By WU bingbing
Member of the Academic Committee of the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding(iGCU), PKU
Deputy Director of the Arabic Language and Culture Department of the School of Foreign Languages at Peking University
Director of the Institute of Arab Islamic Culture of Peking University
The title of my speech is "The Strategic Pattern of the Middle East". I think we can't talk about the issue of regional order in the Middle East; a region may not have order, but there is definitely a pattern.
The first issue I want to talk about is the strategic pattern. Generally speaking, the Middle East includes the Arab countries, Iran, Turkey and Israel, of which there are 22 Arab countries. The general dynamic now - and it will probably be the same dynamic for quite some time to come - is that there are many Arab countries, but they are very weak and their internal divisions are continuing. Traditionally, the three Arab republics, Egypt, Iraq and Syria, were strong states, but now they are falling apart. Iraq was crushed in 2003 and has not been able to recover. Egypt, which was exposed as weak after the Arab Spring, has been weak for a long time, and is struggling economically, even relying on aid from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Syria also entered a very turbulent phase after 2010. So the traditionally strong Arab states are actually highly weakened, and it is the Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are traditionally weak states that seem to be very strong. In fact, the weak countries appear to be strong not because they are really strong, but because the strong countries have become weaker. So, the fact that Saudi Arabia and the UAE play a leading role in the Arab countries is itself a phenomenon of the high degree of weakness of the Arab countries. Then, this weakening has led to a phenomenon where non-Arab countries can find their allies within the Arab countries, and this is the problem of fragmentation. It can be said that there is no unified Arab world; it didn't exist before, but now it is more polarized. Iran, for example, has its own allies like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; Turkey has Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood; Israel has Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and Jordan. In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Arab states to be treated as a whole by other states, while their non-Arab counterparts are growing stronger - Israel, Iran and Turkey.
Of these, Iran and Turkey in particular appear to be stronger, with their potential for economic development, national strength, role in the regional landscape, and diplomatic influence on the rise. Iran had a clear rise after 2003 and is now moving upwards. Turkey has also gone strong in terms of its economic development after the 1980s and then this political evolution after Erdogan came to power. Israel has always been strong, but the problem for Israel is that it's nearing saturation capacity, so it's very difficult to get stronger. The only way to stay strong is to constantly explore its human potential. Compared to Iran's 1.6 million square kilometers of territory and 80 million people, and Turkey's 770,000 square kilometers of territory and 80 million people, Israel has only 8 million people and more than 2 million square kilometers of territory, so it has to maximize its human factor to maintain its strong status. That is why Israel repeatedly emphasizes innovation and innovative states, and is also loyal to building innovative partnerships. This is the current landscape of the Middle East: a divided and weakened Arab world, an increasingly strong Iran and Turkey, and a strong Israel - but in a saturated state.
The second issue is the main competition and contradiction in the Middle East. The first competition is the struggle between Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia around the leadership of the Islamic world. Iran is the core Shia state, 10% of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are Shia, 160 million in total, and Iran has 60 million of them, so it is deservedly the core state of all Shia, and it naturally has influence over all Shia states. But unlike Sunnis and Shias, Turkey is a center, Saudi Arabia is a center, Egypt is a center; there was a time when Malaysia was also a center and became an example for many Islamic countries to follow, but now it may be a little weaker. Inside this polycentric state, Egypt is weakened, Saudi Arabia is limited, and Turkey comes to the fore as the leading state in the Sunni world. So, the competition between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey for the position of the leading power in the Islamic world evolved into a competition between Turkey and Iran, and Saudi Arabia is against both Iran and Turkey, against Iran because it is against the Shiites and against Turkey because it wants to be the real dominant power in the Sunni world. So from Turkey's point of view, it has the will to suppress Iran at any time, but in reality it has to cooperate with Iran in many cases. Iran is very clear about this issue, and it has to cooperate with Turkey, because as the leader of the Shiite sect, which is only 10 percent of the world's Muslims, it is impossible to confront the Sunnis, and during the years of the crisis in Syria, Turkey and Iran were in a highly competitive situation, and Iran actively chose to keep all the Iranian-Turkish conflicts inside Syria and maintain frequent high-level Iranian-Turkish contacts, economic and trade exchanges, and diplomatic cooperation. Iran is very calm because of the state of mutual relations, economic and trade exchanges and diplomatic cooperation. However, this policy does not hide the fact that the competition between Iran and Turkey for the position of the leading power in the Islamic world may erupt at any time. 2017, when Trump announced that he wanted to recognize Israel's capital as Jerusalem and move the embassy to Jerusalem, Turkey made a high-profile statement and held many meetings to actively express its position, compared to Iran, which kept a low profile. Why? Because Iran wants to give Turkey the space to express that since I'm cooperating with you, we can't compete for the position of the leading Islamic power through the issue of Jerusalem, which is such a state. Saudi Arabia's position has come down because it is pro-Israel and pro-Trump on this issue, so we can see that in the competition for the leading Islamic power, Saudi Arabia is actually the earliest out of the race.
