Sunni Civil/Cold War
Turkey and Saudi Arabia battle it out for the hearts, minds, and territory of the region’s majority Sunni population, with multipolar-leaning Ankara coming to heads with unipolar-devoted Riyadh and possibly even teaming up with the Kingdom’s hated Shiite rival Iran in order to ‘outflank’ the US’ main regional ally.
Nagorno-Karabakh Continuation War
An American-provoked large-scale war breaks out in the fragile South Caucasus region precisely at the worst time possible when it appeared that the Multipolar Great Powers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey were finally on the verge of a lasting settlement to its problems. The fog of war that immediately settles over the region leads to widespread uncertainty that scuttles the Greater Mideast’s Eurasian realignment and possibly contributes to a new round of trilateral hostilities between the three involved Great Powers.
The Armenian Dagger
Armenia undergoes either a hyper-nationalist Pravy Sektor-like Color Revolution or such ideologically affiliated candidates are democratically voted into office, instantly moving the country closer to the unipolar camp when the hot-headed leaders expel Russia’s military presence because of Moscow’s cautious refusal to aid in the new Armenian leadership’s hostile provocations against Azerbaijan. Yerevan quickly pivots closer to the EU and NATO, and Washington wastes no time in deploying military assets there in order to protect its new regime from their “pro-Russian” Azeri enemies, thus turning the curve-shaped country into a decisive dagger striking straight at the heart of the Russian-Iranian-Turkish Tripartite of Great Powers.
“Kurdistan” And “Sunnistan”
These two unipolar geopolitical projects never become outright de-jure independent states, but instead come to live as transnational sub-state entities birthed by the parallel implementation of “Identity Federalism” in Syria and Iraq, with the effect being that the Saudi border essentially expands northwards all the way up to Turkey. Correspondingly, Syria and Iraq are practically separated from one another due to the dual “Bosnification” of their countries and the emergence of two strategic pro-American sub-state governments between them, with these brotherly semi-independent ‘countries’ retaining the unipolar presence in the heart of the Mideast for decades to come.
The “Democratic” Partitioning Of Syria
While Syria’s international territorial integrity is safeguarded by UNSC Res. 2254, its domestic one is ripped up into shreds by the imposition of “Identity Federalism” and the de-jure internal portioning of the diverse state into a checkerboard of mutually antagonistic statelets. The broadly autonomous entities that spring up in place of erstwhile unitary Syria provide a scattering of opportunities for the Great Powers to divide, rule, and ‘trade’ between themselves, all as part of a larger scramble for power as the Mideast’s Sykes-Picot borders gradually get revised.
The New Silk Road Stitches Together West Asia
The Mideast, or West Asia as it’s seen from the Chinese perspective, could be brought back together and “fixed” if two complementary infrastructure projects are completed and linked together, these being the 21st-century revival of the Hejaz Railroad from the Levant down to Yemen and the GCC Rail Corridor from Kuwait to Oman. These two projects could link together on Saudi territory by means of an interconnection through Riyadh and/or an Arabian Sea line that bridges the Yemen and Omani portions. Aden could then more viably become the point of a cross-strait bridge to Djibouti and onwards to the 100-million-person market of Ethiopia via China’s railroad from the port city to the latter’s capital.
Iraq: Decentralized, Devolved, Or Destroyed?
Iraq will inevitably move towards more decentralization, with the only question being to what degree this will be carried out. An “Identity Federation” would leave the country together in name only, but it might be a suitable compromise for all of the regional stakeholders who don’t have the stomach for another Syrian ‘free for all’. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, “the devil’s in the details”, and there’s a very real risk that whether the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq remains part of the country (whether autonomous or legally “federalized”) or becomes its own independent state, it won’t give up its conquered oil-rich Arab city of Kirkuk nor Mosul if it succeeds in capturing it, thus setting the stage for either an Iraqi Civil War or a bloody Arab-Kurd Conflict.
