The so-called “after Hamas” in Gaza: what to do? (19nov2023)

While the systematic destruction of homes and the occupation of the territory of Gaza by the Israeli army proceeds, among the usual few who decide the world’s geopolitical fate, someone has begun to wonder what to do in Gaza for “after Hamas” and which actors they could take control of the situation.

Meanwhile, as a geographer, I must start from the concrete conditions on the ground that can be expected when Israel decides that “Hamas has been eliminated.”

Here, the sore points begin with. Hamas cannot be eliminated physically, underground bunkers and many tunnels can be physically destroyed, and the accesses can be closed, but certainly not all. However, this is not Hamas’s essence. This entity is born and depends on people and not on the power of weapons. The ideology of Hamas, political Islam, will continue to live in leaders who are not in Gaza today, in the ideal and religious support it has in the various states of the Arab-Muslim world and above all in the substantial number of new militia volunteers made by all young Palestinian males who in these and the coming days have seen their homes destroyed, their relatives (parents, wives, brothers and sisters, children) and friends killed by Israeli bombings.

In Gaza, it can be estimated that there are around 300 thousand young Palestinian males between 18 and 30 years old, and I think it is concretely possible that 10% could want to take revenge with weapons against any Israeli Jew, even with the intolerable methods used on October 7 by the Hamas militiamen and other smaller groups who acted with their own type of local Islamic jihad.

This implies that what is delicately defined as “security control” in Gaza, that is, the ability to control people and prevent armed groups from reforming in the future, will have to be carried out by subjects opposed to political Islam who have no qualms about repressing, even by force, militiamen, and activists from that camp.

All this in the context of destruction of homes and infrastructures of all kinds–not only buildings and roads, but also power plants, water pipes, sewerage systems, electrical connections, etc.–in addition to the psychological devastation, especially in children, that the bombs and the forced exodus on foot or on carts have caused in the population of Gaza.

To bring the physical context of Gaza back to a barely passable living condition will take time, years, money, and a lot of money. Therefore, prolonged control of the territory from an administrative and political point of view combined, as already mentioned, with military control of the situation.

Whatever Netanyahu says, and as long as his political destiny is not at an end, Israel will not be able to remain in Gaza for years to militarily control and repress, as has been done since 1967 in the West Bank. Above all, he will not be able (and I believe he will not want) to administer Gaza; it would cost him too much economically and above all geopolitical terms. Currently, the thousands of deaths under the bombings, the majority of which are minors and women, and which continue to grow, are undermining the Western support he enjoys and even in the United States, whose public opinion has for decades been stable on his side no matter what he does. . In the Arab-Muslim world, even the states that signed the Abraham Accords diplomatically recognizing Israel will, I think, be forced to at least suspend them if they are not rejected completely.

Who then?

I acknowledge, regardless of my desires and ethical principles, that the global geopolitical context is not democratic, and those who decide are always leaders of rich and militarily powerful states. Never more than 10, some governments always present at the decision-making level, with the United States leading the way and others involved depending on where the crisis is located geographically.

Therefore, it seems to me that the unavoidable conditions are as follows.

1) Israel must accept (i.e., trust at least a little) that third parties are present with their own troops in Gaza.

2) the states that provide the military must be economically solid (to maintain troops for years) and ideologically opposed to the political Islam of Hamas and groups such as Islamic jihad and/or al Qaeda and similar; they must also be “credible” militarily, and credible means that they have demonstrated their military capabilities on the ground, that is, in some concrete armed conflict.

3) Many funds must arrive for years to rebuild the physical condition of civilian life.

4) The government of Gaza must be only administrative and not political for it to be accepted both by Israel and by those who send military and/or money. This means no elections for a few years, something to which the Palestinians have been accustomed for quite a while.

For points 1) (acceptance by Israel), 2) (militarily and economically sound), and 3) (fund providers), it seems to me that the only two possible states are Saudi Arabia and the Emirates United Arabs. The latter signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, and Saudis were involved in a US and Israeli strategy to convince them to sign them. Economically, they are strong and militarily cutting their teeth in the Yemeni conflict, in which they are directly involved. Both were “anti-Iran,” especially the Saudis, although thanks to China there has been a substantial diplomatic rapprochement in recent months. Above all, they are Emiratis, not democratic in the Western sense, and decidedly against the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in its militant aspects, such as Hamas and the like.

