Istanbul Policy Center  (2017)

The Changing Geopolitics of the Middle East: Inter-Regional Cooperation and Globalization Project

The Middle East is going through tumultuous times. Demanding change, democratic representation, and political integrity, and opposing various crony forms of neoliberal capitalism, the Arab Uprisings have revealed a new collective consciousness, capturing the political imaginations of entire populations throughout the region. The movement challenged existing structures of power and authority, while also highlighting the trans-boundary patterns of loyalty in the region. Protests on the Arab street significantly overturned the whole regional order, however, without putting an alternative, at least a sustainable one, in place. The vacuum created by the departure of the old regime, was filled not by democratic governance, as many were hoping for, but by a plethora of competing political forces, sectarian conflicts, and in some cases, outright civil war. The region is facing a critical process of redefinition of the borders and the roles of its internal actors, as well as the emergence of new ones and recalibration of the sphere of influences of outside actors.

This project, which is funded by Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan and supported by the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore aims to unfold and explore this changing political landscape, understand current dynamics, and to develop policy alternatives and recommendations, and make projections about the possible paths that the region might be following in the future. Another objective of the project is to relate its findings to the interests and concerns of Turkey and three East Asian countries, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, in a way that would help these countries pursue stability, security, and development resilient policies toward this region. The rather challenging issue of mapping the developments in the Middle East is dealt with in the project through two frameworks; one covering the status of governance, state, and democracy in the region, and the other inquiring into the new geopolitical order of the Middle East, which is facing the collapse of a century-old system that was established after the First World War. Within these contexts, this two-year project is undertaken through several activities, including field studies, publications and conferences both in Turkey and abroad.