What BREXIT means for the Middle East

By DR AMIR M KAMEL

The June 23 vote in the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) sent shockwaves across the country, continent and globe in the political, economic and security spheres. This has already had and will continue to have ramifications in the Middle Eastern region. These are likely to be both positive and negative, depending on where one is sat, based on their perspective, in the region and what issues are of their concern.

From the perspective of Western-allied governments and actors in the international community, the development can be seen as weakening the cohesiveness of the forces tackling international security issues both in the region and outside of it. Indeed, when viewed in the context and desire to increase alliances, cooperation and integration, the BREXIT result can only be detrimental to this cause.

From the perspective of those who reject foreign influence in the region, this is a positive step. This camp includes a range of peoples and actors who cut across the different levels of society, government and non-governmental entities in the region. The concern here comes from the average Middle Easterner who is fed up of the continued presence and impetus of foreign powers in the region whom exercise their will. Indeed, regional desires to curtail outside interference stretch back at least as far as the Ottoman Empire and the mandates which managed the region following the first and second world wars, as well as global powers using the territory to fight proxy conflicts (i.e. during the Cold War). Additionally, this camp includes the various governments and actors across the region who have continued to reject foreign presence and policies in the region, the most notable of which being the Islamic Republic of Iran regime, Russia and the Bashar Al-Assad Administration in the context of the Syrian Civil War.

Rather despondently, this group also includes non-governmental actors and militant groups, such as Al-Qaida and DAISH (aka IS, ISIL, ISIS and the Islamic Caliphate). Indeed, for these militant organisations, a more divided or perhaps more poignantly, a less aligned and cooperating enemy is only a good thing. Further, the conceptual impact of the BREXIT result for these actors is one which represents less cooperation and coordination within the anti-DAISH coalition. That being said, the counter to this point is that due to the grave, and as some have called it, existential threat of DAISH, there will always be an alignment in the international community among those who have an interest in seeing the terrorist organisation fail. However, the point remains that, despite its many shortcomings, organisations like the EU nevertheless provide a forum in which countries come together and discuss issues of mutual concern. Indeed, examples of where this has already proven to be problematic are evident when concerned with issues surrounding Greece and Turkey. With both countries being members of and therefore eligible to attend North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led meetings and discussions, but only the former’s membership of the EU means that the latter cannot attend meetings in an EU context.

Resultantly, there are both positives and negatives for the various actors across the region. Indeed, the BREXIT can be either a positive or a negative, depending on where you sit. What is clear, however, is the fact that whilst what the BREXIT represents, that is a sentiment of ‘independence’ as noted by the Leave Campaign. Further, the likes of DAISH have continued to capitalise on the interdependent and liberal nature of the international community, by targeting western and non-westerners in their terror campaigns across the globe. Therefore, increasingly ‘independent’ states must ensure that they maintain their place in the interdependent nature of the international system in order to tackle such terrorist threats.

Image: Middle East geographic. Courtesy of NASA’s globe software World Wind via Wikimedia Commons.

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