The military control of the situation in Gaza by the Emirates and Saudis would certainly be a guarantee that funds for the reconstruction of Gaza could arrive from a good part of the Arab-Muslim states; I also think that Qatar could continue to send funds for Gaza’s infrastructure and perhaps also Turkey which could “offer” the operational contribution of its expert companies in the construction and infrastructure sectors and have an economic benefit.

Point 4) is the most sensitive politically and also from the point of view of the context of the local and international political “theater”; that is, of the prestige, of the iconographies and of the widespread hypocrisy of the discourse, the conceptual framework of the few who decide for their own interests cloaked in noble principles. For this reason, I suggest that the future management of the Gaza should be administrative and not political. ANP is not a possible political entity; it has been demonstrated that it is neither capable nor credible.

What is needed is a government of technical experts in different specific operational sectors, from different state origins, proposed and evaluated by an international commission formally under the umbrella of the UN, but essentially supervised, in a dominant position, by the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Emirates. Egypt and Jordan should be involved in some ways. The control group can be expanded to include representatives of other governments involved economically, such as Qatar, Turkey, and some European governments, if they provide funds or operational technical capabilities in the field through their companies.

Given that serious crises, and this one in Gaza certainly is, produce changes that before the crisis were either rejected or considered unacceptable or impossible, it may also be possible to address the issue of the West Bank, which has been unresolved for decades. This, however, is a concrete situation that is much more difficult to resolve politically, precisely due to the conditions on the ground; there is no destruction, but on the contrary, the growth of buildings that are the central point of the problem and contribute to limiting the possible solutions unless we think creatively and clearly separate the question of citizenship from that of the administrative management of the territory. We need to move away from the nation-state mentality, that is, from the idea that a “state” has a contiguous territory, clearly bordered and governed by the representatives of a single “nation” in an exclusive manner.

Paradoxically, the situation in Gaza, from this point of view, is much clearer and more internal to the dominant conception of the nation-state: there is a unitary territory, clearly confined and inhabited by a single “nation” from a cultural point of view. A rare case in the world is unique, with a population of two million inhabitants.

This is why I believe it can (and should) have a future separate from the West Bank; it has more inhabitants than many small states in the world, the possibility of economic self-sufficiency (it overlooks the sea, with an exploitable gas-oil field), and internal political coexistence is less problematic due to the absence of substantial and “other” cultural groups, especially Israeli citizens.

This is why I see the hypothesis that I suggest here for the post-Hamas situation in Gaza as being feasible.

Hamas would not disappear in the Arab Islamic world, but in Gaza it would have very little or no margin for action, and therefore rockets would no longer be launched, except occasionally, in small and irrelevant numbers. Of course, to carry out an attack with a bomb or targeted killings, many men are not required, but the possibility of influencing the overall dynamics in Gaza would be negligible.

The greatest difficulty I see is in the heads of those who decide. I have no faith in Netanyahu, Gallant, Israeli Defense Minister, and many ministers of the current government. I do not think that the advisors and experts used by Biden are flexible and creative enough to escape the logic of thinking about geopolitics and politics in a pyramidal and power-based manner. Paradoxically, the Saudi autocrat Mohamed bin Salman and the Council of Emirates’ emirs may be quicker in deciding and opportunistic in understanding which actions bring prestige and economic advantages. The UN is hostage to the veto right of permanent members, and I do not believe that the Security Council, the only one authorized to approve the plan that I suggest, could (and would) oppose it. If the US likes it, France, especially the UK, usually follow along, and the interests of Russia and China are not affected.

For this reason, in the current geopolitical context, which I don’t like at all, I believe that my proposal could be the most useful and “understandable,” also acceptable by the powerful people I mentioned, but also by ordinary people, above all to give time and opportunity for the destruction to be repaired and for minds to try to deaden the pain and desire for revenge to look to a more tolerable future in terms of rights and living conditions in Gaza and hopefully also in the West Bank.

USA-Iran e divisioni tra stati musulmani, tra fatti e narrazioni (17gen2020)

In Libia il paradosso è che il conflitto interno ad un paese musulmano è un conflitto con attori sostenuti da forze esterne, molte delle quali musulmane, ma divise tra loro in campi opposti. Questo in netto contrasto con l’immagine ancora diffusa a livello di percezione popolare in Occidente di un islam monolitico che agisce in modo compatto. Il sistema mediatico non può più rappresentare il pericolo musulmano come unitario e anti-Occidentale come ha fatto per anni dopo l’attacco alle Torri Gemelle a New York nel 2001 e dopo gli attentati terroristici in Europa.

