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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Middle East on the verge of collapse (except for Israel)

David Goldman argues that just about every country in this region may be on the verge of collapse... except for Israel.
The short-run problems of the Middle East appear intractable because they are irruptions of long-term problems, in a self-aggravating regional disturbance. It's like August 1914, but without the same civilizational implications: at risk are countries that long since have languished on the sidelines of the world economy and culture, and whose demise would have few repercussions for the rest of the world.
Egypt cannot achieve stability under a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood regime any more than it could under military dictatorship, because 60 years of sham modernization atop a pre-modern substratum have destroyed the country's capacity to function.

Turkey cannot solve its Kurdish problem today because the Kurds know that time is on their side: with a fertility three times that of ethnic Turks, Anatolian Kurds will comprise half the country's military-age population a generation from now.

Syria cannot solve its ethnic and religious civil conflicts because the only mechanism capable of suppressing them - a dictatorship by a religious minority - exhausted its capacity to do so.

Iraq's Shi'ite majority cannot govern in the face of Sunni opposition without leaning on Iran, leaving Iran with the option to destabilize and perhaps, eventually, to dismember the country.

And Iran cannot abandon or even postpone its nuclear ambitions, because the collapse of its currency on the black market during the past two weeks reminds its leaders that a rapidly-aging population and fast-depleting oil reserves will lead to an economic breakdown of a scale that no major country has suffered in the modern era.

When the future irrupts into the present, nations take existential risks. Iran will pursue nuclear ambitions that almost beg for military pre-emption; Egypt will pursue a provocative course of Islamist expansion that cuts off its sources of financial support at a moment of economic desperation; Syria's Alawites, Sunnis, Kurds and Druze will fight to bloody exhaustion; Iraq will veer towards a civil war exacerbated by outside actors; and Turkey will lash out in all directions. And in the West, idealists will be demoralized and realists will be confused, the former by the collapse of interest in deals, the latter by the refusal of all players in those countries to accept reality.
 Read the whole thing.

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