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Whither Regional Security in West Asia?

10th Anniversary Issue The Definition

Whither Regional Security in West Asia?

Murat Yesiltas

In recent years, Turkey, in particular, has faced a complex security environment in the Middle East. The country has endured a wide range of challenging situations – from cross-border counter-terrorism operations to multidimensional tensions with neighbouring states. A multitude of political, military and economic considerations have influenced the country’s security and defence policies.

First, the Middle East has seen a considerable military build-up over the last decade. A major question is why Middle Eastern countries have been increasingly investing in sophisticated weapon systems. Is insecurity caused by the turmoil in the region the primary driver, or are Middle Eastern states aiming to revise the regional order so as to advance greedy motives and self-gain at the expense of others?

For Turkey, conventional military build-up is particularly important in the Eastern Mediterranean, as the country has conflicting interests with Greece and Israel in respect of Cyprus and natural gas exploration. Turkey will continue to keep its armed forces intact and develop further capabilities in order to deter and counter any aggression related to these matters.

Second, the ongoing conflict in Syria and the fight against the PKK will remain among the most significant security issues for Turkey. The primary concern for Turkey in respect of the war in Syria is the existence and power capabilities of the PKK. The PKK has logistically supplied its operations in Turkey through Syrian territory as it mobilizes violence, money and military material along the border.

Ankara did not tolerate territorial rule by the PKK west of the Euphrates River and launched two cross-border military operations to neutralize the terrorist group. Ankara has also consistently underlined that it will not accept a PKK-ruled or autonomous region in the eastern Euphrates, and is actively preparing for contingencies in order to eliminate PKK elements in that region.

Of course, it would not be possible to provide a comprehensive picture of Turkey’s threat perceptions in the Middle East without taking into consideration the country’s bilateral relations with both the US and Russia. Possible fluctuations in Turkish-American and Turkish-Russian relations will continue to significantly influence Ankara’s strategic security preferences in the near term. Turkey will use all diplomatic channels in order to come to an agreement with the US on the S-400 and F-35 dilemma, and also in respect of the situation in eastern Syria. As for Russia, Turkey will continue to enhance its relations with that important neighbour, and the two countries will maintain their coordination in Syria. Turkey will also be looking internally, within the region itself, to reinforce and build alliances that can enhance its security and advance the cause of greater stability and security in its geopolitical space.

Murat Yesiltas is Director of Security Studies at the SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Ankara, Turkey. His latest book is Non-State Military Actors in the Middle East: Geopolitics, Strategy and Ideology.

 

Saeed Khatibzadeh

We must move towards a ‘strong’ region without the need for ‘strongmen.’

The notion that the only way to achieve peace and stability in the region is through rule by ‘strongmen’ is widely embraced and speaks to the mentality of most senior experts and intellectuals in the Middle East.

Of course, we have had different types of strongmen in West Asia and North Africa for decades, and yet the peace was not kept. Indeed, insecurity has remained a prevalent feature of most of the region’s states. It is therefore high time that we adopt new approaches.

Everything starts with assumptions, which then inform specific concepts and analysis. In the Middle East, we have, first and foremost, suffered from wrong assumptions. These wrong assumptions have ultimately led to poor concepts and misleading analysis concerning our circumstances. The natural consequence has been erroneous recommendations and destructive policies.

This is exactly why we need new and creative conceptual frameworks that can help us change the catastrophic circumstances of a region defined by war and conflict over the course of decades. These circumstances have been the result of various interconnected factors, including: the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the large-scale human tragedies still unfolding in Syria and Yemen; the power politics of major extra-regional forces, their direct and indirect interventions, and rivalries between regional players that have constantly held the region hostage; the normalization of violence and war in the region through the constant use of naked force – particularly after the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; the barbaric brutality of terrorist Salafi and Wahhabi groups like ISIS; and the militarization and securitization of the region through the selling of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment by the US, Europe, China and Russia.

These factors have gone hand in hand with more systemic realities like that of weak and failed states trapped in identity and legitimacy crises, as well as a basic lack of communication and interaction between and among regional players – all resulting in structural chaos in West Asia.

What the region now needs most is a conceptual and practical framework. The blueprint for this framework can be found in the format of the recent nuclear talks. 