Iranian Borderland Instability
Iran, a cosmopolitan multi-identity assortment of people, is at risk of falling victim to borderland terrorist insurgencies waged by two particular trans-border groups, the Kurds and the Baloch. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are assisting the former, while India is interestingly assisting the latter as a proxy instrument against its hated enemy Pakistan, though which dangerously has the chance of spilling over into the Iranian Province of Sistan and Baluchistan and inadvertently sabotaging the irreplaceable North-South Corridor terminal of Chabahar. The only ongoing borderland conflict is with the Kurds, which are fighting for a “federal” Iran and are politically aligned with various ethnic minority parties, but if left unchecked, this insurgency could eventually draw in the Azeris and Arabs too, though notably only the Kurds and Baloch are Sunni and thereby most susceptible to Saudi influence in instigating greater unrest.
Anti-Kurdish Coalition And The ‘Concert Of Great Powers’
Faced with the prospect of a pro-American “second geopolitical Israel” rising in the center of the Mideast, the affected states of Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey – all under Russian “Lead From Behind” guidance – might come together in an official or unstated coalition of sorts in organizing their anti-insurgent activities to most efficiently preempt this region-breaking scenario from taking shape. This framework could form the basis for a future ‘Concert of Great Powers’ in the Mideast, one which noticeably excludes the US and results in the geostrategic redesign of the Afro-Eurasian pivot space.
The Azeri Crossroads
Azerbaijan is uniquely poised to function as the infrastructure crossroads between Russia, Iran, and Turkey (the ‘Concert of Great Powers’ otherwise known as the Tripartite) because of its involvement in the BTC, TAP/TANAP, and North-South Corridor projects, which could thereby make it one of the most geostrategic states in Eurasia for the potential that it has for deepening the integration between all of its larger partners or cynically sabotaging them and disrupting the infrastructural formation of the emerging Multipolar World Order.
Saudi Arabia Dissolves
Saudi Arabia, once one of the strongest pillars of the US’ “New Middle East” strategy, is now among the most fragile and vulnerable countries in the entire region, beleaguered as it is by nose-diving oil prices and related budgetary problems, the bank-breaking War on Yemen and consequent security challenges along its poorly guarded southwestern borderland, internal sleep cell threats from Daesh and other terrorist groups that it had once spawned for use abroad, and a royal rivalry between princes worthy of “The Game of Thrones”. It’s not known what the exact spark could be which sets the whole haystack on fire (perhaps a failed military or royal coup), but once whole structure starts to burn, at least three distinct entities will likely end up rising out of the ashes if the blaze can’t be controlled and territorial integrity retained:
Islamic Republicanism Jumps The Gulf:
The author wrote about this possibly beforehand as part of an extended artic le series for The Saker, but the general idea is the Shiite-majority population in the oil-rich Eastern Province will rise up with Tehran’s covert support (similar in a sense to how Russia supported its ethnic compatriots amidst deteriorating domestic conditions in Ukraine) in order to throw off their former leaders and adopt the governing system of their ideological leader, which in this case would be the type of Islamic Republicanism that came to life after the 1979 Revolution. The Arab Shiite state will probably not unite with its majority-Persian cross-Gulf patron but will try to remain an aligned but nevertheless independent entity.
Jeddah And The Holy Sites:
There’s really not a lot along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast except for the metropolis of Jeddah and the Holy sites of Mecca and Medina, all three of which are within relative proximity to one another and will probably come under the control of the same emerging statelet, which may be aligned with one or some of the many Saudi Princes or perhaps even an altogether different leader or political system.
Riyadh And The Empty Quarter:
The Saudi capital city would form its own nexus of power, not only because it geostrategically could exert its will in a 360 degree circular fashion against all of the rebelling or seccessionist provinces (though simultaneously coming under maximum pressure from them if they coordinate their anti-Riyadh strategies), but also since it’s the transit location for the East-West pipeline that takes much of the Shiite-majority Eastern Province’s oil to what might by that time be the Jeddah-consolidated Red Sea town of Yanbu.
The Greater GCC
The Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council might formally or unofficially expand its ranks to include occupied Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, and even Morocco, which would then catapult Saudi Arabia into unquestionably being the institutional leader of the “Sunni World” and forming an expanded core space for its trans-continental “anti-terrorist” coalition.
