Forging the bridge to a new year: The Middle East in 2012

From the self-immolation and death of Tunisian street merchant Mohammed Bouazizi, which catapulted the Arab world and greater Middle East, to the forefront of revolution and even civil war, to the European debt crisis, which plagued European Union nations like Greece with a social discord equal to that of some Middle Eastern countries, 2011 was far from quiet. Greater solidifying 2011 as a crucial year for world affairs was the near-complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the death of Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-Il.

With such an impactful set of events, what could possibly follow? Indeed, the escapades of 2011 will probably have lasting effects for the next five to ten years. When Egypt is examined, the increased prevalence of political Islam in the Middle East should be considered, but not as an absolute. Europe’s debt crisis could jeopardize the unity of the EU and its world image while the death of bin Laden has proven to be a symbolic victory over terrorism. With all of this in mind, there are still three significant and recent issues which should be closely followed throughout 2012: namely, Western policy towards Iran and the uprising in Syria.

Iran is gradually crumbling, despite thoughts of it being a potent enemy of the U.S. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented that newly imposed sanctions on Iran were “the heaviest economic onslaught” on any nation in history. Furthermore, the U.S. and EU are, along with Eastern powers, striking new oil deals with Gulf states in an effort to curtail Iranian exports. Considering how dangerous countries like Iran can be if pressured, I think the U.S. should consider relaxing sanctions as an incentive for increased negotiations.

Qatar, and other Arab nations, to a lesser extent, have called for military intervention in Syria. If the West is wise, it will not make Syria the next Libya, purely for reputation purposes. My Model United Nations adviser suggested, and I agree, that a volunteer army organized by the Arab League should be used to end the violence and bring al-Assad down. This would be a step in the right direction, holding the Middle East accountable for its own security rather than having the West police it.