THE forces behind creating chaos in the Middle East region and spreading extremism in Islam haven’t been focused upon for a much longer time amid of the Trump Administration coming to the power in US. The uncertain situation of the Middle East adds on to its vulnerability. Terrorism and violence are not the only causes of instability in the region because the crisis that is looming is much greater than Al-Qaeda, Islamic State/Daesh or other terrorist groups. This wave of extremism has affected every country in the region including Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and the Gulf countries.
As Islam gives impetus to this region and it is the fastest growing force in the majority of the countries of world, it is quite evident from the history that Muslims never supported violence on the basis of religion, sect or caste. However, there is a fraction of people who kept going astray from the true essence of the teachings of Islam and caused havoc in this region. The sectarian division between Shi’ite and Sunni is not associated with the extremism at large rather it seems to be a rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia for the gaining the regional hegemony, which has a direct influence on Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The tribal and ethnic dissention between Turkey, Iran, Arab and Kurd has nothing to do with Islam yet it has turned out to be more violent than the religion based terrorism.
The recent upsurge in the terrorist attacks and the increase in the number of terrorist groups suggest that there is no short term solution to this menace spread in Middle East. There are sixty seven groups and international organizations that have been proscribed as terrorist groups, among which thirty-one are in Middle East only. They are likely to spread their extremist activities globally which is apparent from survey which suggests that only 36% terrorist attacks in the Middle East and North African regions and rest occurred in other parts of the world. The civil war going on in Syria has reduced the overall scenario into the good versus evil moral play. In the garb of this discourse, the fundamental truth has been hid: to wit that the continuous uprisings causing instability and the unabating insecurity have resulted from the existing regional order.
In order to gain peace and stability in the region and to place the regional order on track, Middle East states must work collectively for a shared prosperous future to organize a most awaited regional security architecture when Middle East region is the only regional security and cooperation framework. To this date no meaningful discussion on creating a security and strategic framework has been done. However, the strong opposition to the Iran’s nuclear program and the escalating tensions among the Persian Gulf littoral states, the world’s renowned think tanks and the analysts have called for the NATO style collective defence security regime. However, a few years ago, the efforts of US to establish a missile defence system for the GCC, as well as increase in US arms sales to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf were the manifestations of this same strategic logic in action.
In these proposals, US was perceived to be the neutral player with no explicit ambitions in the region. This presumption was definitely at best naïve and at worst incognizant to the historical events of US involvement in the region until this very time. Many rational strategists and analysts argue that United States has vital strategic interests particularly in the Persian Gulf region- including securing the free flow of a cheap supply of oil for US domestic energy needs – and the Middle East region. And that US is never going to compromise its interest even if it has to safeguard these interests with covert operations or armed force. As a matter of fact, the United States involvement in the last three decades in the Middle East reveals that more the US strengthens the conventional military capabilities of the Gulf countries, the more it increases its military presence in the region, and the greater the security preoccupations and countermeasures of a number of key regional countries. On the other hand, Israel has complied an estimated 200 nuclear weapons over the years covering it with its so-called manifest security concerns. The military strategy of Israel is to act ad libitum and to deter would-be aggressors in order to banish any kind of perceived threat to its strategic national security interests on the basis of its edge by having overt nuclear military advantage in the region. The today’s regional rivals- Iran and Israel- once enjoyed close diplomatic relations. Because of Israel’s military strength as well as US presence in the form of encirclement policy in the region, Iran has been intensely upgrading its asymmetric warfare and overall military capabilities.
In international relations theory, the traditional concept of security postulates that the only way to ensure one’s security is to increase one’s power at the expense of other states. This conventional wisdom’s manifestation could be easily seen practiced with perfection in today’s Middle East. Establishing new ways of thinking about state and regional security must be tried in this volatile region now. A well organized and an inclusive regional security framework in ME, while not necessarily eliminating inter-state competition altogether, has real potential to bring greater stability to region.
—The writer works for Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.