Middle East in for more surprises: Israeli academic

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 11:30 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) There may be more "strategic surprises" in the Middle East in the coming days and months as the US is being perceived to be a less-than-reliable ally and the isolation of Israel in the region is growing, says Israeli scholar Efraim Inbar.

Speaking at the session on "West Asia's Security Dynamics-II: Role of Regional Powers" on the second day of the 15th Asian Security Conference organised at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) here, Inbar said "there is a perceived decline of the US in the region" and it is acknowledged that the country cannot be relied upon as a long-term reliable ally.

Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said the role of the new Egyptian elite in power was crucial for regional stability although they may have miscalculated certain moves.

The seminar also witnessed an intense debate on the "Decline of the West and the rise of the Rest".

Many participants said the "Arab Spring" was the result of a "lack of modernisation" in the West Asian societies. These nations now need to embrace modernisation to move into the 21 century.

Countries like Turkey and Iran, which have dealt better with the challenges of modernisation, have flourished.

Prof Mohammad Hassan Khani of Tehran's Imam Sadiq University said there was a need to recognise, acknowledge and respect the Islamic nature of the societies in the region, which had for long been forgotten. "The people's demand for freedom, democracy and the end of puppet regimes need to be recognised," he said.

Prof Serhat Guvenc, associate professor of international relations at Kadir Has University, Istanbul, said though Turkey had been transforming from a "Security state" to a "Trading state" since 1990s, it was now trying to strike a balance between the two.

Khani said though the current situation in West Asia was "full of turmoil, chaos and uncertainty", it would pave the way to a more stabilised and integrated region in the longer run.

And the region would be less dependent on foreign powers, he insisted.

Khani predicted that the Islamists will gain and rise as substantial ruling force in the region.

Inbar said the Mediterranean has become "an Islamic Lake" and the "power differential" between Israel and its neighbours is growing.

Israel is keenly monitoring the developments, and the new agenda, according to him, is Iran. It may be time for Israel to consider "difficult actions", he asserted.

Speaking from an Egyptian perspective, Adel Soliman, director, International Center for Strategic Dialogue and Future Studies, said cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the European Union (EU) and the US was vital for taking forward the Middle East Peace Process.

The Israeli-Palestine issue must be resolved for any stability in the region and suggested that India could play a leading role in this regard.

He added that stability of Iraq is also essential to peace in the Arabian Gulf region.

The three-day conference has participants from most West Asian countries.

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