The world is being overwhelmed by Syrian refugees. And it's easy to lose sight of what's really happening in the Middle East. Rouba Al-Fattal writes:
Most world leaders and analysts have argued that a common Western strategy is needed to end the crisis. In the quest for that common strategy, Western policy-makers deliberated for months and came up with a beautiful road map for Syria. Russia came up with a road map of its own. The gist of both proposals is to seize fire, come together at the negotiation table, set up a committee to draft a new constitution, reform some political and economic elements, run a referendum, call for presidential and parliamentary elections and — hopefully — live happily ever after.
It’s such a nice fantasy — but it’s a laughable effort on both sides. How often can we forget our history? Did the road map for the Israeli-Palestinian peace-process lead to a two-state-solution? Did the road map for postwar Iraq lead to peace and stability? Why should this experiment be any different? How many road maps can we draw for people who don’t want to go anywhere? Let’s get real — unless this plan belongs to the people directly affected by the war, it’s not worth the paper it is printed on.
We're in a new world, Al Fattal writes, where old alliances have dissolved and new ones are being forged:
From a European perspective, Russia can provide the needed stability in Syria — which is why French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have recently been seen cozying up to each other. We shouldn’t be surprised to see the European leaders softening their stance on Russia and giving some concessions on Ukraine in exchange for a deal on Syria.
The U.S., fearing a Russian beachhead in Syria that could translate into a stronger presence in the Middle East and new alliances with Europe, had no choice but to intensify its military efforts by sending “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS in Syria — something President Barack Obama had vowed not to do.
But that’s not the only strategic shift the U.S. has attempted. Despite the outcry from traditional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. recently reached a nuclear deal with Iran. This landmark agreement turns the tables on the existing actors and gives a seat to a new player. The wisdom here is that the United States gains a new ally which should help in maintaining a balance of power against Russian dominance in the Middle East. This new U.S. strategy, which reads like a page from a beginner’s primer on international relations, only helps to widen the rift between the U.S. and Western Europe.
Stability will only be restored to the Middle East after these strategic shifts have been accomplished. Until then, many will die and many will flee. And those numbers will grow the longer the players seek military advantage.
It's a new world -- but not a brave new world.
We'll be away for the next couple of days. But I should be back on Tuesday or Wednesday.