 

What the region now needs most is a conceptual and practical framework. The blueprint for this framework can be found in the format of the recent nuclear talks. Thanks to its multilateral setting, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) helped to address – decisively, and until the disruptions to the deal brought about by Washington – one of the most complicated, protracted and unnecessary crises in the region and the world.

The key ingredients of such a framework should be: first, a belief in inclusive political solutions to the region’s problems, from Syria to Yemen; second, the acceptance and adoption of diplomacy and dialogue based on mutual respect and equality among participants; third, the recognition of mutual and collective rights and responsibilities; and fourth, the mobilization of political will to reach mutually and collectively acceptable solutions based on a win-win approach, recognizing that no one party can gain security at the expense of the insecurity of other parties.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, has been an active advocate for the concept of a ‘strong region’ in the Persian Gulf and its immediate neighbourhood. Based on what he describes as a ‘security network,’ all regional states (small or large) can interact with one another, and jointly contribute to peace and stability for mutual and collective benefit. Those in the driver’s seat of this process should primarily be regional rather than extra-regional actors.

The core of this concept is dialogue and the rejection of any form of dominance or hegemonic aspirations by any power. The creation of a Regional Dialogue Forum in the Persian Gulf could well be the first step toward this strong region. This forum could be established under UN aegis according to UN Security Council Resolution 598, which calls for a security arrangement among the littoral states of the Persian Gulf region.

Saeed Khatibzadeh is Vice-President of the Institute for International and Political Studies in Tehran, Iran.

 

Ross Harrison

Certain types of conflict have a paradoxical way of paving a path toward eventual peace and cooperation between adversaries. In 1975, at the height of the Cold War, two rival alliance systems – the US-backed NATO and the Soviet-backed Warsaw Pact – signed the Helsinki Accords. This agreement was a cooperative effort both to mitigate security threats and build economic and cultural ties between East and West. While non-binding, it did open a channel for dialogue on major issues that served the interests of states on both sides of the Cold War divide.

Could a similar arrangement work today for a Middle East racked by civil war in Syria, Yemen and Libya, and increasingly fraught with tensions between the major regional powers – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel? And if so, would the US agree to be a sponsor? Would Russia?

The Middle East is not completely at ground zero when it comes to regional cooperation. The ongoing, albeit informal, arrangement for mitigating conflict in Syria is an example. The Astana process between Russia, Iran and Turkey has shown a modicum of success in transitioning Syria out of the most lethal phase of civil war violence.

Still, the US has been only on the sidelines of peace efforts such as this one – particularly since Russia’s star rose in 2015 with its intervention in Syria. Moreover, the Trump administration seems to be pushing in a direction opposite to that of regional cooperation. The intention to draw-down troops from Syria, the ratcheting up of hostility toward Iran, and the hard pivot in favour of Saudi Arabia and Israel indicate that Washington now lacks the political will and leverage to advocate for a region-wide security arrangement.

Does this mean that, absent US leadership, the prospects for traction on cooperation are dim? There are many other seemingly insuperable obstacles strewn on the road to any kind of inclusive security arrangement for the Middle East. The aforementioned major regional powers are locked in a conflict trap, competing for influence in the civil war zones of the Middle East. The inability of these actors to calibrate their power amid the fog of civil wars in Syria, Yemen and even post-war Iraq stokes rather than reverses the security dilemmas, fuelling situations in which states have little incentive to cooperate, but instead deem it more rational to escalate out of fear and anticipation that their rivals will do the same.

The news gets worse when considering that the incentive structure at home for regional powers like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel militates against cooperation. This is because the political (and economic) costs of cooperating on security are incurred in the short term, while the benefits are likely to accrue only in the long term. For states struggling with regime legitimacy issues, this cost-benefit calculus does not work. Common interests are abstract and hazy, while the conflicts are immediate and more compelling.

In terms of global powers supplying the political will to cooperate, the mood is no more positive. The nuclear deal (JCPOA) between the P5+1 and Iran was in fact a collective effort by the global powers toward creating a better security environment for the Middle East. And since the US breached the deal in 2018, there has been little appetite in Europe, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran – let alone Washington – for an ambitious Middle East security initiative.

