The Iran of the Shah was friendly to Israel, but the theocracy that overthrew it is not. The Turkey of the Ataturk secularists was friendly to Israel, but the Turkey of the Islamists is not. The Egypt of Mubarak was friendly to Israel, but the government of the Muslim Brotherhood is not.
Where is Israel to find allies in its neighborhood, aside from Azerbaijan, monarchist Jordan openly and some of the Gulf states, secretly?
Recently a debate was held in the principal Kurdish university in Iraqi Kurdistan. The question was whether Kurdistan should establish "diplomatic" relations with Israel. The debating team arguing in favor of the proposition was declared the winner, and the announcement was vigorously applauded by the audience.
Iraqi Kurdistan cannot, of course, establish true diplomatic relations with Israel because it is not (yet) an independent country. But it has a large and very active representative office in Washington, DC, headed by a member of one of the most powerful of the Kurdish families. Nothing would prevent it from opening a similar representative office in Israel. Iraqi Kurdistan has all the requirements for an independent country in international law: a defined territory, a defined population and control. It has its own armed forces and its own sources of revenue from oil. Iraq is on the verge of either civil war between the Sunni and Sh'ia Arabs or disintegration into three separate countries. For the Kurds the result would be the same--independence.
There is a common and incorrect impression that Turkey is inhabited very largely by ethnic Turks, who are all either secular or traditional Sunni Muslims. The fact is that there are millions of Kurds in Turkey, who live in a defined region of the country. There are also a large number of Alevi Muslims, who belong to a dissident sect of Islam; and finally, there are millions of Gulenists, followers of a charismatic religious leader who is in self-exile in the United States. Originally allied to Erdogan, the Gulenists have recently gone into oppositiion. No wonder that Erdogan is desperately trying to reach an accommodation with the Kurds by offering them wide cultural autonomy.
The rest of the Kurdish people live in north-eastern Syria, where they have de facto autonomy as a result of the civil war in that country, and are helped by their relatives in Iraq; and in Iran. Recently there have been stirrings of unrest among the Azeris of Iran, the largest minority in that country, and if it spreads it could well lead to a similar movement among the Iranian Kurds and Baluchis. In any case, independence of a well-armed, wealthy Kurdistan in northern Iraq will serve as a powerful magnet to the Kurds in surrounding countries.
Finally, the oil-states of the Gulf will find their riches declining steadily as other sources of oil and gas in Europe, China, the United States, Canada and elsewhere come onstream.
The ethnic/religious/political and economic configuration of the Near and Middle East is changing fundamentally and with great rapidity for the first time since the division of the region between Britain and France after World War I. The configuration that finally emerges is likely to be more favorable to Israel than the one that is ending. Someone really needs to inform the feckless European leadership and Secretary Kerry that the situation of the Palestinian Authority has become even more of a minor side-issue than it always was. Resolving it would have no effect whatever on the new pattern that is emerging in the region. Not resolving it likewise. Hezbollah is being bloodied in Syria; Hamas amazingly has a very poor relationship with Muslim Brotherhood Egypt, and Abbas is simply becoming more and more irrelevant to everyone except the useful idiots in the Western World.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 30, 2013
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