"Middle east in Turmoil" " Implications for Global Security"

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Sofia Security Forum


"Middle east in Turmoil"
" Implications for Global Security"

Presented by

Brigadier General/ Sanad AH Al Nuaimi
Head of the Center for Strategic Studies
Qatar Armed Forces

February 2013


Many national security and intelligence experts share the assessment
that the middle east security environment has become more
ambiguous and unpredictable than in the past, the increased speed,
quantity, and reach of human interactions, along with potential
adversaries' greater access to lethal capabilities, are driving the
likelihood of instability and disorder in the middle east region, in
ways that blur the distinctions of past conflicts.

The next few years in the middle east will be characterized by

persistent conflict - protracted confrontation among state, non-state,
and individual actors - that are increasingly willing to use violence to
achieve their political and ideological ends, These variables would
have some impacts on the global security.

in this context, we will try to find some answers to these


  • What are the new elements in the middle east security
    environment especially after the Arab spring? And how these
    new elements could affect the traditional security factors?

  • What are the impression of the new security environment in
    the middle east on the regional and global security?

  • How can we deal with these new challenges in the middle east
    region, now and in the near future?

Arms control issues:

The Arab spring was one of the important factors that impose more

Difficulty in dealing with arms control issues in the region, that is due

A. There is undeclared arms race between Iran and the GCC
countries, according to the strategic balance report 2012, it
seems that there is a fierce arms race in the region. The
participants in this race seem to be pursuing a course that will
restructure a local balance of power in the region. The GCC
countries have been focused on constantly upgrading their air
forces( according to The Financial Times, two GCC members
are planning on spending $100bn within the coming three to
four years on defense). Iran continue developing its nuclear program


B. Iraq has joined this rivalry of arms race in the past two years,
there is a strong trend towards militarizing the population
under different guises. The number of military personnel of
both the official army and other militias exceeds a million
persons, a matter that makes Iraq the world's most militarized
country in the world relative to the size of its population. By
2014, Iraq will be able to project a strong image of a recovering
military power with modern tanks, artillery, attack helicopters,
air defences and even combat aircraft. It seeks to achieve
'strategic independence' between 2016 and 2020, when it aims
to be able to defend its international borders without external

support. Yet in reality, Iraqi military power will remain anemic
compared to its neighbors until at least 2025.
3. Perpetual feeling of the imminence of war:

The backdrop of this feature is:

A. the Iranian nuclear project and the effect it is having in
intensifying tensions between Iran and both Israel and the
West at large. It can be argued that the region has moved from
a state of "no war, no peace" to a state of "looming war". It is
possible that war will break out within a few months, rather
than years, Iran continue threatening that it will close Hormoz
strait in the face of the international navigation, Israel and the
United states speak every day about the possibility of
striking Iran.

B. The Syrian crisis and the possibility of international
intervention under the chapter seven of the UN , or a proxy
war between the United states and the west from one side and
Russia , china and Iran from other side, or at least civil war
could be extended to Lebanon and Jordan.

C. The situation in Iraq, the continuing mutual violence between
most of the political parts, which could escalated to a civil war
in any time. The escalated tensions between the government
in Kurdistan and the central government in Bagdad,
concerning the independent attitude of the Kurdistan region,
which could itself push the region to a regional war, because
both Iran and Turkey refuse the matter of independent Kurd

D. Continuing of some disputes in the region (some still looming

over water, borders, oil-rich areas and oil wells (the Arab -

First: Changing Traditional Challenges to Security in the
middle east:

There are some traditional features of the existing security environment in

the middle east:

1. The strategic balance in the region:

The Arab spring has deepen the gap between the main regional

powers in the middle east, still the absence of "balance of power" in
the region exist, that is due to:

A. The impact of the Arab spring on the "strategic balance "in
the Arab region , especially between Israel and Syria, also
between Israel and Egypt, as Egypt still very busy by its
internal affairs, ( economic crisis, politically divided, limited
budget for developing its military capabilities), also Syria
under - any scenario- needs at least for a decade to come
back again to the strategic balance equation in the middle

