Deciphering Russian intentions in Syria

There are two main points behind Russia's military involvement in Syria: While taking and securing its position by backing the Assad regime in the region, it also tries to give a message to the world about the weaknesses of the West

In September the world witnessed the rapid increase of the Russian military presence in Syria. Western observers, due to the rapid development of the events, rushed to claim that the Russian government aspires to back up Syrian President Bashar Assad and possibly increase its sphere of influence further in the region. However, to know Moscow's true motivation behind its military buildup we should first understand how Russian leaders look at the rapidly changing world, global processes and Russia's role in it.

Russian support for Assad is not an end in and of itself. With asserting its presence in Syria and carrying out military operations, Russia wants to make a case for a set of certain values and alternative "Weltanschauung."

Lasting for more than four years, the Syrian conflict has so far taken the lives of more than 200,000 people, and more than this, has recently led to the noticeable change in the views of Western communities. Interference of the global and regional players into the purely intra-Syrian conflict, nonviable opposition with the country, its dependence on outside help and the high level of violence demonstrated by all parties has resulted in the outright humanitarian crisis. Waves of refugees, after reaching Europe's borders this summer, produced changes in the views of major European powers of what is in fact going on in Syria and how Europe should further deal with rising instability in the Middle East.


The politics of meddling in internal affairs of undemocratic regimes by democratic countries is being reconsidered. Forced regime change is dangerous without any secured commitment by Western countries to contribute considerably to the rebuilding of a society in the aftermath. Lack of any outside help opens the gates to further instability in which all democratic aspirations perish in the fire of more violence. Moreover, four years after the beginning of the Syria civil war, Western countries have come to acknowledge that the initial plans to depose of Assad were naive. Now all major Western leaders, above all those in the European Union, have found themselves in a situation in which they have to admit that there could be indeed a place for Assad within the political resolution of the Syrian quagmire.

Russia's actions in Syria should be analyzed with consideration of the changes mentioned above. The character of the increase of the Russian military presence reveals that it is not only about the legitimacy of the Syrian government. Russian authorities have repeatedly underlined that cooperation between the two countries takes place on legal grounds. The building of the military facilities in Latakia and the deployment of troops and military operations occur as specified in official statements in the framework of bilateral agreements between Syria and Russia.

Russia tries to secure the legitimacy of the Syrian government through other ways as well. Moscow is trying to establish a mechanism for regional cooperation not only with states in the region, but more importantly, with global players like the U.S. or EU. Meanwhile, deploying considerable military resources in the critical region of Latakia, Russia makes it almost impossible for Western partners to ignore initiatives on cooperation with the Syrian government.

While following the steps the Kremlin takes in Syria, Western leaders have expressed anxiety over the true calculations behind the recent buildup. Despite the official Russian assurances that its military aid for Syria is designed to curb the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which is banned in Russia, Western communities blame the Russian government of holding aspirations to help Assad to retain the power and spread its own sway in the Middle East. At the same time, the existence of the still present "Afghan syndrome" in Russian society is disregarded in the analysis. In the period between 1979 and 1989 the Soviet Union lost 15,000 troops in an attempt to secure the power of the then largely unpopular communist regime in Afghanistan. Clearly, the Russian government is not ready to go to the end in supporting the Assad regime.

Military assistance to Damascus in its fight against ISIS has two main objectives. First, it would be difficult for the West to ignore Assad, a power capable of fighting the international terrorist organization on the ground. Second, possible cooperation with the U.S., European powers and regional stakeholders presupposes that Assad is also in the game. Meanwhile, Russia is going to play a key role in all the possible initiatives directed against ISIS.


It is worth looking at the possible domestic factors for Russian engagement in Syria as well. Surprisingly enough, few commentators touched on the connection between what is going on in the Middle East and Russia itself. First of all, the issue of Western sanctions is still an acute problem in Russia. The U.S. and EU imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 as a reaction to its annexation of Crimea. According to the assessment by the Russian government, sanctions are going further to contribute to the deterioration of the national economy on par with low oil prices.

Second, serious changes took place in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. According to experts, Moscow intends to freeze the conflict for an indefinite period. At the same time hardliners are pushed out from leadership of the separatist republics and Moscow does not want further escalation of clashes with Kiev. Such steps are directed at securing the current positions in Ukraine and revitalizing the negotiations in the Normandy Format with Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.

