THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA[i]) AT 100. A Centennial Portraying So Patchy, With Many Colors and Signs Specific to the Presence and Actions from A Confined Area of “Sources”: Military, Armies, Security Forces, Militias, Weaponry, All with Multifarious Fallout, Hence a Legitimate Interrogation and a Consequential Dilemma: QUO VADIS, MENA?
Ambassador Gheorghe DUMITRU
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This exposé assembles a few glosses on the idea that any meaningful “commemoration” of the modern Middle East and North Africa’s Centenary (1918-2018) should not overlook the true “Centennial Portraying” of the region, even if such an approach would risk diminishing, up to complete annihilation, the supposed celebratory nature for such an event. Indeed, the fact that this Centennial Portraying incorporates so many “colors” and other constitutive signs proper to the military – in various guises, could be indicative that this very domain has not ceased to be a major, if not the main, actor in today’s MENA drama. And that with a panoply of consequential actions on the ground, from instilling an ever stronger overdosing of authoritarianism in a society already marked by a contained space for the rule of law and freedom of expression, to what one can witness as openly violent and destructive conflicts, themselves in different manifestations, from intra-state civil wars, to ethnic cleansings or inter-state wars, direct or proxy or hybrid. The paradigm is further complicated by outside forces jockeying for geopolitical influence and still resources control. Hence the external unrestrained involvement the region’s problems, directly or by proxy too, essentially military in nature and intrinsically interwoven with the national and local army dimensions, mostly with no less an unfortunate impact on the host territories and populations. Henceforth, the need to having such a centennial picture concomitantly apprehended holistically and focused segmentially, starting with those of military character and their “branches”.
Mottos: “… in the Middle East – the fighting ring of the world…”[ii]
“In the Middle East weakness guarantee aggression.” [iii]
“In the Middle East… there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong… This is our (Israeli) policy. It is backed by appropriate (military) deployment, equipment, preparedness and – in the hour of need – appropriate orders.”[iv]
“The Middle East is… a very different world, and you have to be strong here, there is no way to gain respect in this part of the world… you can’t talk your way, you just have to be strong… Maybe it would be better if the world weren’t like that but that’s how it is.”[v]
At the end of the fateful 1918-2018 Century, as all hell would have broken loose over the one and only region of the Planet Earth which had given birth to not less than three successive and eventually competing Gods – the One of the Jews, the One of the Christians and the One of the Muslims, not mentioned here by name, observing “the rule” in the Judaism fold – an ubiquitous color of MENA’s sui generis Centennial portraying is the dye of the Military Attire and War Camouflage/ Fatigue, as well as the multiple “colors” of their actions’ fallout. And that for a very simple reason: by excellence, MENA’s today brand is that of an environment in short supply of effective rule of law, functional democracy and productive diplomacy, being glutted instead in the toxic mix of hard to stop tensions, disputes and conflicts of various types – sectarian, religious, geo-political, with seemingly unexhausted (re)sources of combatants and unlimited weaponry reservoirs, hence the destructive, even deadly consequences. All that against the backdrop of unremitting military’s role and involvement, whose “variants may be: a military junta that seizes power; a military hierarchy that wields political power indirectly from its institutional base; retired military officers who become politicians after retirement.”[vi]
In fact, going beyond the conventional wisdom verbalizations on the matter, we would say that Janus, concomitantly as image, paradigm and mantra, comes out as the most adequate description for the ostensibly indestructible military-army-weapons compact in MENA up to these days. On the one hand, the military, i.e. the generals, and the army, i.e. the soldiers, haven’t been ceasing to deliver useful “social, national and geopolitical services”, before anything else the invaluable peace and stability. On the other hand, the same duo, plus possible reinforcement from informal structures, like non-state armed groups, militias et al, is being driven by deconstruction and destructions purposes. Whatever those actors’ posture, their actions have been extremely costly in all cases, and that not only in financial terms, especially for the third societal strata, the present and future societies and generations, as “innocent targets and victims of the men/ communities/ societies with guns”.
Practically, all along this past Century 1918-2018, few, if any, of MENA’s areas – anyway, those of reduced size, in territory and population – have been out of that Janus military and armies’ realm, be they as active agents, passive targets, or in the in-between role of proxy actors and instruments. Maybe, that should not sound strange for a region whose “birth throes” were so much conditioned and impregnated by the actions, sounds, smell, dust etc. of the real war, nothing other than the First World War, otherwise known as the Great War. And a Great War swept indeed the area including the old regions of the Levant and Palestine, Mesopotamia and Persia and Arabia Felix – now Arabia Mortis, as well as parts of North Africa and further to East Asia.
Against such a backdrop comes out MENA’s “image problem”, which could be considered as old as this crucial Century 1918-2018. For years, even the most abridged books and studies on the region have not failed to mention and further argue on what had become an almost stereotyped region’s image: “In the minds of most people, in Western countries at least, the Middle East is associated with wars, civil strife, revolutionary change, the military in politics, terrorism, human rights abuses, the maltreatment of women, and ethnic and religious minorities… Even when the images are more potentially positive, such as in the fertile business environment, of the oil- and gas-producing countries of the region, they are rarely perceived as being soft or benevolent”[vii].
Only that, as Philip Robins rightly underlined in the same book, “one has to ask whether it is merely an image problem from which the region suffers or whether it is actually more one of substance”, inviting his readers “to take two examples: think wars and consider civil strife”.
An appeal which would remain meaningless if we would not “think” also about the panoply of agents and their “tool kit” in undertaking wars and strife, as well as about the highly emotional charge, with reverberations far beyond the region, generated by MENA’s perennial martial upbringing and its imprint on the lives of millions and millions of people.
MENA’s Quasi-Monochrome Centennial Portrait – A Short Historical Context: The Modern MENA, Region Born Under the „Sign” of the GREAT WAR
Motto: “Seeing the First World War through Sorelian lenses, as ‘the forge in which the world will be hammered into new limits and new communities’”.[viii]
Besides Europe, its Eastern part with Romania, included, one region of the Planet in particular, and that happens to be located in the Europeans’ neighborhood, namely the Middle East/ MENA, had been likewise strongly affected and shaped by the historical multifarious process which came to be known as The First World War/ World War I (WWI)/ The Great War/ 1914-1918, as well as the crucial events leading to it and those which followed it, in a sense a Century plus.[ix]
The strong and durable connection between the Middle East/ MENA region and WWI, in the sense that “The Middle East played a major role in World War I, and, conversely, the war was important in shaping the development of the modern Middle East…”[x], constitutes perhaps one of the least contentious issues of the regional history. What could differ are just the terms used to define it most tellingly, with the requested care not to miss essential nuances: “In no other region of the world are the effects of World War I as current as they are in the Middle East. The war’s dark inheritance is especially apparent in a core territory made-up of five countries — Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Israel — and one seemingly permanent non-state, Palestine. Hemmed in by the stronger and arguably more stable nations of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, this median zone is the “bloodland” of the Middle East.”[xi] Consequentially, the think-tank International Crisis Group analyzed in an in-depth study not less than five conflict clusters emerged in the context in case of the trauma produced to the region by WWI and the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire: (i). the dysfunctional post-World War I state system (which evolved significantly over a hundred years but never overcame its troubled beginnings); (ii). the Israeli-Arab conflict, precipitated by the 1948 creation of the state of Israel; (iii). the rise of Iran and attendant Sunni-Shiite sectarian spiral, triggered by the 1979 Islamic Revolution; (iv). Sunni radicalisation, given impetus first by the Arab armies’ defeat in the June 1967 war with Israel and then by the Saudi response to the 1979 siege of Mecca; (v). the 2011 Arab uprisings as region-wide popular challenges to the existing order/ disorder, and their collapse into either regime retrenchment or civil war (with Tunisia as an uncertain exception).”[xii]
Needless to say that, in each of the five “conflict clusters”, the military/ armies/ militias/ weaponry, have been operating from the very beginning, in many instances continuing today, as agents and/or ferments of the evolutions on the ground, in a “tangled web of wars and proxy wars, sectarian splits, revolutions, and counter-revolutions that are convulsing the region” so that, finally, “finding your way through this labyrinth is no easy task.”[xiii]
A Structural Context for MENA’s “Quasi-Monochrome” Centennial Portrait
A holistic vision and approach, based on symbiotically considering two basic tools, forged in heuristic and pragmatic terms, in the very region of MENA[xiv], could help the way out of today’s labyrinthine MENA portrait, with its quilt of numerous and diverse patches of areas involving the military role and actions, lethal and soft, in the political and societal arenas, as well as in the economic field:
TOOL No.1: Wadjet, or Ujat (Figure 1), meaning “Whole One”, the powerful symbol of protection in ancient Egypt, also known as the “Eye of Horus” and the “all seeing eye”, in a simple phrase corresponding translation today – the holistic vision and approach, and, with the peculiar imprint for the region in case: “…in the Middle East everything is logically and intimately related to everything else.”[xv]
TOOL No.2: An assemblage of 4+4 vectors converging to the physical, ethereal also, form of a “Pyramid” (Figure 2). It is here, in this No.2 Figure that, as the perennial “Wadjet” clearly sees, we are going to meet basic sources and inner motivations for the omnipresence and frequently omnipotent military, armies and weapons in the region in case. A “Pyramid” which is coalescing into the 21st Century matrix for MENA’s ancestral conflict propensity: internal/ civil, sectarian/ religious wars, intra-regional/ inter-state, tri-dimensional/ proxy, hybrid, asymmetrical, smoldering spill-over effects of all these generically called “wars”.
Figure 1 Figure 2
First, THE DETERMINANTS regroup the vectors structuring the Basis/ Foundation: B1. Geography & Demography, B2. History & Civilization, B3. Religion(s), B4. Natural resources and their nexus with the flows of modern globalization.
