The following is an analysis by SETH J. FRANTZMAN. My comments at the end.

ANALYSIS: THE MIDDLE EAST’S TECTONIC SHIFTS

region at crossroads no less important than during fall of Ottomans 100 years ago

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN   FEBRUARY 8, 2019   

Middle East largely unchanging
chaos after Arab Spring dissipated
status quo – again
Gaza still Gaza. Iraq is Iraq. Egypt is Egypt. 

ignores tectonic shifts in the last few decades 

Regimes appear same but instability of recent years major effects

region at crossroads no less important than during fall of Ottomans 100 years ago


From old leaders to a younger generation
to understand changes let us look back 20 years

Who was in charge in 1999? 

Iraq Saddam Hussein, born 1937 president since 1979
Saudi Arabia King Fahd, born 1921 reigning 1982 – 2005
Libya Muammar Gaddafi, born 1942, came to power in 1969
Egypt Hosni Mubarak, born 1928 in power since 1981 
Syria Hafez Assad, born 1930 ruling since 1971
Yemen  Ali Abdullah Saleh, born 1947, come to power 1958
Iran Mohammed Khatami born 1943, in charge 1997 – 2005

Turkey, Mesut Yilmaz prime minister to be succeeded by Bulent Ecevit

Lebanon Rafic Hariri, born 1944  prime minister 1998 to 2000
Jordan King Hussein 1935, began reign 1952
Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, born 1936, rose to power 1989 

Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika, born 1937 came to power 1999

Morocco Mohammed VI born 1929, came to power in 1999
after Hassan II, who served since 1961, died
Qatar  Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, born 1952 in power 1995 – 2013
Palestine Yasser Arafat born 1929, in power since 1994.

these leaders dominated late 1990s
They were products of 1930s and 1940s
Most were born in colonial era
worldview shaped by Arab nationalism and Cold War
Some played role in putting down first Islamist rebellions in Egypt, Syria 1980s 

these regimes fit several clear patterns
aging dictators past their peak, monarchies, a few hybrids like Lebanon

Then things changed
Saddam overthrown 2003 US invasion. 
Arafat, Fahd, Assad and King Hussein died. 
Hariri was assassinated. 

Gaddafi raped to death
Saleh assassinated and body chucked onto a truck
Mubarak and Ali abdicate, also Hamad al-Thani

Today, leaders are younger, take after their parents or systems that produced them

Many of these men born in 1950s and 1960s
Some much younger, Emir Tamim in Qatar, born in 1980
Mohammed Bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, born in 1985. 
Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister, born in 1970. 

leaders of Kurdistan of younger generation, also king of Morocco
few exceptions, President Hassan Rouhani in Iran, Sultan Qaboos in Oman 

this generation grew up in American hegemony
Cold War ending or had already ended
ramifications of Gulf War
many Arab regimes joined Americans to oust Saddam 

US leaders changed policies every four or eight years
George H.W. Bush preached “New World Order” 
Clinton humanitarian intervention
George W. Bush’s democratization
elections led to rise of Hamas in Palestinian Authority 
From US New World Order to withdrawal

Obama’s Cairo speech represented new era
US shifted from opposing Assad to opposing ISIS
Disillusionment in Egypt, US supporting Muslim Brotherhood
Libya, Yemen became a chaos
Syria fueled extremism across region
50,000 foreign extremists flooded in to support ISIS – unprecedented

old alliances shattered, friendships tested
Qatar isolated by former Gulf friends 
warmer relations with Turkey

Iran-supported militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon
These groups gained from war on ISIS 
emerged with unprecedented strength and armaments
Houthis came close to taking Bab al-Mandab Strait 

From chaos, new alliance systems emerged
bedrock states, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, form one system
Qatar, Turkey form another
Iran and allies, a third

US at historic crossroads to withdraw – again – from the region. 
third major US withdrawal since 1990s
Bush Sr. reduced US footprint
Obama also did
And so has Trump

Russia filled some gaps 
Arab League, weak in addressing region’s needs
no longer consensus in opposition to Israel
Strong states defeat independent political groups 

since 2011 rise of political groups seeking to carve out spaces 
included Kurdish movements that sought independence and autonomy

also included long list of Sunni extremist groups
Idlib Hayat Tahrir al-Sham dominates
Eastern Syria Syrian Democratic Forces strongest
Houthis in Yemen, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army

Is the Sunni-Shia conflict over?

unprecedented Sunni-Shia infighting dominated some countries
Ethnic struggles emerged in others
New state structures have returned
But they have returned in a different way. 

Arab Gulf states taken lead in foreign policy
launching war in Yemen in 2015 to confront Houthis
Egypt playing a role in Libya

Regional security frameworks emerging
meeting in late Jan of Egypt, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi, Kuwait, Jordan 
Proxies and militias still exist

Turkey unprecedented role in Iraq, Syria
appears set to keep its soldiers in its two southern neighbors

Gulf states are patching things up with Syria

Defeating ISIS and the new alliance systems

last ISIS stronghold liberated in Euphrates valley
Middle East transformed and at turning point

last decade struggle between extremist forces to exploit weak states 
regional powers whose agenda is to dominate the region 

unique time in Middle East that presents complex challenges for policy-makers

region now increasingly influenced by two rising systems
Iran and proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen represent one system
Turkey, Qatar and partners in northern Syria, Libya, Sudan represent another

Saudi, Israel, UAE, Egypt, Kurdistan in northern Iraq
reopening of embassies in Syria
Iran-Israel tensions in Syria
complexity of US withdrawal from Syria.  