The second competition is the competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Many people describe this competition as a sectarian conflict, Saudi Arabia as a Sunni, its actual mainstream is also not ordinary Sunni, is one of the Wahhabis; then the competition with Iran as a Shiite, in the Gulf region, in the Arabian Peninsula, in the Greater Syria region is expressed as a sectarian conflict. In fact, this understanding is biased; in fact, the competition between them is a strategic competition on all fronts.
One of them is the competition of national political systems. Iran is an Islamic republic and has an Islamic democracy, such as separation of powers, elections, president, parliament, supreme leader, etc. It wants to build an Islamic democracy that is acceptable to the Islamic world, and it is also a new ideological approach that blends Islamism and democracy. Saudi Arabia is a traditional Islamism with no constitution, no separation of powers, no elections, no parliament, or no elected parliament of that kind, and a decisive role for the royal family. There is a competition as to which model is superior. However, Saudi Arabia has relatively little room for competition in the national political system, because the Saudi system can not be replicated in other countries, many countries believe that Iran's Islamic democracy and democratic form of Islamist ideology is superior.
The second is foreign policy competition. Iran is now pushing a foreign policy of balance of powers, and in fact Saudi Arabia is following this foreign policy. From Saudi Arabia's point of view, it is more difficult to pursue a substantial balance of powers because of its security dependence on the United States. Iran can have better cooperation with Russia, Europe and China, participate in the Iranian nuclear negotiations, and break through to the U.S. through the Iranian nuclear negotiations, because the core of its great power balance is to enhance Iranian-U.S. relations, and there is no balanced diplomacy without enhancing Iranian-U.S. relations. Saudi Arabia's balanced diplomacy is the opposite; it wants to achieve an upgrade in relations with other powers besides the United States. Both sides have to achieve their goals, but it is more difficult for Saudi Arabia to implement this attempt under the absolute security guarantee of the United States than for Iran's flexible and independent diplomacy.
The third is regional security policy competition. Whoever has more allies in the region will have a say in more issues in the region. Iran has built a system of allies in the region that includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen; while Saudi Arabia and the UAE are tightly bound together and seek a cooperative relationship with Israel. These are two rival systems of allies, and we will have to wait and see who will gain the upper hand in the end.
The fourth is competition in the field of religion and culture. The sectarian conflict is only one dimension of an all-round strategic competition; even, within this dimension, it is not a complete dimension, because the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis has existed within Islam since the time of the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD. However, historically, it did not evolve into a violent confrontation and conflict for thousands of years, and only in modern or contemporary times did this pattern develop, so that sectarian conflicts did not necessarily lead to sectarian conflicts and confrontations. The history of the Middle East in the last four or five decades and the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran also show that in the 1970s, for example, the United States implemented a two-pillar strategy, with Saudi Arabia and Iran as its two core countries in the Gulf region, and Iran was used as the Gulf police to "defend" Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the identities of Saudi Arabia and Iran as sectarian differences do not necessarily bring them into conflict, but rather they have worked together in depth. It is only in this state that the discourse and mindset of sectarian contradiction is being revived as a tool to contain and isolate Iran in order to isolate and contain it.
