The Valdai Meeting: Where West Asia Meets Multipolarity
The 12th “Middle East Conference” at the Valdai Club in Moscow offered a more than welcome cornucopia of views on interconnected troubles and tribulations affecting the region.
But first, an important word on terminology – as only one of Valdai’s guests took the trouble to stress. This is not the “Middle East” – a reductionist, Orientalist notion devised by old colonials: at The Cradle we emphasize the region must be correctly described as West Asia.
Some of the region’s trials and tribulations have been mapped by the official Valdai report, The Middle East and The Future of Polycentric World. But the intellectual and political clout of those in attendance can provide valuable anecdotal insights too. Here are a few of the major strands participants highlighted on regional developments, current and future:
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov set the stage by stressing that Kremlin policy encourages the formation of an “inclusive regional security system.” That’s exactly what the Americans refused to discuss with the Russians in December 2021, then applied to Europe and the post-Soviet space. The result was a proxy war.
Kayhan Barzegar of Islamic Azad University in Iran qualified the two major strategic developments affecting West Asia: a possible US retreat and a message to regional allies: “You cannot count on our security guarantees.”
Every vector – from rivalry in the South Caucasus to the Israeli normalization with the Persian Gulf – is subordinated to this logic, notes Barzegar, with quite a few Arab actors finally understanding that there now exists a margin of maneuver to choose between the western or the non-western bloc.
Barzegar does not identify Iran-Russia ties as a strategic alliance, but rather a geopolitical, economic bloc based on technology and regional supply chains – a “new algorithm in politics” – ranging from weapons deals to nuclear and energy cooperation, driven by Moscow’s revived southern and eastward orientations. And as far as Iran-western relations go, Barzegar still believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is not dead. A least not yet.
‘Nobody knows what these rules are’
Egyptian Ramzy Ramzy, until 2019 the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, considers the reactivation of relations between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE with Syria as the most important realignment underway in the region. Not to mention pro
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