To understand what Russia aims to achieve through the Syrian conflict it is important to understand the Kremlin's "Weltanschauung," or world-view. Its values, ideals and notions of the ideal world order are the keys that Moscow is trying to gain from participation in the conflict.

Attentive reading of the last foreign policy doctrines exposes not only Russian disillusion with the post-Cold War order, as these strategic documents are founded on the appeal to the world to establish a new model of international relations in which a principle of national sovereignty enjoys a central role. Multiple examples of regime change through interference by external powers in the last 25 years has made the Russian leadership worry about the fate of regimes in post-Soviet republics and its own interests.

Its neighboring states are conceived by Russia as a territory the West should acknowledge as its exclusive sphere of influence. Conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine have shown that Russia is ready to secure its interests, even with military power. On the other hand, Moscow faces the problem of diplomatic isolation and suspension of political and economic cooperation with the West, the main political partner of Russia and the source of vital investments and technologies for its national economy.

It is Moscow's attempts to break its international isolation that shape Russian involvement in Syria. Engagement in negotiations over major conflicts in Europe in Ukraine, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh and the Middle East in Iran and Syria should demonstrate, according to Russia's calculus, that the West has to recognize Russia as an equal partner with its own interests and treat the country as a world power that cannot simply be ignored.

Thus, it becomes evident that Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict is not merely an attempt to secure its position in the Middle East. In a time when conflict demonstrates no prospects for an end and when the Western image is damaged by the refugee crisis and its passive stance, Russia is trying to make a difference in demonstrating its willingness to stick to its ideals of statehood and national sovereignty, while at the same time refuting the Western policy of sanctions and isolation.




What does the AKP mean for the future of Turkish democracy?

What does the AKP mean for the future of Turkish democracy?

Resumed political violence in Turkey started anew debates about deep-rooted problems in its political system. Terrorist attacks in the Turkish provinces of Şanlıurfa, Hakkari and Iğdır, efforts of the AKP to profit from the ensuing chaos and its reluctance to share power after the June elections impels to think about the prospects for a consolidation of the Turkish democracy and the future of the conservative political forces.

Turks are fighting with the Mountains again

It all started on July 20 with the barbaric attack of the IS on the Kurdish youth in the border city of Suruç. The nation was shocked not only by the boldness of the perpetrators but rather by the scale of destruction and visible confusion of the local authorities. The blast took 32 lives of the young people who were heading to reconstruction works in the dominantly Kurdish city of Kobani, “liberated” several months ago by the Kurdish armed forces from the rule of IS in Syria’s north. The battle for Kobani became the symbol of a struggle of the Kurds against the IS, who in turn had so far prospered due also to Ankara’s noninvolvement. All this sheds light on why Kurdish activists from the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK) rushed to blame the Turkish government for the tragedy and retaliate for its passivity by killing several members of security forces in eastern Turkey.

The brutal retaliatory killings of police officers quickly opened the gates of hell. Though the Suruç bombing was carried out by the IS, Turkish government directed all the resources on the fight against the PKK, classified by Ankara as a terrorist organization (along with the IS). The low scale violence accompanied by the massive arrest of IS and PKK members swiftly turned into the open conflict between main forces of the PKK and the Turkish army. On September 6, using suitable weather conditions, PKK attacked a remote army base near Dağlıca killing more than 16 Turkish soldiers. Two days later, 14 policemen were killed in a road attack in the eastern province of Iğdır, thus marking the rapid escalation of violence in the long-simmering conflict and creating an atmosphere of the 1990-s, when the nation stood on the brink of civil war.

Photo: www.haberturk.com
Clashes between PKK and Turkish army resumed after several relatively peaceful years

Meanwhile, in the political arena the ruling Justice and Development Party (Turk. AKP) was struggling to come to itself after a sound defeat in the parliament elections in June where it lost its long held majority. The wrath of the conservatives and most importantly of the current Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was directed at the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (Turk. HDP), considered a main winner of the elections. The HDP succeeded in gaining an unprecedented 13 percent of the vote and thus secured its position the parliament for the first time as a political party and not as a group of independent candidates. Elections gurus pointed out that the HDP managed to broaden its appeal among the voters and more importantly among those discontented by the AKP’s stakes on the social division prior the elections.

The cherished dream of the AKP to get parliamentarian majority of the 400 seats so as to be able to unilaterally force through a new constitution was shattered by the electoral success of the pro-Kurdish HDP. No wonder that in the course of the escalating violence with the Kurdish PKK, HDP and its co-chairman and ambitious politician Selahattin Demirtaş were accused of the support for separatism and terrorism in the mainstream pro-government media. Demonization of the HDP, as calculated by the AKP, should diminish the chance of the repeated electoral success in the early elections in November 2015.

Divide, provoke and rule

Other political parties, a social-democratic CHP and a far-right nationalist MHP, were successfully used by the AKP during the coalition talks. Lack of compromise between the parties and primarily on the side of the AKP, who gained 40.8% of the June vote, shows that parties were in fact preparing for early elections. Indeed, despite his claims that the nation needs a government as soon as possible, Erdoğan is eager to try to regain majority in the November elections, deploying all available means to tilt the scales to its own advantage.

All available means include those exceeding the limits of the democratic process. Using its cadres with the state machinery and powerful network of activists, AKP resorts to pressure and violent attacks on the critical media outlets who try to reveal dubious dealings of the government. The political opposition is subjected to attacks. In the meanwhile, the current government is attemptingto impose a regime of special rule in the eastern provinces so as to limit the process of electoral campaigning and elections, making it impossible for the HDP to campaign in its stronghold.

Photo: www.cagdasses.com
Pro-Kurdish HDP is targeted by the pro-government activits across the country

The spiraling chaos is a good background against which it is worth looking at Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in more detail, the venerable leader of the conservatives in AKP. By all means, the veteran politician wants to avoid losing his grip within the parliament. The stakes are high, Erdoğan is about to reach a peak in his political career, as many predict - successful rewriting of the secular constitution, imposed by the military regime in 1982. Following his plans to acquire enough parliamentary seats after the November elections, Erdoğan seems to present the nation two alternatives: either continuing bloodshed or much needed 400 seats for the AKP. This is a too well-known tactic among authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and beyond, where once elected rulers craving for more power present themselves as the only solution in conditions on instability and violence.

However, it would be too naïve to consider the current problems of Turkey a direct result of one man’s ambitions. Thorough analysis of the political evolution of the conservative forces united around the AKP, of the present state of the party’s ideological creativity and the interparty relations makes clear that the AKP stands before a watershed. This would affect not just the future of the political conservatives but more importantly the very consolidation of democracy in Turkey – or its disarray.

A historic background

The history of governmental changes in Turkey was marked by both more or less successful democratic changes and military overthrows. The nation experienced highly explosive political conflicts and ensuing military’s meddling at least four times for the last 55 years, beginning in 1960 when the Turkish experiment with multiparty system ended with a coup d’état and the execution of leaders of the then deposed Democratic Party.

Remarkably, it was the DP that became the springboard for religious conservatives who started organizing themselves into political force. They did so by utilizing available democratic means within the radically secular regime of the Turkish republic to uphold their own values and principles. The political evolution of the mainstream conservatives in the AKP went through the activity of such influential parties as National Order Party (1970-1971), National Salvation Party (1972-1981) and Welfare Party (1983-1998). These parties with their active engagement in the Turkish politics contributed considerably to the debate over the secular character of the Turkish regime. Thus, it is no wonder the army, who had been positing itself since the 1960’s as a guardian of Ataturk’s principles (among them secular character of the Turkish state), didn’t shun from closing these parties when secular regime seemed to be under the threat. In this way, it could deprive the above mentioned parties in particular and Turkish democracy in general of important experience. Tellingly, no religious conservative government in the Turkish history had by now been replaced by democratic means.

Photo: www.haberbosnak.com
AKP's current political leadership started their career in the formerly banned Welfare Party (Refah Partisi)

The wind of change came with the rise of the AKP, founded in 2001 by young reformist politicians of the formerly banned Welfare Party. The emphasis of the party on human rights (primarily in the sensible issue of religious freedoms), promises to limit the influence of the army in politics, neoliberal views on economy and progressive views of its leadership on the EU, foreign policy and the secular character of the state contributed to its tremendous electoral victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011. The AKP was praised internationally as a party that sensed the current zeitgeist and managed to satisfy the needs, hopes and demands of people for a change.

Democracy at the crossroads

The fascinating success story of the AKP, alas and alack, quickly turned into a story of the rise of a power hungry leviathan. Partly due to the lack of further progress in its own ideological creativity, partly due to the volatile international environment since the 2011, leadership within the AKP started taking unpopular steps to curb the opposing voices in the country. Most prominently, the Gezi protests revealed not only the tendency of the AKP to ignore the discontented, but also showed the widening gap between the European democratic standards and Turkish realities. The Arab uprisings and further regional turmoil led to the failed foreign policy and resulted in the prolonged quagmire in the neighboring countries of Syria and Iraq. It would not be a mistake to ascribe current problems of the government to both the lack of experience, unpreparedness of the Turkish foreign policy decision makers and ideological inertness of the Turkish leadership.

While at the pinnacle of its success, the AKP was seen as the potent force capable to bring the effective end to the prolonged armed struggle with the PKK. And indeed having successfully limited the army’s influence in the decision making in the 2000’s through democratic means, the AKP got the much needed free hand in dealing with the Kurdish issue. Positive changes were made regarding the use of the Kurdish language and a state TV channel in Kurdish began broadcasting in 2009. By no means drastic, such steps nevertheless brought support for the party among conservative Kurds, hence contributing to further electoral victories of the AKP. In 2013, unprecedented negotiations with the PKK over the possible cease-fire agreement and subsequent talks over a final solution to the conflict nourished hopes inside and outside Turkey.

Now, two years after, such hopes have vanished. The government is trying to rekindle the conflict anew while seeking political benefits from the chaos and uncertainty prior the coming elections in November. The electoral success of the pro-Kurdish HDP in June 2015 meant not only the challenge for the ruling party. With no majority in the Turkish parliament, Erdoğan’s dream to present a new constitution seems to remain just that. With all cards on the table after June 2015, the AKP has to cooperate with other parties, it has to make compromises including those that could potentially prevent them from achieving its ultimate goal.

Photo: www.haberler.com
A new constitution is seen as an ultimate goal of the religious-conservative withing the AKP

The time for a new constitution, that had to symbolize a triumph in the prolonged struggle of the AKP with the radical secular regime, was as ripe as never before. On the one hand, the AKP has been trying to present everything as an attempt to create a new regime with greater stability and lesser uncertainty. On the other hand, conservatives and Erdoğan himself, who sees the new constitution as a personal cause in his political career, have long wanted to use an existing social consensus over the need to abandon a military imposed constitution. Moreover, broad satisfaction among the Turks with rising standards of living in the past ten years would enable the AKP to introduce a new constitution unilaterally. In this way, it could tear down a regime that has been hostile to them for so many decades.

If results of the early elections in November don’t change the present picture, the AKP will be forced to share government with other parties, which means a lot. So far, all major opposition parties stated the investigation of the corruption cases within the AKP government as a main prerequisite for their possible participation in the national government. If so, the AKP is going to be forced to start legal actions against its high rank members and thereby aggravating the on-going crisis within the party itself.

As Erdoğan has effectively eclipsed other founding fathers of the AKP like former Turkish president Abdullah Gül, personalization of the party leadership around one figure leads to the overall stagnation. The tendency to the one-man rule hinders creativity and emergence of new ideas that could potentially bring support for the party among the voters. Most importantly, the concentration of the power in one man’s hands contributes to further fragmentation and division, a peculiarity of the Turkish party system.

Between democratization and consolidation of democracy

Samuel Huntington in one of his seminal works, “The Third Way: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century”, pointed out the essential prerequisites for successful democratization. One of the crucial issues is the readiness of a ruling political force to give up power within the democratic process as a result of free and fair elections. Huntington suggests to use a so-called “turnover test”, when a political party after being elected and running a government faces the prospect of being replaced by another party through democratic ballot. Of course, it is hard to talk about the AKP being replaced as a result of the June elections. However, even simple compromising over the government might tell us a lot about state of the Turkish democracy today.

Photo: www.dunyabulteni.net
Turkey's democracy is witnessing a critical period in its evolution to more consolidation

Although the electoral victory of the Islamist AKP in 2002 was no doubt a victory of the Turkish democracy, in a way a revolution for Turkey, it is now, nevertheless, important to see if Turkey manages to nurture a consolidated democratic system. All its major players should not only share a consensus over the rules of a game, democratic system should be perceived not merely as a means for realization of their political ambitions but as an ultimate goal itself.

The Director of the Center of Turkish Politics and History at Bilkent University, Prof. Metin Heper, describing Turkish democracy prior the AKP triumphant emergence in his book “Political Parties in Turkey” evaluates the prospects for such consolidation. “The first prerequisite for the consolidation of democracy is a consensus among the members of the political class on the rules of democracy – freedom of expression, absence of restrictions on political participation, free and fair elections, and the like. Second, there must be national unity; political actors must act in unison when democracy faces a critical threat. For them to act in such a manner there would be need for trust and harmony among political actors. For the consolidation of democracy in Turkey, political actors’ acting in a responsible as well as responsive manner is also an important prerequisite. This means paying attention to the long-term interests of the country”.

The atmosphere after the June elections and following strategy of the ruling party to curb political freedoms and to resort to authoritarian methods demonstrates that AKP is not ready so far to compromise and share power, thus undermining the prospects for the consolidation of democracy in Turkey. Bearing in mind the authoritarian inclinations inside the party, the fate of the Turkish democracy lies in the hands of the AKP and depends on whether it will be able to overcome these subversive tendencies and placate its ambitions for more power.


What does the US “pivot” to Asia mean for the Middle East?

Author: Timur Akhmetov, Graduate at Sakarya University


Barack Obama's presidency was marked by two important events that are relevant to the Middle East: the end of the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and the announcement of the "Pivot to Asia". Being closely interrelated with each other, these events are part of a more general process of reformulating of priorities in the American foreign policy. The important point is to understand the consequences of this trend for the political situation in the Middle East. This article aims to show that the pivot to Asia is of principal importance for the Middle East. It seems that the development of the region will take place at the expense of intra-regional dynamics within the framework facilitated by global players. The main lines of development of regional crises appear to be along the reformatting of state institutions, national boundaries and existing ideologies.

US pivots to Asia

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century it became an apparent fact that Asia has come to play an important role in international relations and global economy. The importance of Asian countries to the United States, in particular, has been recognized on the official level during the presidency of Barack Obama. Increasingly US officials began to sound calls to reformulate the principles of U.S. relations with Asian countries. The term "pivot" was first used by State Department head Hillary Clinton in 2011 in her article in Foreign Policy journal "American Pacific Century"[1]. Main rational for rebalancing towards Asia had been a set of problems ranging from dependence on Asian markets, investment and trade, ending with the objective necessity to establish a functional system of regional security between countries and promoting human rights and democratic norms in Asia.

An important aspect of the concept was a system of bilateral agreements with Asian countries for effective containment of China, which with its rapidly growing economy also increased its capability to project military power. Idea of so called containment "lite" should be conceived, according to the American strategists, as an attempt to make China give up aggressive activities in the region, while the inclusion of Beijing into regional economic projects, again under strict supervision of Washington, is designed to stimulate cooperation[2]. The assessment of the objective need to turn to Asia is shared by both political parties, thus the trend is bound to have a steady progress in the long run[3].

At the same time, the views of observers are directed at the Middle East, which until recently has enjoyed a priority for the United States due to historical ties and economic dependence of the parties. Economic problems of the early 21st century and financial constraints forced American leaders to reconsider the foundations and methods of interaction with the region. It is clear that the U.S. under the Obama administration is trying to reduce its dependence on political processes in the region to ensure the redistribution of available national resources for the successful implementation of the turn to Asia in the coming decades[4].

The dependence of the U.S. on the region for many decades has been based primarily on oil trade. Successful reduction of dependence became possible with the discovery of new methods in the development of shale gas in North America and diversification in supplies from other regions of the world[5]. In addition, important changes took place in a political context. As a result of the failed military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan political planning was focused on the elaborating of such a political line that could bring benefits with lesser military and political risk[6]. There was a noticeable shift in the ideological thinking as well. Launched by George W.Bush War on terror and naive attempts of the West to build a democratic society in Iraq from the outside not only failed, but also caused considerable damage to America's image in the region[7].

It would be erroneously, however, to believe that the United States intends to become a passive observer in the region. The total indifference of Washington toward political process in the Middle East is not only possible, but can also pose a threat to its national interests[8]. The underlying format of U.S. foreign policy at the moment is carried out according to the formula “to try as hard as possible to do as little as possible"[9]. This is evident not only in the actions of the American government in dealing with Syrian regime[10], but also in the fight against "Islamic state." The lack of a clear vision of the future of the Middle East after the alleged "pivot"[11] is combined with Washington's futile attempts to create a semblance of stability between Iran and the Gulf monarchies[12], as well as building a new concept of relations with Israel[13].

Powers and Middle East

Acknowledgement that the current American administration proposed "rebalancing" of national foreign resources in favor of Asia may entail instability in the short term and regional power vacuum in the long run[14]. This contributes to the fact that Washington is trying to attract a number of global players in controlling the situation in the Middle East, primarily within the so-called the strategy of «global engagement»[15]. But the problem is that the existing world powers have neither aspiration to take the place of the United States in the region nor the opportunity to do so. Regional players are also looking for a new "center of gravity" and trying to work out new approaches to the Middle East politics in the light of reduction of the U.S. involvement.

China's increasing demand for energy for its booming economy means that the country will not only be interested in the security of trade routes from the Persian Gulf, but also in political stability in the whole region[16]. One can judge about the possible involvement of China in the matters of the Middle East by the fact that Beijing already undertakes considerable measures in Pakistan and Afghanistan to stabilize and protect trade routes and to provide the safety of its economic projects[17]. However, it is worth noting that, unlike the U.S., China separates military and political cooperation from the ideological component, thereby focusing only on security issues and not interfering in the internal affairs of the partner countries and therefore not imposing standards of behaviour.

This circumstance makes China a welcome trading partner for the oil-rich Gulf countries, which are making desperate attempts to diversify its foreign relations with non-Western countries[18]. The absence of poor democratic credentials of these regimes makes them a target for criticism from Western partners, creating obstacles to trade and political cooperation. But in spite of the internal request for more Chinese involvement in the region, Beijing is actively adheres to extremely cautious policy of passive participation in the political process in the Middle East, it is not intending to replace the U.S. as the determining force, and thereby seeks to avoid strategic miscalculations made by Washington[19].

Countries of the region look at another traditional global power - Europe. The European powers recognized the dependence of their national economies on the supplies of Middle Eastern oil and gas, and thus its interest in stability, but so far, as many analysts state, the EU has not formed a unified position on the Middle East[20]. Value based foreign policy sometimes hinders Europe form developing deeper ties with the countries in the Middle East. Another important point is the humanitarian crisis in the region, which has a direct connection with the stability of the European countries, especially in the context of migration chaos of the last 5 years[21]. Despite the desire to be a decisive actor, Europe is all the same does not have sufficient resources, especially due to the current budget crisis and problems in the functioning of the pan-European institutions.

It is worth to consider the role of regional players in the Middle East. Until recently it was well accepted fact that the region has not witnessed the emergence of a recognized regional leader[22]. Nowadays states are trying to use the emerging opportunity to expand influence in the region. The military intervention in Yemen in 2015 in response to the seizure of power by the Huthi movement shows, in particular, that one of the potential candidates for regional leadership, Saudi Arabia, intends to use multilateral coalition of countries as a tool to respond to emerging crises on its borders[23]. Other countries, like Turkey, are in the process of developing alternative mechanisms for cooperation[24]. All this shows that the United States prefers, on the one hand, that countries took all the risks in conducting regional policy, but on the other hand is interested in the balance of power between the players to provide some level of stability[25].

Security issues and internal political dynamics

Security issues in the Middle East will continue to be a priority in the foreign policy planning in Washington[26]. The participation of the U.S. in the next few years is based on the existing alliance commitments to the partner states. The revised approach to the framework conditions of regional security will be combined with the involvement of regional players and assignment of more space for the development of the domestic political dynamics in the Middle East[27].