By its very nature and substance, such a Basis/ Foundation has been functioning as a “nourishing” environment for “roots” of events and developments involving a vast array of elements intimately connected with the military, armies, weapons, unfolding at different levels (physical and conceptual, but also insidious and subliminal) and with manifestations on two plans:
(i). At the individual level, for each of the 4 Bs:
B1. “The Middle East hangs on a thread of fateful human interactions, the more so because of a closed and densely packed geography. Geography has not disappeared in the course of the revolutions in communications and weaponry; it has simply gotten more valuable, more precious, to more people… as time passes, the geographies of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and other countries will reassert themselves… Geography dictates that Iran will be pivotal to the trend lines in the Greater Middle east and Eurasia…”[xvi] B2. MENA is one of the two regions of the world (the other being South Asia) which suffers “from historically high levels of conflict, mainly intrastate conflicts.”[xvii], plus the Dual History’s Burden, for MENA and the world at large, born in the wake of WWI: (a). the apparently insoluble Israeli-Palestinian/ Arab conflict; (b). the Kurds’ issue, both questions being “on the radar” but without any perspective for a solution. B3. “The Middle East has been the chrysalis of three of the world’s great religions. From its stern landscape have issued conquerors and prophets holding aloft banners of universal aspirations.”[xviii]“In the past, conflicts in the region were primarily about lands. In the future they will often be over the perceived will of God… people’s faith will increasingly play a bigger part in their political choices, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Christians.”[xix]; “Islam’s very militancy makes it attractive to the downtrodden. It is the one religion that is prepared to fight. A political era driven by environmental stress, increased cultural sensitivity, unregulated urbanization, and refugee migrations is an era divinely created for the spread and intensification of Islam…”[xx]; “Increasingly, the region seems caught in a tournament between two clashing crescents – a Shia one running horizontally from Iran via Iraq and Syria to southern Lebanon, and a Sunni rival descending vertically from Turkey through central Syria to Jordan, an increasingly Islamist Palestine and Egypt.”[xxi]B4. “If the Middle East had not had oil it would had been allowed to make its own mistakes and get on with building democratic states…”[xxii]The modernization process of the Middle East region, which started some three centuries ago, has had as an integral part the army modernization, including the transfer from the West, on commercial or other basis, of military techniques and learning, a lot of weapons, the lethal ones first: “traffic in arms and other war materials (from the West to the region) grew steadily in the course of centuries…including experts and financial cover”.[xxiii] Generally, as stated Tobias Borck of the Royal United Services Institute pointed out[xxiv], the Middle East has become more prepared to use the weapons they are buying and the scale of the arms being supplied to countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE by the West may had acted as an incentive for Russia to get back into the Middle East – not least via arms sales to its old clients, from Iran to Egypt, even from Gulf countries to Algeria.
(ii). The vectors’ interplay: in practice those four vectors frequently intersect each other, be it at the overall regional level, or just for a country, community, sub-region, a crisis/ dispute, generating the many particular mixtures of determinants and variables, as embedded ingredients, part and parcel of MENA’s mosaic, another category of vigorous incubators of army occurring in MENA evolutions, be it on short, medium or long term. A few examples: Nexus Geography-History: A people/ nation: “We (the Jewish) are a nation with far more history than geography.”[xxv]; A country: Syria: “Geography and history tell us that Syria will continue to be the epicenter of turbulence in the Arab world…”[xxvi]; A City: JERUSALEM, a city innately defined as a “the sacred geography”, and “Burdened with too much history”[xxvii]; Nexus History-Religion: “For centuries the world view and self-view of Muslims seemed well grounded. Islam represented the greatest military power on earth – its armies, at the very same time, were invading Europe and Africa, India and China.”[xxviii] “The Middle East conflicts, which have multiplied during the recent years and have taken dreadful proportions, endangering ceaselessly the peace in the world, are mostly generated by phenomena of political manipulation of both the religious factor and the historical memory.”[xxix]
Second, THE VARIABLES, the Elements of Superstructure: C1. The region’s actors, C2. The international players, C3. Non-State Actors, C4. Vulnerabilities and structural fragilities versus Opportunities and Turning/ inflection points in the modern evolution of MENA.
It is here that we encounter the major reasons and sources for MENA’s frequent changes, quasi-permanent instability and fragility, with military/ THE GENERALS and armies/ THE SOLDIERS meddling, an environment functioning as still another vast favorable incubator to the advent of all sort of armed agents, eventually for we called before as the Century 1918-2018 matrix for MENA’s ancestral conflict propensity.
C1. The peoples, countries/ nations, states – “MENA of 18+1”, each with specific profiles and aims, movements and interactions/ border issue, incorporating societies, tribes/ tribal communities, minorities; ungoverned spaces/ peripheries (territorial, cyber, maritime); national military strength mirroring resources, interests, policies and politics, geo-political games and so on; main aspects in this regard will be dealt with in the last chapter.
C2. On the backdrop of a time tested assertion – “The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts”[xxx], international powers from outside MENA have been, all along the 1918-2018 Century, manifesting and concretely promoting interests in/ with regard to the region, frequently based on military involvement, in a particular display during the “cold war” period, with the seemingly unbreakable binomial/ dichotomous pattern – the US versus Russia, whatever the recently observed “American fatigue” and China’s appearance somewhere at the region’s horizon.
1.The US: An incontrovertible statement like “MENA region has been a focal point with regard to the application of military force as perhaps the most visible manifestation of U.S. engagement abroad…”[xxxi], should be a strong enough stimulus to not be in a rush in subscribing to the idea of US “withdrawal“ from the region. Advisable in this regard is to corroborate several categories of elements: the US National Security Strategy (NSS) of December 2017[xxxii] and the US National Defense Strategy (NDS)[xxxiii], released in Jan. 2018 by the US Department of Defense (DOD), which underlines that America will form enduring coalitions in the Middle East, will foster a stable and secure Middle East that denies safe havens for terrorists, as a region which is not dominated by any power hostile to the United States, and that contributes to stable global energy markets and secure trade routes etc.; official statements, from the level of President Donald Trump (in its unparalleled style) – “We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us…”, “We protect Saudi Arabia. … And I love their King but I said King we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us.” (and, in the transactional new US foreign policy: “You (the Saudis) have to pay…, a very wealthy nation is going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”[xxxiv]), to positions expressed by other US officials, like the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: “Right now, our troops inside Syria are there for one purpose, and that’s under U.N. authorization about defeating ISIS, or John Bolton, the White House national security adviser: “We’re not going to leave (Syria) as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias.”[xxxv], the same on Iraq: the US “will keep troops there as long as we think they’re needed … The main reason, after ISIS (Islamic State) is defeated militarily is the stabilization efforts and we still need to be there for that, so that’s one of the reasons we’ll maintain a presence”.[xxxvi] Not to speak about the continuing engagement on Israel: on October 1, 2018, began the ten-year period of the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the United States and Israel in 2016: “our implementation of this historic MOU reflects the enduring and unshakable commitment of the President, this Administration, and the American people to Israel’s security; Israel is a valuable and capable ally to the United States that today faces dangerously escalating regional threats, first and foremost from the Iranian regime’s sponsorship of terrorist groups seeking to attack not only Israel but also American interests; the United States unconditionally affirms Israel’s right to self-defense, and the MOU is a concrete demonstration of its commitment to Israel’s capacity to defend itself with a qualitative military edge over all potential regional adversaries.”[xxxvii]
In the scholarly & commentators realm, it has been reminded that it is reminded that key US activities in the Middle East consist of weapons sales to allied governments, military-to-military training programmes, counterterrorism operations and long-term troop deployments, the US military presence in the region being the culmination of a common bargain with Middle Eastern governments: security cooperation and military assistance in exchange for US access to military bases in the region, and, as a result, the US has substantial influence in the Middle East and can project military power quickly, practically the US has been maintaining a permanent and significant military presence in the region. Despite President Trump’s criticism of major elements of the US military’s presence in the Middle East, US troop levels have increased since he took office. This demonstrates the difficulty in altering the status quo due to the risk of rupturing relations with friendly governments in the region. Today, key US objectives include reducing instability in the region, containing Iran’s influence, preventing the emergence of safe havens for terrorist organizations, assuring the free flow of oil and natural gas, and building up the capacities of local militaries to defend their own territory.[xxxviii]Consequently, “The region bristles with American air and naval bases and major deployments in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, among others, manned by 55,000 troops and civilians, and rising contingents in the war zones of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.”[xxxix]
- The Russian Federation:If a summarizing but meaningful remark like “Despite all this American military strength, the “go to” power in the region today is Russia”[xl] seems hard to contradict, one can bring instead about several nuances in its support. Of particular relevance could be the duality of tracks used by Moscow to extend its influence in an arc of influence from along the Eastern Mediterranean (Syria) as far as Libya at the end of the fateful Century 1918-2018: (i).“Putin’s strategy has been to use crises to gain a foothold in the region… politicking and furthering their national security interests – namely the expansion of Russian influence.”[xli]; (ii). “Russia has gained influence in Libya by exploiting the mistakes of the Europeans and the United States… Libya constitutes a terrain to advance Russia’s ambitions to be a key international player, amid the failure of Western countries to advance a common agenda in the country. Russian behavior in Libya exemplifies ALSO how Moscow has been able to reverse years of marginalization in the Arab world, despite relatively limited means.”[xlii] As for concrete means used by the Russians, is worth mentioning the selling weapons at a reduced cost in parallel with showing no interest in a MENA’s country human rights record. Simple means, but which are paying off: in Syria, while Assad is not only surviving but seemingly is continuing to govern, the Russian direct involvement accomplished ensuring Russia’s continued access to the Mediterranean port of Tartus and the air base near Latakia, giving it an important strategic placement in the Eastern Mediterranean. Eventually, if Western powers are normally keen to stress that their overseas military interventions will be distinctly finite, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, ss Rod Thornton shows[xliii], “has made it clear that the commitment of Russian forces to the Eastern Mediterranean region is very much for the long haul.”
