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The regimes of the Middle East knew the political potential for art. For this reason, it has always been closely monitored. SyriaSource by Natasha Hall. It is now time for the international community to realize that it is not enough to repeat blindly that in Libya there is no military solution.

New Atlanticist by Karim Mezran. Working with our allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region. The Iranian leadership has been unable to find a consensus on when the negotiations should begin, or what a final agreement should achieve.

The precision of the aerial attack on Abqaiq, whether it originated in Iran or outside it, shows both a willingness to target strategic critical infrastructure and a capability for extreme precision. Iraq Initiative. Digital Forensic Research Lab. Here what Atlantic Council experts think it means. New Atlanticist by David A. Issue Brief by Frederic C. Jump to content. One of the most persistent myths about U. In reality, American policy has long been torn by two conflicting imperatives: The need to protect enduring U.

Today, calls for the United States to disengage militarily from the Middle East are commonplace. Those calls reflect deep frustration with the travails of American interventions over the past two decades, as well as the belief—entirely correct—that the United States faces greater challenges elsewhere. Yet U.


If the United States rushes for the exits, it may find that it is pulled back under worse circumstances, and at higher costs, in the future. President Trump is giving voice to a powerful and understandable urge to cut cleanly and get out of the Middle East. The interests that have long kept the United States involved in the Middle East are fairly clear. Coming out of World War II, American strategists resolved that the United States must prevent any hostile force from dominating a region of critical geopolitical or geo-economic significance.

The Middle East, with its vast oil reserves, certainly fit that description. True, America never got a particularly large portion of its oil from Middle Eastern sources. At present, the United States is again becoming a net energy exporter and a swing producer in the global oil market. Yet so long as the countries of the Middle East sit atop huge energy reserves that confer great wealth and power on whoever controls it, the strategic importance of the Middle East—and the imperative of keeping it out of hostile hands—will remain.


Middle East

Other issues have also kept the United States engaged. Since the s, America has had a critical interest in preventing or combating international terrorism, much of which emerges from the Middle East. American policymakers have been properly concerned with confronting aggression against friendly nations and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states or non-state actors. Then there is the American interest in promoting peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East—one that has never been as important as the other U.

Over a period of decades, these issues have exerted a strong gravitational pull on American policy, making it impossible for U. And yet American policymakers have often been equally aware of the problems that U. Getting deeply involved in the Middle East ran the risk of making America the target of that radicalism and anger; it also ran the risk of distracting the United States from other areas where the prospects for constructive change seemed more promising.

This tension has been omnipresent as the U. Many of its problems might have been averted or mitigated by different American policies at various points over the past years. Had we wanted to move the region in a better direction, we had many chances to do so. Unfortunately, successive American administrations have prioritized short-term expediency over long-term strategic benefit, and we missed those opportunities time and again. To my mind, a concomitant point is that the problems of the region did not happen overnight, even if some of their symptoms caught us by surprise over the past five years.

All of them were long in the making, and thus none of them lend themselves to quick fixes. Again, it has been the American predilection for quick fixes—for slapping a figurative Band-Aid on the latest Middle East conflagration and then trying to ignore it—that has brought us to the current state of affairs. The problems of the Middle East have become too deep and too wide to be treated in such fashion.

Chairman, it is of critical importance that we recognize the historical forces at work that have brought us to the current circumstances in the region. Not as an excuse for an inaction, but rather to understand how we got to where we are so that we can better understand what will likely be necessary to reach a better future.

That, not the borders drawn after World War I, is the real source of the problems. After the Second World War, the colonial powers of France and Britain were slowly forced to give up their control over the states of the region.


None of these governments had much legitimacy, even the monarchies which generally took power during the inter-war period and so had little claim to tradition or longevity. Nevertheless, they proved more or less functional for the first several decades after the war. All of them developed modest economies fueled largely by oil, either directly from their own oilfields or indirectly via remittances and aid transfers. All of them featured top-heavy and deeply corrupt bureaucracies responsible for employing a disproportionate share of their workforces. All of them indulged highly dysfunctional educational systems that eventually failed to produce the kind of innovative labor pool necessary for information-age economies.

All of them built repressive security institutions that instilled fear in their populations and convinced all but the most desperate or reckless from protesting against the systems. From the s through the s, these regimes clunked along, providing the bare minimum of goods and services to their population, often excusing their performance by blaming external conspiracies focused on Israel, the United States or the West more broadly.

