January 3, 2014
Sotiris Roussos is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Political Science and IR of the University of Peloponnese and Head of the Centre for Middle East, Mediterranean and Islamic Studies (CEMMIS), www.cemmis.edu.gr
We discussed about the ravaging civil war in Syria, the nuclear ordeal of Iran, the Kurdish issue, Cyrpus, and the stalling EU adhesion process of Turkey.
1. What were the triggering points of the civil war in Syria and what outcome could you foresee?
It should be seen as a result of both internal and external processes. First Bashar al-Assad did not manage to face the economic and social dislocation due to the timid entrance of Syria in the globalised world. He overlooked and actually destroyed old alliances between the Alawi state and Sunni business elites and alienated the rural power base of the regime. At the same time he was becoming all the more depended on Tehran alienating Arab capitals in the Gulf. With the spark of the Arab rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria became alight. Now, however, the civil war in Syria has been transformed into a regional war for Syria, between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, involving of course the USA, Russia and Israel. The spread of the Jihadist groups in the revolt has further complicated the situation. It is difficult to see a viable resolution of the conflict without a regional understanding of the aforementioned powers.
2. What is your opinion regarding the deal over Iran’s nuclear program?
It is hard to see this deal only through the lens of its technical provisions however important these provisions and benchmarks might be. It should be seen as the beginning of a much more complicated negotiating process over the regional role of Iran and this is the most difficult question. I am not at sure that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies are ready to see Iran as a regional hegemonic power, accepted as such by the US, with either 5 or 20% enrichment.
3. Do you expect any different outcome other than stalemate regarding the Palestinian issue after the ongoing talks with the Israeli side and the US mediation?
Unless the spark of the Arab revolts ignites a new radical youth movement in Palestine there will be no chance of a breakthrough. Neither the old and corrupt Fatah elite, nor the delegitimised Hamas leadership can bring a viable solution. Both Israel and the Palestinians are in need of a shock that only a new Palestinian movement could produce.
4. Do you believe that Turkey will become an EU member-state?
Not in the foreseeable future. With EU in such social and institutional crisis it will be impossible for the European electorates to accept a country of more than 70 million people. Any country, not only Turkey.
5. With reference to the Kurdish issue, how possible is the creation of a sovereign state that would encompass areas of Turkey, Syria, Iran and North Iraq?
I do not thing that this is possible. What I see as a possible outcome is new Kurdish political entities in the form of unrecognised states. From the 1990s onwards we have seen a number of these entities such as Nagorno Karabagh, Abkhazia, Somaliland, Kosovo or Iraqi Kurdistan. Shall we see a constellation of such states in the Middle East, a Syrian (Western) Kurdistan state, an Alawi state, a Sunni state (uniting Syrian and Iraqi parts), where statecraft is never fully accomplished but instead they are in constant process of “becoming state”? Improbable but possible.
6. Egypt is faced with a deep institutional and political deadlock so far. In this context, and given the increasing polarization of the society, what could be a viable solution for democratic and institutional stability?
An all-inclusive political initiative by the military government coupled with freeing all political prisoners and free elections with all parties including those associated with the Brotherhood. Otherwise we shall turn a blind eye to a dictatorship as we did in the last 50 years, re-producing the same problems both in domestic and regional affairs.
7. Do you believe that the Cyprus issue will still remain unresolved? Are there any positive signs whatsoever?
There will be and there are now pressures and may-be discreet initiatives for a breakthrough. What I am afraid though is that with Cyprus in such a devastating social and economic situation there might be attempts to take advantage of the weak Greek-Cypriot negotiating position in order to bring Annan Plan back from the grave, where it was buried by the Cypriot people.