Outlook 2017: Middle East

This is the last of a five-part series looking at the key events and issues facing the world in 2017. Today, The Straits Times looks at the Middle East and enormous challenges facing the war-torn region.

Middle East's new power brokers

A young Syrian sweet seller warming himself by a fire in a damaged building in Aleppo on Christmas Day. Events this year have shown the new arbiters of the Middle East to be Russia, Turkey and Iran.

As another grim year of warfare and immense human suffering concluded in the Middle East, three key powers recently got together to coordinate their regional moves in the coming year.

At first glance, it was nothing unusual; summits on the Middle East are not exactly a novelty. But this meeting was radically different. For it did not include the United States, until recently the Middle East's chief arbiter. Nor did it include the representatives of even one Arab nation; instead, it involved Russia, Turkey and Iran, the region's new main players.

Few events illustrate the Middle East's real condition more accurately than this summit. For this is a region from which one superpower is sliding off, a former superpower is returning, and almost everyone else is running fast just to stand still.


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Its forces have performed badly; although well-equipped and disciplined, Saudi Arabia has discovered - as have many other countries in the past - that defeating Iranian-supplied proxy militias is hard.

Nonetheless, the Saudi determination to fight Iranian influence remains undiminished, whether it is in Yemen, Bahrain or Syria.

The coming year, therefore, belongs to more proxy fighting by even more regional actors.