- China: Against the backdrop of the increasing competition between the US and China and the corresponding tension in their bilateral relations, some analysts are noticing that “China is indicating its intent to shape the Middle East’s regional and military landscape through trade relationships with regional states as well as through projection of its own military might.”[xliv] Militarily, the Chinese have recently increased naval patrols near the Gulfs of Oman and Aden. Beijing has established a base in Djibouti with an eye to protecting business and trade interests in the area and perhaps a longer-term military buildup. However, Beijing’s willingness to deal with Tehran may prove problematic for cooperation in the security sphere with the Arab Gulf, even as China ramps up its regional military presence. There is one more critical element, as remarked by Jean-Loup Samaan[xlv] looking at the Arab countries’ attitude, in particular how Gulf countries have pursued a diversification strategy, in response to the risk of a potential retreat from the region on the part of traditional partners such as the US: “rather than being the result of a deliberate common policy on the part of the Gulf States, this trend (of pursuing a diversification strategy) derives from unilateral choices by Gulf leaders, best explained by the concept of ‘strategic hedging’.”
C3. Non-State Actors, many of them “Armed groups”, a lot of them having “Proxies” as “War/ (Public) Code Name”: “One hundred years ago, the map of the Middle East was drafted by external powers – the United Kingdom and France. Today, the designers of the regional map are local actors. While nation states were the accepted political framework in the twentieth century, non-state elements have joined them – perhaps overtaken them – in the twenty-first century… Whereas organized armies dictated political and military moves in the past, their role to a large extent has now been taken over by irregular armies, militias, and terrorist organizations.”[xlvi]
The issue of armed groups, this alarming “plague” for a number of MENA’s countries, and with consequences for the entire region, wouldn’t had extended to such a proportion without the convergence of two other factors: (i). Almost unrestricted access to weapons and related material, from former regimes stockpiles (Libya, Iraq, Yemen), plus from all kinds of internal black markets, related to trans-border illegal traffic, up to direct transfer from outside supporters and sponsors: Iran, US, Turkey, Israel. Interestingly, one of the risks of proxy war comes from diffusion, where weapons, equipment and other support do not stay with the proxy but end up in the wrong hands.[xlvii] (ii). Regional powers – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, as well as international players with interests in MENA, including the United States, have been “hiring” one or more of the armed groups as “proxies”, for wars and other kind of “operations”, in one or another of the region’s states, in an interplay driven by geopolitical interplay demand – offer: seemingly, the proxies enable intervention on the cheap, they cost a fraction of the expense of deploying a state’s own forces and the proxy does the dying; because the costs are lower, proxy war is also more politically palatable.
C4. Opportunities and Turning/ inflection points in the modern evolution of MENA in the light of the region’s unique mix of Vulnerabilities and structural fragilities. Scholars have observed that, along this historic Century 1918-2018, the region has passed through 5-6 inflection points[xlviii], with particularities for the Arab area[xlix]: “Syria – six years of conflict, Six Inflection Points.”[l] As for the curve trajectory, it appears as a major fallout of the nexus and interplay Opportunities – Vulnerabilities and structural fragilities. It is undeniable that the latter have been sources of perennial instabilities and shockwaves in MENA, at the national and regional level, some of them with reverberations in the neighboring regions and world-wide. On the one hand, the region is faced with critical deficits & shortfalls: water, agricultural lands, climate change negative impact, educational and health services, industrial, technical and scientific infrastructures, “dignity deficit”[li], “(good) governance deficit” & “democracy deficit”,deficits in the rule of law and human rights, lack of capital, for some. On the other hand, there are surpluses & excesses: financial, , but also to much arid/ deserts areas practically for everybody, as well as over-population, in the particular case of Egypt mainly, as for the region’s overall demographics – “the youth bulge”, then the “bubble” of authoritarianism and corruption almost everywhere, overblown emigration flows, mainly from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and immigration flows as a characteristic of the Gulf states. Quite a few of the elements structuring this peculiar nexus deficits & shortfalls – surpluses & excesses equate to potential incubators for evolutions nourishing threats or even direct military involvement and arms usage, conjecturally or on a longer term.
At the end of our short 4+4 legs trek, it’s worth reminding several adages related to the Pyramid: “A violin resonates sound; a pyramid resonates energy”, “Pyramid Power is based on the theory that pyramid shapes can generate energy”, “Pyramids are renowned for their energy properties”[lii]. Against this backdrop, and carefully avoiding entering too deeply into a controversial academic territory, we cannot but observe that, at the intersection of the various structural elements specific to the MENA “Pyramid”, the resultant energy has been having forcefully a negative nature and effect, quasi-permanently generating and instilling instability and destruction inside the system, irradiating also into the neighborhood and further into the international system. So that, “the civilizational kit” the region has been equipped with for its journey through the 21st century doesn’t lack, on the contrary, it includes enough of the major instruments related to the compound military-armies-militias-weapons: “In a hundred years, the region experienced a gamut of political and ideological experiments, but almost invariably state systems, whatever their ideological veneer, were based on minority rule, militarized and repressive, and brooked no opposition to outside powers’ extractive hunger”[liii].
Major Military and Army Evolution and Trends in MENA as the Region Prepares to Leave the Fateful Century 1918-2018: A TEMPLATE SITUATION REPORT
Motto:“The Middle East is the most militarized region in the world.”[liv]
As MENA prepares to enter a new Century, after the one whose start had been marked by the earth-shattering Great War, many of the region’s areas, including some of the most relevant countries, have been displaying the same high and unconcealed appetite with regard to maintaining and using armed forces[lv]. Nothing else but invaluable legacy and a unique instrument from the toolkit of national politics meant to protecting and pursuing the state’s interests, particularly in crisis points and times, internally or across the area. During the past five years in particular quasi-totality of countries from the MENA region have been involved, directly or indirectly/ by proxies, in a vast network of conflicts. With the accompanying thirst for weapons: the same countries accounted for one third of global imports of weapons, with Saudi Arabia the world’s second biggest importer.[lvi]
With contributions by the Carnegie Middle East Program and dozens of experts from the region, a recent comprehensive and multi-layered study couldn’t but underline the position and role of the “hard power and military might” in today’s MENA: (i). “More than any other region in the world, the Middle East is defined not by commercial ties, diplomatic interaction, or regional organizations, but by hard power and military might. This has been the case for the region’s modern history and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But not since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago has the Middle East been so convulsed by regional turbulence and internal conflict.”[lvii] (ii). “In the Middle East, hard power and military might prevail. Ongoing civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as in Libya and Iraq, seem intractable. Regional power struggles, such as the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, are widely understood to be complicating factors. But there are also broader dynamics at work. The regional balance of power has become highly uncertain following the 2011 uprisings and perceptions of U.S. disengagement. Local disputes have become the stage on which regional rivalries are fought. Arms imports to the region have skyrocketed, further fueling conflict.”[lviii] (iii). “In comparison with almost every other geographical region, the Middle East suffers from a lack of both regional dispute resolution mechanisms and diplomatic protocols that might reduce the scope for regional conflict. The absence of any such mechanisms or organizations, particularly amid proliferating military conflicts, feeds security dilemmas across multiple vectors, so that steps justified by one state as necessary to its security—military intervention, arms procurement, alliance formation, and so on—are perceived by its rivals as threatening… Across the region, states are intervening in neighbors’ affairs at an unprecedented rate—politically, economically, and militarily… (on the other hand) from the United States in Iraq, to Russia and Iran in Syria, to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen, military interventions in the Middle East tend to begin as short-term operations with limited military objectives and evolve into open-ended commitments with broad political aims.”[lix]
The result: numerously unrelenting flashpoints amassing practically all over MENA, with ground and air manifestations, and which could be equated, in metaphorical terms, with the (absent) fireworks on MENA’s sky supposedly to be occasioned by the Centenary’s (non-celebratory) commemoration.[lx] And, if normal firecrackers do have a limited extension, in time and space, these metaphorical pyrotechnics in relation to MENA, at the end of 1918-2018 Century, are evolving on a particular scale, as timely and spatially spread and “radiance” intensity, from the region East to West, from its North to South, reflecting the developments in MENA’s most militarily germane, along a tri-polar structure:
- The Arabs
Practically “Arab upheavals and reactions to them have resulted in a profound militarization of the Arab world”[lxi]: (i). In the republics this has taken the form of remilitarizing Egypt, further entrenching the power of Algeria’s military and possibly preparing the Tunisian military for an unaccustomed role in the future; in the other republics, “a Hegelian dialectic has pitted the kataib of regime supporting militaries against militias emerging from protest movements, with both sides attracting external support, including additional militias”[lxii]; (ii). In the monarchies, ruling families have bolstered their militaries by increasing their capabilities and by roping them together in collective commands, reminding us that, “… every ruling family since the Umayyads ruled through an alliance of monarchy and military.”[lxiii] In the modern time, they have done so primarily to confront and put down further upheavals, wherever in the Arab world they might occur, but probably also as part of intensifying intra-family power struggles.
Four years after these considerations were published, has come out an inciting book signed by David D. Kirkpatrick who has the inspiration to entitle it Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East (London, BLOOMSBURY CIRCUS, 2018). It is indeed a “a rare non-fiction” book where assessments further confirming the military’s role and influence in today’s MENA are nourished and sustained by the author’s direct experience on the ground as The New York Times correspondent in Egypt during the critical years of 2011 popular upheavals and their aftermath, as unfolded in that country and beyond it. The word “the Soldiers” was privileged as part of the title, probably for its more martial resonance. Instead, quite frequently used along the almost 400 pages will be the word “the Generals/ the Military/ the Armed Forces” (and the structure they initiated after Mubarak was forced to leave – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces/ SCAF), all that representing the locus of both brains and hands for all those heartbreaking events in the modern history of Egypt and a good other part of the Arab world. What more illustrative proof than the unconcealed option of the US Administration to focus on “the Generals’ positions/ attitudes/ etc.” when Washington was scrutinizing the new developments in Egypt. That up to at least implicitly acquiescing with those military views: the (US) administration was more quietly embracing the SCAF as the best guarantee that the “revolution” would not go against American interests… The de facto American policy was to hug SCAF as closely as possible”; later on, in Washington it would become noticeable “a sense of inevitability about the military resuming control”[lxiv].
