Nowadays, Middle East is the most significant and troubling shatterbelt in the world. The primary challenge in the region is constant political instability, sub-regional conflicts, terrorist attacks, and Islamist movements. This term derives from such features as severe cultural and economic differences and fragmentation based on political views, historical development, and plans for the future. However, the most important characteristic is being located far from major geopolitical powers, thus falling victims of their desire to increase control over the region (Kasperson and Minghi 185).
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Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf and North African countries are located in the heart of the Middle East Shatterbelt (Gardner 111). It should be noted that the changes in the geopolitical balance of powers aggravated the situation in this region. During the Cold War, there was only one vector of massive conflicts, undermining stability in the area – Arab-Israeli conflict. Other local conflicts included Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but their severity was less spectacular. These conflicts were the areas of open confrontation of interests between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, as they backed up different sides and aimed at reducing the influence of opponents in this part of the globe (Cohen 375).
However, as Russia recovered after the collapse of the Soviet Union and grew interested in outperforming the United States in this region, it started supporting the rise of ISIS, thus contributing to the maintenance of shatterbelt (Cohen 375). The foundation of the problem is the 2010 Arab Spring, covering Arab states with the wave of social upheavals aimed at diversifying economies, improving standards of living, and integration into the global economy. In Syria, the revolts resulted in civil war and the rise of ISIS that undermines global peace and stability.
The primary challenge is the fact that the region becomes significantly involved in the confrontation between the United States and Russia as well as other geopolitical powers – China, India, and the European Union (Farmanfarmaian par. 3). Because all of them impose their ideas regarding appropriate development, the population of Arab countries ignores common historical background and cultural ties. Instead, people strive for reforms and democracy. It leads to the emergence of another conflict between Western values and conservative autocracy – the new Cold War caused by internal conflicts supported externally (Al-Rodhan, Herd, and Watanabe 4).
The existence of the Middle East Shatterbelt has a robust impact on the development of the global economy. Because these countries are located at the junction of the continents and geopolitical powers, they have the potential for becoming a gateway and fostering international integration. However, as major actors are interested in gaining access to strategic natural resources such as oil and gas, it leads to conflicts and disintegration of the region. From the economic perspective, turning a gateway into a shatterbelt results in the increase of oil prices and postponement of economic reforms in countries that lack resources as well as reallocation of investments from countries without gas and oil deposits to those rich with these strategic resources. Moreover, the conflicts have a direct influence on developing infrastructure in the region because they affect the construction of oil pipelines that could become the source of additional investments in the region, thus fostering economic development. Some examples include delays in opening the Iraq-Saudi pipeline and the further frequent closures caused by conflicts (Cohen 410).
To sum up, regardless of the region’s rich natural resources, trade and economic relations between states remain unstable and limited due to border issues and extensive interference of foreign states into internal affairs (Cohen 413). Even though the tomorrow of the region is most likely to be characterized by more sub-regional conflicts, terrorist attacks, and increased influence of Islamists in the region, there is still a chance of turning the Middle East Shatterbelt into a gateway. However, bringing it to life requires withdrawing external powers and ceasing support of inner conflicts. In addition, cooperation for establishing peace instead of the further confrontation of interests is necessary (Hufermann 19). These steps would be beneficial not only for the region but also the global environment because they would decrease the risks of economic turbulence and political instability.
Al-Rodhan, Hayef, Graeme Herd, and Lisa Watanabe. Critical Turning Points in the Middle East: 1915-2015, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
Cohen, Saul Bernard. The Geography of International Relations, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Print.
Farmanfarmaian, Roxane. Redrawing the Middle East Map: Iran, Syria, and the New Cold War. 2012. Web.
Gardner, Hall. Crimea, Global Rivalry, and the Vengeance of History, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Print.
Hufermann, Tim. Current European Energy Legislation and Its Applicability on the DESERTEC Concept, Berlin: GmbH, 2011. Print.
Kasperson, Roger, and Julian Minghi. The Structure of Political Geography, New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction, 2011. Print.