The fifth is competition in the field of science and technology and the economy. Saudi Arabia is able to participate in all aspects of the international economy, such as financial and energy aspects; Iran has been under sanctions for a long time and even after the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran is still not able to interface freely with the international financial system, so in essence the Iranian side has hardly enjoyed any of the benefits of the Iranian nuclear deal since it was reached - perhaps a little. -maybe a little bit, and in this economic environment, Iran's economy is certainly much less than Saudi Arabia's total. But in the field of science and technology, in this sanctioned state, Iran has independently developed its own nuclear industrial system, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology, among others. In fact, in the competition for science and technology, Iran is far ahead of Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and Iran are at the top of the list of core papers published in top international journals throughout the Middle East, not countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have abundant funding.
So from these perspectives, there is actually an all-round strategic competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran in these five areas for dominance in the Gulf and the surrounding region. In this competition, overall, Iran has the upper hand.
The third focus of competition is between the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a major Islamic organization in the Sunni world, and the countries that oppose it. The Muslim Brotherhood is, if I may use a less appropriate analogy, a Sunni version of Iran, and its claims are similar to Iran's intra-Sunni claims, which are modern Islamism, that is, adherence to both the full expression of Islamic values in political society and the modern political concepts of constitution, republic, elections and separation of powers, so it is completely different from the traditional Islamism of Saudi Arabia. It is precisely this tenet that makes it so different from Saudi Arabia's traditional Islamism. It is precisely this tenet that determines a mostly repressive attitude within the Arab states, because its state determines its competitiveness and resilience. Egypt suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE jointly supported the coup that overthrew Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Within the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Egyptian government are firmly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood. Some countries may allow the Muslim Brotherhood to be elected to certain seats in parliament, such as Jordan and Morocco. However, in general, the Muslim Brotherhood is a huge force in the Arab world and a huge threat to governments, which is why it is suppressed. Turkey is number one among the countries that support the Muslim Brotherhood because the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey. Qatar is also in full support of the Muslim Brotherhood. So there is a network of confrontation between the two sides, and this confrontation will affect the future direction of domestic politics in the Arab world. Here, the Muslim Brotherhood is supported by Turkey, Qatar, Hamas, including the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Sudan, Syria, Jordan and Morocco, while it is firmly opposed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The last competition is the intra-Arab competition around the leadership of the Arab world. Since May 2017, Saudi Arabia, together with the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, and what they oppose is Qatar's use of its financial power and its possession of the U.S. air military base in Al-Udeid to gain strong regional influence. So an Arab world with 2 million square kilometers of territory and 20 million people would worry about a Qatar with 1.1 million square kilometers of territory and 300,000 people exercising leadership in the Arab world, and that's what the Arab world is now - a mess. But the more insidious and acute conflict within the Arab world is actually the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The two countries have now formed a close partnership, and since the second half of 2017 both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been referring to a concept called the Saudi-UAE axis as the leading country in the Arab world, and in fact, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are closely defending each other because the UAE clearly feels that this is one of the most distressing times for Saudi Arabia, which happens to be also an opportunity for the UAE s opportunity. The UAE has territorial ambitions for Saudi Arabia if Saudi Arabia makes serious mistakes in its more risky foreign policy and more drastic domestic reforms, which could lead to regime turmoil or problems in the country. So, from this perspective, the cooperation now may imply a sharp and intense confrontation in the future.
These four rivalries determine that the Middle East does not actually have an effective mechanism for regional cooperation right now. An interesting phenomenon is that Middle Eastern countries want to meet in the Middle East but cannot find a place because the Saudis are afraid to go to Lebanon for fear of being kidnapped by Hezbollah; Iranians and Bahrainis are denied visas to go to Jordan; Turks cannot go to Egypt; and Emiratis cannot go to Oman. Countries used to be able to go to Turkey, but now Egyptians don't go to Turkey because of the MUJ issue, and now after Qatar is boycotted, those who want to fly west by Qatar Airways can now only go east through Iran. Therefore, now it is impossible to find a place in the Middle East where all the Middle Eastern countries can sit together and meet. Now it is difficult to establish an effective mechanism for security cooperation and economic cooperation in the Middle East. For example, the original Gulf Cooperation Council and the League of Arab States originally did not cover non-Arab countries, like the GCC originally did not cover non-Gulf countries, and the Arab League has been loosened up, with Syria being stopped from taking a seat and Saudi Arabia and the UAE playing a leading role in it, causing dissatisfaction among other Arab countries. The GCC has also ceased to function because of the Qatar crisis last year, hence the emergence of the UAE-Saudi axis concept. The original very limited cooperation mechanisms have ceased to function, and these Middle Eastern countries, not even sitting together.
