Greece-UAE relations are changing the balance of power in the region.
Two decades into the 21st century displays a “blank” entry in the international imperialist system. The declining trend of US global hegemony and the strength of the EU is not offset by China’s rise and Russia’s recovery.
At the same time, the redistribution of power between these world powers and the global anemic economic growth that follows the capitalist crisis of 2008-2010, intensify the rivalries between them.
In this environment, new emerging forces rush to fill the “gap” themselves, claiming an upgraded or hegemonic role in their regions.
Such forces in the Middle East region are Iran and Turkey, which each challenge for supremacy over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Consequently, the US-EU-Russia-China rivalries in the Middle East are accompanied by the Turkey-KSA-Iran rivalries, which also spread to the nearby Eastern Mediterranean-Caucasus-Central Asian-Horn of Africa regions.
The main goal of the three competitors is to lead a group of states and organizations and to establish/maintain their own sphere of regional influence, in cooperation to a greater or lesser degree with some world powers. An important feature in this effort is the instrumentalization of Islam, but also of the tribal family and the cultural tradition to which they belong.
Thus, Turkey is using political Islam, the Ottoman heritage and the influence it exerts on Turkish communities in the former Ottoman Empire, while trying to lead a settlement that already includes Qatar, Azerbaijan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Respectively, Iran utilizes the ideology of the Islamic Iranian “revolution” and the influence it exerts on the Shiite populations in the wider region, while seeking to tow its ally Syria, friendly Iraq, Lebanon and pro-Iranian political Shiite organizations of the wider Middle East in the formation of a distinct axis under its leadership.
Finally, the KSA invests in Arab identity and Wahhabi Islamic teaching,
Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Lebanon are the fiercest areas of competition. However, KSA is also gaining momentum in the Horn of Africa, while it has its own contribution to the rise and fall of terrorist organizations, as the experience of ISIS in Syria-Iraq has shown.
Finally, its development has already caused some reorganizations within the 3 camps, with perhaps more important the weakening of the KSA and the emergence of “separatist” tendencies in the politics of Egypt and the UAE within the Arab League.
However, the above competitions do not have the same dynamics. The KSA-Iran and Turkey-Iran rivalries are deeper, for at least three reasons:
Although Turkey and the KSA are “disturbing each other” and close to their borders, their main competitor in their immediate vicinity, that is, in the region judging their regional ambitions, is Iran and its allies.
Specifically, the “Shiite corridor” that Tehran has built is an obstacle to the spread of the influence of the KSA and Turkey in Iraq-Syria-Lebanon, that is, in the heart of the Middle East. At the same time, it reduces their points of “friction” between them and greatly affects their “vital” interests.
In the context of the legitimizing role that Islam has for capitalism and governmental power and practice in all three countries (not to the same degree), but also its instrumentalization by their governments to gain international influence, the pre-eminent and bloody Sunni-Shiite confrontation will continue to strengthen Turkey-Iran and KSA-Iran relations to a much greater extent than Turkey-KSA relations.
Despite the significant dynamics of regional rivalries in the modern international imperialist system, developments in it are driven by rivalries at the top, between world powers.
In this light, the fact that Turkey and the KSA are traditional allies of the United States (Turkey is a member of NATO) and important partners of the EU, acts as a deterrent to competition between them.
On the contrary, the partial and more opportunistic coordination of these two powers with Russia and China, which have close relations but not exactly an alliance with Iran, does not put similar obstacles in the development of the KSA-Iran and Turkey-Iran rivalries.
At the same time, the US does not want to lose its allied relations, neither with Turkey or the KSA and the coalition it has formed. After all, American officials close to both the Democratic and Republican parties have repeatedly pointed out the importance of these factors to American interests.
Consequently, they tolerate or seek to strengthen both sides, while promoting their compromise and connection with other allies or partners who wish to have a say in the region, such as the EU, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Israel and even Pakistan and India, provided they all work together to stop the spread of Chinese,
At the same time, however, it is in the interest of the United States not to over-strengthen some parties because in such a case it would be significantly more difficult to reconcile with the other and they would be pushed to claim a more or completely autonomous role in the international imperialist system.
In fact, in the case of a new US-Iran compromise, such a thing would be additionally undesirable. It is therefore possible that Washington will seek, as it has done in the past, to keep the Turkey-KSA power relationship, and possibly Iran, in a certain balance.
The US allies in the Euro-Atlantic alliance follow a similar logic, but based on their particular aspirations they maintain a less balanced attitude.
In particular, the United Kingdom seems to be leaning towards Turkey, while the balance of power within the EU is probably pushing it slightly more in the same direction, as Germany seems to have adopted a pro-Turkish policy.
France is moving closer to the Arab League, and China and Russia have a privileged relationship with Iran, but not to the extent that they are hindered by their rapprochement with the KSA and Turkey, in which they do not want to compete.
In this context, the signing of a series of agreements between Greece and the UAE, most importantly the “Mutual Military Assistance Clause in the event of a third party attack” , is in line with the main aspirations of the United States and the Euro-Atlantic coalition in the region.
On the one hand, because it favors the strengthening of an allied anti-Iranian front to the United States, based on the cooperation of the Arab League-Israel. In fact, the character of the group was pointed out at the recent “secret” meeting in Neom in the KSA with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The main object of discussion was Iran.
Turkey’s hegemonic ambition limits its ability to become more autonomous beyond the Euro-Atlantic alliance, without at the same time influencing the dynamics that could lead the Arabs and Israel to a new rapprochement with it.
The latter remain, as evidenced by President Erdogan’s telephone conversation with Saudi King Salman, which preceded the events in Neom, but also the support offered by Ankara and Tel Aviv to Azerbaijan.
Consequently, the new move of Greece, although impressive, is a continuation and not a reversal of policy implemented to date.
It reaffirms Athens’ willingness to play a leading role in the plans of the Euro-Atlantic coalition, even far from the Eastern Mediterranean, expecting in return the growing regional influence of Greek capitalism and assistance in tackling Turkish revisionist policy.
At the same time, it reiterates in Washington and Brussels that Greece wants to contribute to regional processes. After all, the Greek government has shown with its attitude and the attitudes of its officials throughout the 3-month activity of Oruc Reis on the Greek continental shelf that it is willing to discuss with Ankara part of its claims in the Aegean in exchange for the cessation of its aggressive actions and regional economic cooperation.
In this context, the Greece-UAE deal is expected to complicate further negotiations that will allow the sharing of the wealth in the East Mediterranean, but also joint operation of this, always under Euro-Atlantic supervision.
At the same time, Greece will be asked to pay a new price for its participation, both in regional competitions in a very large region and on the anti-Iranian front.
Giannis Houvardas has a PhD in Political Science and this article first appeared on Militaire.
The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.