If there is any good news, it is that the regional powers recognize that their long-term future hinges on a more secure regional environment. In back-channel (Track-2) meetings, representatives from these countries maintain open communication lines on cooperation. 

If there is any good news, it is that the regional powers recognize that their long-term future hinges on a more secure regional environment. In back-channel (Track-2) meetings, representatives from these countries maintain open communication lines on cooperation. However, all efforts await the political will of regional and global powers to move the Middle East in a more productive direction.

Ross Harrison is on the faculties of Georgetown University and the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC. 

 

Andrey Kortunov

Russian policy in the Middle East region can probably be considered one of areas of most significant achievement for President Putin in recent years. With relatively small material investments and minimal combat losses, Moscow managed to transform itself from an almost imperceptible supernumerary on the Middle East scene into one of the region’s main actors, without which not a single major issue of regional security can be resolved today. Russian successes are even more impressive if one compares the results of the Russian operation in Syria with those of the intervention of the US and its allies in Iraq in 2003.

Russian achievements in the region require some explanation. Some observers believe that Moscow’s victories are related to the fact that, after its unsuccessful involvement in Iraq, the US essentially abandoned new interventionist actions in the region during the Obama years, leaving behind a geopolitical power vacuum. Russia has filled this vacuum promptly and without excessively high costs.

Another explanation comes down to the fact that the Kremlin has outplayed its Western rivals due to a higher standard of expert advice in respect of its Middle Eastern policy. Unlike American strategists, the Russian leadership continues to rely on a highly professional community of Orientalists who know and understand the region well.

The third explanation is that the main advantage of President Putin was the consistency and stability of his policies in the region – policies that earned Russia, if not love, then at least respect not only from Moscow’s Middle Eastern partners, but also from its Middle Eastern adversaries. By contrast, Western countries, which have often changed their positions over the course of the development of the Middle Eastern drama, have largely lost credibility with the leaders and political elites of the region.

Another explanation for the successes of Moscow is that, in contradistinction to other influential international players, Russia was able to maintain constructive relations with almost all sides of the Middle East conflicts – with the Israelis and Palestinians, with the Sunnis and Shiites, with the Turks and Kurds, and with Iran and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. In all likelihood, this peculiarity of Russia’s positioning in the region is directly related to the country’s initially marginal status in the Middle East (in the post-Soviet context): prior to the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring,’ Russia was, unlike the US, not burdened by rigid frameworks of close, allied relations with individual regional forces. Moscow is therefore now better suited to play the role of ‘honest broker’ in the region than Washington.

Having said this, in terms of actual engagement in Middle Eastern affairs, Russia’s comparative advantage remains tenuous. This is especially evident in Syria, where the preservation of the numerous ‘intra-Syrian’ equilibria has become increasingly difficult. Moreover, with the military defeat of ISIS, a common enemy has disappeared for many players in the Syrian theatre. Bashar Al-Assad is becoming increasingly tough and uncompromising in his dialogue with the Syrian opposition, demanding unconditional surrender. Iran, having thoroughly entrenched itself on Syrian territory, is also less inclined to compromise with its opponents. For its part, Israel, fearing a growing Iranian presence and the strengthening of Hezbollah, and relying on the almost unconditional support of the Trump administration, is expanding its air operations over Syrian airspace. Turkey is in a hurry to consolidate successes in the west and in the north of the country, creating a buffer zone on the Syrian-Turkish border. Syrian Kurds are nervous – not without reason – and await another betrayal by their tactical allies and partners.

This means that Moscow must look for solutions to the problems of the Middle East that would allow Russia to convert its current military successes into more sustainable – even if more contestable – political influence in the region.

The question then arises: is Moscow capable of preserving the current status quo in Syria – and indeed in the region as a whole – in the long term, even if this status quo is in Russia’s interests? At the time of this writing, such preservation would seem unlikely not only over the long term, but even over the medium term. This means that Moscow must look for solutions to the problems of the Middle East that would allow Russia to convert its current military successes into more sustainable – even if more contestable – political influence in the region.

The official position of Moscow is that the best solution to the challenges of the Middle East would be to create an inclusive regional collective security system. Such a system would be tantamount to a Middle East version of the European Helsinki process of the 1970s, with the active support of the UN Security Council and the formation of a regional counterpart of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe. Perhaps such a design, while not possible in the foreseeable future, would be a solution to the security problems of the region – although it is worth noting that, in Europe itself, this model did not prevent the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.

