Thursday, 26 September 2013 01:22

Interview with Tatiana Nosenko: all over the Middle East

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Question #1: How could you characterize the past decade for the Middle East? Which mistakes were committed by intra-regional and outer-regional players?  

Tatiana NOSENKO: From the beginning, I would like to precise that my discourse is based on the assumption that that the mass manifestation in the Arab countries which had various political consequences are caused strictly by the internal social-economic, political reasons, but not by some external plot.

The Arab countries are now in the period of the political rearrangement. The political systems created during the postcolonial era are facing a crisis. The new generations influenced by the processes of globalization, IT revolution are coming to the arena and voicing their demands on the transformation of political and social life. It is also important that on the wave of  Anti-Western sentiments and rejection of the foreign ideologies (socialism, communism) the traditionalist masses return to Islam as a single universal ideology to solve political and social problems in the Arab world. 

However, it was erroneous, mainly by the USA, to count that the mass manifestation against long living dictatorships would immediately democratize the political systems. The democratic opposition to the authoritarian regimes is not consistent. From the structural point of view the Soviet opposition forces are not to be compared to the Islamic organizations and parties. The Islamists are those who win the dominating positions during the open elections. Thus, they legitimize their right to rebuild social and political life according to the religious canons while the secular principles suffer.

The secular opposition turned out to be helpless in such conditions in Egypt even though it had its representatives in the Parliament. But hopes that the problems could be solved by the return of an authoritarian junta are also untenable.

It seems that the societies with strong traditionalist values and religious principles on the one hand, and with already shaped social layers, based mainly on the secular benchmarks borrowed from the West, have to live through a long way to find the modes of coexistence and dialogue of these inconsistent forces. According to this point of view the repressions and persecutions against the Islamist leaders, e.g. in Egypt, as well as against opposition represented by the military and liberals, like in Turkey, turn out to be erroneous and futile.

As far as the situation in Syria is concerned, it was a big mistake both of the governmental and the opposition forces not to use the possibilities to find a political compromise before the beginning of the full-scale civil war.

The actions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar on the one hand ond of Iran on another who heat the inner conflicts in the Arab countries and use them in the Sunni-Shiah struggle for the regional hegemony are counterproductive and dangerous. The international community actively condemns Iran on this cause, but it is far less determined on which is concerning the Gulf monarchies. 

The stake on the military means to overthrow authoritarian and dictatorship regimes made mainly by the USA seems to have failed. Neither in Iraq, nor in Libya the Western military invasion has not stabilized the situation. However the position “let them fight till the last soldier” is also erroneous. Facing the situation similar to the Syrian with a global humanitarian catastrophe, with one of the key Middle Eastern countries being destroyed causing threat to the peace and stability in the whole region, the international community is unable to act in time and does not have any means to stop the bloodshed. This makes us think anout the efficiency and the effectiveness of the norms of modern international law, about the UN level of adaptation to resolve modern issues.


Question #2: Does the Middle East risk to become a battlefield of interests of the USA and Russia as it was during the Cold War once again?

T.N. The current situation can not be compared to the confrontation during the Cold War. Then, each power claimed the dominance in the Middle East; the countries in the region were divided into the “clients” of the USA or the USSR. The anti-American sentiments are very strong in the Arab countries and this undermines the US positions. The conflict between Russia and the USA emerges now from the different vision on the world order after the Cold War. During the last two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union the US became determined in its exclusive role as a protector of democracy, liberty, human rights all over the world and in its right to use any means to do it, including the military ones. Russia, proceeding from the principles of the international law, regards the intervention into the internal affairs of the states unacceptable and considers the military operations to overthrow any regimes, even authoritarian and antidemocratic, unlawful. Moreover, the West often uses double standards defining such regimes.


Question #3: What are the prospects of the Middle East Peace Process in the current circumstances?

T.N. Unlike, for example the Oslo process, the ongoing Palestine-Israeli negotiations have begun thanks to the strongest US pressure. The US is extremely interested in their effectiveness. In past several years the American image on the Middle East has suffered greatly due to the number of reasons. The Americans are being reproached for not having protected H. Mubarak regime that was its devoted ally during many decades. Obama decreases military presence in Iraq, where the Iranian influence is growing. He has suspended the military variant of response to the Iranian nuclear program so far, which causes big questions for Israel concerning the reliability of their overseas ally, etc. In current situation the consensus between the Israeli and the Palestinians is called upon to compensate the US losses. Moreover, it will remove the Palestinian problem from the agenda, which is a subject of speculation for all kinds of Islamic radicals.

As far as the sides of the negotiations themselves are concerned, their positive conclusion could be important for Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu in his struggle for political survival. His chances to be reelected are decreasing taking into account the drop of his influence within his own Likud party. But if there is a breakthrough during the negotiations, he might get the support of the electorate. For the Palestinians the status quo and the territorial growth of the settlements means the decrease of chances to establish their own viable state. They need the agreements with Israel to avoid total discredit and collapse of Palestinian Administration.

These factors could work to achieve the agreement.


Question #4: The Arab uprisings: who are the winners and losers in the East and in the West?

T.N. I believe that it is early to speak about the losers and the winners in the Arab awakening. They say “You can see the big things from the distance”. It is only possible to say that the destructive forces always profit from chaos and war, so the main aim of both intraregional players and the international community is to 

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Tatiana Nosenko

Tatiana Nosenko is a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Department of Israel). Author of "Jerusalem: three religions, three of the world" (Moscow, 2003), "Secrets of Jerusalem" (Moscow, 2007), as well as of several articles on the history of Israel and the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.