Syrian civil war major implications for Western powers
fueled growing connection between Iran, Russia, Turkey 
they have to agree to post-conflict Syria minus US 

rise of ISIS also important
turning point in confronting jihadists 
who flourished from 1980s and underpinned ISIS

New totalitarianism

increase crackdowns on dissent
Palestinian Authority, appear to prefer status quo over any new elections 
also the case in Iraq and Lebanon where governing elites prefer status quo 
preferable to chaos of Yemen and Libya 

region witnessing decline in any experiments to create new state structures
decline of independence of Syrian rebels in northern Syria
decline of autonomy of Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria
This decline dovetails with the new authoritarianism

States fear chaos, instability, extremist movements
Strong governments seen as best remedy to extremism 
Controlling religion preferable to free-for-all 

Is this a ‘New Middle East’? 

Is this a “New Middle East” 
Or is this a return to ancient regimes before 2010

destabilized by democratization attempts 
and wars sparked by Saddam Hussein in 1990s? 
Are we seeing eclipse of jihadist to destabilize countries? 
Will Turkey, Russia, Iran be main beneficiaries at expense of West

tensions between Israel and Iran will continue
Israel continue to make inroads among Gulf states
recent official visits broken decades of silence

challenges  will be addressed without US in the region
major change from last decades
US policy at the center of decisions being made locally

US reputation forever changed by zigzagging policies
difficult to change that perception 

region must recover from wars of last decade 
Iraq, Syria and Egypt face uphill challenges

Iran, Turkey emerged much stronger from decades of instability
They will seek to dominate region, with rising Russian influence 

My comments :  How will this affect us here in Malaysia? It depends on how stupid Middle East worshippers like Anwar Ibrahim, that Mufti fellow in the north, Maszlee Malik and many, many Arab wannabes want to be.

The Middle East will be screwed up for a very long time to come.  I have been watching the Middle East since the 1960s.  I recall watching the Six Day Arab Israeli War of 1967 on TV.  I was seven years old. It lasted all of six days.  Then again the Yom Kippur War of 1973. That one lasted much longer – 19 days to be exact.

The Arabs claimed they won both the wars. In 1973 the Egyptians claimed victory after they crossed the Suez Canal from west to east.  They did not mention that a few days later they had to re-cross the canal again from east to west. 

There are no angels in the Middle East. There are many devils. But there are also an extremely large number of very stupid people. The word stupid can be found in the dictionary. This means someone has to be stupid. They are all in the Middle East. 

The Middle East has no freedom, no free Press, and offers few economic opportunities to its bursting demographics. 

I have said this before –  Egypt is the biggest time bomb in the Middle East. Egypt has 100 million people the vast majority of whom live in squalid living conditions. They have very little future. 

Many of the rest are like ‘one item on the menu restaurants’. They only have oil and little else.  With the oil age most certainly coming to an end, they have not developed free and democratic societies, or technologically and socially advanced societies which can propel them forwards.

Plus they suffer an overdose of a false religion that keeps them inside a type of hellfire. These are a forsaken people. They have forsaken themselves.

Freedom and democracy are very poisonous and alien concepts not only among Arabs but in the entire Middle East.

Hence the observation by the writer above that after the chaos of the Arab Spring, the Middle East is settling down to a new round of totalitarianism.

It is true that BOTH the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas DO NOT WANT to have any more elections in Gaza or the West Bank. The last elections were held THIRTEEN YEARS AGO in 2006. 

There will be “elections” in Egypt where Sisi will easily win over 90% of the votes.

Without basic human freedoms, this whole region will be screwed up.  Women drivers in Saudi Arabia is just a PR exercise. It remains to be seen.

It is best that Malaysia just disengage from the Middle East. Tuan-tuan jangan jadi bodoh. 

Whether the Arabs want to shag camels or donkeys  are not any of our business.  Jangan kita masuk campur atau nak ambil tahu sangat.  

The moment Donald Trump announced US withdrawal from Syria, the Arab Gulf countries are renegotiating to re-open their embassies in Syria.

Just a few weeks ago the Saudis, the UAE, Qatar etc were funding the ISIS to bring down the ‘Shia’ regime of Bashar Assad.  Now with the US gone,  the Arabs are afraid if  the Iranians or the Turks will become influential in Syria.

So now they are back to backing the Assad regime.  These are extreme hypocrites. They have only one thing in mind – their own self preservation. They will sell their mothers and daughters and sleep with the devil just to safeguard their own wealth and positions. 

The other new alliance in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf States and Israel. 

So who should Malaysia suppoet? 
The answer is very easy. 
Malaysia should support Malaysia.
Tak payah pi cuci jamban orang lain.
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