Andrey Kortunov is Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow.

 

Benedikt Franke

For all practical intents and purposes, the Middle East lies in shatters. At this year’s Munich Security Conference, the leaders of organizations like the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, Save the Children, UNICEF and Amnesty International voiced their despair for the region that has by now become home to virtually every single one of today’s worst humanitarian catastrophes – the biggest refugee crisis, the biggest food crisis, and the biggest health crisis.

As I have argued before, one must hope that this tragic accumulation of disasters leads to what the New Zealand historian John Pocock once called a ‘Machiavellian Moment’ for the region – a moment where regional leaders finally understand the full enormity of the challenge in front of them, and begin to fight for its resolution; a moment where leaders become ready to think big; and, most importantly, a moment where leaders become ready to talk to each other and develop a common vision of the future.

Europe has faced many such moments in the past. The suffering of the Thirty Years’ War eventually led to the treaties of Münster and Osnabrück and, in the end, to the Peace of Westphalia, which defined inter-state relations in Europe for hundreds of years. The misery of WW2 led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually became the basis for the EU – despite its many obvious shortcomings, surely history’s most successful example of a regional peace project. It turned enemies into friends, and devastation into prosperity.

As Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier put it back in 2016, when he was foreign minister: “The Peace of Westphalia is not a blueprint for peace in the Middle East. But if we look at it closely enough, we will see that it does offer us a number of instruments, methods and ideas.” 

This is not to say that the Middle East needs to follow European recipes for turning disaster into regional governance mechanisms. But the European experience, and in particular the striking parallels between the Middle East of today and the war-torn Europe of 1648, may offer some clues for useful first steps. Or, as Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier put it back in 2016, when he was foreign minister: “The Peace of Westphalia is not a blueprint for peace in the Middle East. But if we look at it closely enough, we will see that it does offer us a number of instruments, methods and ideas.”

The Munich Security Conference will continue to do its little bit to provide a stage to those trying to find those tools, methods and ideas in order to begin to build peace in a region so needing of it.

Benedikt Franke is the Chief Operating Officer of the Munich Security Conference.

 

Kishore Mahbubani & Yanan Tan

Few can disagree that West Asia today is a troubled region. Protracted conflict has plagued countries like Yemen, Syria and Iraq for much of the 20th and 21st centuries. Meanwhile, tensions are simmering between member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Few see hope for successful regional integration in West Asia.

However, those who despair about West Asia should remember that Southeast Asia was similarly troubled in 1967, when Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). While Communist parties made steady incursions into Indochina, the five founding members of ASEAN feared a similar fate as they faced Communist insurgencies in their own backyards. Relations were similarly tense between the ASEAN founders: Singapore had recently been expelled from the Malaysian Federation, Indonesia had ended its undeclared war with Malaysia and Singapore only a year earlier, and the Philippines and Malaysia were still embroiled in conflicting claims over a large portion of Sabah.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asia’s remarkable cultural, ethnic and religious diversity – the result of centuries of contact with Indian, Chinese and Muslim civilizations and Western colonization – also convinced many observers that ASEAN was headed toward conflict. Indeed, the diversity of Southeast Asia, which today is home to some 266 million Muslims, 146 million Christians, 149 million Buddhists, and millions of Hindus, Taoists and Confucianists, led the British historian Charles Fisher to describe the region in 1962 as the “Balkans of the Orient.” Adherents of Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis believed that ASEAN’s attempt to forge cooperation within this multi-civilizational region would invariably fail.

Yet, just half a century later, ASEAN has defied these pessimistic prognoses. Through the establishment of multilateral networks and trade agreements, ASEAN has become a positive organizing force for the region, transforming a region fraught with conflict and tensions into one of relative peace and prosperity.

With China’s rise now raising questions about what the arrival of a new global power will mean for West Asia’s geopolitical dynamics, ASEAN’s experience with China can again provide a view into the future of West Asia.

