WITH a topic as complex and rapidly changing as ‘The New Middle East and Why it Matters’, leading geopolitics and terrorism expert Hagai Segal began by saying, “I could talk about this for the next seven hours.”
Instead, the lecturer at New York University’s London campus and member of the Global Risk Network’s executive advisory committee treated a large Limmud-Oz audience in Sydney with a fascinating hour of power.
His presentation touched on the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya that involve local, regional and global players across the predominantly Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Persian divides, but also East-West geopolitical divides.
“The realities we have today in the Middle East are very much the realities that have developed out of the so-called Arab Spring dynamic,” Segal, who is speaking at Yom Limmud in Melbourne this Sunday, said.
“All over the region we have seen these instabilities … ungoverned spaces emerging within countries – and jihadist groups filling the void.
“It’s complex – how complex? Well for a start, 1100 different rebel groups are fighting in Syria.
“Who has been the main purchaser of oil from ISIS – Syria’s Assad regime, whom they are fighting with.
“You have the Americans backing the Sunni Arab states and Russia backing the Assad regime, and the Lebanese Shiite militia group Hezbollah getting involved in the fighting in Syria [with Iran].
“Then you have developments like Iran stopping funding to Hamas [since the conflict began] as it is a Sunni militia.
“The current crisis in Qatar [in which six Sunni majority Arab states have ceased diplomatic relations with the tiny Gulf state with close ties to Iran] speaks volumes.
“ISIS has lost more than half of the land it controls in recent months.
“For the Kurds, it’s an exciting time because – out of fighting for survival, they are gaining influence and territory.
“What we’ve learnt the hard way [from all this] is that your enemy’s enemy is not [necessarily] your friend.”
Segal is speaking at Yom Limmud this Sunday, June 18, in Melbourne. His talks are at 11am, 1.45pm and 4.15pm.