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The (Regional) Quadripartite Alliance 21 août 2009

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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Dar Al-Hayat (London-based Arabic newspaper), 21 August 2009

by Walid Shuqayr

During his visit to Tehran a couple of days ago and during his meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Seyyed Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad called for a quadripartite alliance that includes Syria and Iran, with Iraq and Turkey joining it. For his part, Khamene’i supported the formation of such an alliance, from which the region could benefit. These developments indicate that the regional moves to find formulae for adapting to the evolving international situation that the new US Administration’s policy has created are imposing on states the need to come up with equations that take into consideration the forthcoming stage. These equations are based on maintaining previous alliances, in parallel with searching for changes in old policies.

Al-Asad’s visit to Tehran has proved the solidness of the continued Syrian-Iranian alliance. This is despite the conflicting behaviour that each of them has sometimes demonstrated in dealing with certain issues, including Iraq and the peace process with Israel. The two states and the two leaderships still need one another, even if the challenge before each of them involves keeping pace with the ramifications of the promised US policies. These policies include openness, engagement in dialogue, negotiations, and sometimes pressure. This is instead of open confrontation and war, which dominated the previous US Administration’s policy and totally influenced the situation in the international arena.

As we await the Obama administration’s practical steps, whether at the level of the peace process and the Arab-Israeli conflict or at the level of the Iranian nuclear issue, most of the concerned states in the region are seeking to keep all their cards in their hands. This is why the talk about the continued cooperation between Iran and Syria to support resistance movements in the region is coupled with comments by President Al-Asad and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, such as « the doors of the international community will be more open to Syria and Iran than they were in the past, » as the former said, and « today, the world has realized that it needs the cooperation and support of Iran and Syria, » as the latter uttered.

The idea of shifting from the currently existing quadripartite cooperation between Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq to an alliance is a way of adjusting to coming developments. The four states already have formulae of cooperation between them that have been reinforced through practice in recent years, particularly since the US occupation of Iraq. These cooperation formulae are based on mutual interests in dealing with the issue of the Kurds in these states in the first place. They are also grounded on the idea of the provision of mutual security services and the exchange of political services to the advantage of the regional role of each of these four players. Accordingly, Iran benefits from Turkey as a channel with the Americans and the West, and from Iraq and Syria as a means of its regional expansion. As for Iraq, it benefits from the three other states in supporting a minimum level of stability. For its part, Syria benefits from Iran as a means for strengthening its negotiating cards with the West, as well as in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas. This is in addition to reinforcing its position towards the other Arab states, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Syria also benefits from Turkey by guaranteeing more stability internally and along its border, in addition to covering its back against Israel through Ankara, which serves as a mediator between Syria and the Jewish State.

The quadripartite cooperation between the four states has tolerated the conflict in policies on several regional issues. Perhaps taking this cooperation to a higher level, meaning the level of an alliance, could alleviate such conflicts. This is because these states have obligations that impose on each of them the need to engage in settlements or deals with the West and the United States. This alliance could also help reach comprehensive rather than partial settlements, which serve the interests of one of these parties at the expense of another. Turkey can serve as a balance point in such a process.

Nevertheless, like the currently existing cooperation between these four parties, the regional quadripartite alliance excludes influential states in the region that play a role in the regional issues with which the four states are dealing. Foremost among these active states are Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Such cooperation becomes a means of ignoring the role of these two states and their pivotal impact on these issues. As a result, any settlements and deals involving these issues become deficient. Does a quadripartite alliance like the one that the Iranians and the Syrians have discussed cancel the justification for intra-Arab reconciliation, which was launched a few months ago under the slogan of let the Arabs take care of Arab issues ?

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