A survey of the current state of the region suggests that this summer will witness a serious escalation on all the major fronts, possibly leading to direct confrontations between the leading regional players, says ‘Urayb ar-Rintawi in  ad-Dustour.


by Urayb ar-Rintawi – ad-Dustour

None of the region’s simultaneous and parallel crises appears to be on its way to either a political solution or a decisive military victory.

This means that the entire region is waiting for another hot summer. Only the Iranian nuclear program crisis may find its way to a solution and a settlement, but without leaving any likely immediate and direct impact on the rest of the region’s crises.

Syria, the mother of all these crises, is almost back at square one. On the ground, the ‘discourse of decisive victory’ has been revived to replace the discourse of compromise. The opposition and its supports are is a state of ecstasy as a result of their victories in the south and the northwest. Ferocious battles are imminent in Sahl al-Ghab, the Qalamoun, the Eastern Ghouta, and up to the northwest. On the political front, talk of ‘toppling Assad’ has resumed in an unprecedented manner as a precondition for a solution and as the aim of any settlement, after a period in which it was withdrawn from circulation in favor of official and semi-official statements to the effect that ‘Assad is part of the solution.’ And it is certain that Operation Decisive Storm’s impact on Syria will be enormous, as evident from the statement issued by the Gulf consultative summit [demanding Assad’s departure].

Iraq is haunted by the specter of partition. U.S. VP Joe Biden’s [alleged partition] plan dominates the political climate in which the various Iraqi officials and constituents breathe. Kurdistan Province President Barzani is in Washington in an attempt to make use of the moment and campaign in favor of an independent Kurdish state. The Sunni Arabs are facing a crisis of identity, representation, and leadership. They have found in Congress’s discussions [about directly arming Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds] elements that have tickled their fancy; after all, partitioning Iraq is no longer the worst scenario for a large sector of them.

None of the plans and schemes discussed for restoring balance to the political process and the Iraqi political regime has made any progress. Meanwhile, the government forces and their allied Shiite militias and Sunni clans are facing major difficulties in restraining ISIS’s momentum and stopping its expansion. All indications in the Iraqi situation lead to the conclusion that the country’s summer will be hot, not only because of ‘climate change’, but also because of the fierce battles we will witness on all fronts of the confrontation with ISIS.

Which takes us to Yemen six weeks after Operation Decisive Storm and the daily killing machine that does not stop, and the Saudi air force that pours its fire on installations, infrastructure, airports, state institutions, army positions, and the Houthis’ centers. The humanitarian crisis has peaked in a country that was already partially suffering from such a crisis even before the war. The tragedy has reached its most dramatic heights with the unprecedented ground, naval, and air siege imposed on the country.

There is no prospect of a political solution based on UNSCR 2216, or in accordance with [fugitive] President Hadi’s call for a dialogue in Riyadh on May 17th. The common assessment is that the war in and on Yemen will continue for a long time to come, perhaps in the hope of establishing ‘safe zones’ or partitioning the country based on the principle that ‘if you cannot have everything, this does not mean you should leave it all'; a principle that seems to be guiding the coalition states actions.

For its part, Lebanon, is most likely to enter its second year without a president to the pace of itinerant security crises and the sword of dangers and threats hanging over its sons and daughters’ heads, whether because of the [jihadist] sleeper cells that the security agencies continue to discover, or because of the threat along its borders, or because of the deeper and more dangerous internal split that seems to need no more than a lit match for the fire of confessional, sectarian, and political confrontations to be unleashed. If this small country has escaped relatively unscathed so far thanks to the regional and international ‘safety net’ it enjoys, this is not certain to remain the case. This is especially likely if the crisis worsens, and if the conflict reaches the point of no-return or the moment of breaking bones.

On the Palestinian track, the picture is not that different. Israeli PM Netanyahu is trying to weave the fabric of a government that consists of the extreme religious and nationalist right, and is doing so in a manner that shuts the door tight in the face of any chance of realizing a ‘two-state’ solution. The reticent initiatives now circulating in the UN’s hallways are merely means of sowing dust in eyes that are already sore thanks to the raging regional conflicts.

As for the inter-Palestinian reconciliation file, it is moving to the tempo of the regional wars between sects and axes. Fateh does not wish to lose the Egyptian card, and it is certainly disturbed by Riyadh’s decision to join the reconciliation fray, perhaps via the Hamas gateway. And Hamas, which has suddenly woken up to the urgency of reconciliation, wants to use it to emerge from the cocoon of isolation and pave a path that circumvents Cairo, so as to return (together with its mother organization [the Muslim Brotherhood]) back to the lap of Sunni Arab sponsorship. It is seeking this, even if it requires a long-term truce [with Israel], the suspension of the resistance project, and the establishment of a [Hamas-run] state with provisional borders in the Gaza Strip.

We will not say much about Libya. The number of victims in the Mediterranean’s waters is enough to convey an idea of the situation in this country. The statements by the UN envoy to Libya brim with pessimism regarding the prospects of reaching a solution. A quick survey of the names and affiliations of the forces fighting it out suggests that the country has bid farewell to stability, development, unity, independence, and sovereignty until further notice, and that the sparks from its exacerbating crises will continue to fly to neighboring and far away countries, also until further notice.

It is not only the proxy wars and the growing role of non-state players that threatens the region. The area as a whole is moving closer to direct regional conflict. Iran ceaselessly mobilizes its Revolutionary Guard and its Iranian volunteers on more than one front. Saudi Arabia has turned the leaf on hesitation and reserve, and has directly entered the labyrinths of the Yemeni conflict. A direct regional confrontation can no longer be ruled out, as it was only a few weeks ago.

All of this proceeds amidst unprecedented Western enthusiasm for militarization and encouraging arms races, concluding deals worth billions of dollars with many [Arab Gulf] states on the grounds that this is the most efficient means of re-cycling petro-dollars and retrieving them from the oil-producing countries so as to be invested in the banks of the arms-exporting countries. So, a scorching hot summer awaits us. So, the most difficult days are still ahead of us. May God help us!

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