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Middle East power shifting to Turkey and Iran

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In recent months, a spate of new agreements have been signed by Turkey with Iraq, Iran, and Syria that suggest a nascent commonality of political vision. A new treaty with Armenia further signals how seriously Ankara means its "zero problem" good-neighbor policy.

More important, however, the agreements with Iraq, Iran, and Syria reflect a joint economic interest. The "northern tier" of Middle Eastern states are poised to become the principal supplier of natural gas to central Europe once the Nabucco pipeline is completed – thus not only displacing Russia in that role but gradually eclipsing the primacy of Saudi Arabia as a geostrategic kingpin due to its oil reserves.

Taken together with the economic stagnation and succession crisis that has incapacitated Egypt, it is clear that the so-called moderate "southern tier" Middle Eastern states that have been so central to American policies in the region are becoming a weak and unreliable link indeed.

Political players in the region can't but notice the drift of power from erstwhile US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia toward the northern tier states, and, as is the way in the Middle East, are starting to readjust to the new power reality. This can be most clearly seen in Lebanon today, where a growing procession of former US allies and critics of the Syrian government, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat, and, reportedly, some of the March 14 movement's Christian leaders, are making their pilgrimage to Damascus. That message is not lost on others in the region.

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