Dangerous liaisons in the Middle East: forget friends and foes; say hello to enemy of my enemy

Instability in the Middle East region has never been more complex than in these past 2 years, which have proven – if that was even necessary – that fragmentation can lead to a chaotic climate. Like the motion of the atoms, sometimes impossible to predict, the dramatic unfolding of events in Syria and Iraq has lead to peculiar short-term alliances. Understanding what is going on is crucial for Europe’s security in the near future.

The conflict in Syria began slowly during the Arab Spring, in 2011 consuming lives and recourses like any civil war would do, especially if spiced up with some new type of radical fighters. Meanwhile, Iraq was a mess – with a post-war violence surging so much that the economy and stability could not show any kind of recovery.

Things continued in a similar manner, yet without important developments, until the very interesting spring and summer of 2014 when new events established the premises of the current situation. Russia invaded Crimea and prompted an urban guerilla type of civil war in Eastern Ukraine, causing the Western world (the EU and NATO) to engage in sanctions and to acknowledge the new power ambitions of their neighbouring superpower. Iranians chose a new and more moderate president – Hassan Rouhani in 2013– which started a clever PR campaign next year in order to get the sanctions lifted for his country, which was sinking in debt and growing economic and social struggles. It’s worth remembering that Iranians and Russia were providing military aid to the Damascus regime led by Bashar al Assad, and maintained their indisputable support for the Syrian president, from the start until present times.

This stable love triangle between Syria, Russia and Iran is not hard to understand given the fact that Russia needed to become the no 1 voice in the Middle East affairs, a region where Continue reading →

What makes refugees so disturbing to Europeans

It has been a hot summer so far in Europe. Everywhere you go, people endlessly talk of air conditioning , heat, holidays and Grexit. It is indeed the season during which Europeans travel most, fulfilling the middle classes’ need for getaways. I often find myself sitting with friends at some fancy looking cafe in downtown Bucharest complaining about the city, as if we were infested with some kind of local boredom.

‘I wish I’d just leave for another country. Right now, right away. Leave every unattended issue in my life and fly away’ – it’s not unusual to hear these words should you pass by our table. And it’s not the fact that we don’t travel- we actually do: some for business, some for adventure and others just for the pleasure of it. It’s actually the lack of challenges or conflicts in the surrounding environment that allows such narcissistic features to take upon our lives. It’s characteristic of the new European lifestyle, established after WWII with the creation of the EU. I might call it middle class now, but its roots could be found in the ‘bourgeois’ lifestyle.

But do either of us young Europeans understand the enormous privileges of living on the Old Continent? We might at a frivolous level, but deep inside it is impossible to acknowledge that we are truly living in a bubble. Continue reading →