B. The impact of the Arab spring on the strategic balance
between some big regional power in the region, especially
Iran and Turkey ,both countries tried to impose their
regional projects especially in the Arab region (politically and
economically). the Iranian - Turkish conflict has emerged in
Iraq( Kurdistan region) also in the gulf state, Egypt, and now
in Syria. It seems that Turkey can gain this battle in the near

C. Absence of the balance of power between Iran and the gulf

countries especially after the collapse of the relative strategic
balance existed in the 1970s and 1980s, with the end of the

Israeli conflict). There are also conflicts specific to sovereignty
between Iran and United Arab Emirates , there is an ongoing
border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, despite the two
countries having already delineated their borders. There is un
declared dispute between Egypt and Israel on the maritime
border in the east of the Mediterranean sea.

Second: Non-Traditional Challenges to Security environment:

Despite the importance of the traditional factors of the security

environment in the middle east, but the last few years have added
anew factors to the security challenges in the middle east region,
which complicate the issue and make the image more and more
ambiguous, these new factors are:

1. Escalated ethnic tensions between Sunni and Shia in the region :

These tensions are escalating day after day in many important

countries in the region such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria,
Yemen, it could transform all the region to a ball of fire, Syria and
Iraq are the most countries that could be affected by these ethnic
conflicts, the situation in both countries may be related by each
other, as the protests in Iraq demonstrate that the Sunni Arab
community has been energized by opposition successes in Syria
and the Sunni resurgence in the region following the 2011
uprisings. The collapse of the Assad regime would mean not just an
increase in jihadist actions, but also a boost to the self-confidence
of all Iraqi Sunnis; many harbour deep distrust towards Syrian
Alawis and their Shia Iranian backers. Conversely, if it lost its

footing in Syria, Iran might see Iraq as its western front line,
leaving open the possibility of a Sunni-Shia confrontation there.

2. The increased role of the non -state actors in the middle east:

Most of the security reports said that .-there are increased numbers of

militant groups in the middle east region, some are related to Al-
Qaeda, others are related to safafi- jihadi, both groups played
important role in the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan ,
Pakistan and in north Africa region. The problem is not in their role in
the conflicts, but in their role after these conflicts ended, they pushing
the people in these countries toward extremism and violence. After
the Arab spring it seems that there is much danger of these groups,
that is according to:

A. al Qaeda is Rebuilding its Central Command in Afghanistan:
The head of the organizational- Zawahiri, focused on re-
establishing Al Qaeda's Central Command as relevant and in
control, he is trying to find new strategy of the organization
to deal with the reflections of the Arab spring( especially
after the American withdrawal from Iraq 2011 and the
schedule withdrawal from Afghanistan 2014). that means a
greater risk for terror attacks. Not just in retaliation, but
because they will need to prove to their own followers that
Al Qaeda is not dead just because bin Laden is dead.

B. The increased role and influence of the Jihadist movements
in north Africa, these militant group could threaten the
stability in Libya and Algeria, may be in Egypt, now these
groups fighting the French forces in Mali, and searching for
a safeguard in this strategic region. AI-Qaeda in the Lands of

the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is the most active terrorist
group in northwestern Africa, according to the latest Annual
Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The assessment
concludes that AQIM poses a "significant threat to US and
Western interests in the region".
C. The new trend of some of these groups to enter in a political
dialogue with the other parties, which means the ability to
continue and exist in side their societies( Talban -one of the
main supporter to Al-Qaida - declared that it will enter in
negotiations with other Afghani parties to deal with the
situation in Afghanistan after the American withdrawal
2014, (Qatar give Talban movement office in Doha, it could
play important role in hosting these negotiations in the
near future).