Now, the United States, at least from a civil perspective, has proposed the idea of building a mechanism for cooperation in the Middle East, and has proposed at least ten principles. Russia has twice proposed in the Valdai Forum that it should help establish a mechanism for cooperation in the region; some European civil society organizations, including European diplomatic institutions, have also proposed that such a mechanism is necessary; even some Asian countries have suggested that we could help establish some mechanisms in the Middle East; and countries in the Middle East, such as Iran, have made similar proposals. However, the response of Saudi Arabia and the UAE is that we are a Saudi-UAE axis structure and do not need a regional cooperation mechanism. Therefore, it may be necessary for external countries, not even one country, but some countries and international organizations to promote the construction of regional security cooperation and economic cooperation mechanisms in the region. In fact, the economic and trade exchanges between the Middle East countries is very little, most of the Gulf countries produce energy products, so basically do not trade with each other; for example, Saudi Arabia sells oil to the UAE, the UAE sells oil to Saudi Arabia, which is impossible; the most products between the two sides is dependent on the financial capacity generated by energy, so relying on investment is also impossible, investment in what industry, the final investment is still energy, investment Arms people are not willing to produce weapons for each other is not possible. Therefore, the trade volume between all countries is very small, and everyone's trade volume is to countries outside the region, to Europe, to the United States, to China, or to other Asian countries. Therefore, how to promote such a region to enhance mutual trust and establish a mechanism for cooperation is now a very difficult challenge.
Cooperation in this region may need to be driven by foreign national forces. However, one thing we have to remember is the cultural factor. Many Arab countries believe that one of the obstacles to the establishment of a regional cooperation mechanism is that the Arab countries are too closely linked to each other, not in terms of economic and trade ties, but in terms of cultural and human ties. A tribe is distributed in four or five countries, a Shamur tribe stretches from Iraq to Sudan, we all speak one language, follow one religion, the Saudis are Yemenis, Yemenis are Saudis, simply inseparable. So once the cooperation mechanism is established, the boundaries of the country may be broken, and the government can no longer exist, because the depth of civil and cultural interaction will make this cooperation mechanism dilute the authority of the central government, so very close social and cultural contacts have become an obstacle to political mutual trust, which is also a very interesting phenomenon.
The third issue is the role of the United States and the major powers in the Middle East. This factor is not to be dismissed; the United States is, after all, a huge factor in shaping the region, as are the other great powers. In general, the United States in this region is less influential than before, but there is no doubt that the United States is still the only dominant power in this region, including its military projection capabilities, its economic and trade relations with these countries, its influence and soft power, are unmatched by other powers. Under Obama, he has pursued a strategy of reducing military investment in the Middle East, reducing the use of military means, reluctance to intervene militarily, and reluctance to over-invest in the Middle East. His core concern is to improve relations with Iran through the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, and through this, U.S.-Iran relations have reached historically unprecedented heights, including calls at the presidential level and regular meetings of foreign ministers. Only by improving relations with its adversaries can it substantially reduce its input in the region, which is the thinking of the United States, so the United States can talk to Iran on the issue of ports, on the issue of the Houthis, on the issue of Iraq and Syria, and after talking about the problem, there will be no need for confrontation, and there will be no need for confrontation in order to reduce its input. It can be said that a prerequisite for the U.S. to shrink from the Middle East is to talk with Iran, the first opponent in the region, Obama did. However, the United States to reduce input at the same time to increase control over the Middle East, which is the strategy, not because of the reduction of input and lead to the shrinking of influence, so the ability to talk with the opponent is a manifestation of the expansion of influence, not a manifestation of weakness. Because and rivals talk, traditional allies have no choice but to increase their dependence on the United States, so Saudi Arabia and Israel are very dissatisfied. However, because there is no alternative option for Saudi Arabia and Israel, Obama's policy successfully achieved the effect of reducing input and increasing influence, which is the most effective policy design for the overall U.S. contraction from the Middle East.
