Nineteen years ago today, when the second plane rammed into the second of the Twin Towers and it was clear that we were witnessing a crime, not an accident, we immediately knew that our lives would change. When, less than a year ago, we started hearing of a new coronavirus that had emerged in a provincial Chinese city, it took us a long time to realize that our world would change even more radically.
The Covid-19 pandemic overturned everyone’s daily habits and multiplied the challenges that humanity faces. In our region, it is affecting the geopolitical dynamics that were set in motion by the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The United States’ “war against terror” in response to the 9/11 attacks has contributed to at least 37 million people being forced to leave their homes, according to Brown University’s “Cost of War” project made public a few days ago. The wave of refugees and migrants reached Europe, too, affecting societies in many countries and influencing the course of the European Union.
In the United States, fatigue over endless wars and freedom from dependence on Middle East oil have reduced the sole superpower’s interest in our region. The proxy wars between Sunni and Shiites in the Muslim world have caused further destabilization. The pandemic, though, threatens not only the victims of war and poverty, but also countries that are protagonists in the post-9/11 developments, as well as those that are far from the front.
The radical change in the daily life of all the planet’s inhabitants (working from home, ballooning debt and growing unemployment, greater inequality between the rich and poor, greatly reduced travel, among others) has lead to a great drop in energy needs. It is difficult to predict how energy producers such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran will cope, as it is impossible to know how the pandemic will develop, how it will affect the global economy in the long term.
Will Turkey, which seeks to become a leading power in the region, be able to keep on overreaching without further support from Qatar? Will Israel come to an agreement with the Palestinians? Will the United States return to the region? These are just some of the many questions that arise. Uncertainty reigns.
This is the world in which we must chart our course. We need to be aware of this.