In realtà è in atto già da qualche decennio uno scontro interno al mondo musulmano che ha a che fare proprio con la questione del rapporto tra politica (e società) e religione. Il complesso rapporto con la cosiddetta modernità ha voluto dire per il mondo musulmano, nel suo complesso e nelle sue molto differenziate sfaccettature, come risolvere istituzionalmente, giuridicamente e nelle pratiche sociali il rapporto tra la politica e una religione che fa riferimento ad un dio unico e quindi ad un’unica pretesa verità. Verità che è stata sempre interpretata dagli esseri umani, quasi sempre maschi, e in contesti storici che necessariamente cambiano nel tempo.

I tre principali soggetti geopolitici di questa dinamica, va sottolineato moderna, nel mondo musulmano sono 1) l’Arabia Saudita (appoggiata dalle altre piccole monarchie del Golfo, anche se non tutte) e la sua interpretazione dell’islam (anche politico) secondo il conservatorismo wahhabita e le tradizioni beduine, 2) la proposta “moderna” dell’islam politico dei Fratelli Musulmani, nata in Egitto e quindi post coloniale e in rapporto con lo stato moderno; in una prima fase violenta contro le élite corrotte e filo occidentali, oggi più disposti verso le elezioni nei paesi musulmani dove sanno di poter vincere 3) la visione teocratica iraniana di Khomeini che dopo l’estromissione dello scià Reza Pahlevi nel febbraio 1979 ha teorizzato e realizzato con mezzi brutali un islam sciita che abbandona il tradizionale distacco dalla politica e si attiva invece come modello di stato islamico, non a caso repubblicano e non monarchico-beduino. A titolo di esempio: in Arabia Saudita le donne sono escluse dalla soggettività politica e sociale pubblica, mentre in Iran si vota senza discriminazioni di genere dai 16 anni e hanno anche ruoli politici pur se tutte devono obbligatoriamente coprirsi in pubblico.

Nelle dinamiche geopolitiche Arabia Saudita, Emirati, vari leader militari (anche arrivati al potere con colpi di stato) sono alleati validi per l’Occidente se hanno un potere interno stabile, se fanno affari con noi e costruiscono grattacieli (ciò che chiamiamo “essere aperti alla modernità”), se sono affidabili (cioè non cambiano bandiera e restano stabilmente nostri alleati); durante la Guerra Fredda con l’URSS portare dalla propria parte gli stati che man mano diventavano indipendenti era uno degli sforzi principali nella geopolitica. Oggi la preoccupazione rimane la stessa e gli stati che si propongono con una visione indipendente (non importa quale sia e quanto sia credibile) sono “instabili” e tendenzialmente nemici. Di volta in volta e in generale lo sono stati (e alcuni ancora lo sono) la Libia di Gheddafi, la Corea del Nord, il Venezuela di Chavez e poi di Maduro, l’Afghanistan dei talebani, l’Iran di Khomeini, per fare qualche esempio.

Il caso Iran ha però avuto un risalto particolare perché la sua proposta politica è entrata in rotta di collisione diretta con l’Arabia Saudita rinfocolando la primaria divisione tra sunniti e sciiti che ha spaccato da quasi subito la comunità musulmana dopo la morte di Maometto proprio sulla questione di chi fosse il più adatto a “guidare i credenti”: chi era del sangue del profeta (cioè Ali e quindi quelli dalla sua parte: scia Ali, gli sciiti) o chi era scelto dal consenso della comunità come da tradizione e costume (la sunna)? Questione complicata modernamente dal fatto che la proposta iraniana si appoggia su istituzioni repubblicane mentre i custodi dei luoghi sacri e i suoi vicini mantengono strutture monarchiche assolutiste.

Per logiche di schieramento geopolitico, di convenienza economica e di visione del mondo l’Iran, diventata una repubblica teocratica in pochi anni, non poteva che essere “nemico” dell’Occidente. Così nemico che abbiamo appoggiato Saddam Hussein che gli ha fatto la guerra per 8 anni dal 1980 al 1988 senza riuscire a sconfiggerlo; un Saddam Hussein diventato a sua volta nemico pubblico numero uno per sua protervia e per motivazioni false e pretestuose dopo l’attacco alle Torri Gemelle di New York nel 2001 in cui non centrava niente.

