Middle East power shifting to Turkey and Iran
President Obama and the West need to adjust accordingly.
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Political players in the region can't but notice the drift of power from erstwhile US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia toward the northern tier states, and, as is the way in the Middle East, are starting to readjust to the new power reality. This can be most clearly seen in Lebanon today, where a growing procession of former US allies and critics of the Syrian government, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat, and, reportedly, some of the March 14 movement's Christian leaders, are making their pilgrimage to Damascus. That message is not lost on others in the region.Skip to next paragraph
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If the Obama administration is not fully cognizant of these developments, its awareness will surely be raised as it attempts to mobilize the world for a new round of punitive sanctions against Iran.
These sanctions are likely to fail not only because Russia and China won't go along in any serious way, but precisely because the much touted "alliance of moderate pro-Western Arab states" is turning out to be a paper tiger.
Given the shifting balance of power I've discussed, the "moderates" are in no position to seriously confront Iran and its allies. Hopes that the recent Saudi bombing of the Houthi rebels in Yemen would incite sectarian Sunni hostility toward Shiite Iran have not been realized. On the contrary, the Saudis' action has been clearly seen in the region as a partisan and tribal intervention in another state's internal conflict.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not only embraced the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election, but has insisted as well on the right of Iran as a sovereign nation to enrich uranium. Unlike Western leaders, he doesn't at all seem inordinately worried about Iran's course.
The US and Europe are going to have to grapple with the pending replacement of its southern tier allies in the Middle East by the rising clout of the northern tier states. It would be best to make this adjustment sooner rather than later. None of the issues that matter to the West – the nuclearization of Iran, Israel's security, the future of energy supplies – can be solved by ignoring the emergent reality of a new Middle East.
Alastair Crooke, a former MI6 British intelligence agent in the Middle East, is author of "Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution."