World Politics in 2022: Middle East and Africa

Still at the beginning of the year, it is time to review the challenges of global society, their respective governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and multi- and transnational private entities. Apart from what was mentioned in the previous column, the pandemic and the problems of the global supply chain, there are challenges that transcend borders and the domestic gaze. Similarly, there are domestic issues that are transcendental and whose impact will be felt beyond a native audience. There are seven continents, each one with its particularities, and although not all of them appear in the inventory, what happens in one necessarily impacts the conglomerate.

Let’s start with Asia, including the Middle East. In this 2022 the Arab world seems to have definitively forgotten Palestine and the Palestinians. It is not just the fact that the state of Israel is systematically displacing them from their ancestral lands, it is that their Arab neighbors nod and acquiesce for the sake of pragmatism and strategic goals that are puzzling. I refer here to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates who, along with Sudan and Morocco, have established diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

There is no problem with normalizing relationships; it should be applauded and welcomed, but it should never have been at the expense of the legitimate demands of a people that claims self-determination. Of course, the deep wound to Palestine and the Palestinians is also self-inflicted: they should do an exercise in introspection and look at possibilities beyond Fatah (PLO) and Hamas. Neither is any longer a spokesperson or standard-bearer for the Palestinians.

At the same time, the rapprochement of the Arab countries with Israel also occurs in the form of understandings that, although lacking in formality, seek convergence on geopolitical and strategic issues. What I mean by this is that the questioning of the existence of the State of Israel has already disappeared from the mouths of the principals, in exchange for what is perceived as a threat—also existential—to the region. Thus, the relative closeness between Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Jerusalem occurs in the context of what they perceive to be the dire shadow of Iran.

In the case of Africa, the perennial catastrophic cycle of civil wars takes us this time to Ethiopia, where the confrontation between government troops and rebels of the Tigray ethnic group has revealed the atrocious side of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the undeserved recipient of an award Peace Nobel. I was precisely reflecting recently on how hasty —and mistaken— I was in endorsing in a past column the award to what, I presume, is a dictator and a war criminal.

On the other hand, the weakness of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been in civil war for six decades, continues to be apparent in terms of the little benefit that the exploitation of its mineral resources reverts to the good pleasure of its people. It is not just the fact of an endemically corrupt government culture and the West’s exploitation of its cobalt and coltan mines—necessary for high-tech products like our cell phones—that the cycle of tragic dependency It does not finish. Today, China appears to be the new master of cobalt and other minerals in Congo-Kinshasa.

Although these events may seem distant, in reality they are not. It is not only the fact that constant instability endangers the hiatus of precarious tranquility in the populations of these countries, it is that this instability induces, in the case of Africa, the endless cycle of death, hunger, poverty and insecurity; these in turn force individuals and families to become involved in the endless cycle of population displacement, which in turn fuels the migration crisis.

The solutions must certainly come from within, seeking to open up to democratic plurality and betting on breaking the cycle of marginality and dependency. In the case of the Middle East, the lines that are drawn are not only unfair, they seek above all to maintain, in the case of Iran, its status as a pariah nation in a geopolitical theater in which everyone wants to throw the first stone towards Tehran, without be free from sin. If confrontation displaces diplomacy in this area, the West—I mean the United States—will inevitably be pulled in and forced to intervene.

The next column will talk about the challenges that Europe and the rest of Asia will face. Until then, happy return to the work week.

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World Politics in 2022: Middle East and Africa