Revisiting The Northern-Tier: Syrian Reconstruction Inside-Out

Abstract
In 2018, the Arabia-Asia cluster foresaw a loose two-tiered geopolitical order emerging in the Middle East, connecting it to adjacent regions. Along the Indian Ocean, we saw signs of both growing collaboration and competition in the “Southern Tier” with the maritime states of the Gulf, Israel, India, and the United States taking the lead. In the Eurasian landmass, an alternative “Northern Tier” grouping took shape with the former empires of Russia, Iran and Turkey attempting to flex their muscles abroad once again. More than just geographical divisions, we sensed a different mechanisation of power, within each tier, growing out of their historical experiences with territorial and maritime mobilities.

Three years down the road, through this webinar, we revisit the idea of a two-tiered Middle East by focusing on the Northern Tier. Syria, we suggest, has emerged as the testing grounds to observe the dynamics of the Northern Tier. Since 2018, the Southern-Tier states have scaled back their involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war and left the space open for Turkey, Iran and Russia. With the Assad regime reasserting control and moving into a reconstruction phase, we see Russia, Turkey and Iran expand their involvement beyond the military sphere. All three are deepening their investment in Syria’s future through diplomatic alliances, economic partnerships, infrastructural investments and ideological engagements with the region.

The speakers in this webinar give us an inside-out view from Syria, of the three key Northern Tier states. As transnational historians and anthropologists, they ground the ongoing involvement of these players in a range of border-traversing networks of merchants, tribal diasporas and paramilitary groups. Behind the seeming geopolitical alignment, they suggest, are rekindled kinships and new business partnerships. But what will these bring? Collaborations or conflicting rivalries? Expansion into other shared borderlands such as Central Asia? Finally, what do these developments say about the future in a two-tiered Middle East?

This public talk will be conducted online via Zoom on Thursday, 12 May 2021 from 5.00pm to 6.30pm (SGT). All are welcome to participate. Successful registrants will receive a confirmation email with the Zoom details closer to the date of the event. For more information of the speakers and the event, you may click on this link - https://mei.nus.edu.sg/event/revisiting-the-northern-tier-syrian-reconstruction-inside-out/

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