middle East has been on fire for years, the battle for Mosul may well be the first decisive one in what promises to be a smaller version of the last century’s world wars.
From Gibraltar to the Strait of Hormuz, the Arab world is in the throes of chaos. Where once external forces were to blame, today the absence of external pressure has led to a fracturing among and within regional powers.
Russia is now the main player in the Syrian peace talks. In an attempt to return to the world stage, Moscow has thrust itself into a position that proved very difficult for its predecessors in the region.
We need to deconstruct the Islamic State. While feared as terrorist organization, it is exaggerated as a geopolitical threat. More than anything, it is a symptom of a deeper power struggle in the region.
The election of Donald Trump won’t suddenly straighten out the Middle East. If he keeps his promise to maintain American withdrawal from the fray, other powers will step in to fill the vacuum.
The new president of the United States will face a volatile and dangerous world. And nowhere does the chaos reach its maximum expression as it does in the Middle East.
Moscow has elbowed in on Washington’s monopoly of influence in the Middle East. But the truth is that neither can achieve what it was able to in the past. Now the local governments are the protagonists.
Israel is surrounded by strife on all sides. And yet, its security situation has rarely been so good. Nevertheless, the relative calm has revealed some significant fissures within Israeli society.
The Sykes-Picot agreement has developed a reputation as the root cause of all the Middle East’s problems. But the only ones who want to get rid of those borders are forces intent on fomenting chaos.
With the flow of petrodollars slowing down, prudence seems to be the order of the day for the Arabian Peninsula. But the new Salman Doctrine is ambitious enough to raise concerns.
Russian moves in Syria have displayed a quickness that has everyone involved wondering what’s behind them and what the end game might be.
If there is indeed such a thing as the Obama Doctrine, then the Middle East has shown how it entails strategic restraint bordering on cynical passivity, which some argue leads inevitably to the neutering of American power.
The vacuum left by American leadership is being filled by Putin, and all those weary of the stalemate in Syria are content. But the Middle East has historically been a spider web for foreign powers.
Five years ago the Arab world blew up, and the flames are still raging. What at first had been euphoria quickly turned to chaos.
What cannot be denied, though, is that the uprisings were the spark of an epochal change.
With much of the country split between two parliaments, and the rest contested by militias and extremists, there is no easy solution for Libya’s ills. Lack of commitment on the West’s part doesn’t help either.
Riyadh has given Doha an ultimatum, ostensibly because Qatar has been supporting terrorism. But the real issue behind the conflict is money.