Further destabilisation in the Middle East possible according to new report

July 10, 2013, University of Exeter
Further destabilisation in the Middle East possible according to new report
Map of the Middle East.

The crisis in Egypt is already having a negative effect on the Syrian civil war and contributing to further destabilisation of the wider Middle East according to a major new report.

Professor Gareth Stansfield from the University of Exeter's Strategy and Security Institute and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies wrote the report, for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), an independent think-tank for defence and security which advises governments and the wider policy community.

'The Remaking of Syria, Iraq and the Wider Middle East' report suggests that important as events in Cairo are, they distract Western attention from the much bigger game being played out in Syria which significantly risks changing the Levant after a century of relative territorial stability. Professor Stansfield who is also an RUSI's senior associate fellow analysed the impact the Syrian civil war could have on the future of the Middle East state system across the Levant.

The report warns that ongoing conflict may prompt the of the region's twentieth-century defined states. Professor Stansfield outlines how Lebanon, Jordan – and the interests of Israel and Turkey – could all be profoundly affected; but the most important casualty of the war is potentially Iraq, with inter-communal conflicts driven by deeply held and murderous sectarian hatreds that continue to stalk its today.

'Is Syria on the verge of ? And could Iraq, in particular – as well as Lebanon, Jordan and Israel – survive this eventuality? The answer is a tentative Yes to the first question and a probable No to the second,' writes Professor Stansfield.

'There seems to be growing regional and international acceptance of the possibility of erasing the once-rarefied, externally imposed boundaries that have divided peoples as much as they have united them, with greater emphasis on the need for state structures to be tied more authentically to the peoples they encompass.'

'Therefore, if it is now no longer possible to simultaneously maintain the integrity of the extant state system while advocating democratisation – which may result, among other things, in the removal of existing dictatorships – then a different, and even more worrying, set of questions need to be posed. The problem now is how to ensure that the ongoing, escalating instability in Syria and Iraq does not deteriorate further into a region-wide war.'

'This is not mere speculation. Jordan's delicate political stability is vulnerable to instabilities in its wider environment, while Lebanon remains deeply fractured. Israeli action is increasingly plausible, both against Hizbullah in south Lebanon, now that the latter is actively involved in Syria, and against Iranian nuclear targets, now that Iran is pursuing its strategic interests through direct intervention in Iraq and Syria. In parallel, the Arab Gulf states are also intervening in Syria and Iraq, but by proxy. Meanwhile, renewed turmoil in Egypt adds fuel to the fire in Syria – encouraging regime and rebels alike – while threatening simultaneously to divert international attention. And all of this is happening within a context of wider inertia at the level of the international community, caused by an East-West stand-off in the UN Security Council, with Russia and China finally standing up to what they perceive to be neo-imperialist, high-handed Western strategy, expressed in an ex cathedra manner that they no longer deem acceptable.'

'Of far greater concern in Western capitals is the stability of Syria's Levantine neighbours – Lebanon, Jordan and, of course, Israel – not least because of their proximity to Europe. In particular, there is concern over the very real threat posed by the possibility of state failure or of the emergence of ungoverned space in Lebanon, which could easily be exploited by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Sunni Islamist militants alike (although they would likely be as entertained by each other's presence as they would be by the presence of Israel to the south or Europe to the west). Similarly, the Kingdom of Jordan may prove unable to survive significant instability without substantial external help, while the possibility that Israel might be tempted – in an environment of geopolitical flux – to take provocative action to strengthen its borders and enhance its security is also of major concern to Western policy-makers.'

'In short, the future map of the Middle East is likely to be confused, confusing and changeable. Yet the legacies of twentieth-century states will prove difficult, if not impossible, to dispel, raising the question of who will be in control of the remnants of their structures, their narratives and their futures. These are the pressing issues that Western states should now be addressing, rather than concerning themselves with the pitfalls of intervention in situations where the opportunity to usefully intervene has long since passed.'

Professor Michael Clarke, RUSI's Director-General, in his foreword to the study writes: 'A year ago, the war in Syria might have been constrained by strong Western action, but it is increasingly clear that the world is confronting a crisis that extends far beyond Syria, threatening to deteriorate into a regional conflict. Now part civil war, part proxy war, it has also become a great power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and between the US, Russia and China.'

'But with each passing month the conflict becomes more complex and diplomatically intractable, and the renewed crisis in Egypt will only make it worse,' Clarke writes.

'While the agony within Syria looks set to continue for some time to come, the Levant is on the verge of recasting itself around the epicentre of the crisis. Syria might eventually emerge from this trauma more or less intact as a state, but the same cannot be said for its neighbourhood. The winners and losers from Assad's will extend far beyond Damascus, Homs and Aleppo.'

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4 / 5 (4) Jul 10, 2013
No mention in this article of DROUGHT, which drove syrian shia farmers w/large families into sunni(alawite) dominated cities. Egypt: same deal. Can't feed its population, and ethiopia is damming the blue nile which will cause further hunger. Foreign aid from saudis & us is all that's holding egypt together for now. Israel & saudis can & do desalinate in volume.
1.7 / 5 (3) Jul 10, 2013
There will be a blow back effect on the West when the boundaries of the Middle East are redrawn. There are many similar problems in Europe. There will be those who will say that: 'There seems to be growing regional and international acceptance of the possibility of erasing the once-rarefied, externally imposed boundaries that have divided peoples as much as they have united them, with greater emphasis on the need for state structures to be tied more authentically to the peoples they encompass.' Can apply to Europe as well.

