In this comprehensive and up-to-date study, Kemp and Harkavy examine the geopolitics of what they call the "Greater Middle East." Under that label, they include not only what is usually referred to as "the Middle East and North Africa" (from Morocco in the west through Iran in the east), but also Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, as well as the newly independent republics of the Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) and Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan). The authors justify this unusually broad geographical focus by concentrating on three characteristics of this region which, in their opinion, give it its distinct identity and special importance: its potential for instability and conflict, its rich energy resources, and its geostrategic centrality.
After reviewing how key countries in the Greater Middle East have been affected by the breakup of the Soviet Union, the book examines several sources of regional conflict and domestic instability. Population growth may well be the overarching destabilizing force. In light of the inability of most governments in the region to meet the needs of their current populations in areas such as job creation and housing, the predicted increase of the Greater Middle East's population by several hundred million people over the next thirty years represents an alarming prospect. The authors do note the good news: in Egypt, as well as in all the Arab Mediterranean countries, fertility rates have begun to decline. But in the region as a whole, population growth remains high. In particular, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan are expected to see their populations almost double by 2025.
Another source of regional instability consists of tensions between ethnic and religious groups, both within and between states. The authors provide an overview of such conflicts, from Hindu-Muslim and Hindu-Sikh clashes in India to the problems that Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon face with their Shia populations.
Kemp and Harkavy then examine unresolved territorial disputes, paying special attention to those in the Arabo-Persian Gulf, but summarizing as well dozens of others, from the rivalry between Chad and Libya over the Aozou strip to Indian-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir. Finally, they turn to the explosive issue of water scarcity, focusing on several potential flashpoints. They explore the ramifications of Turkey's ability to deny water to Syria and Iraq, and of Egypt's dependence on the Nile, the headwaters of which are mostly controlled by Ethiopia. The centrality of water to relations between Israel, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinians is also well developed. The authors remind us that the West Bank provides a third of Israel's water consumption, 40 percent of its drinking water, and 50 percent of its. agricultural water. Another 30 percent of Israel's drinking water comes from the Golan. In this context, access to water is bound to be a complicating factor in Arab Israeli negotiations. As for the GCC states, their fresh water needs are increasingly met by desalination plants that are very vulnerable to attacks by conventional weapons. The substantial increase in the range and accuracy of such weapons over the past few years thus poses a growing threat to countries in the Arabo-Persian Gulf.
While conflict is a central component of life in the Greater Middle East, so is energy. Kemp and Harkavy begin their investigation of this issue by noting that, due mostly to the booming economies of East and South Asia, world demand for energy will soon reach unprecedented levels, and is expected to increase by between 34 and 46 percent between 1993 and 2010 (p. 109). This rise in demand, they continue, will enhance the strategic importance of the Greater Middle East, which is home to over 70 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, and of an estimated 40 percent of natural gas reserves. Because the rich energy resources of the Caspian Basin cannot yet be mobilized fully, there is no short to medium-term alternative to Persian Gulf oil to meet increased world demand for energy. The authors, however, explain why in the long term natural gas should assume greater importance, as should the oil and gas resources of the Caspian Basin.
What makes the nascent Caspian energy rush unique, Kemp and Harkavy note, are the political and logistical obstacles linked to the export of oil and gas from that region. Historically, all the major oil- and gas-exporting countries have had direct access to the world's shipping lanes. Consequently, the big multinational oil companies were able to negotiate bilaterally with these countries, without having to secure the cooperation of their neighbors, and without having to worry about how sudden changes in the politics of these neighboring states might disrupt the flow of oil. That is not the case with the Caspian Basin. For instance, oil. from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, or Azerbaijan cannot be marketed without crossing several other nations. Russia, for its part, is determined to keep its current monopoly over pipelines out of Central Asia. Consequently, it has applied pressure on its southern neighbors to discourage the construction of new outlets to the Black Sea or the Mediterranean sea. Even if such pipelines were built, they would have to go through countries such as Georgia and Armenia, which have seen much instability in recent years. Complicating matters even more are inhospitable weather conditions, including temperatures that can reach 130 degrees in the summer and fall to 30 below during the winter. Environmental concerns are also more relevant than elsewhere, since "an enclosed sea such as the Caspian is particularly vulnerable from an ecological standpoint to oil spills and other related sources of pollution" (p. 137).
