Even though this is an exercise which is rarely carried out in the intelligence analysis and in the geopolitical debate, especially in Italy, let us try to examine some trends which, in our opinion, will determine our future in the medium- long term.
Firstly, the United States are strategically moving away from the Greater Middle East, both for inevitable reasons of military overstretching – which is unsustainable in the long run even for the USA – and for a different geo-economic ratio between oil, natural gas and US trading, bargaining and intermediation power in terms of global partnership, as announced by President Barack Obama.
Regardless of the President who will replace Barack Obama, the USA will no longer be “water-carriers” for any European or Middle East strategic ally. From now on, they will merely pursue their interest, perceived according to the historical paradigm of North American geopolitics.
Once again, if the North American shale production increases too quickly, the decrease of global energy prices could weaken Saudi Arabia and all the Sunni OPEC countries, leaving Iran with a market completely focused on Eastern countries (China, Central Asia, India, Pakistan) and reducing the bargaining power and development of the Russian Federation, which could not use on time the funds of its oil and gas market in view of a no longer oil-related economic development.
The seigniorage of the US dollar throughout the oil market will end sooner than we may think, while even OPEC – if it wants to remain united – will proceed to the establishment of a “basket” of global currencies to replace the dollar, according to the ten-year vision of China’s global finance.
Where the dollar does no longer arrive, not even the bases, the drones or the M-12 of the US Armed Forces will arrive.
Considering the demographic crisis and crony capitalism already affecting Russia, this would mean that it should try again to reconquer its European foreign neighbours, or show a strategic collapse which would entail the destabilization of the whole area of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
The Russian Federation does not accept the revival of the traditional clash between the West and the East along its borders, and will do everything to create such a strategic imbalance between Eastern Europe and Russian Forces as to harshly dissuade NATO and force the Alliance, or its individual Members States, into a bilateral political-military relationship.
Probably Poland – which together with Romania is the axis of the new US power projection onto Europe – will escape from this destiny by disregarding the NATO Mediterranean countries and creating a bilateral relationship with Germany alone.
But it is not certain that Poland wishes to fully play the Ukrainian card or the card of its old borders with Russia, because in that way Russia could create a very heavy military and strategic coupling between Mediterranean Europe and the old Warsaw Pact region.
As President Obama said, the United States will invest 5 trillion dollars in future development programs, which is a significant amount of money. However, from now on, they want to have a shared strategy with the EU and the other “friendly” countries throughout the crisis area stretching from the Moroccan desert to Algeria up to the borders between Iran and Central Asia.
The problem lies in the fact that the rest of NATO has neither the funds nor the consistent political will and the military power to cooperate rationally with the United States, which would like to create a Forum for the Future in the Greater Middle East region based on economic relaunch, the expansion of parliamentary democracy and the improvement of education and health conditions of the population.
The global strategy is not an issue or an activity for pure-minded people with fine feelings, but it seems that the recent doctrines of global democratization, especially in the USA and the EU, unintentionally provide – for the first time in history – the opportunity for a total expulsion of Western influence from the whole Greater Middle East.
Nevertheless, if this region does not find a credible and strong external centre of gravity (which will probably be the SCO area), the only winning party on the field will be the jihad.
It will tend to break up until an organization, probably not a territorial one, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, does recreate the conditions for a conquest of Europe by Islam, and for the silent and destructive penetration by the jihad in all its forms: the sword jihad, the permanent jihad, the “word jihad” and the jihad of final subjugation.
It is easy to speak of world democratization, but it is hard to reach it: if the US idea of establishing a Broader Middle East and North Africa Private Enterprise Development Facility succeeds, obviously this will entail also a violent redesign of strategic potentials in the region.
In a situation of rapid and widespread economic evolution, the Wahabi Kingdom of Al Saud could break up into a Southern area – between the Hadramaut of old Bin Laden’s roots and Yemen, which is now fully penetrated by Iran – and a large central-Northern area homogeneous to the Syrian-Iraqi pole of attraction – for what remains of Syria.
The Isis-Da’ish lives on Turkey’s strategic ambiguity, although we do not know yet to what extent the recent agreement between Turkey and the USA will succeed in clearing the area between Aleppo and the Euphrates river of the Caliph Al- Baghdadi’s armies.
Rather than helping the pro-Iranian Syria, Prime Minister Erdogan would openly support the Caliph Al-Baghdadi.
The Isis-dae’sh creates a series of corridors which makes the Middle East viable; allows the destruction of the region’s historical centre of gravity, namely Iraq, which is the country from which all the Greater Middle East strategic potentials spread out, and which the USA have dangerously destabilized; closes the area of greatest expansion to the much-hated Shiite Twelvers in power in Iran, whom the Sunni preachers believe to be “worse than the Jews.”
