The past twelve months have seen unpredicted political and social upheaval throughout the Middle East and North Africa and currently just about the only certainty is that there is still much more to come.
With the cards still very much in the air and last January’s confident assertions on the part of the various Middle East experts – who informed us that the two countries in which revolution would definitely not be taking place were Syria and Libya – still ringing in our ears almost as loudly as Hillary Clinton’s bizarre assurance that Bashar Assad was ‘a reformer’, only fools would try to predict how the MENA region might look in five years’ time.
What is clear, however, is that the general trend appears to be towards a rise in power on the part of religiously motivated political elements and a deepening of the Sunni-Shia sectarian rift which has long existed in the region, alongside real cause for worry about the futures of other minorities.
In this volatile climate and with the fate of existing peace treaties between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours far from guaranteed, the Middle East Quartet (comprised of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States) is to meet next week in Jerusalem for another session of flogging the dead horse known as ‘the peace process’.
Amazingly, with the Palestinian Authority having trawled up every possible excuse for not renewing negotiations over the past three years, having opted to pursue the unilateral option at the United Nations, and with Hamas-Fatah reconciliation as much of a pipe-dream as ever, the Quartet is still promoting the anachronistic notion that a peace agreement can be reached by the end of 2012.