An Unstable Mediterranean Basin Threatens Europe's Security
Posted on: January/08/2014 7:41 am by: Max Primorac
With 2014 upon us the world situation looks grim. In past, conflicts tended to erupt in remote parts of the world like in Afghanistan, Caucuses and sub-Sahara Africa. Distance tempered our sense of vulnerability. 2013 however witnessed a distinct westward and closer to home shift in the locus of global disorder. Europe now finds its own Mediterranean basin in a state of political fragility and under security threat as an arc of violence stretches from the whole of North Africa through the Levant into Asia Minor. Excepting Israel, every country along the southern and eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea is unstable.
Syria is the principal catalyst of this conflict shift. Its implosion into radicalized militias and magnet for thousands of violent extremists amid debilitating refuge flows is poised to upend Lebanon’s and Jordan’s delicate sectarian balance in much the same way Palestinian refugees upended it in the 1970s.
The Syrian conflict takes place within a more unstable regional context – feeding it and feeding off of it – while exacerbating Shia-Sunni tensions. Egypt, with a population of 90 million, is in turmoil as the military cracks down on all political opposition, Islamic or secular, with a predictable rise in violent protests, youth radicalization and terrorist attacks. Turkey to the north has similarly exercized a moderating regional influence, but it too is shaky as an increasingly authoritarian government is wracked by high level corruption, systematic abuse of state power and a pending break up of an Islamist coalition that has ruled the country for over a decade.
Meanwhile, in North Africa, Libya has fragmented into radicalized tribal statelets. Tunisia suffers political assassinations and bombings imperiling its stable transition. Algeria too is routinely rocked by terrorist attacks, especially aimed against foreigners. Most menacing is the widespread resurgence of Al Qaeda affiliated terror groups. Its training camps proliferate, terrorist bombings and political assassinations are now the norm while thousands, including from Europe, have been recruited to fight in Syria to some day return home with newly acquired terror skills.
Threats to trade flows (read Suez Canal), losses of markets and investments, and a surge in illegal immigration and its attendant crime, costs and social ills are real. This explains why the Europeans, led by France, have been uncharacteristically aggressive in pressing the United States for more robust diplomatic and military engagement.
None of this is inevitable. The West has ample means by which to calm the political landscape. The Euro-Atlantic alliance abounds with enormous diplomatic, financial, commercial and, yes, military resources and the international institutions through which to channel these assets effectively. The questions is less about resources and capabilities though than it is about collective political will. We shall know the answer soon enough.