Unraveling the Middle East's 2022: A Look Back to Chart Our Course in 2023
Welcome back to Inshallah, your source for news and analysis on the Middle East.
2022 was a year marked by significant developments and challenges in the Middle East, from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the ongoing protests in Iran.
As we look ahead to 2023, it's crucial to understand the impact of these events and how they may shape the future of the region.
Join me as we take a closer look at the major events of 2022 and explore the potential implications for the year to come.
How the war in Ukraine affected Middle East powers
The major story of 2022 was undoubtedly the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent ongoing war, which overshadowed other news and events in the region.
Its impact is not limited to Eastern Europe but extends to the entire world, including the Middle East.
One of the primary ways in which the war in Ukraine has affected the Middle East is through its impact on the balance of power between Russia and Western countries.
The war has led to a breakdown in relations between Russia and the West and increased competition and hostility between the two sides.
This has had a ripple effect throughout the Middle East, as countries in the region have been forced to take sides and align themselves with one of the two powers.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine on February 24, Turkey has maintained a delicate balance in its relations with both sides.
On the one hand, Turkey has supplied Ukraine with crucial military equipment such as Bayraktar drones. On the other hand, it has closed its straits to military vessels, preventing Russia from reinforcing its fleet.
Nevertheless, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has maintained regular communication with President Putin, and Turkey has kept up economic ties with Russia.
Gulf countries have tried to take a neutral stance in the Russia-Ukraine conflict by publicly supporting the ending of the invasion and calling for Russia to withdraw its military presence, as shown by their vote at the United Nations General Assembly on March 2.
While they do not fully align with Russia's perspective, they acknowledge the national security considerations that have motivated Moscow's actions.
Additionally, the crisis has brought attention to the concept of energy being used as a political weapon and has increased the strategic importance of oil and gas markets in the region.
Protests in Iran
However, another significant event that occurred in the Middle East in the past year was the protests in Iran.
Protests against the government of Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody began on September 16, 2022, and continue to the present day.
The protests are widespread, affecting various social classes, educational institutions, and communities, and are considered the largest challenge to the government since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
The government's response to the protests has resulted in at least 481 deaths, including 64 minors, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization.
The 2022 Israeli elections held in November resulted in Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power with a new government that is considered the most right-wing in Israel's history.
The government is made up of ultranationalists, including Itamar Ben-Gvir as the new minister of national security and Bezalel Smotrich, who will have significant power over Israeli settlements in addition to his role as finance minister.
The government has promised to expand settlements and weaken the authority of the judiciary. The new government's policies and actions will negatively impact Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank as it plans to increase Jewish settlers and decrease the population of Palestinians.
Discrimination against Palestinians in Israel is likely to increase, and there is fear that the situation will be worse than it is now. The government's allocation of budget, jobs, and education will also affect the Palestinians.
The end of 2022 saw the outbreak of a major political scandal called "Qatargate," stemming from allegations of corruption, money laundering, and organized crime involving individuals with ties to Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influence in the European Parliament.
As part of the investigation, authorities in Belgium, Italy, and Greece seized a significant amount of cash and conducted searches and seizures of electronic devices, leading to charges being filed against several individuals.
What to watch out in 2023
However, now is the time to take a look at what to expect in 2023. There are three major issues that will need to be closely monitored this year, as they have the potential to significantly affect the power balance in the region.
Iran: From protests to revolution?
The civil unrest and protests in Iran, which began in September 2022, raise an essential question: How far will this movement progress, and what impact could it have on other countries in the region?
The civil unrest and protests have fundamentally altered the relationship between the state and its citizens but have not yet resulted in a regime change.
However, they have significantly damaged relations between Iran and the West, with countries such as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand imposing human rights sanctions in response to what they have called the "brutal suppression" of protesters.
Opponents of the restoration of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers are now pushing for the US administration under President Joe Biden to abandon the talks, which have been in a state of limbo since September.
The second major issue to watch in 2023 is the upcoming Turkish elections, set to take place on June 18. These elections can significantly shape the country's future, especially considering the current economic crisis and the uncertainty surrounding current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's re-election chances. We will be analyzing the reasons behind this and speculating on who could potentially take over the leadership role from Erdogan, who has been in power for nearly 20 years.
Israeli far-right government
Lastly, 2023 could bring significant changes for Israel, which recently elected a government composed of ultra-Orthodox and far-right party members led by re-elected Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
The new government, composed of ultra-Orthodox and far-right ideologies, may implement policies disregard certain groups' rights and needs. Also, the government's firm stance on security and settlements in the West Bank could worsen the living conditions of Palestinians and increase tension and violence in the region.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading Inshallah. Share this article and subscribe to be up to date about news from the Middle East every week. It's free.
My name is Dario Sabaghi, a freelance journalist. I am interested in human rights and international news focusing on the MENA region.
Check out my work at dariosabaghi.com.
You can follow me on Twitter: @DarioSabaghi
Did I miss any important news from the Middle East? DM me on Twitter.