Per l’Iran gli USA sono diventati il satana mondiale, responsabile di tutti i mali del mondo soprattutto nel Medio Oriente grazie anche ai suoi protetti Israele e Arabia Saudita; per gli USA l’Iran è diventato la fonte di pericolo costante per tutto il Medio Oriente, sobillatore di rivolte e finanziatore di atti terroristici. Dal sequestro dei diplomatici statunitensi a Teheran (per il quale gli USA non smetteranno mai di volersi vendicare) e dalla guerra di Saddam Hussein (per la quale l’Iran non perdonerà mai gli USA) il confronto-scontro è continuato con azioni di guerra limitate, attentati, minacce reciproche, attacchi digitali e qualche raro caso di negoziazione; con effetti collaterali indesiderati (così li chiamano), come l’abbattimento di un aereo di linea iraniano da parte di una nave militare USA nel Golfo Persico il 3 luglio 1988: 290 vittime civili.

La questione del nucleare iraniano (solo civile dicono loro, per farsi le bombe dicono gli USA e Israele) è diventata la cornice (ideologica e fattuale) di questo scontro e della narrazione prevalente dei mass media mondiali. In suo nome prima dell’accordo sul nucleare del 2015 le sanzioni economiche decise dal’ONU hanno colpito la rendita petrolifera iraniana; dopo l’accordo l’Iran si aspettava un alleggerimento delle sanzioni fino alla loro scomparsa, ma Trump si é ritirato dall’accordo e ha aumentato le sanzioni, operando lo stesso tipo di ricatto che ho descritto nel mio precedente  podcast: chi fa affari con l’Iran (o compra il suo petrolio) non commercerà più con gli USA. La UE ha cercato di trovare una via d’uscita (anche perché non ha rinnegato l’accordo con l’Iran), ma il ricatto economico della più ricca economia mondiale divide gli stati “sovrani” della UE che puntano solo ai propri cosiddetti interessi nazionali. La situazione economica interna dell’Iran peggiora sempre più e gli USA di Trump sperano con questo che il regime degli ayatollah crolli.

L’uccisione mirata in Iraq da parte degli USA del generale Soleimani ritenuto, per prestigio e ruolo, secondo solo alla Guida Suprema Khamenei è stato in questo senso in continuità con lo scontro in atto, anche se di livello molto alto; più in relazione con la personalità egocentrica di Trump che per una valutazione razionale della sua utilità. Una uccisione presentata dall’ambasciatrice statunitense all’ONU in una lettera al Consiglio di Sicurezza come “un atto di auto-difesa”, così riporta Riccardo Barlaan sul Sole24ore del 10 gennaio. Un’autodifesa fatta a migliaia di chilometri di distanza dal proprio territorio, in un paese terzo senza nemmeno avvisarlo; una soggettiva interpretazione del cosiddetto diritto internazionale, fatta dal paese militarmente più forte del mondo.

Morto un capo ce n’è pronto subito un altro, probabilmente di minor qualità di Soleimani. E paradossalmente mentre la ritorsione iraniana è stata più morbida di quanto ci si potesse aspettare dopo le grandi manifestazioni di massa di cordoglio in Iran per i funerali di Soleimani, cinicamente si deve dire che l’abbattimento per errore di un aereo di linea iraniano da parte della propria contraerea (che si aspettava la contro-ritorsione USA) è stato un elemento calmierante del conflitto anche perché ha rinvigorito una opposizione interna al regime che già ha manifestato più volte in passato pur subendo pesanti repressioni.

Per concludere la situazione conflittuale dei casi dell’Iran e della Libia non è cambiata in modo significativo anche se alcuni eventi alzano il livello dello scontro (soprattutto emotivo e mediatico) e aumentano la conseguente possibilità che non si riesca a controllare la situazione o che le dinamiche non si auto-riequilibrino come spesso fanno.

I pochi attori in gioco rimangono gli stessi con le stesse caratteristiche. Fattori nuovi possono venire solo da nuovi approcci geopolitici di cui però non si vede traccia nei leader attuali, da eventi imprevedibili che danno una scossa alle dinamiche e magari da qualche mossa di Trump che vuole essere rieletto presidente a novembre, è sotto impeachment, e quindi ha bisogno di gesti simbolici, fatti e dichiarazioni che sostengano la sua immagine di leader forte e vincente che piace tanto ad una bella fetta di elettori bianchi statunitensi (maschi e femmine) convinti che gli USA abbiano un “destino manifesto” (voluto da dio) di guidare il mondo.

