No need to invent a new Middle East

Friday 13/11/2015
An elderly refugee from Syria at Athens’ port of Piraeus

The “new Middle East” was nothing more than a political term used by certain parties seeking to promote a geographic concept serving their own interests. The Arabs viewed these parties and their ideas with suspicion, especially as the term was introduced by former US secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
So when people began to talk of a “new Middle East”, suspicions grew into a state of sustained confusion and uncertainty.
The Arabs adopted the term — whether purposefully or simply because everybody else was using it. The term was used at conferences and gatherings of intellectuals, even if some people felt the need to add “and North Africa” to it so that it referred unequivocally to the whole Arab world.
But this appendage is no longer necessary today because there is no longer a “new Middle East”. Arguably the two biggest Arab states have been wiped out — or at least are on the verge of destruction. I am, of course, talking about Iraq and Syria — two countries that are on the verge of collapse and erasure. There is truly little hope of their survival or revival.
So what happened to this “new Middle East” about which many had warned?
There was fear of normalisation of relations with Israel, with many becoming overly preoccupied with geo-strategic issues even at the expense of their own political beliefs and benefits.
The complex that the Arab world suffers from, to this day, over the Sykes-Picot agreement led to many Arabs warning of a “new Sykes- Picot agreement”.
In addition to Israel, there was Iran and Turkey, the nightmare neighbours whose historic feud did not prevent them each working to weaken the Arab world. Arab efforts to ensure good relations with its closest neighbours also failed.
The fear was that this “new Middle East” project was seeking to weaken Arab solidarity and invent a new geopolitical region including Israel, Turkey and Iran.
The Arab fear could be explained by concern that they were specifically being targeted with the aim of weakening, if not completely destroying, the bonds of kinship that bind the Arab people.
But what did the Arabs do to confront this fear?
They did nothing. In fact, everything they did do ensured that there was no need to even go ahead with this project, as the Arabs were more than capable of destroying themselves without any outside help. Through a strange process of mass suicide, the Arabs weakened themselves and their own ties to one another. The US invasion of Iraq was the point of no return, while we are now watching the destruction of the Syrian state.
Neither Turkey, nor Israel, nor Iran, would never have been able to infiltrate the Arab world in the way that they have if the Arabs did not open the floodgates themselves. While today it is international partners and allies who are talking and searching for “solutions” to the problems that the Arab world is drowning in, and which they cannot find a way out of themselves.
The concept of a “new Middle East” was based on an experiment that the Arabs were a part of but which there is no longer any need for. The Arab states meant to be part of this project no longer exist or are facing a dangerous political vacuum, which means that they might as well not exist.
The major crises that countries such as Iraq and Syria or even Egypt and Jordan are facing mean they are not in any position to confront any nefarious Israeli or Iranian or Turkish project.
The Arabs today are simply not a factor in the regional equation. And it is the Arabs themselves that are responsible for this deplorable situation. Fears of a “new Middle East” are now baseless — the Arabs are living in it.