The United States is facing a fiscal cliff. The Middle East has been doing cliff jumping so many times that it seems like a regional sport. There are all kinds of cliffs in the Middle East, possibly more ominous than the fiscal one. In the Middle East the depth of the abyss is greater, the landing could be tougher because the bottom is harder and there are usually no Para gliders to slow down the fall.
If you think Republicans and Democrats have difficulties talking with each other, try Israel and the Hamas who were about to collide in a land combat in the Gaza Strip following the recent skirmish. This cliff jumping could have dragged in Egypt.
If Israel had launched a ground attack, Egypt might have felt compelled to intervene due to the pressure from its street. Bearing in mind that Egypt has the strongest Arab military, this was no trivial matter. http://www.ilws.org.il/eng/CurrentPage.aspx?catid=83&pageid=44
There is a fragile cease fire between Israel and the Hamas. The two sides are still very close to the cliff with all its ramifications for Egypt and Israel. For the United States a severe crisis that may lead to a confrontation between Israel and Egypt is probably the last thing the administration needs in the Middle East. Under such circumstances the United States would have to press hard on the breaks before it becomes too late to prevent Israel and Egypt’s falling off the cliff.
Egypt survived a potential catastrophe in the Gaza Strip only to run into a fierce political dispute between the new president, Mohamed Morsi, and those who oppose his latest grab of power. Beside that, Egypt is heading for a tumbling off the economic cliff. In the worst case scenario Egypt descends into chaos if not a civil war with all the destruction it involves. The pyramids – a symbol of past glory – may be the last thing standing in Egypt.
Such a calamity could be the outcome of the crash course in clumsy democracy, courtesy of the turmoil in the neighborhood, i.e. “the Arab Spring”. Egypt which was a model of stability in the times of Mubarak is now like a volcano about to be burst. Hopefully Egyptians would manage to jump off it and not into it.
Nevertheless, Egypt is not the only country in the Middle East close to falling off a cliff.
Iran, as both the U.S. and Israel hope, might get there as a result of the sanctions imposed upon it. Those measures are expected to force Iran to agree to a deal about her nuclear project, or cause her regime to collapse. Whatever comes first. Undoubtedly the second option is preferable.
However, other states in the Middle East may reach the cliff before Iran. Jordan might be on the top of this list, but the real worry for the United States is another Arab kingdom, the one with the oil bank, Saudi Arabia. Unrest there could be the most dangerous cliff yet, particularly for the world oil market.
The brutal clash in Syria continues. The cliff there might not be only the ongoing battle between the Assad regime and the opposition, but the day after which might be stage two of the Syrian civil war. The different factions would most likely fight each other, a reality causing more suffering and casualties, mostly to the local population.
Currently there is tension between Syrian groups such as the Kurds who are located in the east of the country and the free Syrian army. Turkey would resist a Kurdish autonomy in Syria which might encourage Kurds in near by Turkey to demand joining their brothers in Syria. The Kurds in northern Iraq might wish to do the same. The Kurdish cliff means the division of the Kurdish people between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. This is quite an explosive issue considering the oil fields in the Kurdish zone, in northern Iraq.
All in all as bad as the situation in the Middle East might look like – hang on to your seats – it might get much worse, as usual. Well, you have to honor tradition. In the words of “Dr. Strangelove” stop worrying about the cliff and learn to love it. In the Middle East they already did.
For questions, comments etc. please write to Ehud at Mh1880@gmail.com