In the Middle East, 2018 marked the end of ISIL’s grip on the urban enclaves in Syria and Iraq. A phase of rebalancing followed in Iraq, and then Syria, during which the strategic gaps left by the Islamist organisation were filled by the states of the region taking back their territorial, regal and strategic entitlements.
The city of Idlib remains at the centre of all motives, both Islamist and governmental, while the Kurdish areas in the north are coming under the control of the Damascus government.
In Iraq, the Baghdad government’s retaking of territories annexed by the Kurdish Autonomous Region following the fall of Mosul in 2014 has resulted in renewed allegiances among the Kurdish leaders to the central government, ignoring past nationalist claims. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the democratic renewal against the feudal parties of the Barzani and Talibani families continues to progress.
Under US pressure, Iran is facing a massive monetary and economic crisis. The youth of the country, who may have given the impression of wanting to lift the yoke of the regime, are failing to reverse the equilibrium. In the face of external pressure, the mullah’s regime, at least on the surface and by using Shia forces to regain regional power, are playing the patriotic card to bring the country together.
In Syria, President Bashal al-Assad’s regime is gradually regaining international and regional diplomatic favour. Europe, having bet on his Islamic and Kurdish opponents, remain on the fringes.
Saudi Arabia’s regional policy, based on Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s sense of omnipotence, has been undermined not only by the country’s crisis with their neighbour Qatar, but also by internal opposition. 2018 marked the growing isolation of Saudi Arabia on the regional and international scene, crystallised by the Khashoggi affair.
With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the latter part of 2018 marked an increase in violence in the occupied territories.