TLR 163 – Putin Muddies the Waters

The geo-political picture in the Middle East has become far more complex and opaque since the wave of revolutions and civil wars began at the end of 2010. But at least these events emerged from within the countries in the region. Outside powers — the US, Russia, Western European countries and others — have surely been active in these upheavals, but they have been reacting to them, seeking to influence or control the domestic forces at work. .

Now, however, a new state of affairs is taking shape, wherein major events outside the region will have significant — perhaps even decisive — influence over intra-regional issues, disputes and developments. The crisis in and over Ukraine/ Crimea and the consequent confrontation between the US and EU on the one side, and Russia — possibly supported by China and India, on the other — is not likely to be resolved soon, and may well intensify. This revival of global tension is certain to impact all the various conflicts underway across the Middle East.

It is not yet clear how and to what extent each specific item on the long Middle Eastern agenda will be influenced, but it is safe to assume that the effect will be negative. Co-operative efforts between the global powers, primarily America and Russia, are likely to be discontinued and in their place we may well see renewed rivalry between them and clashes between their proxies.

This issue is therefore devoted to topics in section A: Regional Developments. It examines Israel’s position in the wake of the Ukraine/ Crimea crisis, and considers the potential impact of the renewed antagonism between the US and Russia on itself and its neighbours. This requires acknowledging the dramatic improvement in Israel’s relations with Russia since the collapse of the USSR, as well as understanding the state of the US-Israel relationship — so strained on the surface, but so solid when you delve beneath the surface.

The immediate focus of Israel-US tensions is the dead-end in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but a subject that receives much less attention in the media is the delicate balancing act that Israel is engaged in along its various borders, in the effort to achieve as much security as possible in an environment of frequent and sharp swings between warring factions and parties.

But the over-riding issue remains the Iranian nuclear programme and whether the united front embodied in the P5+1 formula Iran will survive the confrontation between Russia and the West. Even if it does, Israel will have to decide how long to allow the talks with Iran to drag on before taking unilateral action — if it can and feels it must.

All of these issues, and especially the future of the negotiations with the Palestinians, impact on and are influenced by the composition of the Israeli government coalition. The next issue will therefore look at domestic politics a year into the life of the third Netanyahu-led government and consider its prospects going forward.



A: Regional Developments

a)    War, war: The long shadow of Crimea

b)    Israel-America and other special relationships

c)     Jaw, jaw: Palestinian dead-end

d)    Balancing acts on the borders

 e)     The elephants in the rooms

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