Beginning in the s, these systems began to come under pressure and to fail. Out of control demographics begat workforces too big to be employed by the public sector. For a great many Arabs and Iranians , the corruption, incompetence and callousness of the regimes that had seemed like bearable problems when times were better, suddenly became unbearable as times got harder. The rapid advance of information technology enabled economies in East Asia and Latin America to surge ahead of the Muslim states, while the proliferation of that technology brought home to more and more people in the Muslim Middle East the revelation that they were falling behind.

In the vast majority of cases, the regimes responded by becoming more repressive, crushing any who proposed an alternative way of organizing their societies. The regimes clung to power, but the repression only intensified the unhappiness of their citizens. As it has everywhere else around the world and across time, that expectations gap created large-scale internal unrest.

By the late s, it had already produced attempted but failed revolutions, insurgencies and terrorism. In the region and in the West, many began to call for political, economic and social reform in the Muslim Middle East—reform as the only realistic alternative to revolution or repression. But those calls were not heeded and in in Iran and across the Arab world, these problems finally exploded in what we call the Green Revolution and the Arab Spring.

Those revolts produced two very different, but equally dangerous outcomes. In Libya, Syria and Yemen, the unrest was adequate to destroy the control of the old regime. However, because the regimes had successfully prevented any alternative conceptions of organization from emerging, there was nothing to take their place. They became failed states, enabling power vacuums to emerge, which in turn produced civil wars among various sub-state identity groups who fought for power, to avenge past wrongs, and out of fear that failure to do so would bring about their destruction by extremists among the other groups.

In virtually all of the other Arab states and Iran, the regimes were able to stamp out the unrest before it could snowball into revolution, but only at the price of even greater repression.

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In so doing, they capitalized on widespread fears that unrest would produce chaos and civil war as in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Tolerance for repression has some other sources as well. In Morocco and Jordan, the monarchs have promised far-reaching and popular reforms but have so far under-delivered on those promises, while in Lebanon and Algeria, the memory of their own previous civil wars has dampened enthusiasm for protest. But renewed repression inevitably has its price. In places like Bahrain and Egypt, it has produced festering discontent and terrorism. Many of the other states of the region remain fragile to say the least.

In Algeria and Jordan, public unhappiness lurks just below the surface of public discourse.

Questioning the Reasons For U.S. Involvement in the Middle East

In Saudi Arabia, the new king, Salman, felt it necessary to disburse cash to buy acceptance for his accession in a manner reminiscent of Caligula and Nero. Ultimately, repression and fear of civil war can only produce a false stability for so long. If there is not reform, there will eventually be more revolutions, failed states, civil wars, insurgencies and terrorism. That is the role of the United States itself. Americans did not always like the way that the British oversaw the Middle East. Nevertheless, circumstances forced us to do so. Initially, we tried to empower regional proxies—first Israel, then Iran, and then Saudi Arabia—to protect American and Western interests in the region instead.

But the Israelis were hated by the Arabs, the Saudis lacked the will or the capacity to act decisively, and then the Shah of Iran was overthrown in Indeed, the Iranian revolution proved to be a watershed. Our strongest regional ally was replaced by our most strident and charismatic foe, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

And so Washington, finally shouldered the burden once borne by London. The true hegemon of the Middle East. Their invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan may have been well-intentioned or not, as historians will ultimately decide but they could not have been more poorly executed. The Obama Administration took office determined to make that wish reality to the maximum extent possible.

Continuing Storm: The U.S. Role in the Middle East - Institute for Policy Studies

The United States disengaged from Iraq pell-mell, quickly undoing much of the progress painstakingly achieved in Elsewhere across the region, the United States absented itself from myriad other events. Washington stopped pressing for political and economic reform among the Arab states, turned its back on the Arab-Israeli peace process, and allowed civil wars to erupt and spread unchecked. When the Green Revolution broke out in Tehran and the Arab Spring spread across the region, Washington offered thin rhetorical support but nothing of substance.

Ultimately then, the problems of the Middle East can be traced back to a combination of the breakdown of the internal order of the region as the semi-functional autocracies established after World War II have slowly grown ever more dysfunctional, coupled with the withdrawal of its traditional great power hegemon. Stabilizing the region will mean dealing with both of these problems, although neither lends itself to a simple turning back of the clock.

Today, the principal source of the turbulence and violence threatening the Middle East are the four civil wars currently raging in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.