A Glimmer of Hope

Politics in the Middle East is so fragmented that it is no longer possible to make head nor tail of the current situation, nor where the region is heading when even supposition defies comprehension.

No one is likely to predict the outcome of the mêlée that’s taking place, let alone assess where the wind will blow next, and in which direction. The complexity of what’s happening even defeats any analysis by hardened political pundits who are as confused as the rest of us, notwithstanding those who were born and brought up in the region.

Hezbollah, in the Lebanon, support Assad in Syria while Qatar feeds the opposition there and is also at loggerheads with the regime in Egypt. Saudi Arabia backs the present so-called monarchy in Bahrain and is anti the Shiite administration in Iraq. Meantime, ISIL seem to be gaining ground both in Syria and Iraq, at the expense of any future stability in the Middle East. It is a mish-mash of a dangerous conflict that looks uncontainable by any standards.

The fragmentation is so errant and severe that it will take years, if not decades, to simmer down – and at what cost? However, the latest development taking place is worthy of note. Hamas has signalled a possible new era of rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, with Khalid Mishaal, the Palestinian group’s exiled leader who lives in Qatar now, holding talks in Riyadh with King Salman.

The meeting, attended by other senior Hamas members and high-ranking Saudi officials, was the first for many years and seems to have ended a prolonged period of hostile mistrust between Hamas and the Western-backed monarchy. A Hamas source said: ‘The delegation discussed Palestinian unity and the political situation in the region.’

All this is a marked change of attitude towards Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, by King Salman, enthroned in January, compared with the suspicions showed by his predecessor, King Abdullah, who was unwilling to have any discourse with the embattled Hamas in defiance of Western powers who continue to refuse to recognise them.

The meeting came three days after six world powers agreed a deal with Iran, Riyadh’s regional foe, over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Mukaimer Abu Sadaa, a political scientist at Gaza’s City’s Al-Ashar university, said: ‘Hamas is a Sunni organisation and Saudi Arabia, which is also Sunni, is trying to confront the Shia crescent in the region led by Iran.’

Although discourse is always the gateway to better relations and hails the prospect of peaceful resolution of impending problems, it nevertheless keeps the hostility between the Shias and Sunnis more intransigent than ever. However, we must hope that this traditional division in Islam will in the future see the light of day in a new and constructive vision, paving the way for a reconciliation now long overdue.

Perhaps this will lead to a more stable entente cordiale between the warring factions throughout the region. Maybe I’m over-optimistic, but I’d rather be a fool in pursuit of peace than a gloomy sage.

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