In tutto questo sanzioni economiche per violazione dei diritti umani, troppe condanne a morte, repressione e incarceramento di gruppi etnici, crimini ambientali, ecc. non sono mai utilizzate.

The study-cases : Ukraine-Crimea, Libya, Syria-Daesh-Kurds. (original text April 2016, part of the article “Always too late. The Iconographies of the so-called international community limiting the tools for solving the geopolitical crisis”, published by the Turkish Journal of Security Studies). Current revision March 2018.

In the case of Ukraine the main change was about the meaning of the borders not their change. When the USSR still existed the “proletarian brotherhood” was a pretended Iconography, false but efficient in making the function of the borders among “brother” countries irrelevant. In fact it was the dominance of the socialist Russian state and the Communist Party  which drove that irrelevance. One of the secondary consequence of that dominance was the spread of Russian-speaking people in all the 15 Socialist Republics. With a special situation of Ukraine, considering its historical legacy and dynamics: Russia considers itself as the heir of the so-called Rus of Kiev; eventually Ukraine was formally joined to the Russian empire since more than three centuries, so that the communist leader Khrushchev was able to “donate” Crimea to Ukraine in order to remind it without any kind of changes in the economic and social dynamics in the interested areas.

But after the collapse of the URSS the Iconography of all the socialist countries changed dramatically and the concepts of sovereignty and territorial integrity took a completely different meaning. And the presence of Russian-speaking people moved from the dominant and sometimes privileged position to the one of a minority, even if sizeable in some case.

This is the specific case of Ukraine, but everywhere in Europe and in the European Union there are similar situations; in the past they were managed sometimes peacefully, sometimes not, but the EU policy was and consists in funding the cross-borders cooperation along almost all the internal borders of the EU states and giving money to the less developed parts of the Union. Even if not all the problems are completely solved the EU way to solve those dynamics is clear: economic cooperation without changing the borders and support local autonomies also trough cross-border cooperation. Why not in Ukraine? Because all the former socialist countries moved from the internationalist iconography to the nationalist one and in the new symbolism and narratives borders, territorial integrity, sovereignty are the pivotal, undisputable points of reference.

So the case of Crimea and the case of Eastern Ukraine (inhabited by a majority of Russian-speaking people) have been managed according to the nationalism/iconography and  not according to cooperation also by Germany (Merkel) and France (Hollande) leaders, who took a (self-elected) negotiating role with Russia and Ukraine. Within this impeding conceptual frame the dynamics of Crimea (fast managed, already Russian military presence in Sevastopol, referendum, annexation to Russia) got a peaceful result while the Eastern Ukraine dynamics (slowly managed, with rolling symbolic declarations by the opposite political leaders,  asymmetric presence of military forces on the ground thus Russian “hidden” help to the secessionist forces) fell in an armed conflict.

The situation (March 2018) still remains stable at a low conflict level (which but provoked about 10.000 victims on both sides and about 2 million of displaced people), despite two agreements signed Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 (September 2016).

Simple solution: dismiss the “territorial integrity” iconography: the human rights must be granted regardless of the juridical status of the territory where the individual is; see the article 2 of the Declarations of the Universal Human Rights.  The annexation of Crimea is acceptable; the “separatist” areas of Luhanks and Donetsk (along the current conflict lines as temporary administrative borders) should be autonomous recognized parts of Ukraine (the juridical structure of the Italian Sud Tirol – Alto Adige province could be a good example for the future status).


Libya was a case for a “perfect war” (Eva 2011). Geographically the territory is mainly desert, non so much inhabited, a state established in 1950-51 by a (English) colonial approach, with the two main inhabited areas, Tripolitania and Benghazi, traditionally separated and often in reciprocal opposition and separated also by hundreds of kilometers of an almost arid area, little inhabited only along the strip along the coast, with the gas-oil wells and facilities mainly divided in two parts between East and West. With this socio-geographical structure when the rebellion against Gaddafi aroused in Cyrenaica and the UN Council declared the no-fly zone the more useful and practical way to stop the fights would be to separate the combatant parts and to have for a while two, maybe three Libya: Tripoli (with Gaddafi), Benghazi (guided by Senussi tribes), maybe Fezzan, controlled by Tuareg and Toubu tribes. For giving time to negotiate.