However, when Trump came to power, his strategy changed completely. The first one was to make Iran the primary threat, so he changed Obama's policy from its roots, of course for many reasons. The second one is to consolidate relations with traditional allies to counter Iran, and he elevated relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He wants Saudi Arabia and the UAE to form a solid core, and these two countries repeatedly talk about a two-state axis because the United States wants them to do so, to build an "Arab NATO" with them as the core, and this "Arab NATO" periphery like an onion layer by layer This "Arab NATO" periphery is like an onion, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the core, the Gulf countries are the second layer, Egypt and Jordan are the third layer, Sudan and Algeria are the fourth layer, layer by layer, all the Arab countries rely on the "Arab NATO" structure and Israel to build a security alliance to confront Iran with this system, this The idea is very clear. So, in this structure, why does the Arab NATO exclude Turkey? Turkey is already a member of NATO, and the reason for creating an "Arab NATO" outside NATO, outside the only NATO member in the Middle East, is that Trump wants to marginalize Turkey, which does not have a role in the region, such as its views on the Kurdish issue, its views on Syria, and its views on Iraq. issue. At the same time, in this construct, Egypt's position as a major power in the Arab world is going to decline because Saudi Arabia and the UAE are going to dominate. So Trump's basic logic is that the bigger the country, the more it has to stand aside, such as Iran, Turkey and Egypt, and its concern is only with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. With this policy design, it is actually very difficult to achieve his stated aim of confronting Iran, because there has to be direct input from the U.S. itself to make the side he supports on this scale actually be able to hold Iran down. Although Trump is also implementing a strategy of overall U.S. contraction in the Middle East, his policy is actually pushing the U.S. to continually invest more and more in the Middle East, and from this perspective, the goals and means of this policy do not match. This in itself is a sign of the weakening of U.S. capabilities in the region, as it is increasingly difficult to harness the major powers in the region, so it goes to harness the middle and small countries in the region.
So, in the Middle East, the time has passed when a single major power found an answer for the region, and there is a definite need for the cooperation of major powers. At the same time, the logic of development in the region itself is going to hold it back at a time when the United States wants to contract in this region. For example, the U.S. has always been reluctant to get deeply involved in Syria on a large scale, but it is clear that from non-lethal weapons assistance to the opposition by the CIA in 2012, to lethal weapons in 2013, to strikes by the U.S. military in 2014, to U.S. ground troops in 2015, to a massive network of military bases in 2017, it is clear that no matter what policy is adopted by whichever president U.S. involvement in Syria is getting deeper and deeper.
In addition to policy design, another factor is the situational push. This is not at the will of the United States, and from this perspective it is more difficult for the United States to contract in the Middle East. However, the U.S. is still the largest dominant power in the Middle East, and compared with other major powers, the U.S. is "faceted" and has influence on every country and every issue in the Middle East, which corresponds to the analysis of Russia's power. Russia's influence on the countries of the Middle East is expanding, but it is "point" in nature, with only three points of influence, namely on Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. It wants to expand its influence by establishing ties with all countries, but the number of points where it can make a difference is very small. So, Russia is expanding its influence, but at the point; the U.S. is shrinking its influence, but laying it on the surface. In terms of this pattern, the Middle East remains a strong U.S. and a weak Russia.
China has established balanced diplomatic relations with all the countries, and China has no enemies in the Middle East, we joke about "no enemy country" diplomacy, all are friends. But the Middle Eastern countries are skeptical, and we are focused on the issue of development. I think every country has different advantages, and China's advantage is development, so why can't we focus on development? At least at this stage, we also propose some constructs, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in fact, many countries in the Middle East are willing to join the SCO, such as Syria, followed by Qatar, the UAE, and more and more countries want to join. Of course, whether this organization is an alternative mechanism to the Western system or not will have to be seen in practice. So, China's influence in the Middle East is expanding, and this is a big pattern.
