No need to exaggerate impact of N African turmoil

16:18, March 18, 2011      

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The civil strife in Tunisia three months ago led to turmoil in the entire Arab world, and this reflects the intercommunity of Arab countries. Arab countries have a similar level of development, a single economic structure, insufficient supervisory mode and relatively closed and fragile political, economic and social modes.

Modern information and network technology allows potential conflicts to suddenly explode and the turmoil to spread out of control to a certain degree. We can see that instead of inter-state conflicts, some international turmoil is caused by conflicts within a country, which then develops into regional conflicts. This is a notable feature of the current turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East.

It is clear that the internal stability and development of a country plays an important role for regional security and development. We can analyze the possible impact of the current turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East in three aspects.

First, the turmoil is accidental. The unrest has a profound domestic social background, but the time and direct causes behind the unrest were accidental. It was neither deliberate nor the result of long-term preparations, design or manipulation of external forces.

The impact of the unrest on non-traditional security must be stressed. The first impact is on the international food market. Although related regions are not major grain production areas, they are important production areas of phosphate, an indispensable raw material of the chemical fertilizers used for wheat production.

The second impact is the drastic fluctuations of oil prices. Egypt and its neighboring countries are all traditional oil producing countries and one of the major oil suppliers of Western countries, including the United States. Egypt is also home to the world’s significant oil channels and logistics centers, such as the Suez Canal.

The third impact lies in that the unrest will likely lead to a new round of refugee crises in Europe. Related institutions estimated that the Middle East and North Africa unrest will possibly cause 1 million refugees to flood into nearby European countries. The fourth impact is on terrorist activities. Influenced by the North African unrest and regime changes, some terrorist forces and political organizations will possibly come into power, posing a devastating impact on the international anti-terrorism situation. The solutions to all of the issues rely on the cooperation between countries.

It also has only limited influence. The unrest in North Africa and the Middle East will not fundamentally change the global or Middle Eastern political patterns and will only have limited influence on great powers’ global strategies.

As to regional political patterns, due to the downfall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the United States may strengthen cooperation with Turkey, the only Muslim country in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This way, Turkey's regional influence may be enhanced, but its effects on restoring regional stability are open to question. In addition, the anti-American sentiment aroused by the Middle Eastern unrest has enhanced the stability of the Iranian government headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The United States has shown support for the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, but in light of its own interests, the superpower is rather hesitant about making any effective policies. The unrest in Egypt and the Middle East will inevitably consume the United States’ diplomatic resources, and thus affect its East Asian strategy to a certain degree. However, the overall trend of the eastward shift of the U.S. global strategy will not change unless large-scale anti-American campaigns break out in the Middle East. (Author: Wang Fan, director of the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University)

By Zhang Hongyu, People's Daily Online

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