Israel-Hamas war, global chaos

► Is a weakening of the United States’ role in the world inevitable?

It is a flood of painful images, from Ukraine to the Middle East, including Nagorno-Karabakh, that has been pouring in for months, giving rise to the idea that no world power can stop the ongoing conflict and the international order that has been born in its wake. The Cold War is heating up. America and its European allies were faced, at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the refusal of countries usually close to Washington – the United Arab Emirates, India or Turkey – to adopt a real sanctions policy against the Russian aggressor.

With the Israeli-led offensive on the Gaza Strip, Washington was reminded of its inability to find a peaceful solution to this recurring crisis. “In terms of economic, military and technological capabilities, the United States is still the main power, but it is more difficult for them to reverse the power of a country, observes historian Pierre Grosser, teaching at Sciences Po (1). However, it retains its deterrent powers, as demonstrated by sending an aircraft carrier off the coast of Israel, to avoid prolonging the conflict between Hamas and Israel. »

In the Middle East, the decline of American power, which suffered serious damage due to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, occurred since Obama’s presidency in the early 2010s. “America must bear the consequences of twelve years of progressive disengagement in the region, characterized by its refusal to act against the Damascus regime despite its use of chemical weapons. recalls special advisor François Heisbourg at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Their return today proved difficult. On the Ukrainian issue, on the other hand, they had no difficulty in mobilizing their allies in Europe and Asia. »

The recent conflict once again reminds us of the end of America’s monopoly in world affairs, after the hiatus of 1991-2003. “We have witnessed a decline in the capacity of large powers to govern the world since the 1970s due to globalization, advances in communications, the empowerment of allied countries, and the strength of interdependence.”, estimates Bertrand Badie (2), professor emeritus at Sciences Po Paris. However, American decline is inevitable, former ambassador Michel Duclos warned (3): “The big question is whether the United States and its allies will be able to stop Russia’s aggression and co-opting of some of the world’s powers. “South of the World”. President Biden appears capable of achieving this, but his term in office is fast approaching. »

► Is the “South” losing touch with the West?

In Arab countries and even other countries, the war in the Middle East has sparked anger against America, but also against France, Britain and even Germany, which has long been accused of political practices. “Two loads, two sizes” when it comes to supporting Israel against Palestine. In practice, however, the ongoing conflict has not yet materialized in UN voting based on the unified position of the so-called “Global South” countries: a group of developing or emerging countries spread across Africa, Latin America, Middle East and other developing countries. part of Asia. On October 27, India refused to vote on a resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, unlike Brazil.

However, American and European diplomats have observed for more than a decade a convergence of anti-Western discourse in countries as diverse as Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. “We must take the “Global South” seriouslystressed former French ambassador to the UN Michel Duclos. Of course, this is a very heterogeneous collection of countries competing for leadership. But he also shares the same hatred for the West and rejection of sanctions policies that no longer apply today. We’ve laughed at them for a long time, but we’ve seen that they can withstand pressure. »

Through new discussion formats such as the BRICS summit or the Shanghai forum, this “global South” tends to be constructed and identified in the global space with a rejection of the old international order. “These countries clearly have a multiple strategy of empowerment and alignment according to their interestsadded Bertrand Badie. The most obvious example is India, which can vote at the UN to favor actions in line with Russia and others with the United States, and refuse to lock itself into alliances. »

In contrast to the Cold War, we are witnessing the emergence of unimpeded states, or in other words middle powers that are strong enough to play their own role. “We should not believe that these countries are focused on hatred of Westerners: they think more about the future than about colonization”, says historian Pierre Grosser, who lived mostly in Vietnam. This Asian country has recently enhanced its strategic partnership with the United States, while maintaining good relations with China.

► Is China taking advantage of the current conflict to gain points on the world stage?

Long focused on trade, Beijing made a spectacular breakthrough in the Middle East in 2023, becoming the godfather of rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Chinese authorities have also offered their good offices to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but have received little response from Tel Aviv. Since the start of the conflict in the Gaza Strip, China has refused to condemn Hamas’ actions and reiterated its support for a two-state solution, while avoiding concrete commitments to either side.

This neutral stance, coupled with a desire not to add fuel to the fire, limits the ability of these second world powers to play a decisive role in the region. “China has as much difficulty as other major countries in managing complexity on a global scale, notes François Heisbourg. He was delighted with the spectacular rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which gave hope for the return of peace in the region, and a few months later everything was called into question. »


Peace summit in Paris

Melting of the ice, overhaul of the international financial system, regulation of artificial intelligence: The 6th Paris Peace Forum, envisioned by Emmanuel Macron and held on November 10 and 11, will focus on climate with a progress report on “Paris Agreement for people and the planet”, launched in June to promote development aid.

The French President had to add at the last minute, to his annual meeting agenda, a “humanitarian conference” about the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The event will take place Thursday morning at the Élysée (read page 10).

The forum will end with a “Paris calls for poles and glaciers” in front of “collapse” from “all surfaces are frozen”. About twenty heads of state and government are expected including the President of Ghana, the Prime Minister of Armenia, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the President of Argentina Alberto Angel Fernandez…

Serena Hoyles

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