The Middle East’s Next War
The impending collapse of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate will not bring peace to the Middle East. Instead, another conflict will take center stage: the struggle for regional hegemony between Sunni Saudi Arabia, backed by the US, and Shia Iran, backed by Russia.
BERLIN – With the retaking of Mosul in northern Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS) could soon be a thing of the past. But the defeat of ISIS and the demise of its self-proclaimed Iraqi-Syrian caliphate won’t bring peace to the Middle East, or even an end to the Syrian tragedy. Rather, it is likely to open a new chapter in the region’s bloody and chaotic history – one no less dangerous than the previous chapters since the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.
The continuation of this violent pattern seems almost certain because the region remains unable to resolve internal conflicts on its own, or to create anything like a resilient framework for peace. Instead, it remains trapped somewhere between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Western powers are hardly blameless for the Middle East’s woes. Any mention of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by which Great Britain and France partitioned the post-Ottoman territories, still incites such rage in the Arab world that it seems as if the plan, devised in secret in 1916, had been conceived only yesterday.