All that in consonance with an older entrenched position of “the American military” – shared by civilian institutions too – which saw Egypt “as uniquely vital: the guarantor of the peace with Israel, the gatekeeper of the Sues Canal and strategic flights routes, the crossroads of three continents, and the regional bellwether.”[lxv]
Against this backdrop one can speak about a durable “brotherhood” between the American and Egyptian militaries, continuing up to these days, with the $1.3 billion annual military assistance. If some commentators would be inclined to place such a “brotherhood” in a rather negative light – “Washington’s cynical complicity”, due to its possible impact on the ground with regard to the supposedly dashing the Egyptians’ hopes in the Revolution – one should not overlook the prevailing lynchpin: the US national vital interests have been a priority for the American military too.
And Egypt should not be seen as a unique case. Exploring the depth, breadth, and scope of the more general military US-MENA countries reciprocal relationship, Micah Zenko reveals that they are not at all “simply transactional and temporary, built upon decades of close personal contacts between U.S. military leaders and their (Middle Eastern) regional interlocutors. These relationships extend beyond the Americans’ active-duty service and have allowed Middle Eastern governing regimes to receive a pass from human and political rights concerns.”[lxvi]
It is exactly in this light that we share Robert Springborg’s idea that, “Lying atop this (Arab) militarization is the U.S. presence in various forms, included as primary supplier and trainer, operator of autonomous bases, or orchestrator of counter-terrorist campaigns.”
Given a more wide-ranging sense to this relatively new development of the Arab militarization, we have been witnessing, for some time, even if more in rhetorical than in practical terms, a drive toward a larger and more intense regional military cooperation. Beyond a series of joint military drills, an Arab Military Alliance, with a joint military force, has been on the agenda for several years.[lxvii] President Donald Trump himself announced the support for the creation of an Arab NATO, provisionally named the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). The organization’s leading member would be Saudi Arabia (even if that would threaten to drag the other members into multiple conflicts orchestrated by Riyadh for Riyadh’s benefit). MESA’s idea could be introduced at a summit hosted by the United States in January, 2019. A spokesman for the US National Security Council declared that the alliance “will serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism, and will bring stability to the Middle East. Ultimately, the progress toward seeing MESA endorsed as a firm political and military pan-Arab project will depend on the goals and effective evolution for each of the components inside the Arab military “sub-cluster”:
-Egypt: One can say that it is Egypt that epitomizes par excellence the process of the “profound militarization of the Arab world”. “In Egypt’s postcolonial history, the army saved the “nation” and served as its faithful guardian three times… in 1952, in 2011 and in 2013… But saving the nation was inseparable from militarizing it. Each time, the saviors assumed full power over the state and amassed immense economic privilege….”[lxviii]; “The most important domestic forces sustaining the (present Egyptian) regime are the military and security apparatuses… President (ex-general) Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi insists that the military’s actions saved democracy for Egypt.”[lxix] In other analysts’ perception, Egypt is “a country in which the army is, in many ways, the State itself”, a country currently ruled by a “neo-military regime” whose “genesis” had as the starting point “the coup” of July 2013 against what had been seen as the first democratically elected Egyptian President and who managed to stay in power exactly one year.[lxx
-Algeria: “(The) top army figures are considered king-makers in Algeria.”[lxxi]; “The real locus of power remains in the military, whose influence remains intact regardless of the façade of constitutionalism and pluralism. It does so from atop a pyramid of power in which the interests of the military, the FLN leadership, and members of the political and economic elite are intertwined. Algeria’s military, as the most stable, organized institution in the country, is the main holder of national power.”[lxxii]. And it “will remain a prominent player in Algeria’s politics for the foreseeable future.”[lxxiii]
-Saudi Arabia: “In the Arab Gulf states, the military has turned the page… Differently from the past, the military dimension is now the core of the Gulf monarchies’ foreign policy, but not only.”[lxxiv]; “The country (Saudi Arabia) is rich but weak. It owns massive amounts of modern military equipment but has almost no military might.”[lxxv]; “… the Saudi military suffers from its own systemic ineffectiveness… the limitations of the Saudi military are well-known, despite its massive budget and arms purchases, it suffers from a lack of experience, a reliance on U.S. refueling and resupplying, and from a human capital issue.”[lxxvi]
-The United Arab Emirates (UAE): in the war in Yemen against the Houthis rebels, the UAE has actual troops on the ground – albeit many of them mercenaries from countries like Sudan – and it has earned itself the nickname ”Little Sparta” in the U.S. military, the current U.S. Defense Secretary and former U.S. Marines Gen. James Mattis having “an admiration for what they’ve done – and what they can do.”[lxxvii]
-Iraq: ”Beyond political and social polarization, Iraq suffers from the inexorable accumulation of weapons and military organizations, the absence of viable institutions, and multiple alternative authorities that supplant the Iraqi state. Many areas are beyond the influence and control of the government, including the predominantly Shiite south, where power is distributed diffusely among parties, militias, tribes, and clerics… Iraq’s next war will likely be a civil war between Shiite Islamist rivals… Collectively, Shiite militias are more powerful than the Iraqi armed forces, which collapsed in the face of the ISIS offensive in 2014… The PMF is not only better trained and disciplined than the military but, critically, it enjoys far more legitimacy and support from the population on account of its battlefield successes and grassroots origins. The army, by contrast, is heir to a tainted history and widely perceived as corrupt and ineffective.”[lxxviii]
-Syria: Comparatively with Tunisia and Egypt, where “the army stood down, then deposed dictators”, in Syria “the army did not stood down. And also there were desertions, it did not fragment either, as happened in Libya and Yemen. The army, led by Assad loyalists and relatives, remained fully committed to the survival of the regime and took the lead in the attempt to put down the uprising.”[lxxix] Notably, “its command structure and offensive capacity has remained operational.”[lxxx] Against this backdrop, by the end of summer 2018 one could uphold that, with the regime asserting increasing military control since early 2017, the Syrian president, Bashar al‑Assad, would remain in power after a prolonged civil war. While the main issue now is what shape the country will take, not less important is the fate of the army especially that Syria has been transformed from a “shadow state” dominated by the security apparatus into a “transactional state” dominated by regime-aligned profiteers: “The conflict has given rise to profiteers from the army, the security services and militias, as well as to civilian profiteers.”[lxxxi]
-Lebanon: “Usually, discussions on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) oppose two competing views. On the one hand, pessimists dismiss the LAF as a weak actor of Lebanese politics, cooperating with – if not infiltrated by – Hezbollah, while on the other hand, optimists emphasize both its latest progress at the warfighting level and its positive perception across communities in an increasingly polarized Lebanese society. Not surprisingly, the reality may be found somewhere in between… The fact is that casting aside its operational performance, the LAF is limited in its ability to position itself as the most legitimate – if not the unique – security provider inside Lebanon without entering a direct conflict with Hezbollah.”[lxxxii] Indeed, Hezbollah, the epitome of the non-state actor in MENA is increasingly the country’s most powerful political entity and controls an armed force that operates independently of the Lebanese army, with effective military control of predominately Shia areas in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s arsenal of rockets is an ever-present threat to Israel; the arsenal of ballistic missiles and rockets deployed by Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon has increased dramatically, with an inventory now at least ten times bigger than at the dawn of the 2006 war with Israel (reckoned by the Israeli to number around 120,000).
-Morocco: Besides maintaining a massive military presence in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, Morocco government enacted, August 2018, a controversial bill on mandatory military service. A decision which is seen by observers as being taken “in a context of growing social tension while maintaining the same economic and social policies that caused it, the repressive approach towards social movements, the unconditional praise of the military and security services and the fact that the professional army isn’t practically in need of any reserves are sufficient to conclude that it is meant to be used for social control, and could even mean a coming back of the military to the scene, to bring back order in future escalations of social unrest.”[lxxxiii]
-Tunisia: “In today’s Tunisia, a mutation is going on in the military. A key actor during the Tunisian post-revolution transition period is the army, currently subject to a complex review that mirrors the deteriorating security context, as well as the pressing needs of the new political establishment. Recent political developments and increasing social tensions shed lights on how the military has resumed past practices, as the new authorities have increasingly relied upon the army to quell dissent and ensure order in restive governorates. Even though the resort to the army has not diminished the trust of the population in the military for the time being, it calls to mind previous military interventions to protect the previous regimes. If confirmed, this trend could cast shadows on the democratisation in the country, raising further doubts about the Tunisian exception as the sole success story of the Arab Spring.”[lxxxiv]
–Jordan: a small country, but having armed forces that are among the best trained in the region. The armed forces is one of the key institutions the Hashemite regime has relied to ensure its own security[lxxxv].
