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World Leaderships Are Nowhere to Be Seen

World Leaderships Are Nowhere to Be Seen

Sunday, 19 July, 2020 - 14:30

The decision of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reconvert the Hagia Sophia Museum to a mosque, as it was during the Ottoman era, is an important political move. It is a significant step in Turkey’s attempts to resurrect Ottoman heritage and use it as a source of ‘political legitimacy’ for its ambitious plans in the vast geographic realm occupied by the Ottoman Empire in its heydays between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Sure enough, the decision is within Turkey’s sovereignty, even if one is entitled to criticize it, support it, or contemplate its timing. On the issue of timing, in particular, we must keep in mind that this decision is entwined with Turkey’s political and military presence across the Mediterranean (in Libya) for the first time since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It also concurs with the stationing of Turkish troops in northwest Syria, in addition to Turkish ‘hot pursuit’ attacks in northern Iraq targeting the bases of armed Turkish Kurds there.

On the other hand, the Arab ‘Mashreq’ remains under a continuously growing dark Iranian ‘cloud’, that has since 2003 become a virtual ‘occupation’. Thus, without a serious international intervention, this ‘occupation’ will get stronger and partition the region, unleashing destructive gangs that will destroy themselves and undermine world security.

The assassination of Hisham al-Hashimi, the Iraqi political and security analyst, the growing number of anonymous explosions inside Iran, and freeing the Hezbollah ‘financer’ Qassem Taj al-Din from an American jail, are all noteworthy developments in an ‘exceptional, American election year.

Next comes the Israeli stop. Here, behind the ‘annexation’ plans in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, are several considerations the most important of which are:

- Finishing off the lame ‘two-states’ solution.

- Consolidating the ‘Jewishness’ of the state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley.

- Unifying Israel's internal front before embarking on the process of drawing the map of regional spheres of influence.

Although there seems to be a declared international opposition to the ‘annexation’ plans, as well as lack of internal consensus, Israel’s relations with the four major global players; i.e. the USA, Russia, China, and the EU, are quite good. So the issue remains in the hands of the Israeli government, and its internal maneuvers, while the ‘big four’ remain preoccupied with their own problems.

Here we reach the most interesting angle.

The truth that needs reiterating is that the three regional powers: Turkey, Iran, and Israel, would never be doing what they have been doing had it not been for two factors:

- The frightening Arab weakness.

- The absence of wise, brave, and responsible world leaderships.

If the Arab weakness is so obvious that it requires no explanation, the ‘absence’ of true leaderships in major capitals is undermining international trust and cooperation, as well as the respect of international resolutions; and is threatening the concepts, institutions, and frameworks that are vital for having a proper ‘world order’.

It is true that enmities and ideological differences were acute during the Cold War, and the resulting global bipolarity; but it was also true there were movements, initiatives, and leaderships that were aware of the dangers of the unknown, so they created checks and controls in global hot spots and flashpoints.

Even lengthy wars, such as those in Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), Korea, the Indian sub-continent, Afghanistan, and Africa (the Congo and Angola), were contained, and gave international mediation the useful credibility to be ‘shock absorbers’.

In fact, the nuclear deterrence under the American-Soviet bipolarity may have been the major reason for maintaining that ‘shock absorber’. A proof of this is that after the collapse of the USSR, and global bipolarity, the old world order disappeared without a clearly defined secure replacement.

Another dangerous factor that has emerged is the cyber technology, which has given the major powers smarter and more lethal weapons than the previous military arsenals which were neutralized by the nuclear deterrence.

However, what makes the situation even worse is that the current ‘big four’ plus India – the world’s most populous democracy – either do not believe in democracy as a political system, or disregard diversity, co-existence, and broad consensus. This is happening as future technology threatens traditional jobs, along with the guarantees and rights accorded to the working class.

From the outside, both the Chinese and Russian models practice elections and symbolic devolution of power; however, this is just a façade. There is no real power in China other than the Chinese Communist Party, which has monopolized politics since the days of Mao Zedong. In Russia too, there has been no actual change in the exclusive reign of the sole leader, from the days of ‘tsar’ Peter the Great, through ‘comrade’ Joseph Stalin, and now Vladimir Putin the past, present, and future ‘president’.

In the other camp, democracy is present in the USA, and so are the separation of powers and devolution of power; however, what has happened during the last four years – especially, after the social and economic repercussions of Covid-19 – may usher radical change that undermines national consensus, reopen old wounds, and widen the gap of polarization.

Heading the executive branch is a President who does not believe in consensus, but is obsessed with satisfying his loyal hardcore supporters and solidifying it, rather than broadening his appeal nationally. As for the legislative branch, the Congress is deeply divided between a rightwing Republican-led Senate and a leftwing Democratic-led House of Representatives. Finally, the Supreme Court, which heads the judiciary branch, has relied since 2018 on the single deciding vote of its Chief Justice John Roberts, which decides on key issues against a background of a deep ideological – partisan division between 4 rightwing conservative and 4 leftwing liberal judges.

Well, the situation in Europe is not much better than it is in the USA. Traditional parties of government in Germany, France, and Italy are losing support to populist extreme rightists and utopian and radical leftists; while broad national identities in countries like the UK and Spain are threatened by secessionist momentum fuelled by economic crises and personal ambitions.

Thus, given the fragility of leadership, the failure of parties to cope with unemployment-generating technology, and the complexities of national identities, interests have clashed and actions have become confused, as we have seen with Iran’s nuclear program and the Libyan crisis.

Europe has been directly involved with both Iran’s and Libya’s crises, specifically, with regards to oil and refugees, but still failed to develop a coherent and wise strategy.

As for the Washington, Moscow, and Beijing ‘trio’, it is playing tactics, through maneuvers, adventures, and gambles.

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