1 / 5 (10) Jul 10, 2013
Hopefully when those boundaries are redrawn, Israel finds itself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
2.1 / 5 (7) Jul 10, 2013
The almost throw-away point at the end about Saudi-Arabia and Iran is the real key. As in the run up to WWI, neither side can afford to back down. The options are these:

1) Saudi Arabia watches rebels representing 16 million Sunnis be slowly ground down and returned to a totalitarian ruling clan from a population of 3 million Shi'a and admit to its neighbours that it can't defend its interests against Iran whom the Saudis have been having a Cold War with lately. That will make it near impossible to form a regional coalition if more trouble with Iran comes up. It also loses a chance to deal with Iran while it's weak.

2) Iran decides to cut its losses, make the same admission of weakness as Saudis in #1 and lose one of its few strategically useful allies.

3) Escalate to war between Saudi Arabia (+various Sunni states) and Iran.

Neither is willing to lose this. Neither side can afford to lose this. No compromise exists. Regional war may not be a certainty but it's pretty damn close.
1 / 5 (6) Jul 10, 2013
PS, I suspect Iran would go into Syria first because they need this to end before they wind up paying for every bullet pencil and forkful of food the Assad regime uses. Once Iran starts putting combat troops and tanks and aircraft into play, the Saudis will drop gloves, probably attacking Iran first but maybe hoping that Iran won't touch the country of the kaaba on a first strike (due to political blowback) and they can keep the fight in Syria. That may work until one side starts worrying about losing.
3 / 5 (12) Jul 11, 2013
Hopefully when those boundaries are redrawn, Israel finds itself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Perhaps, as in your guillotine fantasies about your political opponents, you can also volunteer to tattoo the ID numbers on their foreheads and pull the handle on the gas chambers.

1 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2013
AS LONG AS the religions there endeavor to outgrow and overrun their neighbors
AS LONG AS the religions there endeavor to do this by restricting their women to the sole task of making babies until it kills them
THEN there will be unremitting suffering and violence in the region. This condition will follow refugees wherever they choose to settle.

'Fear the next generation' - say Palestinians to Israelis. We all need to fear the next gen of religionists in this world.

Their misery is our fault they say, because we refuse to surrender the land and resources they need for their exploding numbers. Land and resources which their god says we do not deserve.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2013
Poor Geokstr. He just can't comprehend the difference between individuals and the state.

He is a true stateist.
1.4 / 5 (9) Jul 14, 2013
Islam forbids usury which is central to the zionist bankster plan to impose world debt slavery upon the masses. Therefore Islam must be contained and their leaders aggressively overthrown by the US imperialists acting the Rothschild's rabid lapdog. Christianity also forbids usury but the Vatican long ago split behavior from theology, healing the rift with periodic bribes called indulgences
3 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2013
Islam forbids usury
Funny they forbid money usuary but demand reproductive usuary. And their populations have the potential to also grow geometrically as a result.

"Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please." Quran 2:223, "The Cow," Dawood, p. 34

"7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." gal6
2.8 / 5 (9) Jul 14, 2013
The US has the energy resources to be independent. Let the energy producers and consumers of Middle East Oil protect the free flow of oil at market prices.
1 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2013
The US has the energy resources to be independent. Let the energy producers and consumers of Middle East Oil protect the free flow of oil at market prices.
US oil is part of international free markets. If our govt was to pull us out of these fair exchange markets it may well cause them to collapse and global economies along with them.

Is this what you want ryg? More unnecessary govt intrusion into big business?
2.6 / 5 (10) Jul 14, 2013
I didn't say the US should pull out of any market.
If the US pumped its own oil and used it own coal and natural gas and nuclear power there would be no need to import oil and the US could export any excess.
But this would require that govt get out of the way of US energy companies. The opposite of intrusion.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2013
What? You know that US companies are global players who WANT to compete on world markets. They own fields all over the world.

The only way you are going to get them to doing business here in the US is to FORCE them to ie nationalize them.

You forgot the few million barrels chevron dumped in Ecuador rainforests? You think they would give up the freedom to do those sorts of things without a fight?
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2013
While this article is interesting and timely, it is not a science article. It deals with a political situation. PhysOrg should keep out of politics and stay focused on the science.
2.6 / 5 (7) Jul 14, 2013
Hopefully when those boundaries are redrawn, Israel finds itself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I disagree. Israel is a generally functional democracy with a right to defend itself. However, I would not mind if the fanatical Jewish zealots that are harassing school girls on buses are driven into the sea, along with the hate-mongers on both sides that do their best to make progress impossible.
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 14, 2013
Israel was Designed to function as a garrison state and western bridgehead. It serves to prevent the reestablishment of an Islamic empire and caliphate which would stretch from the Mediterranean to kashmir and beyond.

It provides a second front similar to Normandy, in dividing Islamic forces. Its continued existence is essential to world peace.

After the fall of the ottoman empire, the west set the borders in the region and created all the power bases. Nationalist entities were divided and combined with portions of their natural enemies similar to Czechoslovakia but for the Purpose of internalizing and containing conflict.

Because conflict among the religions is Inevitable it must be Managed. Orchestrated. Constructively induced at the proper Time and in the proper Manner.

And most importantly, the results of it must be Predetermined. Obviously.

We can watch events play out in the region and around the world and we can see that this How Things Work.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2013

Republicans need to stop bringing these children to full term.

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