So, what are the choices of the regional countries under this pattern? The choice for the regional countries is first of all balanced diplomacy of the major powers, because the influence of the United States is decreasing, but it is still dominant, and the dependence of countries on the United States is not decreasing, while at the same time, the influence of China and Russia is expanding, so balanced diplomacy makes sense. This is true of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are all increasingly diplomatic toward China, as is Egypt. At the same time, recognizing the inadequate problem-solving capabilities of a single U.S. country, or even of external powers and organizations, the Middle East countries have begun to pursue intra-regional state alliances, with Saudi Arabia pulling tightly on the UAE, despite mutual distrust, and then Saudi Arabia and the UAE pulling on Israel, Iran pulling on its own allies, and Turkey pulling on Qatar. It could be argued that balanced diplomacy among the major powers and regional alliances of states is a response to the current pattern and role of these countries. However, there are still not many countries to promote the establishment of regional security mechanisms and economic cooperation mechanisms, which is now a challenge.
The fourth issue is the issue of state capacity building in the Middle East, which is the lack of state capacity building in weak states that are weakening, de-centering, dividing, fragmenting, and even splitting. The Kurdish region in Iraq had a referendum in 2017; Syria has apparently been divided into many, along the Euphrates River, half in the east and half in the west, with the Turkish-controlled area in the north and the area established by Jordan in the south; and Libya, Yemen, the UAE has established a solid sphere of influence in Yemen, and the tendency to partition Yemen is becoming more and more evident, so at a time when the existence of these countries themselves is becoming an issue national capacity building goes even more wrong. There is an interesting phenomenon in the Middle East, where experts on the subject see a large role for non-state actors, and I personally see a growing role for sub-state actors. The first example is the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, which forms a small independent kingdom within Iran, with its own system and hundreds of thousands of troops, and then it can function within the Iranian system and it can function regionally on behalf of Iranian forces. The second example is Hezbollah in Lebanon. Why is it a sub-state actor? Because it participates in the government, is part of the government, and is funded by the government, but is not the government. Hezbollah participates in the general elections, and then the leaders become ministers and have great influence on Lebanese politics and diplomacy, and then according to Lebanese scholars, all the other armed factions in Lebanon plus the army of the Lebanese state combined would not be able to defeat Hezbollah. Then, calling this organization a non-state actor may not fit the situation. Third, the "Popular Mobilization Forces" that have emerged in Iraq over the past three years. In the fight against the Islamic State, the Iraqi government has been losing ground, and Shiite militias have had to organize themselves, joining forces with some Kurdish and Sunni groups. Today, it is not the Iraqi government forces that have finally been able to defeat the Islamic State, but the Popular Mobilization Forces, which have grown to 150,000 people, with the Prime Minister's Office as its parent body, and is a large sub-state actor that has grown in just three years. This is a huge sub-state actor that has grown in just three years. In addition, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Palestine, some of the extremist groups that exist in Syria, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, are actually taking over the city, and the Islamic State, at its peak, used to have a large presence. At its peak, the Islamic State had 200,000 troops, controlled more than 100,000 square kilometers of territory, established a government, and sought to establish a quasi-state form. So, is the ability to establish a sub-state actor outside of the central government structure actually strengthening or weakening the capacity of many states in the Middle East? The question is a complex one. In Iraq, there was no way to eliminate the Islamic State without the Popular Mobilization Forces, but 150,000 of them were able to do so after eliminating the Islamic State. But the 150,000 "Popular Mobilization Forces" will not automatically dissolve after the elimination of the Islamic State, so will they strengthen or weaken the country of Iraq? This is a complex question.
From the economic point of view, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are facing the same problem, that is, the high population growth is similar, with young people under 25 years old accounting for one-third to one-half of the total population; however, the slow industrialization of the country, and even the process of de-industrialization and counter-industrialization, has led to underemployment, resulting in an imbalance between economic development and social development. This imbalance eventually leads to problems of people's livelihoods and political institutions, resulting in many conflicts, such as the demonstrations in Iran, the "Arab Spring" in Egypt, and the fierce domestic conflicts faced by Saudi Arabia. The issue of national capacity building is in front of the Middle East countries, and it is difficult for them to solve it by themselves, which is one of the main problems facing the interaction between external powers and the Middle East countries. For example, even if Syria were to stop its civil war today and then all countries would help it, it would take about 45 to 50 years to reach the level of 2011, and these problems now seem to be not a regional or a national problem, but a global challenge.
Therefore, we need to sort out its internal logic and see that it has a chaotic side, a ruling side, a developing side, and a backward side, so that a more realistic perception is in line with the regional reality.