The King is Dead

King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia died of old age. His passing marks the death of a period, which began 100 years ago, in 1914, at the outset of World War I. The Saudi king’s death marks the a new era in which the states whose borders were drawn at the end of the First World War by the various powers are no longer relevant in today’s global picture. The Sykes-Picot agreement was essentially an agreement on how to share the spoils, in which the various powers decided to distribute the crumbling Ottoman Empire, with no real connection to the natural borders betweeen ethnicities and tribes. Over time, Middle Eastern states were established and developed irrespective of the whether the various tribes could actually live together under the guise of nation-states.

Since the establishment of the “New Middle East” following the “Arab Spring”, various states have suffered from conflicts between tribes, religions, and ethnicities, through military coups, political coaltions, and conquests, which resulted in the creation of new artificial entities. Some have created some lowered expectations and hopes when the world was created then began crumbling before his eyes of the West who created this world, but never acknowledged responsibility imperfect fact that carriage.

For many years, Saudi Arabia was the most powerful and influential country. The King’s death symbolizes the end of this period. Today, the Middle East is torn between ethnic, religious, and tribal rivalries. The Shiite-Sunni conflict continues to rage and new coalitions are contiuously formed based on common enemines and attempts to eradicate fundamentalism.

During the week in which the king died, the President of Yemen vacated his post. The Sunni government fell and and Shi’ite rebels are attempting to cooperate with the West to flight Al-Qaeda operatives. During this same week, the shaky stability achieved after a long period of conflict in Libya is being threatened, as Islamic fundamentalist blew up a luxury hotel in Tripoli and Libya’s faltering government is unable or unwillingness to create order in this troubled state.

During the week in which the king died, Syria continued to fall apart at the seams, as different forces attempt to take control of various areas and draw a new political map in the Middle East. ISIS continues to lose outposts to the Peshmerga Kurdish forces.

The King is not survived by a great leader who will try to draw the map of interests and possible cooperation between the various forces in the region. Thus, a power vacuum exists, as Iran, which threatens the entire region, and Turkey, whose devious intentions are still not apparent to many, will further rise to power. The sane Middle East must mourn the loss of a leader on the one hand, and for the lack of leadership in the region or in the world, which could bring order to this chaotic region.

Commentators still speak the mantras of the old map of interest and dialogue among various outdated entities in our region. However, all of these calculations ignore an essential factor – you cannot not draw a new map of alliances and interests in the Middle East in the absence of true leadership which is willing to pay the price and fight for results.

Therefore, the death of the king is the death of an era and the death of the Middle East as we know it. The gunfire we hear in our region is not that of festive celebration, but the sounds of alarm warning that a fire has caught in our region, which if not put out, could engulf the entire world.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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