Henri J. Barkey and David F. Gordon write: The winds of change are unexpectedly blowing through the Levant.
In the aftermath of the Iran nuclear agreement, there was a broad expectation, both in the region and beyond, that sectarian tensions and conflict would intensify and deepen the proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the United States, even some strong supporters of the nuclear deal emphasized that Washington needed to respond aggressively to the inevitable push by Tehran to expand its regional influence at the expense of traditional U.S. allies.
What we are seeing on the ground, however, looks quite different. There is an increasing possibility for new geopolitical alignments throughout the region. The confluence of the growing fear in both Saudi Arabia and Iran of the threat posed by Islamic State; the weakening of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy shift to cooperate with the United States in Syria, and Moscow’s and Washington’s growing shared interests in steering the Saudi-Iran rivalry onto a less escalatory path, while also creating a broad coalition against Islamic State, is creating real political fluidity. [Continue reading…]