With China’s rise now raising questions about what the arrival of a new global power will mean for West Asia’s geopolitical dynamics, ASEAN’s experience with China can again provide a view into the future of West Asia. China is aware that ASEAN has been crucial to its successful economic reform and opening up to the world. When the West isolated China following the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, ASEAN continued to engage with it. When China joined the WTO in 2001, ASEAN responded enthusiastically to its proposal for enhanced economic cooperation. Bref, China’s experience with ASEAN has shown Beijing that it is in its interests to support the creation of strong regional organizations.

As China seeks to build up infrastructure and connectivity across the Eurasian landmass through the Belt and Road Initiative, it has an even greater interest today in promoting regional integration in the West Asian region – a region that lies at the very heart of these trade routes. China will therefore be happy to see an Association of West Asian Nations that is as successful as ASEAN.

Kishore Mahbubani is Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. His latest book is Has the West Lost It?

Yanan Tan is a research assistant at the National University of Singapore.

 

Sam Sasan Shoamanesh

For over a decade, including in the pages of GB, I have questioned – often in bewilderment – why a volatile, conflict-ridden region like West Asia stands as one of the only regions in the world without an effective, inclusive regional mechanism capable of managing and defusing conflict. And I have been busily working, in theory and in practice, to see how this crucial regional theatre – the constituent countries and players of which have more in common than not in terms of history, languages and culture – can move toward greater regional security and integration.

The turmoil and experience of West Asia over the past several years have only reinforced my conviction that the region’s security vacuum and status quo are simply untenable. What are the (harsh) realities and consequences of this state of regional disorder and division? In short, perpetual, region-wide instability, on-the-ground misery for the region’s inhabitants, and poor prospects for collective success in the absence of a more coherent regional block vis-à-vis other competitive and ever-progressing regional theatres. Constant regional insecurity, coupled with recurring military misadventures, also has direct, deleterious spillover effects for neighbouring Europe, Central Asia, Russia and China, for the global economy and energy markets and – to be sure – for international peace and security.

For proof, one need look no further than the conflicts in the region since the turn of the century – in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere – and the chaos and destructive forces they have unleashed domestically, regionally and, in many cases, beyond the immediate geographical contours of West Asia.

With the war drums beating again – this time in the Persian Gulf toward the shores of Iran – another catastrophe is in the making. As my colleague Irvin Studin, Editor-in-Chief of GB, recently observed, “[w]ar with Iran would further radicalize America, collapse the European Union outright through unprecedented refugee flows, and risk a kinetic clash between the US and Russia.” Let me also add, for good measure, the Chinese dimension. China and Iran enjoy age-old amicable relations and are parties to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership.’ This is to say nothing of the obvious relations and growing investments of China in the region at large, including with Saudi Arabia and other West Asian states.

As such, China is unlikely to stand by idly and watch the region further destabilized. Beijing fully appreciates the importance (and unique geography) of Iran – and indeed the importance of the region in toto – to its own grand strategy and to the full implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. It also knows that any clash with Iran, apart from metastasizing into a regional war, would also likely exacerbate great-power tensions and even possibly precipitate direct conflict among the great powers.

There is great urgency to defuse this growing crisis – including through the restoration of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) to the fullest extent possible, and by building on the initial diplomatic success of the JCPOA, notwithstanding the American withdrawal, in order to drive collaboration on other regional issues. More broadly, there is a pressing need to find sustainable solutions to the region’s security dilemma through permanent and inclusive mechanisms designed to ensure effective emergency communication, as well as to promote dialogue and trust-building measures with the aim of preventing conflict. Bref, the region’s states desperately need to recalibrate their zero-sum conception of security in favour of security cooperation and conflict management.

Here is a veritable fact: West Asia will not see peace and security if West Asian states themselves do not assume responsibility, first and foremost, for their own geopolitical space in a manner that embraces regional diplomacy and dialogue – including with adversaries – and is conducive to common security. The hegemonic aspirations of any one state – within the region or beyond – must be rejected in favour of regional harmony, security and joint security ownership and responsibility.

To realize a more peaceful regional landscape, West Asian states must recognize that they cannot wish away their neighbours, but must instead work toward détente, reconciling differences or, at a minimum, negotiating a modus vivendi with sufficient safeguards to prevent all-out war.

At the time of this writing, such rapprochement is especially pressing in the sub-region of the Persian Gulf, where tensions between the littoral states are becoming increasingly acute in the context of the Saudi-Iranian bras de fer.

