In early May, 2015 it became known that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting extremist Islamist groups in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. That Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among others, have – mostly indirectly – been supporting Islamist groups is not news as similar reports have been emerging from time to time since 2011, if not earlier. But this policy with regard to the Syrian conflict became increasingly overt amidst growing instability and lack of Western commitment to Assad’s overthrow. According to The Independent and other media, Turkish and Saudi support focuses on the overarching jihadist group Jaish al-Fatah which includes al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra – a rival to both Assad and the self-styled “Islamic State,” also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham). Continue reading →
One could be led to believe that it all started in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran. Rouhani, along with his moderate and reformist agenda, bore much optimism among Western countries that Iran might shift direction towards a more pragmatic and less anti-Western foreign policy. But this was not what put Iran to the epicenter of the Middle East and international politics.
Iran’s increasing influence and rising role in the broader region has been prompted by three main developments: a) the Iraq war of 2003; b) the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq by 2011; c) and the failure of Western policies in the case of Syria’s civil war in conjunction with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (henceforth, ISIS). Rouhani and the new round of negations about Iran’s nuclear program are only “the cherry on the pie.” Continue reading →
While the revolution in Libya has for many turned into a civil war between the rebels and the pro-Gaddafi forces, the situation in Bahrain is also deteriorating. The intensification of the demonstrations and the possibility of this turning into a violent conflict could have serious implications for the Middle East and the US in the near future.
Even though the revolution in Bahrain has similar socio-economic characteristics as other revolutions in the region, it also has an ethnic-religious component. The uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya led the Shiias to escalate their already protracted struggle against the discriminatory policies of the ruling Sunni minority. Furthermore, the Sunni government has strong relations with America’s ally, Saudi Arabia whereas the Shiias have strong bonds with Iran, which has been accused of fuelling the demonstrations in Bahrain.