The Middle East: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

(This paper is based on a speech given by HES Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the former deputy prime minister and the former minister of foreign affairs of Kuwait, at the German-Arab Friendship Association in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, 11/1/2017)

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Middle East while millions of refugees now roam the world. Terrorism has reached its pinnacle, and metastasised into the so called Da’esh. Key states in the region are now fighting for their very existence. Old global powers: United States, United Kingdom, and France that have shaped the 20th century Middle East are no where to be seen. The new actors, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are now the ones calling the shots. In fact, one consequence of the political dynamics in the Middle East today is the surge in nationalist, sectarian, and populist rhetoric in key states across the world. The surprise of Brexit and Trump, an escalation of the Syrian refugee crisis, and the resurgence of the far-right in Europe—all herald a crisis of the established order in the West. This year, elections will be held in four of the six founding members of the European Union, and populist forces are on the march in each one. Everything is at stake. Peace and prosperity, knotted together by trade and financial globalization, underpinned by a security alliance led by the United States, could all unravel. We are truly in dangerous times. Harvard professor Graham Allison warned us about “Thucydides Trap”. A condition by which a rising power (Russia) rivals and challenges a ruling power (United States), resulting in a catastrophic war and mayhem. This cannot be more evident than in Europe and the Middle East. In addition to that, the rise of populist movements, which is not simply a European or North American phenomenon- will have profound effects on the very foundation of global peace, that was built after the 2nd World War as this study seeks to demonstrate.