Considerable changes seem to be expected in the ideological dimension. It is necessary to note that Washington will further apply adaptive approach to the democracy promotion in the region. If until recently the United States put development of democracy in the Middle East at the forefront[28], it eventually came to comprehension that working democracy can not be imposed from the outside and be rooted in conditions of political crisis[29]. In practical terms, these changes became evident in the US position on the protest movement in Bahrain, civil war in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict[30] and recognition of the Islamists as a potential partner in the development of democracy in the Middle East[31].

In this case, countries of the region, where working democracy has not been yet established, are likely to face a more acute problem of having to reformat state institutions[32]. The collapse of a state, which has historically been the scourge of the modern Middle East, will be accompanied by the growing role of non-state actors, which will increasingly defy central authorities, present an alternative ideology and national identity[33]. The latter fact is particularly important since the existing problems are rooted in lack of legitimacy of political regimes among the population[34] and politically active citizens striving for more democracy[35].

Authoritarian regimes, which are face to face with the instability on the national borders and challenges within society, will be ready to use ideological elements of religious identity for the consolidation and legitimization of power under conditions of complete uncertainty. Sectarianism as a political tool may be used by regimes determined to stifle democratic initiatives and to suppress political opposition[36]. In addition, religious narratives may be employed in the foreign policy of countries as a way to influence the weaker countries in the fight for the right to direct the development of the Middle East[37]. In this regard, there is a risk that the sectarian conflicts that were in the past a mere extension of political conflicts can turn into a full-fledged religious wars. It will not be about political goals, but about values ​​that automatically makes any possible conflict in the region virtually unsolvable[38].


Taking this in consideration, we can conclude that the change in the priorities of the US foreign policy, which is based on the desire of Washington to effectively respond on the emerging threats to its national interests, has significant long-term implications for the Middle East. Reduction of US involvement in regional political processes not only invites other global players, but also creates the conditions for engagement of the regional powers. The coming change will create conditions under which the internal political dynamics can be a determining factor in the development of the whole region. The United States will continue to contribute to the Middle Eastern security, keeping a relatively leading position, but more and more initiatives will be coming from the countries. In these circumstances, the need for reform of the existing government institutions, search for new ideologies and adaptation of old ones, formation of alternative modes of cooperation will become more apparent than ever before.

[1] Clinton, Hillary. "America’s Pacific Century." Foreign Policy Americas Pacific Century Comments. 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 7 June 2015. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/11/americas-pacific-century/>.
[2] Carter, Ashton B. "United States Department of Defense." Defense.gov Deputy Secretary of Defense Speech: The U.S. Strategic Rebalance to Asia: A Defense Perspective. 1 Aug. 2012. Web. 7 June 2015. <http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1715>.
[3] McCain, John. "The Pivot to India." Foreign Policy The Pivot to India Comments. 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 9 June 2015. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/09/29/the-pivot-to-india/>.
[4] "A Dangerous Modesty." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 6 June 2015. Web. 25 June 2015. <http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21653617-america-has-learnt-hard-way-it-cannot-fix-problems-middle-east-barack>.
[5] Kaplan, Robert D. "The End of the Middle East?" Stratfor. 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 7 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/end-middle-east>.
[6] Young, Michael. "US May Regret Turning Its Back on the Region | The National." US May Regret Turning Its Back on the Region | The National. 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 July 2015. <http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/us-may-regret-turning-its-back-on-the-region>.
[7] Feaver, Peter. "Obama: The War on Terror Has Ended, Long Live the War on Terror." Foreign Policy Obama The War on Terror Has Ended Long Live the War on Terror Comments. 24 May 2013. Web. 7 June 2015. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/24/obama-the-war-on-terror-has-ended-long-live-the-war-on-terror/>.
[8] Kaplan, Robert D. "The End of the Middle East?" Stratfor. 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 7 June 2015. <https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/end-middle-east>.
[9] Rothkopf, David. "The Middle East's Pivot to Asia." Foreign Policy The Middle East’s Pivot to Asia Comments. 24 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 June 2015. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/24/the-middle-easts-piv>.
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