But the ideological discourse of the leaders of the major powers and the narratives of the mass media supporting the “unity” and the “territorial integrity” of the Libyan state drove the local dynamics to a blind support (by France, UK and USA) to all the militias fighting against Gaddafi until his physical elimination. With the result to have now (in 2016) many, many Libyas: the one of the moderate Islamic government in Tripoli in the West, the one of Tobruk in the East recognized by the major powers but without an efficient territorial control of the surrounding areas, then the many local militias (more or less Islamic) in Zintan, Misurata and many others cities, finally the traditional  tribal militias in the Fezzan. The final growing force of the Daesh-affiliated militias signs the concrete failure of the managing of the dynamics by the so-called international community (i.e. the major powers). And now the growing presence of Daesh is the official reason for a announced military intervention  again in Libya. Currently (March 208) the situation changed a lot formally but only a bit geographically: in Tripoli there is an international recognized government which got a unstable agreement with part of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and militias (Misurata, Zintan, Sabrata and minors), in Benghazi the general Haftar (supported by Russia, Turkey and Egypt) is the main leader and controller of the eastern troubled area. The internal tribes and municipalities were included in the Italian program for ameliorating the border controls towards Niger and Burkina in order to stop/reduce the migration pressure; Italy is offering economic funds for the local communities needs trying to be more attractive than gaining money by the migration flows.

I defined in 2011 the dynamics in Libya a “perfect war” because the geographical conditions were and still are “perfect” for a more useful and practical, even if temporary, partition solution in order to give time for negotiating a political exit. Is it better a partition with less casualties and with peaceful perspectives or an ideological “integrity” difficult to realize on the ground and at the cost of deaths and destructions as it is now the situation in Libya?  Theoretic question: in the spring of 2016 the only iconographic idea for reaching the “stabilization” of Libya (i.e. to try to restore the territorial integrity) is a limited military intervention by the same leading powers of spring 2011; but rumors said that the special forces of France, UK and USA were secretly already in action in Libya and the USA didn’t hesitate at the end of February 2016 to bomb a coastal city in order to kill a Daesh leader: isn’t it a clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state of Libya, a violation of the so-called international legality? This is the usual praxis in the hierarchical, real World Order: interpreting and/or forcing the rules by the powers or by the proxy states.


A similar dynamics initially happened in Syria. But the grave mistake was the expectation that the regime of Bashar al Assad could collapse rapidly. A simple socio-geographical analysis would allow to understand the many differences with Libya. There was more than the double of population than in Libya with a different distribution of the internal human groups, sometimes mixed and sometimes not, with different characters according to religion (Sunni, Shiite-Alawites, Christians and Yazides etc.) and language (Arabs and Kurds, some Turks), and a not irrelevant presence of Palestinian refugees. An unbalanced distribution of the population with the majority in the West and mostly of the Kurds in the North and North-East. A common sense of belonging to Syria by the inhabitants depending from the historical legacy of Damascus (capital of some institution since more than 2500 years, says a touristic slogan), Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Bosra, Palmyra and the surrounding areas witnessed by the huge presence of historical or religious sites; and also thanks to the regime for some group like the Christians who felt themselves like the more protected Christian group in the Middle East. Finally the strong link with Russia, one of the main world power, witnessed by the presence of the military and naval base in Tartus.

Instead to do an immediate pressure on the regime for pushing/forcing it to discuss and negotiate with the protesting (more or less spontaneous) political groups, the UN waited  and the major powers in some way secretly supported the rebels. In a different way than in the case of the isolated Libya leader Gaddafi Syria was and still is in the middle of an “hot area” of geopolitical geostrategic interests with many actors: Western countries, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Egypt on one side and the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran on the other side. In addition there are the Kurds claims by now linked with the Iraq internal dynamics after the previous “grave mistake” in managing the post-Saddam-Hussein-defeat situation.

This is not the place where covering the series of facts in Syria since 2011 but it’s possible to underline that also in this case the ideological-iconographic goal to defeat the Assad regime maintaining the territorial integrity and the unity of the state and the external multiple and contrasting “national” interests had as result the current fragmentation of Syria, the terrible conditions of the majority of Syrians (about 7-8 million displaced internally and more than 5 million sheltered abroad). Finally the surge and consolidation of Daesh-IS as a new kind of combatant subject with a mixed combination of iconographic-territorial-psychological message and attraction.

