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Arabs and the threat of polarization

Radwan al-Sayed

Published: Updated:

The Astana meeting which the Syrian political and military opposition boycotted because of the inclusion of Iran, in addition to Russia and Turkey, to guarantee the ceasefire has concluded its work. The opposition had stated that by including Iran, this meeting had come to an end.

Parties which can guarantee a ceasefire must be capable of influencing the regime or the opposition and this influence must be manifested via forces on the ground. Iran is of course biased in favor of the Syrian regime, and it has lost thousands while defending it in the past three years.

Russia is also fighting alongside the Assad regime and despite that it is also one of the countries guaranteeing a ceasefire. If they say Iran is not concerned over a ceasefire, then the same applies to Russia.

The Astana negotiations, and before that the Geneva 4 conference, aims to eliminate the opposition or armed opposition groups operating under ISIS and al-Nusra banners and political opposition under the excuse of the Cairo and Moscow platforms.

There is no hope of achieving any political results from the regime in Syria – unless Saudi Arabia succeeds in forming an Islamic military alliance to intervene against ISIS in Raqqah and Deir az-Zour. This depends on the ability to assemble this and also on the willingness of the US and Russia to curb the Kurds’ rebellion and restrain Tehran.

Iraqi realities

Meanwhile in Iraq, emerging victorious against ISIS has become possible, though the losses may be great. However, a political settlement does not seem near. Saudi Arabia has improved its relations with Iraq following the Saudi foreign minister’s recent visit to Baghdad.

However, the realities on the ground are still the same. Iran’s supporters seem to dominate in terms of politics and military power. Just like Syria, Iraq has two problems: Iran’s domination and the Kurdish problem. Iran and Turkey have their involvements in both, Iraq and Syria. The sweeping Sunni majority in Syria has not woken up to the fact that it is great in number or benefited from taking up arms.

Saudi Arabia has improved its relations with Iraq following the Saudi foreign minister’s recent visit to Baghdad. However, realities on the ground continue to be the same

Radwan al-Sayed

In Iraq, the strong Sunni minority which took up arms did not benefit from its power or arms. Therefore, it is probable that the situation will not stabilize in both Iraq and Syria. Domination neither achieves satisfaction nor stability! I am about to say that developments in Lebanon are heading in the same direction as Syria and Iraq. Michel Aoun publicly declared his loyalty to Hezbollah after he was elected president. He even alleged that Lebanon still needs the Hezbollah militia in South Litani where the Lebanese army and UN international troops are stationed.

Lebanon was thus punished for violating UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the international community will decrease the number of international peace troops and its expenditure on them. This alienation regarding international resolutions is about to repeat during the upcoming Amman Summit. Aoun will not be able to support any decision that condemns Iranian intervention in Arab countries and he will not be able to support any decision that views Hezbollah as a terrorist organization or that considers its weapons as illegitimate.

What is happening in Libya is not that different from what I have described. There are three governments, two official armies, dozens of militias which control certain areas, in addition to ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia. Al-Sarraj government, which was formed following the Skhirat agreement in Morocco, enjoys international support.

It is confronted by a government in East Libya – a government that has its parliament, army and strongman Khalifa Haftar. The third government is headed by Khalifa al-Ghawil and it hangs on to the vestiges of its power which had ended with the emergence of the Sarraj government.

Decisiveness needed

And last but not least, there is Yemen. Gulf countries and mainly Saudi Arabia intervened to defend itself and its borders and to defend the legitimate government in Yemen and the Arab naval security. Many, mainly Iran, tampered with this to weaken the Gulf countries. The US and Britain have not been far from this. For more than two years now, they have been seeking political solutions and America and Britain have adjusted their stances.

I have been saying this since 2012: Unless there is military decisiveness somewhere, Iran will not accept to engage in political negotiations in terms of relations. I still hope something of the sort will happen in Yemen. By polarization, I mean that the weakness of some Arab parties has led them to either intentionally or unintentionally work against their own people and in favor of regional and international powers. They think that by working for others, they will save their money and their weak authority. Such mentality and interests cannot be sustained unless wars rage on.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.