The Myth of the Middle East Regional Powers

The coronavirus has exposed the structural weaknesses of the Middle East’s inherently rigid political systems.

In an April 10 teleconference meeting among Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan predicted the emergence of a new world order in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the events that have left the world mostly unprepared to deal with the virus do not support Erdogan’s prediction. Some indicators suggest that a post-coronavirus world order will reflect post-World War I Europe, in which nation-states rose out of the ruins of empires. Indeed, in the United States and Europe, nationalism appears to be growing. But no matter how the world changes, the grouping of countries that Alfred Thayer Mahan first referred to as the Middle East in 1902 will likely continue to be defined by the power vacuum that has dominated the region since World War I. After a history of several millennia of imperial rule, today’s Middle East state system was created by Western powers and Russia, and they continue to oversee it. The coronavirus pandemic is in many ways revealing why this is the case. Historical Rivalry in the Middle East For more than three millennia, competing empires ruled the region now known as the Middle East. The Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C., […]

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Hilal Khashan
Hilal Khashan is a Professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is a respected author and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs. He is the author of six books, including Hizbullah: A Mission to Nowhere. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.) He is currently writing a book titled Saudi Arabia: The Dilemma of Political Reform and the Illusion of Economic Development. He is also the author of more than 110 articles that appeared in journals such as Orbis, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Israel Affairs, Journal of Religion and Society, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.