-Libya: Major confrontations in recent months were sparked by conflict actors’ desire for greater control over economic institutions and the perception that a handful of militias and interest groups in the capital have disproportionate access to the country’s wealth.[lxxxvi] A host of armed groups continues to be the name of the game in Libya, exploiting the country’s structural politico-economic flaws for their own benefit. One of them even has the phrase “National Army” in the self-given appellation – the Libyan National Army (LNA). LNA controls most of Eastern Libya, which is strategically vital as it includes much of Libya’s hydrocarbon wealth. Maybe on a positive note, the LNA is a strongly anti-Islamist militia and sought to clear Islamist militias out of eastern Libya. Several round of talks held outside the country on the Libyan army reunification have encountered a lot of obstacles, acknowledging thatit is “the political conflict” which is feeding “fears and mistrust among the officers”.[lxxxv
-Yemen: together with Libya, Yemen is the second MENA country where, while a truly relevant national army continue to be absent, a lot of military actions with lethal weapons usage are unfolding, the array of local warring parties paying a very heavy tribute, both human and material, without a tangible victory. Additionally, Yemen has been having, since September 2014, the misfortune to be the terrain of a rabid and venomous proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two regional powers that see each other as existential threats and enemies. Despite the fact that some parties have made certain military advances on the ground, these short-term victories have not been decisive. In turn, this has led to more turmoil, facilitating internal conflicts among warlords of the different factions. As a result the Yemeni conflict has increasingly become “a war of all against all”.[lxxxviii]
-The Palestinians: According to Amin Maqboul, member of Fatah’s Central Committee, “Palestinians are leaning toward negotiations rather than the armed struggle since no countries support the latter. Palestinians have become frustrated with the future of the resistance. (There is a) decline in Arab and international attention to the Palestinian cause. However, in the West Bank — unlike Gaza — support for the resistance is rising with the increase of the occupation’s level of repression there.”[lxxxix] As for Gaza, “To those who understand it, there is no solution which is only military, only diplomatic, [or] only economic. It must be a combination of political solution; military solution, by disarming Hamas; and an economic solution, by trying to rebuild the economy of this place where we have two million hungry and thirsty people… The accumulation of human suffering may explode to a military confrontation somewhere in the next year.”[xc]
- The Iranians
In the Global Firepower list for 2018[xci], Iran is ranked 13 out of 136 countries, with a total military personnel 934,000 and a defense budget of $6,3billion (14 billion $, 2,5% of GDP, according to other sources). From MENA, only Egypt has a better ranking – 12 (Egypt has also the biggest military personnel in MENA region – 1,329,250, as for defense budget, Saudi Arabia is by far the first ($56.7 billion), followed by Israel – $ 20 billion and UAE – $14,4 billion).
Seemingly, to compensate for its sense of encirclement and its handicapped conventional military capacity, Tehran has striven to increase its strategic depth and achieve self-sufficiency in asymmetric military capabilities. To achieve the former, Iran’s leaders have built a network of partners and proxies to ward off external threats. Tehran dubs this its “forward-defense” policy: “an effort to gain influence in weak states, such as Lebanon and Iraq, where it can meet its enemies on the battlefield through proxies without direct harm to Iran and its people.”[xcii] In parallel, Iran has heavily invested in its ballistic missile program – a legacy of having been a victim of these weapons during the war with Iraq, but also to counterbalance against Israel’s more advanced missile program. [xciii] Iran, which says its missile program is purely defensive, has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Iranian oil exports. In October 2018, Iran announced that it has managed to extend the range of its land-to-sea ballistic missiles to 700 km (435 miles).
In a region where perception is an inevitable ingredient for the geopolitical interplay, Iran is the country associated with the most contradictory profiling: “To observers in Israel or Saudi Arabia, it is self-evident that Iran is playing a highly destructive role in places such as Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.”[xciv] The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is of the view that, “Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia”.[xcv] In many Israelis’ perception, “Iran is a formidable enemy. A large country of more than 80 million people, endowed with energy riches, it has always been a regional power. Having an imperial past and revolutionary zeal (since the 1979 Iranian Revolution), Iran nourishes ambitions to rule over the Middle East and beyond. Furthermore, theologically there is no place in Iranian thinking for a Jewish state. Iran believes that Israel will either wither away following military pressure on its population or be annihilated when it is militarily weak and vulnerable… Neutralizing Israel’s military power, by encircling it with proxies which have at their disposal thousands of missiles directed at Israel’s strategic installations and centers of population, is an Iranian goal in its quest for hegemony in the Middle East… Israel cannot tolerate a Middle East dominated by Iran and its radical ideology.” [xcvi]
The perspective? “Under pressure, Iran seems most likely to do what it has often done—pursue low-cost, high-yield regional adventures that defy clear attribution but remind adversaries of Iran’s ability to disrupt, and which invite incentives to discontinue.[xcvii]
Motto: “In the Middle East, you don’t get a second chance. We (the Jews/ Israelis) were born here and that’s what we have. And it is a strange neighborhood: the stronger one lives, the stronger one survives, the stronger one wins.”[xcviii]
The Israeli military situation is one of the few areas related to MENA evolution where opinions of the local observers would converge, if not completely overlapped, with those of the foreign analysts.
“Today, Israel stands out as the dominant military power in the Middle East. It has been able to accomplish this while reducing the burden of defense expenditure on its gross national product from a peak of 24% in the post-1973 war years to about 6% today. Israel is estimated to be able to quickly mobilize some 740,000 personnel… The Israeli Air Force currently deploys about 300 exceedingly advanced F-15 and F-16 combat aircraft, and it is currently receiving new production F-35A aircraft. It can generate the world’s highest daily sortie rate because of its uniquely high aircrew-to-aircraft ratio… Israel currently deploys the world’s densest and most capable air defense system, which can intercept long-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, short-range missiles and rockets, aircraft and UAVs. It has a small but very capable coastal navy… It has the world’s second most effective space-based surveillance capability providing near-real-time coverage of its theater of operations. It fields IRBMs, land, and sea-based cruise missiles, air and ground-launched ballistic missiles, air-delivered bombs and artillery and rocket-delivered tactical warheads. It also has an aerosol chemical weapon delivery capability as well as an active biological warfare program. Israel has an exceptional civil defense system. Finally, Israel is a world leader in cyber warfare. Israel does not currently face the immediate threat of large-scale conventional warfare with its Arab neighbors but rather the threat of limited warfare by non- state actors in the Palestinian-controlled territories and the neighboring states. These non-state groups generally deploy infantry equipped with anti-tank guided missiles and mortars that can be mounted on light vehicles and motorcycles, and are only capable of limited cross-border attacks. However, these organizations are also equipped with large stocks of rockets and missiles of varying caliber, range and accuracy, and can cumulatively launch several thousand rockets daily, of which perhaps 5% can reach deep into Israel and have a profound impact on its citizens and strategic infrastructure. The rocket launchers and infantry deployed by these groups are often located within densely populated urban areas. Israel must maintain a significant capability to strike remote hostile enemy state and non-state groups.”[xcix]
Such an extremely positive description of the security environment should not alleviate completely concerns related to the threats and challenges of various nature and diverse origins, and that in an overall mix more or less well balanced: “As it turned 70 (in May 2018), Israel has succeeded beyond all expectations: its population has grown twelve-fold, economically it has more companies listed on the NASDAQ exchange than any country outside of North America, it is a world leader in technological research and innovation — truly a start-up nation, it can be said without hesitation that Israel is stronger militarily and technologically than it has have ever been, stronger, too, than any combination of enemies that might try to confront or threaten us… But Israel is at a crossroads facing critical challenges, among them well-armed enemies so almost inevitably, at some stage Israelis will again have to take up arms to defend themselves.”[c] “Not only has Israel’s military had to contend with shifting external threats; it has also to grapple with changes in its own society.”[ci] Some commentators even consider that, like its neighbors, the principal existential threat facing Israel is internal: if it seeks to forcibly maintain a growing Arab population as a subject labor force, then Israel may find it impossible to be both democratic and Jewish.[cii]
MENA Arms Race: Nexus Overflowing Weapons from Abroad – Domestic Feeble Military Production
“In the Middle East, beyond direct military involvement, outside actors also intervene indirectly through arms sales and security assistance, which can seem an appealing way to influence the contours of a conflict without deploying troops or undertaking military action. Moreover, for leading exporters, including the United States and its European allies as well as Russia and China, arms sales can generate significant economic benefits, and they have become a diplomatic priority as well as a factor in the political fortune of leaders in exporting countries.
