The strategic situation at the turn of the year

Lothar Rühl


In 2014, three wars of different nature and intensity have illustrated the strategic consequences of unresolved political conflicts:

The Syrian civil war with religious fronts and foreign participation for the Assad-regime in Damascus, the war-like kindling conflict in scissioned Iraq between Shiits, Sunnits and the Kurds in the north of the country as the third party in the war, and the conjunction of both wars, going beyond all borders, in the storm of the ISIS-Jihadists, with the proclamation of the “Islamic State” both in Syria and in Iraq, and with the claim for founding a new “caliphate” for the entire Islam covering an area from the Gulf to the Levant. The Syrian civil war, in which Jihadists from several different countries have taken part for two years, had swashed across the borders into Iraqand Lebanonin 2013 already, thus endangering the inner stability of Jordanby a surge of refugees. Finally, once again the GazaWar for Palestinebetween the Islamistic Hamas and Israel, which has been the third war in five years since 2008. This war, which within 50 days destroyed large parts of the infrastructure and buildings in the Gaza Strip by reciprocative shelling, was first ceased by truce. After long-lasting efforts by the USA, Egyptconciliated the convention, which broke the war of attrition and which, after limited concessions made by both parties, was supposed to provide a long-term, literally “unlimited”, principally open-ended truce. Like its two predecessors since 2008, the third Gaza War was triggered both by the shelling of Israelfrom Gazaand by terrorist attacks, although only with few casualties. Admittedly, Egyptunder the authoritarian regime of the general and president al Sisi appeared as mediator between Hams and Israel, without, however, supporting Hamas, but preferring Israelto Palestineinstead. This, among other things, explains the Bedouins scene in Sinai with its bandits and terrorists, who permanently threaten Egypt’s borders in the desert and smuggle weapons. Overshadowed by the three major conflicts between the Persian Gulf and the Levant, in some parts of Africa the likewise war-like fights of Islamistic gangs against the governments and against Christian population groups continue in several states, from Kenya and South Sudan in the East to Nigeria and Mali in the West, with terrorist attacks and guerrillas in the border areas. Yemenin South Arabia and Somaliaon the Horn of Africa have remained to be trouble spots, from where the flames of martial violence spread and are nourished in the name of Islam. In Northern Africa, Libyaas a failing state has disintegrated and become an area of civil war already. Even in the 13th year of the war inAfghanistan, there is no prospect of inner peace neither, especially so when the international combat troops will disengage in the end of 2014. In addition, there is the new territorial conflict in Eastern Europe betweenRussia andUkraine concerning Crimea, with the annexation byMoscow and the attempt at seceding an area in East Ukraine from Donbas toOdessa in the South as well asDnepropetrovsk farther in the West. The obvious breach of public international law byRussia has shaken up NATO and EU, posing new security-political challenges, and some people already warn of a new Cold War of the West withRussia. For this reason, a new geopolitical-strategic situation has arisen for Turkey since 1991 in 2014, with a possible new correlation of powers in the relationship with Russia, not only in the Black Sea, but also in Southeast Europe and in Caucasus. In spite of all this,Russia is essential for a subsequent political solution of the problemsSyria andIran pose for regional and international security between the Gulf andLevant. NeitherRussia norIran can be simply “isolated”, let alone excluded from international politics and world economy permanently. The crises, however, continue and spawn new alliances. This is a lesson which has proved to be true in 2014 again.