As Islamic State (IS) and Shi’a militias backed by Iraq and Iran continue their missions to create “pure” sectarian enclaves, changing demographics throughout the region could be a harbinger of more conflict to come. Large flows of refugees and disparate birth rates not only have the propensity to prolong violence in Iraq and Syria, but could drastically reconfigure the make-up of strong states like Turkey and Israel. Lebanon’s perennially fragile sectarian balance is also at risk.It seems possible that one of the major outcomes of all this could be the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq that would have ties to the Kurdish population in Turkey. There, the battle for independence from Turkey seems to be evolving into a realization that demographic trends are leading to Kurds being an ever larger share of the Turkish population:
The affluent Turks in the west of the country have similar birth rates to Western Europe, whereas rates in the poorer and underdeveloped Kurdish areas of the south-east are much higher. President Tayyip Erdogan responded to this news by admonishing Turkish women for committing the “treason of birth control … seeking to dry up our bloodline”.But there are signs that the Kurds may be willing to adopt a new strategy of cooperation and integration with the rest of Turkey might be a better route than independence. The Kurdish state in northern Iraq almost certainly depends, of course, on their ability to battle ISIS. Success against ISIS would augur well for establishing independence.
Israel, in the meantime, is facing the fact that the right-wing Orthodox population is growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the Israeli population. All the while, the continued creation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has created a demographic mess there that will not admit of an easy solution. We may know more about the future direction of that country after next week's elections.