Although numbering less than 6 percent of the world’s population and contributing less than 5 percent of its GDP, it accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s arms imports between 2013 and 2017—more than doubling its share compared to the previous five-year period. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates were three of the four top arms importers in the world (with Algeria and Iraq also in the top ten) between 2013 and 2017. All three have intervened militarily in neighboring countries (Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen, Egypt in Libya) since 2013. Israel (also a significant exporter) was in the world’s top twenty arms importers, while Iran imported much fewer arms (primarily from Russia and China) due to international sanctions… the brutality of contemporary Middle Eastern wars suggests that this flood of weapons has poured fuel on the fire and made conflicts lengthier as well as deadlier. The United States and the UK were the major suppliers to Saudi Arabia, while the United States and France have supplied Egypt as well as the UAE. Germany has diminished its sales to Arab states, although it remains a major supplier to Israel.[ciii]
Not long after the International Institute for Strategic Studies underlined, in its report “Military balance 2018”, that Israel has significant domestic military production (with the mention that Iran produces some weapons systems also and Saudi Arabia none), Israeli Defense minister announced, in August 2018, that his country was working on a new missile system capable of hitting targets anywhere in the Middle East. State-owned arms manufacturer Israel Military Industries (IMI) would deliver “within a few years” an advanced integrated system “allowing precise hits by remote launching so that the Israel Defense Forces will cover within a few years every point in the region.” This planned missile corps is believed to act as the offensive counter to Hezbollah group’s own huge arsenal of more than 100,000 short- and medium-range rockets. It will allow Israel to fire at Hezbollah targets from its own territory using a system more precise than artillery fire and ostensibly safer than aerial attacks, which often place pilots and planes in enemy territory.[civ]
MENA’s Military “the Pleiades Constellation” – Signs of Rekindling for its Two Most (In)famous “Stellar“ Groups
- ISIS – The Black Swan Becoming More Visible and Determined Posturing
If we share the idea that three are “the criteria for a black swan event: surprising, historically consequential, and rationalized by hindsight”[cv], well, it is the Islamic State (IS)/ ISIS/ ISIL/ Daesh that, six years after its initial appearance into MENA landscape – sectarian, social, military, and almost two years after its allegedly complete destruction in both Syria and Iraq, that is seemingly trying to come back in the region validating the said criteria-matrix. For the moment, it could be a risky business the prediction on its future movements and locations. The present picture, corroborating experts’ opinions expressed in 2017-2918, is that, “It’s not a matter of if, but when the Islamic State will rise again. It’s also a question of where. ISIS will go wherever the vacuum is”. Ali Soufan, author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State (W. W. Norton & Company, 2018) considers that the threat from ISIS “is not over. It will take a different shape and I won’t be surprised if we start to see an alliance between Isis and al-Qaida in different areas in the Middle East. Al-Qaida is thinking in long-term strategy. They’re building alliances.”[cvi] “It is clear that any victory over Isis is partial. The recent military offensive has not been accompanied by a parallel political effort. There are still deep wells of resentment and fear among Iraqi Sunnis, and the Syrian civil war grinds on. Isis will now return to the vicious and effective insurgency it ran before the spectacular campaigns of 2014. The project of constructing an Islamic state has been defeated, but the organisation has not”, concludes, in his turn, Jason Burke, who is the author of The New Threat: The Past, Present and Future of Islamic Militancy (New Press).[cvii] “ISIS has successfully morphed from a proto-state into a covert global network, with a weakened yet enduring core in Iraq and Syria, with regional affiliates in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. It can “easily” obtain arms in areas with weak governance; it is now a threat to U.N. member states on five continents.”[cviii]
- Al-Qaeda 2.0 – A Major Threat Particularly from its Syrian and Yemeni Branches[cix]
“There seems little doubt that al-Qaeda has not only survived a global onslaught and severe internal ruptures but has overcome the loss of its founder, Osama bin Laden, and other leaders in a US-led campaign of assassination to quietly rebuild itself into a force that boasts as many as 40,000 hardcore fighters. Nearly seven years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda is numerically larger and present in more countries than at any other time in its history… al-Qaeda tended to its wounds and resurrected itself out of the debris left by the long and bruising ideological rift within the jihadist movement triggered by ISIS’s apocalyptic creed… Secure communications allow al-Qaeda to adopt a ‘glocalist’ strategy that links local grievances with its globalist campaign. To whatever degree al-Qaeda has learned from its mistakes and modified its strategy, the group’s recent adaptations make it more dangerous — and potentially more successful. Al-Qaeda 2.0 represents a major threat to the West, particularly from its Syrian and Yemeni branches.”[cx]
“In Yemen, the three-year long intervention of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, not only has been fruitless and come at the cost of civilian lives, but its overwhelming focus on the Houthi rebels has given Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) room to expand… If AQAP continues to present an image of stability, and locals continue to see the Houthis as a threat, then the terrorist group will have a greater potential support base with which to stage another comeback.”[cxi]
Motto: “In essence, all problems in the Middle East come down to that one core issue – the massive gap between power and the people. Until that issue is resolved… the gap between power and people will continue to be filled by the status quo kings, generals, and sheikhs on the one hand and the likes of ISIS on the other. Except that each new incarnation of the extremist ideology will be more violent than the last.”[cxii]
If lost in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)’s maze at the Centenary while looking for an answer to the critical interrogation and dilemma QUO VADIS, MENA?, one way to take, albeit not exclusively, is to just follow what seems predominant, in the region’s Centennial Portraying, as colors, signs and sounds, i.e. those coming from the military, armies, militias and security forces’ attire, uniforms, war camouflage, all seen in action on the ground and not ignoring “the innovations” in matter of arms “born” in MENA or just “successfully” applied over there: from famine and misery weaponization, to the refugee issue weaponization, to incendiary and explosive kites and balloons (already “implemented” by launching them from Gaza toward the Israelis communities just over the border) to what “the Syrian war has become increasingly saturated with unmanned aerial drones and now with remote-controlled vehicles”[cxiii].
Be advised also to be well equipped with adequate “instruments” for such a one-off journey, even if some of them could not be of a direct military nature. Here are some of them:
(i). One should be careful not to fall into the trap of emotionality, displayed on a vast array, and coming from a long time ago: “Against Judea, Caesar Titus included in his army a unit of Arabs who were imbibed with a hatred which was customary among neighboring peoples against the Jews”, tells us Publius Cornelius Tacitus. Maybe the most relevant case is that of the State of Israel, the uncontested strongest regional power in terms of military and security power, but considered “another strategically important country that defies easy classification in terms of emotions too… there is a combination of fear, hope, and humiliation… it exhibits an intense vulnerability based on a sense of being encircled by hostile forces even as it boast of being the unrivalled economic and military power in the region.”[cxiv] A possible motivation: “the more you know about the Jewish past, the harder it is to avoid the inheritance of sorrow that is an essential part of Jewishness… For 2,000 years, Jews have been struggling to figure out a way to remember their sorrows while continuing to lead full lives.”[cxv]
Of course, a “collective tableau” including both Israelis & Palestinians would make the overall emotional picture of MENA even more convoluted: “In its origins, the Arab-Israeli conflict was a struggle between two peoples fighting over the same land: an objective conflict… Yet, in the course of time this core has been enlarged by other dimensions that have developed, some of them also objective (territorial disputes) but many of them belonging to the “subjective” realm: emotions and passions…, demonization of the enemy, misunderstanding and prejudice, ethnic hatred, etc. It could even be argued, perhaps, that the subjective factors have become, if not the core, of the conflict, then at least the major obstacles to its resolution.”[cxvi]
Of particular interest could be also, first Egypt – where the Arab Spring of 2011 supposedly demolished “the barriers of fear”, only that, of couple of years after that, any people were, and still are, for an answer to the question: “Why fear explains the failure of Egypt’s revolution”[cxvii], the army not being absent from the dynamics, second Syria, with so many comments on “The surprising ways fear has shaped Syria’s war”[cxviii], amply exposed in the “Narratives of Fear in Syria”[cxix], especially with regard to the nexus fear – trust in the present and future of this so hard people.
(ii). One of the drivers of the cognitive train boarded for a meaningful journey through the labyrinthine MENA region, should be the logical matrix which would manage to rationally deal with the vast assortment of elements pertaining to “the cognitive dissonance”. In an immediate perspective, MENA “has produced high-tech hubs (e.g., Tel Aviv) and postmodern cities (e.g., Dubai), which can be regarded as rising international business centers, but it’s also home to megacities afflicted by mismanagement, poor planning, and some of the world’s highest unemployment rates.”[cxx]
On the occasion of the 2017 edition of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), one of the largest arms fairs in the Middle East, held every two years in the Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi, the UAE signed contracts worth a total of more than $5bn for weapons[cxxi]. Just three months later, the US government approved a $2 billion arms sale to the same country.[cxxii] While all these arms deals were discussed and concluded, the UN was launching a call for aid to avoid the specter of starvation related to the largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years in a country situated in the neighborhood of the UAE – Yemen, where “more than seven million people are hungry and did not know where their next meal would come from”. In fact, UAE proved an active, if not the most active component of the regional & international alliance in fighting the Yemeni Houthi rebels, with the result of the dramatic humanitarian situation.
(iii). The “Drama” of the Collective International Players’ positions and actions with regard to MENA’s situation: beyond the “generous” deliveries of military equipment and direct involvement in the region’s problems, it comes the legitimate interrogation on the international community’s role, supposedly, this time, with positive implication. At least at MENA’s Centenary, the international community should try to look in the face both its failures and responsibility with regard to this very region, and that could mean more than mere acknowledging its failures. Can the international community sustain the stare? Or will it remain satisfied with the present seemingly unceasing role – noble, in other circumstances – of the (mere lamenting) Chorus in a Greek tragedy[cxxiii]: “The world is a bystander to the carnage that has ravaged the lives of Syrians. All has happened in full view of a global audience that sees everything but refuses to act. Through Russian obstruction and western irresolution, the UN Security Council has failed to protect Syrians. To the extent that it has been able to pass resolutions, they have proved ineffectual”[cxxiv]; “The war in Yemen has prompted today’s worst humanitarian catastrophe worldwide. By our actions and inaction, we inevitably are complicit in it”[cxxv].
“There is no military solution” to conflicts like those presently unfolding in Yemen, or Syria, or Libya, we are constantly reminded by the world states’ representatives reunited in the meeting rooms of the UN (not long ago, yours truly had been, for a couple of years, in a seat of the UN Security Council), the EU, and other international fora focused on crises situation in MENA[cxxvi]. Why are then so difficult for the world of good faith to sustainable reconsider what has been implemented on the ground as “military solution” in those countries and in other MENA’s points? Why does it appear almost impossible for the international community to engage in a really holistic approach in finding workable solutions and functional templates, which will involve resetting the position and function of the military instrument, to MENA’s today problems, which may become tomorrow’s issues for us all? Or for local, national and external great powers’ forces it remains preferable the Shakespearean adage: “Giddy minds are best kept busy with foreign wars.” That especially taking also into account the new “golden” opportunities generated, including in MENA, by the cyberwarfare: “in very little time and at very little cost, it can undermine and destroy a society, spread anarchy and social turmoil, undermine trust in governing institutions, erode the social underpinnings of the state, disseminate political apathy and alienation, spread extremism and destroy communal values… it could achieve in a relatively short time what military forces and intelligence agencies have not been able to achieve in decades.”[cxxvii]
(iv). Giving necessary attention to war harbingers and, equally, to warmongers in today’s MENA, to messengers of peace too, where and when they do exist, and following closely their specific narratives could be of real help in identifying meaningful ways out of MENA’s maze at this Centenary. In particular, 2018, until the time of concluding this paper (the end of the month of October), has proved a fruitful period especially for the twosome war harbingers – warmongers, practically in continuation of the previous years: Israel is ready for war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Here are five reasons why; The Middle East’s Coming War; The Coming War on Lebanon: Israel, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Prepare “Long-Planned Middle East War”; New War in the Middle East? Washington Is Dancing to the Tune Being Played by Israel; NEXT MIDDLE EAST WAR IS MOST LIKELY TO START IN THESE PLACES; The Growing Risk of a New Middle East War; The Great Middle Eastern War of 2019; Israel’s War with Iran Is Inevitable; The Next War in the Middle East; The Regional Powers’ War Immediate Perspective; Iraq’s Next War. Rival Shiite Factions Could Be Headed Toward Disaster; The War After the War. Post-conflict reconstruction is inherently political, involving a struggle for power and influence.