Hormuz Loses Out Over Oman
The little-known but geostrategically significant GCC Kingdom of Oman stands to win big if Gulf rail and pipeline projects successful transit through its territory en route to the Arabian Sea as a reliable detour from the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint. The deep-sea port of Duqm is being developed partially with Chinese assistance, and not only could it become a critical terminal on the Gulf Silk Road if a railroad is built from it to Abu Dhabi and beyond, but it could also end up being a major energy node in the future due to Iran’s plans to build a pipeline and LNG processing facility there. Oman’s participation in the Ashgabat Agreement alongside Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and most recently India means that it has a bright future ahead of it, provided of course that a destructive (possibly external religiously influenced) successionist crisis doesn’t take it down in the aftermath of King Qaboos’ passing and total uncertainty over who will take his place.
Royal Rivalry Returns: Wahhabism vs The Brotherhood
The 2013-2014 rivalry between the Houses of Saud and Thani could one day return, which in that case would produce another high-tension proxy war between their complementary but also competing Wahhabist and Muslim Brotherhood ideologies, all with the effect of dividing the GCC and weakening both of it antagonistic players. This scenario might be triggered during the “Sunni Civil/Cold War” (provided that Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Qatar sides with its larger ideologically affiliated Turkish ally), a successionist crisis in Oman (whereby Saudi monarchists are pitted against Qatari Muslim Brotherhood supporters), or Qatar’s efforts to provocatively connect itself to its maritime Bahraini and Emirati neighbors via a Saudi-avoiding causeway that raises fears in Riyadh that Doha is set to snatch the kingdoms right out from under its royals’ noses.
Battle For The Bab-el-Mandab
The Saudi War on Yemen was marketed as an “anti-terrorist” operation against alleged Iranian proxies, but in reality it was a major power play aimed at establishing control over the strategic Bab-el-Mandab strait that connects Europe with Asia. Already occupying Yemen’s main port of Aden but without the political will to launch a bloody campaign to dislodge the Houthis in the mountainous north, the Saudis might either end up accepting the de-facto redivision of Yemen into North and South or institutionalize it through “Identity Federalism” or de-jure independence. Aden is the crown jewel, though, since it could be the location of a cross-strait bridge linking the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn of Africa and thus giving the Kingdoms direct unimodal access to their agricultural investments (and maybe even by that time, industrial ones too) in Ethiopia by means of the Chinese-constructed railway from the port of Djibouti to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The bridge would become even more important if it adapts a rail component and joins up with the interlinked Hejaz and GCC railways that would each in one way or another connect to Saudi Arabia.
The Republic Of Istanbul
Turkey’s main city might rise as an independent center of power within the Republic, potentially even moving towards the type of ‘city-state secessionism’ that London has been talking about lately, though of course needing the right trigger and push factors to do so (e.g. forced Islamization on the vocally opposed secular population, uncontrollable Kurdish and Islamist terrorism in the Anatolian hinterland, a successful or failed coup, etc.).
Eastern Mediterranean Gas Network
The gargantuan gas fields of the Eastern Mediterranean are making for some exciting changes in the basin’s geopolitics, with the opportunity now available for a pipeline to extend from Israeli waters through Cyprus and over to Greece, from where it could then connect to the TAP project to supplement the EU’s Southern Gas Corridor. Nevertheless, Turkey is bound to want a piece of the action and could use its occupied territory of Northern Cyprus as a bargaining chip in seeking to ‘reunite’ the two parts of the island under a system of “Identity Federalism” that would de-facto allow Ankara to exert a certain degree of influence over its entire affairs. Russia could end up negotiating and mediating between all parties because of its very positive relations with each of them, thus allowing it to capitalize off of any Turkish-driven Cypriot disruption in order to deepen its regional authority as a new Mideast leader.
The Arabian-Persian-Anatolian Silk Road (APA Silk Road)
The below map forms the basis of a Eurasianist connectivity vision for the future of the Eastern Hemisphere’s transregional pivot space, and it will constitute its own separate article which will be released in the coming weeks. This blueprint serves as the basis for a system of multipolar regional connectivity projects that would aim to tie a post-Daesh Mideast together just like the Coal and Steel Community did to post-World War II Europe 65 years ago.
By Andrew Korybko