USA, Syria and EU: interview with Strategic Studies Program Bahrain Center Ashraf Kishk

Head of Strategic Studies Program Bahrain Center for Strategic International & Energy Studies, Manama, Prof. Ashraf Kishk is convinced there will be no direct confrontation between USA and Russia in the Syrian conflict. Kishk has intervened at the Center for American Studies in occasion of the conference “The Great Rivalry: security and defense in the Middle East” organized in collaboration with the EU-Gulf Information Center and Nato Defense College. The Director believes that the European Union is doing too little within the dangerous Middle Eastern scenario.


The Syrian crisis is shocking the world public opinion. What do u think it is necessary to find an end the conflict?

The Syrian crisis became international after having been a local one. There are many players now that they were not present in 2011. The competition between US and Russia is evident and other regional players like Iran, Hezbollah and ISIS. It is a so complicated conflict and I think the solution will be based on how United States and Russia reached an agreement about many disputes issues like the future of Al Assad’s regime and other issues related to this conflict. I don’t think we will have a direct confrontation between the Superpowers.


Lebanon: another political unstable country. After the crisis involving PM Saad Hariri few months ago, what future for Lebanon?

I think Lebanon has a lot of problems because a compromise has not been found. If we see at the previous period, Lebanon is able to deal with these challenges and I don’t think the country will become as the other regional troubles state. In fact, Lebanon is unified, strong country and it has its own solution for these challenges.


European Union: what do you think Bruxelles governance should do be an important actor in the Middle East region?

Excellent question. If we see what happened between EU and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) we have negotiations to reach an agreement but until now they were not able to find this final agreement because we have a lot of troubles. EU has to realize that GCC still needs international allies in this region like US, NATO and the same EU that is very important for GCC. The GCC’s priority now is to deter Iran because it is playing a negative role especially in Yemen still supporting Huthi militias. EU has to make pressure and to stop the Iranian enemies with GCC. In addition, EU and GCC have still to conclude the agreement on commerce because now all the GCC’s countries are looking forward to change states not relying on oil as a source of national income. Now EU has to play role on that and to cooperate to go in a common direction.


What kind of other countermeasures do you think the Trump’s administration will play during the next days?

I think the Trump’s administration policy to MENA is based on many factors: first of all, the role of the internal environment to the USA is still preventing the White House to military intervene in a direct way in Middle East. The second reason is that Trump announced that if any country wants to play a major role in this region would have to pay and to financially support and to share the money with us. I think this is a realistic vision but I don’t think USA will directly intervene in regional crisis if this crisis will not cross the red lines which are determined by the previous administration and related to oil security and to the attacks to the allies.

Israel: which role do you think Tel Aviv is playing in the Syrian conflict and into the region?

If we see what happened between 2011 and 2018 in our region we had a lot of problems, a lot of challenges and I think Israel benefited from these transformations achieving many goals strengthening the relations with many international involved actors. I think Israel’s role will be clearly defined even during the peace-process negotiations.


Francesco Garibaldi


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