After the Afghanistan and Iraq military interventions the USA and the Western countries don’t want anymore to put “the boots on the ground”, as it is said in the media. So on the ground the best combatant forces are the Kurd Peshmerga in Iraq and the Kurd YPG in Rojava, the Shiites militias of Hezbollah, the Daesh fighters. Each of them with different political and geographical goals: territorial for the Kurds, political for the Shiites, mainly ideological-iconographic for Daesh.

Despite the formal declarations of the self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi ISIS-ISIL-DAESH, now self-declared Islamic State, was conceptually and geographically  locked in its territorial ambiguity: there were, in my opinion since the beginning,  limited possibilities of local territorial expansion by war and also by the Islamic iconographies. Daesh hadn’t  sufficient forces (in the sense of human beings) for prevail militarily; money can’t buy the victory. Also because on the concrete ground there are surrounding adverse iconographies against the caliphate vision: Turkish people are Sunni, but not along the rigid view of Daesh, Kurds are Sunni but they have more political-territorial claims,  Iran and Iraqi population in the South are Shiites, Saudi Arabia for sure won’t give up with its pretended guiding role of the Sunni Umma being the guardian of the Holy Sites of Mecca and Medina and the main supporters of the Wahhabi Islam and finally Jordan and Israel have nothing good to expect from the caliphate.

So the Islamic State couldn’t hope to have eventually any territory. But it has demonstrated the psycho-physical dimension of a successful brand via barbaric videos and a very smart use of the weak spot of the Western media system: foreign fighters coming from abroad also from Western countries, affiliation of self-declared Islamic groups in Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia etc., bomb-cars and “kamikaze-martyrs”. Thus Daesh can only get an a-territorial (and psychological motivated) individual terrorism as “successful” action (in Europe or elsewhere), but terror doesn’t drive to victory as evidence that  “terrorism  is the continuation of the political desperation with other means” (Graziano, 2014).

Since the direct Russian intervention (September 2015) no-one of the fighters on the ground was able to win and still now no-one could imagine to conquer the entire surface of Syria in order to get “stability” through the “territorial integrity” of a unique state. According to Mearsheimer (2001) that only the presence of the army on the ground grants the control of the territory not by chance the always-too-late current diplomatic action of the major powers and UN tries to get an almost stable ceasefire dealing with the forces concretely on the ground with the exception of al Nusra and Daesh, considered as iconographic enemies.

But a ceasefire implies the recognition and the substantial stabilization of the conquered terrain; i.e. giving way to imagine a fragmentation of Syria, maybe not only for humanitarian goals (primarily stopping the huge migration pressure in Europe!), but also for a future political structure. That’s why Turkey is against the general frame of the ceasefire, accusing Russia and bombing along the border the Kurdish YPG, accused to be allied with Assad, supporter of PKK and also terrorist like Daesh. The danger from the Turkish point of view, it seems to me, is not the existence of a second Kurdish area after the one in Iraq, with which Turkey has good relations, but the supposed/perceived danger that YPG could pursue with PKK  the formation of a bigger Kurdish state joining the Syrian and the Turkish areas where Kurds are the majority of the population.

The cited EU solution (economic support) and negotiations can be more useful that fighting a terrorist war from both sides. It was useful in Italy, after the WWII, for solving the issue of the German speaking minority in the Northern province of Alto Adige – Süd Tirol after about two decades of bombs and attacks. Economic support (more than in the rest of Italy), official bilingualism, a major role in the local institutions for the Süd-Tiroler Volks-Partei (Popular Party of South-Tirol) after multi-parties elections, allowed not to change the border between Italy and Austria, to avoid violent rebellion and to make the province as one of the rich in the country. Of course the local and national leader have to accept a sort of “forgetting the past” in order to build the future for the new generations. Considering the official declaration of the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan: “The Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan is an anti-nationalist movement.  Its aiml is [… omissis…] the pursuing of democracy in all parts of Kurdistan without questioning the existing political borders. Its goal is not the foundation of a Kurd nation-state.” (Ocalan, 2011), and the ones of the leaders of Rojava and YPG (and their democratic structure) it seems to me that this kind of proposal could be acceptable by Kurds, but it seems to me also that the current Turkish political leadership is still too much inside the caging mental iconography of a rigid typology of sovereignty. Actually the first limited “invasion” by Turkey in 2016 in the Northern Syria area close to Jarablus, controlled by Daesh allies, was a warning (its goal was to keep separated the Kurdish areas of Rojava, in the East, from the Afrin canton in the West. Erdohan has no problem with the Islamist, but the Kurds, all the Kurds, are “terrorist”. Finally Turkey attacked the Afrin canton the 20th January 2018 with the theoretical excuse to fight/eliminate the “terrorists” of YPG: for what it’s worth Afrin is Syria and the always cited by leaders and mass media “international legality” strongly prohibits invasion by the army of a bordering state. But Russia on Turkish side and USA on Kurds side said to be moderate, Bashar Assad protested but opted to attack the Ghouta area close to Damascus, the Islamist militias caged in the Idlib bordering area of Afrin took the opportunity to fight again, protected and used by Turkey, the “infidels”: i.e. the Kurds, Sunni but not with the personal and very extreme interpretation of Daesh, al Nusra and similar. The so-called “international community” seems to have nothing to say.

