By Sal Bommarito
The Middle East’s political landscape is becoming a bit clearer every day. Unfortunately, the future is bleak for the region.
The backseat role of the U.S relating to current affairs leaves the destiny of the Middle East in the hands of current Arab leaders. This assumes a political status quo on the heels of the Arab Spring, the ultimate dissipation of ISIS and continuing insurgency by both Shiite and Sunni factions.
The apparent victory of Bibi Netanyahu foretells an uncomfortable stagnation of peace plan efforts dealing with the plight the Palestinians. Netanyahu said there would be no two-state deal for Palestine. This promise effectively guarantees the flow of venom between Arabs and the State of Israel for the foreseeable future.
The most important issue is what might transpire in the final days of ISIS. Frankly, the unorganized and murderous group of rebels deserves credit for surviving as long as it has. The tepid response of the U.S. and countries in the region enabled ISIS to thrive. But, the insurgents do not have the firepower to expand beyond Sunni neighborhoods in Iraq and Syria.
Stepping across borders into Turkey, Iran or Jordan will be a fruitless exercise. ISIS will be fortunate to retain the land it has already absconded. Nevertheless, it will not be a cakewalk to unearth ISIS in places that it has embedded itself. Current offensives by Iraq in places like Tikrit prove that a coordinated ground force initiative can be effective against the insurgents.
However, the final pushes into cities with large civilian populations will be bloody, for ISIS in any case, but also for innocent bystanders. The question is whether Iraq with encouragement from Iran will destroy cities held by ISIS with rockets that Iran has already provided to Iraq. Leveling cities populated by Sunnis will not endear Iraq to Sunni Arabs and could cause a great sectarian backlash.
There are several givens from my perspective. ISIS will likely be defeated in Iraq and Syria. But, its influence over disenfranchised rebel groups around the world could be problematic. Imported and exported terrorism is likely to increase.
Iran is the new gorilla in the region. If it is able to develop a nuclear weapon, the entire political landscape of the area will change dramatically. Even without a nuke, Iran is proving that it can and will be helpful to Shiite regimes, such as Iraq. The cost of its aid will be great influence over those countries prospectively.
Sectarian violence will envelope the region post-ISIS. Iran will accelerate its efforts to destabilize Sunni governments, and Saudi Arabia will respond in kind to thwart Shiite nations. Murderous actions, suicide bombing and political gamesmanship will be prevalent.
Several other powder kegs could also create unrest and more violence. They include the efforts of Turkey to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state. Another is the fate of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Most Arab nations want him dethroned. The downward spiral of the price of oil could create economic and political stress among Arab oil producing nations that might threaten existing regimes, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The outlook for the Middle East is great turmoil, destabilization and discontentment.