All these seen through the prism of two caveats: (i). wars are unpredictable in the Middle East; (ii). from the numerous flashpoints already raging in many parts of the world, as well as those “in the waiting”, those we are witnessing now in the MENA region could be considered among the mostly prone “to draw the great powers into a conflict that inadvertently turns into a much larger one than anyone had anticipated.” As such, MENA could confirm, more than other parts of today’s world that, “one hundred years after the end of World War I, international affairs appear in many ways to be coming full circle”.[cxxviii] That with “the mission accomplished” from the military, armies, formal and informal, the myriad of militias and weapons, evidently in concert with the not less modern politics realm. In particular, continuing to be rife with human rights abuses, MENA could also be seen as the “back to the future”[cxxix] region. Hopefully, a new turning point in MENA’s evolution will not be long in the waiting, and it will be in “in the hands” of both the people and the soldiers, as the major lesson learned during this second decade of the twenty first Century, and generally from the region’s fateful 1918-2018 Century.
[i]NOTES: We deal here with the region of The Middle East and North Africa, the acronym MENA, that organically inter-links the space from the Atlantic to the Gulf, comprising, in our examination, 18 states: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, plus one entity, respectively the Palestinian territories presently under occupation: the West Bank and Gaza. Approximately, the area has 11 million sq. km. and over 400 million people. Different sources could include, “in the margins”, other states/ territorial units too, like Mauritania, in the West, Sudan, in the South, or Afghanistan, in the East. As for Turkey, we share the view of having it not included in MENA, a decision motivated by the idea that “Turkey is a country with the Middle East, but not of the (Modern) Middle East”, which is an adaptation/ paraphrase to Winston Churchill’s famous and invaluable adage: “We (UK) have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed.” (https://books.google.ro/books?id=tE88DwAAQBAJ&pg=PT5&dq=When+Churchill+said:+%E2%80%9CBut+we+)
ii] Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, London, Jonathan Cape/ Penguin Random House, 2018, p. 173.
[iii] Steven Carol, Middle East Rules of Thumb: Understanding the Complexities of the Middle East, Publisher iUniverse, Second Edition, 2008-2009, p. 38.
[iv] Excerpt from PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Renaming Ceremony for the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center, 29/08/2018. http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/event_peres290818.aspx
[v] U.S. Ambassador to Israel D. Friedman, 28 August 2018. https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/you-have-to-be-strong-what-u-s-ambassador-thinks-about-mideast-1.6432546
[vi] Philip Robins, The Middle East. A Beginner’s Guide, ONE WORLD, Publications, London, 2016, p. 149.
[vii]Philip Robins, op. cit., p. 2.
[viii] Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger. A History of the Present, ALLEN LANE/ PENGUIN BOOKS, UK, 2017, p. 247.
[ix] GHEORGHE DUMITRU, ROMANIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST – THE FATEFUL CENTURY 1918-2018 (PART I), ROMANIAN REVIEW OF POLITICAL SCIENCES AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, Vol. XV, No. 2 2018, pp. 189-214, (http://journal.ispri.ro/?page_id=86)
[xi] John Calvert, Bloodland: The First World War’s Legacy in the Middle East, Creighton University, 2015. https://www.creighton.edu/creightonmagazine/2015smrfeaturewwi/
[xii] Tackling the MENA Region’s Intersecting Conflicts, International Crisis Group, 22 December 2017, p. 3.
[xiii] M. E. McMillan, From the First World War to the Arab Spring. What’s Really Going On in the Middle East?, New York, PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2016, p. 1.
[xiv] GHEORGHE DUMITRU, A Timely Question or Rather Dilemma: Quo Vadis? The Middle East and North Africa–MENA, Region and People in a (sui generis) Diplomat’s Dossier: Takeaways and Talking Points (PART I), Romanian Review of Political Sciences and International Relations VOL. XIV, No. 2, 2017, pp. 137-160 (http://journal.ispri.ro/?p=876) and PART II, in Vol. XV, No. 1, 2018, pp. 83-105 (http://journal.ispri.ro/?p=942).
[xv] Jeremy Shapiro, Why are 10 countries attacking Yemen?, The Brookings Institution, March 26, 2015.
[xvi] Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography. What the Map Tell Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, New York, Random House, 2012, pp. 280, 303, 308, 314.
[xvii] A More Peaceful World? Regional Conflict Trends and U.S. Defense Planning, RAND Corporation, 2017, p. 47.
[xviii] Henry Kissinger, World Order, New York, PENGUIN PRESS, 2014, p. 96.
[xix] Paul Danahar, THE NEW MIDDLE EAST. The World after the Arab Spring, London, Bloomsbury, 2014, p. 422.
[xx]Robert D. Kaplan, The Anarchy That Came, The National Interest, October 21, 2018.
[xxi] Peter Mansfield, A History of The Middle East, Fourth Edition revised and updated by Nicolas Pelham, London, Penguin Books, 2013, p.205.
[xxii] Paul Danahar, Op. cit., p.35.
[xxiii] Ibid., pp. 19, 29.
[xxv] Amos Oz, Fania Oz-Salzberger, Jews and Words, Yale University Press, 2012, p. 107.
[xxvi] Robert D. Kaplan, Op. cit.
[xxvii] M. E. McMillan, op. cit., p.137.
[xxviii] Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, New York, Perennial, 2003, p. 6.
[xxix] Georges Corm, Pour une lecture profane des conflits. Sur le “retour du religieux” dans les conflits contemporains du Moyen-Orient, Paris, La Decouverte/ Poche, 2015, p.10.
[xxx] James Dorsey, China Steps into the Maelstrom of the Middle East, International Policy Digest, 18 FEB 2018.
[xxxi] Ali Wyne, Taking Stock of a Shifting World Order, RAND Corporation, August 31, 2018.
[xxxiii]Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America.
[xxxiv] President Donald Trump: Twitter Sep 20, 2018; Speech at a Political Rally in Southaven, MS – October 2, 2018; talk with reporters on the occasion of the visit to Washington of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, May 2018.
[xxxv]U.S. FORCES WILL REMAIN IN SYRIA AFTER BATTLE WITH ISIS ENDS, NEWSWEEK, 9/24/18.
https://www.newsweek.com/mattis-syria-bolton-russia-1136944, Trump eyeing Arab ‘boots on the ground’ to counter Iran in Syria, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, September 29, 2018. , https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/trump-eyeing-arab-boots-on-the-ground-to-counter-iran-in-syria
[xxxvii] Department of State, October 1, 2018. https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/10/286363.htm
[xxxviii] Micah Zenko, US Military Policy in the Middle East: An Appraisal, Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, October 2018.
MICAH ZENKO, The Pentagon Loves Saudi Arabia, in Sickness and in Health. America’s unbreakable relationship with Riyadh is fueled less by the White House than the military, FOREIGN POLICY, OCTOBER 24, 2018.
[xxxix] JESSICA TUCHMAN MATHEWS, Russia Replaces America as the Power Player in the Middle East, CARNEGIE, March 06, 2018. http://carnegieendowment.org/2018/03/06/russia-replaces-america-as-power-player-in-middle-east-pub-75726?utm_source=ctw&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180308&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTldaa1lUSmlOMlUwW
[xl] JESSICA TUCHMAN MATHEWS, Op. cit.
[xli]Isaac Kfir, Expansion through crisis, APPS POLICY FORUM, 19 JAN 2018.
[xliii] Rod Thornton, The Russian Military Commitment in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean, RUSI, 17 October 2018.
[xliv] Owen Daniels, How China Is Trying to Dominate the Middle East. But will it work?, THE NATIONAL INTEREST, August 28, 2018 .
[xlv]Jean-Loup Samaan, Strategic Hedging in the Arabian Peninsula: The Politics of the Gulf-Asian Rapprochement, RUSI, Whitehall Papers, 20 September 2018. https://rusi.org/publication/whitehall-papers/strategic-hedging-arabian-peninsula-politics-gulf-asian-rapprochement
[xlvi]Ofra Bengio, Kurdistan, the Islamic State, and Paradigm Shifts in the Middle East. Institute for National Security Studies INSS.
[xlvii]C. Anthony Pfaff, Patrick Granfield, How (Not) to Fight Proxy Wars, THE NATIONAL INTEREST, March 27, 2018.
[xlviii] Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan, Graeme P. Herd, Lisa Watanabe, Critical Turning Points in the Middle East 1915-2015, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, Paperback 2013.
[xlix] Jean-Pierre Filiu, Les Arabe, leur destin et le notre. Histoire d’une liberation, Paris, Editions La Decouverte, 2015.
[l] Lina Khatib, Tim Eaton, Haid Haid, Ibrahim Hamidi, Bassma Kodmani, Christopher Phillips, Neil Quilliam, Lina Sinjab, Western Policy Towards Syria: Applying Lessons Learned, Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Research Paper, Middle East and North Africa Programme, March 2017.
[li]ABDEL-MONEIM SAID, Dignity deficit, Al-Ahram Weekly, March 2017.
[lii] Max Toth, Greg Nielsen, Greg Nielson, Pyramid Power: The Secret Energy of the Ancients Revealed, Publisher: Destiny Books, U.S.; New edition, 1985; Paul Liekens, LA Energia Secreta De Las Piramides: Nuevas Investigaciones En Torno Al Misterio De Su Engergia, Edaf Antillas (1 July 1997).
