In this recently begun 21st century, several elements seem to condemn the Near and Middle East to play a marginal role in the collaboration of nations. First, the disengagement of the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan, which meant the end of the broader Middle East project and the return to a less ambitious, more pragmatic and, above all, less costly policy. Next, the recent extraction of shale gas which rendered the world’s most powerful country energetically dependent on the countries of the Gulf, and thus less disposed to secure the transportation routes at all costs. Finally, the pronouncement by Barack Obama at the beginning of his first term that he is the “Pacific president,” which indicated to the world its new center. So everyone looked to the East’s promise of growth and, consequently, of high consumption. If old Europe has not kept up with this upheaval and today no longer appears to be the epicenter of the world, then what will become of the Near East, the former roundabout of civilizations – will it, as the most pessimistic are going so far as to predict, have a fate like Africa’s?
But, in two instances, current events have demonstrated the fragility of this theory. First, the Arab Spring and the wave of optimism it provoked. The Arab people took to the streets to reclaim their rights from oppressive regimes and, with means of communication newly available to them, the Egyptians, Tunisians, Syrians and others have offered the world an image of youth perfectly mastering the codes of modernity and able to participate in it actively. The region with the highest rate of bilingualism in the world became, in a matter of months, the symbol of the start of the century. Next, and above all, these events, which spare nothing and no one, evoke everyone’s distressing memories of the extent to which this region remains the greatest home of crisis and tension on the planet. A very sad situation and difficult to deal with: Syria, Iraq, Iran’s nuclear power, Yemen, Egypt, Afghanistan and finally the Israel-Palestine conflict of ideals, all at the beginning of summer 2014.
For this reason, neither the United States nor, consequently, the rest of the world can ignore the political evolution of this region. All the more since these crises have direct repercussions for the new central issue of international diplomacy: the fight against terrorism. From now on, the strategic dilemma will cause the scales to be extremely off balance for the Occident – a military intervention cannot be motivated by any mid-term gain, and as for an absence of political intervention, that would mean the risk of considerable losses. A true square circle; moreover, it is eminently vicious.