Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah said Sunday that the Middle East region is witnessing a daunting future full of challenges, calling on the international community to exert more efforts to confront it. In a lecture at the Australian National University (ANU), Sheikh Dr. Mohammad said, "when it comes to understanding populism's impact on national security, it is important to both look at the height of international relations but also the plains of convulsions in people's lives." The lecture under the title "Regional security in unstable world, a GCC vision" highlighted various areas in the region.
"Speeches are often difficult to get right. At best they are funny, uplifting, or thoughtful. Since this is a conversation about recent developments in the Middle East, it is hard to promise anything but the last.
There was nothing funny or uplifting about the political convulsions, that gripped the world last year and that continue to roil our region. Today we share a feeling of sadness and mutual condolences, as we see innocent civilian victims, falling in Berlin, in Amman, in Aleppo, and just a few days ago, in Istanbul.
To be sure, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Middle East, while millions of refugees now roam the world. Terrorism has reached its pinnacle, and metastasized into the so-called (IS) Da'esh. Key states in the region are now fighting for their very existence. Old global powers, United States, United Kingdom, and France that have shaped the 20th century Middle East, are nowhere to be seen. The new actors, Russia, Turkey, and Iran are now the ones calling the shots. In fact, one consequence of the political dynamics in the Middle East today is the surge in nationalist, sectarian, and populist rhetoric in key states across the world.
The surprise of Brexit and Trump, an escalation of the Syrian refugee crisis, and the resurgence of the far-right in Europe-all herald a crisis of the established order in the West. This year, elections will be held in four of the six founding members of the European Union, and populist forces are on the march in each one. Everything is at stake.
Peace and prosperity, knotted together by trade and financial globalization, underpinned by a security alliance led by the United States, could all unravel.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are truly in dangerous times. Harvard professor Graham Allison warned us about "Thucydides Trap." A condition by which a rising power (Russia) rivals and challenges a ruling power (United States), resulting in a catastrophic war and mayhem. This can't be more evident than in Europe and the Middle East.
In addition to that, the rise of populist movements, which is not simply a European or North American phenomenon, will have profound effects on the very foundation of global peace, that was built after the 2nd World War. What are the Security Implications of these developments, Sheikh Dr. Mohammad asked.
He added, "first, it will likely mean that the politics of the United States and Europe will turn inward and tend towards isolationism."
Sheikh Dr. Mohammad said, "that is because populism emerges out of a reaction to failed foreign engagements, and is often xenophobic in nature.
In poll after poll, most Americans say that it would be better if the United States simply dealt with its own problems, and let other countries deal with theirs.
To be sure, the consequence of American ambivalence towards globalism means they are potentially less reliable partners in a crisis.
Following 8 years of weakened American engagement in the our region, which many feel has created a disconcerting vacuum, it looks like we have to wait a little bit longer, until the contours of president Trump's approach to our region, becomes clearer. Second, it is clear that populists will push for "beggar thy neighbor" kind of policies, that aim for national self-interests and threaten to undermine historic treaties.
The Bretton Woods Agreement-the foundation for a free and fair international monetary system- is in peril due to populist forces bucking against globalization and a discontent about migration. This populist movement is inherently anti-free trade, and will add to an already uncertain and nervous global market.
We have learnt all too well that aggressive non-market policies in support of populist forces will always fail; populist economic policies simply don't work.
What are the Implications on GCC Security? Turning to our region, we in the GCC feel directly the reverberations of these alarming trends. It has manifested itself in several ways across the region, from the failed states in Yemen and Libya to the ongoing crisis in Syria.
The international community can no longer merely manage crisis in the Middle East. Our focus must shift to resolution. Failure to take early action may inarguably lead to disastrous consequences, and will impose a heavy economic and humanitarian toll. Such inaction insures that crises will inevitably produce their own set of sub crises.
The Palestinian Israeli conflict vividly demonstrates what happens when we fail to make the difficult choices. For over 60 years Palestinian issue has been a source of regional instability extremism and numerous wars, to be sure- it has tested the regional and international order.
Even though the political solution is within reach, there is still a lack of political will to take the necessary steps required. In Yemen and Libya, despite all the difficulties there are positive mechanisms in place and roadmaps for a political solution. we must work collectively to realize these solutions. The GCC is actively working to support these processes.
In Yemen, the GCC roadmap provides a realistic path out of the current crisis. The international community now needs to use all of its available leverage to ensure that all Yemeni actors accept and implement this road map. We understand the path ahead is not an easy one but surely it is preferable to continued confrontation.
In Libya the way out of the current chaos is through the Libyan political agreement signed in Sakhairat. What is needed are greater efforts to facilitate the dialogue between the Libyan parties to overcome outstanding issues and insure the full and fair implementation of the agreement.
In Syria the region and the world cannot afford to walk away from their responsibilities. We must double our efforts and find a constructive solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, prospects are not encouraging and the Syrian crisis continues to tear apart the Syrian people and their society.
The geopolitics of the crisis and the regime's believe that it can secure a military victory, are obstructing the constructive and serious political engagement required, to embark on the road towards resolving the crisis. Interlinked with our effort to ending conflicts in the region is the GCC's absolute commitment to combat and overcome extremism and terrorism.
The link between extremist ideology and terrorist acts is a clear one. We cannot face off with one without considering the other. Furthermore, we believe that confronting extremism and terrorism is a long drawn out and extend challenge.
This understanding is essential in our effort to confront extremism and terrorism. Various tools are required in this lengthy battle. Including control over financial flows and the deconstruction of the extremist ideology and narrative.
The GCC is an active member of the global coalition to degrade and destroy Daesh. The battle to liberate Mosul is a critical turning point in this effort. While the priority is to defeat Daesh, we continue to voice our concern towards sectarian violence against innocent civilians, and the implication of that on the future stability of Iraq.