All change - one man’s view of the ideal Middle East
BEIRUT - In June 2006, Ralph Peters, a former US Army colonel now a military analyst and strategist, drew a map of a radically reshaped Middle East, a process that’s accelerating amid the political upheavals and conflicts sweeping the region.
One of the key elements of Peters’ map is that it defines a dramatic shift in oil power from Saudi Arabia and Iraq to what he calls an “Arab Shia state” running from Baghdad — defined as a “city-state” — through Shia-dominated southern Iraq, running around Kuwait and down Saudi Arabia’s entire eastern shore on the Gulf.
The prospect of such a state seems rather fanciful because it would create an energy super state that includes southern Iraq, which holds two-thirds of the present country’s 150 billion barrels of oil; Iran’s restive Arab-populated Khuzestan province in the south-west, where most of the Islamic Republic’s oil is located; and Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, where the kingdom’s large Shia minority is centred.
Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia is likely to surrender such strategic, economically vital territory to form a new state for someone else.
Indeed, in Peters’ idealised map of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia would be vastly truncated, ceding territory in the north-west to Jordan (if it survives) while territory on the Red Sea coast containing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina would mutate into an entity Peters calls “the Islamic Sacred State,” while a large slice of southern Saudi Arabia would become part of Yemen.
Given the dilatory manner in which Riyadh is waging the war it started in Yemen in March 2015, such an eventuality would seem to be a leap of faith but when viewed through the prism of the anarchy and game-changing conflicts tearing apart the old order in the Middle East, anything is possible.
Peters’ map leaves the much-shrunken rump of the kingdom landlocked and known as Saudi Homelands, although it’s not clear whether it would still be a kingdom ruled by the House of Saud.
Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey would all lose territory to a “Free Kurdistan,” a state as big as what’s left of Turkey and running all the way from the Armenian border through Iraq’s Kirkuk oilfields to the environs of Baghdad.