To be sure, no limited, sub-regional security framework that excludes key regional states and relies on partnerships with outside powers alone at the expense of the security (or security perceptions) of other regional states can be a viable model for long-term, sustainable regional stability. Such schemes will only exacerbate the region’s security dilemma and serve as a source of regional division and instability. Containment, as a policy and posture advanced in the region both during and after the Cold War, has also hardly been an agent of peace and regional stability; on the contrary.

Only strategic alliances that can have a multiplier effect on regional security through inclusivity, dialogue and confidence-building can be a recipe for regional stability. Most immediately, in order to de-escalate the foolish march to yet another war in the region, an inclusive multilateral ministerial summit should be organized – possibly by way of a special emergency session of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, with the participation of all West Asian states, member states, observer states and international organizations – specifically the UN, the Arab League and the OSCE, and ideally with the support and active participation of the P5, leading EU states and EU representatives.

The summit could facilitate discussion on whether an enforceable non-aggression pact – including the necessary guarantees, and supported by the UN and other key actors – could be negotiated, starting with the Persian Gulf littoral states. This is not abstract. The Iranians recently put this very proposal on the table – a proposal that included the revival of the idea of a new regional security arrangement among the littoral states of the Persian Gulf on the basis of paragraph 8 of UN Security Council Resolution 598 (1987). Moscow has reacted positively.

That overture and opportunity should be explored and given due consideration as part of the ongoing efforts to defuse this brewing crisis.

Also, why not appoint a special envoy of the UN Secretary-General in response to the crisis and pursuant to the aforementioned Security Council Resolution, with a specific mandate and full authority to work with West Asian states and other relevant actors to bring the parties together – starting with an agenda dedicated to de-escalating the current tensions in the Persian Gulf theatre, and specifically vis-à-vis the Strait of Hormuz? A skilled envoy, respected by all sides, could work to commit the parties jointly to design and implement confidence-building measures, as well as facilitate discussions on strengthening the region’s mechanisms for security dialogue and conflict management. Moreover, this envoy’s work would be entirely complementary with the ongoing work of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Building on the momentum, the aforementioned summit could quickly become a standing forum for West Asia, serving as a regional platform for security dialogue, where the various threat perceptions and emerging security crises could be discussed and treated in an institutionalized manner, without the outbreak of war.

The region’s leaders have a choice. They can either act as term-setters and take visionary and necessary action to renegotiate and reset their outdated regional order to their collective advantage, or continue on the current trajectory, allowing the region’s security to be shaped according to the strategic imperatives of others.

The region’s leaders have a choice. They can either act as term-setters and take visionary and necessary action to renegotiate and reset their outdated regional order to their collective advantage, or continue on the current trajectory, terribly divided, allowing the region’s security to be shaped at the whim and according to the strategic imperatives of others.

A number of co-contributors to this segment have noted in their analysis that, on balance, the interests of regional and global powers favour a more secure regional environment, and that this confluence of interests should conduce to proper support for exploring new, more inclusive regional security arrangements in West Asia.

I can only echo these sentiments and repeat my call for West Asian states, with bona fide international support, to work jointly toward establishing a new regional security and cooperation architecture for the region – one based on respect for international law and the fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter, making use of helpful precedents such as the 1999 Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations between the CICA Members-States and the 1975 Decalogue of the Helsinki Final Act. These principles include respect for sovereignty and the sovereign equality of all members, a commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes, refraining from the threat or use of force (and the execution of a non-aggression pact), respect for the territorial integrity and political independence of all members, and promotion of cooperation among states.

A more integrated and stable West Asian region that fully embraces common security is a long-term project requiring time and incremental steps. A number of interim confidence-building measures and initiatives should be considered. I will speak to all of these and more in a future GB piece.

It takes the wisdom of strategic patience and the courage of painstaking diplomacy and compromise to win peace, but only seconds of hubris and short-sightedness to sow the seeds of long-term discord and war. And it will take responsible leadership to see the forest beyond the trees, build trust among allies and foes alike, and work toward realizing a more promising future for the people of West Asia, and collective West Asian success in this new century.

Sam Sasan Shoamanesh is Managing Editor of Global Brief and Vice-President of the Institute for 21st Century Questions. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

 

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