Even while the potential of an escalation is rising everywhere, there are signs of calm in the Middle East. Just how durable is the peace?

iran and saudi arabia china
Foreign ministers of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia meets in Beijing (CCTV)

The conclusion of the ongoing conflict in Europe is barely foreseen. Relations between the resurgent China and the historic world power in Washington, as well as those between Moscow and the West, are at an all-time low. The likelihood of an international conflict escalating has never been higher than it is right now since the conclusion of the Cold War. However, one area that was once depressingly associated with conflict, flight, and bloodshed is giving way.

The indicators are suddenly fairly abruptly pointing to relaxation in the Near and Middle East. Pragmatism has returned where deadly adversaries once stood face to face. Celebrate after a successful reconciliation with former competitors and foes of the spider. The red carpets have been brought out for Recep Erdoan and Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Sisi and Qatar's Emir, Turkish and Israeli Presidents, Abu Dhabi and Tehran, and even the butcher of Damascus, who has been prohibited for ten years. The recent reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two hegemonic rivals whose hostility has kept the region on edge, marks the completion of this process. If it is successful, it will be China's greatest political achievement in history. 

This reconciliation in the Middle East is most important for the de-ideologization of international relations. Calm has returned twelve years after the Arab Spring began. A graveyard rest, a trick. because there are still autocrats who are currently making peace. Both the youthful, liberal, aspirational democratic movement and the ominous but no less potent force of political Islam, which once opposed leaden despotic authority, are worn out. They typically include characters who were driven from the area, subjected to oppression, are in jail, or have passed away. The final vestige of democracy in Tunisia is being buried, while the branch of the rule of law is likewise being sawn off by Israel's (still democratic) administration. Meanwhile, the brutal regime in Tehran is showing that it takes more than street protests to overthrow a dictatorship.

The newfound pragmatism on the outside contrasts with the rough hand on the inside. The days of lofty ambitions of hegemony are gone. Incredibly, this epiphany appeared to develop simultaneously in Tehran and Riyadh. Possible belated fulfillment for Barack Obama, who once yelled at the fights: "Share the region!" But after getting a bloody nose in Yemen, he also realized that, in the words of former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "fighting Iran to the last American soldier" was no longer a viable choice.

Therefore, it's probable that the American withdrawal is what initially allowed for a d├ętente in the Middle East. On the other hand, Iran is a fact that cannot be changed. In times of growing hostility with the West, it is preferable not to have an opponent who is a nuclear-capable power. Because Tehran may respond against any Israeli-US bombings by attacking the Gulf, which is awkwardly near by.

But Iran too might gain insight into the requirements of genuine politics by embracing the erstwhile nemesis. The "maximum pressure" strategy of Washington has harmed the regime more than it is ready to acknowledge. The current wave of protests, which were unprecedentedly radical, was also extremely hazardous for the ruling class since it extended beyond groups of people who previously opposed the administration. The usual layers of support are no longer as strong due to the prolonged economic distress brought on the sanctions. If the Islamic Republic wishes to maintain its risky foreign policy, the economy needs some breathing room once more. Therefore, maintaining peace in the area is essential to enduring the West's influence globally.

The arena into which the regional forces are swarming is also the global level. Tehran does not just view the multipolar world order as an ideological objective and a means of boosting one's own power and riches. After years of being a mere supplicant, Iran has pushed to be on an equal footing with Russia in the growing alliance, but at least it displays consistency in terms of affiliations by being staunchly anti-American. On the other hand, the really pro-Western friends, particularly Ankara and Riyadh, are navigating the turbulent multipolar sea with almost amazing bravado. There, balance at the highest level is the policy that is apparent.

On his first travel overseas since the start of the war, NATO head of state Erdoan meets Putin in Tehran of all places. More than ever, the Saudi government works closely with Moscow to regulate the OPEC-plus cartel's oil output limitations. Russia's isolation in the Middle East is not visible. In the case of a conflict with China, the West should not expect individuals in positions of authority to act in a radically different manner. Beyond the economic collateral damage that some of their populations must endure, it can be said that the governments of the great regional nations are virtually all among the temporary winners of the new period in terms of power politics.

Internal tranquility, atonement with rivals, and efforts to compete on a worldwide scale: these three factors now do not establish a stable equilibrium. But it simmers below the surface. The underlying contradictions that gave rise to the Arab Spring have not yet been addressed. Beyond the Gulf, where there is an abundance of wealth, political consolidation is frequently threatened most by a lack of socio-economic opportunities. The Iranian uprising is only the most recent to be put down by oppression. She is not the last one.

Iran continues to pose the biggest threat to the tenuous and flimsy ceasefire. In fact, it is exactly these oddly asynchronous processes that create an almost impenetrable escalation dynamic. The regime's strong sense of self-confidence in its international policy contrasts with its internal brittleness. the warming of relations with regional adversaries who are becoming more antagonistic toward the West. At this point, it is unclear how a political departure from the spiral of escalation can still be successful, even if all parties wish to avoid a very major confrontation. Where may a new nuclear accord be established at a solid landing point? A deal that insured the de facto nuclear emerging state wouldn't go beyond the predetermined threshold.

The main threat to the shaky and precarious truce remains Iran. In actuality, it is these peculiarly asynchronous processes themselves that produce an almost uncontrollable escalation dynamic. The thawing of relations with regional rivals who are become increasingly hostile toward the West contrasts with the regime's internal brittleness and its strong feeling of self-confidence in its foreign policy. Even if all sides want to prevent a very serious conflict, it is now unclear how a political break from the spiral of escalation can still be achieved. Where can a new nuclear agreement be made that has a firm landing? A pact that guaranteed the growing de facto nuclear state wouldn't go beyond the predetermined threshold.

Author: Mark Schneider
Source: IPG-Journal
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