3. Escalated threats to the Maritime security:

There are some features on increased threats to the maritime

security in the middle east region, because of:

A. Increased military existence and movements in the
Mediterranean and in the red sea, especially from both Iran
and Russia, part of these movements related to the situation
in Syria and the possible clash between Iran and the west
(Russia spread some of its navy force in the east of the
Mediterranean sea, it is the biggest maritime military
existence of Russia in the Mediterranean since forty year.
Russia rejected the spread patriot missiles in turkey in
December 2012)

B. The Iranian threats to the west, by closing Hurmaz striate,
in case that the US or Israel strike its nuclear sites, the
Iranian troops have made some military maneuvers on

doing that.

C. The escalated maritime Terrorism in the Arabian Peninsula
and Aden peninsula through piracy activities . despite the
international maritime military presence in the region,
especially the EU, but it is not enough to deter the pirates as,
the water mass which should be controlled is well over one
million square miles. To protect this mass, at least 80
battleships of various types are needed when in fact there
are only 14 or 16 battleships in this vast area. There are also
no aircraft carriers to cover the area.

Third: Impact of the security environment in the middle
east on the regional and global security:

Obama has declared in the state union address that the united states

wouldn't prefer to engage its military forces directly in some conflicts in
the middle east region, and it will depend on alternative methods (
backing the role of its allies globally and regionally, like what happened
in Libya and Mali).

this new strategic trend, addition to, the complicated security

environment in the middle east, may has some impacts on the regional
and global security as follow:

1. Making more difficulties to put an end to some ongoing
conflicts in the region especially the Syrian crisis, as without
the American intervention, there would be a failed state in
Syria, the bloodshed and violence would continue there.

  1. Giving more freedom for the jihadist movements in the region
    (Al-Qaida is still in Iraq /Yemen and Afghanistan also in north
    Africa, Now it is existed in Mali and Syria), this new American
    trend(the American withdrawal from Iraq in the year 2011
    and the planned American withdrawal from Afghanistan in
    the year 2014) may affect badly the regional and global
    efforts in combating terrorism

  2. Giving more freedom for some regional power to implement
    its Agendas in the region, especially Iran, which has basic
    interests contradicted with the stability and peace in the
    middle east (the Iranian role in Syrian crisis, the Iranian role
    in the Yemen crisis, the relationship with Hezbollah in
    Lebanon, and also the Iranian training camps which founded
    by the Iranian revolutionary grades in many countries in the

  3. there may be an increased preference in the Gulf for "security
    diversification" designed to supplement, but not supplant, U.S.

  4. It could be a new map of the region, as, some countries is
    going towards divisions (Iraq on the head, may be Syria, may
    be Yemen, also Libya, most of this divisions would be built on
    ethnic criteria's, and that is mean no stability in the region in
    the future.

  5. The middle east now could be a central point in the process of
    reshaping the international system, the new shape of the

international system would depend on how major powers
and regional powers in the region could deal successfully with
the situation in the middle east, to achieve their interests and
to reduce their loses.

Forth: Looking forward: need for new thinking:

Many national security experts share the assessment that the

middle east region is witnessing a new era of transformation
and reshaping especially after the Arab spring. But no one can
predict the exact shape of this change and how it could affect
the regional and global security environment.

The middle east now is still in turmoil. If this turmoil

happened without direct American intervention , this means
the end of the uni-polar system, which governed the world
since the 1990s , so I think that the situation in the middle
east especially after the Arab spring need for a new strategic

thinking from the united states, it needs to continue its
important and non-alternate role to reserve the stability in
the middle east and to face many challenges there, if it could
not do that, the American influence in the region would be
replaced by other dominant powers like Russia and China,
also it would give some regional power like Iran and turkey
more freedom to achieve their agendas.
We need to have a new strategic thinking in dealing with
nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East, as the risk of
nuclear proliferation cannot be ignored Based on stated
objectives and trends ( Iran and Israel) , Still other nuclear
states may not be able to keep their weapons out of the hands

of a wide variety of non-state actors( Syria]. In the coming
decades, with thousands of nuclear facilities spread
throughout the world and not all nations maintaining high
standards of security, it is necessary to plan for quickly
locate, track, seize, secure, and deal with the consequences of
nuclear proliferation.


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