Who Will Usher the Middle East Into an Era of Peace? – By Sam Farah

Who Will Usher the Middle East Into an Era of Peace
By S Farah – @txtwxe 
Syria Comment, Oct 23, 2017

In his book Skin in the Game, Nassim Taleb offers a piercing observation: “The entire growth of a society, whether economic or moral, comes from a small number of people. […] Only a few people suffice to disproportionately move the needle.”

This critical insight can be revolutionary when it comes to peace-building in the Middle East. Most observers blame the region’s conflicts on age-old issues of identity. They suggest that the people of the Middle East will have to evolve before the region reaches the political maturity of the Western World.

Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman

But only a handful of people changed the course of Europe; they ushered inan era of peace after decades of war, fascism, and dictatorship. Standing amid the destruction of the Second World War, a few determined European politicians and citizens aimed to eliminate the European ills of nationalism and war-mongering. These founding fathers stitched together what became the European Union with one treaty after another starting with the Schuman Plan of 1950. Up until that point in history, the world had only known empires and nation states. What these pioneering politicians built was nothing short of revolutionary and a paradigm shift in political organization.

The European Union was, and is, first and foremost a project to prevent war on the continent. With the European Coal and Steel Community, the first supranational organization since the emergence of nation-states, the Europeans gave up some national sovereignty over two important commodities without which it is difficult to wage war.  They allowed for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labor among its members, ceding sovereignty over their national borders.  And after decades of nation building on the basis of common languages, cultures, or race, they embraced multiculturalism and multilingualism as pillars of the new Europe. Today there is no official language in the E.U. All 24 languages are official languages.

The same masses that prior to the creation of the European Union were fighting ethnic wars, rallying behind fascists, and committing genocide across Europe, are today largely liberal and multicultural. In the mid-1970s, over 50% of Germans cited Konrad Adenauer as having done the most for Germany compared to 10% who named Bismarck. Only 22% of Germans thought they had more in common with other Germans of different social class than with French people of the same class (Haas 1997). This transformation cannot be attributed to the development and evolution of a population in such a short period of time; this transformation is largely the result of a new post nationalist framework built and pioneered by few people.

Winston Churchill

Today the Middle East political scene is dominated by nationalists and Islamists. Aggrieved and angry, they are fueling the beast of ethnic and religious rivalries that is feeding on their own societies. Both the nationalists and Islamists are suspicious of and deeply misunderstand the European project. Islamists see it as a reconstitution of Christendom, and nationalists in their characteristic winner-and-loser mindset, see it as a union of mature European nations to maintain its competitive advantage against other countries like the United States. These characterizations ignore the fact that Europe became a more secular and a less religious continent since the launch of the post nationalist European project, and that the United States’ military bases still pepper the continent.

But there have been two notable attempts to build a new post nationalist framework in the Middle East by people inside the region. President Bashar Al Assad of Syria in 2009 launched his “four Seas” project to build an economic and energy sphere linking the Mediterranean, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. His project found resonance in Turkey whose foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu had launched his own zero-problem initiative to improve relations with Syria, Iran, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and even tried a rapprochement with Armenia. Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad extended his hand to Turkey against a chorus of objections from his own nationalists.

These two projects failed for several reasons. First, the major powers never backed the project. Unlike the European project where the United States offered a security and economic blanket to guarantee its success, in the Middle East, the United States wanted to isolate Iran. Later in the Arab Spring, Mr. Erdogan abandoned President Assad for a pan-Muslim Brotherhood project, hoping to revive the past glory of the Ottoman Empire.

After six years of war in Syria, the Astana peace process brought Iran and Turkey closer, and offers hope for a renewed effort for a new regional framework. This framework can begin with Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, with Russia and China offering a security and economic blanket to facilitate its success. This can be a nucleus to a broader post nationalist regional framework for peace that was described in an earlier article.

Some are urging the United States to support Kurdish nationalism, and to get more aggressive in rolling back Iran. Today, the Middle East is becoming less strategically important to the United States, hence there is a diminishing return to any further American entanglement in the region. Supporting a Kurdish separatist nationalist entity in a hostile neighborhood will require a tremendous financial and military commitment by the United States. And as Professor Landis has pointed out in his latest post, the United States’ effort to roll back Iran will cause more conflict and failed states.

If the goal is to change Iran’s behavior, find a solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and its neighbors, and to find a happy resolution to the Kurdish question, then Middle Easterners had better follow the European precedent of changing behavior by changing the regional framework. Cooperating with Russia and China as suggested by Zbigniew Brzezinski, to help the regional players build a new framework and chart a path to peace is the best strategy for the United States and its allies in the Middle East. If a small number of people can put their shoulders to the wheel of change, the Middle East need not be locked in territorial disputes and identity conflict. It can move toward regional cooperation, prosperity, and inclusion for all.

Comments (7)

Eugene said:

The last paragraph sums up the whole, IMO, though the key I believe is Israel/U.S.A. At the present time, the Kurd’s/U.S.A. are jamming up the works of a settlement in Syria. After all, the “proxies” are almost defeated, the Kurd’s again will be the patsies in the end, while the ISIS or what ever name applies, are moving on to new territory – i.e. Asia. The Kurd’s/U.S.A. taking the oil fields are face saving for the U.S.A. It wont last. If Israel can be brought into the picture without all the acrimony it presently brews, then indeed the M.E. could build out to the prosperity for all. After all, said prosperity produces more than war ever does. Time everyone looked beyond the past in the decision making, for all the old people have to make way for the young.

October 24th, 2017, 5:26 am


Dvirah said:

I think the author is over-looking the fact that the Arab side wants a Jewless solution and are already united in that goal. Perhaps for him the total destruction of Israel & deaths of yet more millions of Jews is an acceptable part of the process.

October 24th, 2017, 1:43 pm


Mina said:

Who will bring peace? probably not 99 percent of the Syrian opposition nor the actual rulers of the Gulf

November 1st, 2017, 6:13 am


Ghufran said:

Israel is here to stay, and the biggest threat to Israel is Zionism not its Arab neighbors. This song about Israel being at risk of being wiped out is like a cow that has no milk but its owner keeps bragging at how big its udder is.

November 1st, 2017, 10:32 pm


ALAN said:

Russian President Putin has to answer in the Security Council about his magical creation of de-escalation zones , which will lead to divide Syria to pieces.

November 2nd, 2017, 2:42 pm


Ali Alwahsh said:

God bless Bo-Hafez

November 3rd, 2017, 4:03 am


ALAN said:

God bless the Kurdish people in their struggle for peace & human values.

November 3rd, 2017, 5:53 am


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