The crude lesson of what happens on the ground in Syria-Iraq (and Libya) seems not yet sufficient for decreasing the theoretical iconographies still present in the mind of the decision makers: “sovereignty”, “territorial integrity” etc.. Unfortunately this blindness is paid by millions of innocent people.

Also in the case of Syria stabilizing autonomous areas, without changing the state borders, putting separation forces by the troops of USA and Russia (under the UN umbrella), and give money and time for the reconstruction could be the best exit strategy. But the Icon of the “national interests” should be damned.

North Korea – USA: My not-so-bad forecast in December 2016

Written in December 2016 – published 12th March 2017

Is North Korea a redeemable pariah state?

North Korea apparently is acting outside the Western influenced  geopolitical categories of the International Relations, but this doesn’t mean that “they are mad”. The North-Korean leaders don’t reply to the large majority of what Western diplomacy and the mass media system say about them, thus we are used to say everything we want without a real debate. I suggest that ” they” are rational, and predictable, from their point of view and not only.

They believe to be besieged and under attack from the outside, so the choice of getting the nuclear weapon is coherent (and rational) to this perspective and also to the internal dynamic of power. The inner political leadership, like any one, is always in a process of (re)positioning within the power and in each rigid system the political fight is hard and he transition phases are always perceived as dangerous. The monarchic-imperial-like top level system  applied in North Korea eliminates one of the incertitude factor.

Kim Jong-un has his predictable geopolitical regularity; the familial dynasty in a communist background is an ostensible contradiction for our iconographies, but not within an  imperial-Confucian tradition.

The so-called World Order and the assumed International Community have rigid ideological iconographies (territorial sovereignty, fixed borders, territorial integrity, etc.) and they seem to be blind in relation to what happened and it is happening in the several geopolitical crisis after the end of the Cold War. This mental conceptual frame has as a consequence on one side ineffective rhetoric declarations and on the other side the inability to intervene (always too late) and to solve the geopolitical crisis, using officially a range of means but often, eventually, the military intervention with conventional weapons.

North Korea is a free rider in the world hierarchical “Order” and it is irrational to expect that they do the first move, begging for being accepted.

Donald Trump as US president could be a dynamic factor if he will confirm with actions his “irrational” foreign policy declarations during the presidential campaign. He could be able to call directly Kim Jong-un or even to meet him. Theoretically on a basis of a flexible, democratic relation between “equal” UN members. A recognition of status for North Korea and his leadership that could have, perhaps, positive consequences; at least shaking the current “caged” geopolitical dynamics.

In any case the political reunification of the Korean peninsula should be abandoned as an iconographic point of reference; no more cited, no more analyzed in academic articles, no more spread in the “popular geopolitics” of the mass media.

“Reunification” could be, giving (long) time, the practical result of a flexible relation between two equal parts: couldn’t it be an acceptable situation the existence of two separated states, but peacefully collaborating without danger for the surrounding countries? The internal lack of political democracy (along the Western parliamentary way), like in North Korea, seems to be a marginal issue for many countries “accepted” in the World Order. The human rights issue must be managed in the field of culture and iconographies; Anthropology and Geography could be more useful than Political Science and I.R. theories.

South Korea should have a more effective and independent geopolitical role; in producing new or at least more dynamic iconographies based on the shared cultural and local iconographies. The more than 60 years of physical separation of the Korean peninsula already provoked a minor linguistic drift and a major social behavioral division within the two countries. The Korea issue is a cultural/iconographic one, not a “simply” unbalanced power relation or a threat to the so-called International Community.