The Situation in the Middle East And Lessons for Africa

Four axes/blocks in the current Middle East

Currently there are four main political players in the Middle East (excluding Israel).

The first, and until lately the strongest, is the Iranian – Shia axis. This Axis is stretching between Iran (its center) in the east, through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and a proxy in the Gaza strip (Palestinian Islamic Jihad). Short of the last one, in all the other areas Iran is leaning heavily on local Shia communities.

The second is the Sunni moderateblock. This block includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia (those two are considered as the leaders of this block), Jordan, The Palestinian Authority, UAE and the rest of the Gulf States (short of Qatar).

The third is the Sunni radicalblock. This block includes Turkey, Qatar, Sudan and Hamas (in the Gaza Strip). This block identifies itself with the Muslim Brothers (an Egyptian Ideological movement that was established in Cairo in 1929 and is outlawed now in Egypt).

The fourth is the Sunni radicalNon-State Actor – Al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State in Syria and the Levant” (ISIL). This group (not an axis though) is nearly defeated in the Middle East. Against this defeat, you can see their attempts to infiltrate to Africa.

Conflicts between those axes/blocks

There are two main conflicts between those groups that are currently casting a shadow over the Middle East. The first is between the Shia axis and the Sunni moderate block. The second is between the Sunni moderate block and the Sunni radical block.

The conflict between the Shia axis and the Sunni moderate block is taking place in some different places in the Middle East – in Syria (where actually the Sunnis were beaten), in Lebanon, Iraq and the most active front – Yemen.

The conflict between the moderate Sunni group and the Radical Sunni group is taking place in the Persian (Arab) Gulf between Saudi Arabia and the UAE on one end and Qatar on the other. Another front is in the Horn of Africa where Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are competing against Qatar, Turkey and the Sudan in an attempt to reach more influence.

Common denominators between the Middle East and Africa that makes both “Terror Friendly”

Terror is always leaning on an ideological agenda (usually radical Islam). However, some “environments” are more “friendly” to terror. Among the conditions that help terror spread we can find the presence of “Failed states”, weakness of the central government, lack of social cohesiveness between the center and the periphery and the above all – economic frustration. All those elements can be found in both the Middle East and Africa.

So what can be done?

There are some lessons that Africa can draw from the Israeli experience in fighting terror. First,a holistic approach that brings together military sticks and economic carrots. Second is determination (the war on terror is always longer than a conventional war). Third is deterrence (does deterrence actually work against terror?). Fourth is an attempt to build a national unity. The fifth is an attempt to create partnerships in the war against terror (G 5 in the Sahel or Amisom in Somalia).