Middle East relations in 2003 and 2016

The relationships in the Middle East presented in these two illustrations do not include all the actors in international relations but only those who have the greatest importance to the ongoing conflict there. The first picture shows the situation at the start of the invasion of Coalition Forces against Iraq in 2003. Iraq did not have any strong allies then, but also the vast majority of the countries in the region – despite pressure from the United States, did not support this intervention. Blue lines indicate cooperation or strategic alliances, these cannot therefore be equated with support for US policy in the region, especially due to the war in Iraq. Also Turkish politics are essentially important there and these have dramatically changed. In 2003, on the one hand, it was called the policy of “zero conflict with neighbours” and on the other, the conflict with the Kurdish minority could be described ‘managed’ – both points changed afterwards.  Another critical difference is the lack of direct interaction of Russia in 2003. The USA therefore had a very comfortable situation in which they were able to use any variant of the operation against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.



In 2016 relationships  are much more hidden in  the official fight against ISIS by Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia. In fact, all three countries use the existence of this organization for the achievement of their own goals. A very large impact on the complication and deterioration of the geopolitical situation is the emergence of Russia with its characteristic style of diplomacy and warfare. Russia is using Assad’s plight  to try to strengthen its influence in the region, and for this purpose, it is also looking for an alliance with the Syrian Kurds. Such an alliance would be extremely dangerous due to the likely actions of the Kremlin pushing the Kurds to a confrontation with Turkey, in which Russia will perform as a defender of the Kurds. Russia, playing its games with Kurdish hands could gain politically but that would cause dramatic problems for the Kurds themselves as a result of such involvement. Unfortunately, the dramatic change of Ankara’s policy against the Kurds, resulted from the internal political issues of Turkey itself, but effected both  the AKP, Erdogan and Kurds also. As both sides are still allies of the West, it is therefore the West’s obligation to force them to the negotiations (Kurds and Turkey).

On the other hand, another very negative signal for the West is the obvious cooperation of a large part of the FSA (Free Syrian Army) with Al-Nusra which is a faction of Al-Qaeda, supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and which in turn cooperates with ISIS.

In both cases, the main axis of conflict is the relationship Iran – Saudi Arabia. Their rivalry for dominance in the region, fueling radicalism on the one hand and  shiites and sunnis on the other. Both groups are used by politicians for constant wars with each other from Yemen, to Iraq. Badly carried out intervention in Iraq, but also support of a coup in Libya and the destabilization of Syria have caused a series of open conflicts and increased tension in many relationships in the region. It is also essential to understand that the political plans of the Kurds living in four countries – Iraq: KRG (Kurdish Regional Government), YPG Syria, Turkey, the PKK and the Kurds in Iran are not the same. The strongest political representation and quasi-statehood are those of the Iraqi Kurds. However, in all parts of Kurdistan these organizations are not the only representatives of the Kurds, they also do not have a common political line.

While the government of President Heydar al-Abadi in Iraq is making an effort to win over Sunni and maintain the unity of the rest of Iraq (apart from the de facto already independent Iraqi Kurdistan), many Shiite militia under the control of Iran continue to conduct violent actions directed against the Sunnis. This situation is the main reason for Sunnis supporting ISIS, as previously the same was with Al-Qaeda. The same problem was one of the main reasons for which the previous Prime Minister of Iraq – Nouri al-Maliki was forced to leave the office.





Autor: Milczanowski Maciej

Maciej Milczanowski Maciej is a former professional soldier, participant of two foreign missions: UN in Golan Heights commander of platoon and position (1997-1998) and NATO Iraq Battle Capitan in Tactical Operation Center (2004-2005). Holds an MA in National Defense Academy in Warsaw and Ph. D. in Jagiellonian University both on politics in ancient history and he now works in University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow, Poland. Visiting Fellow in Hoover Institution, Stanford University. CEO of Institilute for Research of the National Security and leader of the Zimbardo Center for Conflict Resolution (Z-CenterC&R)


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