In 1995, a book of mine entitled “The Generals of the Middle East” was released (by Dar Al Saqi) in London. The conclusion I come to in its 58-page introduction, in which I try to define the “Middle East,” is that every empire saw the region geographically. Paris and London dubbed it the “Near East,” while Washington sees it as the “Middle” East. In the maps of France and Britain, the region encompasses Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon, and on the United States Army War College map, it came to stretch all the way to Pakistan and include Türkiye and Iran.
Despite its shared geography and intertwined history, North Africa was not seen as part of the region. However, it was included in the broader definition of this region to save time and point to the depth of its links to the Middle East. Indeed, how could being in Africa prevent Tunisia and Algeria from considering the Palestinian cause as their one?
The Arab League Summit in Jeddah brought us back to the “Middle East”. Regardless of the unresolved disputes, Türkiye and Iran are now essential actors in this “cause.” Arab citizens are currently following Türkiye’s elections like they were national elections taking place in their country. The summit dealt with the overlapping role being played by Iran as an unavoidable and significant matter of fact. The man behind the summit has presented the region with a new way of thinking about politics- one that pursues practical partnerships and is free of empty speeches.
This is not the “new Middle East” that Condoleezza Rice dreamed of. The neoconservatives’ vision for the region that was based on breaking its foundations and bonds and a barbaric view of peoples and nations embodied by the likes of Paul Bremer and Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Jeddah Summit expanded the security of the Middle East and its borders. It seemed like it was signing an open contract with the G7 summit and anyone who wants to pave a broad path towards a more peaceful and prosperous world. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman laid the groundwork for the summit by offering a comprehensive image of neutrality in dealing with major powers, rendering it a reflection of a long-term and deeply-rooted project. He thereby opened the door to all. “Man must strive for the good rather than wait for his desires to be fulfilled.”
We are now in a post-Jeddah Summit world. Every state committed to it is welcome. All people who want it have a spot. We can only hope that good intentions prevail. This is not unlikely if these intentions are truly sincere.