If there are no credible potentials of NATO, the USA or the West in the region, the well-known geopolitical, cultural and religious separation between Shiites and Sunnis will not lead to the destruction of one of the Muhammadiah opposing parties, but only to our destruction.
The EU and the USA themselves will be regionalised, closed by geopolitically opposing areas, dangerous and now attracted not by the old Atlantic or Mediterranean shores, but by the large Sino-Russian-Indian Heartland.
The Islam improperly called “radical” is meant to penetrate peacefully into the areas where it is still weak (North-Western Europe) so as to become a leading player in Mediterranean Islam, and particularly into the Maghreb region and to become hegemonic in its centre of gravity, at the edge of the Panturanic and Shiite area, namely Iraq.
The different scale and gradualism of the jihadist Islam’s global strategy will be the real variable which will measure the successes and failures of the SCO, of NATO, of the US residual influences and of the new regional players.
Prime Minister Erdogan wants to take of Syria what it seems to be due to him and hence wants to eliminate any Kurdish influence in the region and in Anatolia. He wants his Sunni piece of Iraq, which will lead him to play imperial roles, and then build – starting from its Eastern borders – the great Panturanic alliance which would stretch from the Alevi territories to the Anatolian centre up to China’s borders with the Islamic and Turkmen XingKiang.
Turkey’s expansion means its de facto relinquishment and abandonment of the Atlantic Alliance, the ultimate destabilization of NATO’s terrestrial Southern Flank towards the Middle East and the relegation of the Atlantic experience to a secondary military and strategic alliance, considering the comparative volumes of the Atlantic system as against those of the Russian Federation and China, which will be ever more interoperable.
China, which is restructuring its economic growth and shows increasingly aggressive attitudes towards the US public debt that it is steadily replacing with gold and the other raw materials, wants a strategic centre of gravity away from Europe – a future, though small, primary partner – well beyond the “American” and bilateral phase of its development (that a Marxist would properly define as “stage of primitive accumulation”). China mainly wants a full and absolute strategic control area.
Today China does not want a global partnership with the United States, but rather a supremacy (along with the other SCO members) over the whole Central Asia, heralding full control over the Asian regional seas up to at least half of the Pacific Ocean.
China has already obtained what it needed from the USA and now it will operate alone in the central Heartland which, according to the British geopolitical expert Mackinder, allows “to dominate the world”.
Neither Russia nor China nor – in other respects – the primary countries known as BRICS want nothing less than global power and, conversely, the dependent regionalization of the USA and Western Europe, which is heading for accepting the new balance of power in exchange for a marginal entry into the Heartland‘s economic system – as we will soon witness.
A system which will soon attract the Greater Middle East: Turkey, which is already a SCO “observer”; Iran, which will use its nuclear potential to have a preferential geoeconomic treatment in Central Asia; India, which will play – in its North – the cards of its development and power projection, by leaving the Southern seas to an alliance with China; the new former Soviet Central Asian republics, to which the SCO will not ask for democratic and pluralistic credentials.
The primary condition will be the liberation of the Afghan territory by the non-Islamic powers.
Afghanistan, the “graveyard of Empires”, will be both the strategic “lung” of Pakistan, which is Saudi Arabia’s reference point to the East and an important country for China, and the large reservoir of the SCO raw materials, water resources and communication lines. It will become – so to say – the “Luxembourg” of SCO.
Hence, over the next few years, we will witness a sort of “Mackinder’s revenge”: the centre of global power will revert to the Heartland, which allows to dominate “world seas”, while the Eurasian peninsula will become what it already is from the geographical viewpoint: an appendage of the large Asian central plain.
The USA will discover the hegemonic democratization of Africa where they will operate the remote conditioning of China’s and Russia’s expansion across the Black continent, which will be the region through which the United States could oppose – and create the counterweight to – the Central Asian SCO-Heartland region, provided they will be able to do so.
Apart from the jihad, Africa will be a system of imbalances where wars, strategic conflicts, as well as economic, financial and technological interests will be managed by the USA, Russia and China through their proxies.
If Israel credibly stabilizes the area of the Palestinian Authority’s Territories, it will have the opportunity of managing the South of the Middle East, from Jordan up to the non-Shiite areas of Lebanon, obviously provided that it carefully controls the two key choke points, namely the Golan Heights and the passageways to the Sinai.
If, in the future, Israel plays its cards right, we could think of a series of de facto – albeit not superficial – alliances, between the Jewish State, Egypt, some parts of the Horn of Africa, the Eastern areas of Central Africa up to South Africa, with obvious effects on the global strategy of the State of Israel.
Giancarlo Elia Valori (@GEliaValori)
pHonorable of the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France.