In light of such difficulties, and considering the massive capital investments required and the huge financial risks involved, it is not surprising that most pipeline construction in and out of Central Asia has yet to begin. The authors provide an interesting analysis of the pluses and minuses associated with the various options currently under consideration. In passing, they highlight one of the dangers of current U.S. efforts to isolate Iran and punish companies that invest in the development of its energy resources. Iran indeed offers one of the easiest possible routes for oil and natural gas from Central Asia. Thus, by denying Iran a role in the export of the energy resources of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, Washington allows Moscow to retain its juggernaut over the flow of oil and gas which might soon be indispensable to the west and Asia.
Following their examination of energy-related issues, the authors tum to military questions, to which they devote approximately 150 pages. Drawing on an analysis of recent wars in the Greater Middle East, they highlight the impact on conventional warfare of such factors as terrain, weather, strategic depth, and the ethnic composition of battle areas. They then summarize the main lessons of the 1991 Gulf War, and reflect on how unprecedented developments in military technology might influence future confrontations in the region, diminishing in particular the importance of geographic barriers such as mountains, rivers or marshlands. They emphasize that "of all the regions in the world, and particularly those where future combat may be anticipated, the greater Middle East region features terrain that is relatively suitable for the application of [new military] technologies. Much of it is desert in one form or another, and even where there is mountainous terrain, as in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sinai, and the Kabilya in Algeria, there is very little cover and concealment ... [while] the weather tends to be fairly clear" (p. 226).
New military technologies are also essential to the ability of outside players to project power into the region. One such new technology discussed by the authors is the so-called "arsenal ship," which the U.S. navy has been developing and is planning to deploy by the early years of the twenty-first century. This well-armored floating missile island, also known as "robo-ship," will have a very small or even no crew, and will be run by remote control, whether from another ship, a plane, a satellite, or far away on the ground. It will feature 500 vertical missile tubes that can strike at targets on land, sea, and in the air, and will be capable of surviving serious hits. Kemp and Harkavy note that, significantly, two of the first three "robo-ships" are expected to be deployed in the Middle East: one in the Mediterranean and the other in the Persian Gulf (the third one is designated for the Pacific, near North Korea). In general, they observe, the Greater Middle East has been the only region in the world in which the United States has expanded its military presence since the end of the Cold War: To support this claim, they document the various components of the United States' capacity for military intervention in the region, including troop deployment, access to bases, the prepositioning of war materiel and supplies, and airlift and sealift capabilities.
Kemp and Harkavy's comprehensive analysis of the geopolitics of a particularly large area presents both strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, the book draws attention to the growing links between the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwest Asia. It shows why and how the boundaries within which area specialists still operate are becoming increasingly outdated in light of post-Cold War developments. In addition, this volume addresses a wide variety of topics, from the evolution of the Greater Middle East's place in the international system to the factors that influence military operations and planning in the region. It offers a wealth of information about that region's military geography, infrastructure, and water and energy resources. It provides an up-to date discussion of the status of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs in the area, and speculates about possible war scenarios between Iran and Iraq, India and Pakistan, and the United States against either Iran or Iraq. The book also notes the possibility of a brighter future for the Greater Middle East, provided that its various nations engage in joint endeavors aimed at successfully integrating the area into the global economy. The authors discuss potential cooperative infrastructure projects - including road networks, rail links, electricity grids, telecommunication facilities, as well as oil, water, and gas pipelines - which might help tum such hopes into a reality.
Kemp and Harkavy deal with many other issues as well. Indeed, their book's major weakness may be that it tries to accomplish too much for its own good. The reader feels overwhelmed by the abundance of details, and by the absence of a clear thesis tying together the somewhat disconnected discussions that make up this volume. The book often appears to be going in too many directions at once. Its central theme - to the extent that one can detect one - is that the Greater Middle East will remain a global strategic prize and a potential source of instability and unrest because of increased worldwide demand for energy, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, water scarcity, continued regional rivalries, persistent ethnic and religious conflicts, and the specter of large-scale terrorism. That, however, is hardly an original claim, or one with which many would disagree. Still, despite such flaws, this timely book constitutes a very useful resource. Those professionally concerned with the Greater Middle East will want to have it readily available.