[liii]Joost Hiltermann, THE MIDDLE EAST IN CHAOS: OF ORDERS AND BORDERS, ALSHARQ FORUM/ ANALYSIS SERIES 2018. p. 9. http://www.sharqforum.org/2018/05/23/the-middle-east-in-chaos-of-orders-and-borders/
[lvii] Arab Horizons: Fueling Middle East Conflicts – or Dousing the Flames, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE, October 23, 2018. https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/10/23/fueling-middle-east-conflicts-or-dousing-flames-pub-77548
[lviii]Perry Cammack, Michelle Dunne, Arab Horizons: Pitfalls and Pathways to Renewal, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE, October 24, 2018. https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/10/24/arab-horizons-pitfalls-and-pathways-to-reform-pub-77549
[lx] “The centenary of the Great War attracted little commemoration in the Middle East, (giving way) to more pressing contemporary concerns. Revolutionary turmoil in Egypt, civil war in Syria and Iraq, and enduring violence between Israelis and Palestinians preoccupied the Middle East on the hundredth anniversary of the Great War… And in the Middle East, more than in any other part of the world, the legacies of the Great War continue to be felt down to the present day.” (Eugene Rogan, THE FALL of the OTTOMANS. THE GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST, BASIC BOOKS, New York, 2015, p. 406.)
[lxi] Robert Springborg, The role of militaries in the Arab Thermidor, A memo prepared for “The Arab Thermidor: The Resurgence of the Security State” workshop held at the London School of Economics and Political Science Middle East Centre, October 10, 2014. https://pomeps.org/2014/12/12/the-role-of-militaries-in-the-arab-thermidor/
[lxiii] M. E. McMillan, op. cit., p. 57.
[lxiv] David D. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., pp. 58, 244.
[lxv]Ibid., p. 19.
[lxvi]MICAH ZENKO, The Pentagon Loves Saudi Arabia, in Sickness and in Health. America’s unbreakable relationship with Riyadh is fueled less by the White House than the military, FOREIGN POLICY, OCTOBER 24, 2018.
[lxvii]OMAR ASHOUR, What Good Is an Arab Military Alliance?, PROJECT SYNDICATE, Apr 13, 2015.
[lxviii]Zeinab Abul-Magd, Militarizing the Nation: The Army, Business, and Revolution in Egypt, New York, Columbia University Press, 2017, pp. 1-2.
[lxix]Daniel Brumberg, Five years after Sisi’s coup: Soul searching, resistance and division, TheNewArab, 17 Sep. 2018.
[lxx]MAGED MANDOUR, State violence and the illusions of modernity in Egypt, openDemocracy, 15 October 2018.
[lxxi]Algeria Sacks Ground Forces Chief in Army Overhaul, Naharnet, 19 September 2018.
[lxxii]Steven A. Cook, Ruling but Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
[lxxiii]DALIA GHANEM-YAZBECK, Limiting Change Through Change: The Key to the Algerian Regime’s Longevity, The Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, May 08, 2018. https://carnegie-mec.org/2018/05/08/limiting-change-through-change-key-to-algerian-regime-s-longevity-pub-76237
Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, The Devoted Guardians of Algeria’s Power, Carnegie Middle East Center, April 16, 2014, http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/55359
[lxxiv]Eleonora Ardemagni, Armies ergo Nations: Projection and Conscription in the Arab Gulf States, 07 December 2017.
[lxxv]Karen Elliot House, On Saudi Arabia. Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future, New York, Vintage Books, 2012, p. 231.
[lxxvi]Alexander Griffing, Why Saudi Arabia and ‘Little Sparta’ Still Can’t Defeat Iran in Yemen, HAARETZ, Jul 22, 2018.
[lxxviii]Ranj Alaaldin, Iraq’s Next War Rival Shiite Factions Could Be Headed Toward Disaster, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, September 13, 2018. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2018-09-13/iraqs-next-war
[lxxix]James L. Gelvin, THE NEW MIDDLE EAST. What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 2018, p. 54.
[lxxx]Florence Gaub, Galvanized Into Action: Arab Armies Since 2011, Italian Institute for International Political Studies, 07 December 2017. https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/galvanized-action-arab-armies-2011-19124
See also chapter on Syria in Gaub, Florence, Guardians of the Arab State: When Militaries intervene in Politics, from Iraq to Mauritania (Hurst: London, 2017), pp.146 – 154.
[lxxxi]Dr. Lina Khatib, Lina Sinjab, Syria’s Transactional State. How the Conflict Changed the Syrian State’s Exercise of Power, Chatham House, Middle East and North Africa Programme, 10 October 2018.
[lxxxii]Jean-Loup Samaan, The Lebanese Armed Forces: Operationally Effective, Strategically Weak?, 07 December 2017
[lxxxiii]ELIAS TERRASS, Morocco: military service and education reform promise more repression, openDemocracy, 13 October 2018.
[lxxxiv]Umberto Profazio, The Tunisian Army: Bridging the Gap with the Internal Security Forces, ISPI, 06 December 2017.
[lxxxvi]Libya’s Economic Reforms Fall Short, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP WATCH LIST 13, 25 OCTOBER 2018.
[lxxxvii]Libyan Military Officials Discuss Army Unification in Egypt, Asharq Al-Awsat, 9 October, 2018.
[lxxxviii]Is Anyone Actually Winning the War in Yemen?, CARNEGIE, October 04, 2018.
[lxxxix]Have Palestinians given up on resistance?, AL-MONITOR, October 26, 2018
[xc]Israel in a Turbulent Region: A Conversation with Ephraim Sneh, Woodrow Wilson Center, Oct. 23, 2018.
[xciv]Perry Cammack, Michelle Dunne, op. cit.
Efraim Inbar, “Israel’s War with Iran Is Inevitable”, MIDDLE EAST FORUM, October 04, 2018.
[xcvi]Efraim Inbar, “Israel’s War with Iran Is Inevitable”, MIDDLE EAST FORUM, October 04, 2018.
[xcvii]Jon B. Alterman, In Search of an Iran Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 24, 2018. https://www.csis.org/analysis/search-iran-strategy
[xcviii]Patrick Tyler, Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country–and Why They Can’t Make Peace, London, Portobello Books, Paperback 2013, pp.15-16.
[xcix]Kenneth S. Brower, The Israel Defense Forces, 1948-2017, THE BEGIN-SADAT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY, Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 150, May 2018. https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/150-MONOGRAPH-Brower-IDF-1948-2017-WEB-UPDATED.pdf
[ci]Amos Harel, Israel’s Evolving Military. The IDF Adapts to New Threats, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Volume 95, Number 4, July/ August 2016, special issue The Struggle for Israel, pp. 2-57.
[cii]Doug Bandow, op. cit.
[ciii]Perry Cammack, Michelle Dunne, op. cit.
[cv]Elena Ianchovichina, Was the Arab Spring a black-swan event? The Brookings Institution, March 28, 2018.
[cviii]Robin Wright, ISIS Makes a Comeback—as Trump Opts to Stay in Syria, THE NEW YORKER, August 30, 2018
[cix]Al-Qaeda 2.0 emerges from power struggles, ARAB WEEKLY, 01/07/2018.
[cxi]JONATHAN FENTON-HARVEY, Al-Qaeda’s Future in a War-torn Yemen, CARNEGIE, September 25, 2018.
[cxii]M. E. McMillan, op. cit., p. 236.
[cxiii]Future of warfare determined in Syria, THE ARAB WEEKLY, 30/09/2018.
[cxiv]Dominique Moisi, The Geopolitics of Emotion. How Culture of Fear, Humiliation and Hope are Reshaping the World, London, The Bodley Head, 2009, p. 128.
[cxv]Adam Kirsch, WHY JEWS ARE FORBIDDEN TO BE HAPPY, March 28, 2017, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/228224/daf-yomi-195?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=eafe8a2a7b-
[cxvi]Alan Dowty, ISRAEL/ PALESTINE, Third edition, Cambridge, UK, Polity Press, 2012, p. 265.
[cxvii]Ellen Lust, Jakob Mathias Wichmann and Gamal Soltan, Why fear explains the failure of Egypt’s revolution, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/01/25/why-fear-explains-the-
[cxix]Wendy Pearlman, Narratives of Fear in Syria, Perspectives on Politics / Vol. 14 / Issue 01 / March 2016, pp. 21.
[cxx]Joel Kotkin, Ali Modarres, Middle East Cities Should Look Forward—and Back, CITY JOURNAL, October 18, 2018. https://www.city-journal.org/urban-future-middle-east-16266.html
[cxxiii]GHEORGHE DUMITRU, op. cit., PART I, p. 138.
[cxxiv] The World Must Act Now on Syria, An Open Letter, The New York Review of Books, February 27, 2018.
[cxxv]Robert Malley, International Crisis Group President & CEO, The New York Times, 24 Sep. 2018.
[cxxvi]Most recently: Statement by the Spokesperson on the situation in Yemen. Brussels, 10/08/2018. , https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/49313/statement-spokesperson-situation-yemen_en, Istanbul Summit Stresses Importance of Political Solution in Syria (27 October 2018), https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1440591/istanbul-summit-stresses-importance-political-solution-syria , Report of the UN Secretary General on the situation in Syria (14 September 2018):“I continue to urge all parties to support my Special Envoy as he pursues his efforts to support a sustainable political solution. I continue to call upon the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and Syrian opposition actors to cooperate with the efforts of my Special Envoy to reach a political solution.” (To note that, not long after that UN Secretary General appeal, his Special Envoy on Syria decided to leave the mission), http://undocs.org/S/2018/845
[cxxvii]Mohamed Abdel-Wahed, Cyberwarfare and national security, Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue 1414 (18 – 24 October 2018). http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/25628.aspx
[cxxviii]Jacob Heilbrunn, The Ghosts of 1918, THE NATIONAL INTEREST, October 16, 2018
[cxxix]NABEEL KHOURY, The Khashoggi Affair: Back to the Future, Atlantic Council, OCTOBER 15, 2018.