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Middle East tries cooperation alongside competition

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25.11.2021
By James M. Dorsey

Just in case there were any doubts, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu demonstrated with his visit to Lebanon last week that improved relations between Middle Eastern rivals would not bury hatchets.

On the contrary, improved relations shifts the battlefield away from potential armed conflict, allowing rivals to compete while enjoying the benefits of trade and economic cooperation as well as lines of communication that help prevent disputes and conflicts from spinning out of control.

With his visit, Cavusoglu was stepping into a breach. He sought to fill a vacuum after Turkey's geopolitical and religious soft power rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, together with Bahrain and Kuwait, imposed an economic boycott on Lebanon and withdrew their ambassadors from Beirut.

Once a middle-income country, Lebanon is teetering on the brink of collapse due to endemic corruption and an elite willing to protect their vested interests at whatever cost. As a result, the United Nations estimates that three-quarters of the population have descended into poverty.

Aggravating Lebanon's predicament, the boycott intends to loosen the grip of Hezbollah ― the Iranian-backed militia and political party, which has become part of the elite ― on the country. A Hezbollah protest in October, demanding the replacement of a judge investigating last year's devastating Beirut port explosion that killed more than 200 people, descended into sectarian violence, reminiscent of Lebanon's 15-year-long civil war in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cavusoglu traveled to Beirut in advance........

© The Korea Times


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