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The drums are getting louder!
Over the last few years we have seen an increasingly audible and increasingly un-ignorable, drum roll of problems arising out of militant Islam and Islamist activists.
This drum roll whilst getting louder and faster is of course nowhere near its crescendo as yet.
But recently here in Europe we have not only had the attacks in France, Belgium and Germany but also a number of foiled attacks and also attacks that are no longer sufficiently dramatic to attract much media coverage but which would once have been reported.
Then on the same day we have now had the deliberate murder, using a truck as a weapon, not only of the Polish truck driver, but also of a dozen who were at a Christmas market in Berlin, but dozens of other, no doubt, many very seriously injured.
There was also on the same day the outrageous murder of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey by a Turkish policeman. Had the Russians wanted to they would be well within their rights to treat such a murder as a cause for a very serious escalation of hostile relations between Russian and Turkey. President Putin has however shown himself to be very statesman like in his response to this provocation, which after all is of no lesser level of provocation than the provocation to Austro-Hungary of the assassination of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand.
It would seem that President Putin has seen that President Erdogan’s over-zealous reaction to clamping down on his political opponents, following the attempted coup in Turkey, and the ending of the siege of Allepo, as being a moment in which Turkey has far fewer allies than it had, but also the moment in which Russia could emerge in the Middle East as a far bigger and more effective power broker than has been the case in recent history.
Given that President Erdogan has a track record himself of being an Islamist and indeed has spent time in Turkish prison for his Islamist activities, it remains unclear whether a rapproachment between Turkey and Russia will lead to any slackening of the tempo of the Islamist drum beat.
Another factor that needs to be considered is the effect of the current low oil price, not only on the Russian economy, but also on the long term prospects of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis are using up the capital that they have built up over decades. Not long ago the Financial Times was predicting Saudi Arabia would run out of money before 2020. If that happens Turkey will probably again become the leading Sunni power and also there will be a collapse in funding for Sunni Islamism across the world.
The oil price is however a consequence of an undeclared economic war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Iranians calculate that they have much greater ability to endure low oil prices for much longer than Saudi Arabia and therefore they can economically bleed out Saudi Arabia and emerge as the regional Shia Power. If that happens there will be, of course, a whole new real politique dynamic in the Middle East.
In the meanwhile the drum beat will I suspect continue to grow louder and faster as Saudi Arabia starts to see the collapse looming. That may be the moment when the panicky crescendo hits us.
As citizens of Western European countries we can only hope and campaign for our leaders to show more sense than they have done so far over the Islamist question! Or to replace them!
Happy New Year!