Israel’s attack on Gaza signals that power geometry are defining and giving shape to the Middle East as regards power and hegemony. Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and the kingdoms of the southern Arabian Peninsula are the countries which make up the regional equation. The geometry of power is exposing different conflict and power-struggles networks between them.
By E. Fuat Keyman
Israel has once again attacked Gaza. Civilians, innocent people, are dying once more. The State of Israel’s unacceptable mode of behavior has once again put Gaza firmly back on the agenda as the scene of a tragedy.
Hamas lit the fuse of this attack first with the rockets it fired. Israel declared that it is protecting itself. Perhaps so: the range of the rockets which Hamas is launching is growing steadily and their impact is increasing. But is this really the reason for Israel’s very violent attack? That’s very doubtful.
Two messages to two countries: Egypt and Iran
Israel’s assault came immediately after the hand-over in Egypt. Reconstruction is taking place in Egypt. The new administration is trying to make progress despite a delicate and very fragile political balance. President Morsi is preparing himself for a difficult task.
Although on the surface Egypt presents a picture of change, behind this lies a political and administrative structure that operates inside a delicate balance and is both sensitive and easily drawn into instability. Egypt was the most important country in the Arab Spring and it is currently developing in ways not in conformity with Israel’s general policy towards the Middle East. We should treat this assault by Israel as a signal to the new Egypt and President Morsi.
In this attack Israel selected Hamas as its target. It slew Ahmed Jebari, one of Hamas’s most senior officials. But one must trace the dispute back one stage and concede that it was Hamas which made the first attack. One of the first questions to come to mind on this point is why Hamas launched a rocket at Israel which would signal that the cease-fire was at an end.
What connection is there between this puzzling action by Hamas and the deadlock which the Arab Spring has run into in Syria and the fact that Israel supports this deadlock? Iran supports the Al-Assad regime. Right up until now it has behaved in a way which implies that it will never permit the regime to fall. At the same time Iran also supports the Hamas regime in Palestine. So what view should we take of Iranian-Hamas relations? By attacking Gaza, Israel sends a message to Israel. Amid the shifting political balances of the Middle East during the Arab spring, the clash between Iran and Israel has grown into a significant rift over a struggle for security and power.
Obama stuck in a corner
Barack Hussein Obama won the presidential elections on 6 November, becoming President of America for the second time. I followed the elections in Washington and during them foreign policy was hardly discussed. On the contrary the presidential campaign focused on the problems of the economy and unemployment. President Obama displaced a tendency to give priority in his policies towards the Middle East, Iran, and Russia not to hard power but to diplomacy and soft power. This irritated the Republicans in the USA and Israel in the Middle East.
Israel is lobbying for the USA to act tough in its foreign policy towards Iran. It would like to see a USA following tough policies against every occurrence contrary to its interests, Iran most of all. The conditions that Israel prefers for the Middle East are hard power war, conflict, and power. In this connection so the fact that Israel has launched an attack on Gaza immediately after the re-election of President Obama amounts to a coup which forces him into a corner.
The Pacific basin is the foreign policy area which Obama has selected to be key for America between now and 2030. Because of that, President Obama is making his first foreign visits of his second presidential term to countries in the Pacific. At the start of his first term in office the key region was still the Middle East and the countries he selected were Turkey and Egypt. This suggests that during his second term as president, Obama will pursue a foreign policy which increasingly transfers from the Middle East to the Pacific. This will leave Israel on its own in the Middle East and consequently is a development which it wholly dislikes. The attack on Gaza is a signal to Obama that the shift to the Pacific is something which it will not be easy to put into action.
Turkey and sensitive power balances
In Egypt, the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Erdoğan, recently made a fine and very significant speech at Cairo University to a crowded audience. In it one hand he articulated the desire for peace in the Middle East and in the other, he strongly criticised criticized the State of Israel on humanitarian grounds. In the Middle East Turkey is an important regional power and a key country.
Turkey wants to see a Middle East in which states are strong because of the mutual interdependence of their economies, cultures, groups, organisations, and peoples, one in which there are no visas, in which economic relations and which are made strong
This policy is the right one and will perhaps grow stronger in the medium term. But today the attack by Israel on Gaza, during the Arab Spring, signals that power geometry are defining and giving shape to the Middle East as regards power and hegemony. Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and the Kingdoms of the southern Arabian Peninsula are the countries which make up the region’s power equation. The geometry of power is exposing different conflict and power-struggles networks.
In short, an uncertain and risky process awaits the Middle East.